The Watchtower 8/26/19 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

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By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Unlocked Pro Trader: My Article, But Kadena This Time

Hey, you know that article I write every week? I’m doing it about Kadena this week.

Why Kadena?

Because I think Kadena is good and the data almost bears out that it’s going to be an important deck.

I expect Kadena to overtake Kykar once the cards are out but I actually don’t know. I think my instincts are pretty good – I say K’rrik was way too far down on the list last week and look what happened. Kadena is more than just a bad Animar and I think people are going to want to build with it. Here are cards that matter.

Probably a little late to maximize our profit on this one (I didn’t see it going up quite yet) but this card is basically good in every format and it’s especially good in Kadena. You can play the top card of your deck as a Morph with Forge in play and you can do it for free once a turn. If you hit a whammy like a land, Forge can re-roll for you. This card is meant to go hand-in-hand with Kadena and with it unlikely to ever get cheaper, I think you snag these under $5. There is precedent for EDH staples with cross-format applicability hitting $10 while still in Standard and I think Forge is a strong candidate for joining that club. Don’t sleep on these.

As long as we’re talking about Forge, here’s another card equally good in Kadena.

Vizier is on its way up and Kadena decks peeling a Morph creature off of the top of the deck and being able to fix the rest of their mana to boot is upside. Kadena lets you Morph one creature a turn for free and this lets you bypass your hand for that sweet value. They get information, but so what? Let them know what’s coming. Vizier is the 10th-most-played card in Amonkhet after Anointed Procession and the bicycling lands and a few others and it’s demonstrating the price can go up. This isn’t quite its floor of $2.50 but with it being somewhat tricky to reprint, I think we have some climbing to do.

This is a card that is similar to Ugin, The Ineffable in that it’s being used to churn out Morph creatures. I think this has more upside than Ugin and it’s a card that flirts with high prices every few years. It’s only going to take one card that breaks this for this to be $15 dollars or something absurd and I get these as bulk rares sometimes. This has been above $5 twice and that means they’re getting more and more scarce in binders. I think this could pop at any moment and a Kadena deck on Game Knights or something like that could be all it takes. I am suspicious of cards with explosive combo potential and this has it.

Similarly, Anvil is a card that already demonstrated that a feeding frenzy based on new tech could spike it out of control. I think you HODL these on that basis and just know that a second spike basically makes these $8 forever because no one is going to find the copies in bulk rare boxes. People are racing to the bottom but this card is very good in Kadena decks because it makes your morph creatures a mere mana and that’s pretty useful. I think everything I said about Heartless Summoning applies here. With these around $2, you could treat these like lotto tickets and squirrel away $50 worth for the next time it hits $10.

This doesn’t have to hit $27 again for it to be a good idea to buy this at $4.50 on TCG Player. This has good underlying metrics, Core Set won’t be opened any longer than people have to open it and it’s good in Kadena among other decks. You get to play a free Morph with Kadena every turn, so if you can do it on their turns, you can get x free creatures a turn cycle. That’s pretty useful. Vedalken Orrery is expensive and this is not so seriously just buy a ton of these. Could they put it in a future core set? Possibly, but it won’t be Core 2021, that’s for sure.

That does it for me. I think Kadena is a bad Animar, personally, and there are more exciting decks to build but I don’t go by what I like, I go by what the EDHREC data tells me people are building. Also, I brewed a Kadena deck this week on Coolstuff and I don’t even hate it. Anyway, that does it for me. Until next time!

The Watchtower 8/19/19 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


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.


Vegas begins this weekend, and it’s disappointing, but the luster is definitely gone. When they were once every other year, aligned with Modern Masters releases, they were just often enough to remain an exciting spectacle you wanted to make an effort to attend. As a yearly event it’s just another con, competing for vacation time for Origins, Gen Con, HasCon, and all that weeby anime crap. The twist of the knife this year is that Hogaak is going to remain legal until August 26th, after the main event, which means there are going to be no exciting results or decks coming out of this event whatsoever. I’m sure those on the ground floor are going to enjoy it thoroughly, and I can’t say I wouldn’t too were I there, but it’s no longer the must-attend it was in years past.

