Tag Archives: Accumulated Knowledge

PROTRADER: O Brave New World

Today we are going to talk about Frontier, and I am going to be VERY critical of it. I want to state a couple things off the bat, in hopes that it will help both of us take the most from this that we can:

  1. I have long been advocating for a reboot of Extended. However, I have no financial interests in that “format” outside of the miscellaneous cards acquired as a consistent Standard player of the last several years.
  2. I do not want Frontier to fail as some sort of emotional vendetta. I believe that Magic is good when there are lots of popular formats, and tournament-level constructed Magic TRULY needs more options to cast the wide net that Organized Play wants.
  3. Similarly, I do not intend to target Frontier as either a boon or detriment to Modern. I’ve been pretty vocal in my complaints with that format, and (spoilers!) they are present in my assessment of Frontier’s flaws.
  4. I flew on Frontier Airlines once, and it was a pretty subpar experience, and if we are being totally honest, like 8% of my dislike of Frontier comes with mentally auto-associating it with crappy flights.

Let’s start by describing what Frontier actually is. Frontier is a format that started popping up in Japan several months ago, and began to gain traction there as an alternative to Modern. The starting point here is M15, in part because that set introduced new card frame changes (including that little holographic oval on rares/mythics). The similarities to Modern don’t stop there, however- Frontier is non-rotating, so the cards that are already in are only leaving through bans. It also only includes Standard-legal expansions, so things like Commander products don’t have a significant impact. Let’s talk about what the selling points of Frontier have been so far:

CARD ACCESSIBILITY: In this sense Frontier is advertised as a cheaper alternative to Modern, rather than a new experience. Some Modern cards, like Blood Moon and Dark Confidant, have not been made easily available since they were last in Standard. Things like Tarmogoyf serve as permanent representations that if you haven’t been playing Magic for a very long time, you will have a harder time participating now.

This is something that I definitely sympathize with, and I don’t think that making the jump from Standard directly into Modern is feasible anymore (if it ever truly was). The problem, of course, is that Frontier only solved the symptom, not the cause. If Frontier is still around in ten years, then cards from M15 and Tarkir will still be old cards. They are accessible now the same way Cryptic Command was accessible when Lorwyn was the newest set out. It is mistaking recency for availability, and that’s a long-term issue.

One of the problems with Modern is that it has baked-in issues created by turbulence in Magic’s past. Tarmogoyf’s price is reflective of the fact that it was printed at a time where Magic’s active player population was possibly a third (or less!) of what it is today. Modern is a set of rules for play but not a means of itself providing for that play. If Magic’s boom times are coming to an end, or we see a large enough shrink in players that print runs decrease, then those fluctuations will be forever encased in amber in Frontier’s availability. The graph below represents Modern’s accessibility problem because that inequality is unchangeable (reprints that aren’t in Standard legal products have yet to meet the required numbers to address this issue, by virtue of their scale).

THAT LITTLE FOIL OVAL: It’s not a major selling point, but it’s nice to know that there is an extra security measure against counterfeit cards. I don’t actually have an argument against this, so I’ll give them points for this. See? Fair and balanced.

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: Modern’s tentpole exists on the basis that the card frames changed, not a clear and consistent development philosophy. Modern simultaneously operates in a reality where Blood Moon, a rare originally printed in THE DARK (!!!!), exists alongside several sets where Stone Rain was deemed “too good to exist anymore”. Magic design and development is not static, and so effects and functions evolve over the course of time. This is why some effects, like “Destroy all creatures” (originally found on Wrath of God), have crept up in cost and mutated in functionality. These fluctuations serve as a complex system of balance beams in Standard, while at the same time narrowing in on theoretical ideals of cards/effects (Day of Judgment probably costs a theoretical 4.5 mana). Of course, when you compare these new cards to Blood Moon, a card so old that “The Adventures of Pete and Pete” WAS STILL MAKING NEW EPISODES, they fail to come close to making an impact.

The assumption Frontier makes is that Magic is in a much healthier place now than it was when 8th Edition came out, and in that respect they are correct. The crux of that argument is backward-facing however, rather than anticipatory. Frontier, by never rotating, is cementing its own roster of “Best Available”- sure, that new card is good, but is it better than Siege Rhino? Is that new one drop really better than Monastery Swiftspear? If WotC ever decides to get aggressive with certain reprints (think Lightning Bolt in M10), then you have that card in Frontier FOREVER.

