Tag Archives: Mtg

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!

The Spec Evaluation Cheat Sheet

As MTG financiers, we see a lot of ideas thrown around for speculation targets. We have a good understanding of what kinds of events can drive prices, but my goal with this article is to streamline the vetting process for cards that we’re considering buying. This will allow us evaluate more cards more quickly, leading us to the best speculative purchases we can make. Ready?

Relevant Factors

Let’s briefly go through the relevant factors we can evaluate before buying in on a card.


What format(s) does the card see play in? Here’s a quick breakdown of how cards are impacted by particular formats:

Standard: Prices can move quickly based on players’ tournament needs, but prices are volatile and will not last, especially once rotation starts to loom.

Modern: Cards in this format just get more and more expensive. If a card is a multi-deck staple, a four-of, appears on MTG Goldfish’s format staples list, see play in other formats, is old, and/or has other contributing factors, prices can get really high. Modern Masters sets mean that every card in the format is at risk of reprint, however.

Legacy: As MTGPrice’s Travis Allen notes, Legacy is starting to drive prices less than it has in the previous five years. That doesn’t mean it can’t still make cards expensive, but it’s not as cut-and-dry as it used to be.

Vintage: A relative few number of players enjoys Vintage, but those that do have invested lots of money in the format. If a card is old or foil, there’s a chance Vintage will make it expensive, but the format isn’t widespread enough to impact the prices of most newer cards, especially non-foils.

CommanderCommander is likely the most popular casual format these days, and this allows it to drive prices on highly demanded cards. That said, as a one-of format, cards have to see play in many different archetypes to see huge spikes—one-archetype players are usually not worth much, even if they’re really good. MTGPrice’s Jason Alt does a great job focusing on the financial implications of Commander week-in, week-out.

Cube: Cube is gaining in popularity, but since not every player needs to own one, it’s really hard for Cube alone to impact a card’s price. It has the largest effect on foil prices, since they’re so much scarcer.

Print Run

A card printed in a large, fall set will have many more copies in existence than one printed in a small, follow-up set. When considering speculating on one of two cards with all other things being equal, you should pretty much always go with the one in shorter supply.

It’s important to know about additional printings, though. If you search for a card like Tasigur, the Golden Fang, you’ll see only the Fate Reforged printing, but that ignores the fact that the card was printed in an Event Deck. This additional influx in supply hurt Tasigur’s price, and if you’re considering buying or selling the card, this is useful information to know. Intro Packs are another source of additional printings for a card that might not necessarily show up when searching to see which sets a card was printed in. By contrast, things like Duel Deck and From the Vault printings will show up as separate sets, making them much easier to identify.

Print run and format demand are both relatively easy to approximate, although we should note that Magic players aren’t given enough information for us to know the exact numbers on these things. Nonetheless, some of the other factors—while no less relevant to a card’s price—are harder to identify.

Likelihood of Reprint

This is honestly just a judgment call. When you have a card from the Reserved List, the judgment call is pretty easy to make—it won’t be reprinted—but when you have something like Abrupt Decay, things get more difficult. You have to consider questions like: what products is this most likely to see a reprint in? what upcoming products would make sense to have this as an inclusion? is its set likely to be covered by the next Modern Masters? Obviously, the answers to all these questions and similar ones are highly speculative, but we have all kinds of resources to help us make educated guesses—and that’s exactly what we need to be doing.

Historical Comparisons

What similar cards have been printed in the past? How did they perform financially? Is this card better, worse, or just different from those other ones? Does it outclass them or is it outclassed by them? If it’s a reprint, how did the first printing perform?

Standard Legality

Is the card legal in Standard? For how much longer? Will it go up or down at rotation? How much is its price predicated on Standard?

These are some of the big-picture things we want to keep an eye on, but it’s getting tough to consider this in the abstract. Let’s move on to a case study.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

With a Fair Trade Price as of this writing of $19.97, Ulamog has seen nearly a $5 increase in the past month. Might it still be a good buy? Let’s go down the list of the relevant factors.


