Category Archives: Watchtower

PROTRADER: The Watchtower 2/27/17

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 if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.

Chances are, by the time you’re looking at this, the very first Modern Masters 2017 spoilers will just be hitting Twitter. My guess is that before the day is over we’ll have Liliana of the Veil  confirmed, and possibly Domri Rade. Other than that, who knows! Hopefully we’ll also get an idea of major returning mechanics, so that we can start to figure out what’s in store for us over the next two weeks.

This weekend saw two events; a Standard GP over in Europe and an SCG Modern Open in Indianapolis. Looking through the Standard results, I’m completely unmoved. It feels like 80% of the format is BG or Mardu Vehicles, with a small smattering of Saheeli and a few Dynavolt lists that a couple of crazy European guys came up with. I’m not seeing any potential price shifts that we can capitalize on, and even the Dynavolt lists don’t have any cards that could spike. We’re basically stuck until someone reinvents the format or Amonkhet spoilers start rolling in.

SCG’s Modern results were slightly more interesting I suppose. They’re tough to work with though, given that nearly every card I would be inclined to write about could theoretically be announced as a reprint within an hour of my article being posted.  

Atarka’s Command

Atarka's Command

Price Today: $6
Possible Price: $15

While energy has certainly been the most compelling mechanic from Kaladesh and Aether Revolt, the mechanic of the same name has inspired a new build of Zoo, that is, Revolt Zoo. Revolt Zoo plays 12 fetches to fuel Hidden Herbalists and Narnam Renegade. Herbalists are Burning-Tree Emissarys 5-8, giving the deck the ability to spill it’s entire hand between turn 2 and 3. Wrap it up with a Reckless Bushwhacker and you can theoretically be swinging for lethal on turn two.

A list came in 9th at the SCG Modern open, and it’s awfully light on rares. You’ve got a playset of Goblin Guides, which is hardly cheap. With MM3 spoilers rolling out in an hour though, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Guide takes a huge hit in the immediate future. If Guide is reprinted and his price crashes, that leaves just the mana and Atarka’s Command as the only rares in the main deck. What that translates to is a list that’s explosive, promises Magical Christmas Land turns (which more casual and entry-level Modern players love), and most importantly is affordable. This is that “budget Magic deck” recipe that really only has a single card that can reasonably budge in price, and in this case, it’s Atarka’s Command.

I don’t anticipate Command rocketing upwards in price or anything. I think that if A. Goblin Guide is reprinted at rare and B. the deck has enough staying power to keep people on it, that Command could double over a few months as players begin picking it up as a cheap, fun strategy. That Command is also usable in the Naya Burn lists that have become mainstays in modern certainly helps. I’d consider looking for these in trade over the coming weeks, as there’s at least potential.

Utopia Sprawl

Utopia Sprawl

Price Today: $2.50
Possible Price: $10

It’s not often I get to pick a common as something to watch for, but as far as commons go, this is a spicy one. Of course, this comes with a huge caveat: if it’s reprinted in MM3 — or any set, as it could realistically show up in any non-Standard product — then the price is immediately flattened. Utopia Sprawl is a ticking time bomb in this regard, but we could see it explode before the price is defused.

Most recently this popped up in a GR Ponza deck that took 15th at the Modern Open. That man is doing God’s work. GR Ponza, for players that haven’t had the pleasure, is a deck that focuses on denying your opponent mana. This particular list has a full playset of Blood Moon, three Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, and best of all, honest-to-God Stone Rain. Stone Rain! There are few more cards more fun to cast in Modern than that.

This build, like many of this stripe, tends to be mana hungry. You’re trying to deny your opponent’s mana resources while at the same time building an advantage on the board, so that they can’t eventually draw into enough lands to stabilize. To that end, it’s using MTGSalvation-rogue-deck-building-form favorite Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl. This fun, flirty little combo sets up four mana on turn two, which gives you Blood Moon, Stone Rain, and most dirty of all, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. I’m eager to play Magic just writing that sentence.

Ok, focus. Utopia Sprawl is the best at what it does, and it’s useful in all of these green ramp style decks we see floating around Modern. It was used in the Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx builds from a year or two ago, and a Tooth and Nail build popped up in the MODO results recently that uses it as well. It’s hardly a format staple, but there’s several various lists on the fringes that all want to put it to good use alongside Arbor Elf.

A $2.50 common may sound wild, but remember that Mishra’s Bauble is a firmly $25+ uncommon. Utopia Sprawl is older, with only a single Dissension printing. If one of these decks picks up a head of steam — good or not — we’ll see Sprawl dry up real quick. I can easily see this card hanging out in the $8 to $12 range. Of course, as I mentioned before, it can be reprinted in basically every single non-Standard product that exists, so buyer beware.

