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In Defense of Durdling

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Since I am not writing Finance articles for MTG Price exclusively now, it felt appropriate to do an introductory “first” article to introduce myself and my goals for the series I’ll be writing. Why the ironic quotes around “first”? Well, as much as this feels like a new beginning, I have contributed to MTG Price in the past.  This is as much a homecoming as it is an introduction.

Still, a lot of you weren’t around last time I was here and it’s all new to you. Perfect. Even though I’m merely resuming writing, I am launching a new series and I am excited about it because it’s well within my wheelhouse. Corbin introduced himself and his goals very well and I think I would like to do the same.

I want to talk about EDH and its financial implications.

I will now take questions.

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EDH Finance FAQ

Q: Why not continue your series from where it left off?

A: It was a little dry and technical. It was sort of a blueprint for how “not to” MTG Finance, which is useful, but I also said nearly everything I wanted to say in that series. I covered some more topics on Quiet Speculation and I think repeating what I already wrote is a lazy way to start a series. I am sure I will end up reiterating some things as they come up, however.

Q: What are your goals for the series?

A: I want to cover the nuances of EDH and how it uniquely pertains to finance in a way that formats like Standard do not. Some of our instincts as financiers are very good and some of them are very, very poor. Learning those nuances is very helpful in finance and since I’ve been deep in EDH for two years, I feel like I have learned a lot I can pass on. You learn by doing, or reading from people who have been doing. I am sure most of you would rather just read about my trial and error process. There has been quite a bit of error and it’s been enormously instructive. I’m looking forward to passing that knowledge along to people who have great finance instincts and are eager to learn about how EDH is unique.

Q: Will you cover Tiny Leaders?

A: I am sure I will. There are some corollaries with EDH and there are some wild divergences. I don’t understand Tiny Leaders as well as I would like to but I am investigating it on a weekly basis and learning more all the time. If I say anything about a format like Tiny Leaders that I don’t understand as well as I understand 100 card, it will be because I’m very confident in what I am saying. The last thing I want to do is lead people astray and have them end up holding the bag on bad specs that were hype-based rather than reality-based. If Tiny Leaders has staying power as a format, it’s worth taking some time to really understand it. That said, I have some impressions that I will share in the weeks to come.

Q: Is EDH Finance really all that different?

A: Yes and no. While good cards are going to be worth money and bad cards are going to be worth not money, just like in other formats, there are some nuances. I have learned a lot through trial and error and I want to impart some of that hard-earned experience. It’s easy to buy too early, sell too early, misread signals and buy the wrong things. Good cards end up worth nothing three years after they’re printed. Mediocre cards rocket up in price. Even people who understand EDH as a format very well struggle sometimes. How can someone who doesn’t pay attention to EDH at all be expected to make sense of it?

EDH Finance isn’t harder than any other facet of finance, but there are some rules that don’t apply to other types of finance. Once you learn those rules, it will all start to make sense. You could take the time to learn some of the nuances on your own, but you don’t have to. I’ve got you covered.

Q: I don’t care about EDH.

A: …that isn’t a question.

Q: I don’t care about EDH?

A: That’s not really… you know what, forget it. I’ll actually field this one.

I don’t care about Vintage, but if I find a foil Vandalblast in a bulk foil bin for $0.50, whether or not I care about its Vintage implications is irrelevant; I am either knowledgeable enough to stack that scrilla or I’m not. My personal feelings don’t enter into what is essentially a financial transaction, so don’t leave money on the table because you aren’t an EDH player. If you know the Blackhawks are going to win the Stanley Cup you bet on them regardless of whether or not you know how to skate.

Making smart moves in MTG Finance requires you to pay attention to as many facets of the game as you can manage, so at least knowing what’s going on in EDH when major events like a drastic rules change or the spoiling of new cards from a Commander sealed set happen. Knowing how to handle those situations means you buy ahead of hype and sell into it. That’s the play, after all.

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I keep talking about how I plan to codify as much of what I’ve learned as I can, freeing you up to really focus on other aspects of finance, but I think now that I have outlined my goals for the series a bit and still have your attention, I want to make the case for caring about EDH yourself. I want to help you know what you’re talking about. I am even going to try and convince you to build a deck and play a few games. Do you have to? Nope! But I think you’ll be glad you did. You can take that to the bank.

