Unlocked Pro Trader: All the Glitters is Silver



I say a lot that EDH finance is MTG Finance on easy mode and for the most part, that’s true. EDH is predictable, moves slowly, moves dependably and while it’s tough to quantify, we’ve found that looking at subsections of the available data can prove to be a fairly reliable model of the overall demand in the format.

Demand isn’t all created equal and when we talk about cards that are in the Top 100 EDH cards by color, sometimes the scale can vary by a zero or two between “staples” if you’re determining which cards are in the Top 100 in terms of percentage of eligible decks rather than the raw number of total decks. It’s good to determine what is a staple in certain decks by disallowing ineligible decks – is Eternal Witness not a green staple because it’s not in any Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim decks? Of course not – Eternal Witness is in a full 42% of decks containing Green on EDHREC and that’s absurdly high. Shouldn’t we rank a card that’s in 42% of all eligible decks higher than a card that’s in 33% of all eligible decks? We should – Eternal Witness is more of a Green staple than that card is a “whatever color it is” staple and I’m not suggesting we change that. What I am suggesting is to remember that you need to weight raw demand in your calculation as well. That’s something I do when making a determination. If you’re not, you should start, and here’s why.

The Economics of “Scale”

By scale here, I mean the difference between a color staple and a format staple and how they can vary wildly. When you rank based on percentage of eligible decks, you’ll get Eternal Witness in 5th place and Cultivate in 4th place. You should –  they are in an incredibly high percentage of Green decks.

However, being a staple in one of the 5 (I guess 6) possible colors isn’t the same as being a staple that can go in any deck. Despite being in only 33% of eligible decks, you’ll notice something about the raw number of decks for a card like Lightning Greaves.

Lightning Greaves is in 1.7 times as many decks as Eternal Witness. true, it’s in a smaller percentage of eligible decks (every single possible deck) but it’s in a greater total number because of course it is. Eternal Witness and Cultivate can’t go in Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim decks and that’s fine, but Lightning Greaves can and does. When you’re evaluating stuff that got a reprint and trying to guess how well it will shrug off that reprint or you’re looking at a new card to determine how many decks it will go in, you should bear in mind that artifacts and lands, provided they don’t have a color identity like Simic Signet or Rugged Prairie, will in general have higher total demand and you can develop a pretty rough formula to “weight” the colors against artifacts to figure out how much of an impact we can rely on. This is not going to be all that precise, but it kind of doesn’t have to be, does it? If we look at cards that are in a given percentage  of eligible decks of every color and weight that raw score against the raw score of an artifact that’s in the same percentage of eligible decks (read “all” decks) we can come up with a factor for each color that shows what percentage of format demand each color accounts for and we can make more informed decisions about what to target both when cards are reprinted and when they’re spoiled.

2824.44 decks is 1% of total decks.

1295.35 decks is 1% of all White decks. That means an artifact can have, on average, about 2 times the demand a White card can if they’re in the same percentage of total eligible decks. A White “staple” in 40% of all White decks is still in under half of of the number of decks an Artifact that’s in 40% of all eligible decks.

1420.64 is 1% of all Blue decks. Again, that means artifacts are represented 1.98 to 1 compared to Blue cards.

1433.16 is 1% of all Black decks. That means Artifacts are represented 1.97 times as much. So far, Blue and Black are very close and White is represented less than the other colors – but only by about 1% so it’s not a huge deal.

1276.23 is 1% of all Red decks. Artifacts are represented 2.2 times as much as Red cards if we can rely on this data.

1320.66 is 1% of Green decks. I’ll be honest – I expected Green to be represented more than Black but I’ve been wrong before. Again, we’re talking about a 1% difference so it’s really that we’re seeing artifacts represented twice as much as colored cards, provided they’re played in the same percentage of decks. Basically, an artifact has twice the potential because it can go in more decks.


Whether or not these numbers are exact, and there were some discrepancies between the totals depending on which page you looked at, the discrepancies were less than 1% of the total and we’re basically looking qualitatively at this rather than quantitatively. I don’t think it’s important to note that there was a factor of 1.97 for Black cards and 2.2 for Red cards, I think it’s more important to note that the colored cards, no matter the color, accounted for roughly half of the decks and artifacts can go in any deck. An artifact that looks like a staple like Aetherflux Reservoir can go in twice as many decks as a similar card like Thousand-Year Storm. Sure, they will overlap a lot, but Reservoir can go in Ayli, Oloro and a ton of other decks with no red or Blue that Storm cannot, and that’s important to remember. If I made a colossal error in my calculations by relying on data that was calculated in some goofy way, I think we would have come to some counterintuitive conclusions but considering most decks are two colors, it’s that crazy that decks with any given color would be roughly half the total. There are a lot of five color decks, for example, and a five-color deck outweighs the colorless decks five to 1. Going forward, know that colorless cards (truly colorless ones, not “colored” artifacts like Lifecrafter’s Bestiary). We should take note of that in the future.


