Betting Against the Market: How to Short-Sell in the MTGO Economy

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by Anonymous

Editor’s note: The current state of the Magic the Gathering Online (MTGO) economy is truly unique in the world of video gaming. Fundamentally unchanged for over a decade, interacting with this aged software is almost certainly jarring for players coming from modern gaming platforms like Hearthstone, Gwent or Magic: Arena. One of the more glaring oddities is the ability to actually buy and sell cards on the platform from other parties that are not Hasbro owned or controlled. Perhaps even more odd is the continuing dominance of the platform’s digital marketplace by 3rd party bots that use price adjustment algorithms and a narrow spread to mine player sales and purchases for real world money. Tickets are still a relatively high value in-game currency worth over .9 USD most days, and they are relatively easy to buy and sell outside the platform via real world transactions with other players or bot owners. In addition, the lack of major formats older than Standard on Arena has ensured, at least for the short to mid term, that players looking to compete digitally in Pioneer, Modern, Legacy or Vintage must do so in this parallel platform. From 2012 to 2015 I managed a portfolio of MTGO card assets worth over $10K with excellent results. News on the coming of Arena crashed the market toward the end of that period, prompting me to exit, but left me with unanswered questions about what might have been. One of those questions was “could there be a way to “short” Magic cards on MTGO. With the advent of MTGO card lending services, we now have our answer. Read on, for details, as an experienced operator explains how it’s done.

The Magic the Gathering Online (MTGO) economy is a rollercoaster of price action unique to digital Magic. Unlike paper cards, buying and selling on MTGO only takes a few seconds, which promotes a very fluid economy. The difference between purchasing and selling a card (the “spread”) on MTGO is also relatively small, typically in the range of 5-30%, depending on the demand profile of the card. Factors affecting the spread include player demand, price, and the length of time since the last printing of the card. All of this means that players can and often do buy and sell cards frequently to switch between decks, unlike in paper eternal formats, where a greater portion of player’s collections are hidden outside the market in closets and under beds.  

MTGO players are fickle creatures. Most MTGO cards are fairly reasonably priced, but when a card begins to see a significant amount of play, its price can skyrocket quickly. This is especially true when a card becomes the centerpiece of a hot new deck that did well in recent tournament results. This is because competitive play is the primary driver of the MTGO economy, with Pioneer leading the way, followed by Modern/Standard, Legacy, and to a much lesser extent Vintage and Pauper. 

High prices for multi-format staples like Teferi, the Time Reveler are fairly stable, but cards that have a massive price jump overnight are often followed by a dramatic plunge back to reality. As a result windows of opportunity open and close constantly, sometimes multiple times per day!

If you ever look at the daily/weekly price movers on MTG Goldfish, this phenomenon becomes quickly apparent. While this has always been true, the launch of Pioneer has reinvigorated the MTGO economy, which in combination with shorter periods and higher fees for redeeming full sets of MTGO cards into physical form, has contributed to a fast moving realm of speculation and risk. 

The MTGO Short Sell

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The process of profiting from falling prices is called “Short Selling”, and is a method more traditionally employed by options traders in the global stock markets. The concept is relatively simple: an investor borrows a stock, sells the stock immediately (the “short”), and at a later time the investor buys the stock at the new market rate (“cover”) to return it to the original lender. Profit is made for the investor if the short – the original sale price – is higher than the price paid to cover – to buy the stock back. 

One important thing to note about short selling is that it is inherently more dangerous than a traditional approach of betting on a price increase. This is because when short-selling, an investor’s potential loss is unlimited, instead of being limited by the gap between your purchase price and $0! Think about it. If you buy an investment for $25, the most you can lose is $25, i.e. your initial investment. However, with “naked short”, you’re loss is a potentially (though not practically) infinite increase to the price of the investment. So if a MTGO card goes from $25 to $100, you could lose $75, or 300%!

