The Watchtower 05/18/20 – Back To Basics

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This week I’m switching it up again. Or rather, switching it back again. I’ve spent a few weeks (could be months actually, I’m not really sure any more) on MTGO specs and it’s gone pretty well for the most part, but this week I’m looking back at some paper specs. Whether it’s correct or not, lockdown measures are starting to be relaxed in some places, and paper card sales are starting to flow a little more again.

There are obviously still no paper tournaments happening for the time being, so I’m focusing on cards that I think are good pickups for a longer hold time, or at least things that aren’t dependent on an ever-shifting metagame. Spoilers, we’re looking at some EDH cards!

Triomes (Showcase)

Price today: $8
Possible price: $15

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If you hop onto EDHREC, I’ll give you one guess as to what the top five cards from Ikoria are. The clue is in my subheading. Well done, you were right! The five Triomes (I still want to call them Tricycle Lands) are, to nobody’s surprise, at the top of the pile for Ikoria inclusions on EDHREC. These three colour lands are strictly better upgrades to the tri-lands that Shards of Alara and Khans of Tarkir gave us, adding both cycling and basic land types to them.

The regular versions of these cards are great, but the Showcase versions with art from Robbie Trevino are just stunning. There will undoubtedly be a big draw for these premium versions from EDH players, especially seeing as the Triomes are auto-includes in any deck that matches their colours. I’m probably going to have to grab a copy of each for my five-colour Canadian Highlander deck…

Showcase versions of all five Triomes can currently be had on TCGPlayer for around $7-8, and I think that this has the potential for a double-up in the longer term. As I said, they’re auto-includes in EDH decks that can play them, and that’s not even taking into account Standard (and possibly other constructed formats?) demand for them. I could also see dipping into the foils at around $30, with a view to hit $40 or even $50 in 12 months or so.

Shadowspear (EA Foil)

Price today: $30
Possible price: $50

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What’s that? Another premium version of an EDH staple? How unoriginal!

Yes, it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but I reckon it’s pretty solid, and that’s good enough for me. Shadowspear is the 3rd most popular card from Theros Beyond Death on EDHREC, because being colourless it can slot into any deck! I’d argue that it’s pretty much just an upgrade from Loxodon Warhammer, a card that’s found a home in almost 15k recorded decks. Sure, it grants a couple fewer points of power, but the ability to remove Indestructible and Hexproof from your opponents’ creatures is invaluable.

There are too many different versions of this card between the regular, prerelease promo, planeswalker pack promo and EA version, PLUS all the foils of those, so with cards like that it’s best to just look at the most basic version and the most pimp version. The regulars aren’t amazingly enticing at $6, so instead I’ve flipped the switch to the other end and looked at the EA foils.

These ones start at $30 on TCG and have a pretty reasonable ladder up to $40, and I’m actually surprised that there aren’t any priced higher than that at the moment. There are only 28 total vendors with copies, which considering the number of people playing this in EDH is not a lot. $40 within 6 months seems easy for Shadowspear, and I think that $50 in 12 months is entirely reasonable.

Castle Garenbrig (EA Foil)

Price today: $25
Possible price: $40

Hopping back in time by another set to Throne of Eldraine, here’s another EA foil for you. Castle Garenbrig is another boring old staple in, well, decks that play a lot of creatures I guess. Boasting a respectable 5400 decks on EDHREC, it’s a relatively easy inclusion in heavily green-based EDH decks, probably coming in untapped most of the time and helping ramp out early threats. But there’s a twist: it’s actually not that boring because it’s had its fair share of time in the sun in Modern as well.

Primeval Titan decks love this card, and although Amulet Titan has shrunk back from the forefront of Modern for the time being, I highly doubt that the giant’s time in the format is anywhere near to finished. The Amulet Titan and Titan Field decks are almost always seen playing the full suite of Castle Garenbrigs, and supply on the foil EA Castles isn’t exactly high so if a couple of players pick a set up for their decks then the market will drain quickly.

These start at $25 on TCGPlayer, but with only thirteen (13) total NM foil copies listed, that price could jump up real quick. With the Modern and EDH demand for this card, along with a smattering of Pioneer play, I think that riding this up to $40 in 6, maybe 12 months, is a pretty safe bet – and if you want some to play with then I definitely wouldn’t hesitate.


