Tag Archives: Jim Casale

Grinder Finance – Shadows over Standard

So I’ve got a pretty important tournament coming up at the release of Shadows over Innistrad so I’ll let you know what financially relevant information I’ve gathered from decks I’ve been seeing.

White-Blue Humans

Here‘s a rough idea of what this deck might look like.  It’s still very rough (like many of these deck lists) but we can glean some of the more powerful cards from it.

always watching

Always Watching is soon to become a lynch pin in a very aggressive day 1 deck.  They are easily found right now for a buck or two and can see a big camera spike this weekend if they get a lot of camera time at SCG Baltimore.


Thalia’s Lieutenant looks pretty mediocre at best but there are a large number of aggressive 1 mana humans that can lead the stampede.  I recommend grabbing a few if this kind of deck is your jam.

dragonlordojutaiArchangel of Tithes

These mythic rare white creatures might finally see their last big hurrah.  Both creatures benefit greatly from the vigilance granted by Always Watching and have already seen an uptick in price the last few weeks.  I would dig out any extra copies you may have and not want to play with.  Pro Tour weekend could be big for these two mythics before they start their final descent.


“But it’s not Path to Exile!” is what most people say looking at this card.  But in Standard it will be pretty close to Path to Exile.  I am expecting to see people quickly increase the number of these they want to play in their decks until they can’t play any more.  At $3-4 I’m not thrilled buying them but they’re a very important piece of the human deck.


Cryptolith Rite by Zack Stella
Cryptolith Rite by Zack Stella

G/X Cryptolith

The original version of this deck has already spawned many offshoots but remains here.  The gist of the deck is to play many small creatures and some that produce tokens(like Hangarback Walker and Scion Summoner) to funnel mana into Cryptolith Rite to cast some big spells or use Evolutionary Leap.

Cryptolith Rite has already seen a spike as more people caught onto its power on Reddit.  It started as a G/B deck to fuel Ulamog and Zendikar Resurgent but people have been testing it to ramp out Dragonlord Atarka as well.  I’d say there is “something there” but it might take a few weeks for people to find the most optimal way to use this card.  I don’t like holding my copies mostly because I think this card gets drastically worse once Hangarback Walker rotates in October.

westvale abbeywestvale abbey b

Westvale Abbey was first on everyone’s radar in this deck.  It was a very reasonable way to turn a bunch of thopters or scions into a formidable 9/7 flying, lifelink, haste, indestructible creature.  That has driven the price of this sky high as people realize you can just play it in anything really.  It’s great with Secure the Wastes and does a decent Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree impression.  I think the price point looking a few months out will likely be around $10-12 if it puts up results.  If not, it will likely fall to the $4-5 range quickly.

ob nixilis reignited art

White-Black Control

This will likely be a player in some form in the near future.  It has the most options to stop the most varied threats.  You can find a decklist and some play testing by Michael Majors here.


Sorin is very good on a clear board.  He doesn’t usually kill quite as fast as Chandra, Flamecaller but he will allow you to play a very grindy game that White-Black Control is definitely well equipped to fight.  Going up to 7 loyalty means Chandra cannot immediately kill him without help.   I don’t forsee him finding Elspeth, Sun’s Champion or even Chandra, Flamecaller levels of play so his $20 price tag right now seems unsustainable.  He may see a quick peak during Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad weekend but I’m not in any rush to buy in here.  If you don’t play Standard you can likely pick him up in late August or early September for $6-10.

obnixilisreignited2 (1)

Ob Nixilis is the king of Standard 5 mana planeswalkers right now (I feel).  His buylist price has seen about a 25% jump in the past month but some retailers have been slow to follow suit.  As you can see here the spread among vendors is still pretty big.  At the time of writing (Sunday night), the highest buy price (Channel Fireball) is 60% of the lowest sell price (Strike Zone online).  In fact, Strike Zone is currently cheaper than all but 1 of the listings on TCGPlayer.  All of this points to Ob Nixilis likely being on the move soon.  I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if he jumps to $15 for a month.


Languish was relegated to the side lines in the face of the Siege Rhino menace.  As Siege Rhino’s last farewell it will drag Languish back into the fold.  It being a turn faster than Crux of Fate and being able to kill larger creatures than Flaying Tendrils means it will likely become the sweeper of choice.  With B/W control intentionally being light on creatures it would make sense to support this.  On a related note, Languish is not able to be stopped by Archangel Avacyn.

Archangel Avacyn

Speaking of Avacyn…. It’s odd to see Majors not playing any copies in his 75.  Avacyn can quickly close out games and often can be masked with an activation of a land (like Shambling Vent or Blighted Fen) or just an instant speed removal spell.  This card has doubled since it’s debut pre-order price ($15).  At $30 I’m pretty happy selling her and re-purchasing them in June.  I’m expecting her to hold a reasonably high price due to being a legendary angel and a flip mythic.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable for her to maintain $10-15 price tag in June.

