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@Phrost_     -     Email     -     Articles Jim is a software developer and an avid blue planeswalker. He spellslings in Jacksonville, Florida, and you can feel free to contact him on Twitter at @phrost_.

Analyzing and Deck Building: Featuring Outpost Siege

A common question people ask is: “How do I build a deck?”  It’s easy to say just get one from the internet and play it tons of times to become proficient, but some people really just have a passion for making a deck themselves.  In my opinion, iterative deckbuilding is the best way to build a deck.  As the name implies, each iteration of the deck should be slightly different from the last. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where the end result may not look much like what it started out as.

The Seed

outpost siege

The start of any deck is the seed or the initial concept.  Sometimes it’s a card and sometimes it’s an interaction.

For me, I chose to use [card]Outpost Siege[/card]. The first step to building from a seed is to truly analyze it and figure out what makes it good. [card]Outpost Siege[/card] is a card that is good in certain circumstances. It’s good when your opponent has no cards in hand, it’s good when the board is clear, and it’s good when you can play the extra card every turn.

The next step is to figure out when it’s bad and try to prevent those situations. Siege is pretty bad when your spells don’t do anything, it’s pretty bad when you’re dead, and it’s pretty bad when you’re behind.  Knowing the reasons why you want to build with a card helps to solidify the strengths and weaknesses of the idea.

Pros

1) It’s good when your opponent has no cards in hand: The most obvious thing to do is make them discard cards. That generally will accomplish the goal but it doesn’t help shore up the weaknesses of the card. If you’re making your opponent discard cards and they’re playing cards to the board, you will be behind. That’s not optimal. What can we do to run our opponent out of cards besides playing discards spells? We can play cards that require answers to empty our opponent’s hand. One-for-one cards like removal spells and big efficient creatures are the best way to do this.

2) It’s good when the board is clear: Kill everything!  This seems pretty evident that if we play threats that outclass most threats and remove ones that outclass ours, the board should be in our favor and we can push our advantage with [card]Outpost Siege[/card].

3) It’s good when we play our extra card every turn:  If we exile a land off of [card]Outpost Siege[/card] every turn, there is 100 percent chance we can play it. But what happens if we draw a spell and exile a spell?  If we don’t play both, then we may play a sub-optimal spell or lose out on a spell altogether. This deck needs to be able to double-spell fairly often and fairly consistently.

Cons

1) When our spells don’t do anything:  Exiling a counter spell is pretty bad. Exiling a one-mana 1/1 on turn 16 is usually pretty bad. Exiling cards we can’t cast is also pretty bad. Exiling cards our opponents don’t  care about is pretty bad. How do we fix this? Play flexible reactive spells and threats. There is no such thing as a bad threat, only a bad answer.

2) When you’re behind: When you get behind on the board, [card]Outpost Siege[/card] does nothing outright to get you back into the game.  If you’re at one life staring down 13 goblin tokens, this card will not help you. We need to include cards that help us get to the late game when the Siege can win the game for us.

3) When we’re dead: This goes without saying, but if you’re too slow or your mana is too painful and you die, well then, it didn’t do anything. Having a good amount of life gain and spells that generate “more turns” of gameplay are crucial to our plan.

So About the Deck Building…

Okay, now that we’ve got that settled, where do we start? Well, [card]Outpost Siege[/card] has already been featured in Jeskai and Boros decks to some success. We know how it works there so we need to try something else. My initial thought was a Jund-style deck.

Jund decks have been known to do a lot of the things we need. They play efficient threats, they play good removal to keep the board clear, they have some life gain to make the game take longer. Jund colors lend themselves to the grind pretty easily. The problem is that we don’t have a lot of really efficient mana-fixing for those colors. [card]Mana Confluence[/card] seems like a necessary evil, but it’s hard to say what else we really have for lands after that. Too many Temples makes the deck too slow to play two spells each turn and too many fetchlands may make it too painful and inconsistent.  Enter the engine:

cary satyrmurderous  tas

[card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] and [card]Satyr Wayfinder[/card] are great mana fixers for a three-color deck. [card]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/card] and [card]Murderous Cut[/card] are great ways to double spell faster (because we can frequently delve these cards down to one mana) and are also fueled by Wayfinders and the fetchlands we will probably end up playing.  Tasigur provides a big body for defense, and in the later game, more card advantage to help close things out.

courser

This card also helps a lot of our issues.  It lets us gain life to prolong the game, is pretty good at blocking, and provides more lands to let us reach critical mass of double-spelling.