I’ll probably be back next week with more paper specs for you to stash in the closet and gather dust until we can play paper Magic properly again, so I’ll see you then!


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.

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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Commander 2020: Are we Buying?

Commander 2020 is legal to sell as of today! Your local store may or may not have them available, and maybe they are being shipped to you. (I’ve got a set coming to me on Sunday, UPS willing!)

We’ve had to sit through a big delay in having the cards in hand, and even more delay in playing with other people. This has led to a very artificial set of prices, and I want to dive in and see if there’s money to be made from buying and cracking sealed product this weekend.

First of all: Profitability is heavily dependent on the price you acquire the decks at. If you find them someplace for $40 each, that’s a pretty easy buy. This product line is known for having a bunch of $2-$5 cards and a few special reprints/new cards to make it awesome, and this set follows that pattern.

Currently, the most expensive reprint in the set is The Locust God, a card that was heading for $15 at a reasonable pace, but putting this in the ‘you want to pack in the Wheel of Fortune’ effects deck is why this won’t hit $20.

But the new cards are the headliners this time around, with a cycle that’s genius: It’s free if your Commander is in play. Wizards has wanted to avoid the True-Name Nemesis/Containment Priest problem, where a card meant for Commander warps older formats and causes outsize price and short supply.

No, seriously, when Wizards makes something in these that’s Legacy-playable, then you’ve got GP New Jersey 2014 and Priest buylisting for $50, or Wizards needing to print extra copies of the whole Commander deck to get enough TNN out there. 

This year’s cycle avoids that by only being good if the Commander is in play. Simple, effective, and likely to push prices down. Only Commander players want them, and while the green one is the worst (by FAR, and it’s nice to get back to Green cards being bad) the other four carry real prices…for now.

Fierce Guardianship ($40ish listed, but the lowest is $30 right now on TCG)

Flawless Manuever ($11)

Deflecting Swat ($11)

Deadly Rollick ($8)

The prices are falling here, down at least 15% in the last week. It’s the main target to sell immediately, to Commander players who don’t have the sense to be patient in the middle of a pandemic. It’s going to fall a lot farther, too. While I do think this is the spell of the cycle I’d want to have most, and blue players truly love having yet another free counterspell in their armory, $40 is not a real price right now. Last year’s big winner is Dockside Extortionist: 

Commander 2018 has one card above $10: Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle. Commander 2017 has an intriguing lineup, but remember that these cards are three years old and not one of these has had a reprint (except Teferi’s Protection, which has had two: Mystery Booster and a Judge Foil):

My point here is that the high tag on the Fierce cards won’t last short-term. Too many people are going to try and make money, and that’s not going to work.

The other cards in these decks are good, and the primary buyers here are folks who are savvy: they looked at the decklists, decided what they wanted to build/add to their decks, and are only buying targeted singles. Honestly, that’s my usual play, but the presale price I got for buying the decks blind was a little too good.

The two early leaders, in terms of prices and decks built on EDHREC, are Zaxara, the Exemplary and Xyris, the Writhing Storm, both of which are over $10 right now and might hold a price close to that over the long term. 

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Short-term, though, they will dip a little and then come back. I particularly like Zaxara as a long-term spec, since Hydra is a tribe getting more and more love, it’s got several infinite combos and is in the best tutoring colors, but the reprint risk has me scared. The most popular Commanders need to get through 2020 without reprints, and then I’ll relax. Remember that we have additional Commander product coming with Return to Return to Zendikar and then again with Commander Masters.

By the way, looking at the Commander 2017 lists, if you have extras of any of those cards, I’d be getting rid of them. The reprints are not going to get all of those cards, but why take the chance?

So my advice to you, if you’re thinking of braving the lines at some store in hopes of cracking for value: Don’t try it. If you got a copy of Timeless Wisdom at $40, and managed to sell the Fierce Guardianship on eBay for $35, you’ll be one of the lucky few. 

Let me show you the view that saves me money on TCG: 

This is all Commander 2020, listed in descending price. What I’m looking for is a small gap between the market price and the lowest listing. A big gap between those means that there was a sale at a high price, but there are copies available for a lot cheaper–and no one has bought the cheaper one yet!

