Tag Archives: Casual Fridays

Long-Term Thinking

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So the Pro Tour was last weekend, and now we are in for a long lonely spell until Kaladesh

…oh yeah. We are still in the throes of a very expensive summer to be a Magic player.

From the Vault: Lore is coming out next weekend, and I can’t remember the last time one of these was so ho-hum. Sure, it’s the first foiling for some of these, but the niche of people who need a Dark Depths or an Umezawa’s Jitte is relatively small. Plus, neither of those are particularly expensive cards.

At least FTV: Angels last summer has some sweet new art Akromas to tempt us with. This looks more like FTV: Barely Worth Retail.

Conspiracy spoilers have already started (the Ghost Assassin!!), and that I’m pretty stoked for. I want to warn you now: Don’t get caught in a trap like I did and start trading for all the assorted ‘draft matters’ cards like Cogwork Librarian. Those haven’t budged in price at all since that set came out, much to the chagrin of my foils.

But what I want to talk about this week is a topic I’ve only recently come to appreciate: how Wizards R & D plants seeds across sets for the stuff that’s coming up.

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To get the sense of what I mean, I want to talk about a card that was good when it came out, good with the sets that came later, and good with the last set it’s legal with.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is an awesome Magic card. It’s cheap, could block if you wanted or needed, lets you cycle through your deck, and then turns into a planeswalker who locks things up nicely. It’s a powerful card all by itself, and strong enough to make waves in Modern and Legacy, not just Standard.

Consider this your regular reminder to pick these up at sub-$30 prices and be prepared to reap the profits in a year. If decks are powering out Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang on turn two or three, then JVP has a real chance to be flipped by then.

What else is Jace good with? Madness. Delirium. Self-mill, like Gather the Pack and Grapple with the Past. Cards that want to be in the yard, like Kozilek’s Return and Prized Amalgam. Only because hindsight is 20/20 can we see how good it is with a range of abilities and card mechanics.

Until very recently, I hadn’t learned to appreciate the sneaky-brilliant nature of the game designers that work in Seattle, but I’m aware now. More to the point, I don’t want to get caught out. I want to have a better time anticipating what is good and will remain good in the future.

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A few weeks ago, when I was guesting on MTG Fast Finance, I picked foil Eldrazi Mimic at about $6 as a long-term hold, because I love how good Legacy Eldrazi decks are. Still do, as a matter of fact. A couple weeks after that, my compatriot Travis Allen picked nonfoils at 75 cents to a dollar, because they are good with these huge Emerge creatures, but both of us missed a very salient point:

Eldrazi Mimic only cares that the creature is colorless. It doesn’t have to be an Eldrazi, or something with devoid. It could be an artifact creature, and oh look, Kaladesh is going to have an artifact theme!

This is brilliant forethought from Wizards, and once you start looking at it, and thinking about it, you realize that they have been doing this for years! Remember the glory days of Mono-Black Devotion? Gray Merchant of Asphodel plus Nightveil Specter? Who knew that hybrid symbols could be so incredibly relevant? Wizards did.

I don’t claim to be smart enough to have figured out all the plants ahead of time. I do know that I am taking a hard look at cards that notice colorlessness (like Sanctum of Ugin) versus those that are specifically looking for Eldrazi (Kozilek’s Return). I truly love when a plan comes together, like the UR Spells deck that for some reason isn’t playing Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh. It seems like a better Thermo-Alchemist, and playing her is a total blast. I’m enjoying Standard for the first time in a long time. Powerful cross-block synergies is what Wizards is planning for, building, and anticipating. Unlocking that knowledge, and looking for those interactions, is something I want to get better at.

Also, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Shadows over Innistrad gave us token, disposable artifacts right before an artifact-themed block. Tireless Tracker is probably the best, but Tamiyo’s Journal or Magnifying Glass might become super-relevant.

The two sets after Aether Revolt, if I were to speculate, will have something to do with sacrificing. I don’t know what, but I know that Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon certainly are encouraging us to discard and sacrifice creatures, and I won’t be surprised at all if that’s the theme in nine months or so. Probably it will be enough to reinvigorate our interest in Emerge or Voldaren Pariah or something like that.

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Being Optimistic

Once in a while, I like to give in to my wild-eyed dreams and enjoy some pure, unproven speculation. Today I want to tell you about a few cards that I’m thinking about right now, which have the potential to do very well if something goes right.

Earthcraft (currently $33): This is a Reserved List card that does some absolutely bonker things. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s banned in Legacy.

It’s a combo with a lot of cards, and Commander will showcase all of them. Squirrel Nest? Goblin Warrens? Sacred Mesa plus a Wild Growth land? The list goes on and on.

