Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

Unlocked Pro Trader: Not All Commanders Are Created Equal



Liege of the Tangle is a staple in Omnath, Locus of the Roil decks moving forward. It’s an elemental that creates more elementals. What’s not to love? It’s also pretty cheap compared to Contagion Engine. What gives? They both have one printing and Contagion Engine is a rare compared to Liege being a mythic. Contagion Engine is basically played in Atraxa and Liege is basically played in Omnath with few exceptions. Why is Engine worth so much more money despite being a lower rarity?

The answer’s fairly obvious, right? You all saw how poorly designed the question was right up top and while the question was fudged to ignore a few smaller factors, it doesn’t matter because it ignores a gigantic one. “Basically played in one deck” is not a great answer when it comes to Commander if that one deck is Atraxa. Every smaller factor you can list for why Engine taps to print money and Liege doesn’t is dwarfed by one single fundamental truth of the format, a truth we don’t always consciously include in our calculus, but should. You can’t compare a card only in Atraxa to a card only in something like Edgar Markov or Estrid for an obvious reason – Not All Commanders Are Created Equal.

When a new set is released, I’ve been looking at the cards that will impact the new decks and have some upside based on the new reality, and while it’s important to know that information, it’s important to weigh that information against the relative impact of the deck. If 100% of 30 decks play a card, it seems strong, but it won’t have anywhere near as much impact as a card run in 5% of 10,000 decks. I keep getting back to what I keep stressing about EDHREC data, and that is that it’s better to use the numbers qualitatively than quantitatively. “It’s in 10,000 decks” is sort of meaningless versus “It’s in 3 times as many decks as a card that went from $5 to $8 over the same period” and I’m trying to tailor the information I give you in my articles to more closely resemble the second.


We might as well look at Atraxa, then, if we’re going to talk about its relative impact on the format, because I used Atraxa as an example for a reason.


It’s in the top 21 decks of the week years after it was printed and during a week when people are going to be excitedly building new stuff. Now, some of these inclusions are people updating their old Atraxa deck, but all we can do is assume that happens for all popular decks and that new cards making a deck exciting again will have some sort of effect on the price. This impossibility to determine if a new hit in the database is from an updated deck or a new one. It’s curious that of all the criticism I have seen leveled at the use of EDHREC data, this is perhaps the most valid and I don’t see anyone espousing it but me. I also don’t think you can overstate the impact of a deck if it’s popular enough that people keep updating it, because they’re keeping the deck together in that case. If someone registers a deck and sells all of the cards, the impact of THOSE cards in EDHREC data are overvalued because the cards are back in the market, so, if anything, decks that are updated more are still together and therefore the cards accounted for. The older a commander gets, the greater the liability that the deck was scrapped, but it’s less so for popular ones. Is Atraxa popular? Well, it was printed a long time ago and is in the top 20 for the week…

And it’s #1 for the past two years. I’m glad we aren’t going back farther than that, really, because, like we concluded just now, it’s hard to trust that data. With all of these commanders (excepting Oloro, which I imagine is in the top 30 or 40), these all made the Top 21 this week despite Kykar, Omnath, Kethis, Golos, Kaalia and Yarok all coming out. These commander are getting new cards and the decks are staying together, or being rebuilt to accommodate the new hotness. Either way, it’s impossible to argue that Atraxa isn’t the most important deck.

We could talk about Golos and Omnath like they’re equal, but they’re really not and once the decks start to pull away from each other a bit, it’s important to analyze the decks next to each other. When I tackle sets from now one, I’ll look at what goes in each deck as they’re spoiled but on a week like this, after the first GP of the set’s legality with box sales going gangbusters and people buying cards like crazy, we’ll weigh the decks against each other. If Atraxa=x, what is the value of y? And which commander is y? Well, funny enough, y is Yarok.

Let’s look at the Top 21 again, shall we?

Remember that scene in Searching for Bobby Fisher when Ben Kingsley got all pissed off at that 8 year old kid and knocked all of the chess pieces off of the board so the kid could concentrate because I guess the 90s were a weird time when you could threaten young boys? Anyway, I’m doing that but I’m not charging your parents $100 an hour.