What other cheap efficient removal spells can we play? [card]Murderous Cut[/card] alone will not solve all problemschained

[card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] is a pretty easy splash.  We are already playing [card]Mana Confluence[/card] and [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] for fixing, and with two different mountain fetchlands, we don’t need that many actual mountains to have a lot of “theoretical” mountains in our deck.

200143

Even if we have all of the removal in the world, we can’t win the game easily with Tasigur, Courser, and Wayfinder as our only threats.  [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] is extremely resilient and we’ve already committed to playing a lot of red sources for [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card], so it seems like a good inclusion.  [card]Siege Rhino[/card] similarly fills a lot of the same roles as Courser with a bigger body.  It only requires one white mana, so it shouldn’t be difficult to cast.

61 90 171

More ways to kill stuff.  We’re really stretching on the white splash because we can pretty much play [card]Sandsteppe Citadel[/card] for free.  This deck will be mainly green-black and will work to splash the other two colors.

Okay, so we throw all of these cards in a blender with some lands and what do we get? A mostly unplayable pile of hot garbage! The deck seems worse than Abzan control because it doesn’t have as good a mana base and doesn’t have [card]Abzan Charm[/card] to draw cards.  Casting RR, GG, BB, GWB, and RWB spells in the same deck proved to be non-trivial. I ended up cutting [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] before even playing my first match because supporting enough mountains to cast it seemed impossible.

This is the first version of the deck I played:

[deck title=Hot Unplayable Pile of Outpost Siege]
[Creatures]
*4 Satyr Wayfinder
*4 Sylvan Caryatid
*4 Courser of Kruphix
*4 Siege Rhino
*2 Stormbreath Dragon
*4 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
[/Creatures]
[Planeswalkers]
*1 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
[/Planeswalkers]
[Non-Creature, Non-Planeswalker Spells]
*3 Bile Blight
*3 Crackling Doom
*2 Hero’s Downfall
*3 Murderous Cut
*3 Outpost Siege
[/Non-Creature, Non-Planeswalker Spells]
[Lands]
*2 Bloodstained Mire
*2 Forest
*2 Mana Confluence
*1 Mountain
*4 Sandsteppe Citadel
*2 Swamp
*1 Temple of Abandon
*1 Temple of Silence
*1 Temple of Malice
*3 Temple of Malady
*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
*3 Wooded Foothills
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
*3 Thoughtseize
*4 Drown in Sorrow
*3 Read the Bones
*3 Reclamation Sage
*1 Liliana Vess
*1 Garruk, Apex Predator
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Yep, this deck is rough and the mana looks horrendous, but there is potential!  When I had [card]Outpost Siege[/card] in play, it did what it was supposed to do when the conditions were right. The more I played, the more I realized that the mana was really causing too many problems and being more conservative with my card choices could go a long way. I realized the red cards were just under performing in so many situations. There is not a lot of difference between [card]Crackling Doom[/card], [card]Abzan Charm[/card], and [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] in a lot of situations, except for the mana symbols on the cards.

I also had a lot of issues with too many lands coming into play tapped. I needed more untapped sources of mana and fewer red ones in general. Often I would find an opening hand with two red sources nearly unplayable because we need to cast GG and BB spells early to live.

But fear not! My experiment wasn’t done. I decided to borrow more cards from the existing Abzan control deck and morph it more to support [card]Outpost Siege[/card] than to make a red deck that supports G/B cards.

There were more iterations of the deck that included [card]Crater’s Claws[/card], [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card], and other nonsense like that. The more I played, the more I realized the only red card I really wanted was the Siege.

