Tag Archives: Magic finance


So I’m not going to say that the Pro Tour went as planned, because quite frankly I was a little too vague in my expectations (other than me saying that this wouldn’t be Pro Tour: Bant Company, which was both somewhat obvious and correct). The question that we should be asking right now is not necessarily “okay, so the Pro Tour happened, now what do I play?”, rather it’s “how will this information influence the existing environment?”. We’ve talked before about some of the things that make PT weekends aberrant to other weekend-long events, but that information is still going to color the format for the next three months. How do we make sense of it, and more importantly, how do we do so before everyone else?

I want to clarify at the top that I don’t think Bant Company is a bad deck. In fact, it is probably still one of the absolute best decks in the format. In fact, what we’ve seen from PT:EMN (and a little bit at SCG Baltimore, if you knew where to look) suggests that even when Bant Company isn’t performing well, it is having a profound effect on the metagame. What we are seeing in response to Spell Queller is a prioritizing of cards that cost [2] or [5], the latter for its natural “immunity”, and the former for the gained versatility of casting multiple spells a turn. One of the best “answers” at [5] seems to be Tragic Arrogance, a card that may be able to have a final bump in price (it’s less than a dollar currently), although I’m not sure that it would be sustainable. If you have these in your binder, try to leverage them into something equally low in price but with a slightly higher upside (my personal favorite targets are Planar Outburst and Epiphany! at the Drownyard1).

The environment going into the Pro Tour was probably not a stable one, just because weird things like card availability have more of an impact one or two weeks in versus as many months. At the same time, I don’t think that the Pro Tour really solved anything, just because so many people were already aiming to take out Bant Company just as everyone else was noticing it. I genuinely expect Bant to have several more strong showings, just because the deck is proactive rather than reactive, and in tournaments with wide skill levels (Opens, GPs), being the player with a clearly defined plan of attack is going to be an instant source of percentage points. At the same time, the format only had to bend to accommodate it, not warp entirely (as was the case in Affinity-era Standard, where you essentially maindecked as much artifact removal as you could). Looking ahead, I expect Bant to be the deck that always has a presence in a tournament, but doesn’t ever really sweep an event. Most of the Bant decks in a Top 32 will be in that 9-16 range, just because they are always going to have to jockey against one another, and there doesn’t seem to be a true mirror-breaker sideboard strategy.

Collected Company isn't Squadron Hawk, but it does put two into play.
Collected Company isn’t Squadron Hawk, but it does put two into play.

One of the cards that I like coming out of this weekend is Distended Mindbender. DMB (although his fans just say ‘Dave’) works at a really interesting axis, and he has been on my modern workbench for a week or so now. In Standard the opposing clock is slower and there is more diversity in casting costs, so he is theoretically better. It’s also worth mentioning that even though we don’t have things like Eldrazi Temple or Noble Hierarch (which serve as pure accelerants), all of the best three drops in the Eldrazi decks are also in Standard (with [3] being the casting cost where you are able to Emerge on curve as a virtual [4]). My testing so far has indicated that Elder Deep-Fiend may end up being the better option, at least in the more aggressive Eldrazi builds, but I definitely think DMB has the talent to crash… into top tier standard decks. At under $3, these seem like a solid buy. It’s also possible that Emerge is still being “solved”, and that the mechanic gets more popular.

This doesn't make Emerge, it only makes it better.
This doesn’t make Emerge, it only makes it better.

In terms of price movement following the PT, we’ve seen Liliana, the Last Hope begin to level off and begin her descent back to reality, while Emrakul, the Promised End (a card that is precisely as rare as Lili!) sits at under 2/3rds as much. While Liliana almost demands to be played in heavy multiples (partially because she’s so easy to kill off), Emrakul is pretty well spread-out as a 1-2x. Perhaps the best card to pair Emrakul with, Traverse the Ulvenwald2, also saw a considerable bounce, while Den Protector (maybe the best single card to pair with Liliana) is just coasting on her way out of Standard. I still haven’t personally played with Lili yet (and I recommend avoiding buying in still), but all of the people I’ve talked to have had mediocre reviews or worse. Staying in GB, Grim Flayer has had a slight uptick, which ended up preventing what looked to be a slide heading into the PT. I’ve heard mixed results here also, and it sounds like Sylvan Advocate is probably the preferred play at [2] in green. Gisela, the Broken Blade is down about $10 since release, and I think that once she slides to around $8 I’ll buy in. I don’t expect Gisela to see any meaningful play until Collected Company (and the inherent reward for playing creatures that cost three or less) cycles out.

