Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Asset Appreciation

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By: Cliff Daigle

So I’ve come to a decision: I’m selling my Kaalia of the Vast deck.

If you’re interested, here’s the decklist. I’m not trying to sell it to you. I’m not trying to stump for the prices using this bully pulpit, but the list of what is foil is instructive. I certainly did not spend or trade about $2,000 to acquire this deck, but the prices have all steadily increased from what I got them for.

As I’ve admitted before, I’m a collector. I really enjoyed having these unique and valuable cards in my deck, and playing a foil French Angel of Despair started some interesting conversations in games. Whenever I had a chance to pick up something outside the usual version, I went for it, and did so for years. As such, the value increased, and with some of my foils, I picked them up at their printing, when they were significantly cheaper.

I started this deck in 2011, when the Heavenly Inferno deck came out and when Commander really hit the mainstream of Magic awareness.

Today I want to go over some of the cards and the specifics on how/why they went up in value so much in the past couple of years, and see what trends jump out.

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Akroma, Angel of Fury (foil)

This ‘alternate’ version of Akroma has not seen the same level of reanimation or love that the original has, but she remains a ridiculously powerful card. It’s only got one foil despite being in Heavenly Inferno, and she is the only mono-red Angel. There was once a combo involving turn 2 Radha, Heir to Keld and unmorphing Akroma on turn 4’s attack, but this increase in price is mainly due to age and availability.

 

Avacyn, Angel of Hope (foil)

This is the heavy hitter of any Angel deck. I have written before about how I expect her to headline FTV: Angels this summer, and her nonfoil price will take a hit but rebound nicely. Avacyn benefits from being incredibly powerful, in a popular tribe, and a mythic in a set that was widely regarded as unfun (and therefore opened less).

 

Kokusho, the Evening Star (CHK foil)

Interestingly, the Kamigawa foil is about $13 more than the Modern Masters foil, even for being the same card. The only differences are a line of flavor text and a set symbol. This card was initially deemed too good for Commander, and was banned for quite some time. Sheldon Menery used to give hints in his columns about cards they were ‘trying out’ and I got three Kokusho before the unbanning and subsequent price spike. Sadly, there’s no longer such indicators.

 

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight (foil)

She’s not as in-demand as Avacyn is, but many of the same price pressures apply: small sales, mythic, ridiculously powerful. Being two colors is the worst thing about her.

 

Aurelia, the Warleader (foil)

This is one of the most recent foils and at a multiplier of six from non-foil to foil, it’s an indicator of the casual appeal. Gatecrash sold very well, so that’s helping keep the price low. It’s one of the easier cards to cast, at only six mana, and that has probably put her into a few Cubes as well. Her synergy with Kaalia is undeniable, should you always play Aurelia a turn or two after Kaalia.

 

Iona, Shield of Emeria (foil)

First of all, her foil is sought after for Legacy Reanimator builds. This is one of the most powerful things to cheat into play, as it simply denies your opponent the ability to play spells. They aren’t countered, they aren’t exiled, they simply cannot happen. This is also one of the best Bribery targets in Commander. Zendikar is often regarded as a set that brought Magic to a new level of growth, but this is still in a lot smaller quantity than a mythic in Theros or Khans.

 

Baneslayer Angel (foil)

Being in two straight Core Sets should have her price lower than it is, but the power of this card is rather high. Five mana, flying, 5/5, lifelink, and a little protection was good enough to define Standard for quite a while.

 

Linvala, Keeper of Silence (foil)

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Rise of the Eldrazi was ridiculously fun to play and a surprisingly deep set. This was opened at a very healthy clip for its season, and a little more afterwards. I remember my LGS choosing Rise drafts over M11 more than once. Linvala’s price has been creeping upward steadily for a while, a combination of her power in Casual formats and as an answer to many problems in Modern.

