Tag Archives: Finding Value

Picking Through Standard

By Guo Heng Chin

Today we will be deviating from our usual Commander foils to take a look at a few undervalued cards in Standard. I know, the price for the majority of Standard cards have already settled and we are at that time of the year again. No, I am not talking about the holiday season, though I very much look forward to it. I am referring to the annual December Standard price trough, when cards from the fall set experience a set-wide drop in price. December is the month when Magic Online redemptions have hit the market for a couple of weeks, and coupled with two months of heavy drafting (well, the fall set was all we had to draft with) creates the first price bottom of the fall set cards.

If you are looking to acquire the Standard pieces you need for your decks and complete your personal playset of Khans of Tarkir cards, now is a good time to do so. However, I would not move in on specs yet as most of the playable rares and mythics still have room to drop. The Khans will rule for another four more months before the Dragons of Tarkir evict them in March 2015.

Well, most of the rares and mythics anyway. Khans of Tarkir Standard proved to be a reasonably diverse metagame. Just as we thought the Abzan and Mardu decks have established their grip on the Standard landscape, a different clan shook the status quo. Sidisi Reanimator, or Whipdisi for those who prefer a more kinky nomenclature, is not a new kid in town. The deck debuted at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir in the hands of Christian Seibold who missed the cut to top 8 by one win. Seibold then top 8 Grand Prix Stockholm with the same list a few weeks later. The very next week Jund master Willy Edel ravaged through Grand Prix Santiago with Sidisi Reanimator only to have his hot run tragically  ended by manascrew in the top 8. While Sidisi Reanimator possessed a phenomenal matchup against the creature-centric midrange decks, it fell out of favor and was relegated to the depths of tier two, surfacing only occasionally on Magic Online Daily Events.

Hail to the Queen

The new queen of Standard?
The new queen of Standard?

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant came back with a vengeance last weekend, taking down the Star City Games Open in Atlanta and making top 8 of Grand Prix San Antonio. The deck ripped through a field full of Abzan and Mardu midrange decks and turned Standard into Commander games. Sidisi Reanimator is well positioned in the current meta  due to the fact that most creature decks find it difficult to handle a resolved Hornet Queen, let alone multiple recurrences of Hornet Queens with Whip of Erebos.

You can currently buy the Sultai Khan  at $3.10, which is close to bulk mythic. For a mythic that sees play as a four-of in an archetype that is poised to be a tier one deck, $3 feels like the bottom or close to the bottom for Sidisi, Brood Tyrant.

Another reason to be bullish on Sidisi at $3 is the amount of love she has been getting from Commander players. Milling is perpetually popular with the Commander community and Sidisi is the ultimate self-mill commander, who by the way also churns out zombies (tribal fetish alert). Anyone following the Commander scene would have encountered a sheer number of articles written about Sidisi, Brood Tyrant as a commander since she was released. She is also in scoeri’s list of top fifty most played Commander (for the previous year). Granted, her position in the list could be down to the buzz of having a new Commander to tinker with, nevertheless it showed the amount of enthusiasm the Commander community have for Sidisi.

I have hopped on the Sidisi bandwagon myself and built a Sidisi deck. If I am not wrong, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is the first tricolor self-mill commander, and the addition of green to a traditionally blue and black domain opened up a lot of intricate and awesome interactions the deck have access to. The design space for a Sidisi, Brood Tyrant deck is extremely deep, with a plethora of approach to building it (do you want go down the dredge path, or do you want to do a zombie tribal, or a mix of them both, or a Jund-like midrange deck).  Every Sidisi, Brood Tyrant deck exudes its own flavor and I can personally attest that Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is a commander that is both a fun exercise in deck construction and is enjoyable to pilot.

Which brings us back to our original point: Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, a mythic rare that is the engine of a potentially tier one archetype and also a really fun commander to build around, is only $3. I would not go in super deep, but I like the idea of having a few playsets of Sidisi as she is about as low as playable mythics go. If Sidisi Reanimator keeps on posting results, her price would spike. Worse case scenario, if Sidisi Reanimator does not gain widespread adoption (an unlikely outcome in my opinion, seeing how well the deck is positioned against the creature-centric midrange meta Wizards has been not-so-subtly encouraging), Commander demand would drive her price higher than it is now once Khans of Tarkir stops being drafted.

While I am bullish on non-foil copies of Sidisi, I am less so  for foil copies of the Sultai Khan, at least right now. I am confident that foil Sidisi will slowly inch up as with foils of popular commanders, but at $10 she still have room to drop. I would trade for foil copies of Sidisi over the next few months rather than buy them outright. Foil Sidisi is a long-term spec target with the aim of doubling or tripling up within a few years of Khans rotating out.

I have seen a lot of questions regarding the next two cards on the MTGFinance subreddit’s Weekly Ask MTGFinance Anything thread. While they are Standard-legal cards, the driver for their price stems from Modern and/or Legacy.