Some off-hand stuff to close: Selfless Spirit seems like it is probably strong enough to stay above average for a rare, but I don’t know how long that translates to “above $6”. Eldritch Evolution seems appealing at around $5, just because it feels like the kind of card that is very close to breakable. Mausoleum Wanderer really seems like a card that’s almost as good as Selfless Spirit, especially if Spirits end up really making it in Modern. If that deck does have legs, Eldritch Moon as a set is going to hold value in 5+ years. In the mean time, standard sets seem to just be cratering in value once they get a few months out, so be very picky in anything you are buying now that isn’t to play with right away. And lastly, Prized Amalgam had a healthy increase off the success of the UB Zombie deck, which I can confirm is very fun to play. We don’t have any serious graveyard hate (a la Tormod’s Crypt) right now, so enjoy filling up your ‘yard while you can.



1I never really got into this band.

2The beauty here is that the card serves as virtual copies while not requiring you to actually OWN multiple Emrakuls, while also fudging some of your other numbers. It also reduces the likelihood of actually drawing Emrakul, which is not great.


Okay, so the timetable for this weekend is a little… wonky. Because the Pro Tour is being held on the lawless, marsupial-infested island of Australia, coverage is going to be starting Thursday night (in the US), with the constructed rounds happening while many of us are asleep. I’m going to include my brief thoughts on what I suspect we might see, while also touching on a (semi-related) point that may offer more long-term action. Then, if I need to pad my word count, we’ll talk about The Bachelorette or something.

I really wanted this guy to show up at Jordan's final rose ceremony.
I really wanted this guy to show up at Jordan’s final rose ceremony.

PT: EMN: Even though we have had some pretty major changes to set releases and rotations, the timeline for Pro Tour technology has sneakily stayed pretty consistent since the adoption of the SCG Tour. Prior to having SCGLive on screen the day after a set release, there weren’t major Standard events before the Pro Tour. Now, however, we have two weeks worth of decklists to inform our decisions on the weekend ahead- but how reliable is that data? In this particular instance, I would guess that Bant Company will be an influencial archetype on the weekend metagame, but not in the way you might expect.

The spectrum of skill on the Pro Tour has traditionally been pretty wide (although I suspect the new qualifier system will raise the floor), but the top end is always “the best active players in the world”. Those participants at the high end have been working on Standard for a while, and probably “discovered” Spell Queller as early as anyone else. As a result, it is not crazy to suspect that these players have found the best decks for beating things like Bant Company (what I suspect is probably the best Spell Queller deck, just because it makes the best use of its other resources). Furthermore, these players are disincentivized from playing in early events like Opens because the maximum payout is so severely less than at the Pro Tour, while simultaneously giving all the other PT participants valuable information a week early.

All that holding true, it’s safe to say that the best players at the Pro Tour will only be playing a deck like Bant Company if either of the following are correct:

  • Bant Company is literally the best deck in the format to the extent that there are NO other decks. Like, we are talking CawBlade/Ravager Affinity level good. I suspect that this is not true.
  • There is a version of Bant Company that beats all of the other versions AND operates on a significantly different axis that it is able to either ignore or counter the traditional answers to Bant Company. This would be a scenario where it’s “Well, the decks playing [CARDNAME] Bant are performing at X%, while all of the non-[CARDNAME] versions are only performing at Y%!”. I don’t suspect this is the case either, just because Collected Company doesn’t have any other modes, and it’s unlikely that this is a yet-to-be-discovered package of cards that are good in Company decks. The best thing I could come up with on my own would be some number of Force Spike effects as a means of blanking Languish? But that lowers your critical mass of Company creatures, and yeah, I just don’t think this happens.

