Pro Trader: Easing into 2023

Readers!

It’s a new year! New year, new me! Ish! Probably not that different! I don’t feel that different! And I took a few weeks off and got my head straight and finally offloaded some of my stress and now it’s back because we have Phyrexia: All Will Be One spoilers! It’s not a hard job but some days I feel like Lucille Ball watching those chocolates come down that conveyer belt and other days I feel like Lucille Ball watching those chocolates come down that conveyer belt but one of those chocolates is a card I want for a deck and I’m like “Oooo, a piece of candy” and that makes it all worth it! Let’s get up to some old tricks for a new year and look at the non-zero number of new decks we have to poke around at.

There isn’t a ton here, but these are all fairly interesting commanders. I don’t expect to see Elesh Norn remain the top commander in the set for lots and lots of reasons that you can skip reading if you know about but in case you’re not super familiar with EDH, Elesh Norn is White and that’s a bad choice. That said, I’m absolutely building a Seance deck with Elesh Norn and this sentence inspired this tweet.

Needless to say, I’m in a fantastic mood right now.

I’m building Norn as a Seance deck because I’m a nut, but how are other people building the deck? What cards should you buy? (The answer is Seance). I’m going to tell you because that’s sort of this column’s entire deal.

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ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

My Best And Worst of 2022

It’s always worthwhile to sit down every now and again, reflecting on one’s best practices.

I want to walk you through my best and worst purchases and recommendations this year. Note that the two aren’t always inclusive of each other, as I don’t like to use my articles to trumpet my own buys and try to influence the outcome. If I am buying something I’m writing about, I try to be very clear on my current/planned holdings.

I’m trying to focus just on what I did this year, so selling things that I bought in years past doesn’t really apply, sad to say.

Let’s get to it.

Best Buys that I made

Jan 2022 – Garruk’s Uprising (M21 Showcase foil) – 45 copies @ $1.40 each

I am someone who generally doesn’t go for the big spec purchase. Mostly, my buys on TCG are restricted by ease and what I’ve put back in from other sales, and tend to be around $100. NM foils for the Showcase are going on TCG for around $2.50 each now, with a copy or two per day, a velocity I’m quite pleased by. Buylists haven’t caught up on the foils yet, but I’m confident I’ll be selling these as a stack to someone in 2023 for around $2.50/copy.

Jan 2022 – Haven of the Spirit Dragon (DTK pack foil) – 4 copies @ $11, sold 10/2022 @ $18

I mentioned these in my article from 1/14/2022 and took the value when they went up later in the year. The price has come back down a little, which always makes me feel good about taking my proflt and moving on to the next card.

March 2022 – Secret Lair x Street Fighter (foil) – 8 copies @$50 each

Secret Lairs sting because of tax, get to add another 10% for that here in California. Still, these are going for just over $70 on TCG, buoyed by the Hadoken version of Lightning Bolt that’s going for $14 on its own

April 2022 – Ghoulish Procession (Double Feature Silver Screen Foil) – 8 copies @ $3 each

I went in on a few DBL foils earlier in the year when it became apparent that there wasn’t a lot out there getting opened. Cheapest NM copies on TCG are at $5.50 and growing. If you need fodder for sacrificing or other shenanigans, this is pretty easy to trigger consistently.

Worst Buys that I made

April 2022 – Scalding Tarn Retro Frame Foil (MH2) – 4 @ $67 each

Fetchlands have become remarkably cheap thanks to the surprising among of Modern Horizons 2 Collector Boosters that have been opened over the last year. I thought we’d hit a floor in April, but remarkably, prices for most of the set have kept going down as the chase mythics have gone up. Fetches have a lot of choices, some impressively cheap. These regular foils are down to $45, and the Etched Foil Retro Frame are under $30! For a Scalding Tarn, a card that was regularly pushing $100!

You may be sure I’m quite glad I didn’t go deeper on these lands.

August 2022 – Dominaria United Collector Booster Case @ $1300 – I thought that the Lost Legends inclusions would lead to some very chase prices, and I made this purchase before I was able to do the math on just how rare those things would be. Prices went south right away, and the first chance I get to get out for $1100, I’m going to take the loss and move on.

My Best Recommendations

1/28/2002 – Eidolon of Blossoms (JOU Foil) @ $3, went to $9, now $7

It’s a good feeling to get a triple-up within a year of recommending a card. Eidolon is an engine piece for a very popular theme, it’s single-colored, and hopefully you were able to sell at the peak. Even selling now and getting the double-up would be a winner. Don’t ever be afraid to take your profits and move on.

5/13/2022 – Treasure Cruise (TSR Retro Foil) @ $33, currently $45 and rising

Pretty straightforward for all the reasons that I listed. Time Spiral: Remastered is a set that used quite a gimmick to goose the Retro Foils to impressive heights, and Cruise is a card that’s still Pioneer legal. We’re getting our first Retro border reprints now, in Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, plus Urza, Lord High Artificer, and I’ll be curious to see how many more of those we get going forward. 

6/10/2022 – Kindred Discovery (CLB Extended Art Foil) @ $20, said to wait and let it drop, now $5.

