Category Archives: Watchtower

PROTRADER: The Watchtower 2/26/18

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


With a wide variety of decks in the top 8 and top 32 of GP Memphis, Standard is looking healthy for the first time in awhile. Players seem overall pleased and excited for the format after having spent nine of the last twelve months griping about it. Add in the newly spoiled Challenger decks which seek to put tier 2ish prebuilt lists into the hands of players for $30, and FNM is sounding even better.

Of course none of this matters for us, since the Standard markets are going to be dead until October. Challenger decks have laid to rest any chance you may have had to cash out on soon-to-rotate staples, and with the summer lull creeping ever closer, it’s just not where you want to be for now. We’ll start thinking about it again in July or August, when prices are at their low and we can start looking for Ixalan pickups heading into rotation. It will be the first Standard without Masterpieces since Battle for Zendikar three years ago, so hopefully card prices will have a little more bounce in them.

Flameblade Adept (Foil)

Price Today: $3
Possible Price: $7

Jace and Bloodbraid are making their presence felt in Modern. Neither has dominated the format yet, but they’re certainly both key cards doing a lot of work. They’re certain to shape what strategies are viable in the coming months, and it will be hard to play a midrange deck that doesn’t include one of these cards by June.

One strategy that’s always done just fine in spite of these cards is dredge, or dredge-like builds. They tend to be immune to the discard/removal grinding of Jund, since there’s usually a way to bring all your creatures back repeatedly from the graveyard, annihilating their card advantage. Jace decks also typically lack the tools to meaningfully interact, and all the Delays and Mana Leaks in the world won’t stop three Bloodghasts from coming back for the fifth time from a land drop.

Modern’s current dredge deck of choice is BR Hollow One. It looked a little flash-in-the-pany when it was first rolled out, but continued success has proven it’s the real deal. It has a few cards new to the Modern stage, and Flameblade Adept is one of them. Admittedly it’s not going to do a lot of work in other strategies, but here, it’s a one mana 1/2 that’s capable of swinging for five or six nearly unblockable damage on like, turn two.

A few foils are floating around out there in the $3 range, but not many. Expect these to drain fairly quickly, and new prices to settle in the $5 to $8 range. It’s only useful in one deck, but it’s a deck people enjoy, and is well positioned in this new meta. Keep an eye out for trade binders and LGS cases, and you may be able to make several bucks a copy.

Fulminator Mage

Price Today: $25
Possible Price: $40

Ah, Fulminator Mage. He and I go way back. Like, Shadowmoor back. This guy, this is the guy. He blows up lands. He attacks for two. He irritates the hell out of people trying to cast Wurmcoil Engine and Jace. What more could you want?

Fulminator Mage has been a part of Modern for a long while now. I don’t think he was heavily played right at the start of the format, but eventually he became a staple. Without digging through the history books, it was probably shortly after people put together a good Tron list.

Before long Fulminator Mage had climbed to a $40 price tag, which at the time was impressive, given that he was rarely played in main decks. Eventually we got the Modern Masters 2015 reprint, and his price took a dive. And while his presence in the format waxes and wanes, it’s certainly on the upswing right now. It’s hard to find a Bloodbraid deck that isn’t packing the angry smoke of cloud. He’s a top three cascade target, along with Liliana of the Veil and Kolaghan’s Command.

In the last four years, he’s jumped to $40 three times. We’re now almost three years since MM2, and there’s a real good reason to want Fulminators in Modern again. Without a Masters 25 reprint, he’s positioned to hit it again.

Thought-Knot Seer (Foil)

 

Price Today: $22
Possible Price: $40

Urza lands probably shouldn’t be in Modern. They are capable of making seven mana on turn three which is flatly unfair. Sure you’ve got to do some work to make it happen (sometimes), but even then it’s absurd. The only other way to produce that much mana on turn three in the format is with two to four cards on top of three lands. Just not fair guys.

That said, it’s legal, so people are going to use them to jam Eldrazi into each other’s faces until they’re not. (And even after, most likely.) One of the best Eldrazi to be jamming into someone’s face is Thought-Knot Seer. Take their Karn Liberated. Take their Bloodbraid Elf. Take their Jace. Take their Scapeshift. Take their hopes and dreams.