It’s important to remember that that’s only regarding a very narrow band of the PT participants. There are still going to be people there who are not on world-class teams or have spent a month in a beach house tuning various strategies. There was a sentiment once that you had to be able to beat the Red Deck at a Pro Tour, but only on Day 1- I suspect that the players who would otherwise be playing Red will bring Bant Company this time. The players with the least preparation and connections will play what they deem to be the de facto best deck, since it is proactive and offers a clear and coherent strategy (whether they realize that or not). Then, there is the larger contingent of players in the middle (the “Jimmy Eat World” subset, if you will). These are the players who would be more likely to bring a deck like Bant Company in the first place. Some of them will likely hit on the next level strategy (“what beats Bant?”), but without quality team infrastructure, likely won’t get much higher on the archetype chain than that.

Unless a lot of really famous Magic players have ugly Day 1 Drafts, expect to see a lot of Languish on Day 2. Remember that the “breakout” GB strategy of the last format premiered in the hands of Jon Finkel (a deck that was never quite as good after that weekend, but for Jon it didn’t really have to be).

The only other strategy that I’m keeping my eyes peeled for is some form of Cryptolith Rite.dec. That’s another deck that didn’t show up until PT:SOI, but had much stronger legs going into the rest of the Standard season. The reason I suspect we didn’t see it any yet is that the Rites strategies all require a significant amount of tuning in the deck construction process (especially in the versions with multiple other colors). While most people playing in the Opens didn’t have the time to commit to developing a new Rites deck, people like Matt Nass (the deck’s originator) certainly did. It’s possible that some version of the deck shows up and plays spoiler this weekend, but I suspect that most of what is good against Bant Company is also good against any of the Rite decks.

Look for GB and UB control to be popular on Day 2.

The Left Behind: If I asked you to name the five most expensive cards in Khans of Tarkir, you’d probably settle pretty quickly on the five fetchlands (you’d be correct). Now, assuming we lumped that cycle together as one card, could you name the rest of the top three? The answer stunned me when I saw it. Sorin, Solemn Visitor at ~$6.50, followed by Clever Impersonator at ~$3.25. Beyond Clever Impersonator, every remaining rare or mythic in KTK costs less than $3. In fact, the majority of the rares in the set can be obtained for fewer than 100 Puca Points.

Fate Reforged hasn’t fared much better. The only two cards that clear the $3 mark are Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Monastery Mentor. Soulfire Grand Master and Tasigur, the Golden Fang (in that order) hover just below $3, while every other rare and mythic are half as much or less.

My immediate thought is that you should look to get your Monastery Mentors right now. Ugin is good in situational spots, but Mentor is a named strategy in Legacy and Vintage. Now that these sets are out of Standard, their pricing models are beginning to resemble Dragon’s Maze- making Mentor the closest corollary to Voice of Resurgence. My second thought is that the heavy supply, matched with a lack of overall larger application, is going to be crushing a lot of card values after rotation. This is a good chance to buy in if you think something has a good shot long term, but know that pretty much anything that doesn’t have a home will crash.

Journey into Nyx actually did pretty well, with 8 cards clearing the $3 threshold (including Godsend?!), and the gods pretty much ended up propping up that entire block. I suspect KTK, Origins, and the Battle for Zendikar block won’t do as well. This really could just be another aspect of the new world we are living in.

UPDATE: So Standard at PT:EMN started around 1am EST. James has a great write-up of what’s happened so far, so make sure you follow him for the rest of the event. Looks like Emrakul is back!



PROTRADER: The Next Big Move

Okay, so today is the street release for Eldritch Moon, but we aren’t going to spend much time talking about that set. Instead, I want to talk about Kaladesh – or more accurately, the rotation accompanying it.