Version 3.0 of the deck:

[deck title=Abzan Siege]
[Creatures]
*3 Satyr Wayfinder
*4 Sylvan Caryatid
*4 Courser of Kruphix
*4 Siege Rhino
*3 Whisperwood Elemental
*3 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
[/Creatures]
[Planeswalkers]
*2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
[/Planeswalkers]
[Non-Creature Non-Planeswalker Spells]
*2 Bile Blight
*2 Abzan Charm
*2 Hero’s Downfall
*3 Murderous Cut
*3 Outpost Siege
*2 Thoughtseize
[/Non-Creature Non-Planeswalker Spells]
[Lands]
*1 Bloodstained Mire
*2 Forest
*2 Mana Confluence
*1 Mountain
*1 Plains
*4 Sandsteppe Citadel
*2 Swamp
*1 Temple of Abandon
*1 Temple of Malice
*3 Temple of Malady
*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
*2 Wooded Foothills
*2 Windswept Heath
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
*2 Thoughtseize
*4 Drown in Sorrow
*3 Read the Bones
*3 Reclamation Sage
*1 Nissa, Worldwaker
*1 Liliana Vess
*1 Garruk, Apex Predator
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

What is the deck now?  Still pretty rough, but it’s tuned to beat some matchups pretty thoroughly.

The Abzan mirror match is a joke with an [card]Outpost Siege[/card] in play. Although we eschew [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card], our combination of Tasigur and Siege generate enough resources to power through them.  [card]Whisperwood Elemental[/card] gives us great insurance versus Elspeth and [card]Ugin, the Spirit Dragon[/card].

Additionally, our sideboard helps out dealing with problematic cards like [card] Hornet Queen[/card], [card]Whip of Erebos[/card], [card]Perilous Vault[/card], etc.  I would even go so far as to say if you plan to play any version of Abzan, give this one a try. The first time your turn-five play is Tasigur and [card]Siege Rhino[/card] in the same turn, you will understand the power of the deck.

Let me know if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or success stories with this brew!

Commander Spotlight: Eight Great Ways to End a Game of Commander

Most people who love Commander love it because you can play all sorts of wacky cards and sweet theme decks that you can’t play in Standard.  But unfortunately, sometimes this leads to huge board stalls where nobody wants to attack anybody and the game drags on for two hours or more.

To combat this, let’s go over my favorite eight cards to get the game moving toward a conclusion.  Personally, I find it a lot more fun to play four games in two hours rather than a single game in in that same amount of time.

Do you have your own favorite game-enders? Share them in the comments below!

8: [card]Avacyn, Angel of Hope[/card]

6

This is the only white card to make the list, because honestly, white doesn’t have a lot of good ways to end games. But boy, does it have a lot of ways to drag games out (I’m looking at you [card]Armageddon[/card], [card]Cataclysm[/card], and [card]Wrath of God[/card]).  Avacyn’s abilities make it very hard to kill your stuff and her stats force a conclusion to come sooner rather than later.

7. [card]Banefire[/card]

banefire

This card is mostly just a [card]Blaze[/card], but it’s uncounterability makes it the easiest to resolve and kill someone with.  There’s always a possibility that is gets [card]Redirect[/card]ed, but in that case, someone is still probably dying.  It doesn’t kill all of your opponents, which makes it much lower on the list than other cards.

6. [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card]

cyclonic

There have been almost too many games to count that I’ve ended with an end-step overloaded [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card] before my turn.  The card doesn’t outright kill anyone, but it should give you enough of a board lead to beat some players before another deadlock happens.

5. [card]Avatar of Slaughter[/card]

avatar

This card also doesn’t kill anyone outright.  But you know what it does do? Makes people attack and makes the game progress.  Without the ability to leave many creatures back on defense, it drives the game very quickly to a conclusion.  I recommend playing this in your second main phase so that you’re not the first one to make a move.

4. [card]Siege Behemoth[/card]

g2

This guy is big, he’s bad, and he’s not getting blocked. And neither is the rest of your team.  [card]Siege Behemoth[/card]’s hexproof body and ability to push through damage can make almost any player mince meat.

3. [card]Triumph of the Hordes[/card]

triumph

This card is one of the best win conditions against players gaining a ton of life or sitting behind multiplicative defenses like [card]Gisela, Blade of Goldnight[/card].  It’s also particularly effective in token strategies.  It’s not quite the best win condition available, because if you don’t do 10 or more poison damage to someone in one attack, it’s unlikely you will be able to do any more poison.

