Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Elements of an Undervalued Mythic

By Guo Heng

Mark Rosewater did an AMA on Reddit a few years back, and the following was part of his response to a question by Hall of Famer Brian ‘Dragonmaster’ Kibler regarding the “lack of truly awesome dragons in a long time”:

“…I am happy to tell you that there is a dragon that I’ve been told is very tournament worthy in the pipeline. I can’t tell you for what set but suffice to say it’s been made and you all will have a chance to play it soon enough.”

-Mark Rosewater

Sure enough, in Mark Rosewater’s preview piece for Magic 2013, we got this:

Thundermaw Hellkite Large

Thundermaw Hellkite was the dragon that redefined the competitive dragon. The ambition behind the design of Thundermaw Hellkite was to create “a Dragon that set the standard for a badass Dragon as Doug Beyer laid it out in Mark’s preview article. And Thundermaw Hellkite achieved exactly that. Prior to Thundermaw Hellkite’s existence, the dragons that saw high-level competitive play were either too expensive to cast or contain a prohibitive mana requirement that restricted their playability to few archetypes.

Thundermaw Hellkite broke the mold. She is a five casting cost 5/5 flier with haste and an enter the battlefield ability that ensures she and potentially your army could go in for the alpha strike. She was obviously pushed and was designed for the tournament tables.

Yet her price trajectory during her first few months of being unleashed into the meta was nothing but dismal.

Thundermaw Hellkite Price

After the hype surrounding Magic 2013 died down, Thundermaw Hellkite’s price tanked all the way to $10. How could the price of such a playable mythic stoop so low? We all know the answer to that: Thundermaw Hellkite was a mythic with no home in Standard. Indeed the reason Thundermaw maintained a price tag of $10 was the fact that she is a dragon and is from a core set.

In October 2012, a couple of months after Thundermaw Hellkite’s release, and right after Return to Ravnica rotated in, Takeda Harunobu won a high profile Standard tournament in Japan with a Standard brew we now know as Jeskai Tempo (or UWR Tempo back then). Takeda’s deck featured two Thundermaw Hellkites alongside Geist of Saint Traft and Restoration Angel.

In the middle of November 2012, Jon Bolding took down Grand Prix Charleston with a Black-Red ‘Big’ Zombies deck that featured three Hellkites in the mainboard. Tyler Lytle took down Grand Prix San Antonio the week after with the same deck.

By December 2012, Thundermaw Hellkite was a $40 card and remained so until February 2013. Throughout her Standard shelf life, Thundermaw Hellkite saw play in a multitude of archetypes and was a quintessential staple of InnistradReturn to Ravnica Standard. She even saw Modern play when the UWR Tempo archetype made its debut in Modern.

Thundermaw Hellkite’s trend was not unique to herself of course. A handful of expensive mythics had at some point during their Standard life been sorely undervalued due to a multitude of reasons. Some stayed low for a brief period of time. Dragonlord Ojutai is a recent example. He was preordering for $6, began his first week in Standard under $10 and is $38 as of writing. Some remained low much longer. Remember the summer when Jace, Architect of Thought was under $10?

On the other hand, a lot of mythics stayed in the under $10 region all the way until they rotated out of Standard and into the bulk bin. I was bullish on Duskmantle Seer after a BUG Aggro shell running four Duskmantle Seers briefly surfaced in the meta. Even Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa had good things to say about the Seer, arguing that his symmetrical ability is asymmetrical in the right deck. When Duskmantle Seer hit $3, I thought he was too cheap. I bought two playsets for speculation and one foil playset for myself. As of today, they are collecting metaphorical dust in my bulk specs box.

When we speculate on undervalued playable mythics, we are betting that those mythics would have their day in the sun before their time in Standard comes to a dawn. The following are three questions I use to evaluate the chances that an under $10 mythic would spike before its time in Standard comes to an end.

1. A Mythic in a Hostile Meta?

Thundermaw Hellkite struggled to find a home during her first few months in Standard as it was the era of Blue-White Delver. If you were lucky enough to be able to resolve a five casting cost dragon amid Mana Leak and Snapcaster Mage, Vapor Snag would wreck your tempo. Once Mana Leak and Vapor Snag rotated out, the meta was Thundermaw Hellkite friendly and as a result she was able to spread her wings and soar to $40.

Thundermaw Hellkite’s dominance (in tandem with that of Falkenrath Aristocrat) kept Jace, Architect of Thought out of the metagame.

Jace, Architect of Thought Price

Once the hasty fliers rotated out of Standard in October 2013, Jace proliferated throughout the metagame in Blue-based control decks and Mono Blue Devotion. His price spiked to the $30s briefly and hovered around the $20s until the release of Jace vs. Vraska.

Xenagos, the Reveler and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver both spent time as $7 mythics. Both spiked above $15 when a new Standard was ushered in last fall.