 

Swiftfoot Boots (foil)

The regulars are a dollar or less, from M12 and two Commander printings. The foils are $6, and it would not be a surprise to see then break $10 within a year, being the only chance you have to get them in foil. A foil-set reprint (Conspiracy 2 seems like a good spot for this) will impact that price somewhat, and should not be discounted.

 

Command Tower (foil)

Now, there’s two foil versions out there: the Judge foil, and the Commander’s Arsenal version. Both are a couple of years old, and aren’t terribly common, but the judge foil is still not hard to find.

 

Thespian’s Stage (foil)

I’ve written about this multiple times and this is the short version: Get the foils you need now. A reprint on this land is very likely, as it’s one of the best things you can be doing in Commander, but the foils are much more likely to hold their price for the long term.

 

  

Sacred Foundry, Godless Shrine, Blood Crypt (all foil)

Foil shocks are as safe as can be for the next five years or so. We had some pricey ones before Return to Ravnica block, and then the newer shocks have crept up to the $50 range, depending on the colors. The older shocklands provide a price ceiling, and while I don’t expect huge growth out of RTR/GTC foil shocks, I do see them at least holding steady. If I were trading Standard cards to get Modern ones, foil shocks would be my ideal targets.

So what lessons are there to be learned?

First of all, if you need to get foils that are not in print, go ahead and get them now. Waiting won’t make them cheaper. At best, they will be the same price, at worst, they will be much, much more. So take it from a collector, a foil hound, a magpie: Get them now and revel in it.

Secondly, the print run matters, but not as much as the Eternal play. Iona and Linvala’s foil prices reflect this. There are more foils of Iona out there, but she doesn’t see much play outside of being a one-of in Reanimator. If it’s a short print run, that will make a difference as well, and could be a factor sooner rather than later.

Finally, if you can stand to wait until foils are at their bottom, do it. This is not necessarily the time when they rotate out of Standard, but instead when supply is at their greatest.

For an example, let’s look at Sarkhan Unbroken. Right now, his foil is at a comfortable $50, and that’s nearly half what it was when the set arrived. In about six weeks, Modern Masters lands, and this summer, we’ll have Magic Origins. Origins’ arrival is when I’m hoping that Sarkhan’s foil will be $30-$40 or so, and that is a price I’m comfortable at. The power level in Commander and other casual formats just won’t let the foil go lower, and it’s likely to appreciate well.

I hope you’re able to look at foil appreciations and figure out what else we should be watching (Eidolon of the Great Revel at $30 is a fair price now, but it’ll be $45 by summer 2016) and picking up for our collections.

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Tracking a Wishlist

By: Cliff Daigle

Today, with Dragons of Tarkir being the new and amazing set, and the beginning of a shaken-up Standard and Modern, I want to take a look back at my wishlist for Khans of Tarkir.

It’s been about six months since the set came out, and now that we aren’t opening Khans packs in drafts and Sealed, the prices are at their floor. How much could I have saved on the cards I wanted if I were willing to wait? How much is my patience worth?

I have gotten a few of these cards already, but I want to demonstrate the value of patience. These are all Commander cards for me, cards I’ll be adding to decks (or already added) to make them a little more awesome.

Foil Deflecting Palm
Foil Empty the Pits
Foil Hooded Hydra
Foil Kheru Bloodsucker
Foil Nomad Outpost
Foil See the Unwritten
Foil Sorin, Solemn Visitor

You don’t need me to tell you what these do or how good they are, since they have been out for six months now. You’ve likely traded or opened some of these already.

Here were the prices on Sept. 23, the Tuesday after the Prerelease, when prices are generally at their highest:

Foil Deflecting Palm $8
Foil Empty the Pits $17
Foil Hooded Hydra $14
Foil Kheru Bloodsucker $0.50
Foil Nomad Outpost $4
Foil See the Unwritten $17
Foil Sorin, Solemn Visitor $48
Total: $108.50

It’s a list with four mythics, two uncommons, and two rares, all in foil, because I am totally a collector. If I could find them in foreign foil, all the better. I feel this is a good sample from any given set, with a range of things I want to play right away.

