Filling in the Gaps

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By: Jared Yost

A great deal of new Standard decks will be available once Born of the Gods is released. Why is is this? Because another chunk of mana fixing will have become available. Once the rest of the the Theros block Scrylands are printed, those color pairs that were lacking critical mana fixing will see help. As soon as these pairs have better mana, new strategies will open up for deck builders to take advantage of less used color combinations.

Which Scrylands have we yet to see?

– Golgari (G/B)
– Selesnya (G/W)
– Izzet (U/R)
– Azorious (W/U)
– Rakdos (B/R)

We aren’t exactly sure which lands we’ll be getting in Born of Gods and which will be in Journey into Nyx. That doesn’t stop us from planning ahead, though. Based on these missing Scrylands, I am going to offer my insight into what cards could benefit the most once once their respective fixing is available.

 

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Golgari

Gaze of Granite

Gaze of Granite

Gaze of Granite is a powerful removal spell that could see play in B/G control shells that might start popping up once the mana is available to support it. I like this card as a target because it is from Dragon’s Maze, a set that wasn’t opened a ton. I’ll be keeping my eye on this card once the spoiler season for Born of the Gods comes along.

 

Lotleth Troll

Lotleth Troll

My colleagues and I at this website have discussed Lotleth Troll from time to time and I still think that he has a bit of room to grow. Especially since Kibler has this zombie on his radar, I think it is safe to say that it can be a powerful card in Standard. $1-$2 is still a cheap price for him.

 

Reaper of the Wilds

Reaper of the Wilds

I’ve mentioned Reaper of the Wilds in my set review for Theros and it looks like Kibler and a few others have played with this card since then. I’ve seen some other builds online that put this card into both a control and aggro shell.

I’m not sure if the fit for Reaper is an aggro or control yet. Depending on the match-up  the card can be good in the mid-game as a blocker against an aggro deck, and can also be useful if played on turn six with two mana up to activate hexproof against removal-heavy opponents.

 

Varolz, the Scar-Striped

Varolz, the Scar-Striped

I really wanted Varolz to take off in price, but he never did. I feel like as more cards enter Standard the potential synergies for Varolz will only increase. Exava is being played alongside of Xathrid Necromancer, so I don’t think it is too far of stretch to see Varolz in these builds once better mana fixing is available.

 

Selesnya

Advent of the Wurm

Advent of the Wurm

I really like Advent of the Wurm and will be watching the card moving forward. This is another card that I’ve been watching for a while because I feel that Selesnya decks have a lot of synergy and power in Standard. What they are currently lacking is mana fixing, and once the G/W Scryland comes out, a lot more players will be comfortable slinging the more powerful Selesnya spells.

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Armada Wurm

Armada Wurm

Armada Wurm packs a lot of raw power. Unfortunately this just isn’t enough to make it good in Standard. The synergy with other similar effects, like Populate and mana fixing, must exist to complement the power. In addition to being a possible tournament staple, Armada Wurm will be a popular casual card in the future which is another reason I like picking them up.

 

Fleecemane Lion

Fleecemane Lion

I predicted that the Lion would dip heavily once more Theros was opened and it looks like that is the case. There hasn’t been much financial chatter about Fleecemane since his debut except the advice of stay far away. However, I feel like now that the Lion has dipped down into the $3 range that he could be a good pickup. Will the G/W Scryland make this card better? Will it only be a casual hit? Either way, $3 is pretty low for a strictly better Watchwolf.

 

Loxodon Smiter

Loxodon Smiter

I feel like at this point Loxodon Smiter should have taken off if it was supposed to. When he is played, either in control or aggro, there are always three or four copies. There have been plenty of decks that have top-eighted or won that featured three or four copies of the Elephant. At $2 this still feels undervalued to me.

 

Capture

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice

Trostani has had an interesting financial life. Having started out near $20 in October 2012 and then falling to $4 in the spring of 2013, this mythic rare took quite a tumble. She went up to $8 this summer, and now Trostani is back to the $4 range.

A card that fluctuates this much in price is definitely one to keep an eye out for. Clearly, there is potential here for her to be a tournament staple and also to be a casual all-star hit. Once the G/W Scryland is printed it could be enough to really push Trostani’s price up until the end of her standard life.