I can’t tell you how many times I was asked last week at FNM about “what’s rotating out”. Okay, so it was probably somewhere around four or five times, but still– that’s a lot of times to be asked the same question by a small crowd of people, especially when the answer is a pretty simple “nothing”. For whatever reason, the new (simplified!) rotation schedule has not yet trickled-down from the enfranchised players at the top to the lower-information players at the bottom1.

This really got me thinking however, and I think this is the best time to begin optimizing for the upcoming transition. One of the interesting, non-partisan elements of the current election is the discussion over how the transition will be made next January, even if the Democrats end up keeping the White House. It’s been compared to a new CEO taking the helm of a giant corporation, except that it’s unarguably even larger in scope. Both of the major parties have spent the last several months discussing how the protocol and procedure of such a move would take place; this isn’t as a means of political bluster, but as a way to avoid any costly hiccups or oversights. Stability and continuity is going to be the name of the game. Why should we approach Standard any differently?

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I mentioned the non-rotating rare lands a couple of weeks back, and this is certainly the foundational level of looking ahead. Being able to actually cast your spells is pretty important, and even though both cycles are going to have a tough time breaking into Modern, it’s not crazy to think that either SoI’s or BFZ’s lands could be commonly played in full sets. The Shadows lands all have a full year left in Standard, so the appeal of buying in at roughly $2 each now seems like it could easily pay off at some point in the next twelve months. My favorites here are undoubtedly Fortified Village and Port Town (White is VERY strong right now, and surprisingly deep in terms of deckbuilding options), but it’s worth mentioning that the red ones feel at least somewhat artificially depressed- don’t forget that R won like 3 Pro Tours in a row and could easily win another in the next year.

Building off of the revolutionary concept that Lands are good in Magic, the next look is to finding dynamic, standalone threats. It you look at winning games from the “Top Down” perspective advocated by Pat Chapin, then look for the things that are going to win you games either in immediacy or in essence just by casting them. One of the first things on my list here is actually a new card, Elder Deep-Fiend. This card saw a pretty interesting bump during preorders, and is probably going to see a small price shrink in a month (unless it is literally half the top 16 or more of PT:EMN, which is possible). Right now, it’s like the 2015 Minnesota Vikings or 2016 Jacksonville Jaguars2, a darling among the pundits that is going to have to prove the larger pools of doubters that they are legit. Emrakul is in this conversation to a degree, but she is definitely priced too high at $15, and I’m happy to wait that slump out.

Ulamog at $12 is only slightly more appealing, but World Breaker at $5 seems like the smarter play. World Breaker in application seems to certainly do enough to get the job done, and in conjuction with Drownyard Temple is able to take over most situations. The deckbuilding costs with splashing green for World Breaker are not terrible, since two or the best creature lands (Hissing Quagmire and Lumbering Falls) are simultaneously in G and the two best control colors. Staying in green, Cryptolith Rite seems like a solid buy at just under $3, especially since it’s high water-mark was more than twice as much. Cryptolith Rite is going to be in Standard just as long as Westvale Abbey (a tricky call at ~$7, but a powerful and broad threat nonetheless), and the two cards certainly pair well together. The trick here is to look for things that are good on their own, without relying on potential synergies that may prove too hard to bet on with yet-to-be-known mechanics from future sets.

A big reason why this is so important to focus on now is because Eldritch Moon rares/mythics are currently all at inflated values. The potential to convert something like a Liliana, the Last Hope into twelve or thirteen Fortified Villages seems like a trade that won’t be possible in a few weeks. Gisela, the Broken Blade was one of my favorite cards coming out, but I’m not sure how long she can maintain $24 without having that crucial fourth point of toughness. Spell Queller, the fifth most expensive card as of me writing this, is over $12 and still just a rare — I expect that value to crater as the set gets opened en masse. Heck, even Ishkanah, Grafwidow is floating around $10, and that card’s best home is probably Gauntlet Legends: Dark Legacy3.