This is a card I wanted to buy very badly because it’s so so so good in the theme decks I love, such as Dragons and Zombies. However, I knew that buying it early was a formula for disaster, and waiting has proven me correct. I didn’t think it would go all the way to $5, but here we are and I’m likely to pick up a few now that they are so darn cheap.

My Worst Recommendations

04/15/2022 – Xorn (CLB Showcase Foil) @ $4, currently $2

The Monster Manual editions of cards have turned out to be a flop. There’s a subset of Magic players that go absolutely gonzo for them, and I imagine there’s a lot of the Magic/D&D overlap working at Wizards right now, but the prices speak the truth about what the wider audience says: that art style isn’t going to come back unless it’s hyper-collectible, like the Here Be Dragons Secret Lair. 

Treasures have turned out to be one of the more popular and useful things to do in Magic, and Xorn giving extras ought to have led to increases in prices. Prices have fallen hard since the set came out, though, and this version is especially cheap.

5/13/2022 – Panharmonicon (TSR Retro Foil) @ $40, currently $28 and sinking

Sadly, one of my favorite cards is also one of my worst recommendations of the year. I didn’t see the double reprint coming at all. I figured that with the blueprint version in Secret Lairs, plus this version, we were pretty set. Just a few weeks after I wrote this, we got regular, borderless, and foil-etched copies in Double Masters 2022, followed more recently by a reprint in Jumpstart 2022. That’s a double-dip for a card that has the Commander demand to survive repeated reprints, but they need to give it some time to breathe. 

Things We Learned in 2022

Readers!

2022 was a big year for me, both professionally and personally and looking back over everything that happened and that we put up with, it’s amazing we survived this year intact. It was full sensory overload for us 24/7 and it feels like everything I used to like is coming at me too fast, from superhero movies to Magic releases to family and personal milestones. We’re going to wrap up the year by reflecting on how we got better at picking out cards that were going to pop based on clues from EDHREC.

The first thing I acknowledged was something that I had hinted at privately but felt like I didn’t want to exacerbate by drawing too much attention to it was what is dubbed the “Command Zone Effect.” I wrote about the impact of that show on the price of a card like Fervent Charge and how it’s worth subscribing to their Patreon to see the episodes early. Cards that do something crazy, even in a contrived scenario, are bound to pop in the short term and being ahead of the curve.

It is always noteworthy whenever I show tips or tricks about using EDHREC, it might be worth refreshing your memory about it from time to time. I sometimes forget things I’ve learned about the site, and I am looking at ways to make more of our data presentable. 2023 will be a great year for analytics, even the ad hoc, self-taught analytics that you could do yourselves.

This is the first time this year I mentioned Setessan Champion, but I mentioned it a lot after. That card is still way too cheap and if you take nothing else away from this year, get that card. Sell it whenever. If it gets reprinted, buy a bunch of copies. It’s very, very good and it has a extended-art version that is less impacted by a reprint. It’s crazy good, even now.

Baldur’s Gate was one of the biggest sets for EDH of the year and it’s going to be the gift that keeps on giving for a while. I highlighted the cards that mattered then in this article, but I really think it would behoove you to take a look at the set’s page yourself. We got a TON of cards, a TON of cycles, a new kind of companion, Gates support and a ton of Legendary creatures. The set is so dense and we’ve only scratched the surface.

I am not sure how to categorize “Buy The Bottom” but I think it’s the best thing I wrote this year, or at least the article I’m proudest of. Give it a read if it’s been awhile.

With Wizards inundating us with new Legendary creatures all the time, Legendary-only decks seem more and more possible. I wrote about the cards that will get played no matter what the rest of that deck looks like.

This was the first year I really made a habit of going back and checking high-impact sets a few months later to se where the prices ended up when the dust settled, and doing the same for decks was a revelation. This was the first but not last time I made a point to write about my process.

Sometimes I think a card is underplayed and that’s all I have to say about it.

It pays to go back through the EDHREC Top 100 cards, because any cards that got added to that list in the last year are very pertinent. Some of them haven’t quite moved in price despite being very high on the list, so if you want 5 examples of cards to watch, here you go.

In this 2-part miniseries dubbed Brother Vs Brother and Brother Vs Brother 2: the ReBrothering we widened our scope a bit to look at the cards that in general will go up as a result of lots of new artifact decks being built. It doesn’t matter what the individual decks do if you know what the next 6 months of releases will do, so stock up now.

2022 was a year full of slight improvements to my methods and I’m glad I took the time to document them. Signs of growth in my skills at picking specs are encouraging and despite doing this over a decade, I’m pot committed to this life and ready to charge into 2023 with all 3 guns blazing. Until next year!

Picking from Baldur’s Gate at the end of the year

My new rule is six months. I don’t consider buying cards for long-term growth until six months after release, and wouldn’t you know it, we’re at six months post-Commander Legends: Battle of Baldur’s Gate. I’ve learned through hard and expensive experience that I don’t want to buy cards until the floor, and it takes several months to find that floor now.

Let’s go over some cards from the set, and discuss how the price fell and fell and fell, and then decide which merit being a pick up from a vastly underpowered and poorly-selling set.