Laying Siege

The elephant in the room.
The elephant in the room.

The first card is Siege Rhino. What is the financial potential of non-foil and foil Siege Rhinos right now? Non-foil Siege Rhinos are on their way down as with most Khans of Tarkir cards due to the December price trough. I would not spec on them right now and I would only acquire them for my own use if I need them right now (Hey, I can finally afford to play Abzan). Siege Rhino still have some leeway to drop and it is okay to wait a month or two before moving in. Siege Rhino might also be reprinted in upcoming Clash Packs or Event Decks, ala Courser of Kruphix. Wizards has proven over and over again that they will reprint expensive Standard rares to make them more accessible.

The future of foil Siege Rhino is contentious. Foil Siege Rhino demands a hefty price tag due to the amount of play the card sees in Modern. While everyone was clamoring over the perceived warping power Treasure Cruise asserted on Modern, the first post-Khans Modern Grand Prix in Madrid featured more Siege Rhinos in the top 8 than Treasure Cruises. So did the subsequent Star City Games Premier Invitational Qualifier (but not last weekend’s though).

Siege Rhino is the best arsenal Abzan-based decks have against UR Delver and I suspect that played a role in the widespread adoption of Siege Rhino in Modern. If UR Delver were to drop from its current level of dominance, would Abzan and Pod decks still retain their Rhinos? Would Abzan still prefer Siege Rhinos over Dark Confidants in a meta with less Forked Bolt and Lightning Bolt?

Personally, I think those decks would still run a non-zero amount of Siege Rhino. Siege Rhino is the epitome of a value card: it is a Lightning Helix on an undercosted, trampling ⅘ body, exactly the kind of card Abzan and Pod decks love to play.There are not many cards in Modern that trades with Siege Rhino on parity. Regardless of the Delver threat, Siege Rhino is good enough to be included in Modern, I am just not sure if it would still be a four-of in a meta with a different bogeyman.

At $13, foil Siege Rhino has room to grow, but I am not keen on getting foil copies right now. I am inclined to wait and see if Treasure Cruise gets the ban come the Modern Pro Tour early next year.

The second card is Eidolon of the Great Revel. Many Redditors asked whether Eidolon’s price right now makes for a good buy-in. Eidolon of the Great Revel is on a downtrend after its double-spike over the summer and can be picked up today for $6.6.

The Other Broken Red Two Drop

Reveling in its new status as a Modern and Legacy staple.
Reveling in its new status as a Modern and Legacy staple.

Lets see, Eidolon of the Great Revel is a four-of auto-include in Modern and Legacy Burn and it comes from a small spring set (low supply alert). Eidolon has a slim chance of being reprinted anytime soon with its Nyx-ified border and ‘Enchantment Creature’ type unique to Theros. Is Eidolon of the Great Revel a good buy right now? You bet. The card has the hallmark of an eternal card poised for appreciation over the years. It is a good time now to secure your own playset and any extra playsets for investment. Modern Masters II is likely to come out next summer and it would instigate another wave of Modern players. Burn is a budget-friendly entry level deck into Modern and those new players would be looking for their Eidolon of the Great Revels. I am not a fan of waiting until rotation to pick Eidolons up; it seems to be a new trend for Modern staples to not buck in price upon rotation. See Snapcaster Mage and shocklands.

How about foil copies? Eternal players like to foil out their decks don’t they? I am afraid the cruise has left the port a long time ago for foil Eidolon of the Great Revel. If you did not acquire your copies back in June when it was $7 apiece, it is probably best to stay away from speculating on foil Eidolons. I do not think $30 is the ceiling for a foil Modern and Legacy staple from a small spring set, but I have no idea when foil Eidolons would make the next jump and there is a significant opportunity cost at its current buy-in price.

Speaking of Standard cards with Modern application, the last card we will be looking at in this article is another Modern staple with a surprisingly low price right now. I revved up my competitive Magic engine again two weekends ago after a six-month hiatus from competitive Magic, in anticipation for the upcoming PPTQ season. I decided to start out with Caleb Durward’s GR Bees which seemed well positioned against a creature-heavy, midrange-fest of a metagame. And also because I already own most of the cards and I would not have to spend a fortune on getting the cards in real life (for practice) and online (for more practice). When I was purchasing the missing components, I could not believe the price Chord of Calling was going at. I thought the shopkeeper must have got the price for the wrong card!

What Calls?

The best way to call for the cavalry.
The best way to call for the cavalry.

When I took a hiatus from competitive Magic back in June, Chord of Calling was a $40 Modern staple. Now Chord of Calling is just a $4 rare. While Chord of Calling is not as ubiquitous like Eidolon of the Great Revel, it remains an integral piece in Birthing Pod. Chord of Calling may be out of vogue in current Pod lists, but it was not too long ago in Pro Tour Born of the Gods where Jacob Wilson and co.’s Pod list ran three Chord of Calling.