Decimator of Provinces has already seen a slide down to about $5, and even though I think it’s probably safe there for a while (unless the card proves to be literally useless immediately, which I don’t think is possible), I think more mythics will be joining it by slipping down a few bucks in the short term. Consequently, cards from most of the other sets in Standard (not just DTK and Origins, which are entering their senior year) have had a small dip in value, making this the best time to buy most of the cards from any set BESIDES EMN.

Speaking of Origins (kinda), the slow burn on Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is incredible to me. I’ve officially started targeting them aggressively, and if they get much lower than their current $30, expect to see someone with the capital stage at least a partial buyout. This card plays perfectly with the environment of the next few months, and is a proven player in Standard AND the Eternal formats. Ask yourself this- is there any point in the next 5 years where I would rather have a Tamiyo and a Grim Flayer OVER a Jace? This price drop feels like what happened years ago with rotations, before players realized that good cards were good even after they left the marquee format.

What do you think? Which cards do you think are safe or appealing in three or six months? Which EMN rares are best to trade away now?



1[‘condescending smirk’ emoji].


3The PS2 version, obviously.


Hello, and welcome back! We are just a little over a week past the release of Pokémon GO (AND ‘Stranger Things’ debuts today on Netflix!), so who knows if anyone even plays Magic anymore, but for those of you who are holding strong… let’s just get this over with. I think I see a Poliwhirl outside!


Magic’s secondary market is a largely unregulated economy. This is often held up as some sort of positive- be it an example of elsewhere unattainable libertarian ideals (fart noise) or a snarled inside joke out of the lips of ferocious jackals. In truth, there are both pros and cons to parking significant capital into an investment vehicle that has pictures of wizards and goblins on it (shocking!). One of the long-time issues in Magic specifically has been a lack of consumer and investor tools to operate as insurance against the various causes of loss (rough transition, I know, but we are powering through). The recent release of PucaShield has sparked an interesting conversation on the subject of consumer protection (as well as the larger impact of the site’s economic structure), so it’s going to be one of the topics we cover today. The rest are going to be various intersections of Magic and insurance that you should be aware of. I’m also going to be making today’s piece free, since it addresses very important needs that could impact the operation of local game stores. If you or someone you know operates a game store, make sure they at least read that section. Today’s title is taken from a well-worn term of insurance-insider jargon, referring to the sufficient methods and means of covering one own’s ass. In the interest of covering MY …self… let’s get the following out of the way off the bat: what follows is merely advice and neither myself nor MTGPrice are responsible for you being a knucklehead and doing something without first consulting a licensed professional. Yada yada yada, on with the article!

CYA: PucaTraders: So the inspiration for today’s piece was the introduction of PucaShield. This feature serves a few different uses, but it is primarily intended as a means of insurance against shipping/scummy traders/etc. The rate of the coverage is based on a percentage of its value (3% for free users, 2% for silvers, and 1% for golds), and can be purchased on a card by card basis. This means that while you may want to take a risk sending those $3 rares, you have an extra layer of protection when sending out something like a Mox. On the other hand, if you ARE sending something expensive, this sets a barrier for what is reasonable to otherwise spend on shipping (a Beta Mox Ruby will cost you about $43 worth of Puca Points, where as most reasonable USPS options will be significantly less). The way I am approaching trades has changed immediately, and I’m going to share my most recent batch with you below to explain why.

All trades were sent out this week.
All trades were sent out this week.

If you previously determined trades based on bonus offers, you may have a second consideration- cards in the ~$1 range that are on want lists. By committing to send out those two Burning-Tree Emissary, and purchasing insurance on three of the four cards in that envelope, I’ve guaranteed that the majority of the value in that package is going to be covered. Additionally, the point value earned by sending the uninsured copy essentially paid for all of my insurance for every trade listed. Since I’m expecting a couple of bounty bonuses also, it fudges the math to make the insurance about even with the 95pt uncovered Emissary.

