Tag Archives: Jim Casale

Grinder Finance – Holy announcements, Batman!


So you get all that?  Wizards of the Coast is now moving to a new product announcement schedule (once in the spring and once in the fall) and announcing the whole next block and supplemental products.  What does that mean for us?  Well there won’t be any speculation or leaks coming before anyone would otherwise know.  If there’s a Modern Masters 2017 (as many assume), we will find out in September.

kaladesh logo

Well what do we know about Kaladesh?

chandra nalaar

It’s the home plane of Chandra Nalaar.  Presumably she will be the focal point of the story.

HangarbackThopter Spy

These cards are also from Kaladesh.  The blue and red thopter themed cards from Magic Origins give us a glimpse into what kind of world Kaladesh will probably be.

kaladesh art book

This art piece from the art book shows a very steam punk feeling with an unusual mechanical elephant.  While I can only hope that elephant is some how the reincarnation of Siege Rhino, it is clear there will be  heavy artifact theme in Kaladesh.  Clue tokens will be particularly useful if there is a mechanic that cares about how many artifacts you have.  Examples are Affinity for Artifacts and Metalcraft, the former of which is almost certainly not in the set.  Outside of artifact synergies and some colorless synergies I don’t know what else may come from the set.


Intro Packs/Planeswalker Decks

That’s not the only thing Kaladesh is bringing us.  Planeswalker decks (mock up pictured above) are going to replace Intro Packs for new sets starting with Kaladesh.  These decks will be similar to the 30 card starter packs that are given for free to new players.  The two decks will be 2 color themed Planeswalker decks and include 4 new cards not available in the corresponding expansion set.  In Mark Rosewater’s article, here, he explains that these cards should not be good enough to see competitive play but rather be very flashy for casual play.  I think it’s only a matter of time before a planeswalker in these decks is just a tiny bit too strong and it will be very expensive.  Preconstructed decks being the only source of a card has bit Wizards of the Coast in the butt before.  True-Name Nemesis was the worst case scenario where it was only included in 1 of 5 decks (and you have to order cases in sets of 5 decks).  While these cards may not be financially relevant upon release, I would recommend looking to pick these planeswalkers up casually in trade because there is definitely a lot of collector value for Planeswalkers even if they’re not good.

Fat Packs

Fat packs are also being renamed to “Set Bundles.”  Starting with Kaladesh bundle, there is a slight increase in MSRP (to $43) and a few more boosters (up to 10 now) but not much else changes.  I don’t think this will make this any more or less attractive of a buy. Nonetheless, it is important to note the changes.


Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis

The next duel deck was announced.  Unfortunately they did not include either of the Planeswalker cards outside of the new art.  I have to imagine that these decks will include Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Ob Nixilis, Reignited but Wizards has suprised me before on lesser things.  At this point I don’t think you fire sale your Nissas or Ob Nixilis because they will still Presumably be very good until the release of the duel deck in 4 months.  Walker vs Walker duel decks typically sell better than Stuff vs Guys duel decks but both walkers see enough play they won’t tank.


Commander 2016 was announced to have 4 color commanders.  That’s about it.  I wouldn’t recommend buying Nephilim (the only 4 color cards) because they’re not particularly good even if you’re playing those colors.  Commander is Jason Alt’s forte so I will leave it to him to update you later in the week on things to pick up in preparation.


There’s some weird cards in Planechase.  It has the original printings of Baleful Strix and Shardless Agent.  Outside of those two, not many competitive cards are from Planechase.  I wouldn’t expect any influx of expensive Legacy or Modern cards but if you need some weird stuff for your cube from these sets I would wait.  I think it’s entirely possible that Shardless Agent ends up in this or the Commander release this year.


Guys, they’re getting rid of the “Ae” compound letter (that was previously used on cards like Æther Flash).  That’s pretty much all of the news for this set.  We don’t know a whole lot about Kaladesh so I am not going to even begin to speculate on a set we know even less about.