Short sales are also well suited to MTGO because historically MTGO prices have fallen/stagnated, rather than enjoying significant long term gains as in most first world markets. It is unclear whether Pioneer on MTGO will change this, but personally I doubt it. It’s more likely just a short reprieve until Pioneer is eventually ported to MTG Arena, resulting in a new MTGO crash and playing the short game is a solid way to be mostly out the door before the crowd.

Spotting an Opportunity for a Short Sale

To effectively leverage a short sale on MTGO you must first find an overvalued card. Ideally you actually want to find a grossly overvalued card. A card that will slowly trend downward overtime is not enough – because each day you hold a short-sale you are losing money in fees. More on fees later. There are several key indicators that help identify grossly overvalued cards. 

Price Spike: Look for cards that have experienced a massive price increase in the last week or two, typically at least 100% for expensive mythics, or 200% or more for rares. Also look for cards that started at a reasonable price. Generally speaking, the more dramatic the increase, the better.

Critical Price Threshold: I’ve found that cards that cost around 1-4 tickets prior to a price spike start to see heavy resistance and begin to retrace when they approach 10-15 tickets.  Similarly, I find that previously 20 ticket cards begin to retrace after reaching 40-50 tickets. These thresholds are important as you consider your entry point into a short position, though strong statistical data is not easily found to frame our action.

Comparison to Similar Cards: Each set on MTGO is different. Some sets are drafted much less than others, and some cards have multiple reprints/promo’s, while others do not. As you evaluate a potential opportunity, examine closely how the price of your prospect compares to other cards from the same set. Specifically try to compare price trends to other cards that see similar amount of competitive play, share the same rarity, and have similar number of reprints.

Play Patterns: If a card price increased rapidly because it’s in a freshly hot deck, two things can happen that create a short sale opportunity. First, the card could fall out of favor – either due to a shift in the meta or because the deck was cool or fun (often promoted by streamers), but is not particularly good at winning. After all MTGO is a competitive environment and novelty tends to wear out very quickly on the platform that requires 10 ticket entry to each competitive league. Second, and probably more common, the price simply becomes unsustainably high compared to other similarly situated cards. Even good cards often become overpriced due to FOMO in the short term and sometimes supply just runs out of fresh demand to feed.

Risk/reward: This will be unique for every card, but try to consider the risk and range of potential gains/losses for each transaction. Only enter a short for transactions that you are confident have significant potential gains with limited downside risk. This is about the “feel” of the trade, and is mostly voodoo built on top of solid heuristics.

Recent Banning: If you are available when a new ban list is posted, you can often quickly flip banned cards for a quick profit. This requires immediate action, as bots will often cut off their buylists for banned cards within minutes.

Timing of a Short Sale

When executing a short sale, you must be sure to time your actions carefully. There is a brief period when MTGO cards have begun to level off, but bot vendors still offering solid if not generous sell prices. Get the best sale price possible by leveraging multiple vendors. I recommend comparing Cardhoarder and Goatbots to get your best sale price most of the time. These bot companies are both rock solid and between the two you’ll often get close to the best prices around and significantly close the buy/sell spread. Additionally check MTGO Traders HotBuyList, which generally has the best buylist around, but may only be looking for certain very sought-after cards at any given time.  

Finding the peak price is often more art than science. I recommend you look back at old price trends to get a feel for spotting a change in the weather. I’ve analyzed a few of my own trades below, but examples are abundant on MTG Goldfish

Logistics and Opportunity Costs

To execute a short sale, you must first sign up for a MTGO rental account. This is the innovation that forms the central pillar of shorting on MTGO and the “borrowing” portion of the short sale, so you can sell, and subsequently cover (buy) the card you are speculating on. There are multiple vendors in the MTGO card rental space, but the one that seems to work best for short sales is Cardhoarder.  You can sign up for an account here. There is typically a multi-week wait to sign up for a rental accounts, so do keep that in mind.

When you create your loan account, you must determine what level of ticket allowance you’d like access to at any given time. The cost of your service will depend on how many tickets you select – specifically Cardhoarder charges 3% of your loan value per week. This means that each ticket of loan value costs $.03/week, or $3/week for 100 tickets.  You are charged for your maximum ticket allowance regardless of whether you use your allocation.  

