Category Archives: Watchtower

The Watchtower: 2/6/17

By: Travis Allen

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 watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!

Pro Tour Aether Revolt is in the books, and at least we can say that the top 8 and the best performing decks certainly did not look as many of us expected. Mardu Vehicles pretty clearly dominated the format, with six(!) copies in the top 8, and a staggering amount in the “30 to 22 points” list. The conversion rate for day two was 75%, an astoundingly impressive performance given that there were 95 players on the archetype. BG Constrictor was close behind with a 68% conversion rate. Meanwhile Jeskai Copy Cat, the Saheeli Rai combo deck that looked poised to take over the format as of last weekend, had the absolute worst conversion rate of any deck with more than 10 players at 36%. There were some other, more successful Saheeli variants, such as Gerry Thompson’s four color Aetherworks Marvel build, but that doesn’t mean that the archetype as a whole didn’t completely fall flat relative to expectations.

I was fairly certain that we would see Saheeli Rai as a major part of this Pro Tour. I was wrong, as people figured out how to build Mardu Vehicles to prey on it. Yet, I’m not convinced that we won’t find ourselves staring down the barrel of a lot of Saheeli Rai decks in a week or two. Vehicles had an excellent Pro Tour, no doubt, but that type of strategy tends to be less resilient and less able to adapt to a changing metagame than something closer to midrange or control, ala Saheeli or BG Constrictor. Within two weeks the SCG grinders may have settled on a Saheeli list that eats vehicles alive, while the vehicles players struggle to find a list that can keep up.

I’m not promising anything here, but this wouldn’t be the first time that a deck performs exceptionally well at the Pro Tour and then rapidly withdraws from the top tier. I still recall Pro Tour Dark Ascension, in which Jon Finkel and crew showed up with UW Spirits running Dungeon Geist. The deck performed admirably, Dungeon Geists themselves were selling out everywhere on Saturday, but within two weeks the archetype had evaporated in the face of sustained countermeasures. If this is the path Standard finds itself on again, we may yet see Felidar Guardian shipped off to the farm at the next banned and restricted list update in five weeks. Sam Stoddard admitted this past Friday that they didn’t realize what they had released in Standard, and a rapid reversion to Saheeli Rai dominance may cement an already tempting decision.

Rishkar, Peema Renegade

Price Today: $5
Possible Price: $10

This feels a little silly, but bear with me. Rishkar rose in popularity rapidly during prerelease season when the interaction between him and Walking Ballista was taken seriously. Since release, BG with Ballista, Rishkar, and Winding Constrictor has been a pillar of the format. (Of course that’s like three weeks at best, but whatever.)

At Pro Tour Aether Revolt BG was arguably the second-best deck, with a strong conversion rate and the second-most common archetype in the top scoring Standard lists. (Not exactly a close second, but second nonetheless.) Anyways it’s a strong archetype with a lot of flexibility in how it’s built. One thing’s for sure though, the interaction between those three cards is impressive.

Vehicles was far and away the best deck this weekend, right? Well Veteran Motorist is a 3/1, and every other maindeck creature is an X/2. That’s a lot of fodder for Walking Ballista to chew through. BG is also going to have access to plenty of artifact destruction given that it’s in green. All of this is on top of the fact that BG is a solid deck that can battle with Saheeli combo strategies, and whatever else floats to the top.

I’m getting into predicting the ebb and flow of the metagame, which I don’t want to do. I’ll summarize with this: BG was a strong deck two weeks ago, it’s a solid choice today, and it’s definitely going to continue to play a role in the metagame. The core of the deck is Winding Constrictor and Walking Ballista, an uncommon and a $10 rare. Rishkar is a key third piece, and the price is around $5 today. There’s room for growth.

Spire of Industry

Price Today: $4.50
Possible Price: $12

Several weeks ago Sam Black made a comment on Twitter that Mox Opal is better than all the other moxes in any deck that runs it. This is rather obvious on the surface — of course a Mox that makes five colors is ideal, the hard part is getting there — but it’s profound when you consider it. While the original five Moxes are banned everywhere, you can still play with the “best” Mox in both Modern and Legacy! A mana accelerant that provides access to every color of mana is worth jumping through hoops, since it opens the door to so many different tools. You can rely on Opal to cast Spell Pierce, Thoughtseize, and Rest in Peace all within the same game.