Frontier’s fatal flaw, as you may have pieced together by now, is a small thermal exhaust port right below the main port with a shaft that leads directly to the reactor system that it does not rotate. That is ultimately a long-term problem. If Frontier goes the way of Tiny Leaders and fails to mature into its role (that’s my bet), then that won’t be an issue ever- but if it succeeds, then it is going to be the crux that makes some hard to reprint cards mini-Tarmogoyfs. I’m going to close with some of the cards that stand to benefit from Frontier’s success- but be aware that buying into this format is definitely risky at this point.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy: This guy has to be the most obvious starting point. Well actually, my instinct was to start with Thoughtseize, until I realized (for like, the hundredth time) that Theros isn’t in this format. Jace is #1 because he is insanely difficult to reprint- he’s a flip card (expensive on the production side, requires a product with enough flip cards), he’s a specific character (can only appear in a set where Jace makes sense OR is flavor-neutral), and is a narrow iteration of said specific character (can only appear in a setting where Jace gets his spark like Origins OR is flavor neutral). Essentially, “Baby Jace” is going to have to be in a supplemental product that can afford the front end cost of including flip cards, even though almost all of the flip cards are from Innistrad, so there is no flavorful throughline for something like a Duel Deck. The best case scenario is the Modern Masters iteration that goes up to Origins, which is going to be several years away. Even if Frontier died tomorrow, it’s easy to see why this is a steady play at $45. Oh, and the Grixis/4c/5c control decks love this card, so it’s actually pretty good in the format. I’m not going to cite too much in terms of past results, but there are some decklists at mtgdecks.net that I’ve been scoping out. It’s too small a sample size to say what decks are “best”, but it’s still real data. If you have an appetite for more expensive “specs”, this is a good one even if you don’t like Frontier’s outlook.


Collected Company: If Jace is #1, then CoCo is #1A. Company gets better any time a creature that costs 3 or less is printed, and is easy enough to splash in any color aggro deck (we have literal fetchlands). These are down at about $10, which may be the lowest since DTK came out- this card is good in Modern and (very) fringe in Legacy, so snapping some up in trades is extremely appealing. This will be a pillar of the format if Frontier blossoms.

Emrakul, the Promised End/ Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: These two are roughly the tied for best in the “biggest thing” category, so I could see either (or both!) being the premier topper of the format. Emrakul is still in Standard for a while, but Ugin is pricy despite being playable in almost nothing else. I say hold off on both of these, but watch them- the success of either one (if any) will help dictate which playable support cards may see secondary spikes.

Dig Through Time: LOL there’s no way this format makes it. But this frustrating garbage is apparently legal, so expect at least modest gains if Frontier survives.

What would I play if I knew I’d face Dig Through Time every round? Civilization 6.

Obelisk of Urd: Elves is a deck, and there is probably some tribe (humans?) that is on enough of the white weenies to make this functional. Goblins is close but probably not close enough.

These are the sort of “Level 0” cards that caught my eye, because I’m not sure if we have a stable enough environment to begin metagaming off of it. The issue will for now be supply, because everything (other than maybe M15 and Origins) has pretty big market saturation. Things like Kalitas that are currently good in Standard AND Modern are interesting plays, but probably won’t see too much percentage increase as people who already play Modern won’t have much issue oscillating to Frontier.

That’s all for this week, let me know your thoughts on Frontier, my assessment of it, and what cards you like, if any.





Welcome back everyone to the annual Accumulated Knowledge Snarkmas Spectacular! The holiday season has arrived, and not a moment too soon. Quite frankly, 2016 can’t end soon enough- we are running out of likeable musicians and it was getting to the point where I wanted to move George Clinton to a bomb shelter to ride this thing out. So let’s bid farewell to this year together, as we look ahead to the ultra-nationalist hellscape that waits ahead with Snarkmas 2016.

This is going to be a “best-of [YEAR]” style article with my own brand of edgy but accessible humor, as well as some holiday treats and even some musical guests! Honestly, if you’ve made it this far you’re probably going to read the whole thing regardless, so let’s get started!

I’ve also made this article free for everyone, because pageviews are my lifeblood I’m a kind and generous hero! Hooray for me!


“Rogue One”- I have to shuffle around some of the categories from last year, but this one feels pretty safe to last for a few years. I promise I won’t spoil anything for you here, but this movie was really fun. There were definitely some bumps, and it’s not going to be anyone’s all-time favorite Star Wars movie (“The Empire Strikes Back”), but for Disney’s first foray into what are basically Extended Universe movies,it was a home run. Some of the Easter Eggs in the film were the right balance of fun and inconspicuous, others were much more blunt and jarring1.


Rogue One. Then go back and watch “A New Hope”. Then hell, you might as well watch “Empire”… and “Jedi”. You can do “Force Awakens” if you want, or just save it for tomorrow. I’m pretty wiped.

Oh, uh… “Die Hard”. That counts, right? If not, then here is one of my favorite Muppet Christmas specials- I tried to get the John Denver one too, but the quality wasn’t great.


A Christmas Story- This movie is like Christmas wallpaper. Or maybe better yet, it’s the evolution of those ‘Yule Log’ programs that nobody actually uses. A Christmas Story, as a film, is essentially just a collection of vignettes tied together by a very thin plot arc. It is, however, pretty relevant in 2016- an undereducated American white male thinks a gun will solve all of his problems, and projects that warped reality onto his religious beliefs. And it even manages to get in a pretty offensive racial stereotype right before the buzzer! The crazy part is that the cable network that has been pushing this movie for years (TBS? TNT? Whichever one doesn’t have basketball on) only started airing it so much because the rights to the movie were so cheap. Essentially, this became a holiday ‘go-to’ because literally nobody went there in the first place. Fortunately there will be football on this year, so watch that. Kudos to the NFL putting Bengals at Texans as the Christmas Eve late game, ensuring that everyone would rather go to sleep, thereby assuring Santa a quick turnaround. I would rather be beaten mercilessly by Kraumpus than watch that game.