Here’s the stuff that’s in the last two sets.

Here’s Core 2020

Here’s you.

It’s clear Yarok is quite popular and with the linearity we talked about last time, I think Yarok could impact cards on an Atraxaesque scale, but y will never equal x. In fact, right now, y=0.058x. That’s… low. But what about for just this week? This week, y=3.07x. I expect that unless we get a more popular commander in these value colors, the equation will begin to balance a bit.

When you’re measuring the impact of new decks, why not see how they look relative to one another? It’s simple to do and it could be quite instructive. Setting Yarok as the baseline, let’s look at the rest of the MH1 and 2020 Commanders this week.

Only 2 decks had above half of the number of decks Yarok put up and 3 had fewer than a third. It’s important to know what goes in new decks, but if Yarok is 3 times as popular as Sisay, we need to know that, too.

One factor that confounds a measure like this is, well, us. If a card is obvious in Morophon, we’re going to buy a lot of copies because anyone who needs them for Morophon has to buy them and the price is going to go up. At least early on, anything that goes in a new deck has the potential to go up. We’re buying copies and selling copies and that attention affects values. However, the cards from the decks in green are still better buys because the more organic demand there is, the less likely you’re going to be to be punished for making bad buys like a donkey. Golos is a surprise, here, and I wouldn’t have guessed it. Omnath being this low is a surprise, too. This is only one week worth of data, but it’s also what we have.

You know how I know Yarok is good? It’s #1 for the last month, ahead of decks that have been out longer.

You can argue that competitive players are building Urza in secret and not sharing their lists with anyone. I would argue competitive players are like 5% of EDH players and only act like they’re 50%.

You want picks to go with your analysis, I’m sure, so let’s wrap this thesis up in a bow and move on to that, I guess.

It’s important to weigh the impact of cards so that we’re not trying to compare two cards that will never have equal impact. This is why everything from Kaladesh block is so expensive – artifacts can go in all kinds of decks and colored spells, especially multicolored spells can’t. Again, this seems obvious, but it’s not a factor we often consider. Chromatic Lantern may not end the game when you can it the way Insurrection does, but it goes in a lot more decks and that’s why it shrugs off reprints. Expect me to weigh decks against each other a lot more often moving forward. I may have talked about Omnath and Yarok on equal terms in the past but it’s pretty clear one of them is running away with the lead and one of them didn’t crack the top 20 for the month.

Instead of reiterating more picks from Yarok that you already know or could find yourself, I’ll give you some really hot tips and mention cards people aren’t necessarily playing in Yarok now but really should be and might start playing once someone makes a video or article highlighting them. That person won’t be me, but imagine if someone played this card in a Yarok deck on Game Knights. These are picks currently unsubstantiated with data but which work excellently in Yarok and have a ton of upside if they catch on yet no one is talking about them now.

This is already at an all-time high, basically on principle, and it’s got a lot more upside if people realize how stupid it is with Yarok. It’s a permanent you control, it’s triggered by a permanent entering the battlefield, and Yarok makes it trigger twice. Every time they put a creature card (not token, but, still) into play, they return two lands. This is brutal. Yarok decks probably play Muldrotha and Eternal Witness so go on and bounce those two lands to Rec Sage this and watch me run it back. People are building Yarok around doubling the ETB effects they trigger themselves and that’s only half of the design space.

This does NOT say creature card, it says creature. Doubling this effect is going to wreck people, and bury token decks. Heck, this effect without doubling is dumb.

Coolstuff 8, ABU 10, Card Kingdom 8. This doesn’t stay $5 on TCG Player for long. This is a $10-$15 card any day now. It doesn’t hit all players but you get to pick someone to get hosed or you can just make every creature a Mulldrifter, which is especially hot if it’s a Man-O-War or Snapcaster.

Not as strong an effect but it’s a penny stock for sure and doubling the trigger is pretty formidable.