We’ve been barking up this tree for awhile, and supply is getting real low. Many major vendors are already charging $35 to $45. Cheaper copies are on TCG, but for how long? Eldrazi Tron is shaping up to be one of the strategies that can compete with Bloodbraid and Jace. That’s going to position these foils well over the coming months and years.


Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.



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UNLOCKED: The Watchtower 2/19/18

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


I’d love to use this past weekend’s results to dive into what a Jace-laden Modern looks like but alas, we’ll have to wait one more week. Wizards made the (wise) decision not to apply the B&R changes to the format a week before both a GP and SCG Open. It’s easy to be annoyed about that on our end, as an audience clamoring to see how this plays out, but when you consider how many people had already spent weeks preparing for those events, it wouldn’t have been terribly polite to upend the entire format five days before they showed up on site. It’s fine; it’s just one more week.

There was a Modern Challenge that fired this weekend with the new list in place, so I ran through that, along with what I’ve been seeing on Twitter and in various articles. Jace was clearly a strong, but not overpowering card in the Challenge, although that comes with a big asterisk. For one, Jace is currently the most expensive card on MODO. One wonders how many people would have liked to use him but were simply priced out. Additionally, looking at the other decks that did well, it’s not exactly heartening. Burn, Tron, and Dredge were many of the non-Jace lists. How’s that for a gauntlet?

Ancestral Vision

Price Today: $20
Possible Price: $40

If there’s one card that I’ve seen more of since the announcement than Jace itself, it’s probably Ancestral Vision. It would seem people really feel this card is going to do a lot of work alongside Jace.

I’d imagine you start with “they’re both good blue cards, so play them together.” AV helps you find your Jace (although probably a turn late). Jace shuffles AVs away in the late game when they’re dead draws. And add in that As Foretold looks to be having a moment with Jace, and the synergy really starts to pull together. You’ll see this primarily over in Taking Turns, which is one of the first decks that gleefully added Jace. You’ll also spot a Temur list over in the Modern Challenge that ran Jace, AV, and the completely overshadowed Bloodbraid Elf. Using Jace’s +0 to put an AV back on top of your deck and then casting BBE has got to leave you longing for a cigarette.

Don’t forget about that, by the way. This is the first time BBE and AV have been legal in Modern together. Shardless Sultai has been a pillar of Legacy for years at this point, and that deck hinges on the AV/Shardless Agent/Brainstorm interaction. Modern’s version is a tad clunkier, with AV/BBE/Jace, but even still, it’s a powerful engine. We may see the Jace/AV pairing take the back seat to the BBE/AV pairing.

AV was in Time Spiral, two minorly important Duel Deck printings, and most recently, Iconic Masters. Now don’t get me wrong, IMA is a mess. Boxes are available at like, 50% of MSRP or some nonsense. So long as AV is one of the only cards to do well from the set though, there still won’t be enough EV to make it worth cracking the boxes, which means AV can climb without the market getting flooded.

Copies are just about $20 right now. Between how eager people are to play Ancestral Vision with Jace, and the absurd synergy with Bloodbraif Elf, things are looking up for Vision. I’d keep an eye on this to hit $40 sometime this year.

Raging Ravine

Price Today: $12
Possible Price: $25

Let me get this out of the way now: a reprint scares me here. It’s the number one threat to this as a potential spec target. Masters 25 is the next opportunity to see Raging Ravine, alongside the rest of the Worldwake cycle. If we dodge A25, then Ravine is worth considering.

Jace aside, Bloodbraid’s return is a fairly big deal. She was one of the best creatures in Modern before she was banned, and did a lot to shore up Jund. Now that she’s back we’ll certainly see a rise in that strategy, and possibly others as well. The other place I’d expect to see BBE that we didn’t as much prior is Temur. Remember, last time BBE was around AV wasn’t legal. Now that it is, you’ve got compelling reasons to be both Jund and Temur. And maybe Naya too but that doesn’t have Liliana of AV so really why bother.