Are there any inherently good mythics that are currently undervalued because they do not have a home in the metagame? Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is just $7.55 at the moment. Sarkhan is competitively costed, defends himself and is a game finisher but he is not the card you want to cast in a metagame where Hero’s Downfall is prevalent. Could Sarkhan soar to $20 once Hero’s Downfall falls out of Standard?

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker smells like a good summer pick-up.

2. Does the Mythic Carry the Game by Itself?

A card that requires synergy to tap into its full potential is unlikely to  be played in multiple archetypes. Build-around-me mythics have a significantly lower chance of spiking due to the reduced probability of them finding a home. Duskmantle Seer was a good example. He requires you to maintain a low curve in your deck to optimally exploit his Dark Confidant ability.

The reliance on synergy was the reason I did not buy in on the Master of Waves spike when Shorecrasher Elemental was spoiled.

Master of Waves Spike

It was tempting to buy into cheap Master of Waves in case Blue Devotion becomes a thing again, but too much hinged on the success of a single deck for that bet to be worth making.

Every card listed on point one above are good cards even by themselves. Dragonlord Ojutai is a card advantage machine all by himself, allowing him to be one of the most ubiquitous mythic in the current Standard metagame. Of course we get a card that occasionally bucks the trend. Falkenrath Aristocrat’s spike hinged solely on the popularity of The Aristocrats archetype but she was an exception rather than the norm.

3. Does the Mythic have a Snowball Effect?

The card advantage you get from each activation of Jace, Architect of Thought or each time Dragonlord Ojutai connects makes it more likely for you to activate or connect the second time around. And the third. Eventually the card advantage from those effects propel you sufficiently far ahead in the game that your opponent has practically lost even though his or her life point is still above zero.

An undervalued mythic with a snowball effect is more likely to find a home and experience a price spike compared with a mythic that offers you a splashy, one-off effect.  Incremental card advantage and board position win games. Sometimes the advantage those cards generate are not immediately obvious until you play with them.

I am going to cheat and use a couple of Standard rares to illustrate this point. In my defense, the following are rares that started out their Standard lives being in the low single digit price range and eventually maintained a price above $15 for the majority of their Standard-legal life. Without playtesting with Goblin Rabblemaster, it was easy to overlook the fact that every turn Goblin Rabblemaster stayed on board puts you further and further ahead in board position. Every turn Courser of Kruphix remained unanswered could potentially lead to an extra card drawn and an extra life point gained.

This question generally applies to permanents rather than spells. We do occasionally get a spell that allows us to chain card advantage. The first Sphinx’s Revelation you resolve increases your odds of hitting your second.

In this vein, I like Sorin, Solemn Visitor as a pick right now and during this summer. Sorin is currently paying a visit to the valley of sub-$10 playable mythics. $9.40 seems too cheap for a versatile planeswalker that generates incremental card advantage and could be found in both Abzan Aggro and Abzan Control. Perhaps the latest iteration of Mardu Superfriends could be the next tier one contender in the format. Or we could even see Sorin and Narset side-by-side in Esper Control in the new Standard meta this October (I personally prefer Dragonlords). Sorin also has the additional upside of a relatively low spread of 36% as of writing.


Those three questions cover only the main points in evaluating if a sub-$10 mythic has a good chance of spiking before it rotates. Other factors like Duel Deck reprint risk and set supply should be taken into consideration as well. I chose those three elements because they constitute a useful rule of thumb to help you decide if a cheap mythic is worth picking up. Those points were derived from the lessons I’ve learned from getting burned by Duskmantle Seer and the countless other mythics I spec’d on with hopes of an early retirement but are now destined to remain in my bulk spec box forever. Those points were distilled from the what little success I’ve had with Thundermaw Hellkite and a few other mythics which in retrospect seemed exceedingly obvious they were too cheap. Those were the points I used to evaluate Dragonlord Ojutai before coming to a conclusion that I should probably preorder him.

Do share your thoughts in the comments section below, or catch me on Twitter at @theguoheng.



UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Casual Hits of 2015

By: Corbin Hosler

Hello, everyone! I appreciated the response to my article last week, which I think exemplified one of my core tenets when it comes to MTG finance: playing it safe.

There is plenty of money to be made in this game with proper planning and timing. What isn’t needed is speculation-fueled buyouts, huge positions in Standard cards that may take off tomorrow, or supply-side buyouts.

Why go through all the trouble of that when there’s so much easy money waiting to be made, assuming that you have a little patience?

As I explained last week, that’s why I love casual cards, and it’s why I focus most of my speculation decisions around that. I’m not the guy glued to Pro Tour coverage to see what gets mentioned early Friday morning and buying out whatever that is. I’m the guy playing Commander at the LGS and finding out what cards are going to still have demand for them in two years.