  • Lots: Commander/Cube
  • Some: Standard/Modern (still being determined)
  • None: Legacy or Vintage (not replacing Emrakul any time soon)

Print Run

  • Rarity: Mythic rare
  • Set size: Large, fall set—the most recent, meaning one of the highest print runs of all time.
  • Additional printings: No supplementary product or promotional printings (except for prerelease)

Likelihood of Reprint

  • In a Standard-legal expansion? Very low
  • In a supplementary product (DD, EV, Commander, etc.)? Low
  • In a premium product (FTV, judge foil, etc.)? Medium
  • In Modern Masters 2017Very low
  • In Modern Masters 2019High

Historical Comparisons

  • Highest prices of original three Eldrazi: $54.98; $64.98; $69.98 (approximately three years after release)

Standard Legality

  • Entered Standard fall 2015; leaves spring 2017
  • Price tied to Standard? Very little
  • Expected losses from rotation? Very low
  • Expected gains after printing stops? High

Of course, much of the above consists of opinion, estimations, educated guesses, and wild assumptions. Nonetheless, using the above cheat sheet can help us get closer to an objective consideration of all the factors that might influence our decision to buy or sell a card.

To summarize my above bulletpoints in prose form: Ulamog will be in high demand by casual players, and we’ve seen what that kind of demand can do for Eldrazi titans in the historical comparisons. He comes from a highly opened set, but is a mythic rare with no additional printings, and a relatively small chance of being reprinted before Modern Masters 2019. As a card being impacted very little by Standard, it’s likely that Ulamog’s price won’t be affected by rotation and we can pick these up freely right now.

Let’s do one more case study before we close today.

Thoughtseize (Theros)


With a Fair Trade Price of $19.40 today, Thoughtseize hasn’t exactly set the world on fire the way we expected after rotation.


  • Lots: Modern/Legacy/Vintage/Cube
  • Some: N/A
  • None: Standard, Commander

(Not that the card is in zero Commander decks, but one-for-one discard isn’t especially potent in the format.)

Print Run

  • Rarity: Rare in Lorwyn (2007) and rare in Theros (2014)
  • Set size: Both printings were in large, fall sets
  • Additional printings: No supplementary product or promotional printings

Likelihood of Reprint

  • In a Standard-legal expansion? Virtually nil
  • In a supplementary product (DD, EV, Commander, etc.)? Very low
  • In a premium product (FTV, judge foil, etc.)? High-ish (an eternal staple with no promos or unique premium versions seems suspect to me)
  • In Modern Masters 2017? Possible but unlikely
  • In Modern Masters 2019? A little more possible but still unlikely

Historical Comparisons

  • Before the Theros printing, Lorwyn Thoughtseize topped out above $75.
  • The current price of the original printing is $40.15, more than double the Theros version.

Standard Legality

  • Not legal in Standard
  • Price tied to Standard? N/A
  • Expected losses from rotation? N/A
  • Expected gains after printing stops? High

Everyone expected Thoughtseize to go up after rotation, but so far it has disappointed. Nonetheless, as a four-of staple in every eternal format that has only two printings (albeit at rare in large, fall sets), this is bound to gain in price eventually. Nevertheless, I’m not excited to buy today based on the plummeting buylist price of late:


Keeping an eye on that blue line will tell you when to buy—and this is more or less guaranteed to be a good spec target at some point. Keep a close eye here.

Now You Do It

I’ve shown you a couple examples, show me your breakdown of a speculation target you like in the comments. Here’s the outline:


  • Lots:
  • Some:
  • None:

Print Run

  • Rarity:
  • Set size:
  • Additional printings: 

Likelihood of Reprint

  • In a Standard-legal expansion?
  • In a supplementary product (DD, EV, Commander, etc.)?
  • In a premium product (FTV, judge foil, etc.)?
  • In Modern Masters 2017?
  • In Modern Masters 2019?

Historical Comparisons

  • Past printings of this card?
  • Comparable cards?

Standard Legality

  • Entered Standard _____; leaves ______
  • Price tied to Standard? 
  • Expected losses from rotation? 
  • Expected gains after printing stops? 

Pricing Trends

  • Retail price direction?
  • Buylist price direction?

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

A Guide to Black Friday Buying

I remember the appeal of Black Friday. Stuff yourself on turkey (and ham, and potatoes, and deviled eggs, and stuffing, and wine, etc), play games with the family, listen to your crazy uncle and live-tweet what he says, drink more wine and then pass out.

Then wake up at 4 a.m. on Friday and drive to Wal-Mart or Target to begin to camp out for those 7 a.m. openings. If you’re really hardcore you get there even earlier so as to try and get in on the doorbuster sale. You walk away with the fancy TV if you’re lucky, and you probably get a lot of stuff you maybe don’t actually need. Then you go home and sleep.

