Tag Archives: Dragon’s Maze

PROTRADER: A Cheapskate Casual’s Guide to Return to Ravnica Block

I performed a similar breakdown to what you are about to read here, but for Battle for Zendikar, Khans of Tarkir, and Theros blocks. I ended that article with the idea that I would cover more blocks the following week, but as it turned out, there were other things to discuss, so this article has been delayed.

But no more! Let’s tackle the entirety of Return to Ravnica block today. Remember, I’m approaching this from the standpoint of a cube owner looking to make the sweetest cube possible but at the lowest possible price. We’ll be going through most cards that are both financially relevant and Cube-playable, though playability in other formats, possibility to make money, likelihood of impending reprints, and and all other relevant factors will be mentioned, as well.

Enough intro. Let’s get to the cards.

Return to Ravnica

Abrupt Decay

A fairly juicy one to start. This is basically a must-include in the Golgari section of most cubes, and with the recent WMC promo revealed, the card has taken a hit of about a third of its all-time high of $20. Remember, though, that WMC promos won’t flood the market in the same way as a printing in an expansion, supplementary product, or preconstructed deck. Barring a reprint that actually puts a large number of cards on the market, Abrupt Decay really seems to have nowhere to go but up. If you don’t have all the copies you need, I’d prioritize picking them up over the next few months.

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expensive cards

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Angel of Serenity

After briefly hitting $25 shortly after its printing in Standard, this plummeted, and then the final kill shot was applied when it was reprinted in Commander 2015. With a Fair Trade Price of $1.62 as of this writing, I can’t imagine a world in which this nutso reanimator target is ever goes lower. And while I’m certainly not expecting a sudden or pronounced spike,if this can avoid another reprint, I think this is a great target for slow, steady, long-term growth.

Ash Zealot

You don’t see this in a ton of cubes these days, which I think is a shame. It’s a solid beater in RDW with a sometimes-relevant graveyard hate clause. A decent beater with a decent hate clause is pretty good, in my opinion. It’s basically bulk, so there’s no reason not to own as many copies as you want.

Blood Crypt

This might be wishful thinking on my part, but I feel like the shock lands can’t possibly go spike-free for much longer. It’s been more than three years since their reprint, Modern gets more popular by the minute, and the playerbase has grown since Return to Ravnica. You probably have all the shock lands you need by this point, but if not, don’t take their sub-$10 prices for granted.

Chromatic Lantern

An EDH staple, yes, but I don’t run this in my cube. In general, three-mana  ramp spells in Cube need to provide two mana (think Worn Powerstone or Coalition Relic). So don’t feel like you need a copy for your list. If you really want one, this will keep going up until it’s reprinted, which is likely to happen eventually.

Cyclonic Rift

Similarly, this one is up to $8 (!!!), and will likely continue to go up until it is reprinted. This is one that I actually like in Cube, so if you need a copy, but it right away or resign yourself to waiting for the next reprint (or EDH banning).

Deathrite Shaman

With Legacy on the downswing and this banned in Modern, it seems like a fine time to pick these up. With a Fair Trade Price of $6.73, the card is at an all-time low. I must admit, though, that given how little play the card is seeing, I’m surprised it’s not below $5. I don’t see what would facilitate a price spike here other than a Modern unbanning or a major increase in Legacy events, both of which seem unlikely. You’re probably fine to wait on this one for these reasons, but again: all-time low.

Desecration Demon

Price memory based on this card’s Standard glory days are keeping this above $1, but there’s not really much we can do about that. I suspect only a reprint or ten years of better creatures get this below this price point.

Detention Sphere

This is less than $1, which is probably because singleton formats don’t really think this is much better than Oblivion Ring. It does kill multiple tokens and clones, though, so it is a little better. I cut this from my cube recently, as it was on the bubble and I have lots of this style of effect. Still, if you want a copy, you can’t do better than this price.


This has a Fair Trade Price of $2.49, which is silly given that Hero’s Downfall is $1.67, but probably has more to do with age than anything. The price isn’t going down without a reprint, and the card is certainly one of the better choices for your Rakdos section, so buy ’em if you want ’em.

Jace, Architect of Thought

At $3.47 for a planeswalker that sees occasional Modern play, this is one of the better buys in Magic, in my opinion. An eventual double-up seems inevitable, if not better.

Lotleth Troll

This is the kind of card that could be the engine for a combo deck down the line. At less than $1, I don’t want to discount that. It’s definitely a bubble card in Cube, switching in and out of Golgari as needed. It’s a decent engine for GB reanimator, if you’re trying to support that archetype.

Loxodon Smiter

This has gone from $1 to $2 in the last year. It could certainly be playable in Modern in the right metagame and deck, so it’s worth keeping an eye on. Selesnya is really deep in Cube, so while the power level is here on this one, the space often isn’t. Still, that on-deck copy might be worth picking up before this becomes a $5 card.