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expensive cards ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

We need to start out with the obvious: This set was underpowered for Commander, and undersold. That doesn’t mean everything is cheap, though. Here’s the entire list of cards worth more than $10 right now in nonfoil:

Fourteen cards on this list, while Streets of New Capenna has nine cards, and even Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty has seven. Granted, Baldur’s Gate cards have the assorted variations of the same four Dragons as different entries here, but these are still valid hits on pack openings. 

What we are looking for is that mix of cards that are good in Commander, based on their EDHREC inclusion, aren’t too expensive, and perhaps have some Eternal applications. I don’t worry about Standard these days, and you shouldn’t spec based on that format either.

Remember that EDHREC data is useful but it is also flawed: There’s a bias towards preconstructed deck inclusions, and it only represents the people invested enough to list every single card of theirs. I haven’t listed any of my decks, for instance.

With all of this in mind, let’s look at cards, keeping in mind that for most of these, the Monster Manual Showcase versions are definitely cheaper. If you like those versions, you can stock up, but the prices speak to the average player having a disdain for that, even if it’s cheaper.

Decanter of Endless Water (a quarter to $2.50) – This is strange to me, and I’ve been having difficulty figuring out what is up with this card. The regular version sells 7-8 copies a day around $2, while the foil moves slower. This is clearly for everyone who loves drawing endless cards, but this wasn’t in the precon decks. It’s just popular. If it stays popular, this is probably a buylist play: buy 100 copies for around 30 cents, and when they hit $1.50, sell them all to a buylist for $1 each. Even better if you live near a store, save on shipping!

Jaheira, Friend of the Forest (30 cents to $2) – Giving all tokens this ability to tap for green mana is pretty outstanding, because it’s not just creature tokens, it’s everything. Jace, Mirror Mage tokens. Treasures, Food, Clues! All of them are now Mox Emeralds. There’s already a lot of combos here, and everything that makes tokens gets better with this. I love that sort of open-ended synergy, and I think that this is worth buying in on.

Astral Dragon ($4, no foils) – This set not only gave us the outstanding cycle of Ancient Dragons, but also a few accessory Dragons that I really like long-term. Being from the Commander deck, there’s no foils here or for Brainstealer, but this is another combo-centric card. I’ve already used this on a wide variety of board states, and been pleased at every turn. I fully expect this to be some weird combo in the future, as what it does is quite unique.

Brainstealer Dragon ($3, no foils) – Getting cards for free is exactly what you want from a seven-drop. Sure it’s already a big flyer, but at end of turn, you’re going to exile three cards and be able to play them whenever you want, using any color of mana, and dealing damage to its owner when you do. Winner all around, a cheap card and one I want to have in stock going forward.

Wrathful Red Dragon ($1.50 to $3) – Dragons don’t generally need ‘don’t mess with me’ cards but it’s always nice to have a card that says ‘Even if you block, you’re going to take a pile of damage.’ I also like how this breaks the mirror match for Dragon decks, or turns your Scourge of Kher Ridges into ‘target player takes a boatload of damage.’ For this card, we can get Extended Art foils for crazy cheap, and considering how popular Dragon decks are, this is one of the best to be playing.

Monster Manual ($1.50 to $3) – Quicksilver Amulet has been printed to dust, and will never recover. This is clearly an upgrade, and carries the downside of needing green mana. Still, green decks tend to be chock-full of giant creatures that want to be cheated into play, and this is a great way to do that. Again, we can get the premium foil version for cheap, and that’s where I want to be.

Gond Gate ($1) and Baldur’s Gate (50 cents to $2) – Gate decks will have their day in the sun again. Purchasing these is a gift to yourself when we get our next trip to Ravnica, where both shocklands and Gates will be present yet again. These two Gates are heavily synergistic, and the Gond Gate nullifying Gates’ disadvantage is a big big deal. These sell at a brisk pace now, so stock up while you can.

Nautiloid Ship ($4 to $8) – I know Jason’s mentioned this card once or twice, so let me just add my voice, that this is a phenomenal card and incredibly unfair. A 5/5 flyer with crew 3 is not difficult to get in a hit with, and you don’t even have to hit the player whose graveyard you exiled. Just a fantastic card and one that should be getting a lot more play.

Artificer Class ($5, no foils) – Granted, there’s a long long list of ‘blue cards that are auto-includes in artifact themed decks’ but this deserves to be on the list. It’s not as broken as Foundry Inspector at Level 1, but it gets so much better as you level up. Two mana to draw your next artifact is good, six mana to copy artifacts is outright broken.

Vexing Puzzlebox ($3 to $6) – We’ve gotten a lot of fun with d20 cards, and this one allows for an easy payoff. People aren’t quite as asleep on this mythic, since the FEA is $6, but it’s pretty easy to have this tap to search up an artifact every other turn or so, especially if one of your early finds is for Unwinding Clock or the like. Every dice-rolling card makes this better, so I want to have a few ready for our next set that features the ability.

MAGIC: THE GATHERING FINANCE ARTICLES AND COMMUNITY