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Better do what he says, he looks crazy

 

In Defense of Durdling

I am a pretty late EDH convert. I wasn’t excited about the format initially and when I saw huge, durdly games with 5 players take up an entire card table with gigantic board states and no one able to really swing profitably, it turned me off the way it has a lot of people. I couldn’t see myself investing two or three hours into one game without starting to wonder which make and model of pistol had the tastiest barrel.

When Innistrad block came out, trading at large events was still a thing, but barely.  I would spend hours before the event packing my binders with a mix of casual and competitive cards. I would make sure I had a long list of staples specific to the event I was going to. I made sure I knew the prices of every card in my binder so I could cut down on the time people spent looking cards up. I was ready.

I needn’t have bothered.

I got to the event site both days of an SCG Open with the cards people needed for either Standard or Legacy and got a few trades in from people frantically trying to get the cards they needed for their decks, but for the most part people just bought the cards they needed for decks. The trades I did get in took too long because my trade partners wanted to look up my cards and their cards to make sure that even though I was willing to trade them the card they couldn’t play the event without and take whatever they had in their binder so long as it was worth it for me financially that the trade wasn’t in my favor by as much as a quarter. After the event started, the only people trading were other sharks, and trading with them was only semi-productive. If you are forced to trade straight across with someone who knows prices as well as you do, all you can do is target cards you think will go up soon and try and maximize the number of cards you don’t think will go up that you get rid of. It’s worth doing, but only just barely.

The worst part was, I needn’t have bothered showing up with a fully stocked binder. If I’d bought 20 copies of Snapcaster Mage I could have had the only card anyone asked for and had a better time. People would look through 3 binders that had thousands of cards and say “no thanks; I didn’t see anything”. If this had been a GP, I could have sold cards to the dealers and made the trip worthwhile, but this was an SCG Open so even that wasn’t an option. Dejected, I slumped down on a table far from the trade tables and tables set up for the event. I dropped my binder on the table a little harder than I meant to and the gust of displaced air buffeted a pile of booster pack wrappers sitting between an older gentleman and his pre-teen son. sitting near me at the table. They looked over at me and both eyed my binder. The older man said to his son “Why not ask him?” and the kid asked me “Excuse me, do you have a” and I thought “Great, he gets to be person #400 to ask me for Snapcaster Mage. Best weekend ever” but he finished his sentence “Ludevic’s Test Subject?”

I snapped out of my funk. “Uhhh, yeah, absolutely.” I put my binder away and got out a different binder. Both of their eyes widened. I flipped the binder open “Do you want the set copy or the promo?” which was met with a “There’s a PROMO?!” from both of them. I slid a copy out and set it on his mat. The thought of looking through a binder didn’t appeal to me so I was prepared to give him the card, but he said “Will you take a Garruk for it?”

I think at the time, Garruk was worth $25 so that made the trade roughly… $25 in my favor. I tried to give him a playset, but he said “It’s for my blue monsters EDH deck. I only need one”. He handed me the Garruk and turned back to his father, elated, and they started picking up the pack wrappers and throwing them away. “We bought a box of Innistrad but didn’t get any Test Subjects” the dad explained. I was stunned. He was happier with his bulk rare Test Subject than I was with my Planeswalker. I had to know their secret. Over the next hour, we went through my binder page by page, pulling out cards for his blue monsters EDH deck and other cards he just liked. Every time I told him it was OK to pull more cards at me, he looked at me like I was either nuts or untrustworthy; like I was someone in a police procedural movie keeping the criminal on the phone long enough for the police to trace the call.  He pulled out cards until he couldn’t find anything else he wanted and then I made some suggestions for cards he already owned that he could put in the deck.

All in all, he probably got $18 worth of cards and I made his whole weekend. I got a $25 card for $18 worth of bulk rares and garbage but that wasn’t what made my weekend. It was realizing that I had been trading with the wrong people.

I decided to try and build some EDH decks, and after going to a local shop on EDH night, I was able to trade a small number of expensive cards for two complete decks, decks I could work on improving. Not only that, I traded out a ton of the weird, foreign and foil cards I couldn’t sell on TCG Player and had been sitting on for months. They didn’t just want Snapcaster and the other 10 cards that were getting played in Standard. They wanted everything. My bulk rares were worth their weight in gold all of a sudden.

I stumbled into a community that still trades cards. A community that sees the value in cards like Boros Battleshaper and Progenitor Mimic. A community that isn’t looking to optimize their deck but rather optimize their experience. We should be thanking them, frankly, because if it weren’t for EDH and casual, only like 100 Magic cards would be worth money. Standard couldn’t make Chromatic Lantern worth $6 but EDH did. Modern couldn’t make Creakwood Liege worth $11, but EDH did. And Legacy couldn’t make Savor the Moment worth $5, only a speculative, targeted buyout predicated on the notion that the card is somehow good in Tiny Leaders could do that.