In any case, Bloodbraid is going to bring Raging Ravine back in a big way. Ravine has always been one of the two best manlands, and now that players have a reason to add both red and green to their creature decks, they’ll have a reason to add Ravine as well.

You can score copies around $12 right now. Without a reprint, prices are definitely going to climb towards $20. There’s going to be a lot more demand for Ravine than there has been the last few years.

Fulminator Mage

Price Today: $25
Possible Price: $40

Bloodbraid loves to cascade into three mana spells. Getting seven mana’s worth for your four mana payment feels like cheating. Popular targets include Liliana of the Veil and I imagine newcomer Kolaghan’s Command. Another popular choice from back in the day that may be even better now is Fulminator Mage.

Cascading into land destruction is a time honored tradition in Modern. Stone Rain, Molten Rain, Boom//Bust, take your pick. It’s always felt good. Fulminator ended up taking the lead as the most popular iteration of land destruction, and he’s possibly better positioned today than the last time BBE was legal.

For one, Tron is a major part of Modern these days. The deck has always been around for a long while, of course, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Tron is better today than basically any other time in Modern. Fulminator Mage lets you slow them down considerably, when powered out on turn two by a Hierarch or something similar. T2 Fulminator into T3 BBE into Fulminator is going to smash Tron’s ability to string together enough lands, but it applies some real pressure too.

Of course, this line isn’t good against only Tron. With Jace in the format as well, four mana is going to be more important now than it’s ever been. Keeping opponents off of four with Fulminator will either let you land your Jace first, or give you a window to kill them before they resolve it at all. You also get to nail Inkmoth Nexus’ out of Infect and Affinity, plus whatever other utility lands are floating around on any given day.

Fulminator Mage was a strong target for BBE years ago, and now that she’s back, the format looks even better for the one-two punch. Supply isn’t low or anything, but keep an eye on these. With only a Shadowmoor and MM2 printing, there’s not a lot of copies to come rushing into the market if prices begin to head north.


Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.


 

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PROTRADER: The Watchtower 2/12/18

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


Well. That comes as a bit of a surprise, doesn’t it? Jace, the Mind Sculptor, scourge of Standard, Modern ban list inaugural inductee, has at least one competently produced rap song written about him, is now legal in Modern. I’ve said for ages I think it’s a bad idea, and that even if they wanted to, the only way they could do it was with heavy reprint. We won’t know about the former for awhile, but with EMA last year and A25 (that’s Masters 25. What the hell, right?) a month away, Wizards decided the latter wasn’t a barrier any longer. Jaces were selling for $150 on the announcement and the cheapest copy is currently $130, so we’ll see about that.

Bloodbraid Elf was released too, which is great in its own right. I’ve never been so sure about anything in my life as I am about Wizards having screwed up banning BBE in the first place. It was clear as day that the problem with Jund back then was Deathrite Shaman, and that got the axe one announcement later. I heard several people even muse about DRS’ future in Legacy this weekend. It’s incomprehensible how many mistakes had to happen to let it out the door, and shameful that Wizards wouldn’t ban it in Modern since even though it was clearly way too good for the format, Return to Ravnica was new at the time and they figured it was easier to get rid of an innocent bystander. Man I’m still angry about all of that.

Temporal Mastery

Price Today: $4
Possible Price: $15

Adding Jace to Modern changes things in dramatic ways. When Golgari Grave-Troll was unbanned, you knew where to look. That card has a style. Jace though? If your deck makes blue mana, you’re going to find yourself considering it. And if it doesn’t add blue mana, you’ll consider adding blue so that you can add Jace. Think I’m kidding? Just wait. There are a million angles to consider, and I want to make sure some wild stuff ends up on your radar.

First up is Temporal Mastery. I’ve long had this one on my radar, and I was real bummed when it was reprinted in Modern Masters 2017 this past year. That takes a little of the wind out of the sails, but only the most crazy prices. A solid gain is still on the table.