Ralphie becomes radicalized through a series of social embarassments.


Masterpieces! They are really cool, instantaneously recognizable, and do a really good job of impacting the Standard market without creating a new rarity involving otherwise unobtainable cards. Standard is much better off now than it was prior to the Masterpiece era. I suspect it will take a while for people to internalize how these changes affected the ecosystem, but I definitely think everyone will be better off down the road.


Frontier! I have been pounding the table for a format to exist between Modern and Standard for a while now, and Frontier is an awful solution. The fatal flaw is built in at the foundation- it is non-rotating and tries to combat accessibility problems by picking a very recent starting point. The issue is that in ten years, Khans of Tarkir or M15 or whatever really doesn’t make much sense as a starting point for your format. Some important cards will be expensive, some effects will gradually over time become too good (think Wrath of God), and the format will take on a lot of the same issues as Modern. Extended, even as just a “double” or “triple Standard” makes more sense in prolonging the shelf-life of cards, rather than trying to preserve them forever.

Wow, don’t you miss playing with this card? Me neither.


Jace is a workaholic mind mage who spends all of his time serving as the Living Guildpact for the plane of Ravnica- and then he met Chandra. Can this Manic Pixie Dream Arsonist teach him the true meaning of Christmas? Or at least the non-religious one, which is basically just “work less around the holidays”? The answer is a very low-budget “yes”.


It’s probably got to be the RG Energy deck. This award will be much more exciting next year, when it essentially becomes the best of my Game Day series for that year, but I don’t really remember what I was playing prior to Kaladesh. I think it was just a bunch of crappy Jund decks. Anyways, here’s the winner (and my primary template heading into Aether Revolt!).


So not to alarm anybody, but when I return in January our first topic is going to be bracing for the end of Magic’s boom phase (something that I covered briefly a few weeks back, although with an admittedly broader theme). It’s hard to say that Magic is in a bad spot right now, but I definitely think the growth is plateauing. Maybe the movie will help?


One of the most painful things in Magic is looking at prices of cards that you used to own. Here are the cards that are around $5 or so that you’ll be kicking yourself for not holding onto in a half-decade (as well as a percentage degree of confidence):

Blooming Marsh (and the rest of the cycle): So Spirebluff Canal is about $8, and while the question may be “can the other lands hit $8?”, I think it’s actually “Can Canal hit $20?”. I think the answer to both of those is yes, and that the margins will eventually narrow between the color pairs. (85% confidence)

Haven of the Spirit Dragon: Cheap and relevant to an evergreen card type. Dragons are popular outside of EDH, and some kid always wants to build a Dragon deck. This is a clear 4x in any deck allowed to play more than one. (95%)

Mirrorpool: Not as wide in application, but good in almost any EDH deck. The only issue here in several years is visibility. (90%)

Aetherworks Marvel: Higher than my usual price ceiling, but because it makes AND consumes energy, it’s not required to be in an energy-focused deck. I think it’s just a matter of what ends up breaking this, and what format that pairing is in. (50%)

Saheeli Rai: This is a super cheap planeswalker in a popular color combo that already has some very convoluted combos. I don’t expect it to ever be a $40 card, it could be $15 or $20 if things break well. (33%)

Eldritch Evolution: This was a popular buy at $5, I like it even more at $2.50. (99%)

Collective Brutality: A good card in Modern, which was sort of like an older version of Frontier. (80%)

Atarka’s Command: Frontier staple. (95%)

Relentless Dead: Similar to Haven of the Spirit Dragon, this is a 4x must have in a very popular tribe. Unlike dragons, zombies has more conducive cost and sizing for competitive play. (80%)


I know that the holidays mean different things to everyone, but I just want to wish you and yours the best, and say the words that everyone needs to hear at this time of year:

“May the Force be with you.”

See you in January!



1Ponda Baba, I’m literally looking at you.

PROTRADER: The Time To Buy

Okay, so good news/bad news. The good news? THIS is the the historical best time to buy Magic cards. Right now! Pretty much now-ish until the first week or two of January. Now it’s worth mentioning that Aether Revolt releases on January 20th, but I don’t think that will hurt us now. The bad news, of course, is that for a lot of people this is the absolute worst time to be spending lots of money on Magic cards for yourself. That’s why we are going to have to be smart and make sure we are putting a lot of thought into our targets. We’re going to parse what we can from the spoiled cards we’ve seen so far, and then use the rest of the data at our disposal to make informed decisions from there.

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PROTRADER: Vintage Set Review: Planeshift/Apocalypse

Okay, so I’ve been looking at my year-end schedule, and here’s how everything is gonna break down:

This week: VSR: Planeshift/Apocalypse
Next week: Actual MTGFinance talk!
The following week: Snarkmas 2016
All other units of time within that window: me playing Pokémon Moon.

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expensive cards

ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.