The Watchtower 11/4/19 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.

This article goes live a few hours before the first Pioneer B&R update, so you’re probably reading it with more information than I have. Unless they do something REALLY wild, I’m not expecting it to impact too much, other than a solid chance of hitting Oko. If Oko goes I don’t have a good feel for how things will change yet; we’ll need pros and reps to figure out what that means for the format. I doubt they’ll go after anything else at this point, and even if it does, I’m not focusing too hard on Pioneer today anyways. Next week we’ll have a better idea of how any changes today have played out.

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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.


What the heck just happened?

I think that Wizards really appreciates Commander as a format. If it hadn’t been invented and codified years ago (remember, the first release was 2011!) then they would have had to do something to come up with a format like this.

A nonrotating, variable power level format where 99.9% of cards are legal, allowing players to pursue the foils, the foreign languages, the miscuts, the alters, just to make their deck unique. 

If it weren’t for Commander, I don’t think we’d have the wide range of products and versions of  cards that we have today.

Commander is also responsible for a big slice of the #mtgfinance pie. For a certain set of cards, the question is ‘When will Commander players notice this card and make it jump 5x in price?’ and that’s both a silly thing and a very very relevant thing.

This past Wednesday, Wizards gave us a few tidbits for what’s coming up, and there’s a lot to unpack in the announcement…

First of all, here’s the official announcement. Read it if you have a moment.

Here’s the first quote that is relevant to us: “I can’t possibly reprint everything, but I think many of you will be happy with the reprints coming throughout 2020.”

That’s the first set of alarm bells for me.

Next, we are told that the Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths release won’t have Planeswalker decks, but instead will have the yearly Commander release, with more new cards than ever. 


Zendikar Rising, the Fall 2020 set, will have a couple of Commander decks too but only three new cards per deck.

Then, the two biggest pieces of information:

The Commander Collection: Green is apparently taking the place of the Signature Spellbook (or alongside it?) and will have eight cards. The higher-level WPN stores will get the all-foil versions for selling, and the more plebian ones will only get the nonfoil packages to sell.

Finally, we’re told of Commander Legends, a draftable Commander set. It’s bigger than a normal set, a foil in every pack and two legends per pack. It’ll have some mix of reprints and new cards: “It is larger than a normal set, with oft-asked-for Commander reprints and new cards alike.”


My first reaction is that this is all to the good, that more stuff for Commander players is always welcome. And then I start really thinking about it. 

Takeaway #1: Dump anything you’re holding for Commander purposes.

I mean this with every fiber of my being. We are going into a year of heavy-duty reprints. Hopefully, it’s the medium prices like Primal Vigor and the high prices like Bloom Tender. The things that ought to have been reprinted at some point but just haven’t gotten more cards somehow. 

I’m going to spend the time between now and Christmas reviewing what’s in my collection, with ‘Is this going to take a huge dive when it gets reprinted?’ as my guiding light. 

Takeaway #2: We are going to see a lot of new legends, and therefore a lot of spikes. Be prepared to sell into the hype.

While I’m sorting out the things I want to get rid of, I also need to make sure that what I do have is easily accessible. Maybe you have too many cards for a binder and you’re using a spreadsheet, but the important thing is that you’re able to find the cards when you need to. Generally speaking, you’ve got about two to three days to sell into some hype, and it’s vitally important that you do.

The examples are many, but let’s focus on the sort of spike we’re going to see with new legends. Some new card is released, and there’s new synergies, and all of a sudden, a bulk rare is flying high…for four days. I give you Knucklebone Witch: 

Yes, it’s still selling for a big amount more than it was, but you want to be at the height of the wave. Be prepared, and avoid the situation of putting something up for sale, then being unable to find it. It’s a terrible feeling and it’s quite the stain on your reputation as a seller on any platform.

Takeaway #3: Prices will bottom out…but they will rise again. 

The thing about staples is that they are super popular. You see this with every reprint set, how the value tanks but then rises again over time. Yes, lots of prices are going to tank, but when they do, that’s the time to pick up spare copies, because there’s going to be more Commander players and more Commander decks built. There’s going to be a lot of reprints in 2020. Not necessarily in 2021, though. 

With these ideas in mind, here’s a couple of other cards for your consideration, keeping in mind that they might well get printed at some point, given the sheer number of reprints coming:

Demonic Pact ($1 nonfoil/$4 foil)

It seems likely that we will get another ‘here you go’ Commander in the vein of Zedruu the Greathearted. Black should get a piece of the action this time, as we’ve got cards like Sleeper Agent and Xantcha, Sleeper Agent to fit nicely into such a theme. If you agree with those suppositions, Pact is going to have a great time. 