This Weekend

If you play a lot of Modern and don’t own Grafdigger’s Cages yet you will be very sad very soon.  The Modern Open in Indianapolis sported 22 copies in the top 32 decks.  That is the 10th most popular card in an extremely diverse field and the 2nd most popular dedicated sideboard card after Nature’s Claim.  This is a rare from Dark Ascension so the supply will be low enough to see a quick and violent price correction soon.  It allows any deck to cheaply interact with Nahiri, flashback (Snapcaster Mage and Lingering Souls), Chord of Calling, Collected Company, and Goryo’s Vengeance.

Nahiri is still the top of the heap as a the fastest way to win a game in Modern.  She’s got a very flexible removal mode, decent card selection ability, and an ultimate that wins the game almost instantly.  I don’t expect to see her south of $20 anytime soon so if you need copies to play  I don’t expect to get them cheap until December.  With Modern PPTQ season creeping up you may be best served investing sooner than later as we hit the 3 set stride which will cause less Shadows over Innistrad to be opened.

If Modern isn’t your thing, Standard is pretty cheap right now.  I played a sub $300 deck to the top 8 of the SCG Classic in Indianapolis last weekend.  I could have probably won if I didn’t have to get to the airport to get home.  As long as you don’t want to play Grixis Control or GW Tokens, most decks can be built for $300 or less which is a far cry from the “Grand Standard” with fetch lands.  If you’d like to play my list, you can find it here.


Grinder Finance – Toronto & Milwaukee Analysis

Last weekend had Grand Prix Toronto won by Esper Dragons (notably the only copy to day 2 according to the day 2 breakdown here).  The SCG Standard Classic (which is notably much smaller than an Open) was taken down by a very odd Naya Midrange deck.  What does this do to the future of Standard prices?  Well there weren’t a lot of colors in the top decks.  That’s for sure.

nissa voice of zendikargideon ally of z

Nissa and Gideon combine for the one-two planeswalker punch that currently support the G/W tokens deck.  In Toronto, there were 10 G/W Tokens in the Top 32 and Gideon was played outside of that deck.  The top 32 had 40 copies of Nissa and 60 copies of Gideon.  That’s a lot for planeswalkers who prices have barely budged since the Pro Tour.  This pair of walkers are from the same block so I think it would be wise to invest in them as they won’t rotate until next April.   I think we will see them to continue to creep up by $0.30 per day until they pop.  Nobody is noticing their slow ascension but once people do it will cause a price correction.


Next on our list of enemies is Tarmo…. I mean Sylvan Advocate.  This card was the highest played card on the weekend.  It showed up in staggering numbers at Toronto (69 copies in 32 decks) and almost as equally impressive numbers in Milwaukee (29 copies in 16 decks).  It has already had a dominant rise the weekend of the Pro Tour but it keeps showing up in numbers suggesting it might be one of the best cards in Standard.  It’s rare but possible for rares to hold values as high as $10-12 and this might be one of them.  Oath of the Gatewatch was a small set so there may not be a terribly large number of them in the wild.  If you are thinking of getting these to play with, you don’t have much to gain by waiting.  Advocate is showing up in multiple different types of deck lists and is a recipe for a fast rising rare.

Dromoka's CommanddeclarationinstoneOath of Nissa

These three cards show up across multiple archtypes.  Oath of Nissa is in G/W Tokens and G/R ramp decks.  Declaration in Stone is played in White Humans, Bant Company, and G/W Tokens.  Dromoka’s Command is having a last minute revival as the main form of removal for G/W Tokens and Bant Company.  I’m not terribly interested in buying into Declaration which seems to be finally dropping in price as supply increases and Dromoka’s Command that rotates in September.  Oath of Nissa feels like the type of card that will continue to be good card filtering into the next block and worth a pick up at $2.

archangel avacyn

Turns out there is an amount of extra text you can throw onto a Serra Angel to make it good.  Archangel Avacyn rounds out the best performing cards of the weekend putting 73 copies into 48 decklists this weekend.  There is apparently no stopping this train but the true value lies in the difficult of opening flip mythics.  Without MTGO redemption kicking in yet, we are unlikely to see a reprieve in Avacyn’s price.  It’s possible it might still not move that much given how much more the redemption supply will affect regular mythics instead of flip cards.  If you’re not a Standard player you can probably find a much better time to pick this up.  I’d estimate by the holidays of 2016 she will be a $10-15 card.