You’ll remember that Temporal Mastery was a powerful card in Standard. It won Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, and it was floating around for awhile otherwise. (I particularly liked Reid Duke’s big temur list with four Primeval Titan.) It’s never made it into Modern though, outside of Taking Turns, because there isn’t a strong enough way to set it up. There isn’t even a sorcery-speed Brainstorm to work with. You had to do a lot of work to put this back on top of your library, and ultimately there was too much setup.

With Jace back to the party, you get to brainstorm every dang turn. Draw Temporal Mastery on turn two or three and you’re completely happy with that, because you get to play Jace a turn earlier (or on time, if one of your lands is a tap land). Find it in your hand, and you can use Jace to put it back on top of your library for next turn. Getting back-to-back Jace activations can be enough to completely swing a game when you’re against the wall and you’re trying wrest control the board and lock your opponent out.

Add in general casual appeal and the “it’s a time walk and they’re all popular” factor and it gets better. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the longest shot here today. That’s why it’s so spicy though. At $4, these will be easy to sneak out of trade binders if someone finds a way to work it and Jace into a list together. If that ends up being a real deck? $15 should be no problem.

Creeping Tar Pit

Price Today: $20
Possible Price: $55

In Standard and Extended (remember that format?) I think the card with the highest coefficient with Jace was Celestial Colonnade. You never saw one without the other. Colonnade was especially great because it could protect your Jace as well as threaten others, all while resisting Jace’s bounce itself. It was something else. And it will be again.

Of course, Colonnade is $60 today so uh, that ship has basically sailed. (I’m going to go look for mine, actually.) If it’s not in A25 (ugh) then the sky’s the limit I suppose, but we’ll hope that it is for now. If not Colonnade, what’s the next best land to explore?  Creeping Tar Pit.

It may come to pass that Tar Pit is even better than Colonnade in Modern. While there were a lot of important white spells in old Jace decks, that isn’t necessarily true today. Black is a serious contender in Modern between Thoughtseize, Inquisition, Fatal Push, Collective Brutality, and Liliana of the Veil. Your opponent going Thoughtseize, Liliana of the Veil, Jace is going to be lights out for a good number of decks.you’ve also got the angle that Tar Pit is unblockable. Colonnade’s flying is great, but in a format with no shortage of Inkmoth Nexus’ and Lingering Souls tokens, it’s possibly less able to connect when necessary. There are no such worries with Tar Pit.

Will UB become the defacto Jace control build in Modern? I don’t know. I do know that Tar Pit is quite well positioned with Jace’s return though, and with a single Worldwake printing, no reprint in A25 would leave the ceiling wide open.

Kolaghan’s Command

 

Price Today: $20
Possible Price: $40

We should probably talk a little about Bloodbraid Elf, right? Alright, well, this heralds the return of Boom//Bust, whic- oh, right. Ok well now you can hit Beck//Call and cas- oh. Maybe Breaking//En- nope not that either. God damnit, Forsythe. God. Damnit.

It’s no secret that it didn’t really matter what you were cascading into with BBE. As long as your deck was full of good cards, things were going to work out well for you. That’s going to be mostly how this works out too. Hitting Liliana off their Bloodbraid is still going to be table-flipping maddening, but that’s not going to move the needle on Liliana.

BBE gimmick builds will probably focus on land destruction for a long while. You’ve got Fulminator Mage, as well as Stone Rain, Blood Moon, Blood Sun, and whatever other denial of service you want to sleeve up.

Excellent three mana spells are going to be better than they were though, and Kolaghan’s Command is poised to absorb much of that added demand. It’s a pretty loopy card, and even at its worst the value is excellent. It will be especially exciting when your opponent Thoughtseized an earlier BBE, and then you top deck a second BBE, cascade into Kommand, and return the first BBE. Eat it buddy.

There’s seven non-foil NM vendors on TCG right now. If Kolaghan’s Command isn’t in A25, how is this not a $35+ card?


Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.


UNLOCKED: The Watchtower 2/5/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


Heck of a weekend, wasn’t it? We started off Sunday morning with the bad guys winning (Lantern Control, not-Gerry), and finished off the day with the good guys winning (not-Patriots). And while they didn’t riot as hard in Bilbao as they did in Philadelphia, people enjoyed the return of the Modern Pro Tour just the same.