Weatherlight ($.50/$2.50)

I think we’re going to get something that cares about historic cards, and Weatherlight can do some amazing work in that context. Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain might also be a consideration if you’re willing to stomach the reprint risk.

And a couple of cards I know I’m not keeping:

Doubling Season ($40/$160 for Ravnica pack foil)

Having been reprinted several times ad some of that being a promo, you’d think this would stay down. Nope! And frankly, it never will. The Season is going to be printed again, and when it gets back to $20, I’ll happily scoop up lots and lots of copies for the inevitable growth. 

Oracle of Mul Daya ($29/$84)

Never reprinted in ten years, one of the most efficient ramping creatures, a card that demands to be killed immediately…and a lock to be reprinted next year. I can’t wait to buy copies left and right at $10, or maybe even less.

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: Spamalot


I alluded to Kenrith having some cards we cared about for Kenrith decks in an earlier article and if you want to refresh your memory, go for it, I’ll wait here. Kenrith looked a bit like a generic “WUBRG goodstuff deck” but if you monkey with the filters a bit, you can drill down a bit and see separate approaches begin to materialize and those different approaches are all individual axes that can all push growth while being under the umbrella of “Kenrith.” We can check what percentage of the total Kenrith decks are occupied by these side strategies and that’s good to know, especially if they could affect future cards.

Last article we talked about how Biomancer’s Familiar will never be able to grow just based on one EDH deck and how Training Grounds is likely to get a reprint and there isn’t much room for growth at its current price. There is another card I want to discuss, though, before we play with filters at all.

This is basically Heartstone’s time. It isn’t all Kenrith doing this, obviously, but the more commander cards they print with colorless activation costs, the better this card gets. The Premium fol version is pretty bad and while this is an uncommon, it’s an uncommon from Stronghold which means there are more copies of Throne of Eldraine borderless mythic rares than there are copies of this card. It’s up, you may even have these in bulk since they were $0.50 a year ago and this card isn’t getting worse. Kenrith could make this $5 and if not, some other card will very soon.

This is an ugly-ass foil but it’s worth noting that the price surge has been even more profound for the premium Slivers deck copies and they’re going to dry up faster since stock is lower. I think this could hit $10, especially if we all give it a little nudge. This may be the best money you can spend on the basis of Kenrith decks. I should have probably done this card last, you’re all going to just close this article and go buy out Coolstuff. Go read my articles while you’re over there.

Take My Picture Because I Won’t Remember

Still here? That’s great, thanks for sticking with it. I think there’s more than meets the eye to Kenrith decks and I want to show you how to navigate EDHREC a little bit to find more opportunities.

The top, left-hand portion of the page has this information and everything blue is clickable. We still have the same filters and those are all the way over on the right-hand side.

The advanced filter allows you to include or exclude certain cards or filter by price and that mostly isn’t necessary now that we include the “Cheap” and “Expensive” options in the “Budget” row on the left. Before, I would use the Advanced Filter to only pull up decks with Mana Crypt to see what the people for whom money is no object were up to, whether they were a baller or a theorycrafter. What’s more interesting than that, though, is using the tags. These tags are unique to each commander and they’re selected based on what people who submit decks consider their build to be.

Enough people are building Kenrith as a Wheels deck, which I might not have suspected (he’s a great reanimator, though) and a lot of people are using him as a 5 color Lands deck commander despite Golos, you know, existing. I guess people really like the idea of having Obelisk of Alara as their commander.

Group Hug and Politics decks are probably the same within like 5 or 7 cards but it’s worth looking at what those decks are. Kenrith is hardly the go-to when you think about Wheel decks, but Kenrith may be the best Group Hug Commander printed recently because unlike Kyanaios and Tiro, he’s 5 colors and his Black ability is very powerful. Kynaois and Tiro is likely better overall as a commander but that’s an old card, people like new cards. To see a completely new list of top cards, high synergy cards and category inclusions, just click either Group Hug or Politics and see what I saw.

Kynaois and Tiro is a really good inclusion in this deck and the rest of it looks like ways to make sure everyone can play lots of lands. Group Hug is a really weird way to play Magic and I don’t really understand the deck. One thing we can use EDHREC for in a case like this where the cards all baffle us is to check the synergy rating.

Want to know what Synergy is? Let’s take a sneak peek at a section of EDHREC’s EDH wiki that is coming soon.

What is “Synergy”? What is the “Signature Cards” section?