I started with 500 tickets, and plan to move to 1,000 ticket plan soon. If you are just getting started, I would recommend starting small and working up higher as you become more confident in your results. Another way to approximate a short on cards is by selling a card you already own as part of your personal collection, and eventually buying them back later once the price drops, thereby lowering the cost of your personal collection. I often do this for the expensive staples in my collection – especially around set rotation, but obviously this method is limited based on your collection size.

Short Sale Case Studies

So, to summarize, here’s what we’re going to do: we will rent cards, sell them high, and then look to buy them low as soon as possible and return them to the rental service. Our profits will be the gap between those two prices minus time spent and rental fees paid. Got it? Let’s look at some examples:

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  • Price Spike: Large and dramatic.
  • Hit Critical Price Threshold: Yes, reached 10-15 ticket threshold.
  • Comparison: At the time of the price spice, of Aether Revolt rares only Walking Ballista, which sees significantly more play, was worth anything close to 10 tickets.
  • Play Patterns: Relegated to sideboards in small numbers, not essential to any strategy.
  • Risk/reward: Low risk, high reward. It was unlikely that this would become a 15-20 ticket card, limiting the risk, while it was very likely that the price would return to a normal (1-5 ticket) level soon.  
  • Outcome: Position closed, 12 tickets net profit after .91 tickets in fees on 4 copies, 5 day hold. Shorted at 10.33 tickets, covered at 7.09 tickets. I was a little early on exiting this position. For future similar transactions, I would now short 8-16 copies, spread out over 2-4 days, to accelerate the returns.
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  • Price Spike: Large growth, but not a true spike as it occurred overtime.
  • Hit Critical Price Threshold: Yes, reached 40-50 ticket threshold for mythic.
  • Comparison: Cavalier of Thorns is the best comparison, which is a 4x card in prominent standard and pioneer decks, and yet at it’s height couldn’t break 50 tickets. Another is Vivien, Arkbow Ranger, which saw play in dominant Pioneer Nykthos builds and reached a high of 80 tickets, before settling into a price of around 25 tickets.  
  • Play Patterns: In contract, Chandra barely sees play and is never more than 1-2 copies. Chandra’s high mana cost means this is unlikely to change. It is notable that Chandra sees more play in older magic formats compared to both Cavalier of Thorns and Vivien.
  • Risk/reward: Low. This seemed like a slam dunk with little down side. Even if Chandra got to 80 tickets like Vivien, such as gain would likely be short lived. 
  • Outcome: Position closed, 68 tickets net profit after 15.36 tickets in fees on 4 copies, 19 day hold. Shorted at 44.50 tickets, covered at 22.65 tickets. 
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  • Price Spike: Large and dramatic.
  • Hit Critical Price Threshold: No. 
  • Comparison: When this spikes, this was by far the most expensive mythic and card from Battle for Zendikar, and it was near an all-time high for the card.
  • Play Patterns: Ulamog is prevalent in multiple decks, in multiple formats. It always has been, especially in Tron builds, and in Legacy Cloud Post decks. But this spike was driven by Green Ramp in Pioneer – which only ran 2 copies and spiked this card because it was the flavor of the day. Additionally, the number of copies in ramp was unlikely to increase due to the 10 casting cost which even Tron can struggle to reach.
  • Risk/reward: Moderate. This could have become a 50 ticket card if ramp strategies took over Pioneer, or if Aetherworks Marvel decks became more prevalent because they run 4x copies of Ulamog. 
  • Outcome: Position closed, 20 tickets profit, 10 day hold on 2 copies. Shorted at 18 tickets, covered at 8 tickets. No fees, because the cards was from my personal collection.
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  • Price Spike: While the price increase was more gradual than others due to genuine demand, I’d still categorize this as a price spike.
  • Price Threshold: No, this is an old uncommon, so it’s pretty unique. 
  • Comparison: The best comparison is Exploration and Gaea’s Cradle, which are rares in the same set and cost between 14-20 tickets due to seeing play as 4x in various decks. Both have a cheap 2-3 ticket online promo available, which shows that people desire the old cards online and that they have limited availability. Additionally, this is the highest the card has been priced in recent memory. 
  • Play Patterns: Carpet of Flowers is typically a 1-2 of in the sideboard of legacy decks. While legacy can drive prices, this price spike drove the card to double its previous high of 12 tickets.
  • Risk/reward: Legacy/old cards can get crazy expensive. But with a 1 of card like this one, I believe the risk was fairly limited.
  • Outcome: This transaction was mostly a bust. Position closed, 12 tickets net profit after 15.65 tickets in fees on 8 copies, 1 month hold. Shorted at 15.81 tickets, covered at 12.35 tickets. 