Spire of Industry is possibly a better City of Brass/Mana Confluence. It’s ever so slightly more difficult to get any color of mana out of it, since you need to control an artifact. That means no turn one Thoughtseizes here. However, it does tap for a painless colorless, which the other variants don’t. The life saved by not having to pay one every time you tap the land can mean the difference between winning and losing in many games. There’s also the corner cases in which you actively want the colorless mana, such as if you’re in the market for Thought-Knot Seer to go with your artifacts. (And who isn’t?)

Spire of Industry has found a home in Standard in basically all of the Vehicles decks. It plays a vital role in helping cast Unlicensed Disintegration on time, as well as making sure you you can cast multiple spells a turn in the mid game. So long as vehicles are playable, which I expect they will be the entire time they’re legal, Spire of Industry will be a component of at least one Standard deck, and possibly several.

That’s not all though. Spire of Industry is completely playable in Modern Affinity, a deck that rarely doesn’t put an artifact into play on turn one. It’s good in Lantern. It’s good in any deck that plays a moderate amount of artifacts, really. That extends to other formats as well, though demand there is less important as far as the price is concerned.

Spire of Industry is remarkably strong land with a low cost to turn it on. It’s going to be a Standard staple for the next year and a half, and it’s going to show up in plenty of other formats too. I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t push double digits at some point during that span.

The Watchtower: 1/30/17

By: Travis Allen

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 watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!

We haven’t even hit Pro Tour Aether Revolt and people are already concerned about this Standard. What do I mean? Well, here’s the top 8 breakdown from SCG Richmond.

1st: Jeskai Saheeli
2nd: 4c Saheeli
3rd: Jeskai Saheeli
4th: Jeskai Saheeli
5/6th: Jeskai Saheeli
5/6th: GB Delirium
7/8th: GB Aggro
7/8th: GB Delirium

From 9th to 32nd, there are 7 decks that aren’t either BG or Saheeli. That gives us 22% of the format that isnt one of those two decks. 78% of the top 32 was one of the two lists. I’m pretty confident in saying that if the Pro Tour doesn’t dramatically change Standard that Felidar Guardian is getting banned five weeks later.

Elder Deep-Fiend

Price Today: $1.5
Possible Price: $8+

While Saheeli and GB dominated the event, there were still seven decks that weren’t either archetype. Temur Eldrazi ended the day at 14th, looking a lot like the old builds that were popular before Kaladesh and Aetherworks Marvel were unleashed. They’ve got a newcomer in Metallic Mimic, pumping every other creature (and all those scion tokens!) along with mainstays Elder Deep-Fiend, Eldrazi Skyspawner, Matter Reshaper, and Thought-Knot Seer.

Elder Deep-Fiend is the most visually remarkable card in the deck, that is, the one that generates the biggest and splashiest turns. There was a particular sequence sequence where a player’s turn three and four were Saheeli and Nahiri, the Harbinger respectively, while the other player’s were Spell Queller and Elder Deep-Fiend. That’s the guy that won.

I’m a big fan of Thought-Knot Seer too. And while Thought-Knot Seer is arguably a stronger card than Fiend, and more appealing in other decks and formats, the price is easily triple that of Fiend, meaning that in the context of Standard, I hold out more hope the latter.

Fiend isn’t a direct counter to the Saheeli combo in the way that Walking Ballista is, but it’s a powerful threat that doesn’t die to Torrential Gearhulk, is excellent at tapping down an opponent so that you can resolve your own combo, and it plays both in the Temur Eldrazi deck as well as Saheeli sideboards. This coming weekend’s Pro Tour may herald the return of the Fiend, and even if it doesn’t, the seemingly inevitable ban that’s six weeks away as of today will open the door wide for the strategy.

At roughly a $1.50 to $2 buy-in, this is worth keeping tabs on. It’s a strong card that proved itself in the past, and could quickly become a role player in Standard in more than one potential outcome.

Inspiring Vantage

Price Today: $4.50
Possible Price: $12

Lands aren’t particularly sexy when it comes to Magic speculation, but they tend to be work horses if you’re paying attention. With a consistent rise since the first of the year, Inspiring Vantage is exactly what we should be paying attention to.