Thopter Foundryancestral vision

0 copies in the Top 8 of this open.  Some decks in the Top 32 played a few copies of Ancestral Vision but Thopter Foundry is no where to be found.  I think it’s almost safe to say that the Thopter Foundry unbanning is doing less than the Wild Nacatl unban.  If you’re holding copies of these hoping they will go up I think it’s time to sell.  I wouldn’t expect them to do anything but drop from here.

collected company card

This card is dominating Standard and Modern and has seen a big resurgence from it’s all time low during the release of the event deck including it.  If you’re a Modern player I would strongly recommending to wait for this to rotate before buying in.  I’m not sure it will continue to hold it’s current price tag.  It’s one of the few cards in the Abzan Company deck you play more than 1 of but that doesn’t mean it will maintain it’s $25 price tag.  If you want to play them in Standard and Modern I would rather buy foil copies.  There are a lot less of them out there and they’re unlikely to see as large of a collapse when Company rotates.


Final thoughts:

  • I’m going on a grinding binge.  I’ll be at GP NYC this weekend and hope to pick up some sweet deals at the vendors.
  • Green is really good in Standard.  We need to stop underestimating it.
  • White removal is still insane.

Grinder Finance – Pro Tour announcements and You

So I want to start out by once again recommending to everyone this same piece of advice:

Don’t buy cards during the Pro Tour.

No seriously, hear me out.  Let me tell you a story about what happened on Friday.  I woke up groggy and read my twitter feed with one eye open.  The other one wasn’t ready to get up.  I noticed that people were talking about the Pro Tour.  Apparently Jon Finkel had a feature match next.  I, like any fan of the game decided it was worth getting up for.  After trying to get up, I decided to settle for watching with one eye on my phone.  Twitch has done wonderful things for our community, don’t you think?  After I muted the casters, I began to piece together what Jon was doing.  Dark Petition for Seasons Past every turn seemed pretty sweet.  I remembered I had pre-ordered some Dark Petitions, you know like a year ago.  I also had drafted a large number of Seasons Past (Drafters at my LGS just really don’t like green).

A quick check showed that Dark Petition was $1.50 on Thursday.  At that moment, there were none available of either card on the major online retailers that I ordered cards from and just a tiny number of sellers left on TCG Player.  Naturally I listed my eight Dark Petitions for $8 each and Seasons Past for $12 each and they sold almost instantly.  Look at the prices today (when you’re reading this).

I’m fairly certain neither of those cards will be that expensive on aggregate retailers like eBay or TCG Player.  To put this into perspective, people were aggressively buying copies of these cards before Jon Finkel had even won his match, much less made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad.


Weekend price spikes are a real thing and if you’re not “getting in” at the ground you are likely to become the greater fool.  Between the large number of canceled orders and overpaying orders you are so much better waiting until the following week.  After retailers have time to restock and resupply their websites, the price of cards will fall again.  In fact, if you wait another week you will likely be able to ride the flood of people that bought speculative copies to even cheaper prices (much closer to the pre-weekend spike).  In short, don’t buy cards during a Pro Tour.  The risk isn’t worth the potential savings.

Shadows over Platinum Pros

If you haven’t heard, here, are the changes to the 2016/2017 Pro Tour season.  A large amount of money is being cut from Platinum Pro appearance fees and Hall of Fame appearance fees.  There is no doubt that Pro Tours are exceptionally expensive events to put on.  They showcase the best that new sets have to offer and often can revitalize some cards that had been collecting dust (looking at you Dark Petition).

Without drowning you in math and without accidentally falsely presenting any data, I will just say that the cuts are significant.  For players that can spend up to a week before a Pro Tour testing decks and the draft environment it will be a crushing defeat.  The money that was provided was not a sustainable source of income but definitely made it easier to take that week off of their regular jobs to be sure they provide the best deck for the Pro Tour.

