Tag Archives: banned and restricted list

A (Pun)ishing Article Title

A Conditioned Response

So has anyone found any sweet deals on damaged cards by messaging the seller first and asking for pictures? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can get caught up by reading last week’s article on played cards, specifically damaged/heavily played stuff. If you missed that article, this entire sentence is willing to take you there for free! Thankfully, I was able to have at least one person give me a shoutout on Twitter saying that everything worked out great.


Fortunately, CFB is a reputable dealer and managed to get David some pictures of the card in a reasonable time frame so he could decide whether or not he wanted to buy the card. I’ve been trying to find a cheap foil copy of Seedborn Muse for a while now, and I narrowed down to a store on TCGplayer that had a damaged one listed. A few quick Facebook messages later, and we had this to look forward to.


Unfortunately, this store hasn’t been as fruitful as I had hoped. I’ve messaged them again since writing this article, but I’m not super hopeful about getting another reply back. I’m also not too concerned about the price of foil Seedborn Muse jumping astronomically in the next few weeks, so I’ll be content to let this one sit for a while until I find another copy that I know I’ll be satisfied with.

Good Omens (or some other bad card pun subtitle)

On the other hand, Prismatic Omen is much higher on my foil bounty list for the angry mana baby. The suppy on eBay and TCGplayer has been dwindling steadily over the past few weeks, and it looks like most people were too busy worrying about the next big Standard tech to notice that Scapeshift won the Modern open last week while running four Prismatic Omen. I was waiting on a reply from this other store for almost a week, but I decided to bite the bullet and gamble again for $12 on a damaged foil. Hopefully it comes out similar in appearance to my Petrified Field, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take this time.



SCG Foils

While we’re on the topic of me buying foils for my Child of Alara deck (and showing you some of the cheaper ways to do so), let’s talk about Star City for a second. While they often get a reputation of having the higher priced singles available online ($20 for a Collected Company? No thanks.), their sales are usually worth looking into. A few months ago I barely missed out on the opportunity to buy 43 SP Boundless Realms at $1 each, and I now make it a point to check out every time they update their sales. Last week, the hot topic item of the week was MP foils.

While I’ve touched on SCG’s grading system in this column before, I’ll reiterate that they have some of the harshest grading I’ve ever seen when purchasing cards. I’ve bought a ton of SP cards mixed in with NM, and half of the SP looked identical to the near mint ones. I’ve bought cards from SCG at moderately played, and successfully sold them on TCGplayer as slightly played. With this in mind, I decided to do a little research and make a few more foil upgrades for myself.


While I highly doubt I’ll be able to move that second foil Summer Bloom at any reasonable pace, it was just too good to pass up on. The next cheapest MP foil on TCGplayer is $26 right now, and 9th edition foils are rare enough as it is. I’m confident that I’ll eventually find a home for it at double what I paid, even if it takes me a while. As with the Omen, I’ll provide updates of these cards on Twitter and in my next week’s article so you can judge for yourselves whether or not you think they’re MP or SP.

The Article Title



So I was originally going to write most of this article on Punishing Fire, until I realized that I wanted to delve deeper into the whole damaged/condition thing. If you’re a frequent visitor to my little neck of the #mtgfinance woods, then you know that I almost never buy cards at retail for the purposes of playing with them. The above paragraphs are an attempt to explain my thought process and procedure when I do buy cards to play with, as a way to get the best prices available.

Anyway, let’s talk about why I spent $19 whole dollars on a stack of 100 Punishing Fire. In my personal opinion, Punishing Fire is one of the most fair cards on the Modern Banned list today. I have no intent to rekindle the inevitable political debate that is “Make Jace Great Again” or anything like that, but Punishing Fire certainly seems pretty low on the list compared to all of the turn two and three combo decks that are currently sitting behind bars. If (and that’s a bit if) Punishing Fire gets unbanned, what happens?