The Watchtower 2/20/17

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 if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.

Fans of the best Magic were treated well this weekend, with Modern events in both Brisbane and Vancouver. 18 hours and 12 decklists different, each offered its own perspective on the format. Vancouver was, at least in the top 8, overrun by Sam Black and team’s Death Shadow, with three copies and the hoisted trophy. Over in Brisbane we saw a crowd-displeasing Lantern Control take first, with a pair of Dredge following up, Living End rounding out the top four, and then some more familiar lists to fill.

Overall it’s hard to argue that there isn’t something for everyone. There’s more GP-viable decks in Modern than any other constructed format — Merfolk took second, for God’s sake! — and there are dramatically different play styles available. With Modern Masters 2017 close on the horizon and looking to ease access for new players and provide established players discounted staples, it’s a good time to be in the market to cast modern-bordered cards.

Breaking // Entering

Price Today: $2.50
Possible Price: $10

While Beck // Call was the more immediately exciting fuse card after the reveal of Aether Revolt’s various Expertises, Breaking // Entering is catching up quickly. This weekend a GPT at Vancouver was won by “Expertise Fuse,” which is four Kari Zev’s Expertise, four Sram’s Expertise, four Brain in a Jar, full sets of both fuse cards, some fast mana, and a pile of gigantic monsters to be Entered.

Your overall strategy with the deck is to fuse a Breaking // Entering targeting yourself, flip an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and swing with haste. This is technically possible on turn one (thanks to “why isn’t this banned” Simian Spirit Guide), though turns two and three are more likely. Brain in a Jar gives you a repeatable, if slow way to cast the fuse cards, and Beck // Call is there mainly to be tremendous value for a strategy that’s already going through the effort to play it.

From a pricing perspective, there’s a lot of dead ends here. All the monsters (Emrakul, Griselbrand) are basically already saturated. Both of the Expertises are brand new and still in print, which means their prices are going to have a hell of a time climbing. Brain in a Jar is also still very fresh. That card could see some percentage gain, but not enough to gain materially in price. Really, the only two cards in this deck that have meaningful price potential are Beck // Call and Breaking // Entering.

We’ve talked about Beck // Call in the past, so I’m not going to rehash that here. Breaking // Entering is similar, though subtly different. While it doesn’t have the synergy with Elves or other strategies that may really want the Glimpse effect, it is a strong mill card that appeals to casuals independent of Modern viability. It’s also theoretically a stronger card, given that you can in essence put a hasty (and permanent!) Emrakul into play for two mana. That’s basically Goryo’s Vengeance. It’s also more critical to this particular build, though I can’t guarantee that will be the case week in and week out.

Copies are available around $2.50, and supply seems to be drying fairly quickly. There’s less than a page of both the promo copies and the regular ones, so if it isn’t already being bought up because of this emerging strategy, that means that there’s an existing steady demand profile. If that’s the case I like the trajectory even more on this, because there’s not going to be many copies out there for the people that want to play an Expertise strategy. Given how easily Retract is selling at $15, I’m very comfortable with an outside combo deck generating enough demand to sell Breaking // Entering sets at $40.


Living End

Price Today: $8
Possible Price: $20

Do you guys remember this deck? Someone at Brisbane did, and he scored fourth place with it. Do you guys also remember that Living End used to cost $15? I do.

The eponymous card of the archetype, this also had new life breathed into it with the introduction of Expertises. Brisbane’s list only played a single Expertise, and still kept to three Living Ends in the main, but that may evolve over time. Hell, we could even see the deck lean into Rishkar’s Expertise as a late-game strategy. Who knows.

What I do know is that Living End is a surprisingly resilient, strong deck that can wreak havoc if a metagame isn’t prepared for it. I’ve lost more than one game to the strategy that involves them simply activating Fulminator Mage four times in four turns. There was a time in the past that it was a strong tier two contender, and with new tools at its disposal, there’s no reason to think it couldn’t come back at any time.

With a former price of $15, we know there’s fertile ground here. There’s fair supply right now, but not enough to field even a couple of players from each state. Another run on this would land it firmly in the $15 to $25 range. Remember, it’s only got one printing, and that was Time Spiral. So long as this doesn’t show up in MM3, it will be one to watch closely.

UNLOCKED: The Watchtower 2/13/17

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 if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.