The biggest problem with these changes are it lowers one of the biggest incentives to become a Platinum Pro.  Appearance fees were guaranteed money that were not tied to any particular finish.  That’s a big deal when Magic is still a game of variance.  Ultimately I’m not sure what the financial outlook from this is going to be but it is important to keep in the back of your mind as we move forward.

Modern Pro Tour is no more

Also announced in the article was that the Modern Pro Tour is no more.  In this article, Aaron Forsythe explains their future plans for Modern.  In order to dispel any myths, Modern won’t be dead.  They will still host Modern Grands Prix and the Modern PPTQ season.  Modern PPTQs will continue to qualify you for the first Pro Tour of the following year and be in the Summer.

So if you had any misconceptions about Modern’s demise, don’t worry.  I think we will continue to see Modern Masters sets every other year until they are found to be rotting on shelves.  I think the most financially important thing moving forward is that Modern banning and unbannings won’t be predicated on a  Pro Tour.  So rather than borderline obnoxious cards being banned right before a PT, we will likely see them scattered throughout the year.

I’m not entirely sure how long they will let a deck live that they determine to be “worthy of a ban” so it will likely lead to a lot of people holding their breath with each set release.  I’m not sure this is a good thing but we will have to wait to see how their tendencies change now.

Pro Tour price wrap up

If you’ve been following James Chillcott’s coverage of PT Shadows over Innistrad (part 1, part 2, part 3) you’ve noticed some trends but I’ll provide a summary of price increases this weekend.

Big Jumps

  • Crypolith Rite
  • Dark Petition
  • Pyromancer’s Goggles
  • Hissing Quagmire
  • Languish
  • Sylvan Advocate
  • Seasons Past
  • Liliana, Heretical Healer
  • Duskwatch Recruiter (remember your bulk!)

Moderate price increases

  • Dragonlord Ojutai
  • Collected Company
  • Chandra, Flamecaller
  • Narset Transcendant
  • Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
  • Declaration in Stone
  • Nissa’s Renewal
  • Demonic Pact
  • Nahiri, the Harbinger

Cards to watch

  • Westvale Abbey – As of last Sunday, this card was more expensive on MTGO than in paper.  That is extremely unlike a rare in an drafted set.  I expect paper prices to pick up a little.
  • Nissa, Voice of Zendikar – Another card that is seeing big gains on MTGO.  This is a small set mythic so it’s always able to see big price jumps.  This also frequently gets played as a 4 of which gives it a much higher ceiling.
  • Dragonlord Atarka – If we move away from Archangel Avacyn in every popular deck it will bring back a resurgence of Dragonlord Atarka.  She’s particularly good at sweeping up a lot of tokens.
  • Vile Redeemer – If you don’t know what this card is, I don’t blame you.  If the format become more Languish based this card will be a great trick to flash down in the Crypolith sacrifice deck to combat board sweepers.  At basically bulk I don’t know why I wouldn’t own a few.

Grinder Finance – SCG Baltimore Analysis

If you haven’t watched all of the Magic on Shadows over Innistrad weekend and don’t want to be spoiled go watch it now and stop reading!

Spoiler warnings aside, congrats to fellow New York Rangers aficionado Jim Davis for his win with Bant Company.  If you played a Rally deck before the rotation this one is pretty similar make up (largely a backbone of Jace / Collected Company deck) so a switch would be easy.

Archangels and Lieutenants

Let’s take a look at the decklists from the Open and see what  information we can glean about the future:

craig wescoe

Thanks Craig!  Yes, half of the Top 8 of this event was some version of a white Humans Aggro deck.  Nine of the top 32 decks were a flavor of Humans Aggro deck.  Some decks stayed to the tried and true mono-white while others splashed blue or green for some exceptional main deck humans and additional sideboard flexibility.  What all of the decks have in commons is this base:

thaliaslieutenantknight of the white orchidalways watching

White-based human decks are likely to become a mainstay for people who really like to put on the beatdown.  That being said, I think the current price of $2-3 for these rares is unsustainable for a deck that was 29% of the top 32 meta game.  I expect these cards to creep up slowly because they’re not very flashy.  However, if a humans deck does get a win they will probably spike.