While I doubt it shoots up to the $10 that Thopter Foundry managed to climb to, I could be completely wrong. It has a comparable number of printings (Commander 13 was printed significantly more than the original Commander set, but Fire also got a Duel Deck), and they’re both played as multiples in their respective decks. If Wizards is trying to slow down the format, Punishing Fire does exactly that, with an extremely low buy in. Hell, it even does a decent job of countering the Thopter-Sword combo by itself. I got lucky by finding a store that had 140 copies listed on TCGplayer to make my life easy, but this is still a card that you want to own in your Modern gauntlet just in case Wotc decides to turn the other cheek.

End Step

  • Pretty much every edition of Birds of Paradise has steadily crept up to at least a $7 minimum over the past two months. Melira is another deck with a ton of medium value rares that serves as a reasonable entry point to Modern (The biggest barriers being Verdant Catacombs and Voice of Resurgence). Remember that Viscera Seer is no longer a ten cent card, and you can trade them out at $1-2.
  • Volrath’s Stronghold appears to have stabilized at $30, so the price correction wasn’t too drastic overall. I’m happy to unload mine at $27ish and take the $7 bump, even if the card didn’t double up like I was hoping for.

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Specsire of Ulamog


Man, I haven’t been this apathetic about Magic in a while. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it. Magic: The Gathering is my life, and I don’t think I could ever quit the game barring some unforeseen life circumstances that force my hand.

But man, I’m just so bored of this set already. I eventually need foil copies of Retreat to Hagra and Omnath, Locus of Rage for Child of Alara, and a foil Smothering Abomination for Savra, but that’s basically it. I don’t get as excited for EDH as Jason does, and I don’t have a brewing bug like everyone else. I’m stuck in this weird limbo that’s not quite backpack-finance-grinder and not quite full-time MTG retailer, so I have to sit and wait patiently for everyone else to crack their boxes and then sell all of their unwanted stuff to me at buylist prices.

Playing It Safe

Anyway, enough about my first-world problems. Most of you know that I don’t speculate much, especially on the new stuff. There’s nothing in Battle for Zendikar that strikes me as a “buy this now before the Pro Tour so you can make hundreds of dollars before it’s too late!” and I wouldn’t follow my advice even if I was confident in one particular card.

When I do tend to pick out a card that I think is going to go up, I (obviously) want to be as sure as possible that the card will see the price changes that I predict, and I want to minimize risk to the point where I basically can’t lose out if my decision ends up being incorrect. These factors are why I continue to slowly stockpile up on cards like Necrotic Ooze, Heartless Summoning, and Glistener Elf. Barring the erratic multiplayer product reprint, all of these cards are safe to sit in my speculation storage, while I patiently wait for the right combo piece to be printed, or the right Top 8 configuration to make me a bunch of money.



Speculating for Fun


Every once in a while, though, I like to get in on the fun of speculating on shake-ups in the Standard metagame, or the effects of the casual market. In a previous article of mine, I pointed out how much I liked Spawnsire of Ulamog as a pickup. While the card obviously has zero competitive appeal (except for this one Travis Woo decklist, and the accompanying article that never fails to make me laugh), it’s a casual double whammy for both Timmy and Johnny, and is a budget version of “I win the game” for players that can’t afford Emrakul and friends.

I predict that as these non-competitive players buy packs from Wal-Mart, Target, their LGS, etc., they’ll start to build their own Eldrazi-based decks, and look to utilize some of the older Eldrazi from ROE into their new lists. Spawnsire is cheap, but more importantly, flashy. Remember how there were several dragons that increased in price after the Dragons of Tarkir set release, because these invisible players wanted to complete dragon decks? It’s basically the same principle.

I started by picking up a dozen or so copies off of PucaTrade at an average of 329 points (a point is basically a penny in trade value, so I paid $3.29 in trade). After I checked and noticed that there were a dwindling number of copies available on TCGplayer, SCG, and eBay, I became more confident in my speculation choice and bought out the remainder of SCG’s copies (on September 9, 2015; they’ve since been restocked at a slightly higher price). There are a couple of benefits that ordering from SCG will give you, even if their prices are usually a little bit above the market value. Thankfully, these Spawnsires were the cheapest available on the internet at the time, so that problem was negated. But otherwise, buying from SCG means that my order is guaranteed to come, and I don’t have to worry about the store cancelling. In addition to that, SCG employs extremely strict graders, and several of the SP copies that I bought turned out to be NM by my own standards.


