Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

Unlocked Pro Trader: Boring Isn’t Bad

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Not all of mtg finance is sexy. When people message me asking what to spec on to double their investment and I tell them to buy collections near buylist prices and sell them for retail on TCG Player or eBay to clear a profit, minus fees, materials and labor, they’re disappointed. I make the majority of my money doing the kind of boring mtg finance stuff that only needs one article ever – “buy collections and sell them for more than you paid for them.” “How to replicate having a job that doesn’t pay you health insurance by being your own boss and doing repetitive labor.” It’s not sexy how I make money, but it is steady. However, speccing IS very sexy and that’s why we write lots of articles about it. It’s a fun way to supplement to monotonous grind of processing cards by the tens or hundreds of thousands every week.

There’s a problem – if we concede that speccing is meant to be sexy, unsexy specs aren’t worth our time, right? Au contraire! Unsexy specs are the perfect hybrid of our boring, meat-and-potatoes type of finance and our Jordan Belfort wannabe spec behavior. You should have a sales route in place, like TCG Player, eBay or Twitter if you’re going to out specs, anyway, so why not use it for both? With that in mind, we’re about to look at some unsexy specs that overlap with 60 card casual, something we have no non-anecdotal data about, and try to make pronouncements about the financial future of safe and profoundly reprintable cards. Sound good? Too bad, this is my column and I’m not going to change gears two paragraphs in.

The Impetus

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

This week we’re looking at a deck that is built the 4th most on EDHREC, ahead of Klothys, the commander I covered last week because Heliod is boring and I keep waiting for him to drop. However, as boring as Heliod is as a commander, there is another dimension he’s worth discussing – his work as an inclusion. We’ll get to that later. Let’s look at Heliod as a Commander first.

If I should have seen something coming, I like to discuss it. I should have seen this coming. Years and years of waiting for something to make this pop, I eventually lost faith. This was a $0.40 card while Soul’s Attendant was $2. This is obviously more than twice as good in Commander, so why the lag? For whatever reason, this popped, finally. It’s not done going up, either. I’m not in for cash since we missed the bulk boat, but if you have these in your bulk, yank them. This will buylist for $0.50 to $1 in a year. This is a moderate-to-low reprint risk with a high upside. Wish I could have called this at bulk but I’m telling you now.

There was never a great time to buy Sunmare – if you’d asked me how I liked buying in at $4, I would have probably balked. We missed a double-up. I’m not lamenting having missed this stuff – I don’t understand what makes some casual tribal stuff go up and others not is harder to understand than people just looking at the hits and ignoring the misses would like you to believe. This is an $8 card on Card Kingdom, though, and considering it’s gettable for half that elsewhere and the price trend is quite strong, I’d say you are OK at $5 on these considering CK’s buylist is nearly $4 right now. Buying at $5 cash to flip these to CK in 6 months or a year for $7 store credit doesn’t suck.

This really shrugged off that reprint. The Dragon deck retailing for like $200 probably has something to do with that. This card is absurd in Heliod decks – by “fair card” standards anyway. You still have to attack with a creature, albeit a flying one that has counters for days.

Note to self – it takes a minute, but lifegain stuff recovers from a reprinting better than almost any kind of card.

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I didn’t buy any when I called this at $5, so I guess bringing that up doesn’t do much good. This was creeping slowly but it’s accelerating and this isn’t going to get reprinted. This is a card that goes $4, $5, $6, $8, $15 if it goes because of the low supply. I wouldn’t hate getting in at $8 if that’s the case.

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The Second Part

Heliod as an inclusion in decks that aren’t necessarily mono-White give us access to other colors, and other combos.

It’s harder to pull off without Heliod in the commande zone, but if you can get them both out on your side of the board, you just gain infinite life. Speaking of infinite, there are infinity printings of Spike Feeder (Stronghold, Battle Royale, Commander 1, FNM, Time Spiral) and two foil printings but I bet they all pop. The FNM foil looks especially good, but I hate buying EDH foils to spec on, so bear that in mind. I mean, that and they’re sold out most places. Be quick or be dead.

There’s a lesson here – not all reprints are created equal. Printing this in a Masters set AND a commander deck sealed Divinity’s fate despite it being a casual beast of a card that used to flirt with $10. This got up to $6 after the Commander 2013 printing but the Modern Masters printing the same year nerfed the price and it hasn’t been able to rise more than a buck or two. Here’s hoping Heliod can get EDH players interested again – they mostly haven’t been. This is an excellent case study in reprints.

I know this is already money, but it’s worth mentioning that it finds Heliod.