I’ve been upgrading EDH decks for years and I’ve learned to wait, though. The longer I can stand to wait, the cheaper the cards will be in almost all cases. The cheapest path is to wait until Standard rotation, but even at the accelerated 18-month timeline, that’s just not good for me.

Let’s see what I saved (or would have saved) if I waited until today to get these cards:

Foil Deflecting Palm: $3.23
Foil Empty the Pits: $5.55
Foil Hooded Hydra: $6.38
Foil Kheru Bloodsucker: $0.43
Foil Nomad Outpost: $3.45
Foil See the Unwritten: $9.56
Foil Sorin, Solemn Visitor: $27.52
Total: $56.12

Even with a recent bump to See the Unwritten, even with the Manifest synergies of Hooded Hydra, even with Sorin seeing some play in assorted Abzan lists, the price has gone down by nearly half. Some of the cards went down by lots more than half, and the only ones to have even stayed the same are the two uncommons!

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What does this mean for you?

It means that when you seek value, patience is key. There is sometimes money to be made in buying things up right away. I am not good enough at predicting Standard and Modern to take that approach, but I can tell you that cards like See the Unwritten will always be amazing in Commander. (for spice, add Quicken, and add the tears of your opponents to taste.) 

It means that if the 50% figure holds (and the actual figure does vary, mainly due to spikes in prices) then I can determine how much of a premium I’m paying to have this card right now. It’s possible I could have beaten that $108 figure with judicious use of eBay or TCG sellers, too. I shouldn’t presume that I’d be paying full retail.

In this case, is it worth $50 or so to me to have the cards at the beginning of the format? Would I have been more content to get a nonfoil Sorin, and save $25 or so? That’s half of the value I gained by waiting six months, but foils are a much better bet over time.

As for what I did get: I picked up the Outpost and the Bloodsucker immediately, and I opened nonfoils of most of these. I’m still trying to trade for the foil versions. I haven’t bought any of these directly…yet.

I’m going to bring up another option here: PucaTrade goes nuts when a new set becomes available. There’s a lot of points and cards flying around, and the key to success on Puca is selling into hype, which is especially true this first week. Rack up the points while you can!


 

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Casual Standouts from DTK

By: Cliff Daigle

Dragons of Tarkir has no shortage of awesome cards. Some of these are build-around-me additions to a Cube, others will make waves in Tiny Leaders, and several seem to be designed for the kitchen table crowd. I am going to talk about a few of these, along with the price I’m comfortable getting in at. If something blows up in Standard or other Constructed format, my pricing will undoubtedly be off.

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit – Sure, she’s amazing in Tiny Leaders, but she’s also an enabler in all sorts of White Weenie strategies. Her mana cost is probably the biggest thing holding her back, as it’s not easy to get double white on turn two. Pick her up for $1 or less.

 

Hidden Dragonslayer – The rule about Morphs in EDH or Cube was this: it’s either Exalted Angel or Willbender. Khans block has given us some amazing morphs, and this cycle of cheap, powerful Megamorphs might be among the best of all. Singleton formats are where you really want flexibility, and you have a range of useful things to do here. That said, I think this is another dollar rare.

Profound Journey – I had Obzedat’s Aid in my Kaalia deck for the longest time, and it’s…serviceable. It has been cut, and while this is potentially twice as powerful, it costs even more. What’s really going to bother you is how often you spend seven mana and get back something that costs a lot less. Bulk rare.

Radiant Purge – I think this might be one of the sneakier cards of the set. Two mana for an instant-speed exile effect is not to be undervalued. It’s true that it would be better if it said “Exile target multicolored permanent” but we just got Utter End for such universal applications. I think this will hold a price due to being a popular sideboard card in Standard, so around $2.