I’m testing all of this nonsense in Yarok, even though some of it hurts me. I can always bounce or flicker Yarok and cast a bunch of spells without getting double dinged, or I could just steal their creatures and beat them with them. People can’t play Storm or tokens through these cards and fair decks are vulnerable to you stealing their stuff. I expect some of this tech to show up and if it doesn’t, we still have the Yarok page for inspiration.

That does it for me, thanks for reading. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Physical Cardboard


The prerelease is over, people have physical copies of cards in their hands and things are shaking out a little differently than people expected. Let’s take a look at some data and see if we can glean any info. I mean, you do what you want, but that’s what I’m doing.

This is the top of last week’s top commanders section on EDHREC. Core Set 2020 was in the database but wasn’t nudging any of these older cards out of the top spots. Let’s take a look at the Top 10 now.

Quite a shakeup. I expect Windgrace and Edgar still because they got new cards in Core 2020 and people are updating their decks, but Muldrotha and the new cards that deck got are making a big impact. I think Yarok goes in basically every Muldrotha list and Muldrotha goes in basically every Yarok list. Both cards do what the deck built around the other does. Casting a dead Eternal Witness using Muldrotha? You’re going to want Yarok out. Got a dead Acidic Slime in Yarok? Cast it from the yard, son! Muldrotha is a very historically popular deck.

VERY popular.

There is a lot of overlap between Yarok and Muldrotha and a dedicated Muldrotha player may or may not build a Yarok deck. Yarok (or Risen Reef, good grief that card is spicy) may make people who never had Muldrotha build that. Either way, staples in both decks, which overlap, should have some upside and are worth watching.


The good thing about Yarok is how OBVIOUS it is. I clicked on the EDHREC page and the deck looked… solved. Does that make sense? I didn’t look at anything and say “Wow, that’s sweet tech, never would have thought of that!” like I did looking at Feather lists. Yarok feels like it already knows what cards go in it. That’s good. You have a card pool of like 100 non-lands versus like 200 or 300 to choose from which means that that the cards in the deck theoretically will end up in twice as many decks since there are half as many options. Those numbers are not meant to be a quantitative measure but merely to illustrate that the more obvious a deck is, the higher its staples go.

Etb creatures were already good but having access to a second Panharmonicon in the value deck colors is new and I think cards in the deck have some upside. Speaking of which…

You’re running out of time to snag these under $10. Kaladesh cards are just going nuts because they are so good in so many formats and there was never a good time to get them because they were good in Standard, too. Artifacts are better than non-artifacts since color identity matters in EDH. It seems obvious but it bears repeating – pay special attention to artifacts and mono-color cards – they’re way easier to slot in than 2-color cards or more.

Never count a good card out. This was showing signs of life following the Commander 2014 reprinting and then the 2015 reprinting brought it to its knees. And yet, if we’d been greedy in 2015 when these were $2, we’d be in great shape now. Card Kingdom has them at $7 but they’re as cheap as $4.50 on TCG Player and I like that price a lot on a future $7-$9 card if current trends hold. This card with Yarok and Gray Merchant wins the game on the spot just about and you have Eternal Witness to get it back, and ways to flicker creatures, ensuring Witness can snag this over and over. If Yarok gets play, and it will, this is stupid good.

As exciting as Yarok is, it’s not the most played deck in 2020.

Kykar is obvious, too. Obvious is good for our purposes as much as it bums me out as a deckbuilder and EDH writer. Still, no one is forcing me to reinvent the wheel when it comes to my finance picks so boring is good in a volatile field like finance and my pain can be your gain. Good thing I like both.

2 reprintings since that spike in 2016 have brought this quite low, below $5, but I think Kykar decks can absolutely make use of this, especially with mana spells like Mana Geyser in the format. You can generate a ton of mana, play a Bonus Round and dump your whole yard and generate enough birds to kill them with Purphoros, or sac those birby bois to get even more mana. Don’t forget, Kykar is a built in Phyrexian Altar for one of the most common types of 1/1 token. Sac any spirit – not just the 1/1 tokens Kykar makes. If you’re going a combo route or the beatdown route, those birbs are basically treasure tokens with razor sharp beaks and they work for both.

