The Watchtower 9/4/19 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.

We’re one week in after the Big B&R Change, and I’d say there are two takeaways at this point. First, Modern appears to be the best it’s been in a long while, perhaps ever. With the departure of both Hogaak and Faithless Looting, the number of unfair decks appears to be at an all-time low. Aside from a relatively large amount of Burn decks, no doubt piloted by those seeking to prey on a recently upheaved field, there’s a lot of “fair” decks. Sure, some are combo decks, but nobody seems to be doing anything egregious. The second takeaway is that, for all the fervor around Stoneforge over the last week, she barely showed her face at the SCG Open. A single playset found itself in the top 8 between both the open and classic. Is it a case of players not having figured out how best to make use of her yet, or, for all the bluster, is she not quite good enough for Modern? Time will tell.

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  ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

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 2013. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.

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.


Unlocked Pro Trader: Finally, Some Usable Data

I got the data like Arby’s got the meats. If I were to continue rhyming, there are a lot of different directions I could go in like “beats” or “treats” but I’m bored with this already. Everyone knows Battle Rap is the purest form of rhyming and I’m not going to dredge up painful memories of the summer when the other battle rappers found out I played Magic. What I will dredge up is pleasant money-making opportunities, which is why you clicked on this article. Let’s do the thing, shall we?

This isn’t quite what I expected because Ghired is, well, terrible. However, we need to think less like a spike and more like a casual if we’re going to truly grasp what EDH trends are driven by. We can wait for data, but when competitive players turned speculators try to guess what’s going to happen, you get Vannifar specs in a world full of Teysa decks. That rhyme was uninentional. You want to know what was intentional? Look at the first letter of every sentence in this paragraph.

People are building Commander 2019 decks, and not the ones we expected, either. But let’s take a look at some data real fast, shall we?

Probably not what we would have predicted 2 years ago. The spikes were all over the Wizards deck and cards like Wanderwine Prophets and Anthroplasm and all sorts of other Wizards spiked but never really did anything. Kess was better in Legacy. The Mairsil deck was solved day 1 and it was boring and slow and scooped to graveyard hate. I don’t even remember what the other one was because no one ever built it and that I can’t remember it actually strengthens my point. My point is, Ghired and Atla Palani may end up winning out in the end but I guess the end is starting way sooner. Kadena seems to be the spikey choice but there are way more people that want to do Rakdos things, it seems. With that in mind, let’s see if Anje has anything for us because I’d hate to have to delve into Ghired this early in the cycle.

It’s a trash deck full of trash cards. I can’t think of a constructive way to say that it’s a hash of every cheap spell with madness, including stuff that should never see play in EDH like Gorgon Recluse and Strength of Lunacy, two cards you have to look up. If this continues to be a top deck next week, I’ll re-evaluate but from where I am standing, no one is doing anything interesting with Anje despite it being the top deck of the week. If there were money to be made, I’d tell you about it. I’m sure I missed something and, if so, drop it in the comments section. The link to the page is here but I imagine you can find it on your own. Here is the average deck. It’s super boring.

I’m not harping on casuals in any way. Casual cards for casual players are my bread and butter. I literally quit going to SCG Opens when Dark Ascension came out because trading with spikes was so miserable and I started mainly focusing on GPs. The fact is that building around mechanics is a pretty lame idea because it limits your options a whole lot and they didn’t even pick good mechanics. You’re going to maybe make short-term money on Ixidor but you basically would have had to have already had them. I don’t know what goes up from this besides some commons going from bulk to picks and I’m not going to waste your time with a whole article on what is a 5 minute segment on my podcast. I will say peruse the whole list but I looked into this a lot and didn’t find anything.

These are basically gone under $4 right now. I don’t like the new price as a buy-in, but if you find these in bulk boxes like you’re liable to, yank them and try to flip them for around $4-$5 if you can.

I think I want to look at Ghired next. It’s just as obvious and most of the decks on EDHREC have a high volume of cards from the precon right now, but there could be some gems.

Shooty boi goes in enough decks that I’m pretty sure it will break out in one of them. Hard to reprint, very strong, very casual, very Jamie Wakefield, this card is something that you could play in Grismold decks as well so that’s two precons that potentially give us commanders that want this. Each upkeep, not each of your upkeeps. It’s on a down-swing which means I don’t love the graph shape so maybe you wait for these to begin to rebound or, go full Wall Street and buy a bunch and if the price lowers, buy twice as much so your average unit cost is lower and you feel better about throwing good money after bad. I don’t know, this is a good card, whatever.


Poor Man’s Earthcraft, as it likes to be called, is also downish but we saw a pretty recent period where buy price went way up. Its current retail is what buylist used to be and with this card being tough to reprint and powerful in token decks, decks which are always getting made since they’re easy and casuals like them, I think this has long-term potential. I can’t see being sorry I bought in at $4.

Growing Rites is a card that’s also really hard to reprint. I can’t see a flip card in a precon and I can’t see this becoming obsolete because they decided to go a little closer to Gaea’s Cradle in a new card, Lotus Field notwithstanding. I think this is just a card that goes up in price, and with Card Kingdom getting $12 out of this, I think paying half that on TCG Player is doable, especially since that puts the spread near 0.

Card Kingdom sold out at $17. I think this is due to jump and it’s not like Battlebond boxes are getting busted anymore. Not much to say here, this is good in more decks than just Ghired and the store where casual players overpay for cards sold out of this at a high price. Seems fairly obvious.