Many cards across EDHREC will have a rating of synergy that will show up as a percentage that either has a + or a – in front of it. For example, this Eldrazi Displacer has a +75% synergy rating on the Rasputin Dreamweaver [link] page. 

Synergy rating is intended to show cards that are particularly important to the commander or theme you are currently viewing. This is opposed to just cards that are generally played in most decks that are popular because they are individually strong. We did this because we wanted to show what cards were interesting to a commander in the Signature Cards section at the top of the page. It gives a quick look at what cards define a deck, as opposed to just showing a bunch of cards like Cyclonic Rift and Sol Ring that aren’t interesting because they are in a bunch of decks.

Synergy score is calculated as: [% decks this card is in for commander/theme] – [% decks this card is in for color identity]

In the Eldrazi Displacer and Rasputin example, a +75% synergy score means that it’s seen way more than in other U/W decks. It’s calculated by taking the 86% of Rasputin decks it is in, then subtracting the 11% of other U/W decks it is in. Leaving us +75% synergy score, making it pretty clear this card is not generally popular in most U/W decks but particularly popular in Rasputin decks.

A high synergy score is indicative of the card being mostly used in those particular decks much more than in the average deck in those colors. It’s not a percentage, it’s a differential, so don’t let the percent sign fool you. If you look outside the high synergy cards, the synergy score can tell you the extent to which this deck is solely responsible for putting pressure on the price, and this score can help you evaluate your picks in other categories. Here’s an example of what I mean by that.

Magus of the Vineyard doesn’t seem like the strongest card to me because while it’s in half of the decks tagged “Group Hug” it’s also got a very high synergy score which means it’s mostly in this small handful of niche decks. Is it a good pickup under $1? Maybe, but we don’t know that based on just this info, we should click on the card and go to the card’s page.

This is pretty clearly a Group Hug card and since that strategy almost always involves Green, it might not be that bad a choice.

Only 1% of the total Green decks seems low, and 911 raw decks total seems low, also, and I don’t like this as a spec, but I like it more than I did just seeing it on the Group Hug page, so it’s always worth clicking on the card and seeing its data with more context.

Looking at the Group Hug cards, it’s pretty clear that most of the cards are Group Hug deck staples. There isn’t much that’s unique to Kenrith – every non-black card in the high synergy and top cards section is in the same section for K&T. I’m glad we looked, but I’m moving on to “Politics.”

“Politics” appears to be code for “Cards from Conspiracy” from what I can tell.

A full half of these cards have “Will of the Council” or “Council’s Dilemma” abilities, which is very narrow. Those cards aren’t played enough elsewhere to soak up supply and Politics decks are 15 of the 346 Kenrith decks registered so far, so these are very fringe cards.

I didn’t find much I like drilling down into Kenrith but I wanted to show you my search technique in case you wanted to apply it to other commanders.

Here, briefly since this has been a long piece that’s fruitless so far, is what I think is actionable.

This gets printed every 3 years and it shrugged off its 2016 reprinting in a big way. Tempt with Discovery was in the K&T deck, which was the second-worst-selling, but people inclined to play Kenrith likely already have a K&T deck. That’s not to say I don’t love this card at its current price because I really do. This just got reprinted and some sites have it above $5 already.

Strike Zone wants to sell you 2 copies of this card for $4 when it’s $6 everywhere else. Oblige them.

Coolstuff wants to sell you 1 foil copy of this card where its $24 everywhere else. Oblige them.

This card doesn’t see enough play. I don’t know if the price is wrong but it’s climbing to $10 some places and staying flat others. That’s usually a sign of an upcoming correction.

It’s time for this to begin its long recovery. It will never be “Oh snap, they UNBANNED THAT?” $20 again, but it can be more than $5. I think it’s at its floor.

That does it for me this week. Join me next week where I stop putting off looking at the other Brawl decks. Join me, won’t you? Until next time!

The Watchtower 10/28/19 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.

A week on and there’s no question, everybody loves Pioneer. In a display of the beauty that’s possible within Magic, a week went by with a brand new format, it’s been wildly popular, there’s a lot of fun and excitement around brewing, nothing looks bannable or miserable yet, and in general, nobody is particularly upset about anything. It’s all upside. How often does that happen in Magic (or life)? Players are flocking to the format, with new decks and strategies and revisions on a daily basis. As far as I’m concerned, the most impressive thing about all of this is that nothing looks like it’s on the ban list yet. On day zero we definitely figured something would look busted by now, whether it was Smuggler’s Copter, or Aetherworks Marvel, or Emrakul, or something. But no, nothing has appeared overpowered. If anything is pushing a boundary at this point it’s probably Oko, amusingly enough. 