This weekend we will get the first taste of Shadows over Innistrad and the day before my article comes out we should get the Modern ban list shake up.  Hopefully we’re in for a great weekend of Magic and we can talk about it next week!

Grinder Finance – Being Goal Oriented

This article is going to sound a little more like an MTG Lifestyle article and not so much an MTG Finance article.  Truth be told, there’s not a whole lot to write about until Shadows over Innistrad is released to the wild and we start getting tournament results.


What do you want to do in Magic?

No, seriously.  What are your goals? How do you enjoy Magic?  The first step to figuring out how to approach Magic (or anything in life really) is to take a step back and analyze why you are doing what you’re doing.  Some people might say “I want to play FNM competitively every Friday.”  Others might have more lofty goals like “I want to play on the Pro Tour” or “I want to travel and play in Grands Prix.”  It’s best to support these larger overarching goals with smaller more manageable goals to keep track of your progress.  You could have some smaller financial goals that will help you support this such as “I want to own an Affinity deck for Modern.”


Breaking down a goal

Since I’m supposed to write about financial goals, I’ll take the “I want to own Affinity” and explain how I would suggest breaking it down.  Eventually you can get to the micro level of “I want to own 4 Arcbound Ravagers” and that’s probably the best place to start.  The next thing to do is impose some rules on how you will achieve this goal (assuming there aren’t already rules.)  If it’s as easy as going to the store and buying 4 Arcbound Ravagers then you probably didn’t need that as a goal.  There wasn’t any work involved in achieving it.  It could be as simple as “I want to trade for 4 Arcbound Ravagers” or “I want 4 foil Arcbound Ravagers.”  But give yourself something to work toward that you can measure your success with.  It feels lot better.

Good MTG Finance Goals


If you want to build a deck the best thing to start with is buying local.  Get involved on your local MTG Facebook groups.  Talk to people at your shops and become friends with as many people as possible.  Whenever possible you want to  buy and sell locally.  It removes the extra cost to shipping, fees, and buylists.  Obviously it’s more work but a good network is worth a lot more as you put the work in.  Often you can find people who would have just sold to a local buylist and you can offer them more to buy it from them.  As an example, I bought most of the expeditions for my Modern deck from local players.  I offered them slightly under TCG Low and slightly over local buylist prices so everyone left the table happy.

The next thing is to figure out when you “need” the card and buy it when it is probably at it’s cheapest.  I have good news here.  For 99% of cards there is no guessing as to when it will be the cheapest.  One major and easy to predict factor influences almost all cards.  Time!  If you are eyeing some new standard cards and don’t need them on release day, your best time to buy is around rotation.  Standard cards typically drop from their pre-ordering prices to their near time low the week before spoilers for the next block start (for example, Shadows over Innistrad cards will be the cheapest for Standard players in late August or early September).

Six Months before a card is expected to rotate it begins to decline.  This coincides with the Pro Tour of the second block to be released since it’s release.  For Shadows over Innistrad, this will be the spring Pro Tour of 2017.  If you’re not sure what to do with your Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir cards, the best time to look to sell is the weekend after the Shadows over Innistrad Pro Tour.  If you’re having a hard time knowing when to buy or sell a card, put a reminder in Google Calendar or in your phone to remind you.


The last thing that I don’t think enough people do at their LGS is take prize support in store credit when you can.  While it can be tempting to bust those 15 or so packs you might have won during FNM, it would put you a lot closer to your long term goals to just ask if you can receive an equivalent in store credit.  Long term, your store credit should have the same amount of value and requires a lot less upkeep if you’re trying to save for specific cards to finish your decks.  When you look at booster packs as lottery tickets, it’s a lot less enticing to take your prize support in them.  Basically if you’re offered $50 in lottery tickets or $35 in cash, which would you take?

That’s all I got for you guys this week.  May your pre-releases be filled with many triple rare packs and tons of mythics!

Grinder Finance – Not Everything is for You

Man, does it feel like there is a lot of stuff coming out this year?  I immediately realized after tons of announcements in a very short period of time, that we’re in for an exceptional year of Magic.

How exceptional?

mtg calendar

As of right now, this is this year’s release calendar.  This doesn’t include a 2nd duel deck and a From the Vault set [announced to be FTV: Lore].  FTVs usually come out in August so I have no idea where it will be now [Ed note: it still will].  It’s clear based on this release schedule that Wizards of the Coast is trying to release more products that appeal to more niche groups.  A lot of players have already realized “not everything is for me” but this summer will have some of the toughest choices for players in a long time.

eternal masters

Eternal Masters

This sets off a 3 month period of back to back set releases.  Obviously Wizards wants to lead with this one because it has the highest MSRP.  If it sells out (which it probably will) it will be great for their parent company.