It is a great time to buy into Chord of Calling now. It does not see much Standard play and has fallen out of favor in the current Modern meta, being a bit slow against Delver. Modern’s metagame is constantly in flux and Chord of Calling could easily be a $10 card (and that me being conservative with my prediction) before the end of next year, with a much higher long-term value.

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A Retrospective

By Guo Heng Chin

In Magic finance, you win some and you lose some, as with playing the game of Magic itself. Today, instead of foraging for undervalued cards, I am casting a retrospective glance over my three years of dabbling in Magic finance and dig through my speculation history for my hits and misses and the lessons I have learned from them.

Liquidity Matters

My first successful spec was Blazing Shoal during Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011, where Modern made its debut as a Pro Tour format. Blazing Shoal Infect was the breakout deck amid a field of turn three Storm decks; it was able to consistently win on turn two and was far more resilient than Storm. Blazing Shoal put Sam Black on the top 8 of that Pro Tour and if I recall correctly, he executed a turn two kill on camera, not something Wizards was particularly impressed with for a format they were trying to nurture.

I snagged a few playsets of Blazing Shoal online at near bulk before they ran out. I was ecstatic when they spiked 300% over the Pro Tour weekend. The cards arrived the week after and I started listing them on eBay.

It was my first time selling specs on eBay. I initially listed all of them under one listing with a set Buy It Now price. They did not sell well. I thought that due to the sheer number of available copies I listed, there were no urgency for viewers to buy them. So I took the listing down, and started listing my Burning Shoals as playsets with a seven-day auction. People prefer auctions don’t they? Then it dawned upon me that listing multiple playsets of the same card made me my own competitor and thinned out the list of potential bidders for each listing.

In the end I decided to list one playset per week. I did not get to my second playset when the banhammer fell upon Blazing Shoal.

Understanding your avenues for liquidity is as important as knowing when to move into a spec as it is the other half of the alchemic equation to transmute your specs into cash.  It is imperative to ensure that the the quantity of your specs correspond to your ability to move them.

Blazing fast profits. Blazing fast losses.
My reaction when they banned Blazing Shoal and I still have a stack of unsold Blazing Shoals.

Back then in London, there were not many local shops to buylist my cards and I was not aware of peer-to-peer outlets like MagicCardMarket.eu. The idea of sending my cards to major retailers in the United States did not occurred to me as well, the Magic finance noob I was back then. So I defaulted to eBay, which was probably not the wisest choice to move a large amount of cards fast.

What Jace Thought Me

Jace redesigned the Hallowed Fountain you see in Return to Ravnica with his architecture degree.
Jace redesigned the Hallowed Fountain you see in Return to Ravnica with his architecture degree.

Jace, Architect of Thought holds a sweet spot in my memory of Magic specs. Up till today, he was the only spec that made me money not once, but twice.

The first time Jace made me cash was down to some not insignificant amount of luck. I recall discussing Jace in my local Magic Facebook group when he was first spoiled. I was pretty bullish on him, my argument being that he is a mini Fact or Fiction on a stick and he protects himself. Others were not so enthusiastic, some even relegated him to the financial wasteland of being only playable in Commander (that was back before Commander were a driving force of card price). After all, his plus one ability gets better with more opponents, no?

I kept Jace on my eBay watchlist for a few days before pulling the trigger on a presale playset at $25 each, afraid that if I waited any longer, he will be start to spike, as with most presale cards. But four days later, Jace, who is now an architect rather than a sculptor, not only not see an increase in presale price, but is now available at $21.99. I bought another playset.

Less than a month later, when Return to Ravnica was barely legal for a week, Todd Anderson took down an StarCityGames Standard Open with UWR Miracles running a full four copies of Jace, Architect of Thought. The deck was a one-shot pony, but I am sure most of you recall the resulting spike where Jace shot up to $50 for a brief period of time. The nature of Magic price spikes is that it happens fast, but it takes a while to tank. It was not until mid-December before Jace fell below twenty. I cashed out my extra playset of Architect of Thought for $40 apiece, covering most of the cost of my own playset.

That was mostly luck; buying in at $25 hoping to make a profit will only work if the card spikes to $40 – 50, and I suspect Jace was only able to do that on the virtue of being a new card on top of being played as a four-of in the winning deck of the first major Standard tournament after the set rotated in. The more financially savvy me in 2014 would not advocate buying a presale Planeswalker at $25 as a spec (though Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is wagging his dragon tail at my face for not investing in a few of him at presale price. A point of consideration: it might be worth acquiring marquee Planeswalkers at presale price for your own personal use. You would have saved quite a lot buying your personal playset of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker at their presale prices).