If you haven’t gone to the shop on EDH night, maybe try it one week. Take your trade binder with you, if you even still have a trade binder. You might be surprised with how much fun you have. You might see some cards in action that you weren’t aware of. You may do what I do all the time and see EDH cards in action and think to yourself “Why isn’t this card worth way more money?” That’s one of the burning questions I hope to answer with this series. Whether or not you take my advice and find an EDH group to trade with and learn a little bit from, we’re all going to benefit from discussing EDH with some scrutiny and an eye toward figuring out why certain cards aren’t worth more money.

Thanks for reading! I am glad to be back writing here at MTG Price and I am really glad to be writing about EDH and finance in the same column, finally! Check back next week and let’s start trying to figure out why certain cards aren’t worth more money.

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So You Want to Play Magic for Free?

Greetings! Today is a big day for me: my first article on MTGPrice. I am humbled and honored to be part of this top-notch team of some of the best minds in MTG finance.

Goals and Expectations

When I first started writing about MTG finance, I felt woefully inadequate compared to many of my peers, and to some extent, that’s still true. Many of the writers on this site make a living exclusively by buying and selling Magic cards. Others have experience in real-life finance and stock trading. Some are funding their college educations through MTG.

By contrast, my primary goal in MTG finance is just to play for free. That’s it! Sure, every once in a while, I’ll buy in to a card and make some real-life cash profit. Those times are nice, but they’re not frequent, because constant speculating is time-consuming, and most of my free time is taken up by this little dude:

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The time I do have outside of my full-time job is precious, and the fact is that constantly buying and selling Magic cards is a pain. Maintaining a large inventory, the daily packaging and shipping of cards, having to travel to large events in far-off locations every single weekend… these things can be rewarding and profitable, but they’re a grind. Could I do it? Maybe. Do I want to? Not in the slightest.

I’ll tell you straight up: the perspective I’m bringing is of someone who worries over when the best time to buy a single copy of a card for my cube is, or maybe a playset for a Constructed deck. My definition of “going deep” on a card is 20 to 30 copies. If you’re a store owner or someone who goes hundreds deep on most speculation targets, I like to think my insights will still be applicable, but  there may be other columnists on this site whose objectives more closely align with yours.  Rather than feeling inadequate compared to those other writers, though, I’m just going to own it: my goals are different than theirs.

Namely, I’m looking to spend as little time as possible on Magic finance so I can spend the most time possible actually playing Magic without spending money to do so. Does that sound similar to what you want? Then we’ll get along just fine. Read on.

Why MTG Finance Matters

If you’re new to Magic: The Gathering, I hate to break it you, but you are going to have to spend a significant amount of money if you want to be competitive in basically any format. I know it’s rough, but unless you’re lucky enough to have inherited an old collection from a family member, you are just going to have to accept that this is an expensive hobby, and it’s at its most expensive of all when you’re just starting out.

Now, you’re currently on a Magic finance website reading an article about playing Magic for free, and that shows that you’re at least interested in mitigating these start-up costs. That’s awesome. Deciding you want to spend as little as possible to get as much as possible out of this hobby is an excellent first step.

I have good news for you new players, and it applies to the established players, too: once you have a decent-sized collection, the world of MTG opens up to you exponentially. Why? Because Magic cards are probably the most liquid, easy-to-sell assets that you own (unless you’re involved in commodities markets or drugs or something). There are buylists all over the internet, many of them featured on MTGPrice, waiting to buy your cards at a moment’s notice. Most adults don’t often work in the barter system, but trades of cards for cards happen every day in every LGS across the world. You can use a service like PucaTrade to turn the cards you have into cards you want from the comfort of your own home, or turn to eBay to try to sell individual cards for a little more than buylist pricing. There are many, many ways to get rid of cards for either cash or different cards.

So once you have a collection, it’s not hard to turn that collection into a specific group of cards you want—for play, for speculation, for collecting, or for chewing on (in my son’s case). Of course, you can only leverage your collection into the exact cards you want if you understand how MTG finance works: how seasonal price patterns work, how rotation works, how Standard pricing works, how eternal format pricing works, how casual formats impact the marketplace, the best ways to out your cards, and more.