Whatever happens with lifegain stuff in the wake of another lifegain commander, what we’re seeing is that every time there is a new one, renewed interest causes a spike, which falls off, but makes the overall trend of the card’s price an upward one. If you don’t sell off in time, you can either hold on until the next spike or just watch the price slowly climb because life gain is always a good investment.

That does it for me this week. Join us next week where I re-examine more things I’m bad at predicting. Until next time!

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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Unlocked Pro TRader: Old Is New Again

Readers!

New stuff moves prices, sometimes. Something new comes along and makes something that was worthless suddenly worthwhile and everyone scrambles to find copies. The thing is, as quickly as people are raising their sell prices, they’re also raising their buy prices. People like me scour the LGS for copies at the old price to quickly arbitrage for free money and the supply catches up to the demand. That’s obvious. What’s also obvious if you read this column because I say it all the time is that sometimes a second spike can be more profound because the copies are all concentrated in the hands of dealers and without dollar bin copies at the LGS, Today, rather than the first kind of spikes (the Teysa tier) I want to talk about some second spike cards that have overlap with 60 card casual formats and could have some high exits despite semi-high buy-ins. These cards aren’t new but the decks that want them are and something tells me casual cards appealing to semi-casual players means the price goes up. First, though, let’s look at the impetus.

The Commander

Klothys, God of Destiny

Klothys seems like a bit of a dorky card at first but a 3 mana enchantment that either gives you mana on your precombat main or shocks the table is worth a look. You can stymy your reanimator opponent, turn your fetchlands into mana or gain a little life to make it harder to kill you. You can also make Klothys deal a lot more than 2 damage. The secret? Klothys is read.

The Stats

Klothys is climbing the rankings quickly.


Week One rankings

As you can see, Kloxa moved up 2 spots from week 1, which isn’t nothing. A lot of the growth was recent.

Weekly rankings as of 2-4-2020

Only 3 made the cut this week, managing to displace older and more popular commanders. The new hotness may be the new hotness, but people are still looking to update their decks with new cards. You also see Marrow-Gnawer there, buoyed by people updating rats decks with the singles that WotC is selling directly to players, because I guess they think Amazon warehouses will start running FNM.

61 Klothys decks this week, 130 total. Half of the growth in a third of the time tells me Klothys is heating up. Heat is good – remember how I mentioned Klothys is Red? It’s going to matter.

The Specs

This isn’t a spec, but it’s the first card you see under the “high synergy cards” section on EDHREC and it should be an immediate clue that people want to dome people for a lot with Klothys. With Just Klothys and Torbran out, that upkeep trigger gains you 2 life and deals 4 damage to all players. If you add more to the mix, it gets even more dirty.

This was a bulk rare a few weeks ago but Torbran decks pulled it out of the gutter and Klothys decks will only increase the shenanigans. The thing about Torbran decks is that your commander can’t provide any damage of his own meaning he’s probably better in the 99 than the command zone. Dictate has a lot of supply but considering it’s in a cycle with a $10 card and 3 other $1 cards, it’s safe to say the ceiling is $10 rather than its current price of “not bulk.” This won’t hit $10 but it won’t be bulk again barring a reprint, which seems unlikely given Furnace of Rath or a creature-based damage doubler seeming more appropriate for that slot given the Flash ability. Pull these out of bulk if you’ve got them. I’m not in for cash here but I like these long-term. That said, it’s been a long term already. Are there juicier specs in this same vein?

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These are basically arbitrageable at this point. Troll and Toad has these for under $3 which is basically Card Kingdom buylist. You may or may not know you can do this on our site – check this out.

Here’s our graph
Never noticed that before. What’s it do?
Awww SNAP

You can see which vendors are paying what on these cards. Card Kingdom is a good place to buylist cards so if you were looking to get basically retail on these, CK has you and they have a trade-in bonus to boot. If you’d rather hold them because a 0% spread is suspicious, then do that.

All of the other damage doublers basically suck as specs, and that’s too bad. They’re either very recent non-mythics

Angrath's Marauders

or they have been printed into dust.

Image result for deal double that amount of damage"

I’m pretty sure this isn’t showing up on the page for “high synergy cards” because it only works if your devotion to Gruul is 7. That said, this gives you 3 pips, Klothys is 2 and you should have SOMETHING else on the board, so this basically always works, so it should see more play. Am I going to have to write an article about this card on Coolstuff? I might – if I built the deck, I’d go creatureless so I could fit all of the enchantments I want to run and have this be my only creature besides Torbran.

Rampaging Ferocidon
Daddy missed you while you were banned

I don’t think there is money to be made here, but this is a sick card. Too bad it nerfs your lifegain.