If you’re not going combo, here’s a card that exists.

This was in the Jumanjis of Ixalan board game and while the spell cast by its intersection of weird scarcity and speculation about the tribal themes in Commander 2017 has been largely broken, this also hit its bottom and began to trend up. This has good trajectory and it’s actually just kind of stupid in Kykar decks. They’ll continue to make tribal decks and this just KOs people. I think this is a $10 card soon.

Whenever a card is cheaper on Card Kingdom than it is on TCG Player, I take notice. I like EDHREC putting the prices side by side like this and I think it’s unlikely cards on TCG Player, with more competition and faster sales, will decrease in price to match CK, especially since it’s so easy to buy CK out. This is a $1 card and you can get them for 60% off, on a site that gives you like 70% of retail in store credit when you trade in hotlist stuff. Do the math. This rules. Want to know another card I saw was $0.75 on Card Kingdom and $1.50 on Tcg Player earlier, causing me to buy 20 copies on Card Kingdom at a time until they stopped restocking? This card.

CK has them for $2, now and they’re $3.50 on CFB. Not bad.

I don’t think it’s perfect, but I think you should take notice of CK lagging behind market sites where the prices update more often. Mana Geyser is a $1 card, for now.

That does it for me this week. I’ll be at GP Detroit if you want to say hi or play some EDH or buy me a beer or have me autograph your baby or whatever. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: 20 Thoughts About 2020 Going Into Prerelease Weekend

Not all of these are going to be gems but there is a lot going on with this set and coinciding with the release of this set which stomps on some potential Modern Horizons drafting. I got like 4 articles’ worth of ideas and rather than make you wait for them, I’m going to get everything pertinent to the prerelease out there before the prerelease. With that said, no more preamble, let’s get this show on the road. Also, I lied – I have 10 thoughts and 10 cards I’m thinking about.

1. The Most Built Deck This Week is Nuts

What in the world? Of course I get that Modern Horizons gave us new ninjas, rather a lot of them and people re-submitting their decklist will trigger the algorithm so it’s impossible to know who made new decks and who updated old ones, but Yuriko beat out Yawgmoth and Urza which is fairly nutty. I imagine a lot of the Edgar decks are updates based on a few, sexy new vampires in Core 2020 and cards like Wren and Six pushed up the Windgrace totals. Still, Yuriko winning the day is nice.

2. Other Surprises Abound

Kykar coming in at number 10 is pretty solid considering no one has their cards yet and the competitive players who are more stoked about Kykar tend not to post their decks where EDHREC can scrape them. That means Casual players are excited, too.

Sisay being built almost as much as Windgrace, a deck that got new cards and is the only fun Jund deck to play in EDH (I say that as a Prossh player) surprised me. Take a look at Sisay’s page – there isn’t much to spec on in there – it’s mostly clunky Dominaria cards and stuff that was already expensive. If you find some gems in there, let me know, but I didn’t find anything I cared about.

3. Muldrotha?

With Yarok on the horizon, it’s surprising to see Muldrotha still hanging on in there, but maybe this will help.

It seems that in addition to Yarok coming out and making stuff happen, people who are dead-set on playing Muldrotha plan to use Yarok in their decks, and Ashiok is about to join the party. 2 new lands that draw cards when you sac them also joined the party, so while I think Yarok is the new hotness and will get built a ton in the next few weeks, Muldrotha players are benefiting a bunch, too, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those new database entries are brand new decks. After all, Muldrotha gives dumb card advantage and you can play stuff like Mystic Remora and other cards with cumulative upkeeps.

4. Speaking of Which…

The best time to buy these was 2017, but if you didn’t buy an entire store’s inventory in 2017 like I did, you might not have a hundred of these (all LP) laying around. Muldrotha made this pop but I think with the recent changes to Pauper, they’re not done ascending.