That’s why Magic finance matters: because almost anybody can play almost any format with enough knowledge, time, and dedication. There’s no reason you need to resort to less powerful budget decks to get your fun out of this game, but there’s also no reason for you to overspend in acquiring top-tier staples in your favorite format. You just need to develop a couple important attributes.

Two Crucial Attributes for a Finance-Minded Mage

I can’t stress enough the importance of patience for the finance-inclined player.

It has been literal years since I preordered a card. Yes, occasionally there’s a Bonfire of the Damned or a Sphinx’s Revelation that blows up and makes those who got in early a ton of money, but in the vast majority of cases, cards fall steeply from their preorder prices. If we’re spending as little time as possible on MTG finance, that means just assuming everything in the set will fall and not worrying about the potential of underpriced cards.

Some players collect as much as possible from Standard-legal sets to allow the biggest pool possible when building a deck for FNM or other events. I’ve seen countless players who immediately start acquiring playsets of every card in the new set as soon as it’s available on shelves.

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If you’re trying to stretch your MTG dollars to the max, though, you need to stop doing this. Between WOTC’s marketing and best-case-scenario mentality in a large portion of the playerbase, new cards are almost always over-hyped. So few of them end up being competitive staples, and those that do often still end up cheaper than their preorder prices.

Just wait. Observe what’s competitive, figure out what you want to play, and obtain the cards that apply. Picking up cards blindly—especially Standard cards—just because “I might need it someday” is a quick way to end up with a bunch of cards that are dropping in value quickly and don’t have a deck.

If you’re acquiring a card for a casual format like Cube or Commander, there is no reason to ever preorder. In fact, if a card is a Standard-only staple, I tend to not pick it up until it’s rotated. For example, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion could not be more of a staple in Standard, but at a mana cost of six, it will never see play in competitive eternal formats. This means it will drop steeply at rotation, when I will pick a copy for my cube. (Off topic: it was such a missed opportunity to go with “Sun’s Champion” instead of “Champion of the Sun.”)

Now, let me state that it’s absolutely a fair stance to take to pay more for a card because you desperately want to play with it and are willing to pay the extra cost. You also should be playing optimized decks in major tournaments, and if that means overspending on a card, you gotta do what you gotta do. And if you’re speculating on a card, then as a matter of course, you think the price you’re paying is fine and that it’s likely to go up. These are situations where patience doesn’t really apply. But if you’re looking to spend the minimum amount on Magic that still allows you to be competitive or just have a fun-to-play-with collection , it’s the most important attribute you can develop. Wait until a card is at its floor price before buying in. If you need it beforehand, sure, buy it, but until then, there’s no rush.

Speaking  of needs, the second key attribute I’ll be mentioning today is developing a good sense of the concept of wants versus needs. You need to be able to look at that Sower of Temptation foil in your LGS’s display case and say to it, “It’s you I want, but it’s [the non-foil copy] that I need.”

It’s hard to think of two less related things than playing Magic for free and acquiring foils and other high-value cards. This is 100 percent a matter of personal opinion, but to me, there’s no sense in acquiring anything other than the least expensive version of a card to play with (within reason—I’ll pay a little more for an old-bordered version of a card, for example). I believe that it’s easier to have fun with 30 cards worth $30 each than with one card worth $1000, and that’s how I treat my own collection.

Now, I’m not saying you’re not allowed to like foils, and you can even incorporate the acquisition of foils into this whole “playing Magic for free” thing, but you’re almost never going to see me talk about them or advocate buying them. They’re a facet of the market that  I don’t fully understand, appreciate, or even like. My advice is to simply focus on non-foils until you have every card you could ever want to play with and are ready to start upgrading. Until then, high-end cards just don’t make a lot of sense.

And frankly, even if I ever reach the point of owning every card I could possibly want, I’ll just keep my non-foils and spend that extra money on things unrelated to Magic, thank you. That is allowed, you know.

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Pass the Turn

Again, I’m looking forward to being here at MTGPrice for the foreseeable future, and I’d love to hear your feedback on both what I’ve written already and what you’d like to see me write moving forward. Always feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter at @dbro37.  See you next week!

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Going Mad – Hello, and Good Luck

Hello, my name is Derek Madlem and I write about Magic: The Gathering. I’ve been writing articles about all types of topics on MythicMTG for a few years now and most recently wrote Insider articles for Quiet Speculation. Now I’m here to write articles for you. Yes, you. Because you deserve it.