 

Izzet

Ral Zarek

Ral Zarek

Ral Zarek is my only pick for U/R that could see a big price increase once the new Scrylands are available. Ral Zarek is kind of insane with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx – tapping down an opposing blocker whilst untapping my Nykthos? He might find a home in some sort of U/R devotion.

Unfortunately, Ral Zarek is currently my only pick for U/R because there aren’t a lot of powerful spells at rare and mythic rare in Standard for Izzet. U/R seems to have fallen out of a favor as a color combination utilized – Born of the Gods could change that.

 

Azorious

The Azorious Scryland will only add to the power of the existing W/U Control deck that exists in Standard. All of the staples of that deck from a financial perspective have already reached their peak values. I do not believe that the Azorious Scryland when printed will affect the price of any particular W/U rare or mythic in a significant way. The only change I could see it making is increasing cards that mesh well with Esper control lists, such as Obzedat, Ghost Council.

 

Rakdos

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

Exava was able to take down a GP, so there is clearly a lot of power in her ability to strike fast and hard. Since she was printed in a preconstructed deck there is a cap on the price she will be able to command. Despite this, I could easily see Exava creeping up to $5 or $6 once more Rakdos builds are available when the new Scrylands are released.

 

Rakdos's Return

Rakdos’s Return

Rakdos’s Return is a powerful spell that hasn’t been given a lot of love lately. It appears from time to time in Standard decks but that hasn’t been able to earn it more than a $6 price tag. Rakdos’s Return could be a good pick for the future because once more B/R is played.

 

Tymaret, the Murder King

Tymaret, the Murder King

Tymaret represents a lot of what “could be” in Standard. It only needs a few more pieces (and better mana fixing) to really make him take off and become the centerpiece of a Standard deck. Since he can only hit players, the deck would need to be focused around a lot of graveyard recursion or token generation in order to really maximize the effect of sacrificing creatures. From a financial standpoint, Tymaret is currently bulk and can be had as a trade throw in. Not a lot of downside and a lot of potential upside if more support is added.

 

Underworld Cerberus

Underworld Cerberus

Could my speculation on Underworld Cerberus actually pan out after all? I have been seeing a lot of buzz online for the power of Cerberus, and it will only get better once more optimal mana fixing is printed for the Rakdos. It has gotten super cheap to pick this card up, so it could very well be a huge winner when the new Scrylands are revealed.

 

Conclusion

There is a lot of unused potential in Standard because of the missing Scrylands. There is still plenty of opportunity abound for the savvy trader or player to pick up cheap copies of spells before they potentially spike. Once the new Scrylands are printed the landscape of Standard will change, and currently underutilized cards may see a huge surge in play.

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Replacement Effects

When you’re looking at new cards, the immediate impulse is often “Holy crap that would be amazing in my Standard/Modern/Legacy/EDH/Cube list, it works so great with this and that!” I’m sympathetic to this, since I have nine EDH decks, and that means every new card has a potential home.

However, Magic is a game of rules. EDH has a hard rule about 99 cards in the main deck, and only the bravest of souls play Constructed formats with more than 60 cards. For every new card that gets added to a deck, something has to come out. There lies the problem.

I have a very bad habit: I trade for cards that I think will be good in a deck before I think about what has to come out of that deck. This process of “making room” has several complications.

Quantity Conundrum

Conundrum Sphinx

In Commander or Cube, seems easy on the surface. You need one. Unless…you need several. Command Tower and its new cousin, Opal Palace, are something that can really go into any Commander deck.  Very few people can say they have only one EDH deck; we tend to have multiples. There are certainly exceptions to ‘staples,’ but you need to have a reason not to play something as universally good as Solemn Simulacrum in every single deck.

Alternatively in Constructed formats, you’re almost always forced to trade for a playset because it’s better to have that option. You want to be able to slot in the full four if needed. And even if a deck doesn’t play four copies of a specific card this weekend, it very well may next.

The Agony of Choice

In competitive decks, adding a card is often a matter of playing the “which is better?” game, with the loser being removed from your deck. There’s a certain amount of figuring out what to add or subtract for synergy as well. Depending on your deck, you’ll find out in the course of playing if a card needs to stay or go.

In the casual formats, a lot of people like to make changes merely for the sake of making changes. That is valid and can be a lot of fun, but you wind up making changes constantly. One thing that I do, and I know others do, is keep a separate box/binder for cards that are no longer in decks, because I might go back to that card down the road.