These days, Black Friday starts on Thursday. At not at 11:59 either. 6 p.m. openings is, frankly, stupid. I get that some people (very few) want to eat and then go shop, the fact is you’re never going to get the doorbusters unless you skip Thanksgiving meal altogether. I’m not a fan of this at all, but it would be fairly disingenuous of me to criticize it too heavily given that it is the natural conclusion of capitalism, and I have a writing gig here and a store to run thanks to that. Still, I hate it.

Luckily, when it comes to Magic, we don’t have to worry about that. You wake up in the morning and begin the crazy Black Friday rush of surfing the Internet in your pajamas. I had originally planned on compiling a big list of Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, but Reddit has beat me to it. Since I can’t imagine making a more comprehensive list than theirs, I’ve decided not to try. Instead, I want to offer some tips on how to plan out your holiday purchases this year.

The Big Ones

Let’s start with Star City Games, the biggest retailer of note. Their Black Friday deals have just been announced, and there’s some big ones. Battle for Zendikar boxes at just $80 is actually insane, given that it’s a full $10 cheaper than boxes available on TCGPlayer. Even the EV of the opened packs comes out to above that — though you’re playing the Gideon lottery here, of course.

Next up is there sale on true collector items: Alpha/Beta and graded goods. While I’m no expert on these prices, there’s certainly a lot to like here if you’re in the market. Rarely do you get the intersection of a truly reputable dealer (and SCG is unparalleled here) with such high-end collectibles. I understand how little of the market this speaks to, but it’s worth checking out. Of course, there’s also the consideration of this being timed just a few weeks after the big announcement of reduced Legacy support. While I’m not drawing any causation here between the two, I imagine others will chime in on the subject in the days to come.


While we haven’t seen all of Channel Fireball’s deals, I have to imagine they will look good as well. Both of these retailers can afford to really jump in with some “loss leaders,” if you will, and that means they’re willing to offer up some of the best deals on the market to get people into their store.

The third of the big outlets, TCGPlayer, has a significantly less exciting offer. Getting five percent of your purchase back in store credit is nice, sure, but it’s not anything to really go deep on. While TCGPlayer is obviously still your best outlet for cheap cards — and if you were planning an order now’s the time to place it — nothing about their deal makes me want to jump in.

Other online stores

Moving down the list, I would also suggest checking out TrollandToad, which has an actually insane deal with $60 Dragons of Tarkir booster boxes. This is a full $20 under TCGPlayer, and essentially half of the EV of the box. I’m not going to say arbitrage is worth your time here, but the truth is that’s just an absurdly low price for a set that’s going to be legal another eight months. [EDIT: SOLD OUT on boxes; that was fast].

Card Kingdom is doing a “spend $100, get $15 in store credit” deal, which again isn’t bad if you’re planning a purchase but not something that draws me in. CoolStuffInc seems to have their actual singles discounted, so if you’re looking into something specific it’s worth comparing there, though I’ll note that their prices aren’t exactly low to begin with, so there’s maybe not a ton to be gained here.

But here’s one that I do consider worth going out of your way to check out: Face to Face Games. The store is located in Canada, but if you’re north of the border or even in the U.S. (sorry, everyone else), this is worth looking into thanks to a 15 percent off coupon code for Black Friday only (code: BLACKFRIDAY2015). If I’m looking to buy a deck or a collection of cards (or spec targets), this is likely the best place to look. In many ways this is the same as Card Kingdom giving $15 on a $100 order, except in this case you don’t have to spend your “savings” on more cards.

Big-Box Stores

These are your Wal-Mart and Targets of the world, as well as some smaller chains. While those two big ones don’t have anything to write home about, Walgreens has 40 percent off, I’ve heard Hastings has buy one, get one deals going on, and you should also be on the lookout for any other price-matching guarantees that stores in your area may float around.

Overall, there’s nothing huge here, but 40 percent off at Walgreens is a great excuse to buy any product you may want either for yourself or the upcoming gift-giving season. I’m not sure if you can grab Commander 2015 product at these locations or not, but this is a great way to get in on those if you can.

Everything’s local

With all of this in mind, remember that “Small Business Saturday” is a newer trend that’s popping up. I know a lot of local stores that are having some big sales, and when you’re done recovering from Thanksgiving food and finished scouring the internet for deals, be sure to go check out your local game store. They almost always have good deals of their own and are highly likely to want to work with you, given that you represent repeat business to them. The typical LGS is a lifeline to all players, and we don’t want to forget them in the rush that is Black Friday madness.