That does it for me this week. I am really frustrated with Commander 2019 and that may be another article or future podcast rant. There isn’t much room to improve these decks because of the mechanic theme so expect the next set to impact Commander with people hungry to actually build a deck. Until next time!

The Watchtower 8/26/19 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.

I wrote an entire damn intro to this article thinking that Hogaak was going and there wouldn’t be anything else too spicy. After all, why would they? Modern Horizons hasn’t really felt like it had a chance to blossom, with Hogaak having arrived on the same boat. Tossing Hogaak would give everyone a chance to experiment with MH1 cards and wouldn’t spend too much “format change equity.” Instead, WotC tosses Hogaak, AND Faithless Looting, AND unbans Stoneforge Mystic? That’s like, an entire year’s worth of changes at once! Before there wasn’t going to be immediate meaningful change, and now there’s too much.

The rest of this content is only visible to ProTrader members.

To learn more about being a ProTrader, click here to see all the benefits.

  ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

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 2013. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.

Signs of Value

True confession time: I used to get cards signed all the time. I also used to write on my cards when I felt the occasion called for it. 

I had a Commander deck where I needed to know which creatures were Humans, if I remember right.

I remember getting some cards signed sometime in the early 2000’s, but that was a couple of sellouts ago for me. The real motivation hit when my local store brought in a real Magic artist, Thomas Baxa, in about 2010. All of a sudden, I had to have everything by this artist and everything that artist ever made signed by that artist so I could Show My True Devotion, or something like that.

Peak signage for me was 2011, the last Worlds ever held, when I brought about 150 cards to get signed by a stack of different artists. I remember getting in line, a ChannelFireball pro got in behind me, and they had something like 300 cards. A playset of everything this person had ever painted. 

And then it hit me. Why was I doing this? What was the point? I didn’t feel a special connection, I was trying to show off for people. 

It’s the same spirit behind foiling out the entirety of a Commander deck, only foils are a good investment and signed cards are definitely not.

Let’s talk about value, shall we?

One thing that MagicFests offer (enjoy Vegas, everyone!) that nothing else does is the chance to interact with people in person who are involved in Magic in a host of different ways. Cosplayers are creative and handy, dedicated and then some. Designers revel in the sight of people enjoying the products they worked so hard to create. Artists get to hear from fans, and even purchase items to support that artist.

However, there’s a true cost to being an artist at a MagicFest. You’ve had a taste of this, if you go play in a main event you can’t do the side events or casual Commander games. If you go there to Cube Draft you won’t have time to join the big Sealed queues. 

I’m not sure how many artists play Magic, but I do know that almost none get to play it at the actual MagicFest. They are too busy signing and altering and painting, the activity that is their lifeblood.

I’ll let Noah Bradley, someone who paints a prodigious amount of cards, makes a good living from it, explain why he’s got signing fees

Pay the signing fees. Unsleeve your cards first. Buy some art. Respect the time you’re taking, and recognize that you’re downgrading your cards to HP, and even Damaged in some cases.

Some signatures are worth a lot, for the macabre reason of death or because they don’t do a lot of signings. Christopher Rush, the painter of iconic things like Black Lotus and Lightning Bolt, has had his signature forged more than a few times in an attempt to maximize value. 

John Avon’s health issues make events difficult for him, and as eBay shows us, that’s a valuable signature indeed. 

One of the paradoxes is that the more an artist signs, the less the signature improves the value. Some artists travel every weekend, putting the effort in so that the grind is profitable. It’s an enormous amount of work, though. If you’ve hauled a box of Commander decks, two trade binders, some decks in other formats, a water bottle, a draft kit, and whatever else is in your Magic bag around all day, imagine carting around what artists bring.

Getting your card signed is going to hurt the value. You might find someone else who says ‘Whoa, that’s neat! Signed? Yeah, I’ll trade for that!’ but you’re more likely to hear ‘Sorry, gotta buy this at HP from you. It’s tough to sell.’ Please keep that in mind, especially if you’re getting lots of things signed. 

I’ve been researching signatures and value, and since signed cards are so rarely listed on TCG and the like, actual data tends to be restricted to eBay’s completed auctions for the category

If you find the right buyer/trade partner, then you’ve got a possibility of making a big jump in value. 

Altered cards are another area where you’d better be spending for your own joy, and not the accumulation of value. Getting a high-quality alter done by the likes of Eric Klug, Juju Alters, or Steve Argyle is going to cost you a LOT of money but you’ll have a one-of-a-kind piece. There’s no guarantee that it’ll be able to resell at that value, should you ever wish to let it go.

For what it’s worth, I don’t own any alters. I’ve come pretty much full circle at this point in my Magic career: I appreciate the novelty of foreign-language cards, the beauty of an alter, the shiny glory of a fully-foiled deck, but for cards I play with, none of that’s a requirement, just a bonus. 

Also, and I say this as someone who has made some very NSFW custom proxies: let’s move past needing to have barely-covered people on your cards. If that’s what you enjoy, great, leave it at home. There’s no reason to subject a whole playgroup to your desires. I wish I’d become a grownup about this sooner.

Bonus Prediction: Hogaak does not get banned. Vengevine maybe, or Stitcher’s Supplier. Something else that helps the deck but I think Wizards is going to tiptoe around Hogaak one more time, as they did with Bridge from Below.

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.