The fascinating element to this (that we will go in-depth on as the results make themselves apparent) is that PucaTrade now has a points “sink” that may end up helping to combat inflation in the system. The potential here is that the Puca Point rallies back to toward the strength of the penny, rather than plummeting like the pound.

CYA: HOME OWNERS: Now, this paragraph is going to be brief for a few reasons, but the gist is this- there is no simple and easy way to truly carry insurance coverage on your collection. The problem is that most collections are living entities in the sense that it changes over time. If your cube stayed the same for the rest of time, was itemized, and your existing agent was able to put something together that would give you coverage in the event of your home being destroyed, that would be impressive. But, since people buy, sell, and trade cards, not to mention take them to events where theft has been on the rise, you’re going to have a rough go of it. Additionally, home (/apartment) insurance has some wrinkles from state to state, so what may work for someone won’t necessarily be an option for you. Ask around, explain the situation to your agent, and see what they can come up with.

The easiest thing to do, of course, is become extremely vigilant in where you bring your collection and what you do with it out of the house. This won’t cover things like fire and flood damage, but there are prevention techniques that you can take to minimize the frequency or the severity of those hazards.

Story Circle naming "Hazard Loss".
Story Circle naming “Hazard Loss”.

CYA: STORE OWNERS: Now, just as is the case with individual collectors (above), your available products and requirements may differ based on the rules and regulations of your state/province/country. Make sure that you consult your insurance agent before requesting any changes to an existing policy.

Okay, so as a business owner, you (should!) have some combination of the following insurance products:

Commercial General Liability: This is essentially your “whoopsies!” insurance, protecting you from stuff like slip-and-falls, pretend slip-and-falls, and anything else that may occur during the standard operation of a business. If you don’t own the building you’re in (and even if you do!), you should make sure that your landlord is listed as an additional named insured here.

Property: This includes both real property (buildings) and what’s called ‘business personal property’ or ‘contents’ (stuff). This is actually pretty tricky with regards to card shops, so we are gonna run through the rest of the list really quickly first. Put a mental pin in this, though.

Worker’s Compensation: If you have a certain number of employees (determined by your state), you may be required to carry WC coverage. This isn’t a Health product, but it covers them in the event of an injury during the course of business. Non-employees injured are covered under that first one, General Liability.

We’ll talk about additional coverage options later, but those are really the big three. Back to property though- most businesses that sell a product have a specific cost tied to the acquisition of that product (be it a wholesale price or the cost of materials and labor). That’s called the “Replacement Cost”, and it’s pretty much the basis for most property insurance policies. With Magic cards, however, you only have a clear replacement cost for booster boxes (the price on your invoice)- meaning that if that Mox Sapphire goes up in flames, you are going to have a hard time litigating with your carrier that you need a new one (while answering the question, how much does it cost?).

When I cover a card store, I ask one major question: “How much money do you need to get an inventory/furnishings/technology that can get you up and running again?”. This number should include computers, tables, and anything else if you were starting from scratch. Be aware, you are mostly insuring against hazard loss (wind, fire, water, heart), and theft typically won’t be included unless you have some serious security in place already.

Maybe don't let this guy show up at FNMs, either.
Maybe don’t let this guy show up at FNMs, either.

The only other thing to mention to your agent is that you DO have a regular schedule of events. Some carriers have tried to distance themselves from game stores that run things like tournaments, simply because it means they are open more and later hours, and more time is just more exposure.

That’s all for today, hopefully this was helpful to you or someone you know. Oh, and here’s what I’ve been spending a lot of those incoming puca points on, as a heads-up for the next two Standard formats:

Port Town

Fortified Village

Choked Estuary

Prairie Stream

When DTK/Origins rotate, we are going to be looking at a format that has two VERY powerful UW creatures (Reflector Mage and Spell Queller), and having the mana to cast them is going to be crucial. All of the above lands are less than the price of a booster pack (Canopy Vista is currently around $3), and these feel like potential steals in a few months. We don’t know anything substantive about Kaladesh yet, but the set will have new lands- but expect these to still see a raise in market share as things like the pain lands cycle out.

Until next week!