Of course, with such a long time frame on these cards, it can be easy to forget about some of the good targets in this category and lose yourself in the Standard or Modern happenings. That’s why one of the things I like to do every so often is centralize all of these will-be targets in once place.

Almost six months into 2015, now seems like as good a time as any. I’m sure I’ll revisit this at the end of the year with an update, but now represents basically the optimal buying opportunity on some soon-to-rotate cards, so this should be helpful in the short-term as well.

Last week, I added a list of some cards that fill this category that were already seeing movement. I’ll repeat the list here for convenience.

  • Akroma’s Memorial. The Magic 2013 version is at an all-time high of $12, and this was a $20 card before the reprint. It’s going to get there again.
  • Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is on a tear, and is almost $9. Again, we have what was a $20 card before a reprint. This has seen a lot of growth already this year, so it’s not quite as attractive, but this is going to continue to climb.
  • Door of Destinies is at an all-time low of $3.50, and this will continue to climb back toward the $8 it was before the reprint.
  • Rise of the Dark Realms sits at $4.50 after some momentum, and as a mythic, this one should rise at a faster clip than the others.
  • Gilded Lotus is also at an all-time high of $6.50 (noticing a theme of “casual reprints in Core Sets?” and will be $10 within in a year.
  • Looking further ahead, Darksteel Forge has three printings and hasn’t shown much momentum this year, but it fits the exact same mold as Gilded Lotus, and Darksteel versions of this used to be $12.
  • Dragon Tempest and Dragonlord’s Servant are both on their way to bottoming out, and once they hit near-bulk status they become very good long-term players.
  • Adaptive Automaton is showing some steady progress over the past three months, and is likely due for a correction upward within the next year.

What do all these have in common? Besides being sweet casual cards, they also have all already seen at least a little movement, and in some cases more. While this is a great sign of things to come and represents a reason to get in, it also necessarily means less upside. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and all those are picks I like moving forward, but we’re not exactly getting in at the very bottom, either.

Today, I hope to shed some light on those cards that are actually near the bottom. Getting in at the valley may mean a longer timeframe to cash out, but it also means maximizing profit.

So let’s dig in.



I know I said I was going to focus on 2015 today, but I can’t help but look back to last year as well. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief.


Basically, I’d be remiss to talk about casual cards and not mention gods (holy crap, these are actually from 2013, huh? Getting old, here). Either way, these are basically mini-Eldrazi that will see growth over time, even if it’s not the momentous growth that Emrakul and friends saw.

Of these, the mono-colored five are certainly good, but I feel like the upside may be more in the Born of the Gods and Journey Into Nyx copies that were opened much, much less. You already know the score on these, so I won’t dawdle.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

This bottomed out back in February (when it was my Pick of the Week on Brainstorm Brewery), but since then it’s climbed back to $6. I expect this will have to wait until rotation to go lower, but it’s well worth picking up then.

Prophet of Kruphix

It’s hard to know what the right call here is, but I imagine it’s the alternate-art printing, though neither is expensive and regular foils are trending toward $5. This thing is straight bonkers in Commander, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.


Specifically, Dictate of Erebos (especially the foil) and Dictate of Kruphix (Game Day promo). These are solid Commander playables, and while they’re certainly going to take some time to move up, move up they will. Grave Pact is $8 after six printings. Dictate of Erebos has huge long-term upside.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Again, a card that’s not cheap enough yet. It’s $9 but was $20 before the reprint. Standard play likely props this up a little, so if this settles down by rotation it will be a great pickup.

The biggest reason? How nicely it plays with Cabal Coffers, forming the most dangerous combo of any black deck in Commander.

Sliver Hivelord

I’ve talked about this several times, but for good reason. Every other five-color Sliver bomb is at least $15. This will be too.

Crucible of Fire

Again, a long-term gainer here. But Dragons, yo. People like them. This was $5 card before the reprint.

Clever Impersonator

Phyrexian Metamorph is $5 with one printing and a promo. Impersonator isn’t exactly that, but in practice it comes pretty close. On top of all that, it’s a mythic. As we’ve seen with sets like Zendikar and Innistrad, coming from “the most-opened set of all-time” isn’t the drawback you might expect. At $2 there’s a lot of upside on the Impersonator.

Temporal Trespass

This isn’t one I’m as hugely excited about, but it will certainly make its way into plenty of Commander decks over the next few years, and importantly, it is a mythic. It’s essentially a “dollar rare” these days, and it’s hard to lose at that price.


Again, not one I completely love, but it’s worth noting that Cairn Wanderer is $2 so this could end up there one day, too, especially since it’s ostensibly better.


Of course, this encompasses a lot. Looking at Dragons of Tarkir, I see a lot of cards that need to drop quite a ways before I get particularly excited about picking them up.