Right now, the cheapest single copy of Spawnsire I can find is on TCGplayer as an LP one for $3.69, and NM ones are upwards of $4.50 on TCGplayer and eBay. I’m not writing this part of the article to try and convince everyone else to buy in with me so I can flip my copies. I’d actually advise against buying in right now if you’re solely trying to make a profit, because for every dollar extra you pay, you have to hope that the card increases by twice that much more to cover the costs of what you bought in at. I bought in at $3.25, so I’m hoping and expecting that Spawnsire reaches at least $6 to $7 retail before I cash out through TCGplayer or trade outlets. If you buy in at $4 to $5, you’re hoping that it reaches $8 to $10 before your profits become noticeable and worthwhile. I still think the card is a fine trade target at $4, if for some reason you happen to still find these in trade binders.


Now, the price isn’t the only thing that I’ve kept my finger on the pulse of over the past few weeks. There’s another number above the store listings that has been slowly and steadily dropping, and it’s a lot less visible to someone who’s just looking up the TCGplayer mid price every few days.


As the number of stores that have the card in stock decreases, the closer we can expect there to be to a sudden price jump. When I bought my copies from SCG, the total number of English sellers on TCGplayer was above 70, and we’re down to 55 as of September 30, 15. While Spawnsire isn’t exactly the kind of card you usually want to own a playset of, it’s worth mentioning that only eight of the sellers on TCGplayer have four or more copies in stock at the moment. It’s very easy to decrease the number of sellers one at a time, as each non-competitive player picks up the one or two copies they need for their ramp deck over the next few weeks.

My last point about Spawnsire goes all the way back to an article I wrote in March, and it was one of the first pieces of content that I ever produced for MTGPrice. If you haven’t read it yet, I personally think it’s one of my better and more original pieces of writing. If you’d rather not go through and read another 2,000 words in addition to your weekly dose of DJ Johnson, the TL;DR of the article was that it’s important to keep track of the cards at the bottom of the MTGstocks interests page, whose prices have only ticked up by a small percentage day after day. These small bumps can forecast a larger, more sudden spike that everyone will later claim “came out of nowhere,” even though it was fairly predictable to those who paid attention.


As we can see here, Spawnsire received a small five-percent bump since yesterday, and he’s been on this page multiple times every week. Even though these price changes aren’t nearly as drastic as the newly unbanned Black Vise, they’ll certainly be more relevant and longer-lasting months down the road when non-competitive players continue to seek out Spawnsires with no additional supply and nobody cares about Black Vise anymore.

End Step

Huh. I did not think I could write an entire article about a single card, focusing on my strategy and tactics of speculating on it. Was this helpful to you? I figured everyone wanted a break from the past two weeks of Q&A-style articles.

In other news, Hardened Scales continues to reward me for my laziness. Every time I see that thing jump up another dollar, I think, “Man, I should really sell all of those copies I have. There’s no way that this hype can be sustained for this long without a proven winning decklist.” Then it goes up again. This time I’m going to remember to sell out at $4. I mean it.

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Going Hunting on the Banned and Restricted List

By: Travis Allen

When this article goes live, I’ll either be in or en route to Las Vegas, along with what feels like what must be a quarter of the Magic-playing population. I haven’t been aboard the #hypetrain that three-fourths of my Twitter feed has been, mostly because I’m incapable of experiencing these “emotions” I hear people constantly have, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

I suspect that my plan for the event is similar to many: I’ll participate in the main event because I’m there and it should be fun, but it’s hardly the flagship activity of my attendance. Other activities, all just as important, will be two-headed giant events with friends, social mixers with various Magic personalities I’ve yet to meet in person, distributing MTGPrice loot to a handful of individuals, writing up coverage about what’s hot on the floor, taking in a show or two, and maybe even hanging out at the pool in the naked desert sun. If you see me wandering around the floor, feel free to stop me and say hello. I’m always happy to meet the few poor souls that read my articles.