While the first time Jace made me some bucks could be attributed to a decent amount of luck, the second time Jace turned me a hefty profit was not.

About a month into Return to Ravnica Standard, a Japanese tech surfaced: UWR tempo running Thundermaw Hellkite alongside Geist of Saint Traft and Restoration Angel. Thundermaw Hellkite worked marvelously in tandem with Geist of Saint Traft: nine unstoppable damage in the air out of nowhere. Geist on turn three, Restoration Angel on turn four and Thundermaw for the lethal alpha strike on turn five happened quite a lot.

Shortly after that, in mid-November 2012, Jon Bolding and Tyler Lytle took down two Standard Grand Prix one week after another, both running BR Big Zombies featuring three Thundermaw Hellkites. The dragon has awaken.

How to Train Your Thundermaw Hellkite was a popular film amongst PTQ grinders.
How to Train Your Thundermaw Hellkite was a popular film amongst PTQ grinders.

Jace did not do well in a meta where Thundermaw Hellkite was the king of the skies. It got worse when Tom Martell took down Pro Tour Gatecrash with The Aristocrats and the deck became a tier one mainstay for the rest of Return to Ravnica Standard. Turn four Jace, Architect of Thought was not impressive when your opponent followed up with a Falkenrath Aristocrat and/or Thundermaw Hellkite.

So Jace’s price tanked and tanked further. By April 2013, Jace hit rock bottom at $10. During the following months, I bought and traded for Jaces at $10 – $12 apiece. He was too good to warrant a price tag that low. Furthermore, Jace was the most played card in the top 8 of the Block Constructed Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze. That is some convincing data.

Unable to perform his mind tricks, Jace was down in the dumps during the spring of 2013.
Unable to perform his mind tricks, Jace was down in the dumps during the spring of 2013.

True enough, in October 2013 when the Hellkites and Aristocrats rotated out and Theros rotated in, Jace spiked. UW Control with four Jaces piloted by Max Tietze took second place at the first major Standard tournament. Pro Tour Theros that followed saw 16 Jaces in the top 8 decks.

Jace significantly subsidised my entry into Theros Standard. Trading Jaces for Stormbreath Dragons and Elspeth, Sun’s Champions allowed me to play most tier one decks during a period when I was unemployed.

The biggest take home message I got from my affair with Jace was to trust my own analysis of a card, even though it goes against the market sentiment, as long as my conclusions are derived from solid reasoning (as opposed to a hunch) and preferably, data. I know, it sounds like a protip, but it is not easy to pull the trigger on a card you know has potential to be worth more than it currently is when the market thinks otherwise.

My reasoning for Jace, Architect of Thought were as follows: He is competitively costed and protects himself. Sounds good. He is a versatile card with abilities you would like to have in both aggro and midrange/control matchups and are useful to catch up or to seal the deal when you are ahead. That makes Jace a candidate for multiple copies in decks that run him. I am getting convinced.

He is a mini Fact or Fiction on a stick.

take my money meme

Sometimes the market undervalues a card because the metagame is unfavorable to the card. Thundermaw Hellkite pushed the boundary for the acceptable power level of creatures (back in my days, you had to sacrifice two mountains for an undercosted dragon and you don’t even get Haste) but yet dropped to $10 in the first six months of its Standard legal life. No one wanted to tap five for a creature in a field of Vapor Snag and Snapcaster Mage for more Vapor Snag. Once Vapor Snag rotated out, it was only a matter of time before someone figured out that jamming multiple Thundermaw Hellkites in a deck was the way to go.

Another factor to keep in mind is that it takes a while for the Magic community to appreciate the power of new cards. Courser of Kruphix started out as a $5 rare even though it is a value engine in a single card at three casting cost. It took a month for Courser to hit $10 and three to hit $20.

I was a little late to the party, having bought my Coursers at $7. My arguments were that Courser has three useful abilities and is in a set that is not going to be opened a lot. Courser also had potential in Modern with its four toughness and synergy with fetchlands, Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant. So while people were still trying out Courser in both Standard and Modern, I was busy buying Coursers.

Eidolon of the Great Revel went through the same journey into profitabilty. It has a fairly unique ability, which made it hard to evaluate. I totally misunderstood the ability the first time I read it, before I realised the card has the potential to be absolutely devastating in Modern and Legacy where most cards cost three or less mana. But Eidolon of the Great Revel was not seeing any play at all. At least in the first few months of its existence.

The turning point for me to buy in was hearing Zac Hill discuss Eidolon of the Great Revel in a Brainstorm Brewery set review episode where he mentioned something along the lines of Eidolon of the Great Revel having a unique design and he has no idea how to price it. At that time, Eidolon was around $2. That is certainly not the price for as cross-format playable card with a unique design. I bought a few playsets at $2 and threw into the card three foil copies at $7 each.