Ashnod’s Altar (Foil)

Price Today: $15
Possible Price: $30

A week on and Atla remains the seemingly most popular commander out of Commander 2019. How could she not? Eggs. K’rrik and Kykar are doing their best to keep up, but they’re barely 2/3rds as popular. Perhaps that will level off after this weekend, when the product begins hitting store shelves, and the community that isn’t pre-posting decklists begins to actually unwrap some cards.

In any case, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting card for Atla than Ashnod’s Altar. It comes down fast and easy, gives you a painless sac outlet for your eggs, and best of all, saccing an egg gives you the mana to make another egg! What’s not to love. Find a color-shifted Intruder Alarm (such as Thornbite Staff) and you’ve got a machine that will put every creature in your deck into play. The only questions left is whether Atla herself is laying those eggs, and if so, how.

Ashnod’s Altar lands in nearly 30,000 EDHREC lists, suitably earning “wildly” as an adjective to describe its popularity. Sac outlets, especially free ones, are useful in nearly all EDH decks, and 30k is probably too low, honestly. Copies start in the $15 range and ramp up to $18 and $20 quickly, where there’s a short ramp to $30 and then no more stock. The fact that this isn’t already in the $40 range is because it’s an uncommon, rather than a rare. With an already impressive resume, and Atla adding to the pile, we may see prices in the $30 range before too long.

Crypt Ghast (Foil)

Price Today: $14
Possible Price: $25

Doing his best to keep up with Atla is K’rrik, Yawgmoth’s thousand year old son. What does “son of Yawgmoth” even mean? Did Yawgmoth, as a human, procreate? By the end of the Weatherlight saga he was so evil he wasn’t even corporeal. Is the title of “son” more formal or metaphorical than literal? My technique for finding this answer is posing the question here, and waiting for one of you to tweet me the answer (cite your sources). 

Any mono-black deck is going to be interested in Crypt Ghast, and K’rrik is no exception. Extort is exactly what he wants, since paying two life to deal one to each opponent and gain three is a net win for the K’rrik player. Doubling your mana is of course also excellent, since it pays for the colorless requirements of cards, or saves you life, or works with K’rrik isn’t in play. 80% of listed K’rrik decks are running Crypt Ghast, which is impressive considering that a non-foil version wasn’t even in the list this year.

Crypt Ghast is no Ashnod’s Altar, but few cards are. You’ll still find him in 15,000 lists though, which means Ghast is something like the 9th or 12th most played black card in the format. That’s a juicy boy. I remember calling these foils back at $5 or $7 or something, so you’ve made a profit if you’re still holding on, and if you already sold, it may be worth considering another trip. Supply is low and K’rrik is going to drive additional demand again, and at the same time, Gatecrash isn’t getting any newer. If this fall sees a re-release of MH1 rather than a new product ala Ultimate Masters, you’ll be golden on reprints for at least another six months after too.

Inexorable Tide (Foil)

Price Today: $8.50
Possible Price: $18

It’s easy to get hung up on the first several entries for the most popular commanders this week, all hailing from C19 or Magic 2020. Scroll down to this month’s most popular commanders though, and right there in slot number four is Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice. Atraxa remains the most popular Commander in the modern history of the format, with something like a 40% lead on the second highest (which is Edgar Markov, if you can believe it). People like proliferate, things keep coming out that make proliferate good, and people are going to keep making Atraxa.

One card in Atraxa that’s looking well positioned these days is Inexorable Tide. The most prolific (heh) card in Atraxa is Astral Cornucopia at 70%, meaning Inexorable Tide is the 5th most played card in Atraxa lists at 55%, for a cool 5,700 total lists. I’m surprised only 55% of Atraxa lists play the card honestly. The entire deck is cards that proliferate, or are happy to be proliferated. I’d conjecture that it’s a function of non-foils costing $5, which is something of a barrier for real budget players, of which I’d expect a large amount for the most popular deck in EDH. Yet Atraxa doesn’t lend itself to budget cards, as Planeswalkers benefit most from proliferate strategies, which aren’t a cheap card type. Who knows!

Tide’s got two foil printings, the original Scars of Mirrodin printing and Modern Masters 2015. SOM copies start at nearly $14, while MM2 copies are available for less than $9, so there’s already a gap to exploit. About ten copies in and you’re catching up to the SOM copies, at which point there’s a grand total of 20 liquid copies left on the entire market. I’m not anticipating a rapid price change here, since there’s no new motivating factor, but the card is well positioned to ding $20 without another foil reprint in 2020.


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.


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