That said, some are head and wings above the others when it comes to the long-term. The Dragonlords, especially Silumgar, Atarka, and Dromoka, are good casually. Ojutai is just plain good, but I can’t foresee this hitting a price that makes it worth picking up until at least rotation. Thunderbreak Regent is actually the clear winner, though again, it’s too expensive right now to want in on. But it has so many things going for it, not least of which is just being red and therefore more flexible, that it’s hard to not see this as the best long-term pick.

I’m interested to see what happens with the Game Day promo of this card, because that’s definitely the most attractive version, as Guo Heng Chin touched on earlier this week.

Haven of the Spirit Dragon

This definitely competes with Nykthos for the title of “best casual land currently being supported financially by Standard,” and it may actually surpass Nykthos in that regard. I hope every day that this gets cheap soon, because it’s just such an appealing target if it hits $1 to $2, even if we have to wait for rotation to get there.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

As sweet as the other cards in this set are, this may actually be the best in Commander. It’s finally starting to fall, and I can’t wait for this thing to bottom out.

Risen Executioner

Rounding out our list today is a pretty solid zombie, which has both the benefit of being cheap and being mythic. Lord of the Undead is $8 after several printings, and while Executioner may not be that good, it’s still an extremely-solid zombie lord. Lots to like here.


And that’s my list of casual targets for the past 18 months. There are a few lesser ones that are interesting, but this represents the best of the best. Until next week (when we have a full Modern Masters 2 spoiler), keep it casual!


Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: A First Look at Modern Masters 2015

By: Travis Allen


This article will have been the most fun I’ve had writing in months, possibly ever. I say this without any consideration for the content within. What am I talking about? I recently purchased a mechanical keyboard, and ho boy, let me tell you. This thing is amazing. Every key press is simultaneously a musical note and a distinct tactile sensation. Typing is akin to receiving a massage, and each muscle plays it’s own sound when relaxed. You see, most keyboards, such as those on your laptop or the one many of you are using on your desktop, use a series of rubber membranes underneath the keys. You push a key, some rubber moves, an electrical circuit is formed, and the computer registers a key press. On the surface of the board the keys are independent, but the inner workings beneath the keys are all connected.

Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, hearken back to a time before advanced manufacturing techniques had turned its eye toward computers, before capitalism drove down both the cost and quality of everyday keyboards. Each key on the board is completely independent of the others, and they use a fully self-contained mechanical process to register key presses. (This website does a good job of illustrating the function, as well as educating you on which type you may want to invest in. I chose Cherry MX Brown switches, and I’m quite happy with them, though they don’t have the same distinct tactile bump mid-stroke that the Blues have. I’d be happy with either.) The end result is a wildly satisfying typing experience that I can’t recommend strongly enough if you spend any appreciable time at your computer. Be forewarned, though. If there are any light sleepers in your home they will be immediately aware of your new purchase.

Modern Reforged

What does this have to do with our topic for the week? Nothing, really. I just wanted a chance to type more words on this thing and I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you all this nifty new device I’m enjoying. As far as content goes, I had planned on starting this week off by continuing from last week’s topic—that is, what cards to trade for heavily over the summer as Khans of Tarkir block prices fall.

After pulling up Fate Reforged, though, I find really only a single card that looks to be immediately underpriced: Tasigur, the Golden Fang. He’s making waves in Standard, Modern, and Legacy right now, quickly cementing his place as a stalwart eternal staple. With FRF feeling under-opened, I see non-foils cresting $10 to $15 this fall, and foils are an absolute slam dunk in the $25 to $30 range. Realize that foil Abrupt Decay, another recent eternal staple, is nearly $70.

Beyond Tasigur, there isn’t much in Fate Reforged I’m too excited about right now. I do believe that Ugin, the Spirit Dragon will ultimately rise, though I’m not entirely sure of exactly how his price curve will play out over the next several months. I believe that it’s highly likely we see him above $50 before the end of 2016, though that doesn’t mean that this August is necessarily the best time to buy in. And if we’re looking for places to stock up on cards that will be rising this fall in order to cash out, Ugin may not be the best choice with both a high barrier to entry and uncertainty about when exactly he’ll reach his full price potential. There’s also the looming specter of the spring’s Duel Deck, for which Ugin is a serious candidate. Should that come to pass, it will add another year at least to his growth cycle.

I’m a big fan of Monastery Mentor, as well, especially foils, though again, with such a high price tag already, it’s going to be hard to build up too much of a portfolio this summer. I would recommend trading for all three of these FRF cards as much as possible over the coming months, and for any other cards you want to park value in, refer to what I wrote last week.

Just the Thing

While staring at the Fate Reforged price list and wondering what the heck I was going to write about this week, I noticed that Modern Masters 2015 official spoilers began today. Well, hey, that’s something people care about, right? Perfect. We’ll look at what’s official up through Tuesday, May 5.