Without any kind of spoilers it is hard to tell who this set is really for.  If you assume based on it’s name its to support Legacy and Vintage players with some reprints then it makes a lot of sense.  The reality of those players is the vast majority of them have already owned their deck and the cards needed for a long time.  I think this set is the biggest trap and biggest potential for people to waste money.  If your LGS supports a large community of Standard and Modern players (which is most common around the US), then this set will likely not provide a ton of value to those players.

There may be some overlap cards that are good in both Eternal formats and Modern (ie Cavern of Souls, Chalice of the Void, Tarmogoyf, Cursecatcher), it likely won’t include very many in the interest of including format staples that are generally outside of Modern (Wasteland, Force of Will, Ancient Tomb, Cabal Therapy, etc).  The reality of the reserve list is even if you buy a case of Eternal Masters you’re probably no closer to making a Legacy or Vintage deck than you are just spending that money on a Modern Burn deck.

Leading with the set is obviously a play by Wizards to try to get as much of your impulse spending money as possible.  It will be hard for people to resist buying booster packs that could contain a Foil Force of Will, which will assuredly be a few hundred dollars.

Eldritch Liliana

Eldritch Moon

I am calling it now.  This set will have the most expensive new cards all year.  This set will not sell nearly well enough to keep the best cards in Standard low enough.  It’s being sandwiched between two presumably exceptional draft formats.  Oh yeah, 3 draftable sets in a row, which one do you think people will skip?  Has Wizards solved the second set by jamming two sets worth of playables into it?  Is Oath of the Gatewatch setting the standard for small sets of the future?  There are a lot of questions but there is also some precedents we can look to.

Show of hands, how many people bought a ton of Magic Origins? No?  Why not?  Did you perhaps by too much Modern Masters 2015?  I have a feeling this same problem will happen again.  Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon will occupy the same slots as Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins did last year.  Did you know a box of Dragons of Tarkir has the highest EV of any set in Standard right now?  Magic Origins is only a few dollars behind Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged booster boxes which can contain the most powerful lands in the game.  The reason DTK and ORI are so expensive is because those two sets are the bun that surrounded the  Modern Masters 2015 Hamburger.  Their short draft time has lead to supply problems with some of the most popular cards in the set.

If Eldritch Moon is another set of similar quality to Born of the Gods then we might not have a lot to worry about.  On the other hand, if we get another Oath of the Gatewatch then we will have some really expensive cards.  If you play a lot of Standard this will be the best set to invest your money in.  I can’t see a world where the player base opens enough of this set to satisfy competitive players.

conspiracy take the crown

Conspiracy: Take the Crown

I’ll start out by saying I’m the most surprised by this set coming out this year.  I don’t know how Wizards got the resources to test 3 different draft formats all for release on the same summer but more power to them.  Due to the fact that this is a draft heavy format I don’t expect a ton of valuable cards to come out of it.  It won’t be used to hold any Legacy or Vintage style reprints (since those will help sell Eternal Masters).  It probably won’t contain a lot of reprints from Conspiracy because the set is only 221 cards.  With that in mind, Conspiracy 1 only had 210 cards but without a bigger breakdown of the number of uncommons, rares, and mythics we won’t know where the extra cards went.  What I will expect from this set is very expensive foils and Commander cards.

My short list of the Commander style of cards that can probably be in Conspiracy:

What I don’t expect is actual the actual legendary creature printings in foil because they have been doing those as Judge foils.

The point of all this

Be careful this summer.  There are a lot of Magic sets being released this summer, a lot more than usual.  Make sure you realize which sets are for you and spend your money appropriately.  Really take a hard look at what you’re buying because if you end up needing stuff from one of the other sets it will be very expensive.

Grinder Finance – Weathering the Eldrazi Winter with Standard

World Breaker by Jaime Jones

Yeah I don’t know if I agree with that idea.  Eldrazi are like a cold front that rolled in for a month or two and will probably roll out when Shadows over Innistrad comes out in April.  But in the mean time, you can play this sweet Standard format, right?

Standard hasn’t been a featured format on weekend coverage for 3 weeks so not much head way has been made in the largely Rally dominated format.  That being said, there are still plenty of things we can do to prepare for the next format.

Generally at the start of Standard formats (ie right after a new set has come out) decks will add new cards to an already existing archetype until someone comes along with a completely new look at the format.  We can take a look at some of the most popular standard decks right now and see which largely survive rotation as those will be ready to go out of the box.