We expect Eternal Witness to shrug off its reprinting. Currently, Eternal Witness is in 56,256 decks which is 42% of all registered Green decks. If a card with those sort of numbers can shrug off repeated reprintings, do we expect other cards to be able to do the same? Let’s look at some artifacts about to be reprinted and see what their numbers look like.


A 6,992 decks which is about 2.5% of all decks, I don’t think this has the chops to get back up in price. It was a scarcity-based price, antagonized by repeated failures to reprint it. Eternal Witness is in about 8 times as many decks as this. The good news is this being printed at rare and overlooked by everyone who doesn’t play EDH means this will probably tank very hard. It’s going to recover a bit and that means if you buy at its floor you will make money. It would be a little too simplistic to say this will recover an eighth of its value if Eternal Witness recovers all of its value, but considering this likely tanks to a few bucks, I think an eighth of its peak price of about $64 isn’t too shabby. I don’t have as much faith in this recovering, which is why we looked at numbers.

Meanwhile this bad boy is sitting at 23,651 decks which is 8% of all decks. I also think if this price tanks, there will be some discovered demand as a lot of players balked at paying $30 for a mana rock. I think this could be a decent buy when it tanks, and being reprinted at mythic in a very limited set bodes well for its recovery chances. I am much more optimistic about this recovering. I’ll still buy Phyrexian Altars for days because I want them in most decks, but this seems like a better investment.

9,363 decks, or about 3%, coupled with its play in other formats is nothing to sniff at, but repeated printings and a printing at non-mythic rare make me think this has limited recovery prospects. I’m not as excited about this as I am other cards.

Everything we said about Mana Valut we can say about this, only at its peak, Ancient Tomb hit about $50 which is substantially more than Mana Vault. I think there will be some discovered demand here although we’re talking about a card in roughly 8% of eligible decks, which is a lot, but whose demand is mostly predicated on other formats. I think non-zero EDH demand, discovered demand from new players eager to snag a copy with it pre-selling for about $24 and liable to go down a bit more as people open more packs means there is a lot of opportunity for this to substantially recover.

Compare the colorless cards to a “Black” land like Urborg. Despite being limited to black decks, Urborg is in 45,200 decks, which is 32% of all Black decks and therefore about 16% of all decks, Urborg is in twice as many decks as Ancient Tomb despite not being a colorless land. Demand based on power level matters, too, but this is more of a gut-check than anything. Sure, we have data to look at when evaluating reprints, but what lessons can we take forward when we look at cards printed for the first time?

  • There are roughly twice as many decks as there are decks of any given color
  • Colored cards are therefore half as likely to become a staple as an otherwise equivalent artifact or land card. Evaluating this can be tricky because of course it is.

This was an interesting data dive and I appreciate you taking the ride with me. If you take exception with any of my methods, let’s get into it in the comments section. Otherwise, have fun drafting Ultimate Masters on Friday! Until next time.

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The Watchtower 12/3/18 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

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.

Overall, we’ve had a relatively quiet week. SCG’s Modern Open was won by Ross Merriam, a like-minded fellow, with a full grip of Arclight Phoenixes. This is roughly the amount of success needed to at least include a card in the “won’t get you laughed out of the room for discussing” tier, and is the first step towards becoming “staple of at least tier two.” We saw a similar pathway for Humans and Spirits over the last year or so.

Other than that, GP Shizuoka wasn’t terribly thrilling. Legacy had little in the way of upsets, as is expected. Their Standard showing was heavy on the Golgari, with no meaningful innovation as far as we’re concerned, with one exception to that rule. The Ultimate Masters fervor has died down. Expect this trend to be repeated over the next few weeks, with much of everyone’s attention preoccupied with holiday parties, gift shopping, and getting colds.


March of the Multitudes

Price Today: $6
Possible Price: $13

Early in Guilds of Ravnica’s lifespan March of the Multitudes was a bit of a breakout card. Checking the price graph, you can see it from $10 to $5, then skyrocket to $20. Since then it’s dwindled, as shortly after GRN’s release it became apparent that Selesnya wasn’t one of the guilds to beat this time around. Turns out Voice of Resurgence did GW a big favor the last time we were in Ravnica.