In retrospect I should have bought a playset of foils instead of just three. Foils of Modern and Legacy staples are worth a lot I hear.

Wide Applications

Sometimes even though my analysis and playtesting showed that a card is more powerful than its market price indicted, there are still factors that could limit the growth of the card. Duskmantle Seer proved to be a beast during playtesting using the Sultai shell which briefly made waves when it was featured on the mothership after taking down a Brazilian WMCQ. Duskmantle Seer’s symmetrical effect was mitigated by the fact that you get to use the extra card first, and you could design your deck to have a lower curve to reduce the damage you take. His 4/4 flying body and ability to force your opponent to take damage off his Dark Confidant clause provided a good clock.

But Duskmantle Seer did not take off.

The seer failed to see the future of his price trajectory.
The seer failed to see the future of his price trajectory.

In retrospect, it seemed obvious why Duskmantle Seer had a narrow chance of spiking. His blue and black mana requirement greatly reduced the range of decks that could run him. I do not think that being multicolored made it a bad spec; Sphinx’s Revelation had an explosive growth. I think the death knell for Duskmantle was the fact that he was only optimal in decks designed to mitigate his Dark Confidant clause, thus further limiting the range of decks that runs him.

After all, a card’s price is a function of its playability.

Future Sight

While it’s painful to get burned on a spec, they provide valuable data we could use to fine tune our approach to reduce our failure rate in future specs. Of course, no one could predict for certain what card will spike next. The best we could do is position ourselves to have the best chance of striking it, very much like playing competitive Magic.

And maybe hope a little.

Beck Call Tweet
I’m waiting to convert my stack of Beck/Call into a fully-foiled Daretti Commander deck.


Hunting for Commander Foils: Artifact Part II

By: Guo Heng Chin

Welcome back readers! This is the second part of the Hunting for Commander Foils series where we evaluate foil Commander staples to see if they hold any financial potential. You can find the first part here. Today we shall continue where last week’s article left off, shiny artifacts.

Taking into account the comments I have received for the first article in the series, I am going to slightly alter the format of the discussion. The first article was written in a pseudo-set review style in an attempt to cover as many cards as possible by working down the list used to rank the popularity of the cards. While I eschewed foils that are too expensive (no point harping about a $118 foil Sensei’s Divining Top if the majority of readers would not be willing to spend that much for it) or are stagnant price-wise, I covered foil staples that are already relatively expensive like Solemn Simulacrum.

My intention were to evaluate if it is worth acquiring your personal copy of those cards even though they may not be good spec targets anymore. However, it gave the impression that the article was discussing ships that have already sailed. Plus it seemed that a set review style would be too long-winded; last week’s article barely made its way down the top ten cards.

So I am opting for a more succinct approach this week: I shall focus only on the foil Commander staples on the list that are undervalued, a topic I think readers of this column prefer.

Before we get to the cards for this week, an obligatory shout-out to the super useful database in which we will be extracting our cards from:

50 shades of colorless.
50 shades of colorless by scoeri. This joke never gets old.

The list comes from an extensive Commander statistics database created and maintained by MTGSalvation.com EDH Primer Committee member scoeri. Every month, scoeri runs a script which trawls mtgsalvation.com for user-posted Commander decklists and breaks them down into various categories, giving an invaluable snapshot of the Commander metagame. You can find the lists here under the forum post Statistical Breakdown of the Commander Metagame. The database was last updated on 31 October 2014 with 3023 decks from 1473 users (decks posted or updated from 31 October 2013 – 31 October 2014). I am indebted to scoeri for the awesome database.

As with last week, we will be using the colorless list for the purpose of this article as the list includes artifact creatures while the artifact list only contains noncreature artifacts. Last week, we made our way down the list to Expedition Map. This week, the criteria will be stricter and we shall only discuss artifacts that possess financial potential. We will be skipping over popular, obvious and already sailed artifacts like Chromatic Lantern and focus on foil staples that are still cheap like this sacrificial deer:

Hart of Gold

Hart of gold.
Any more burnishing and you’ll scrape off  the foiling.

Foil Theros: $1.12

Number of Foil Printings: 1

The humble draft mana fixer, Burnished Hart has been getting a lot of love on the EDH subreddit and it is easy to see why: most Commander decks would like to have access to mana-fixing, and a double Rampant Growth on a bear (bear-hart) that fits into decks of any color has the making of a Commander staple, if it is not already one. Though more expensive than Armillary Sphere in casting and activation cost, the fact that Burnished Hart is a creature gives it synergy with a wider range of strategies: besides the usual artifact recurrence with Academy Ruins, it can be reanimated,  pulled out from your bottom (of your deck, hopefully most of the time) with Grenzo, Dungeon Warden, it triggers Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (which by the way has been growing in popularity as a Commander) and many more interactions a humble Armillary Sphere is not capable of.