You might have seen me around. I’m on Twitter (@GoingMadlem) disagreeing with basically everyone about everything and occasionally dishing out the same lessons in Magic finance over and over again.

Like this gem:

Give a man a ‘Goyf, and he’s going to want three more.

Which pretty much sums up everything I have to say about the impending Tarmogoyf reprint in Modern Masters II: The Remastering. Okay, I’ll spell it out for the slow kids: I don’t think the reprint will have much impact on Tarmogoyf’s price because half the people that open one will begin their quests for three more.  There’s also an upward pressure on Tarmogoyf’s price due to the fetch-wealth of the common man … a topic I’ll elaborate on another time.

Origins

I’m a trader at heart. I honed my trading skills in the first grade, trading Battle Beasts for Micro Machines and graduated to swapping X-Men action figures with my school friends. I would trade the hot character from a given week’s episode or a rare find for three or four other figures.

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When I picked up my first pack of Magic: The Gathering in 1995, I was hooked. I combined my weekly allowance with my lunch money to fund my addiction, thinking, “Why spend $4 on lunch when I could buy four packs of Fallen Empires?” Ah, hindsight …

It took me a while to stumble out of the awestruck phase of kitchen-table Magic and begin to trade with real goals. On a shoestring budget with an addiction for cracking packs, I traded my way into the power nine in just a couple short years, all while selling cards to negate the need for a part-time job. Obviously, I sold all my power right before college.

Sometime during Shards of Alara, I found my way back to Magic with limited funds and ever-growing ambitions. I had missed out on nearly a decade of the game and needed to fill in the gaps.

All the cool kids were playing formats that didn’t really exist when I stopped playing in 2000, and I wanted to be one of the cool kids, so I had to acquire some cards.

Finance Style

The most important thing for any budding MTG financier (a term I use loaded with sarcasm) is that there is no one-size-fits-all method. My goal has always been to feed my desires: an ever-moving target that shifts from week to week. When I play Magic, I want to play whatever deck strikes my fancy, a curse that basically requires me to acquire every card I could possibly want. It also doesn’t help that the only thing I hate more than letting people borrow cards is asking people to borrow theirs.

When I’m not playing or writing about Magic, I tend to ignore the fact that Magic exists. I can’t be bothered to follow spikes and crashes day to day—that’s just not for me. I tend to focus on mid-to-long-term price trends. While you’re taking the quick double up on Dragonlord Ojutai, I’m shooting aliens in the face on Destiny. While you’re reading articles about Brad Nelson’s beard, I’m in the garage building furniture.

I rarely sell cards, choosing to unload most of my wares through trades. Long gone are the days that I’ll throw away a weekend binder grinding. These days, I do most of my trading through PucaTrade and with a handful of players and dealers that I’ve developed trade relationships with.

And I’ve done alright:

Humblebrags#humblebrags

If you’re here for the hot tip on the quick flip, I’m probably not your guy. But if you’re here for the tools to help curate your collection for the long haul? Well then, I might be your guy.

Words About Cards?

But you’re not hear to read about me are you? You want to know about Magic cards, don’t you? With the combination SCG Invitational / Standard Open this past weekend, we have a treasure trove of results to comb through for big winners, but are their newly-inflated prices warranted?

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

Sidisi, Undead Vizier – As of writing this article, Sidisi is hovering a little over the $4 mark on TCG with many saying it could easily go to $10. I disagree. Sidisi suffers from a couple things that hinder its potential.

For starters, Sidisi is legendary, so drawing multiple copies hurts, resulting in most decks limiting the number of copies. Being a five-drop that doesn’t have an immediate impact on the board doesn’t help matters, as we’re spoiled by cards like Stormbreath Dragon and Siege Rhino. The card is still playable because Demonic Tutor is one hell of an effect, even if you do have to sacrifice a creature to achieve it. The real killer here is the reality that being a five-mana creature without haste or an effect that immediately impacts the board means that this card is going to be hard-pressed to make its way into Modern or Legacy. Note that if Birthing Pod was still legal, we’d be having an entirely different conversation.

So what that leaves us with is a rare in large set that will see play as a one- or two-of in Standard and in a variety of Commander decks. I am of the mind that this card is going to see a little spike based on on-screen action at the pro tour, but $6 or $7 is about as high as I would expect it to go before dipping back down to $2 or $3 in the weeks following Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir.