It won’t be too surprising to learn that most cards in MM2015 are going to drop in price, at least initially. Our goal isn’t to just guess at which direction everything is going to go, but rather, to understand how far it will drop and consider the point at which we want to buy. Having said that, there is one culprit that may once again escape the pitfalls of reprint.

I had two reactions to the official reveal of MM2015. First, that Tarmogoyf was going to be in, and second, that its price would finally fall. Finally, I reasoned, supply would begin to outstrip demand.

In the intervening months, however, my opinion has wavered. I am no longer so sure that the amount of Goyfs introduced to the market will be enough to satiate public demand. My fellow writer, James Chillcott (@mtgcritic), has been trying to hone in on the number of copies that will be introduced relative to the existing population of Goyfs, and I’ve got to say, it’s less than I would have initially expected. When you consider just how few people out there actually own sets, it’s easy to see how this could once again fail to slay the green monster. Next time you’re at Modern or Draft or FNM, ask around and see how many players actually own playsets. Almost everyone that isn’t a die-hard Spike won’t own any, and even among the competitive players, I’m guessing you’ll find perhaps a 25 percent ownership rate. If the printing of MM2015 creates more players that are seeking playsets of Tarmogoyf than playsets themselves, demand rises, and so too will the price. My estimated price on Goyf right now for the initial months following the release of MM2015 is somewhere between $160 and $190. Time will tell, I suppose.



How about the rest of the spoiled cards? Let’s start with some big ones. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn was spoiled very early, and as a result, he’s dropped from $60 all the way to…$50. There will be further loss here, though don’t expect prices south of $30. He’s still the preeminent reanimation and cheat-into-play target in every format where he’s legal, and is a casual all-star to boot. Our best course of action here is to wait for Emrakul to hit his floor, and as soon as he begins to rise again (likely sometime this fall), begin scooping up copies like mad. We won’t see him again for quite some time after this, and I’ve no doubt he’ll return to $50 within a year or so of his appearance here in MM2015. The only way he doesn’t climb back up to that price is if he’s somehow trumped in Battle for Zendikar, which I consider highly unlikely. Right now, Emrakul is a prime target to trade all of your Siege Rhinos and Rattleclaw Mystics into this October.

Kozilek returns, the last of the three to receive a second printing, and boy did he need it. He’s been more expensive than Ulamog for quite some time, despite the fact that Ulamog is fringe-playable in any big mana deck and Kozilek is resigned to casual-oriented formats. That his price stayed that high without a modicum of tournament success tells us just how much casual demand there is for this guy. The only reason I see his price suffering much at all this year is because of just how packed with value the mythic slot is this time around. Kozilek will be another excellent trade target as MM2015 prices bottom out in several months.

Karn should follow a similar path as Emrakul as a giant, colorless, awesome card. In fact, Karn seems even more resilient here than Emrakul is. He was just about $50 before he was officially revealed in early March, and he’s still about $50 today. He won’t be able to sustain that price, as the market always seems to react rather slowly to reprint news like this, but like Emrakul, I’d be surprised if he made it under $25 or $30. I’m less bullish on scooping up copies of Karn this fall, though. While very cool, he’s not actually played in nearly as many places as Emrakul is. There’s clearly appeal from casual players, EDH tables, and cubes, but he isn’t a mainstay of combo decks in both eternal formats in the same way as Emrakul. You could do worse than picking up Karn this fall, but he won’t be my first choice.

While we’re talking about colorless cards, Mox Opal is yet another high-profile colorless mythic, though unlike the Lovecraftian horrors detailed above, is vulnerable to corrosion and violent storms. Another $50 to $60 mythic before its announcement, Opal too hasn’t budged much yet. The path for this will be similar to Emrakul. It will drop into the $30 to $40 range, then given its utility in various formats and status of being a Mox, will only stand to gain once we get past the initial supply glut.

I’m a bit surprised to see Iona here, as she was widely expected to show up in the upcoming From the Vault: Angels. Given that she’s so casual-oriented, she makes sense in an FTV product, while Linvala was expected here in the competitive product. With Iona in MM2015, did Wizards switch things up on us and put Linvala in the FTV? It would seem that way for now.

As for Iona, the hits at the mythic slot just keep on coming. There will be an interesting tension between this many high-demand mythics and $10 pack prices. Looking at Swords of Fire and Ice and Light and Shadow from the first time around, I see the Darksteel copies losing about 15 percent  after the reprint. Given that Iona is similarly a casual-oriented card with a very minor competitive play profile, I’d expect something similar here. She’ll probably dip below $25, but don’t expect anything south of $20 unless the whole set drops more than people expect.