Conclusion 

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Rental programs like Cardhoarder provide an interesting opportunity to short digital MTGO cards for a potential profit. I’ve had some success with this endeavor so far and will continue to update MTGPrice members on my recent activity in constantly always active discord in the MTGO channel.

Update: Nathaniel from CardHoarder reached out with the following position on short selling via their card rental service:

“I can’t speak to ManaTraders, but utilizing our loan service as a means to short sell is a violation of our terms of service – part of the legal contract you sign when you get an account. We’ve never taken action against anyone for it, and if people do it here or there, we tend to let most things slide. But, if you’re actively doing it every time cards are banned, which is pretty much the only time you can have a “no risk trade” (barring a few other possibilities), then we’d probably take action against it. It’s not just it being a zero sum game, which it is – anything you’re making on it, we’re losing – but it’s really about using the stock in a way that hurts every other customer we have – either by artificially changing prices, or holding stock that could go elsewhere for someone to play with (not to mention the risk that you can’t afford to return the cards on a losing trade).

I will also note that you can just as easily lose money as make it doing shorting (assuming it is just speculation, rather than reacting to a ban) – it is extremely risky, and essentially uses the loan service to front money without collateral on a spec, which is not the nature of what these agreements are.”


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

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Boring Isn’t Bad

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

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

The Impetus

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Part

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watchtower 02/10/20 – Adventure Time

Another weekend, another Players Tour, and another breakout deck. Although Dimir Inverter had a big showing again similar to last weekend at Brussels and Nagoya, Lotus Breach was the talk of this tournament. Inverter took up a massive 20% of the field on day one (Bant Spirits was the second most popular choice at 13%), but the newly refined Lotus Breach deck had an incredible overall win rate of 62% and made it all the way to the finals in the hands of William Huey Jensen – albeit an unfortunate match full of mulligans.

Pioneer is STILL the new hotness in Magic, floating close to the power level of Modern but generally with more interaction and a constantly shifting metagame, making it both enjoyable and competitive. So what have I got for you today? That’s right, more Pioneer picks! So let’s go on an adventure and see what awaits us in the forests of cardboard…


Bonecrusher Giant (Showcase)

Price today: $4
Possible price: $8

Showcase versions of Bonecrusher Giant are still $4, and I honestly don’t know why. This card is a powerhouse that’s seeing a good amount of play in pretty much every format it’s legal in: it’s been a standard staple since it was printed, is a 4-of in Pioneer red decks, has slotted into red Prowess decks in Modern, and can also help take down a True-Name Nemesis in Legacy. The Showcase version at $4 is still cheaper than a regular Once Upon a Time – a card that is banned in half of the aforementioned formats – and I think this will be due to correct soon.

These Adventure cards from Throne of Eldraine have really proven to be powerful additions to multiple formats – their flexibility and power level mean that they’ve found homes in decks that were already good. Other examples are bountiful: Brazen Borrower has been doing well in Spirits decks (both in Modern and Pioneer) as well as being a Standard staple, and Murderous Rider is showing similar prevalence, not to mention Fae of Wishes (actually I will be mentioning it further down the page).