Secure the Wastes – Believe it or not, while we’ve had numerous versions of this effect before, we’ve never had one this cheap, especially as an instant! This is an auto-include in any EDH token strategy, and I think it’s good enough for Cube too. I’ll be especially interested in foils around four or five dollars.

Clone Legion – In case you forgot, Wizards R & D plays a lot of EDH. This is a neat way to either win more on your own awesome board, or play catch-up with just one card. This is not a Standard card, this is absolutely a haymaker, battlecruiser, giant Commander effect. This is going to be better than you think it is, no matter if you’re ahead, behind, or at parity. It’s not going to be bulk, but I’ll be surprised if it’s ever more than $2 in nonfoil.

 

Living Lore – Some people are going to try and make this good. Don’t be one of those people. Bulkiest of bulk, until some weird Legacy combo pops up.

Stratus Dancer – I think this card is good enough for Standard, though to be honest, I’m not someone who plays a lot of that. Nonetheless, every mode on this card seems good. A 2/1 flyer for two is a good starting point, and if you have the time and mana, holding up an uncounterable counterspell for their sweeper is pretty amazing. I like this a lot in Cube and Commander too. This might be the priciest of the cycle, at around $3.

Hedonist’s Trove – This basically gives you a second library to play cards from. There’s a lot to be said for effects like this, but the problem is that you have to do a lot of work to fill their graveyard. I love it, but I’m not going to try and play it. Bulk.

Blood-Chin FanaticKresh the Bloodbraided has a new best friend. So does Hamletback Goliath. The pieces are there on a decent body for the price, but this will struggle to be more than a dollar or two.

 

Damnable Pact – There is a lot of fun to be had with these two modes. With a little mana, it’s a way to get a couple of cards. With lots of mana, it’s the finisher against people with low life or small libraries. It’s a surprisingly versatile spell, and should be considered in most decks. The card I’d measure it against is Diabolic Revelation, except that Revelation is a terrible card at less than seven, whereas there’s plenty of games I’d be happy to cast this for two or three. I think this will have a nice home around $2.

Virulent Plague – Hear me out. You should be giving serious consideration to playing this in most of your Commander/Tiny Leaders games. There’s very few tokens that can survive this without help, and mostly those are 3/3 Beasts and 4/4 Angels, which need to be cut down in size anyway. This is also an intriguing sideboard card in Modern, at least until Splinter Twin gets banned. I’ll be looking for foils of this around $1.50.

Descent of Dragons – I know that lots of people have fooled around with this, looking for combos that generate all sorts of advantages, but I’m thinking about how if I already have a bunch of creatures, I should be winning anyway. This is a mana less than Devout Invocation, and that’s a dollar mythic.

I think Descent’s price is going to open high on assorted hype and will trickle downward. I won’t be trying to get these until they fall to $5 or lower.

 

Impact Tremors – If you see someone lay this down on turn two in a Commander game, your target is acquired. This is half of the cost of Purphoros, for half the damage, so you’ll need twice as many tokens to be generated. Very doable. I’ll be watching for foils under $1.

Lightning Berserker – This card might be the real deal in mono-red decks. It also might not be. It’s not quite as durable as Monastery Swiftspear, but is there a better late topdeck? Perhaps the question is, would a red deck play this over Crater’s Claws? Some combination thereof? I think it’ll be worth picking these up in trades throughout the draft season, just in case.

Rending Volley – This might as well say “Best Sideboard Card Against Twin” on it. Spellskite can’t touch it, and it’s got Combust beaten by a full mana. I’m going to be looking for these around 50-75 cents, and I’m game for $5 foils. This is a very Cube-able card as well.

Roast – Yes, the damage can’t hit a flyer, and that’s a big mark against it. But everything else is amazing. Two mana! Who cares if it’s a sorcery, just get in there! Tasigur, Siege Rhino, you name the wingless problem and it’s solved. I feel good about this being about a dollar, and the foils should be around $5. This and Rending Volley might well be some very premium foils if eternal red decks decide it’s worth it.