If we divide the mythics into “better than average” and “worse than average” piles, I’m putting Bitterblossom in the worse half. The current price tag of $40 is based entirely on scarcity. While a mythic run in MM2015 isn’t going to add “one in every box of Cheerios” quantity to the market, it’s going to add quite a few copies of a card that is relatively unpopular right now. Add to that the same artwork, and there’s no reason to believe this will fare well. With the uncontested popularity of so many other mythics, Bitterblossom’s outlook is not great here. Could we see prices south of $20?

Vendilion Clique is probably the worst positioned mythic at the moment. The trio is competing against a slew of useful rares that plenty of players have been waiting ages to pick up, as well as several high-profile, heavily-played mythics, all while losing competitive ground in both Modern and Legacy. I picked up a small stack of these about a year ago at around $50 because I anticipated they would reach $90 to $100, as Dark Confidant had done, but they just never saw enough play to get that high. It seems they’re not used any more today than they were then, and if anything, it seems like I see them less often, particularly in Legacy. With another printing increasing both availability and competition among expensive cards, Clique could end up being one of the mythics with the furthest to fall.

Primeval Titan was shown off on Monday by perennial green mage Brian Kibler, and while the price hasn’t dropped much yet, expect it to in the near future. This will mark the titan’s fourth printing, and even with Amulet Bloom running rampant in Modern right now, it still hasn’t been enough to push its price much past $15. With so many other, more desirable cards in the set, things don’t look good for Primeval Titan in the near future. Given how long it took this to rise in price the last time, unless we see PrimeTime in the sub-$4 range, I’ll be inclined to stay away. This goes doubly so for the rest of the cycle, which all have far fewer competitive applications than Mana-Hulk.


On the rare side of things, the reprint everyone saw coming before MM2015 was even announced, Noble Hierarch, is going to present a lucrative opportunity. Its price will crash hard, with Jason (@JasonEAlt) and James looking for prices in the $10 to $15 range. I’m right there with them, and I’m also in total agreement that this is an excellent long-term gainer. Hierarch is all over the place in basically every format, including the kitchen table. They even printed Llanowar Elves in the most recent Commander product, which means that mana dorks can find a home just about anywhere. I’ll be looking for as many copies of Hierarch as possible this fall when she’s at her lowest, and hopefully she’ll climb all the way back to $40 given a year or so to grow. It took less than a year for Cryptic Command to go from under $20 to $55, and I expect the same here.

Fulminator Mage is likely to end up in the top five or ten most useful rares in the set, but that won’t save its value. I expect the price to take a nasty hit, just as Hierarch will, though the rebound should happen slower and softer. Hierarch is on the whole much more popular across a wide spectrum of players, while Fulminator Mage does exactly two things: fills out Modern sideboards and annoys people at kitchen tables. Mostly the former, I’d guess. In any case, I’ll be glad to finally have a set back.

Spellskite should fare as well or better than those two, given its ubiquity in Modern. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being one of the top ten or even top five best rares in the set. Still, we’re going to see more of a drop from the current price tag of about $25. I’d anticipate prices in the low teens,  perhaps even below $10 depending on how great supply actually is, and what the rest of the rares look like. I certainly like Spellskite at its floor in a few months. It isn’t seeing any less play in Modern than it was, and will be good for at least 50 percent profits a year from its lowest point.spellskite

Splinter Twin is going to eat it hard. There’s exactly one deck that wants copies anywhere in the world, and even then, it doesn’t even necessarily run four. I don’t like it as a gainer, either. Once the boost in supply drives the price low, there won’t be sustained illiquid demand to drive it back up.

Daybreak Coronet was spoiled with a worse border and less interesting art, and like Adarkar Valkyrie and other casual cards, should suffer greatly. Boggles is hardly a major component of the competitive Modern scene, and beyond that, demand for Coronet exists only in casual circles. It will join the ranks of the slaughtered rares with nearly no hope of recovering. It won’t be the only white rare down there either, as Mirran Crusader will be joining it.

Another casual all-star, All is Dust, maintains a $20 price tag despite being GP promo’d. A rare printing is going to hurt like hell, though. Adarkar Valkyrie dropped dramatically when it was reprinted, from double digits to under $2, and I don’t expect other expensive casual rares will fare much better this time around. I can see Dust dropping well south of $10.

Next week should bring us quite a bit more to discuss, although there’s no way the density of absurd mythics can continue at this rate. There’s been a sort of semi-unofficial spoiling of Dark Confidant and Tezzeret via an MTGO announcement, so I’m assuming we’ll see those, as well as the rest of the Titan cycle. Probably a great deal more rares, as well, which I’m quite curious about. Once we have the full spoiler list in, we can begin turning our attention to all those left behind. Until then!

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Assessing the Risks of Speculating

Not all speculation targets are created equal. Each card has a price, a trajectory, context within various formats, a buy-sell spread, historical baggage, print run considerations, and ever more factors influencing to what extent a spec is a “good buy” or not.

It’s because of all these factors that you might choose to go deep on an unproven bulk rare rather than an established format staple, or to buy a staple even when most in the community believe it has hit its peak.