Theros is still a Standard-legal set, but going for slightly more than $1, I see only upside for foil Burnished Hart. While I do not think foil Burnished Hart will grow to the double digit price of other common artifact mana-fixers like Dimir Signet and Azorius Signet due to the significantly larger print run of modern day sets like Theros, I am confident that foil Burnished Hart will exceed the price of other common rarity foil artifact mana-fixers on the top fifty list like Wayfarer’s Bauble, which is already less popular than Burnished Hart as of writing and is going for $3.81. The shiny fawn will take a while to become a full-fledged hart, get it now when Theros is abundant in supply and foil Burnished Harts are aplenty in bulk foil boxes before it becomes a $4 – $5 card. I know I am getting some myself.

Trading Cards in a Game of Trading Cards

Trading cards in a game of trading cards.
Where do you play a trading card game? Why, at the trading post of course!

M13 Foil: $2.79

M14 Foil: $1.98

Number of Foil Printings: 2

Trading Post is the Batman’s utility belt in Commander. Need to block a rampaging 12/12 Hydra Broodmaster? Here’s a goat. Need more lands? Sacrifice that goat of yours who is going to die anyway to get back your Wayfarer’s Bauble. Need more gas? Sac that worn out Worn Powerstone to further fuel your conquest. Life’s got you down? Toss away that 10th land you drew for 4 life.

Trading Post feels a bit like a Planeswalker in the sense that it generates incremental card advantage once per turn when it hits the board. Of course, I’m not claiming that Trading Post is anywhere near the power level of a Planeswalker (maybe except Tibalt) but it ekes you advantage over a prolonged game, and most Commander games tend to go long.

Trading Post is a Swiss Army knife that most Commander decks could find use for and yet foils of it could be acquired for less than $2. Granted M14 has just rotated out and being printed in both M13 and M14 created a huge supply. Nevertheless $2 is pretty close to bulk for foil rares, what more for a popular Commander rare. I suspect foil Trading Post will become one of those foil rares that surprises people when they look up its price a few years down the road. There’s always a risk of reprint, but at $2, how much can you lose? Plus foils do retain their value better than normal copies.

Foil Trading Post have a lot of room to grow, though I doubt it will be able to hit foil Staff of Domination prices due to Trading Post’s higher supply and the fact that Staff is ran as a one-of in Legacy and Vintage MUD decks (not that Vintage counts for much). However I do think that foil Trading Posts could hit $8 – $10 in the coming years.

Trading Post is also a pretty fun card to play, and its appeal as a ‘one-stop shop’ probably contributes to its popularity among the casual crowd. Did I mentioned, Trading Post has synergy with the artifact creature Burnished Hart too?

Signets That Shine

The most expensive foil signet of them all.
The most expensive foil signet of them all.
The cheapest foil signet of the lot.
The cheapest foil signet of the lot.

Ravnica Block Foils: $2.51  – $14.58

The cycle of signets from the original Ravnica block are some of the most popular artifact mana fixers in Commander, with four of them in the top fifty most played colorless cards list (five if you refer to the artifacts list).

But their prices are starkly different. You have foil Dimir Signet at $14 and foil Azorius Signet at $10. Foil Izzet Signet is around $7 and the rest are under $5. A foil Gruul Signet is a measly $2.51 and foil Selesnya Signet is no better at $3.16. They all have seen the same number of foil printings. So why the huge price gap between the most and least expensive signet?

The price pattern shows that the signets with green in them are the cheapest of the lot. Perhaps already having access to plenty of mana fixing, green-based decks do not run signets as much as the non-green decks do.

A quick glance through another database by scoeri breaking down the statistically average composition of the decks of the top fifty commanders validated the hypothesis. The green-based decks rarely included signets in their list, while the non-green decks often ran all the signets their color identity allows. Furthermore, the four signets in the top fifty most played colorless cards list (and the fifth signet if you count the artifacts list) are all non-green.

That makes the green-based foil signets a bad investment, regardless of how cheap they currently are. However foil Rakdos Signet and foil Orzhov Signet seem to be significantly lower than the other four non-green signets; they the only non-green foil signets available for under $5 but they see similar amount of play with the two most expensive signets, Dimir Signet and Azorius Signet. Boros Signet sees less play than both Rakdos Signet and Orzhov Signet and is $6.

Check out the top fifty most popular commanders over the past year, from the same database referred to by this article:

The real Hall of Triumph. The Journey into Nyx one was a knock-off.
The real Hall of Triumph. The Journey into Nyx one was a knock-off.

As mentioned above, most of the non-green decks run all the signets their color identity allows.  From the list we can see that popular non-green decks running Dimir Signet and/or Azorius Signet tend to also run Rakdos Signet (Nekusar, the Mindrazer, Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge, Marchesa, the Black Rose) and Orzhov Signet (Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, Sydri, Galvanic Genius, Kaalia of the Vast, Sharuum the Hegemon).