Zurgo – He is who he is. He’s certainly not who he was. Poor guy. Stay away.

Assault Formation – Even in foil, I’m not interested. Rolling Stones has been a card for a long time, and neither of its foils can crack $5.

 

Inspiring Call – I meant to add this to last week’s piece, as this is something my Experiment Kraj deck wants very very badly in foil. I expect I’ll pay about $2 for that.

All Foil Commands – Be very wary of picking these up without having a specific plan in mind. Some of the multicolor modal cards are very high in foil, some are not. I want a foil Silumgar’s Command, and others will be wanting these in foil, but the key is in their eternal playability. Boros Charm is the best example, but even Golgari Charm is getting good mileage and expensive foils. I’m going to let the metagame sort the commands for me before I move in.


 

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My Upgrades From Dragons of Tarkir

By: Cliff Daigle

I play a lot of Commander games. I used to play even more, but with my family’s growth the last couple of years, my EDH time isn’t what it used to be. Nonetheless, I keep my decks updated when new sets come out. I usually tell people to know what they will take out before you go and add new cards, but I usually end up getting the new card and then figuring it out.

I am working from an incomplete spoiler. Next week, I’ll be completing the list and targeting prices.

I can’t remember if I have introduced you to my six decks, so here we go!

Existing Commander Decks

Commander: Adun Oakenshield
Philosophy: “Creatures rule!”

This deck has six noncreature spells: Lavalanche, Xenagos, the Reveler, Garruk, Caller of Beasts, Green Sun’s Zenith, Lurking Predators, and See the Unwritten. Everything else is a creature, and I want to focus on spell-like creatures in this deck. Mostly, it’s enter the battlefield effects, but I keep some others around like Viridian Zealot in case of Torpor Orb.

Commander: Kaalia of the Vast
Philsophy: Wreck some face!

I have spent the time and energy and money to get this manabase ‘perfect.’ There’s three fetches, three duals, three shocks, three filters, three buddy lands…you get the idea. This is my most competitive deck, capable of the fastest kills, and the most expensive, due to the Angel foils that just keep climbing! I have a mix of Angels, Dragons, and Demons because I don’t want to choose just one!

Commander: Garza Zol, Plague Queen
Philosophy: Shiny Vampire Control

I didn’t intend for this to become my all-foil deck, but it happened. I kept finding shiny replacements, and then it was just a few cards…and now it’s done. The vampire tribe is surprisingly strong, dating back to 2011 Standard: Bloodghast into Nighthawk into Nocturnus can end even Commander games fast. I’ve got a lot of fun and flexible control cards, and my MPR cards are here too.

Commander: Sliver Queen
Philosophy: For the Swarm!

This is my token deck. I try to have about a third of the cards be an army contained on one card, including Planeswalkers that make tokens. Everything else contributes to big mana and winning more. It’s five colors but light on nonbasics, so I use a lot of green mana fixing.

Commander: Experiment Kraj
Philosophy: Incredible abilities without going infinite

While I have lots of fun ways to untap Kraj for profit, I’ve shied away from any infinite-mana shenanigans. I found that style of deck to be unfun. The best card in here is probably Reveka, Wizard Savant, as a great way to deal damage.

Commander: Balthor the Defiled
Philosophy: Rise and rise again!

This zombie tribal deck is a lot of fun, as I have lots of mass reanimation and that’s what the general is for as well, sorcery-speed mass return. The combination of Vengeful Dead and Noxious Ghoul do a lot of work, and a sneaky-great zombie is actually Gutless Ghoul, giving a sacrifice for profit.