Although I’ve listed the Showcase non-foils as my pick here, I’m a big fan of picking up foils too. The foil multiplier on the Showcase versions is still lower than it should be for a card seeing eternal play and they can be had for as low as $7 at the moment, which seems far too low. Non-foils will probably be more popular however, especially for tournament play, and I think this is an easy double up within 12 months – maybe less.

Fae of Wishes (Showcase)

Price today: $1
Possible price: $3

Off on another Adventure we go, and Fae of Wishes has just had a big weekend with Lotus Breach doing very well at PT Phoenix. The deck has been through a couple of evolutions during its time in Pioneer, starting as just a Lotus Field storm combo deck before Underworld Breach had been printed. Now with the new Escape card it’s better than ever, and has been putting up great numbers to prove it.

Once (upon a time) Fae was a Standard-only card, but now it’s a consistent 4-of in arguably the most powerful deck in Pioneer, and it’s doing a lot of work for the archetype. We’re seeing sideboards of up to 12 or 13 unique cards for Fae to go and fetch, and all the usual suspects are there – wraths, removal, extraction effects – along with some extra spice like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries as alternate wincons.

You can own a Fae of Wishes for the low low price of $1, and I like picking these up in larger quantities with the look to buylist them in 6 months or so. Players will be buying them in playsets so despite the relatively deep inventory, it won’t take a huge number of people picking up the deck to get the price moving. The one caveat with Fae is that Underworld Breach does have a ban potential hanging over its head, but even if it does take a hit (which I personally don’t think is necessary), it’s already been proven that the deck can do well without Breach being a part of it.

Botanical Sanctum (Foil)

Price today: $14
Possible price: $25

Since Pioneer’s inception, the Kaladesh fastlands have been absolutely key to the manabases of any enemy-coloured decks, providing painless sources of dual mana early on in games.  Botanical Sanctum is currently the 8th most played non-basic land in the format – most popular of all the Kaladesh fastlands – and is present in many of the top decks: Lotus Breach, Bant Spirits, and Sultai Delirium. I doubt that this is going to change any time soon, and the logic here can be applied to the rest of the fastlands too in order of popularity (so next on my hit list would be Blooming Marsh).

Stock has really dried up on these with only 14 listings of NM foils on TCGPlayer, with prerelease foils in even shorter supply at only 7 listings. I don’t think there’s much of a reprint risk in the near future, and I think we’ll get reprints of the original Scars of Mirrodin fastlands before we see the Kaladesh ones again, so this seems like a pretty safe bet to clean up the last few copies and let the market do the rest.


David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK and a new writer for MTGPrice in 2020, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.

PT Phoenix Rising

Today begins Players’ Tour Phoenix, a Pioneer event that promises to do two things:

  1. Create calls for a card to be banned.
  2. Spike the prices of some cards significantly.

Now, both points might apply to the same card; we can’t know for sure. What we do know is that a lot of Magic pros have taken the time to tell us what they are playing, and that offers some chances to get in on cheap cards before they get camera time, victories, trophies, and rise in price.

It’s not easy to make money off of cards in a weekend. You’re not trying to buy today and sell tomorrow. Too many people won’t ship the cards at the pre-spike price. What we’re doing is identifying value now, as Pioneer is an eternal format. If it’s good now, it’ll still be good when you sell in a week or two.

Mono-Black Aggro

There’s a lot to like in this list, but there’s two targets that stand out to me:

Bloodsoaked Champion ($2.50 nonfoil/$5 foil)

Scrapheap Scrounger (40 cents/$4)

These are recursive and aggressive threats that can close a game very very quickly. There’s other one-drops, but Champion is from much longer ago and Scrapheap is much cheaper. Both are played as the full four and I won’t fault you if the other cards catch your eye here.

These two cards represent the most potential profit, due to age or a low cost of entry. If this deck does well, I’d expect Champion to double to $5/$10 or so, and the Scrounger should become a $3/$7 card. 