With so many places to look, I’ll stop here. Get out there and find some deals!


Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter/Twitch/YouTube

Grinder Finance – Winding Down the Year

With the conclusion of this three-Grands Prix weekend, we draw ever closer to the end-of -year lull in Magic.  Let’s talk about some new announcements and discuss the expected price drops in the comings weeks.

Shadows Over Innistrad

If you are a Vorthos player, you may have been expecting this.  In this article, Ugin explains to Jace that the only way to stop the Eldrazi is to seal them again.  He instructs Jace to go to Innistrad and find Sorin and bring him back to Zendikar.  Another important thing that Ugin mentions is that the Eldrazi Titans will planeswalk away when mortally threatened.  There are a few expectations we can draw from these events.

  • Shadows over Innistrad is the start of a new block.  It will be treated like a large fall set.
  • Liliana is MIA in the Zendikar storyline, I expect to see her return in Innistrad (This would be a prime place to reprint Liliana of the Veil without devotion in Standard)
  • We may see flashback return in SOI but with a Snapcaster Mage RPTQ promo he will likely not return in the set.
  • We may see an Eldrazi titan escape and attack Innistrad (Given the fact that Oath of the Gatewatch‘s set symbol looks like Kozilek’s head shards, it will probably be Emrakul)

This is all of course speculation but so far the story articles seem to be a reliable way to tell the future.

Why are we going back to Innistrad?


With a real definition of what is “new” and what isn’t, I expect this to continue to in the future and be a conduit for important reprints outside of Modern Masters.  We can expect the Fall 2016 set to be a “new” plane.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s shift gears and talk about events.

What events are left in the 2015 calendar year?

Do you know how many weekends of Grands Prix are left? After this triple Grands Prix weekend, there are five left on three weekends to close out the year.  Seattle/Tacoma (Legacy), Atlanta (Sealed), and Pittsburgh (Modern) are the last three Grands Prix in North America this year.  There are two Standard GPs left, one in Brussels and one in Kobe, and that’s it!  There is over a month off and then GP Oakland opens up the year with a Standard Grand Prix before almost another month off before the next set of Grands Prix after the release of Oath of the Gatewatch.  Thats not a lot of Standard being played outside of the LGS level.

Let’s take a look at the other major circuit, the Star City Games Open Series. There are five SCG opens for the remainder of the year.  Four are Standard (Philadelphia, Kansas City, Denver, and Las Vegas) and one is Legacy (New Jersey).  That’s also not a lot of opportunities for the rest of the year to play in high level Magic events.

What does this all mean?  Well, it precludes the December price dips.  You basically have one month to sell or trade any Standard cards you will not need for the rest of the year before their price starts to drop significantly.  I already traded away my Gideon, Ally of Zendikar this weekend for Eternal playables. I would recommend dumping any Khans of Tarkir cards especially since there will be no more Standard Pro Tours to breathe new life into them before they rotate.

siege rhino price

As you can see from this graph, the post Pro Tour price tag quickly dips into a yearly low in December.  If you want to get expensive cards from Battle for Zendikar, I’d wait until then.

gideon price

Although Gideon doesn’t have a long price history, we can see he’s peaked and is already on his slow descent.  I’m just guessing here but I could see Gideon being as cheap as $20 by Christmas.  While it’s clear he will be a player in Standard for his entire lifetime, it is unwise to hold copies you’re not actively using.  But, it’s not all gloom and doom for a buyer.


These two lands have already shown up in some decks as a way to ramp out huge Eldrazi.  It might not be a thing today but I feel like the deck is very close to breaking out.  I wouldn’t be surprised if these two lands are the mainstay of a top tier deck in Oath of the Gatewatch.  Kind of hilariously, right now that is the basis for one of the cheaper Standard decks as it doesn’t play any fetchlands, Gideons, or Jaces.  At about $0.50 per land, I wouldn’t fault you for picking up a playset of each in preparation for Kozilek in Oath of the Gatewatch.

Grand Prix Articles

Do you like the articles that Jeremy (@LengthyXemit) does for Grands Prix?  I will be lucky enough to attend the last two American Grands Prix of the year and can provide some commentary for people looking to buy cards.  Are there other questions you have for the Grand Prix process?

I took a week off due to some work-related complications but I will have the Pucatrade article for next week!  Hope you all had an awesome Halloween and I look forward to your comments below!