Zaxara has a $7 gap. Deadly Rollick has a gap of a little over a buck. Generally, that’s what I want to see. The cheapest copies should be the first to sell when someone wants to buy a copy of a card, but a large gap means the market hasn’t caught up to the supply.

Let’s look at it this way. I buy Timeless Wisdom at $50 from the LGS. Perhaps I get lucky and sell my Fierce Guardianship at the current low price of $30. Next on the list is The Locust God, and I want to hurry up and sell mine. It’s got a Market of $8, so I price at $6, but there’s people listing theirs at $5.50 or less. If I’m not the cheapest, I’ll take longer to sell, time during which more copies of the deck are being opened and the cards dumped on TCGPlayer.

This weekend, there’s going to be a race to the bottom. Don’t get caught in it. Be patient, buy what you need in about two weeks. That’s when we’ll have a better grasp of the supply and demand. Buying this weekend is spending more than you need to, and who wants to spend $15 on a card today they can get for $8 in two weeks, especially if you can’t play with it in person yet?

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.

Unlocked Pro Trader: Our Fates Are Sealed

Hey, readers.

You want to make money? Buy Reserved List cards. You can say something that’s like, literally not even close to true but sounds good to pretend it’s not 100% about people using their unemployment and Covid bucks windfalls to try and invest and move the market now that 75% of the copies that used to be listed are taken down because stores aren’t shipping. Here’s a list of phrases you can use that sound convincing enough that you can pretend these aren’t lazy specs.

  • cEDH is really having a moment right now
  • These cards have always been underpriced
  • You can’t build a decent Red EDH deck without Wheel of Fortune
  • Gaea’s Cradle is an EDH staple with a ton of casual appeal
  • Xyris is really driving prices

That last one sounds like me, doesn’t it!? The truth is we haven’t seen much evidence that the new commanders are doing much organically. It’s obvious (to me, anyway) to buy wheels when they print a bunch of decks that have bad wheels in them and cards they synergize with, but no one has Commander 2020 cards. Do you think that has an effect on people building? I do!

It seems pretty clear that people are preferentially building decks with cards they have, or updating the old ones. Most sites EDHREC scrapes, if not all of them, have all of the new cards in their database so they’re eligible for being built around. People are not super inclined right now. So while Wheel of Fortune, Echo of Eons and other wheels were obvious to people who spec like I do and while I wrote about all of those cards, we will have to wait to see where the price ends up and whether Xyris even gets built as much as I had figured. Currently more people are putting finishing touches on Chulane, a deck that basically has a “right answer” for how to build it.

Instead of speccing like I normally do, I wanted to show you all something that seems like a more productive way to spend our money. Since card supply on TCG Player is down with so many stores shutting down temporarily, competition for cards is high and drives prices nuts. I don’t want to touch singles right now. Am I saying that because I tried to order 16 Concordant Crossroads at $10 each and the seller turned out to be a TCG Player account that only had that card listed across 2 stores, never had the cards, never sent them and wasted my time having to get a refund, only for me to watch those $18 copies I could have gotten instead go to $40? No. Yes and no. The point is, I am getting unreliable or incomplete data from EDHREC and will do so until people can get their Commander 2020 decks. The TCG Player thing is unrelated to my pivot to a new spec strategy for the time being, I just wanted to point out that I was a month ahead of the Concordant Crossroads spike and I could have $120 worth of copies more than I do now and those things feel bad.

Here’s something that prices going up is making me notice that we should all pay attention to, though, and that’s when the high price of a single makes cards free, mitigating future losses from prices going back down, and the fact that hidden reprints exist.

Hidden Reprints?

How many times has Smothering Tithe been printed? This is an open book quiz. Use the internet if you want, check for the answer. Dennis Hopper isn’t actually waiting on the other end of the phone, he died. While you’re looking up how many times Smothering Tithe was printed, I’ll talk briefly about Dennis Hopper’s commitment to cinema, starting with the 1986 David Lynch film “Blue Velvet” and if there’s time, I’ll briefly discuss his crowning achievement, the 1993 adaptation of the Nintendo video game “Super Mario Brothers” in which he played oh you’re done already. How did you do it? TCG Player or Channel Fireball or something and click “all versions?”