Before the top 8 even started, there were plenty taking to social media to express a desire to see something from Lantern banned, and that sentiment only increased with each successive round. Calls to do are are shortsighted, I assure you. While it doesn’t have the most ideal play pattern, the games are (typically) quicker than Eggs, and there’s plenty of reasonable interaction you can be playing. Especially when you consider how few people are even going to bother sleeving it up and showing up with it.

Collective Brutality (Foil)

Price Today: $35
Possible Price: $60

It’s sort of wild that it’s come to this, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion. Collective Brutality rapidly established itself in the Modern scene, and its popularity there has only grown. Looking through the PT IXR results, this much is clear. Of the top 8 lists, five are playing Brutality. The three that aren’t are UR Pyromancer, Humans, and Humans. Across the top performing decks, roughly 50% are running some number of the card. Did you catch that? Half of the best decks at PT IXR had Collective Brutality.

Calling $35 foils as having an upward trajectory is never a position I’m eager to find myself in, but there’s no denying it. The card is too popular in the format not to see continued gains. It was released in Eldritch Moon, the summer 2016 set. Don’t forget that summer sets are consistently the least opened sets in Magic. And when do you think you’re going to see it again? It’s highly suspect it shows up in Masters 25, and if it isn’t there, then what are the other options? We don’t have any other reprint sets on the horizon. That’s good reprint positioning for the eight most popular card in Modern.

Supply is low, it’s been popular for awhile, so there isn’t a glut of copies looking to hit the market if the price rises, and it’s used in all sorts of strategies, from midrange to control to combo. It’s likely Collective Brutality continues to rise, and could climb as high as $60 or more within 2018.

Mantis Rider (Foil)

Price Today: $7.50
Possible Price: $20

It’s been a wild ride for Humans, having started out the year as a “what deck won the tournament?” early in the year to being the most popular deck this weekend. I’ve been following it the whole way, discussing which cards I liked at which point of the deck’s run, starting with the easiest and scarcest cards. Now we’re here, and I’m talking about a Khans of Tarkir rare.

Humans was the most popular deck of the event, but it wasn’t the hottest performer. While it did manage to put two copies into the top 8, it didn’t have unreal conversion rates or anything. (Props to Hollow One for that. 100% for 13 decks I think?) An average conversion rate isn’t going to stop players from picking up Humans to play at their local store. It’s clearly a solid strategy, fun to play, and has game in most metas. Add in that most of it is quite affordable, and you’ve got a great onramp deck.

I was suspect that Mantis Rider would be an integral part of the strategy, as it seemed like a sort of filler card that was there as a serviceable human that could get kills, but would flex into a more useful, more technical slot once it was clear what the deck needed. Apparently that’s wrong, as Mantis Rider has been a four of in basically every humans list I’ve seen.

Foils haven’t moved much from their perch at $7 to $8 for a few months now. This is Khans of Tarkir, so we’re not going to see $70 or anything, but with Humans having proved themselves as a strategy, the deck is here to stay. Foil Mantis Riders will begin being eaten up, and a price tag closer to $20 won’t be far behind.

Utter End (Promo)

Price Today: $3
Possible Price: $15

Even with all the excitement of the Pro Tour, we can’t forget about our old friend EDH. It was the MTG finance engine of 2017, and we’ve got no reason to expect any different this year. Today I stumbled upon Utter End, a removal spell found in over 17,000 EDHREC lists (which makes it the 13th most popular multicolored card in the format).

I probably don’t need to go on for long here. 17k decks says a great deal. The rest of this comes from the fact that I’m talking about a Game Day promo, which is a promo type we’ve never seen reprinted with their full art treatment in, like, 10 years? Admittedly the art isn’t as cool as it could be, but you can’t have it all.

Copies are $3, which is pretty dang cheap for a such a popular card. Especially so when you notice how few vendors there are. 18 as of this writing. That’s a combination for explosive growth – a low buy in and not a lot of sellers. Probably won’t be like this for long.

Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.

 

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