Fatal Push is a card I want to love and a card I’ve made money on in the past, but it’s in the Mystery Boosters and I can’t condone buying in right now. It’s possible that this weekend, the card jumps from $5 to $10 on the back of being amazing, but we’re going to get a whole lot of copies coming when stores get to order Mystery boxes for in-store play in March. 

Castle Locthwain is another one to keep an eye on, as the graph has started to rise from maximum supply just a few weeks ago: 

If you want to get in on the Extended Art version around $11-$12, that’s certainly tempting too. It remains to be seen how prevalent foiling and using EA cards will be in Pioneer, whereas in Modern people do love their foils.

Mono-Black Vampires

This is a spicy one, full of card draw and synergies. I’m sad that Vampire Nocturnus is not quite Pioneer legal, but there’s a lot to like here. If you’re playing against a combo deck that stumbles, they are dead very very quickly. Sorin into Champion of Dusk is real and powerful. 

Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord ($12/$17)

Champion of Dusk ($1/$2.50)

These are the best two targets from this deck, mainly because there’s only the one printing of each. I’m delighted when a deck requires a playset of a mythic, makes me feel very good about my purchase. Yes, Sorin was a couple bucks cheaper a while ago, but he’s the key mythic in this deck and if it does well on camera, $25 is likely and $30 quite possible.

Champion of Dusk is a card that could hit $8 or $10 in foil in this circumstance, and if you’re buying in Friday morning at $10 for a foil playset, well, you’re going to feel very good about this. For both of these, I’d prefer to be in on the foils because there’s no EA versions to contend with and supply is much shallower on foils. There’s only about a hundred foils on TCG right now, and that includes Promo Pack foils and Prerelease foils. For a mythic that’s played as a four-of, that means only 25 people have to see Vampires do well and decide to jump in. 

Niv to Light

Oh, does this deck make me happy. Bring to Light is a card that I know I’ve mentioned before, and frankly, this is the best shell for it. You’ll get a 6/6 flyer and probably 2-4 cards if it resolves. Best of all, you’ve got a good chance of casting Bring to Light or Niv-Mizzet Reborn a turn or two early. 

Niv-Mizzet Reborn ($8/$17) and Bring to Light ($2/$7) are the big winners here, as the headliners for the deck. Sylvan Caryatid at $11/$18 is a bit high for my taste. I’m not worried about the supply of Niv due to War of the Spark uncut sheets, because there was only one Niv per sheet and getting a perfect cut out of one of those is HARD.

Dimir Inverter

Tons of words have been written about this deck, and I’ll be honest: I don’t like the odds that it survives the next set of bans. I cannot recommend buying into this deck, because of the difficulty interacting with these triggered abilities. Splinter Twin was easier to disrupt than Inverter into Oracle!

Lotus Breach Combo 

The deck a lot of pros are talking about, here’s a list courtesy of Pascal Vieren at HareuyaMTG that is using Underworld Breach, Lotus Field, and a lot of other fun choices to kill your opponent dead on turn three or four. It goldfishes very well, is amazingly redundant, and is another strong contender to get banned before too long. Interestingly, both this deck and Dimir Inverter use the either/or of Thassa’s Oracle and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries as the win condition. The JP version of Jace is $20/$80 on TCG, the Secret Lair stained glass version is $60, it’s a winner in Commander…but can the two decks using him survive the next bans unscathed?

I’ve spoken before about my love of the Breach, how it’s a combo card waiting for the right shell…and here it is. Underworld Breach is currently at $4/$7/$9 EA/$44 EA foil and given what this is doing in Pioneer, with that card pool, I am tempted to get in on the EA versions for Modern and Legacy play. How long till this is busted there too?

There’s other decks, like UW Spirits, UW Control, Heliod Combo…the list goes on. My sampling is just that, a few of the decks to watch for and prepare for. If I missed your favorite deck, feel free to call it out in the comments or let me know on Twitter, or perhaps in the ProTrader Discord channel.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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