You’re right. It was a trick question. Here I was thinking I was going to trip you up because Tithe was in Throne Promo packs and most people don’t remember that. The cards look similar, so my trick question was designed to catch people who weren’t smart enough to look it up and see there are two printings.

PSYCH! - Supa Hot Fire Rapper | Meme Generator

It’s actually 3 copies. You forgot about the Brawl decks.

The Brawl deck version is identical to the version from the set. Since it looks identical and doesn’t have a different set symbol or anything, people who are paid to classify the cards (people like me) would rather not create a new category and even if they did, it would be impossible to tell which cards came from the set and which came from the Brawl deck. This isn’t like the Stoneforge Mystics everyone used to say were fake because they were from the Event deck (remember that event deck that people played at FNM but couldn’t put Batterskull into?) and looked way different. These are indistinguishable. It’s effectively a reprint that has copies no one is mentally accounting for. Has this extra supply attenuated the price of Smothering Tithe at all?

You tell me. With Smothering Tithe on its way to $20, should we buy some copies of Smothering Tithe? No. You should buy some copies of Faerie Schemes.

We have officially reached the point where Tithe is so expensive that it’s efficient to buy a precon it’s in.

Per Market Price on everything but basic lands the way they calculate it on MTG Goldfish, the deck is worth about $50. You could spend $15 on a Tithe or you could spend $25 on a Tithe plus $35 more dollars worth of cards. If Tithe tanks, it would have to go to -$35 like it’s oil futures or something for you to lose money.

Obviously I’m being facetious – you’re not getting $35 out of the rest of the deck. No one will pay you $0.44 for a Bag of Holding and selling it on TCG Player means if they don’t buy anything else, you lose money to fees and a stamp unless you charge like $3 for shipping and no one is paying $3.44 for a Bag of Holding. The rares below $1 will be $0.08 or $0.10 or whatever you can get for bulk rares near you. However, there are strong cards in this deck.

Temple of Silence is in Knights colors and with it being Standard legal for a bit, could go up. Remember, we’re not justifying the current $1.50 price tag for the card because it’s not $1.50 to us, it’s free. All its price increasing does is further mitigate the harm from a reprint of Smothering Tithe that happens before we get out. We have to get $10.01 in value from the rest of the deck in order to do better than we would have if we had just bought copies of Tithe, which will itself continue to climb until it gets a reprinting people notice and will recover even then. Will Temple go up byu $10.01? No, but it doesn’t have to.

Here’s why! There is a $10 bill in the deck already. If you don’t mess around with Watery Grave and just snap sell it for its current $10, you have a $10 subsidy for the deck. Let’s do some math.

The rest of the deck doesn’t have to be great. Even if it’s all nickel picks and bulk rares, it’s a cushion against the price of Tithe dropping. Use the bulk to make lots, keep the rares to make grab bags, speculate on Alela going up. The cards are yours. This is cumbersome to do on a huge scale, but if you’re buying fewer than 100 copies of the deck, it makes more sense than trying to just buy Tithe, and if you buy at that rate, you might be able to go through a wholesaler and pay less than $25 a deck, meaning you do even better.

Have I sold you on the principle? If I have, here is another example of a card that is very high and is with other good cards in a percon that is basically the same price as those cards.

Thrasios is a $50-$60 card. cEDH IS HAVING A MOMENT AFTER ALL. Whether or not you think cEDH is more than a fringe subformat, most cEDH decks are Thrasios and Tymna and with more supply unlikely, the people who play with judge foil Vampiric Tutors and Grim Monoliths aren’t going to balk at a $60 price tag on a dumb card they shouldn’t have printed. Thrasios is basically a $65 card and he’s not done growing. Should you buy Thrasios or do something else?

Can we find another $35 worth of cards in Entropic Uprising?

Yep!

After that, the rest of the deck is free, including a $6 Yidris, $2 (and climbing) Wheel of Fate, a $5 Chain of Vapor, a $4 (and climbing) Windfall, a $5 Past in Flames, a $5 (and climbing) Reforge the Soul, an $8 Waste Not, a $4 Curtains’ Call, a $7 (and climbing) Chromatic Lantern, a Sol Ring, a Fellwar Stone and a MANABASE WHERE THE MOST EXPENSIVE LAND IS RELIQUARY TOWER. You take that $2 Shadowblood Ridge, you stick it in a binder and you WAIT.