Mizzium Mortars

For how good this was in Limited and even Standard, it’s kind of iffy in Cube. I see it in most lists, but not being able to go to the face really hurts eats utility in RDW-style decks. Red control, rare as it may be, loves this card, though, so it’s well worth including if you’re trying to keep red from being an aggro-only kind of color. A Commander 2015 reprint pushed this down to essentially bulk status, so now is a fine time to pick up any copies you may want.

Pack Rat

See what I said about Desecration Demon (with the added factor of a contingent of casual players who love rats).

Rakdos's Return

I don’t play this in my cube, but it’s like $1.14. For a mythic with an effect this powerful, I figured it was worth mentioning.

Sphinx's Revelation

This has been a pretty solid $6 since it rotated. Barring a reprint or a marked increase in Modern play, I see no reason why it won’t stay there for at least a couple years.

Supreme Verdict

The card’s price chart is showing a slow-but-steady increase, and it’s almost up to $5. That was close to its ceiling while in Standard, so I’m not particularly worried about this spiking any time soon. Still, at its current rate, it will be $6 before too long, so don’t wait if you need a copy.

Underworld Connections

It’s no Phyrexian Arena, but it’s still playable if you want to push the control aspect of black in your list. With three printings and the existence of Arena,you should be able to pick this card up at bulk pricing for some time to come.

Vraska the Unseen

Vraska kind of sucks, but she is also kind of okay as a five-mana Vindicate that gains you some life. The card recently went from $3.50 to $7, which blows my mind, because I think of it as a card that sucks. I was all about to tell you to buy copies for $3.50, but then I saw it was $7 and now I think you should not buy copies. This is a bad planeswalker from a highly opened, extremely popular set, with a Duel Deck printing to boot. For every one of these you would have bought, go buy two Jace, Architect of Thoughts instead.


Assemble the Legion

I could have sworn this was in this year’s Boros Commander deck, but I guess not. I think this is better in EDH than in Cube, but at a Fair Trade Price of 87 cents with only one printing, I could see this being a target for growth. I expect slow growth, to be sure, with a pretty high reprint risk and a low ceiling, so get these as throw-ins, not as primary targets.

Boros Reckoner

More price memory nonsense, as this is currently almost $3. Then again, uncommon Spitemare is 83 cents, so maybe this is something casual players like. In any case, it’s been pretty steady at $3 for nearly two years, so if you want a copy, this is a perfectly reasonable price point.

Breeding Pool

Gatecrash was significantly less popular than Return to Ravnica, so the shock lands in this set are likely in shorter supply than their RTR counterparts. Buy accordingly.

Domri Rade

Planeswalkers are super safe to buy in general, and Domri is no exception at a Fair Trade Price of $7.80. I miss the days when this was just barely released,  when Modern players were going turn-three Domri into turn-four Phyrexian Obliterator.  Why did that stop, anyway?

Nightveil Specter

This card is really good on its own, but if you are playing black and/or blue devotion cards in your cube, it’s a must-add. It has the same price memory effect from Standard Mono-Black Devotion as Pack Rat and Desecration Demon, but it’s only $1.21 and is a fine buy at that price, even if it slightly inflated.

Thespian's Stage

This card slowly but surely has worked its way from $1 to $2.50. It will continue growing in this slow, incremental fashion as long as it can avoid a reprint. It’s really only playable in Cube in conjunction with Dark Depths, but the new colorless symbol gives it some new, additional utility.

Dragon’s Maze


As far as control finisher go, this is right at the top of the list. And it’s only 39 cents?! I don’t think this is going up, but I’m surprised price memory doesn’t have it over $1.

Beck // Call

This isn’t a Cube card by any means. I just wanted to mention it because Glimpse of Nature is more than $20 and this is a bulk rare. Could somebody break this, please?

Ral Zarek

Ral was like Domri in that his price was pretty solid for a couple years, but he’s starting to see some upward movement. He’s in a prominent color combo, is prominent among Vorthos types, and is from one of the least-opened sets in recent memory, so it’s not surprising to see a bit of upward movement. He also does some sneakily combolicious things with his first ability. I don’t see how a reprint could happen at this point, so if you need a copy, you probably shouldn’t put it off.

Voice of Resurgence

Whoa, this is $46 now. That is news to me. The luxury of a casual format like Cube is that I don’t actually need to have anything. At all. This card is really good, and it would certainly make the list if I owned one, but come on. I’m all-in on a reprint at this point, because there’s no way I’m paying so much for a utility creature that doesn’t even add that profound an effect to my cube.  No thanks.