Witness the End by Igor Kieryluk
Witness the End by Igor Kieryluk


If you play 4 Color Rally, Mardu Green, Jeskai Black, or any flavor of Abzan your deck will likely not survive in its current form.  Without the powerful 3 color cards and Khans of Tarkir fetch lands it’s hard to see any world where they could.  If you want to avoid the Eldrazi Winter in Modern I don’t suggest building these decks unless you already largely own the deck.  Personally, I decided to play Rally since I owned all of the cards for the deck except for Rally the Ancestors and Grim Haruspex.

Devour in Flames by Svetlin Velinov
Devour in Flames by Svetlin Velinov

On Life Support

Atarka Red is a deck that is losing a lot of its support for “go wide” strategies and its combo kill.  Monastery Swiftspear, Hordeling Outburst, Become Immense, Temur Battle Rage, Wild Slash, and their heavy fetch mana base are leaving.  While most of those cards are not particularly expensive the deck will need to find a way to replace those token makers or give it a lot of raw power to keep competing.  I won’t say the deck is dead but I wouldn’t invest a ton into it expecting it to be a player in the next Standard.

BR Dragons is a deck that while is only two colors has some pretty heavy color requirements.  Grasp of Darkness and the double red creatures are not very easy to cast with only 2 lands for fixing.  This deck is definitely going to be more alive than Atarka Red due to the raw power of it’s cards but it may be a misstep to play a deck without any of the manlands next Standard.

Bant Collected Company decks might seem like a weird deck to put here. Its heavy reliance on a fetch and battle land mana base to support it’s 3 colors makes me question how easy it will be to cast Deathmist Raptor along side Reflector Mage in April.  This deck might morph (no pun intended) into a deck closer to a G/X deck with a light splash.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it dropped most of the white spells in favor of being the only Jace and Collected Company deck.  With that in mind, I’m not super interested in buying into the Deathmist Raptor part of the deck.  If there are very strong graveyard decks it is likely that there will also be very strong graveyard removal cards (which we currently don’t have).  On the flip side, if we get more cards like Satyr Wayfinder again, it makes Deathmist Raptor a lot better.  I think you should go with your gut in this instance because I’m not sure which is right.

Best Value

Ruin in their Wake by Jason Felix

Standard in April will have 4 sets from the current Standard.  Two of them (Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins) will rotate out in September with the release of the unnamed next block.  The other two sets (Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch) will survive until the following April.  There is one deck that is reasonably good in Standard now that is largely made up of cards from the most recent block.

G/x Eldrazi ramp decks ill be good in some flavor.  Maybe they will be Red and play Chandra, Flamecaller and Kozilek’s Return.  Maybe they will be green and colorless using Wastes to power out Ruin in their Wake.  Either way the bulk of the core of the deck survives for some time.  The exception to this, being Nissa’s Pilgrimage and Explosive Vegetation which leave in September.  This deck is pretty heavy on Mythic rares which means it could become VERY expensive if it is a clear leader in the next Standard.  World Breaker is a very affordable $7 on TCG Player right now and will likely be a key part of anything Eldrazi.  If going a little bit bigger is more of your thing, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger can be found for $19, Oblivion Sowers are under $5, and Kozilek, the Great Distortion is a surprisingly low $7.50.  Now that I think about it, I’m almost interested picking up Kozilek at $5 cash purely to hang onto for a few years.

As far as rares, it seems like the base of Sanctum of Ugin and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods will be good for 15 months.  I’m finding it hard to figure out a better way to spend $8 than to buy those two sets of lands.  The worst case scenario is you lose $8 but we can see from battle lands and manlands (like Shambling Vent) that Battle for Zendikar rare lands can support a higher price tag.

Oath of Nissa by Wesley Burt
Oath of Nissa by Wesley Burt


Oath of Nissa is another card that might be poised for a big up tick in play.  It’s legendary which means the 2nd one you play puts an enchantment into your graveyard.  This is relevant for the new Delirium cards.  The other thing it does is make it a lot easier to cast Planeswalkers.  Right now mana is really good so that doesn’t matter that much but when our mana gets much worse it may be relevant.  All 7 of the Standard legal planeswalkers from Dragons of Tarkir, Battle for Zendikar, and Oath of the Gatewatch have 2 colored mana symbols (with 3 of them being different colors).  While I won’t say you should buy out your local shop of Oath of Nissa, I would advise getting a personal playset before they get too expensive.

Final Thoughts

  • Drana, Liberator of Malakir and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet are two cards we might see an uptick in use come rotation.  They have relevant creature types for Innistrad.  Last time we got lords like Stromkirk Captain.  I wouldn’t rule anything out for them.
  • While there are not many Zombies in the last year, Risen Executioner and Sidisi, Undead Vizier are two cards I would look at if there are Zombie tribal themes coming out of Shadows over Innistrad spoilers.
  • If I was a betting man, I would say we will see Eldrazi Temple on the Modern banned list in April.