Metagaming

This is something I’m terrible at, and I refer you to others more experienced. Suffice to say that if there is some hot new card you want to be the guy running it the first week, but by the time everyone adapts to it, you may need to be off it in order to stay ahead of the curve.

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Strategic Planning

I have a small binder full of cards that I traded for to put into EDH decks but never found their way there. I just wasn’t able to find something to take out in favor of the new cards! Primeval Bounty

Such wasted effort in a trade is something I want to avoid. I’ve learned that in Commander at least, it’s possible to plan ahead. Before I trade too hard for a new card, I sit down and look at the deck I want to put that card into. I have to decide what I would take out in favor of that new card – and if I can’t make that decision, then I’m not trading for that card.

Case in point: Primeval Bounty. In light of examining why the price of this card never fell as far as I thought it should, I decided not to trade for all three copies I planned on needing initially. I settled for one that I tried in three different decks, and came away unimpressed.

So when the next big thing hits (we aren’t that far from Born of the Gods spoilers,) be realistic about what you can use. You’ll save yourself some time and effort if you do.

Alright, Just Hold Your Elephants

By: Travis Allen

The PTQ season change next year is going to have a direct impact on the pacing of Magic finances. I’ve discussed this change briefly before, but now we are very close to actually experiencing the new market.

Previously the Standard PTQ season occurred over the summer, around the release of the spring set. This helped keep Standard staple prices from crashing too low in the spring during the lead up to the PTQ season, and also meant that soon-to-rotate staples such as Thragtusk kept their value far, far longer than they normally would without the demand from grinders. Thragtusk

The new world awaits us on December 7th. On that day the Standard PTQ season begins, and will end on March 9th, 2014. And then…that’s it. By March (or really, mid February,) the demand for many Standard staples will completely bottom out, as only GPs and FNMs will exist to drive players to own and acquire Standard cards.

With the prior structure, the promise of the impending PTQ season during the summer meant that players didn’t have to feel bad about holding onto senior Standard cards through the first third of the year. Even if you weren’t using a card at that moment, you knew it would be relevant again before finally rotating out. In the new schedule, though, this promise of future utility will be gone. Once March 9th rolls around, it will be a free-fall for Ravnica block cards that don’t see heavy Modern or Legacy play. However, there is another byproduct of this change – demand will spike much sooner.

By the end of this month players will be gearing up for PTQs, a solid six months ahead of prior years. Because the season starts so close to Christmas I wouldn’t be surprised to see the demand stagger a bit until after the first of the year, but once we pass the holiday season, the dreary early winter months will hold nothing but PTQs for the ice mage. Demand will be at its peak in early to mid January, as Santa has come and gone, the end of the PTQ season is not quite on the horizon, and winter-set fervor hasn’t yet gripped the community.

What does this mean for the savvy trader? It means don’t trade those Advent of the Wurms, Aetherlings, Blind Obediences, or Angel of Serenitys quite yet.  It means now is when you should be acquiring Standard staples as aggressively as possible, and once we hit January, severely reduce your acquisition. (At that point, start grabbing safe Modern powerhouses ahead of that particular PTQ season.) It also means that we have a very clear window of opportunity for cashing out of any stockpiles you may have. This is the time to finally sell all your Ravnica specs that haven’t quite panned out for the best value those cards will likely see for years. Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

Here’s your rule of thumb: If a card from Ravnica block spikes after December 9th, get rid of it and don’t look back. Lotleth Troll hit $4? Ship it. Exava reaches $5? Trade them. Advent of the Wurm climbs to $6? To eBay! If you trade Advent at $6 and then it hits $8 two weeks later, you have no reason to feel bad. The alternate universe where you hold out for another $1 and Advent instead crashes to two bucks is never more than a butterfly away.

I personally have a pile of foil Loxodon Smiters I grabbed during SCG’s back to school sale, when the price was lower than any other I could find on the internet. They haven’t doubled from what I paid like I hoped they would, but the PTQ season will give me my last chance to see a profit, or at worst, recoup some losses. If they haven’t jumped by the middle of January, I’ll be selling no matter what the price. If I have to lose $1 on each copy, that sucks, but it would be far better than stubbornly holding onto them only to realize I’m out $5 each in July. I’ve also got a fair bit of Detention Spheres whose intended sale was delayed by the event deck, several playsets of Supreme Verdicts, and some other odds and ends.