Thunderbreak Regent

Thunderbreak Regent – Now there’s a card that has wings. Thunderbreak showed up as a four-of in a number of red-green aggro decks that performed well this last weekend. I’m sure we’ll see more of this card in the coming weeks, so a $10 or $15 price tag seems very possible as this starts to slot into Jeskai or Temur aggro decks. Being able to drop this into play with a Stubborn Denial for protection does not seem like a bad position to be in.

Dromoka's Command

Dromoka’s Command is a harder one to gauge. Often, prices are spurred by more than just results and utility cards just aren’t as flashy and exciting as dragons or zombie snakes, even if they don’t count as snakes. This card is currently sitting at $6, and it’s obviously going to see play as long as mana bases are reasonably capable of supporting two colors … but it’s just not exciting. It’s a conditional two-for-one that doesn’t outright perform the deed and can be an atrocious topdeck in the late game, so running a full four-of is going to be a lot harder to justify. I can realistically seeing this card settle around $3.

That said, I can see this card showing up in Modern sideboards, so I like foil copies in the long term if you can find them under $10.

Deathmist Raptor

Deathmist Raptor – I might be changing course on my opinion of this card, as I wasn’t a fan at first, second, or even third glance, but the lack of aggressive three-drops in green has long been a problem. The ability to “trade up” with large creatures combined with situational rebuys will ensure this is a strong role player over the next 18 months. But role players don’t hold $15 price tags—I can see this card settling in for the long haul at $10, but I fear it’s probably near its price ceiling now.

Dragonlord Silumgar

Dragonlord Silumgar is a mythic legendary creature that showed up as a silver bullet in Reid Duke’s Sultai Reanimator list. Where I come from, we have a name for mythic creatures that only get played as single copies: Pearl Lake Ancient, though we sometimes call them Torrent Elemental. You can see that both of these cards peaked between $6 and $7 and quickly found their ways downward. Silumgar will likely hold a strong casual appeal, but the dragons of Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir were just not made to be compelling characters that will hold long-term fans . I don’t expect Silumgar to hold onto his value for long, even if he does have a really sweet necklace.

Dragonlord Ojutai

Dragonlord Ojutai is entirely overpriced at $14. This is clearly a powerful card and painfully hard to kill, but then why would you ever need a full four copies? People get entirely too excited at the prospect of playing Esper control decks, and while the hype on this card is partially merited, I can’t find myself getting on board at $14. I would recommend shipping any extra copies of this card you might have.

The Kicker

While you can see that I’m generally cold to this weekend’s breakout cards, and pretty much everything in Dragons of Tarkir for that matter, there’s still plenty of time. Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir is still a couple weeks away and most of these prices will remain relatively stable until then, especially with Easter getting in the way of additional format discovery this weekend.

Until next time, you can find me on Twitter at @GoingMadlem.

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Gods Part I: The Theros Five

By Guo Heng Chin

I initially planned to write this article sometime during the summer, but last week happened. The Commander rules committee announced one of the biggest shake-up to the format in recent memory: commanders can no longer be tucked. Players can now choose to send their commanders back to the command zone if their commander was sent to the library, just as they could if their commander was sent to the graveyard or exiled.

Removing tuck proved to be a controversial move, accompanied by some very vocal dissension on Twitter and Reddit. I would not dissect the implications of the change on the format in this article as I am not exactly the most qualified person to speak about it. Plus I am in favor of the no-tuck change, being a fan of build-around-me commanders. For those interested to read about the impact of the new ruling, I would highly recommend reading Jason Alt’s article on the change, one of the most impartial commentary on the removal of tuck.

The new ruling made me reevaluate a set of Standard-legal cards that are also Commander staples. What I am going to talk about today is a set of cards which I think would make a good long-term investment. A set of cards that, to paraphrase Mark Rosewater, were designed to be a wow factor in Theros boosters. Those cards have been getting a lot of love in Commander, and whose power level was bolstered with tuck removed from Commander.

Don't get your hopes up. Just kidding, read on.
Don’t get your hopes up. Just kidding, read on.

The Theros block gods are ostentatiously impressive. They have flashy abilities, come in special Nyx-ified frames and are indestructible enhancements that become alive if your board state is sufficiently devoted to their cause. Sounds like a recipe for a long-term casual hit if you ask me. Also how cool is it to be able to play with gods?

Their abilities and indestructibility made some of the gods enticing commanders and a few, like Kruphix, God of the Horizons seemed to be designed with Commander in mind. The fact that the gods are enchantments unless their devotion is activated blanks a slew of commander removal. Together with indestructibility the gods are practically glued to the board once they resolve. Tucking used to be one of the few ways to remove a resolved god commander.