These Ravnican guild signets did not appear in Return to Ravnica and each signet bears the name of their respective guilds, so it is highly unlikely for the signets cycle to see a foil printing outside another visit to Ravnica, which probably would not happen within the next five years or so, a.k.a. a long, long time. So far they have been reprinted in Commander and Archenemy, both non-foil supplementary products.

I am of opinion that Rakdos Signet and Orzhov Signet are mispriced and are due for a market correction.


With the signets, we conclude the artifact segment of Hunting for Commander Foils series. Do comment on if you’ve enjoyed the approach I took for this article, and any suggestions for future articles are more than welcomed. You can find me @theguoheng or just drop a comment here.

Join me next week as I discuss the epic fails (and whatever little wins) I have experienced throughout my time in Magic finance and the lessons I have learnt from them. In the mean time, I can’t wait to finally unpack that Built from Scratch deck I have purchased over the weekend but have yet to find time to bring it out for a test run. Artifacts for the win!


Hunting for Commander Foils: Artifact Part I

By: Guo Heng Chin

Commander 2014 is dawning upon us in just a few days, and it is exciting times for Commander players. While the new Commander cards have been discussed extensively, Commander is a deep format and there are a treasure trove of potentially undervalued cards in the format. Welcome to the first article in the Hunting for Commander Foils series. The series will comb through some of the most popular Commander cards to discover undervalued Commander foils.

Why Foils You Say?

I mean everyone. Including that kitchen table kid who have never once ventured out.
I mean everyone. Including that kitchen table kid who have never once ventured out.

Besides, foils provide an extra layer of insulation against reprints. Take Solemn Simulacrum for example: the artifact incarnate of Jens Thorén was printed three times but the original Mirrodin foil with Jens Thorén’s face on it still demands a hefty $26.78, while the faceless art foil from M12 is currently at $15.15.

Most popular Commander cards are at risk of being reprinted in the now annual Commander preconstructed decks. The Commander preconstructed decks will not contain any foils, so your foil Solemn Simulacrums have a better likelihood of retaining their value compared with their non-foil versions.

Artifact Power

I for one am excited for the red deck from Commander 2014, Built from Scratch. It is the most artifact-centric deck of all five Commander 2014 precons and I have an affinity for artifacts due to the nostalgia they evoke: I first picked up Magic during Urza’s Block, the era when artifacts were broken. That was the time of Kai Budde’s explosive Mono Red Artifact Wildfire deck that exploits the likes of Grim Monolith and Voltaic Key to generate insane amount of mana before locking out your opponent’s lands with Wildfire and Mishra’s Helix. A bit selfish, I know. But hey, there can only be one winner in every game of Magic. Oh, the deck beats its opponent to death with a dragon as well.  It couldn’t get any sweeter than that.

The following year featured two Mono Blue Artifact Tinker decks in an epic World Championship finals showdown between Jon Finkel and Bob Maher. Their decks ran a similar artifact acceleration package and land disruption as per Kai Budde’s Mono Red Artifact Wildfire, except they win via Tinkering for Phyrexian Colossus or 19/19 Phyrexian Processor tokens.

While I started kitchen table Magic during Urza’s Block, my foray into Magic beyond the kitchen table began during Mirrodin. I have fond memories of splurging out my hand on turn one with Affinity. I never won much though; mirror matches were particularly difficult for a newbie like me. Its complicated board states and mind-boggling combat math with Disciple of the Vaults, artifact lands and Atogs were just too much to handle. And there were a lot of Affinity mirror matches. However, playing aggro never felt better than the few months Skullclamp was legal. Fair enough, the Affinity era was not the epitome of a healthy competitive metagame, but it sure ranks as one of the most overpowered meta in Magic’s history.

Wizards has gotten better with their balancing act these days but artifacts still evoke a sense of forlorn in me, as a subset of cards that used to possess so much power, but is now powered down, nullified in the modern era of Magic. Nevertheless artifacts still play a crucial role in Magic’s most popular casual format, Commander. By virtue of their colorlessness, artifacts fit into any Commander decks, providing a slew of off-color abilities like ramp, card selection, life gain, sacrifice outlets and now even taking extra turns to decks that usually do not have access to them.

Today’s article will discuss the financial potential of some of the most popular artifacts played in Commander. MTGSalvation.com EDH Primer Committee member scoeri have been running a pretty nifty script which trawls the site for user-posted Commander decklists and breaks down most played cards in various configurations. scoeri shared the list under the forum post Statistical Breakdown of the Commander Metagame (highly recommended for anyone interested in Commander stats). The database covers decks from the previous twelve months and is updated monthly, with the last count taking place on 31 October 2014. The database currently contains 3023 decks from 1473 users (decks posted or updated from 31 October 2013 – 31 October 2014). Shout-out to scoeri for the awesome database.