Man, the community at large already knew this, but going through this block, it reminded me how bad Gatecrash was compared to Return to Ravnica, and how bad Dragon’s Maze was compared to Gatecrash. There’s lots of EDH playables in Gatecrash that I didn’t cover, so if that’s your scene, I’d suggest going through the listDragon’s Maze, on the other hand, was filled with complete junk, and I regret that I will never get the minutes back that it took me to scroll through that awful list of cards.

Any Cube-playables that I failed to mention from Return to Ravnica block? Have a specific card you’re wondering about? Drop a comment below.

Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

Trade Habits: Prerelease Buylists

Beck // Call. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Though it seemed as if Gatecrash’s prerelease was no more than a few weeks ago, this weekend signaled the launch of Dragon’s Maze prerelease events nationwide. As always, vendors and local gaming stores alike had their hands full while organizing and running these events. A lot of coverage around last weekend’s prerelease consisted of favorite draft picks, and set-constructed evaluations. I’ll spare you the common banter that’s excessively splashed about in the wake of a new set release and get down to the point I care about most: makin’ that cash money via proper trade habit; particularly, arranging profitable buylists as an event organizer.

Preparing for a prerelease, from the perspective of an event organizer, can be stressful; perhaps even overwhelming at times. There are many variables that need to be calculated and allocated properly for an event to run smoothly: availability of products, seating limitations, competent judges, timing between flights, adequate air circulation, etc. So, those are the basic components of running a successful event – but what about a profitable one?

Besides the obvious profits drawn from sales of food, drink, accessories, and entry fees, what are good ways for event organizers to profit during prerelease events? The answer is painfully apparent for those of you who haven’t guessed already: create a buylist for the new set. Consider every large TCG superstore – like CFB, SCG, T&T, ABU – do they not buy new set cards at their prerelease events? Yes, yes they do! However, some of these vendors do not post buylists online prior to set release; I assume this is done to avoid clutter of their postal operations and to allow their employees maximum focus while gearing up for the release.

Creating a buylist that won’t net you investment loss seems like a simple task, perhaps. I assure you, there is a considerable amount of complexity when deciding what types of offers one should make when designing a buylist. Understand that pre-order prices are speculative and predominately based on consumer demand/impulse, rather than on market saturation, competitive application and non-fiscal consumer availability (barter/trade). There has been no amount of competitive play with these cards to solidify their price tags. Many of these cards will flat-line in price after 2-3 weeks after set release. For instance, look at Duskmantle Seer from Gatecrash – his preorder price on SCG was $19.99 on Feb 1st, but dropped to $5.99 on March 1st – the card lost 70% value in only a month. Even if you had bought the card for $10.00 (50% of the pre-order price), you would still lose $4.00 (-40% ROI) for every copy that you were unable to sell within 4 weeks.

Duskmantle Seer as of May 1st, 2013.
Duskmantle Seer as of May 1st, 2013.

To avoid losses of 40%, one really needs to do their homework. I have a general system for buying cards, it goes as follows:

Cash Value Payout Calculation
$5-10 50% $ x 0.50 = Payout
$11-15 55% $ x 0.55 = Payout
$16-20 60% $ x 0.60 = Payout
$21-25 65% $ x 0.65 = Payout
$30+ 70% $ x 0.70 = Payout

My system is solid and brings me great turnaround sales every week. However, these are cards that have been played, battle tested so to speak, and because of this their values are respectably steady. When gearing your buylists for prereleases, always remember that most cards flat-line and lose about 20-30% on average in value. Unless you can resell the stock you acquire within 2 weeks of release, make sure to accurately inventory the cards you purchase and set limits for each. Avoid 99% of commons and uncommons, go for the throat first and worry about the scraps later; chasing rares and mythics is where the money is.

Always take the time to familiarize yourself with new cards by looking at the set spoilers online. Do your best to identify the cards that will see play within multiple formats, or redefine a single format – acquire as many of these cards as possible! As for the remaining cards in the set, aim for a playset or two of each. So, now you know what you’re hunting for; it’s time to arrange the pricing. As I said before, the system of buying that I provided does work well, but not with prerelease singles. My rule of thumb is to offer 50% presale price for any card at prerelease. If I speculate that the card is going to rise, I may offer upwards of 70% for certain cards such as Voice of Resurgence. Some losses are hard to foresee (Duskmantle Seer), but limiting the amount you buy of ‘iffy’ cards can really pay off in the long run. I get all of my pricing information from MTGprice.com – as it averages the market cost across multiple vendors to provide the most accurate price. Below is a copy of my buylist for Dragon’s Maze. Feel free to print it out as a cheat sheet/quick reference when buying cards at your LGS, or from friends!