First thing’s first: Congratulations to Ryan Hare, the winner of GP Pittsburgh. Ryan is a local from our group here in Buffalo that also includes a recent GP Pittsburgh winner, Alex Bianchi. Pittsburgh is a good city for Buffalo, it would seem. Ryan is one of the hardest working Magic players I know, and he deserved the success.

I have to say, Ryan’s victory isn’t the only thing that I enjoyed here. Last week I said that I didn’t expect Mardu to continue its rampage across Standard, and that Saheeli and GB decks would rise to the top again. I’ve especially liked GB for awhile, with Rishkar, Peema Renegade on my list last week, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner two weeks ago, and other staples in weeks past. In fact, I started my list this week with Rishkar at the top, until I checked last week’s article and realized I had already written about it. At this point I’m not sure what card in GB to point to. There’s room for all of the staples to grow 10 to 30 percent, like Walking Ballista, but I can hardly tell you that it’s wise to buy copies. Personal copies, perhaps. There aren’t any GB cards in my things I’m keeping an eye on this week, since I’ve covered the best ones, but keep in mind that everything in the deck is ripe for growth.

There’s no Standard cards this week because it’s not clear where to go from here. GB had an excellent weekend after a solid second-place finish at the Pro Tour, Mardu Vehicles fell dramatically in popularity, so there’s nothing there I’m comfortable pushing, and Saheeli prices are still high enough on the few rares and mythics it does run that there’s no incentive to invest. Instead, we’ll be thinking about Modern, since Modern Masters 2017 is just over four weeks away, which means spoilers are coming soon.

Inkmoth Nexus

Price Today: $20
Possible Price: $45

Inkmoth Nexus is a major player in Modern, functioning as a key component of both Infect and Affinity. It’s also popular in the considerably-less important Legacy landscape, and pops up in off-the-radar brews and casual decks as well. Inkmoth has been a constructed staple for years now, and the price has risen to $20 to reflect that. As recognition of such, there’s an Inkmoth Nexus RPTQ promo coming later this year, though that news comes by way of a leaked photo, not an official announcement.

Let me be perfectly clear: I have no idea if Inkmoth Nexus is in MM3. It may or may not be. Betting money against Wizards’ actions is a great way to hose yourself unnecessarily. As such, I’m not advocating Inkmoth Nexus as an investment today, rather, if it isn’t included in the set, I wouldn’t be surprised to see prices move as a reaction.

Move in what capacity? Well I’d say $40+ is a reasonable price tag if this doesn’t show up in Modern. That may sound high, but we’re talking about a critical 4x in two top Modern decks, with no shortage of additional demand, that only had a single full-scale printing in Mirrodin Besieged. It was in an event deck at the time, supply which is fully baked into the price today, and an upcoming RPTQ promo, which will do almost nothing to the global inventory. Grove of the Burnwillows is $40, far below its previous peak. Horizon Canopy is $60. Cavern of Souls is $50. Lands that are important in Modern can be quite expensive.

Supply on TCGPlayer is highish, with more than a page’s worth of available copies, but take note that there’s only a handful of playsets before you’re at $25, and then $30 isn’t too far off. It won’t take many people finally deciding to buy in since it seems safe to drive numbers wild.

Ad Nauseam

Price Today: $6
Possible Price: $15

Like Inkmoth Nexus, Ad Nauseam is a “if it doesn’t show up” pick. Both will get slaughtered if they’re reprinted in MM3; that goes without saying. We’re interested in figuring out what will react if it isn’t in MM3, and Ad Nauseam is a good one to keep an eye on.

The eponymous card of a long standing combo deck in Modern, Ad Nauseam has less overall demand than Inkmoth Nexus. It’s really only played in one Modern deck, but it’s a good one, and shows up in top eights fairly regularly. It does also show up in Legacy, but uh, who cares.

As for the deck itself, it’s a solid turn 3.5 strategy. The last few months it has seen a decrease in play as the format sped up, with Infect and Dredge putting intense clocks on the format, though the recent banning of Gitaxian Probe is slowing things down. Modern has been more forgiving to a wider range of strategies as a result.

Supply is on the lower side for Ad Nauseam, with less than a page of NM copies available. Without a reprint in MM3, it wouldn’t take long at all for supply to empty. Living End used to cost $15, and that’s a card without any more application potential than Ad Naus, so I see no reason why it couldn’t climb to the same point.

Worth keeping in mind as well that Lotus Bloom is in a similar situation with regards to current playability. The inventory on that guy is higher, with both its original TSP printing and also MMA, but at the same time it has wider-reaching applications with Reshape floating around, as well as the new Chord of Calling for artifacts, which would allow you to go from three mana to six or seven the following turn.

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.