Here’s a snapshot of the top 50 colorless cards most played in Commander.

50 shades of colorless.
50 shades of colorless by scoeri, as seen on mtgsalvation.com.

I chose the colorless list rather than the artifacts list as the colorless one includes artifact creatures. The list is exhaustive and for the sake of space and brevity, this article will cherry pick cards which financial relevancy could be discussed. While Sol Ring tops the list, there is not much to say about it as Sol Ring was reprinted to death in every single Commander decks Wizards release. Gilded Lotus and Darksteel Ingot are both in the top 10, but they are relatively cheap and stagnant over the years for the same reasons. The cards discussed are also preferably legal in both Multiplayer Commander and Duel Commander so there is a larger market for the foil version of the card, but exceptions could be made for extremely popular cards in either format.

Lastly, the foils discussed are still within affordable range for most players to acquire: Sensei’s Divining Top is the fourth most-played artifact, but a foil Champions of Kamigawa copy has a price tag of $118 and a From the Vaults: Exiled foil sets you back $53. There is not much point expounding the virtues of a foil that only a small segment of readers could afford.

The Top Dogs

I solemnly swear to be in each and every one of your Commander decks.
I solemnly swear to be in each and every one of your Commander decks.

Mirrodin Foil: $26.78

M12 Foil: $15.15

No. of Foil Printings: 2

The second most popular artifact in the list, lagging behind only Sol Ring. While the foil price for the original Mirrodin version have been stagnant, the foil M12 copy have been slowly trending up in price since the start of 2014. Originally a blue-green card, Solemn Simulacrum gives decks access to two important abilities which are almost universally desired by any Commander decks: blue’s cantripping, and green’s mana ramp and color fixing. It comes with no surprise that Solemn Simulacrum is played in 32% of the Commander decks tallied by scoeri.

Verdict: $15 is a bit steep as a spec target. However I would like to get my own foil copy or copies at $15. I personally would not get the $27 Mirrodin copy, but I am sure there are some diehard pimpers out there who would prefer the original art.

For lightning speed kicks.
For lightning speed kicks.

Mirrodin Foil: $19.41

FNM Foil: $17.99

No. of Foil Printings: 2

Third down the list, being played in 31% of the decks counted, Lightning Greaves is a staple in Commander decks built around a Commander that attacks, have an activated ability that requires tapping or is a combo piece.

Verdict: I do not like like Lightning Greaves as a spec or acquisition at $18. Lightning Greaves would be hard pressed to see another foil printing as Wizards is replacing shroud with hexproof. Furthermore, players unwilling to splash $18 – $20 for a pair of shoes might just opt for a pair of $5 foil Swiftfoot Boots.

Used to be +1/+2.
Was supposed to be +1/+2.

Darksteel Foil: $16.76

From the Vault: Exiled Foil: $14.98

No. of Foil Printings: 2

Skullclamp is one of the reasons why I love my Purphoros, God the Tokens and Prossh, Kobold Babymaker Commander decks. One mana, sacrifice a token, draw two cards ranks as one of the best guilty pleasures of running a tokens deck. While not nearly as ubiquitous as Solemn Simulacrum, Skullclamp is played in 25% of the Commander decks counted.

Verdict: $15 is a steep entry for a spec, but unlike Solemn Simulacrum foils, we are unlikely to see another printing of foil Skullclamp. Skullclamp was a mistake and is extremely unlikely to see another reprint outside the Commander decks, which contains no foils. Darksteel’s print run is likely to be significantly lower than the current print run of Standard sets, and FTV:Exiled is a limited edition product.

Also unlike foil Lightning Greaves, there is no other card that achieves the same effect (or even close to) as Skullclamp. If you can get any copies at $15 now, go get it.

Select your expedition! Adventure guaranteed, survival no so much.
Select your expedition! Adventure guaranteed, survival no so much.

Zendikar Foil: $13.35

No. of Foil Printings: 1

Expedition Map grants the power to search for any lands to any deck. And its pretty cheap to activate. Most Commander decks run utility lands, be it Cavern of Souls to make your Commander uncounterable, or Academy Ruins to recur incessant artifacts. Expedition Map is a $13 foil common, a price also buoyed by Modern Tron.

Verdict: Unlike the other cards discussed above, the price of foil Expedition Map is at risk of being tanked by a reprint. It is a common, which means a reprint will see a larger influx of foil copies than the cards discussed above. Lightning Greaves and Skullclamp are uncommons but their ability makes unlikely to be reprinted, while Expedition Map’s ability could fit anywhere. Its status as a Modern Tron staple is double edged: while it keeps the price high, it also means that foils of the card could be reprinted en masse not just in normal sets, but also in Modern Masters II.

We are just scraping the tip of the list, stay tuned next week for the second part of Hunting for Commander Foils: Artifacts.