Goggles in the Ice

If you watched the Open you get to see StarCity Games’ writers a lot if they’re doing well.  Well, Todd Anderson was doing pretty well this weekend with this monstrosity of a deck.


Thing in the Ice was definitely a very important part of this deck as it let Todd go from defense to offense very quickly and close out a game almost immediately.  That being said, it’s price is still very confusing. The diverging buylist price and average sell price have me concerned that the player demand is not actually there.  I am still of the opinion you should sell these cards until we can see if it does anything in Modern and Legacy.  From the results this past weekend it doesn’t look anyone is trying it besides the “fun of.”


The price on these have already gone crazy (TCG low is $10 as of Sunday, up from about $2 on Friday) so I wouldn’t buy them until it all settles down.  I tried to play a Pyromancer’s Goggles deck a while back but it always ends up being frustrating when you draw the wrong half of your deck.  Lightning Axe might be the removal spell it needs to make Goggles consistent enough to play but I don’t think this card can really carry a $10 price tag for long.  I’m a seller.


Boom flavor, right?  This was played in Todd’s deck and is still a bulk rare.  If you’re really intent on playing the deck I can’t imagine these being cut.  It uses all of your extra mana and works great when forked with the goggles.  This is the kind of card I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets played in larger quantities later and goes up to a few bucks.  Right now you can buy in for a quarter (and worst case scenario sell it back for a dime) so there is little downside to picking up a personal playset.


White is really good

Roughly 85% of the top 32 deck lists at SCG Baltimore played basic Plains.  Of the five decks that didn’t, only one was in the Top 8, and only one more in the Top 16.  Turns out all of the white spells are really good right now.  Declaration in Stone, Archangel Avacyn, Archangel of Tithes, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar showed up in multiple different types of decks this weekend.


Declaration in Stone showed up as a 4-of in the 75 of six of seven Top 8 decks it could be played in.  The seventh deck was Jim Davis’s which only played a paltry two.  It’s clear this is a real show stopper for a lot of decks and allows the rag tag human army get past anything with ease.  I’m going to say this is going to end up a lot like Hero’s Downfall.  It has the potential to hit $15-18 for a week or two and then fall down to a more reasonable number once MTGO redemption starts.

archangel avacyn

This card has a real chance to be another Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy.  I’m not sure yet if it can keep climbing (it’s already $30 on the cheapest places on the internet).  There wasn’t the full four copies in every white deck because some of them played 22 lands and having consistent 5-drops is overly optimistic.  The casual angel appeal will also keep this card high so I’d expect it to follow Declaration in Stone’s trajectory and become cheaper once MTGO redemption starts.  Right now I’m selling my extra copies to lock in profit.


westvale abbeySecure the Wastes

Westvale Abbey was definitely really good in the decks it was good in.  That sounds pretty obvious but Dragonlord Ojutai was really only mediocre in the decks it was good in.  Token decks that can dedicate whole turns to flipping the Abbey will be a real factor in Standard.  Their ability to chump humans until they can assemble a 9/7 haste lifelink to catch them up is huge.  Going forward this style deck might morph into a more all-in version with Cryptolith but time will tell.  I think this deck will be most affected by testing and tuning done at the Pro Tour.  All that information aside,  I’m super not interested in hanging onto Abbeys or Secure the Wastes with their current price tag.


Final Thoughts

  • Ancestral Vision probably won’t be as good as people want it to be.  I didn’t see very many in the Top 8 of the last Modern Classic
  • If we are going to see great innovation in Modern I would keep a close look at GP LA/Charlotte weekend.  We will see big movers then.
  • Shadows over Innistrad EV is very high right now. I’d sell everything you are not actively playing with while you still can.
  • If you want to meet up I will be making the tournament grind the entire month of May, hitting up GP NYC, SCG Indy, GP LA, and probably GP Minneapolis in an effort to secure two byes for the next year of Magic