With wheels popping off, Burgeoning recovering from its last printing nicely, Kydele approaching $5 and casual favorites like Consuming Aberration being in the deck. You’ll come out way ahead if you can snag an Uprising for basically $25 more than Thrasios and the cards in it are all nudging upward again thanks to Xyris and friends. Everything old is new again.

There are probably more examples but I am out of time, they aren’t going anywhere and I have to write about something next week. Until then, either do a bunch of work or buy a Gaea’s Cradle, I guess. 2 tax refunds a year and shuttered LGSs are doing a number on us and we’re all trying to keep up. Until next time!

The Watchtower 05/11/20 – Setting a New Standard

Despite no paper Magic being played at the moment, the Standard metagame is still churning away at a reasonable rate, both on MTGO and Arena. With the release of Ikoria we’ve seen new archetypes pushed to the forefront of Standard, most notably the Yorion Lukka deck and Jeskai Cycling. Lukka has been the (perhaps unexpected) breakout mythic so far, so congrats if you were in on that ahead of the crowd.

Interestingly, one common card across a lot of these decks seems to be Agent of Treachery, and being able to power out an early one can often be the name of the game, be it via Lukka, Winota or simply ramping with Uro and Growth Spiral. This week I’ll be talking about some of the other top contenders in Standard at the moment, and which cards look like they’ll be solid holds with a view to rotation later in the year.


Shatter the Sky

Price today: 0.1 tix
Possible Price: 1 tix

Shatter the Sky is a four mana unconditional wrath in Standard, which is always going to be inherently powerful. We saw Kaya’s Wrath put work in before Shatter was printed, but the mana constraints on that card meant that it couldn’t be played as much as it might have been if it were less heavy on the mana symbols. Shatter is twice as easy to cast, and although it does sometimes let your opponent draw a card, that’s a reasonable price to pay for being able to wrath the board on turn 4 instead of turn 5.

If we take a look at the metagame staples in Standard at the moment, Shatter the Sky comes out as the 9th most played card overall (not just the 9th most played spell). There are a few different Yorion variants that take up a huge proportion of the metagame at the moment, and most of them are playing three to four Shatters in the maindeck.

Kaya’s Wrath is a similar card that we’ve seen spend a decent amount of time over 1 tix on MTGO, and so as we look towards rotation in the fall I think that Shatter the Sky could be lined up to follow a similar path. Standard has been a grindy midrange-fest for a little while now, and could well continue in that direction for the foreseeable future. That means that efficient and well-timed wraths will always be necessary, and Shatter does a great job in that respect.

Elspeth Conquers Death

Price today: 0.2 tix
Possible price: 0.5 tix

Another Theros card we’ve been seeing all over Standard is Elspeth Conquers Death. It’s another powerful midrange tool that can swing games around quickly, and is actually played a lot more than Shatter the Sky, coming out at the fourth most played card in Standard at the moment. Another rare from Theros Beyond Death, this is a card that will still be legal post-rotation and thus probably start to climb as supply dwindles and popularity stays high.

Elspeth Conquers Death did recently ascend to around 0.5 tix on MTGO due to its ubiquity in both Standard and Pioneer, but has since dropped back to 0.2 tix. This is another play that, bought in great enough quantity, could make a lot of money moving back up to 0.5 tix or even more.

Fabled Passage

Price today: 13 tix
Possible price: 20 tix

I called Fabled Passage a few weeks ago when it bottomed out at 9 tix, saying it could hit 15, and after some steady growth we’re pretty close to being there. But here I am talking about it again, and not just to say “told you so” – I think that this card has even more potential going forwards, and could even hit 20 tix at some point.

I may just be repeating myself from a few weeks ago, but Fabled Passage is played in almost every deck in Standard, and pretty much always as a four-of when it’s there. Especially with all the new Yorion decks running around, colour fixing and a consistent manabase is more important than ever, and so demand for Fabled Passage isn’t going anywhere.

These were obviously a lot better at 9 tix, but I think they’re still pretty decent at 13. We’ve seen the card at 18 before so there is a precedent, and coupled with the not insignificant use the card sees in Pioneer (it’s actually the most popular non-basic land in the format), 20 tix isn’t too much of a stretch.


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.

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