GP Shizuoka wasn’t terribly exciting, although there was an appearance in the top 8 of a GW tokens build with a full grip of Marches. Given that Golgari Midrange is mostly a goodstuff deck as BG has been so many times before it, it is vulnerable to wide strategies just as its forefathers before. Ravenous Chupacabra is a lot less impressive one when of your cards creates four separate bodies.

March has fallen to about $6, which is a far cry from the $20 it hit during spoilers. While token strategies haven’t found their place in Standard yet, this success in Japan may herald a shift in the metagame, especially as Golgari is liable to continue to do well at non-Pro Tour tournaments worldwide. If GW token strategies, and March of the Multitudes along with them, become a prominent part of Standard, expect this archetype-defining 4x mythic to get a bit more expensive than six bucks.

Rest in Peace (Foil)

Price Today: $15
Possible Price: $25

Take a peek at the staple list of Modern and you’ll find that the 4th most played spell — ahead of Thoughtseize, Serum Visions, and Ancient Stirrings — is Rest in Peace. There’s no doubt Dredge is having a bit of a moment in Modern, which will eventually fade, as the format is cyclical, but even if Hollow One is banned, Rest in Peace will remain relevant. I heavily played Modern from the outset for years and years, and my RIPs rarely left a deck’s sleeves and ended up back in my collection binder. No matter what’s going on in the format, somebody is trying to abuse their graveyard, because the single second people stop running graveyard hate, some chucklehead with Worldfire, Flame Jab, and Spellweaver Helix is going to show up and crush an SCG Open.

You’ll find foils from Return to Ravnica at the $20 price point today, though supply is shallow for sure. There’s a playset around $20 to $21, another three around $25, and then that’s it. Masters 25 copies, the ones we’re looking at, start at $15 instead. There’s a whopping 11 NM copies on TCG at the time of publication. I’d expect the M25 copies to catch up to the $20 to $22 price point reasonably soon, and both copies will start pushing closer to $25 or $30 without an intervention on Wizards’ part.

Zendikar Resurgent(Foil)

Price Today: $6
Possible Price: $15

Independent of Modern and Standard, EDH keeps on chugging. Looking into Jodah, Archmage Eternal, Zendikar Resurgent jumped out at me. When Resurgent was printed it was one of those “oh this will be an awesome pickup for EDH in two or three years.” Here we are a little under three years later, and I’m starting to like it more and more.

Unsurprisingly, it’s wildly popular in the format. There are over 15,000 listings on EDHREC, ranking it as a true format staple. At the same time, foil supplies are getting shallow. We’re not talking RIP shallow, but still shallow. You’ll find a handful of singles in the $6 range, a few more under $10, and then the ladder to $15 and $20 is short and quick.

Zendikar Resurgent is highly popular, has one printing, and is most likely to see future reprints come in Commander product, which will be lacking in foils. Attrition should pull this up from $6 towards at least $10, and probably $12 to $15, or even $20 if we go another two years.

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


Buying up the Guilds

Here we are, the time that is often the doldrums of Magic news and sets. Thankfully, Ultimate Masters has been completely spoiled for a couple of weeks, the preorders are settling out, and I’m frothing at the mouth to get some drafts in.

What I don’t want to overlook is that we’re still in the first couple months of a new Standard, and specifically, Guilds of Ravnica cards have just short of two years to go up and down in price.

Generally speaking, cards from the big fall set tend to trickle downward in price for three to six months after their season ends. (Season meaning when it’s being opened at GPs and FNM drafts, etc.) That was with the Big Set-Small Set-Small Set model, though, when there was still a little of the big set being opened.

Now, with every set being its own block, the timeline appears to be accelerated. I don’t want to pick up cards that are rotating out next October, but GRN cards are in the sweet spot where the supply is nearly maxed (Ultimate Masters is going to suck the wind right out of those sails) and pretty soon we’ll all be ravenous for Ravnica Allegiance previews.

For example, Vraska’s Contempt:

The little removal spell that could.

This hit a low of about $5 at the end of Ixalan season and then bam, jumped up as a premier removal spell in the format.

I want to identify those cards now, instead of waiting. I especially love getting them now, as there’s nearly two years for a deck to hit big. To the cards!

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Cliff has been writing for MTGPrice for five years now, 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 (next up: Oakland in January!) and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

Brainstorm Brewery #315 An Expanded Episode-lit

Jason (@jasonEalt), Corbin (@CHosler88) and DJ (@Rose0fThorns) are back to talk about the fully spoiled UMA, the artist boycott and answer your emails.

Make sure to check us out on Youtube for hidden easter eggs and facial reactions  https://www.youtube.com/user/BrainstormBrewery


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