Would god become more popular as commanders in a post-tuck world? I do not know the answer, but one thing for certain, the gods are more resilient now and players can run build-around-me god commanders without worrying about their engine being tucked and having to play with a pile of garbage for the rest of the game.

As scoeri’s monthly Commander metagame sweep shows, the gods are already quite popular as Commanders.

scoeri gods
Popular commanders from 30 March 2014 to 30 March 2015. The number indicates the number of decks for that particular commander. Snapshot taken on 31 March 2015.

Three of the Theros block gods are in the top 50 most played commander in the previous twelve months. Purphoros, God of the Forge and Erebos, God of the Dead used to be on the list as well, but they have been knocked off in recent updates.

Of course, the gods were not just popular as commanders. They were also played as one of the 99 and I believe they saw more play as one of the commanded rather than the commander. There are a lot to be written about them and rather than spill it all out in a single encyclopedia of an article, I would to split it into three parts.

In the first part today, we are going to take a look at the Theros gods and their long-term financial potential, with a focus on foils.

The Theros Five

Theros Gods
Breakdown of the most played cards from Theros. The digits indicate the number decks running those cards. Snapshot taken on 31 March 2015.

scoeri’s analysis offers a multitude of options for dissecting the popularity of Commander staples and one of them is a breakdown of the most played cards by set (only for recent sets). scoeri’s list is an invaluable resource for Commander aficionados and I would certainly recommend anyone engaged in or merely interested in the format to read it.

In the image above, we have the breakdown of the most popular Theros cards in Commander. Unsurprisingly, Burnished Hart and Prophet of Kruphix occupied the top two spot, one being a ramp spell that fits into any deck (whose foil is a good spec target) and the other being borderline bannable.

All five Theros gods are on the list, with three of them in the top ten, and Nylea, God of the Hunt and Heliod, the Unloved trailing at eleventh and twelfth respectively. They are the most popular Theros mythics in Commander.

Purphoros, God of Pew Pew Pew

It’s not surprising to see Purphoros as the third most popular Theros card for Commander, and the most popular Theros god. Purphoros is pretty much a staple in any deck that runs red and makes creatures. Token strategies are popular in Commander and when he is not attending to his forge, Purphoros is the God of Tokens.

Purphoros is also a Duel Commander staple. Marath, Will of the Wild and Prossh, Skyraider of Kher are top tier commanders in the format and Purphoros is a staple in both, although the Prossh Food Chain deck was killed by the recent Duel Commander banning of Food Chain. Nevertheless, Prossh Elfball is still legit and Prossh remains one of the top ten most played commander in multiplayer Commander.

More importantly in terms of financial prospect, Purphoros was one of the biggest benefactor of the new no-tuck legislation. Purphoros is a classic build-around-me commander. A Purphoros, God of the Tokens deck is pathetic without Purphoros himself. Five mana for four goblin tokens just would not do in a format where five mana nets you your opponent’s Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. Unless it comes together with a double Flame Rift‘s worth of commander damage.

Purphoros Six Months

As of writing, a foil Purphoros is sitting at $17, a little on the expensive side. However, scoeri’s weighted 200 list which shows the percentage of decks that included a card when possible (e.g. how many decks running red included Purphoros) tells us that Purphoros enjoys a similar level of ubiquity as with another monocolored staple Doubling Season.

16% of lists with red play Purphoros compared with 14% of lists with green running Doubling Season and Doubling Season foils are hovering between $36 to $42 after three printings. Granted, all three printings of Doubling Season would probably yield less foil Doubling Seasons than foil Purphoroses, but you can’t use Doubling Season as your commander.

I am not advocating that you should go out and buy ten foil Purphoros right away. Foil Purphoros is a good trade target at the moment if you get the opportunity as Theros cards just started their downward spiral. Foil Purphoros may fall a little at rotation, but I doubt he would drop below $12.

As for non-foil copies currently sitting at $7, I would wait for rotation to buy in. Picking up a few at $3 to $4 looks like a no-brainer long-term investment. After all, Purphoros is the only god who made it into the top 200 weighted list.

Popularity do come at a price. Sheldon Menery noted in his article elaborating on the Commander Rules Committee’s decision to ban tuck that they are keeping an eye on Derevi and Purphoros, two commanders who became more powerful (or annoying, depending on which side of the table you are on) in a world without tuck. So don’t get too deep on foil Purphoros and if you do, keep a close tab on the general sentiment in the Commander scene regarding Purphoros.