Neheb might be the best spec of the deck. It was high before, but it’s higher now on CK and still growing as it has for the past year. I hope you snagged these around rotation because this is a casual favorite, an EDH powerhouse and in this deck, you’re getting 2 mana for each opponent for doing nothing more than having 2 permanents in play and 1 in someone’s yard. That seems doable. Neheb can easily hit $15 or $20 and everyone will act surprised just like they are surprised now because this used to be $5. Hell, it used to be $2. This is my favorite spec of the deck.

If you couldn’t tell by the shape of the graph, Mana Web is on the Reserved List. This was climbing steadily but that all got nerfed by the “OMG RESERVE [sic] LIST” frenzy of a few summers ago. Prices are returning to reality but I don’t know if this can’t get back up where it was on the basis of being an unfair magic card. This could be the deck to do it since a lot of people say they’re running this and they seem to have come to that conclusion independently of each other. Klothys is a weird Stax deck and I don’t like Stax but you’re also doing a ton of chip damage, which I love. Chip damage like…

Might want to check your bulk. Thanks, Torbran.

Thanks, Torbran? I’m not sure what the deal with this card is because you double their mana, but they also take more damage than you will so maybe it’s part Manabarbs, part Mana Flare, all Mana Catch 22 for them. Anyway, this could get above bulk, I hope. I like this less than I do other cards, like…

This doesn’t do damabe but it hurts.

A lot of ships have sailed, but if you’re willing to pay a bit, someone with a… dinghy could… row you out to the ship so you can still sail the rest of the way on it? But you have to pay the guy with the dinghy money? Does that work as a metaphor for a high buy-in because we didn’t notice all of this stuff growing by 70% in the last year?

Some of the cards have higher buy-ins than others but ultimately, there is still money to be made. Klothys is getting more popular and people likely won’t have some of these old cards, or some of the new ones. Make sure you’re holding when a second spike happens so they have to buy the card from you. It pays to be prepared.

That’s all for me. Thanks for reading, and check out Klothys’ page for the full list of cards to see if anything sticks out to you. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: My Usual article, But Kroxa

It’s the remix to Ignition
Titan Kroxa Edition
Played him 4 times in one turn
Now the whole table’s bitchin’

Readers!

If you were bracing yourself for a second week or musings about Siona, or a boring dive into Simic Goodstuff with a look at Uro, I have news. We’re doing not that. You probably knew that already because of the picture and description and first paragraph and hopefully you check EDHREC by yourself by now, but still, I’m going to pretend I buried the lede here, so play along. There’s a new Sheriff in town and he has two mouths, I think. Not really sure what’s going on with the art but what I do know is that Siona was unseated. Take that, uncommon.

Siona is still ahead in absolute terms on the strength of a good week one, but there’s another place we need to look, and that’s the Top Commanders of the Week where Siona just got passed up.

This is super fine with me because I actually really want to talk about Kroxa, having just brewed with him this week. Here’s what I think matters.

It’s pretty clear I dropped the ball and missed the nice reverse-J shape we love. This has gone full u-shape, except it’s threatening to go higher than it was before the reprint. A lot of decks are making good use of making them discard. Waste Not was in Entropic Uprising, the Yidris deck that had a ton of good cards in it and if your Target is like mine and randomly restocks the old decks, snap these off. Basically any 4-color deck is good but Yidris had Burgeoning and Vial-Smasher and Thrasios and all kinds of other value-laden cards. A card in a precon that just sold for $80 on eBay might as well not have gotten reprinted. Waste Not is a $10 card that doesn’t know it’s $10 yet and if you can scoop these around $5 on TCG Player, it’s a no-brainer. Curiously, MKM is bought out under 7 Euro which surprises me considering this is an EDH-only card. That said, this is really strong, and while reprint risk is there, it probably shakes that off, too.

A card that has demonstrated a willingness to flirt with $12 should be respected when it’s gettable around $6. This is a strong card – perhaps too strong for an EDH precon that’s designed to get new players interested in playing the game. That lack of reprint risk makes me feel more secure about the future of this card. I’m not sure if this is the floor but it’s definitely not the ceiling so worst-case scenario, this drops another couple of bucks. If it does, I buy a bunch more copies until I’m happy with the average price I paid then I get out when this crests again, which it will do.

GG is an uncommon but it’s old enough that there are fewer copies of Grimoire than there are mythics from Kaladesh, so I’m happy to buy in at $2ish considering this recently flirted with $4. There has never been a better Grimoire deck than Kroxa, not even Nicol Bolas, the deck that made it go up last time. Second spikes are harder and with all of the cheap copies in the hands of dealers, people will have no choice to pay retail on these. I like it at its current price for sure, especially since it’s better in Kroxa than it was in Nicol Bolas.