Most or all of those Jeskai Saheeli decks were running a full playset of both Vantage and Spirebluff Canal. Even the 4-color lists are running a couple of copies; more than they are Canal. Aside from 50% of the format running it as a full set, you’ve also got WR Humans/Vehicles that want playsets as well.

While Canal is $8 and climbing, Vantage is still sub-$5 retail. WR is well represented in Standard, and as long as the Saheeli combo is legal, it will continue to be so. These are an easy trade at your local store, as they could easily by $7 by this time next week.

Temporal Mastery

Price Today: $8.50
Possible Price: $20

Standard may look like a train wreck right now, but out of the top 16 decks of the Modern classic there were only three repeats. That’s pretty good! There also wasn’t any Infect or Dredge. That’s even better!

It was mostly a familiar looking set of decks, with combo, control, and midrange all represented. That level of balance is typically difficult to achieve, and a pleasant change after several months of it being a turn three format. Of course, this is only a single classic, so we’ll see how it goes from here.

Sneaking into 16th place was Mono-Blue Turns, a strategy that relies on playing a mountain of Time Walk effects and killing with awakened lands from Part the Waterveil getting to attack over and over without your opponent having a chance to fire back. This particular list includes a 1-of Baral, Chief of Compliance, which is an interesting include. With a deck that has as many expensive spells as this one, there’s no surprise they’d be interested in cost reduction effects.

Both Part the Waterveil and Temporal Mastery are good choices at this point, though I’m focusing on Mastery because it’s so much older. There’s still more than a page of copies, but that could dry up real fast if people suddenly have a reason to start playing this. So far there hasn’t been a real key enabler of Mastery and the miracle mechanic legal in Modern. If one shows up, expect copies to drain extremely quickly. Supply is moderate to low with very little competitive demand, so adding that into this card’s profile would have a dramatic impact.

If people pick up on this deck, or an enabler is printed, this could jump to $20 or $30 overnight. With nearly five years between us and Avacyn Restored and no likelihood of a reprint on the horizon, what’s out there is all we’re going to have for awhile.

PROTRADER: The Watchtower: 1/23/17

By: Travis Allen

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 watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!

Aether Revolt’s official release weekend brought us the first SCG Open of the new Standard format, and it came out…cats blazing? The crazy cat lady combo that we all feared, that is Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian, showed up but didn’t dominate. It had a reasonable showing, with three in the top eight, but all lost in the quarterfinals. The top three decks of the event were various flavors of GB aggro, with a GW build rounding out the top four that’s likely to become hybridized with GB in the future. Looking through the top 64 and conversion rates, GB Aggro and Saheeli are two of the pillars, with Mardu Vehicles, GW Tokens, and a smattering of other strategies rounding things out.

Key cards in GB began spiking Saturday morning, and as of today, Walking Ballista is up well over $10. Verdurous Gearhulk doubled, and Rishkar, Peema Renegade is in the $5 range. The GB well is already pretty dry with these jumps, but remember that the first weekend of Standard is often not the same metagame as the Pro Tour.

Mindwrack Demon

Price Today: $2
Possible Price: $10+

GB Aggro was inarguably the success story of the weekend. As is often the case with GB decks, it’s a suite of efficient, flexible removal paired with creatures that provide excellent value. There were a variety of builds, though most contained the core of Verdurous Gearhulk, Walking Ballista, Winding Constrictor, and Rishkar, Peema Renegade. Verdurous and Ballista already spiked hard, Winding Constrictor is an uncommon, and Rishkar is up to $5 with perhaps a bit more life left in it.

Grim Flayer and Mindwrack Demon were also popping up, though not quite as frequently as the above cards. Given that this is the very first weekend, there’s likely a good amount of room for growth and evolution in the archetype. If the deck pushes towards leaning on delirium, Flayer and Mindwrack should play a part in those lists. Flayer is an intensely powerful two-drop that was heavily played last season and has been breaking into Modern Jund since release. Mindwrack Demon has been much quieter so far, but the power level is indisputable. A flying trample 4/5 for four is no joke. While the GB Aggro lists abused counters and had more explosive draws, the stronger late game and hard removal of the delirium lists may have the edge in time.