Arclight Phoenix

Price Today: $11
Possible Price: $25

A week in and if there’s anything that’s clear, it’s that there’s a tremendous amount of space available to explore in Pioneer. Decks that were on the tips of players’ tongues on day one have already evolved considerably, and strategies that didn’t show up at all early in the week are gaining steam as days progress. There’s plenty of strategies receiving this treatment – Mono-G Abundance ramp has been, well, ramping up – and one in particular is the Izzetish Bird decks. The bird, of course, being Arclight Phoenix.

If you’ve followed Standard and Modern at all for the last year, you’ll remember that Phoenix was the hot card for awhile. Before Modern Horizons Phoenix was likely the top deck in the format, with blistering starts enabled by the not-yet-banned Faithless Looting. It really wasn’t until Hogaak came along that Phoenix was subdued, and had Looting not been banned along with Hogaak, it absolutely would have returned from the graveyard to continue it’s reign. Now that Pioneer is here players are right back at it, and while the spell mix isn’t quite as strong as it was in Modern, the competition is lower octane. Plus, you get to play Treasure Cruise with your Phoenix, and if that doesn’t sound absolutely filthy, you’ve never played Magic.

Phoenix had a high water mark of $30 or so during its previous heyday. Prices have come down to $10 to $11 since, though have begun gaining traction in the last few days as Kanister and a few others have posted strong results with various Phoenix builds. It’s entirely possible that this will end up by the wayside in Pioneer, once the Pro Tour gets its hands on the format and finds the truly busted stuff. Still, Phoenix did have a great time in Modern, and Treasure Cruise was banned in both Modern and Legacy, so the chance that the power level isn’t high enough for Pioneer is basically zero. Should a Phoenix deck post up as a tier 1 or tier 2 strategy in the new format, I’d expect prices to land between $20 and $30.

Rogue Refiner (Foil)

Price Today: $2
Possible Price: $8

Most of the conversation in Pioneer is around the banner, deck-defining cards, several of which I outlined in the intro paragraph. Level zero is going after the staples around which various decks are built. Level one is probably the lands that those decks need (Blooming Marsh and Botanical Sanctum). Level two, or three, I don’t know exactly, is finding the popular uncommons that sit across various strategies, and going after non-foil copies (this worked better in Modern where supplies on some of that stuff was almost nonexistent), or in the case of Pioneer, foils.

Rogue Refiner is cropping up all over the place. First of all, he’s Simic, and with Oko running around, everyone has a playset of Botanical Sanctum anyways, which means that his cost isn’t much of a factor. He’s a reasonable body that draws you a card on the way in, which gives him purpose in most strategies as simple raw advantage. On top of that, he provides two energy, which at first might seem useless, since if you’re not an Aetherworks Marvel deck, you wonder where the payoff is. In fact, the payoff is Aether Hub, a painless City of Brass so long as you have energy counters. Refiner ends a 1UG 3/2 that draws a card and makes one of your colorless lands tap for any color twice. That’s a lot of distributed utility.

Given that he’s showing up in a variety of strategies, I’m a fan of foils here. You’ll pay maybe $2 each, so long as you aren’t paying the shipping, which is a solid price for an already-obvious high-demand uncommon. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see these climb into the $6 to $10 range after a few months (or hell, weeks) without any reprints. 

Aether Hub (FNM)

Price Today: $.75
Possible Price: $5

Speaking of Aether Hub, how about Aether Hub? FNM copies specifically. The mana in Pioneer is rough at the moment. We’ve only got half the fastlands, with the others currently locked in Modern by way of a single printing in Scars of Mirrodin. Obviously there are no fetches, and while we’ve got the full complement of shocks, they’re far less appealing without the ability to go get them as needed. Fabled Passage is making an effort, but it can’t tap for green on turn one and black on turn two. Three color decks have a genuine disadvantage in the mana bases that basically doesn’t exist in Modern.

Given that, Aether Hub is fairly appealing. At worst it’s colorless, which can be rough in certain circumstances, but at least it always comes into play untapped and produces something. Then, you toss in some Attune with Aethers and Rogue Refiners, both cards you’re more or less fine playing anyways, and now you’re set for mostly the entire game. In a format where making three colors is genuinely painful, Aether Hub is a good bandaid.

You can find copies around a dollar or less, especially if you can get free shipping, which is a solid buy-in for an FNM treatment of a popular card. Past examples have been quite profitable, such as in the case of Ancient Ziggurat. Getting out of Hub FNM promos at $5 shouldn’t be difficult at all in 2020, and should be a nice little bump given your buy-in.

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.