If you remember last year, I used to really like this as a spec. I still do, but I used to, too.

Bummer. We missed this boat on this for sure since all of the regrowth happened in the last 12 months. Could this go higher? For sure – Planar Chaos was a profoundly bad set so it didn’t get bought much and I bet cards from it are pretty rare. This is a meme card and I wish I had collected more of these back in the day.

Ultimately, you’ll be able to look at Kroxa’s page and find a few cards of your own. If you have specific questions about why I skipped something you like, hit me up in the comments or, if you don’t want to tip others off, message me in the Pro Trader Discord group. That’s it for me – until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Theros Beyond Surprising

Readers,

This is the part of the spoiler season is where I check EDHREC data and do a double take. I could have taken a stab at guessing how the week one deck distributions would shake out but I would have been way off. For the set, my guess would have been.

  1. Uro
  2. Athreos
  3. Kroxa
  4. Thassa
  5. Klothys

I got exactly one of those right and the others were WAY off. If you’re guessing that I had the #1 deck in my Top 5 but just not in the #1 spot, YOU’RE way off. Here’s how it shook out.

I liked Siona, but Siona at number 1 is pretty breathtaking. Uro below Kroxa, Thassa below Dalakos and Athreos below Purphoros are all pretty big surprises, which is why my accuracy rate started going up when I based my picks on what people were doing and not what I assumed they would do.

What people ARE doing is building two Siona decks for every one Uro deck, so let’s dive into Siona, shall we?

Number one with a bullet is this auto-include. This is sold out on every site but TCG Player but it still hasn’t quite crested the $3 mark there. With copies in Commander, Explorers of Ixalan and Gideon’s spellbook, it’s going to be pretty tough for this card to get over $5 but I think with a potential feeding frenzy we could get there. I think this is a little volatile, too recent and too abundant to care about and while it may feel good to snag a forgotten $1 copy or two, I think your best case scenario is a buylist double up after fees and while that’s good, that’s unlikely to be something you do with more than a dozen or so copies at most. If you can buylist 100 of these and make a buck or two a copy, you’re going to feel OK but I think the potential to be left holding the bag is too high to recommend this. Cards like this are a target, though, especially older ones.

The time period where one store runs out and restocks and another store still has copies at the old price is fascinating because you can see jumps in real time if you check often enough. This card doesn’t know if it’s $2 or $10 but I suspect even if it’s played less than we think, it’s old enough to end up wedged between the pre- and post-spike price and that’s a nice payday for the quick and the witty. I like this a lot more than S.B.F. and I think this may be the best spec of the article if you can find these. Stores that aren’t super organized will still have these in their bulk rares, so check there first.

Old Theros was a while back and a second spike on a card that has less stock than people think is primed for movement. I’m a real champion of this as a spec and there aren’t cheap copies to ferret out like there were last time so this is going to be purely controlled by the supply on TCG Player hitting a tipping point or not.

This is one of those specs that got away. I loved it, saw the price was flat forever, never said anything to anyone about it to prove I liked it, bought 0 copies on purpose and when it spiked, it seemed so obvious in hindsight. I have a tendency to second-guess myself even on specs that are super obvious and sometimes it’s just a matter of TCG Player restocking as fast as it sold out, something moderate, organic demand has a tendency to do. If there were a way to sort by cards that move briskly but don’t fluctuate in price much, I bet this would be among those. You had a chance to get in for half a buck and I bet no one recommended it and that feels pretty bad. I want to say this is done going up, but we’ve established I don’t know anything about this card.

I don’t love this as a spec. I do, however, want to point out that this was never affordable, 0 boats were missed, no one could have made more than a buck before fees here and that’s crazy. EDH cards that are this powerful don’t fly under the radar anymore. Is that partly my fault? Yeah, but we also have to address the reality we live in and the reality is that new cards aren’t usually great EDH specs. I like Siona making Rether $8 but I don’t like Siona, savez?

Crashing Drawbridge

This isn’t a spec but it’s hilarious because the deck makes infinite tokens at sorcery speed and this is the only way to win that turn in Green and White without using them to make infinite mana or gain a ton of life. When I brewed the deck for CoolStuff I was durdling by recasting Rancor and saccing the creature to Phyrexian Altar until I could kill them with Aetherflux Reservoir. This is neat.

Perhaps we should have had the “second spike” discussion last week but I was writing about something else. There’s still money to be made and all of the copies haven’t been accounted for yet.

That does it for me. This deck is being built twice as much as decks I thought would be built more and while that won’t necessarily hold (there could be an early spike due to excitement around the Shielded By Faith combo, a combo I’ll point out needs Crashing Drawbridge) it’s good to know what’s really getting built.

Until next time!

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