Pauper paper people can play paper pauper for pay. The format has officially become sanctioned and they are unifying the legality, meaning cards that are common either on MODO or paper are legal. This only works one way – nothing is legal in paper that isn’t legal on MODO, but there were some cards that were common in paper but not common on MODO and therefore couldn’t be played. Among them were Sinkhole, Hymn to Tourach and Remora. Sinkhole and Hymn were banned outright along with the announcement of the format being sanctioned, but Remora and, I think, Merchant Scroll have some upside. Remora isn’t that reprintable imo and it could ascend to $5, considering how expensive Rhystic Study is from a much later set and with no pauper appeal.

5. Speaking of Which Part 2

Second spikes are harder and with this price recovering rapidly, you may want to lock down foils before they hit $100, which is achievable. There’s a possibility Scroll gets banned out from under you, but I think with how playable it is in Vintage, having the only foil printing with this art isn’t bad. The Judge foils aren’t a bad place to park money, either, and they’re generally below $40 on TCG Player, still.

6. Core Set 2020 Top Cards

On EDHREC, there is a series of dropdown menus at the top of the main page and one of them says “sets” and clicking on Core set 2020 will reveal that, while we don’t have a ton of data, some cards are beginning to emerge. Risen Reef is a card I like very much because while it’s a bad, 3 mana Coiling Oracle at first blush, you can probably play a few elementals in a lot of decks and trigger additional rips. It’s no worse than Oracle beyond costing an extra mana (and not being an Elf, I guess, which can matter) but it is significantly better in a lot of other situations. There are a lot of good elementals in the decks that want Reef and foils will be dirt cheap on what could end up a staple.

7. Coremmanders

No real shocks here, per se, but it is intersting that more people have so far built Rienne than Kaalia. I expect that to change.

Also, Sephara was built using EDHREC by The Prof in his preview of the deck and while that may or may not get people excited about the deck, his specific list is more than likely a jumping-off point for people to a greater extent than decks not generated by him. Watch his video and watch his list.

8. Sephara in Depth

Looking at Sephara’s page on EDHREC so far, there is quite a bit of overlap with Teysa Karlov, at least the white portions of it. Those cards that overlap used to be bulk and Teysa got them wrested from their hiding places and any with upside could climb to a respectable number now that people are forced to deal with a store to get their copy rather than just having one in a junk box. Not that having a card in a box somewhere has stopped me from just buying a card so I don’t have to look for it.

I like the new Bishop of Wings with Divine Visitation and a sac outlet, but Divine Visitation is just nuts on its own and it’s too cheap right now. Visitation is a $10+ card waiting to happen but you probably have some time to grab yours (also, the reprint risk is Medium/Medium High).

9. Gargos in Depth

Gargos is getting more decks built than I had expected. A Hydra tribal commander without red or blue seems really silly to me, but it’s happening and with a few new mono-green hydras, we may be right where we need to be for things to happen.

The Gargos page shows all of the green hydras, but there are a few interesting cards used in those decks on the utility side. I might as well discuss those at the end.

10. Kethis in Depth

Yawgmoth makes an appearance in a ton of Kethis decks. He’s a sac outlet and a discard outlet which makes him perfect for a deck that can bring creatures back from the graveyard. I’m not sure exactly how I want to build Kethis so I have been avoiding trying in my Coolstuff articles, but people seem pumped despite, you know, the enormous card advantage, negligible cost reduction, limited window to play spells without having to re-activate, limited scope of creatures able to be reanimated and being a worse Karador in every single way. You can get back Planeswalkers, though, so that’s neat.

10 Picks With Minimal Explanation

Nice trend, low reprint risk and high synergy with Gargos.

Kethis and new Sisay both reference Legendary creatures.

You don’t want to build a new Omnath deck and not include this.

Good in Omnath and also fetches Ingot Chewer and Wispmare in the Hogaak deck I hope gets banned.

This is entirely too cheap and I can’t figure out why.

If Gargos didn’t do this, and it didn’t, imagine what’s going to happen now. Casuals don’t foil their casual decks per se, but look at that price graph.