Grim Flayer is already over $15, so I’m not eager about him. (Though foil copies at $30 or so should still look good in the long run.) Mindwrack Demon copies are round about $2 so far. Heavy inclusion in a format pillar will begin pushing the SOI mythic upwards pretty quick. Remember that SOI is the only block in Standard to lack a Masterpiece series, which opens up the ceiling on cards from that set as well. Between Verdurous Gearhulk and Walking Ballista I’m not sure how high the price can reasonably get — I doubt we’ll see $20 Demons — but this could easily double or quintuple up from a buy-in of $2.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner

Price Today: $1.50
Possible Price: $10+

People that have been involved in this scene for awhile are all too familiar with the “the next Dark Confidant” cycle. Wizards prints a cheap black card, typically a creature, that draws cards. People flip out that it’s the next Dark Confidant. Prices rise considerably during pre-release season. The card utterly fails as a card possibly can. Everyone forgets about it while the guys selling the pre-orders laugh all the way to the bank. Dark Tutelage. Blood Scrivener. Pain Seer. Asylum Visitor. And now Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. Perhaps.

So far, Glint-Sleeve has actually managed more competitive success than any of her predecessors. There were four in the second place GB deck. She’s a bit slow to get going, as she can’t draw cards until turn four unless you played an energy producer on turn one. Still, she represents a lot of potential card drawing over the course of the game, with menace helping to generate energy and get in for damage here and there.

My biggest concern with Glint-Sleeve is how popular Walking Ballista is. There are at least two lines out of GB that kill it without costing a card on turn three; Ballista into Rishkar or Constrictor into Ballista. “Dies to removal” isn’t a valid argument for dismissing a creature, but a metagame being particularly hostile to X/1s is another story.

At $1.50 I’m not encouraging you to race out and buy these. After all, with the pedigree of False Confidants, that would be criminally negligent of me. Yet I bring your attention to it because it has already performed better than other iterations, and the price is low enough that if it somehow became A Thing, there would be some serious profit to be made. Who knows, maybe WotC will ban Walking Ballista with the new post-PT B&R update and Glint-Sleeve will explode.

Oath of Nissa

Price Today: $2.50
Possible Price: $8

Everyone with a heart loved Oath of Nissa when it was spoiled a year ago. So much so that I’m far from the only one to try and make it work in Modern. (I tried it in Mono-Green Nykthos.) It’s been popping up here and there in the format since release, usually in GW Tokens decks pre-Kaladesh with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. The deck had faded a bit after Kaladesh’s release, but GW Tokens is back in the metagame these days after the banning of Emrakul, the Promised End and an enabler in Rishkar was printed.

This weekend we saw a fair bit of GW Tokens pop up, with four Oaths a mainstay. That isn’t the end of the story though. The most popular Saheeli Rai build was four-color, with green the fourth color. The ol’ “splash green for mana fixing” plan is alive and well. Oath of Nissa’s other line of text, the one that doesn’t draw you a card, lets you cast Saheeli Rai with any color mana. Between that and Servant of the Conduit, I wonder how often Saheeli was cast without a blue or red source in play. Don’t forget you can also blink Oath with Felidar Guardian for a little extra card draw when necessary.

If we’ve got two major pillars in Standard playing Oath of Nissa, GW Tokens and 4c Saheeli, that bodes well for the playset in each archetype. Copies are well above the bulk rare price tag of $.50, and are instead in the $2.50 range. That means there’s an existing baseline of demand today, right now, without any extra pushing from Standard. As the card grows in popularity in Standard, there won’t be a surplus of bulk copies to burn through before prices climb. I doubt we’re looking at a $15 card here, but $6+ isn’t out of the question, especially if it’s a key component of two major strategies.

PROTRADER: The Watchtower: 1/16/17

By: Travis Allen

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 watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!

Aether Revolt had its prerelease this weekend, which means there were virtually no telling events that took place. Constructed Magic in general had a quiet weekend. Next weekend is the release, which won’t be much different, and then two weeks from now we should see things changing as SCG Opens begin firing. Even MTGO didn’t update their ban list until a few days ago, and as such I only see two Modern league results with the appropriate cards banned. Jund, Infect, and Shadow Zoo are nowhere to be found among them. I doubt we’ve seen the end of any of these strategies, though I suspect they’ll need to regroup and figure out what the meta and their appropriate lists will look like now.

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