At its core, all speculating comes down to one basic question: how risky is speculating on this card?


Today’s article will be entirely a case study of Abrupt Decay, a card highlighted fairly frequently on MTGPrice in the last few weeks. We’ll be looking at many of the factors influencing this card’s price, all to determine: is this where we should be putting our money?


The current Fair Trade Price on this card is $12.48 and the top buy price is $9.40. So, as a baseline, if we bought into this card today, the risk would be $3.08 per copy. Yes, the buy price can absolutely go down—and it probably will during the summer lull—but assuming no major unforeseen events, it’s hard to see demand for Abrupt Decay declining.

Reprint Incoming?

Importantly, Return to Ravnica is not slated to be included among the sets drawn upon for Modern Masters 2015. As more players look into playing Modern, the staples that don’t get reprinted this year will all of a sudden have a little extra demand focused on them.

Abrupt Decay doesn’t have any particular flavor that would make it difficult to reprint, but it’s also not the type of card that Wizards green-lights every day. The chance of a reprint seems extremely low to me, especially in a normal set. The most likely place, if any, we’ll see new copies of this in the next year or so is through judge or GP promos.

Reprint risk: Low.

Metagame Risks

How likely is it that Abrupt Decay declines in price due to its place in various metagames?

Let’s start by pointing out that this is a two-color card, and one of those colors is not blue, which limits the amount of decks that can play it. That said, this is a very powerful effect, especially in eternal formats where low-drops rule, and it is not unreasonable to build your deck specifically to have access to this card.

How it does in individual formats is important, too:

Standard: Crucially, this is not legal in Standard, so we don’t have to worry about rotation causing a sudden drop in price.

Modern: MTG Goldfish lists Abrupt Decay as the 39th-most-played card in Modern.  The last Modern Pro Tour saw a field of 30 percent Abzan decks, and it’s fair to say that most of if not all of them had access to this card somewhere in the 75. With Jund and straight Golgari decks also fairly prevalent, Abrupt Decay seems fairly safe to continue seeing action in Modern.

Legacy: Abrupt Decay is the tenth-most-played card in Legacy, which is crazy, given that it can’t be pitched to Force of Will. Still, Jund and Sultai decks are big in the format, and Decay is important to keeping Counterbalance decks in check, too. It certainly doesn’t seem like the card is going anywhere.

Vintage: Due to a serious lack of players and events,Vintage playability doesn’t necessarily impact a card’s price in a huge way (foils excepted), but it can indicate a card’s power level. In this case, Decay is the 38th-most-played card in Vintage, so there you go.

Casual: Abrupt Decay is a fine card in Cube, and probably playable in Commander, though not exactly an all-star. Kitchen-table players will probably play any copies they own, but this doesn’t strike me as a card a casual player will see and think she must go out and purchase for her deck.

All in all, I think it’s fairly safe to call Abrupt Decay an eternal-format staple, with little to no value coming from casual formats or Standard. In my mind, this means there is very little risk of metagame changes completely crushing this card’s value.

Contextual Clues

Let’s look at the blocks before and after Return to Ravnica to give ourselves a little context of what is possible and what we’ve seen before.

Remember, Return to Ravnica was a large fall set. It was the first of its block, and Abrupt Decay was printed at rare. If we look a year earlier, we can see the most expensive rare in Innistrad.


This bodes well. Thinking Abrupt Decay will hit $51.57 is ambitious—far too ambitious, if you ask me—but seeing Snapcaster this high at least shows us that Decay has room to grow. Innistrad and Return to Ravnica were similar in a lot of ways, especially with regards to the timing of their releases, the size of the playerbase, the popularity of the sets, the power level of the top cards, etc.

Snapcaster Mage and Abrupt Decay are very different types of cards, but they are both similarly staple-tastic in all of the eternal formats. Snapcaster is probably a little more attractive in casual formats and it does pitch to Force of Will, which means that all other things being equal, Abrupt Decay probably never moves past Snapcaster in price.


Now for the most expensive rare in Theros, which you can see is Thoughtseize. This is similar to Snapcaster and Decay in some ways, but also different in many.

The similarities are easy: this is an eternal staple played in every single format in which it’s legal, and it is a rare from a large fall set in the same general era as Return to Ravnica and Innistrad.

But the differences add a few twists to the situation. First off, this is a reprint. Before it was reprinted, the Llorwyn version was up to an insanely high $70. This was probably due more to supply factors than demand, although obviously both play a role to hike a card price up so high.

Also, importantly, this card still sees lots of play in Standard. Will it drop at rotation? Maybe. But players in general are getting more savvy regarding MTG finance—thanks in large part to MTGPrice!—and many are not selling their eternal staples upon rotation from Standard. Snapcaster didn’t dip as much as we expected, nor did Abrupt Decay, and I frankly do not expect Thoughtseize to drop much at all.