What needs to happen: It gets unbanned in Legacy. Worldgorger Dragon had this happen, and the resulting spike was amazing.

Wizards said at the time that it was a combo card that needed restricting. Well, yes, you can do some busted things with it but are they worse than the Dragon/Animate Dead loop? Or Splinter Twin?

I think this comes off the list eventually. No idea when it happens, but at that time, I think you’ll see this card double up immediately and then settle down at $50. A lot of the supply on this has been soaked up by Commander, and I’m not sure how many of those players would cash in a spiking card that will never be reprinted.

Eye of Ugin: (currently $10,$13 for nonfoils, and $20, $40, $80 for foil versions)

So this was hot hot HOT when ‘Eldrazi Winter’ started, and the Expeditions were near $200. This has three printings and the pack foil is twice the price of the Modern Masters version, due to the rarity shift.

Eye is too good for Modern. It is amazing early and late, and that was the criteria used to ban Deathrite Shaman.

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What needs to happen: Legacy Eldrazi needs to prove itself as a consistent player.

Legacy has four lands that could produce two colorless for Eldrazi: Eye, Temple, City of Traitors, and Ancient Tomb. The broken starts in Modern could be a more regular occurrence and Eye is the only one that powers stuff out early and then searches up more to do if a late game is reached.

If that happens, the Expedition versions will pop. Not to their previous heights, but $140 is in range.

I’m not sure at what point people who bought at more than $150 will give in and cash out, but there’s a chance that those collectors/investors just wait it out and that might keep some copies out of circulation.
Berserk (about $100 for Unlimited or FtV, $150 for Beta and $350 for Alpha)

There was a not-small amount of surprise for me. I had thought this was a Reserved List card, but no, it’s legal. They could put it in Standard tomorrow.

They have come close, though. Cards can grant advantage but there’s nothing this good this cheap. Temur Battle Rage can do some sick things but Berserk is the best pump spell ever, beating out Wildsize.

What needs to happen: Old School (93/94, if you’re feeling sassy) needs to grow even more.

Old School Magic is a fun format, and if it continues to grow, Berserk is only one of the cards that’s going to go up significantly. It’s also a fantastic Cube card and the potential for fun is there in Commander. Double up damage on someone else’s creature and then it’s no longer a problem.

But for the card to take off, and not just creep upward, it’s got to gain traction in a larger way. Lots of people like it, but this needs to be long term and consistent. It’s not in major events yet but if side events at GPs and such become more commonplace, then the sky is the limit.

Well, not the sky, really, more like $150 for the Unlimited and the From the Vault versions. I know some people are hellbent on no white borders but the biggest growth is found when you have a lower buy-in.

I don’t think that 93/94 is going to go the way of Tiny Leaders, but it does need to be bigger than Duel Commander. In favor of it, is that the people who care put a lot of time and energy and piles of money into this endeavor. Someone who works that hard for a format is not going to abandon it easily, and that’s the spirit we want in order to have a format grow and prosper.

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Eternal Masters: The Mythics

So we’ve had an eventful few days of Eternal Masters spoilers, and wow does this look like a set that’s worth $10 per pack…maybe. I need to see the whole list and even then I’m going to be leery.

Today I want to look at the mythics that have been spoiled so far and think about what they will be worth, even taking a stab at the foil prices. I want to organize myself with the printings it’s had before as well. I’m noting the current prices, too, in case they start to slide abruptly.

Editorial note: As of this writing, there’s only 14 mythics previewed. I’ll update this as more are revealed.

 

Karakas

Original printing: Legends ($170)

Other printings: Judge Promo in 2012 ($160)

Very important to note that this is banned in Commander but it is pretty amazing in Legacy when it comes to dealing with things like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. I think that there isn’t much demand for this card, to be honest. It’s not too amazing in Cube and it’s not played in high quantities in Legacy. I’m going to say that this ends up about $60 and $150 for the foil. Existing copies are not going to fall very far, since the supply is pretty small.

 

Chrome Mox

Original printing: Mirrodin ($15/$58 foil)

Other printings: Grand Prix promo in 2009 ($28)

This printing is going to be the nail in the coffin for its price. It’s played in some decks in Legacy but it’s banned in Modern and doesn’t see a lot of casual play. The price isn’t very high for a Mirrodin rare, and injecting more copies will lower the price by at least a third. This Mox will be about $10, but hit a high $50 or so in foil, because Volkan Baga is a real, honest, badass artist and this is gorgeous.