Although we don’t like the idea of an official Watch List, it would be disingenuous of us to say that we don’t keep our eyes open for danger spots and/or cards that we know folks are talking about. – Sheldon Menery

The Big Mermaid

She may have a tiny casting cost of three, but  Thassa, God of the Sea is no little mermaid. Ushering elementals  through blockers and fixing topdecks since Pro Tour Theros, Thassa recently experienced a bit of an uptick since Shorecrasher Elemental was spoiled, but the heralded revival of Mono-Blue devotion has yet to arrive.

Regardless of whether Mono-Blue makes a comeback, Thassa has found a home in Commander. She really is three cards in a single three casting cost card that could easily slot into any blue decks. She is an indestructible source of card advantage, a trump card in clogged board states, and a 5/5 creature when needs be.

Thassa may not be a popular commander but she is definitely a staple as one of the 99. Besides multiplayer Commander, she is a key component in Geist of Saint Traft Duel Commander and some Merfolk builds in Modern run her.

Thassa also has the benefit of being one of the two three gods legal in Tiny Leaders. Thassa Merfolk may not be tier one, but it’s something!

Thassa Chart

With normal copies at $8 and foils at $21, I would wait until summer or rotation to pick Thassa up. Thassa is one of the top 50 most played blue cards with Modern playability, is played in Duel Commander and is the leader for a fringe Tiny Leaders archetype. Thassa is definitely one of the Theros gods I am keeping an eye on as rotation enters the horizon.

Erebos, Not Erebor

Erebos Chart

Erebos, God of the Dead is going for $5 non-foil and $15 foil. I would not mind trading into foils at the moment, but I would wait until summer or rotation to grab some non-foils. A pseudo-Phyrexian Arena on a stick that hoses lifegain shenanigans (aplenty in Commander) can’t be too bad. Erebos is also on the top 50 most played black cards list, right in the  middle.

Nylea, the Ugly Duckling of the Pantheon

Nylea Chart

Nylea, God of the Hunt foils at $11 may be one step cheaper than the three discussed above. She is allegedly not as popular as the rest. Nylea is not even in the top 50 green list. I would stay away from both foils and non-foils ($5) for now.

Heliod, the Unloved

Heliod Chart

Heliod, God of the Sun is one of the most interesting god in terms of financial potential. Heliod is the cheapest among the Theros pantheon in foil ($8) and non-foil ($2.50) but he enjoys the same level of popularity as Erebos and Thassa in their respective color’s top 50 most played list (Purphoros was the only god to be in the top ten – fifth indeed – of the top 50 by color list).

I suspect Heliod may be severely underpriced due to the fact that he was the only Theros god who saw no play in Standard. $8 for foil Heliods looks good. $2.50 for a non-foil of a mythic that is a white staple in Commander? Hell yeah.

Closing Thoughts

Besides their Commander appeal, one of the most enticing aspect about investing in gods is their extremely low chance of being reprinted. The gods are inexorably tied to the Theros plane in their flavor and their Nyx-ified frame adds a further restriction on where they could be reprinted. I cannot imagine seeing one of these in Modern Masters 201X a few years down the road. And I certainly could not envision visiting The Mothership one day to be greeted by ‘Announcing From the Vaults: Gods’.

Personally, I would focus on acquiring foils, because Commander staple foils turn into gold bars over time (the only recorded instance of successful alchemy), and because Nyx-ified cards look gorgeous in foil.

It's hammer time!
It’s #humblebrag time!

Foil gods are appealing picks when the price of Theros cards bottom out upon rotation. Most of the gods discussed today do not see modern play and that is a good thing. Look at the price of foil Keranos, God of the Storms who saw a little Modern and Legacy action, mostly from the sideboard.

scoeri’s statistics show that the Theros gods are Commander gold, and unlike Modern staples which do not dip in price upon rotation, Commander staples do see a drop upon rotation and would gradually appreciate over the years. Investing in foils provides extra buffer against reprints, which are getting increasingly frequent these days.

I have yet to set a date for the next part of this series, with next week being the week before the Pro Tour, and it is customary for Magic finance writers to throw their hats into the ring and bet on breakout cards. Comments are more than welcomed. Drop you thoughts below or find me on Twitter @theguoheng.

Edit: There are three gods legal in Tiny Leaders, not two, as a reader pointed out in the comments. Thanks ‘Annoying commenter’ (yes, that is his/her username. Check the comments below)! 😉


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