What you shouldn’t sell is cards already at their floor though. Don’t trade away Deadbridge Chants at $1 just because they aren’t lighting up the tournament scene. The card can’t get any lower, and while the general amount of value in Standard cards will be less post-PTQ season, it won’t be completely devoid of the occasional breakout deck jumping a random card by several dollars. Keep in mind too that towards the end of the PTQ season, Born of the Gods will be released, and bring with it new Scrylands, new enablers, and new decks.  

You also don’t need to be in a rush to divest from multi-format staples. What I wouldn’t be in a rush to ship are cards like Abrupt Decay, Deathrite Shaman, and so forth. These are cards whose value is mostly determined by Modern and Legacy, and while the rotation of Standard will count against them, it won’t be long before the interval since their printing will outweigh the loss of that format’s demand.

deathrite

The takeaway from all this is that you absolutely need to be aware of PTQ seasons in order to get the most out of your cards, and to make sure you don’t get caught holding the bag. Outing cards from the senior set in the middle of the relevant season is often your best chance to hit cards at what will be their highest peak for years. Take the profits where you can, swallow your pride if you need to sell for a loss, and stay a constructed format ahead of the grinders.

Weekly Roundup:

-I’ve mostly kept quiet about Commander 2013 and True-Name Nemesis relative to other financial talking heads, and that is because I haven’t felt like I’ve had anything useful to contribute to the conversation. I’m pretty comfortable at this point claiming TNN as a soft hold though. The release date of C13 was November 1st, and in the twelve days since then, he has shown up in the Top 8 of every Legacy and Vintage event I’m aware of. Most knew TNN was legit, but not many expected him to be this good.

The TNN quagmire is that we still don’t have a lot of reliable data about the printing of the Commander decks. We know Wizards has no intention of turning this into a Commander’s Arsenal, but honestly, I feel like they undershoot demand every single time on non-expansion sealed product. There’s also been a lot of swirling rumors about their printing intentions. One day you hear that they’re going to print these things until you could use them for shelter, then the next you hear that there’s only one more shipment and some guy named Bob who you don’t even think plays at your store already preordered and paid for them all.

Mark Rosewater said that Wizards doesn’t plan to continue printing individual decks, which is particularly important. It means that even if Target has no copies of the Grixis deck in stock (Mind Seize), the piles of Marath and Oloro they have will prevent them from ordering more. This all adds together for a reasonable conclusion that while supply overall isn’t constrained, any particular deck could become tough to find.

That obviously bodes well for TNN. He slipped to about $26 on eBay a week or so ago, but he’s since started climbing again, and honestly, I don’t see a reason for him to drop yet. Legacy players across the world are realizing this guy is legitimate, and the supply is not going to get significantly larger anytime soon. With Grand Prix DC this coming weekend being Legacy, it’s a high-profile event that could see True-Name Nemesis break out even harder. It’s hard to say what this guy’s possible ceiling is, but if the Grixis deck is shaping up to be as tough to find as it seems, and TNN being even better than we thought, $40 almost seems like a low ballpark. $50? $70? Who knows. He’s unprintable in Standard, so when they decide to add more copies to the market, it won’t be in a large volume. A judge promo is the most likely path Wizards would take. When he finally does start to fall, there won’t be enough copies entering the market to precipitate a rapid loss of value. Descent will be slow. For now, feel free to hold onto copies and ride out the wave.

-Brian Kibler’s article this week featured his latest Standard brew which contained 4x Reaper of the Wilds and Lotleth Troll. I’m not on board with buying into Trolls, but you’ll recall that I spoke highly of Reaper in my Theros set review. You can definitely find these as throw-ins right now, although I’ve noticed people were a bit more reluctant to trade these this past weekend than they were around release. I can’t recommend dumping cash into…him? but I would be more than comfortable picking up any that I could in trade.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is hovering around $10. I am a firm buyer at that price. Ok maybe not buy with cash, but definitely trade for. Nykthos has proven itself week after week since the Pro Tour, and it’s the type of card you build a deck around. It couldn’t really get much lower than $7-8, and the ceiling is definitely over $20, especially with any Modern performance. Cards that get silly with Nykthos: Ral Zarek, Master Biomancer + Master of Waves.