 

Mana Crypt 

Original Printing: Book promo in 1998 or so ($200)

Other printings: Judge Foil in 2011 ($233)

This is likely going to be the most expensive card from the set, in foil and not. Amazingly, this isn’t banned in Commander yet, and that’s despite one of the banning principles being ‘fast mana.’ I don’t know if you’ve ever played with one of these, but the 3 damage can add up. However, it’s two full turns ahead of what other people are doing, and that is why I’m leery. I think that this stays at $100/$250 foil, but I also think it gets the ban within a year. Not very many people have these in their Commander decks, and as that number goes up, so will the calls for a banning.

 

Maelstrom Wanderer

Original Printing: Commander 2011 ($20)

Other Printings: Commander’s Arsenal ($28)

Oh, this card is busted right in half. It’s just so good. So very, very, amazingly good. It’s possible you can miss with one of the cascades, but your deck is still amazing and getting the first spell or two off the top plus the big hasty creature. Of special note is that this set has the top-of-the-library tutors for the Wanderer, or bounce it back to your hand with Karakas every turn to make your opponent cry. Value-wise, I expect this to settle at about the $15/$40 range.

 

Dack Fayden 

Original Printing: Conspiracy ($33/$395)

Other Printings: none

Yes, you’re seeing the foil multiplier right. This is a $400 foil due to Vintage players who will pay anything for the foil version of something. The foil supply on this is super small (check out Marchesa, the Black Rose in foil too!) and that’s where the impact will be felt greatest, I think. Stealing a Mox or something is good, but don’t overlook the draw two, discard two. There’s a lot of decks that can use that effect, and Dack does pop up here and there in Legacy. The nonfoil will be about $20 and the foil will still be in the $150 range, and I’d expect the original foil to bottom out about $300, since there’s just so few copies out there.

 

Worldgorger Dragon

Original Printing: Judgment ($3/$30)

Other printings: none

This is one of the two really awful pulls for a mythic. It’s infinite mana with this and Animate Dead, so if you’ve got something to do with all that mana, great, it’s game over. If not, get back to your game. This is going to have a very low price, likely about $1/$5.

 

Necropotence

Original Printing: Ice Age ($13)

Other Printings: Deckmaster ($15), 5th edition ($9), FtV: Exiled ($20)

While this has had four times in print, including a special foil, I do not see this as being terribly expensive. It’s an amazing effect, and can draw a silly amount of cards at all points. This will be about $5/$30 at the end of the set.

 

Force of Will

Original Printing: Alliances ($78)

Other Printings: Judge Promo in 2014 ($500)

Oh, this is going to be interesting. Terese Nielsen has become one of the most iconic artists that Magic has to offer, and this piece is no exception. Force will always carry a high price in Legacy and Vintage, because it’s a playset or bust. Very few people run only three, and that’s always kept demand high. This should settle out in the $50 range, but I think foils are going to be in the $200 range, especially early on.

The presence of the special Judge version means that there’s both a ceiling and a competitor, price-wise. The part I’m unsure about is how much having this particular art is worth.

 

Sneak Attack

Original Printing: Urza’s Saga ($44)

Other Printings: Judge Promo in 2012 ($70)

Sneak Attack just wrecks face in a deck that can take advantage of it. Sacrifice for value, mass reanimate, do something unfair. This card enables a lot of that, but the price will stay reasonable, probably around $20/$50.

 

Vampiric Tutor

Original Printing: Visions ($35)

Other Printings: 6th Edition ($35), Judge Promo in 2000 ($100)

My only beef with this card is that the EMA art is a bit too close to the original art for Necropotence, but that’s me being nitpicky. I think this is gorgeous, and the foils will reflect that. $15 for the regular, $80 or so in foil.

 

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Original Printing: Worldwake ($90)

Other Printings: FtV: 20 ($75)

Ah, Jace. How many things contributed to your overblown power? How many people made mistakes with you? It’s iconic, and likely going to be the best planeswalker ever made. This will be about $30, with foils being near $100. The FtV version is lower because a lot of people don’t like the unusual foiling on those cards.

 

Balance

Original Printing: Alpha ($550)

Other Printings: Beta ($350), Unlimited ($40), Revised ($2), 4th edition ($2), Judge Promo ($27), FtV: Exiled ($9)

This is one of those cards that fills the ‘overpowered to busted in Limited, worth less than a bag of beans in person’ slot that every set needs. I think this will be just about bulk, and the foils might make it to $10.

 

Argothian Enchantress

Original Printing: Urza’s Saga ($16)

Other Printings: Judge Promo from 2003 ($55)

She’s best friends with Rabid Wombat, she can’t help you by herself, she was the most feared 0/1 until Noble Hierarch showed up…and she’s going to have a middling price, since she’s not played too much. I would expect her to settle about $10/$35.

 

Natural Order

Original Printing: Visions ($35)

Other Printings: Portal ($43) , Judge Promo in 2010 ($130)

This is Tinker for green creatures. Progenitus is the usual target, but you have options in Regal Force or Craterhoof Behemoth, depending on the board state. Thankfully, this is using the dignified art, but it’s not going to be that expensive. $15 for the regular, and about $40 for the foil.