Zack’s Dragon’s Maze Buylist
Aetherling  $   3.00
Advent of the Wurm  $   3.00
Beck // Call  $   1.50
Blood Baron of Vizkopa  $   5.50
Blood Scrivener  $   4.00
Boros Battleshaper  $   0.50
Breaking // Entering  $   1.50
Catch // Release  $   0.50
Council of the Absolute  $   3.50
Deadbridge Chant  $   1.50
Dragonshift  $   0.50
Emmara Tandris  $   0.50
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch  $   1.50
Flesh // Blood  $   1.00
Gaze of Granite  $   1.50
Lavinia of the Tenth  $   1.50
Legion’s Initiative  $   5.50
Master of Cruelties  $   3.50
Maze’s End  $   0.75
Melek, Izzet Paragon  $   0.75
Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker  $   0.50
Notion Thief  $   2.50
Obzedat’s Aid  $   1.50
Plasm Capture  $   2.50
Pontiff of Blight  $   0.50
Possibility Storm  $   0.50
Progenitor Mimic  $   2.50
Putrefy  $   0.50
Pyrewild Shaman  $   1.00
Ready // Willing  $   0.50
Reap Intellect  $   1.50
Render Silent  $   1.50
Renegade Krasis  $   0.50
Renounce the Guilds  $   0.75
Ral Zarek  $ 15.00
Ruric Thar  $   2.00
Savageborn Hydra  $   3.00
Scion of Vitu-Ghazi  $   0.50
Sin Collector  $   0.25
Sire of Insanity  $   2.00
Skylasher  $   1.50
Tajic, Blade of the Legion  $   1.50
Trait Doctoring  $   0.50
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts  $   1.00
Varolz, the Scar-Striped  $   3.00
Voice of Resurgence  $ 14.00
Vorel of the Hull Clade  $   1.00
Warleader’s Helix  $   0.50
Zhur-Taa Ancient  $   0.50

I hope this list helps you throughout the week, and especially on Friday when Dragon’s Maze releases.

Weekly Finance Tip:
[Beck/Call is one of DM’s biggest sleepers. I hope you held onto your Modern elves as I advised last month!]

Until next time,

Zack R. Alvarado
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

All the cards from Dragon’s Maze have finally been spoiled. The new cards from Dragon’s Maze have enabled several two-card-combos that have significant potential in both the Standard and Modern formats. These cards may not fit into ready-made decks, but they are just waiting for a prospective deckbuilder to find the right fit for them to rise in value.

Beginning with Standard, we now have the Whispering Madness plus Notion Thief combo. When these two cards are played together, they add up to your opponent discarding their hand while you draw an abundance of cards. I think you can usually manage to win after achieving that. Right now Whispering Madness is at the low price of $0.68, so the entry cost to get in on this card is very low.

Whispering Madness as of April 23, 2013.
Whispering Madness as of April 23, 2013.

While it is debatable how tournament worthy this combo is, casual appeal alone should drive this card up to a few dollars at least. Other options besides Whispering Madness that also combine with Notion Thief are Reforge the Soul, if you want to dip into red, and Otherworld Atlas for double the card draw with no downside. These support cards that combo with Notion Thief are all under a dollar right now, so there is very little risk in speculating in these cards. Even if the price doesn’t go up, they should trade very well because of this combo, so you can just flip them into something else you want. If you want to use this combo in Modern, any symmetrical draw effect such as Howling Mine works well.

The next combo is best utilized in Modern, where we can take advantage of Intruder Alarm plus Beck and Call. When Beck was first spoiled, the price of Cloudstone Curio immediately shot up to $10.00. Intruder Alarm has the potential to follow that same rise, as it is not immediately apparent which combo piece the Modern Elves deck wants to use in conjunction with Beck. Intruder Alarm works better at creating massive amounts of mana, while Cloudstone Curio is better at drawing extra cards after Beck has been played. Whichever card (or maybe it will be both) ends up getting played in the Elves deck, I expect it will maintain a high value, as Elves was among the most powerful decks in Modern before Glimpse of Nature became banned.

The last combo I’ll write about for today is Death’s Shadow plus Varolz, the Scar-Striped, to be used in Modern. With Varolz in play, any Death’s Shadows that are in the graveyard can be scavenged back to grant a permanent +13/+13 to a creature.

Death's Shadow as of April 23, 2013.
Death’s Shadow as of April 23, 2013.

One good aspect of Death’s Shadow is that you have control over whether you want to play it immediately to see it die for its scavenge counters, or to hold onto it to use as a big creature later on, depending on your situation. I could easily see these cards fitting into a Vengevine deck, along with all the other usual suspects.

One last note for now: Staff of Domination was just unbanned in EDH, so don’t forget to adjust your price accordingly when trading! The foil price, especially, has gone up.