I’ve spent the last three weeks writing about Modern Masters 2015, so I’ll spare you from that this week. After all, big price movements will be happening after all the events wrap up and tens of thousands of cards end up hitting dealer buylists or local binders across the world. A week or two after the festivities will be a good time to check in on MM2015 again. In the meantime, let prices settle a bit, enjoy the draft format, and see what else is going on.

No Reservations

With Dragons of Tarkir fully in the rear view mirror and Origins a good six weeks away, we’re smack dab in the middle of Standard set releases. This makes it a good time to discuss cards whose value can and frequently does run up close to release dates. I’m speaking of cards on the banned and restricted (B&R) list.

It seems that nearly every regular set release is accompanied by B&R speculation. What’s coming off the list? Are they finally banning card X? Was last weekend’s GP enough to push them in one direction? What would be good if format Y gets card Z back? And so on and so on. Speculation runs rampant. People make absolutely ridiculous claims about what would be fair to unban and how good the card would or wouldn’t be if legal.

Perhaps a bit anecdotal, but it feels like Modern chatter is cyclical to me. A set release will bring with it extensive B&R speculation, and when the article finally goes live on DailyMTG, we get an answer one way or another. Banned cards hit buylists within minutes, unbanned cards are bought out even faster, and social media fills with complaints about dealers that cancel orders. Unbanned cards mostly fail to make an impact and prices slowly fall away over several months. Golgari Grave-Troll is a perfect recent example of this.


By the time the next set release rolls around, nobody seems to be talking about anything. I often forget that it’s going to happen until a day or two beforehand. The article is posted, no changes are made, and life goes on, at least until the next update is two weeks away and the speculation mill starts up again.

Back when Fate Reforged was on the horizon, everyone thought Bloodbraid Elf was coming back. Check out the price graph:


What’s amusing here is that 90-degree turn in the red circle is about a week before the update occurred. Rather than waiting for the update to find out if BBE would actually come back, people began moving in hard entirely on speculation. The update came and went, BBE stayed banned, and now we’re back to about $4, half the price of its frenzied peak, and double-ish the pre-rise lows.

Movement on cards ahead of B&R updates is happening earlier and earlier, and is exactly why we’re talking about this in the middle of two set releases, when speculation on the list is at its lowest. The time to buy cards coming off of the B&R list isn’t seconds after the update—everyone and their dog is trying to do that. Somewhere between a fraction to all of your orders will get cancelled, and you won’t have the cards until after the prices have already started to settle. If you really want to profit on B&R list updates, waiting until the list changes is a fool’s game. Action is required when nobody else is paying attention—now, essentially.

This is the primary lesson of today’s article. You don’t make money by buying cards immediately after updates. You make money by picking up cheap copies when nobody is looking, and then selling everything you have the second it’s unbanned.


Private Reserve

The secondary component of this article is looking at what’s on the B&R list today that’s worth picking up. Two key factors on this exercise: there’s no certainty whatosever in this process, not in the way that “Tasigur is going to go up” or “reserve list cards are safe” are certain. A card could be considered by the entire community to be impotent in a format and undeserving of a ban, but until WOTC scratches the name off the list, it’s going to languish in the bulk bin.

The other factor is urgency: there is none. You don’t have to run over to SCG or TCG or ABU or whatever immediately after reading this and go deep on Black Vise. My preferred acquisition on B&R targets is slower and less deliberate. If I see one in a trade binder, I’ll pull it out. People are often happy to move a card that has no immediate applicability. If I’m placing an order for something, I’ll see if they have any of my preferred banned cards in stock at reasonable prices. I also scan big sales like SCG’s back-to-school  for discounted cards on the list. Hall off on Mind Twist? Sure, why not.

All of that said, what’s currently on my watch list?