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Money in the Box?

Well, Shadows over Innistrad is here, and while I have been wrong about a lot of things, I want to look at one of my most cherished ideas and see if that’s even applicable this time around: Not opening packs/boxes.

There’s 59 rares and 18 mythics, and that counts the double-faced cards. There’s not any strong or official information out there regarding the relative rarity of the double-faced mythics as opposed to regular mythics, but since two of the three double-face mythics are two of the three most expensive cards in the set, maybe there’s something to that.

Shadows over Innistrad

It’s time look at some cold numbers.

Here’s all the cards currently that have a Fair Trade Price over $2.50. I’m using that as a general cutoff, that means the box price is $90. I know you can beat that price, but that is a pretty optimistic box price.

Just in case you’re curious, though, I’ll note when we pass the MSRP of $4 and when we get to $3, which puts a box at $108, a better price than stores will give yet slightly higher than TCG.

Card Name and Fair Trade Price

Archangel Avacyn $57.49

Sorin, Grim Nemesis $23.99

Arlinn Kord $23.64

Declaration in Stone $17.99

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets ">Jace, Unraveler of Secrets $13.73

Westvale Abbey $12.73

Thing in the Ice $12.35

Relentless Dead $12.05

Olivia, Mobilized for War $11.85

Nahiri, the Harbinger $11.60

The Gitrog Monster $8.23

Tireless Tracker $7.23

Thalia’s Lieutenant $6.98

Mindwrack Demon $5.64

Ulvenwald Hydra $5.64

Anguished Unmaking $5.58

Startled Awake $5.14

Foreboding Ruins ">Foreboding Ruins $4.53

Sigarda, Heron’s Grace $4.38

Traverse the Ulvenwald $4.19

Port Town $4.17

Under MSRP

Only 21 cards at $4 or more, two weeks into the set. Now let’s see what’s under MSRP in value.

Game Trail ">Game Trail $3.98

Always Watching $3.97

Fortified Village ">Fortified Village $3.97

Goldnight Castigator $3.73

Sin Prodder ">Sin Prodder $3.60

Cryptolith Rite ">Cryptolith Rite $3.59

Choked Estuary $3.51

Descend upon the Sinful $3.04

 

Eight more cards have the average value of a pack. So if you happen to win a cheap eBay auction or something and get your box for $90, there’s an additional pair of cards that are worth the price of a pack:

Drownyard Temple ">Drownyard Temple $2.73

To the Slaughter $2.51

At the most optimistic price, you have a 31/77 chance of making the value of a pack. That’s 40%. Ouch. Not great but not awful? Would you push all-in on a 60/40 hand?

If you get your packs at the TCG price of $108 or so, then you have a 29/77 chance, and that’s a slight decrease to 37%, and at the full MSRP on boosters, it drops further to 27%.

Further Explanation

There’s a couple of flaws with my admittedly basic methodology, and it’s worth addressing them.

First of all, I don’t have any way to account for foils. That’s a random event and a nice bonus, but nothing that can be counted on. For every box with a foil Archangel Avacyn, there’s another box with no foil rare at all. If you get it, great! If you don’t, well, better luck next time.

Avacyn-the-Purifier-MtG-Art

Second, the distribution of double-faced cards is a little wonky, and you can have a double-faced mythic and a double-face uncommon in the same pack. That’s a weird way to go about collating the boosters but hey, that’s not my job. If this is the price we pay to no longer have box mapping be a thing, I’m all in favor of it.

With that said, though, I have to say that the value is just not there for me. Opening a box is a rush, one I know well. Pack after pack of potential, of going slowly to drag out the anticipation or just tearing into it all in a flurry of Mylar. It’s a great feeling…until it’s gone.

I am obligated to point out that not all mythics are equal. Three of them (Seasons Past, Geralf’s Masterpiece, and Wolf of Devil’s Breach) don’t even make this list. That’s not a surprise in the abstract, as we all know mythics can be powerful and yet still inexpensive, but with so little time in retail stores and draft settings…that’s a lot of value gone and fast.

We have a potential spike in front of us, though, with the Pro Tour starting today.This will begin the dance of ‘who will follow through with orders?’ and ‘I can’t sell this fast enough!’ and the popular ‘oh god the card spiked and I had it on my want list…’ and that’s all an extra layer of price complexity. What cards will be popular? Who will run the table with an unforeseen and effective metagame call?
Still, the advice remains solid: Don’t buy packs. Don’t buy boxes. Don’t buy cases. At this point, you’re going to be lucky to open even equivalent value.

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