I don’t know where this foil bottoms out but when it does, I’m a buyer. Too good on its own, in Oathbreaker and in Kykar to be ignored. Look at the price of Narset for its absolute ceiling and extrapolate from there given its smaller degree of appeal compared to Narset.

I get these as bulk rares all the time. You should buy bulk rares sight unseen.

Cards that cost more on TCG Player than Card Kingdom make my Spider Sense tingle.

That was a lot of work but you’re worth it. Catch me next week!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Yaroktopus’ Garden


I’m not going to sugarcoat it – I’m not really in the mood to write my normal type of article. I have a bunch of ideas about picks and I want to get them all down before I forget any of them and that means the structure of the article is going to suffer. I really like to write two or three paragraphs before the Pro Trader paywall comes down and if I don’t do that, the transition is going to be pretty abrupt and

OK, everyone still with me? Let’s talk about the card I think is going to make money moves and then we can talk picks. Here’s your boy.

Dwayne Yarok Johnson over here is in some serious card advantage colors and ETB effects abound. Panharmonicon was already a sick card and now we have one in the command zone, in good colors, with good stats to boot. Luckily, we already have EDHREC data flowing in so I don’t have to guess like I did for Kykar (I nailed it, though). I mean, there are 4 decks in the database but I poked around reddit and other places deckbuilders hang out and I also know how to build EDH deck so I think we’ll be fine. Let’s look at what’s inclined to be on the move on the basis of this elemental horror.

Ob is recovering nicely from his reprinting, as predicted. This isn’t the first time I have mentioned Ob since Iconic Masters but it may be the last because this much growth isn’t sustainable. The good news is that the card has plateaued and new usage will trigger more growth. Before the reprinting, the peak price of Ob was lower than it is now, meaning it’s at an all-time high despite more copies. I think this may be a weak buy considering how high it’s already gone but I also think if you can get them below $10, you can probably get out at $12-$15 fairly easily and I don’t know that another printing is coming soon. This card is too good in this deck but also elsewhere.

For years, “stagnation” described this card’s price but it has picked up a bit lately and also, it’s really dumb in this deck. Every time they play a land you draw 4 and they exile 4? It’s pretty powerful and you may need to quickly find a way to get rid of Sire before it kills you. Check yourself before you deck yourself, if you will. These are gettable under $2 and Yarok could make them $5, especially since it’s a mythic long out of print.

This is down from its peak which means another peak would be higher, but this is mostly just a safe bet. I’m not sure how many people are going to jam a $40 card in this deck, but I think with Palinchron being on the Reserved List and the odds of a Lotus Field situation being pretty remote given what a mistake the “untap X lands” cards were, I think this is just a safe buy that goes nuts. You untap 14 lands when you resolve this and that’s a lot of lands.

Even if you think this is reprintable, which do you think happens first? A reprint or this thing selling for a solid Hamilton on TCG Player? Gettable under $7 right now, the clock is ticking on this. I think you can easily makes 30-40% even if you think it’s getting reprinted soon.

I actually like the financial metrics of this less than other cards, but unlike other cards, it hasn’t gone up already and that’s good. I think this can shake off its latest reprinting eventually and even if Yarok doesn’t do it, something will. Let’s look at EDHREC, shall we?

4,851 is in 5% of total decks, but how is it performing versus other Green cards?

Despite Green being the “creatures” color, Primus, which is the 11th-most-played Green creature doesn’t crack the Top 100 Green cards. However, it’s played more than Kalonian Hydra and almost as much as Fertilid. I think Yarok could move the needle and if not, the other things that made this card peak at $10, get reprinted and peak at $10 again are still likely true.

It’s worth noting that this basically doubled to 30 over the last month and some stores online have them for $15. I snagged a couple of copies from a site I use but there are plenty of other obscure sites and some have copies. This needs a reprint, badly and perhaps the Invention printing shows they know that, so be nimble.

That does it for me this week. I recommend keeping an eye on the EDHREC page for Yarok over the coming weeks because this card is Muldrotha-tier advantage engine and people love Deadeye Navigator shenanigans. If you think of anything else, leave me a comment. Until next time!

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