Bloodbraid Elf
While she missed last time, I’m confident that we’ll see her again eventually. There’s a good reason her price ran up so high before: a lot of people think she’s completely fair to add back into Modern, especially with the introduction of Siege Rhino as competition at the four-slot. If a portion of the community thinks that she’s fair to reintroduce to civilized society, there’s a good chance a few decision makers over at WOTC feel the same way. Also consider that when BBE was banned, Deathrite Shaman was legal. now that DRS is gone, the Jund strategy that BBE was supposedly propping up has mostly disappeared, replaced instead by Abzan.

Before the huge run-up in price, I liked FNM copies at $3 to $4. Post-surge, this price has stuck a lot closer to $10, unfortunately. While promos would probably hit $20 or more if she was actually unbanned, I like the normal copies more right now. They’re considerably cheaper, with $2 copies available if you look, and these will spike to $10 or more should she return. It’s also a lot easier to pick up a few $2 copies here and there than $10 copies.

Green Sun’s Zenith
With Birthing Pod’s departure, there’s a lot more room in the format for GSZ. The largest roadblock to Zenith returning is Dryad Arbor, as a single Arbor in your deck means that GSZ is always a better Llanowar Elf on turn one. A popular solution is to ban Dryad Arbor, which adds absolutely nothing to the format right now, and unban GSZ (hell, it’s worth banning just for that FTV: Realms art. How a card that deceptive passed inspection is beyond me).

Admittedly, this card was more interesting last year, while the price was still south of $5. Since 2014, we’ve seen the buylist increase significantly to keep pace with what appears to be casual and EDH demand. That’s good news, though. A solid demand profile without existing competitive appeal means that we’re unlikely to get burned holding copies, and prices could continue to rise from other sources while we wait for an unban. If this ever comes back, I expect prices in the $25 to $35 range out of the gate, and I’ll be right there with every copy I have.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
I just want to take a moment to say that this is actually a terrible card to pick up on unban speculation. WOTC’s offices would be burned down if they unbanned Jace without printing a butt-ton more copies at the same time. Stay away on Modern speculation.


Black Vise
The fact that people are scratching their head on this card every three months bodes well for Black Vise. Listening to people that know more about these strategies than I, it seems that this card is a completely fair addition to Legacy. A facet of the card is that it provides a way for burn strategies to beat up on combo decks that don’t manage to go off immediately, which is helpful in a matchup that currently leans heavily in combo’s favor.

With both Fourth Edition and Revised printings, there’s no shortage of copies out there. I’m targetting FTV copies, since it’s the only foil that exists. At $2 each, this is an easy $5 to $15 card should it get unbanned.

Mind Twist
Losing your entire hand to someone on turn one or two is the biggest fear with regards to Mind Twist. Some combination of land, Dark Ritual, Grim Monolith, and maybe another rock or two means you can take five to seven cards out of an opponent’s hand before they can meaningfully interact. However, under a slight bit of scrutiny this fear is easily allayed. A single Force of Will completely screws the guy casting Mind Twist, since he went all in to cast it, and his opponent is now only down two cards instead of six. And even if the Twist resolves, what’s left to do? The Twister casting it has a land, and maybe a mana rock or two left over, while the Twistee has maybe one card remaining. Advantage goes to the Twister, sure, but it’s not like the game is locked up. Both players are in top deck mode. Land, land, Tarmogoyf out of your twisted opponent is going to suck big time.

At $2 to $3, the buy-in is quite low. Like Black Vise, we’ve seen this in Fourth Edition and Revised, but at rare rather than uncommon. Concerns over the card being too good will abound in the days following the unban, with plenty of dark mages looking to play Twister in the near future. This will be $10 easily with a return to Legacy.

Mind’s Desire
I really doubt it, but I’ve got a small stack just in case. With only a judge promo and the original Scourge copies on the market, and a nearly guaranteed four-of status in any deck where it sees play, the reward is high enough for the risk that this never comes back.

Got Any More?

These are my current favorite B&R list targets these days. I’m curious to hear arguments for other options in the comments. Remember that the best time to scoop up these types of cards is exactly when nobody is talking about them. Set alerts on your calendar to remind you when to start looking if you have to.

As for those of you heading off to Vegas: see you on the floor!