MTGO vs Paper Magic – Why Choose One Over the Other for Finance?

Full disclosure – I only play paper Magic. I have played Magic in other online formats, such as Cockatrice and other free software platforms, though my main focus is on paper Magic. I have considered trying MTGO in the past, and in the future I may give it a shot. Underworld Cerberus

From a financial perspective, MTGO markets are a much different beast than their paper counterparts. When comparing the two markets to each other, I have noticed that trends in MTGO change much quicker than paper when new decks hit the online scene. For example, both Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch and Underworld Cerberus have seen an uptick in price in MTGO but have not moved much in paper Magic.

I am going to outline the pros and cons of both formats to determine which format is better for certain types of players.

 

Magic: The Gathering Online (MTGO)

Benefits

  • Great for limited players – Play Magic anytime, anywhere. There is always a draft to be had
  • Flexible availability – The ability to hop into constructed matches on-demand is excellent for more serious players, as they are able to jam a lot of games and get much more testing done than if they were playing in person. This isn’t necessarily perfect preparation though, as the MTGO metagame often does not accurately mirror that of Grand Prixs or SCG tournaments. Your mileage may vary if you utilize MTGO for paper tournament testing.
  • Easy to offload cards  The prevalence of bots on MTGO makes turning your unused/extra cards into useful resources a breeze. Many bots run on very slim margins, which means it doesn’t cost much to turn 75 into an entirely different 75 without losing much value. Doing this in paper means either you go the fast route and trade the cards in at a store, accepting a massive loss in value, or you trade the pieces with other players, which is likely to be incredibly time consuming.

Disadvantages

  • Keeping track of prices across both formats is confusing and time consuming – The difference in prices between the online and paper version of a card can sometimes be quite staggering. For instance, Snapcaster Mage on MTGO can be as low as 7 tickets (1 ticket = ~$1), while paper copies have never gone below $18.

  • It costs the same amount of money to play MTGO as it does to play paper Magic – This has always really baffled me and is one of the reasons why I haven’t tried MTGO – Wizards has even chosen to set the MSRP for MTGO boosters the same as paper boosters! I understand the convenience of being able to play at any time is very enticing, but I am surprised that MTGO is popular and profitable for Wizards at the same price point as paper cards. However, my incredulity is apparently unfounded – the past has shown that this is a profitable strategy for Wizards, as a large percentage of their revenue comes from MTGO sales, and the online format is as popular as ever. It appears that MTGO caters to a crowd that has no problem with this current price structure.

Paper Tiger

Magic: The Gathering – Old School Paper!

Benefits

  • Playing paper is more social – The social aspect of Magic is one of the reasons why the game has stuck with me, and many others, throughout the years. Having a lot of friends that you can get together with to play on a given evening or weekend is really awesome. From a financial standpoint, having a social environment to trade or sell cards away is good for the savvy trader because there will always be opportunities for trading and buying.

  • There is value in sealed product – Sealed product tends to appreciate in value over time. Look at Innistrad booster boxes for a recent example. If you play paper magic, being able to pick up booster boxes at market prices (or even things like Commander decks and Duel Decks) can be a solid opportunity. With MTGO you can only purchase packs of cards or singles.

Disadvantages

  • Time Intensive – If you play paper magic, a lot more time is involved with trading and playing the game in general than MTGO. Without a computer, you have to sort all of your cards manually, as well as do things that mostly don’t even occur on MTGO such as buylisting to stores, going to events, sleeving and desleeving decks, etc.

  • Potential for card loss or destruction – In real life, things happen. Cards get lost, stolen, or destroyed. With MTGO, the only thing you have to worry about is unauthorized access to your account. The chances of this happening are significantly lower than having something happen to your physical cards.

Financial Implications

With MTGO, your avenue for profit is smaller. You are relegated to basically two options: Convert cards into tickets, and then attempt to sell the tickets, or redeem sealed sets which you take to eBay. These aren’t necessarily worse methods of profit, but there aren’t nearly as many options for converting resources into cash as with paper Magic. It’s not to say that MTGO is a worse market to function in, but rather considerably different.

In the future I might decide to delve into MTGO. It is certainly fun, and a great utilization of your available Magic-playing hours. From a financial perspective, I still feel that trading and buying with paper can be much more profitable, mainly due to the number of outlets you have to trade and sell cards.

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