Pickups from Dragons

dragontempest

Dragon Tempest – Kaalia decks are going to love this card. Very few Angels, Demons, or Dragons don’t have flying, and having Kaalia enter with Haste is quite awesome. This will be a strict upgrade over Fervor for me. I will be trying to get a foil around $3-$5, but this will be a bulk card before long.

shamanofforgottenways

Shaman of Forgotten Ways – I’ve tried Somberwald Sage in decks in the past, and found it underwhelming. Acceleration and fixing are not as needed in 99-card formats. The additional ability on this, though, is an ability that has been deemed too good on a sorcery: Biorhythm. I will be picking this up from every trade binder I see it in. I want regular ones around $5 by the end of April. The foils will probably not go below $20 for a while, if at all.

sidisiundeadvizier

Sidisi, Undead Vizier – Just amazing in my zombie deck. I’ve no shortage of things to Exploit for profit, and this is something I’ll be happy to do over and over again. This appears to be good enough for Standard, so I think it’ll stay between $5-$10 for the next couple of months. Foils should easily be $15, if not more.

sarkhanunbroken

Sarkhan Unbroken – I will put one of these into my Sliver Queen deck, because of the token ability. I will never ultimate this, since there aren’t any Dragons in that deck. The first two abilities are just so good, you’ll need to have him in a dedicated Dragon deck to ever really have the ultimate be worthwhile. I think this is one of the best cards in Standard, if you can cast it, and I have a hard time thinking this will be less than $30 at any point. I want a foil, but I’m not going to drop $100 on it.

risenexecutioner1

Risen Executioner – Another easy addition to my Balthor deck, as it’s a zombie lord. I might sometimes pay the tax on recasting this, but mostly it’ll be there alongside Cemetery Reaper and the like. I think this will be a bulk mythic fast, and the foils should hover around $5.

silumgarscommand (1)

Silumgar’s Command – I’m already playing Spite//Malice and I’m trying to decide if this is good enough to be included as well, or if I’ll just be replacing it. I’ve got Countersquall as well, so I’m going to try and fit this in. Bloodlord of Vaasgoth just isn’t pulling his weight…

I expect this command to be around $1/$4 for the foil, and I’m okay picking it up at that price. The modes are good enough that I think it’ll keep value for a while. The ‘noncreature spell’ part is most relevant, as there’s few enough creatures that need countering. That’s what Wrath effects are for.

Those are the five cards I’m planning on adding, next week with the full spoiler I’ll talk about some of the cards that are almost there, and the ones you’ll see a lot in casual games.

On an unrelated note, I want to clue you all in to Channel Fireball’s “Yard Sale” and a finance trick I’ve been using for years.

Full Disclaimer: I don’t work for Channel Fireball, though I do live in driving distance of their shop. This month, they are having a series of sales, and it’s the sort of thing that Star City has done, and other sites too. Systematic sales are your chance to exchange cards at a fair rate with full value.

Allow me to explain. Normally, when you deal with a vendor, you are never going to get the full retail value of your card. You’re going to get around 40-50% of its value in cash, and maybe 70-80% if you choose store credit.

These wide-scale sales allow you to get cards at enough of a discount to make it tempting to trade directly with a store. Here’s an example:

Hero’s Downfall has a Fair Trade Price of $7.54 as I write this. Anafenza, the Foremost, has a FTP of $7.81. I would happily trade my Downfall for your Anafenza, since it’s so close in price. However, lots of people are savvy to the fact that Downfall is going to rotate out in a few months and tank in value, while Anafenza has nowhere to go but up as a Standard card and a Tiny Leaders powerhouse. So you would have trouble finding someone to make this trade with.

Enter the vendor’s sale. Channelfireball will give four dollars in cash for Hero’s Downfall, with a 30% bonus for store credit ($5.20) and their sale currently has Anafenza down to $5.99. This is not perfect, as you see, but it’s pretty close and it’s an effective tool to use when a vendor decides to hold a sale.

You don’t have to spend the store credit during the sale, but doing so allows you to treat a vendor as a trading partner who gives nearly equal value, which is something that doesn’t happen often. Enjoy!


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