So although Standard is creating a demand for the card, it’s likely that Thoughtseize is never again available for lower than its current price—and if it is, it will only be slightly lower.

Could the $20 price tag on Thoughtseize be an indicator of what to expect for Abrupt Decay? Maybe, although the reprint and Standard-legal angles certainly make it hard to call this a direct analogue. Also, being two-colored as opposed to mono-colored makes Decay more narrow, which lessens demand. Despite these potential pitfalls, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that Decay should be between $20 and $50 based on similar-ish cards printed at similar-ish times.

Unless there are other factors at play, that is.

Set Value

Cards’ individual values are often influenced by how valuable their home set is as a whole. This is in large part because singles are priced by retailers to make opening boxes of product worth it.  This is a big reason why Voice of Resurgence started and remains so expensive: Dragon’s Maze didn’t have any other good cards!

So if we look at Thoughtseize, we can see that Theros is generally a low-value set. Thoughtseize is the single most expensive card in it, and the ones that follow are mythics that are only good in Standard and casual formats. As far as eternal staples go, Thoughtseize is basically it. If it weren’t a reprint, how pricey would the card be, I wonder?

Similarly, Snapcaster Mage comes from a set with only a few cards that see eternal play: Liliana of the Veil (at mythic), Geist of Saint Traft (also mythic), and Sulfur Falls are the top three. There’s plenty of casual goodies in the set, but the prices are top-heavy with the excellent competitive cards at the top of the list. In many cases, prices for the casual cards in this set are far lower than I would expect in general.


And here’s where thing kind of fall apart for Abrupt Decay. Check out the eternal playables in Return to Ravnica (listed by descending price):

  1. Abrupt Decay
  2. Steam Vents
  3. Deathrite Shaman
  4. Temple Garden
  5. Sphinx’s Revelation
  6. Overgrown Tomb
  7. Blood Crypt
  8. Hallowed Fountain
  9. Supreme Verdict
  10. Jace, Architect of Thought*
  11. Rest in Peace
  12. Loxodon Smiter*

Jace and Smiter are fringe players at Modern at best, but they do see occasional play and are worth mentioning here.

Note that every card on this list is probably a little bit lower than we might otherwise expect. Coincidence? I think not. Because there is so much value in Return to Ravnica—and I’m not even considering the top casual cards like Utvara Hellkite and Chromatic LanternI believe the prices of all cards are suppressed. This probably explains in part why the shock lands have failed to perform so miserably.

Now, as we get further away from booster boxes of RTR being commonly available, the price of the box will matter less and less to the prices of individual cards. But the box price is where card pricing derives from originally, and price memory is a powerful thing. Once the playerbase “knows” how much a card is worth, it’s hard to impact that without some major shakeups in supply or demand.

What Does All This Mean?

Let’s say Abrupt Decay hits $20. Its current spread (the difference between the Fair Trade Price and the top buy price) is about 25 percent. So if its retail price hits $20, we can assume the buy price will settle in somewhere around $15.

We’ve already determined the current risk is $3.08 to buy in today. And the gains if we hit $20? Only $2.52 per copy.

Can Abrupt Decay go higher? Sure it can. We’ve seen Snapcaster climb as high as $50, but with the plethora of valuable cards in Decay’s set, the more narrow uses and decks it has compared to Snapcaster, and being from a set that was more opened than Innistrad, it seems highly unlikely to get anywhere close to Snapcaster.

Now for my gut feelings: I don’t see a world where Decay hits $30 any time soon, but $25 may be possible. If it hits $25, then you’re making, what, $6.25 a copy?

So now it comes down to whether you feel like it’s worth it to spend $12.48 to make $6.25 in about six months. Personally, I am not. If I had lots of extra dollars at my disposal, that might be a play I made, but with very limited funds I am willing to dedicate to Magic, I prefer opportunities where I can reasonably hope to double up, and I just don’t think that’s possible with Abrupt Decay.

However, trading for copies is still totally on the table, especially if people are interested in soon-to-rotate Theros cards. And by no means should you be selling or trading copies of Abrupt Decay you already own—it’s basically free money to hold these until Modern Master 2015 is released. I just don’t think it’s worth buying.

The Real Point of It All

This article focused heavily on Abrupt Decay, but it really wasn’t about the individual card at all. My goal here was to show you the thought process behind choosing a speculation target and deciding whether or not it’s worth buying in.

Do you have specific targets your’e looking at? Consider everything: the set they’re in, the supply, the demand, the formats they’re good in, how upcoming rotations and releases will impact them, the similar cards to other sets, etc. The more you analyze your potential spec targets, the more informed your purchases will be. And when you’re spending money on cardboard with pretty pictures, you generally want to be making informed purchases.

Have comments? You know what to do.