2. [card]Exsanguinate[/card]

ex

Bemoaned by many players in the EDH community, this is one of my favorite cards.  You know what it does?  It quickly kills a lot of people and makes it so the game doesn’t dragon… er, I mean, drag on.  With [card]Cabal Coffers[/card] and [card]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/card], it’s not impossible to 40 everyone, but it’s likely when you can kill everyone the game has been going on too long anyway.

1. [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card]

crater

The big daddy of creature decks has got to be [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card]. It can be simply cast with a board of dudes and attack or turned into an intercontinental ballistic missile with [card]Tooth and Nail[/card] and [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card].  The facts that it has haste, an enter the battlefield trigger, and isn’t subject to the “cast from hand” clause that a lot of similarly powerful creatures are, means this guy definitely takes the cake.

And eats it too.

Over your opponents’ bodies.

What are your favorite ways to end Commander games?

Pimp My Deck: Commander 2014 – Built from Scratch (featuring Bosh, Iron Golem)

Hey, guys, sorry for the long hiatus. Between the holidays and the Fate Reforge release, I haven’t had much time to do any research for this series.  But here I am, back again to bring you some Commander goodies. I won’t be including price ranges for the upgrades (it simply takes too much time for something that ends up inaccurate very quickly), but I will be making price-conscious decisions to keep the theme of increasingly costly upgrades.

Let’s start with [card]Bosh, Iron Golem[/card].

bosh

What to Remove

-[card]Dualcaster Mage[/card] – This guy is fine, but really we don’t want to spend our turn copying a spell.  Most often he will be a 3 mana 2/2 flash and that’s not particularly good.

-[card]Beetleback Chief[/card] – Goblin tokens are fine and all but this guy isn’t an artifact and has RR in his casting cost.  We’re trying to play a bunch of artifacts and this guy is hard to cast off a lot of colorless sources.

-[card]Panic Spellbomb[/card] – This card isn’t for us.

-[card]Jalum Tome[/card] – This card is great for [card]Daretti, Scrap Savant[/card], but not Bosh.

-[card]Volcanic Offering[/card] – Theoretically, this can kill a bunch of stuff but it’s too unreliable in my opinion. I’d rather take it out of the deck than hope it does what I want it to do.

-[card]Tuktuk the Explorer[/card] – Nothing to explore here. He’s fine as a chump blocker but his artifact has a CMC of 0 and it’s really what we’re looking to do.

-[card]Warmonger Hellkite[/card] – I prefer my hellkite below. This guy might just make us suicide our biggest threats for no reason.

-[card]Spitebellows[/card] – Despite its cool name and art, we would often want to evoke it and it would tie up too much of our red mana.

-[card]Bogardan Hellkite[/card] – I like me some big dumb dragons but this guy is really expensive and doesn’t add much flexibility to the deck.  If I were to play a dragon, I’d rather play an artifact one like [card]Draco[/card] or [card]Clockwork Dragon[/card].

-[card]Commander’s Sphere[/card] – Much like the green decks from last article, this doesn’t provide a lot of ramp or fix our colors so I’m not terribly interested in having it in our deck.

bogardanhellkite

What to Add

– [card]Thopter Assembly[/card] – This assembly is a little slow but provides a ton of value, giving you tiny little flying thopters to hold down the fort for your bigger cards. Bosh allows you to throw away Thopter tokens when you get low so you can cash in another whole assembly!

– [card]Duplicant[/card] – I’m really not sure why this card wasn’t included. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but its utility cannot be denied. Being able to “eat” your opponent’s largest creature and then throw it at them when you’re done means this guy is an instant include.

-[card]Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient[/card] – If Magic cards could get married, I’m pretty sure Bosh would ask Kurkesh to marry him.  This duo is a match made in heaven as every artifact you throw can now do double damage (or hit two different targets even!).

-[card]Myr Enforcer[/card] – This guy is a little innocuous, but being a seven-mana artifact is great for throwing with Bosh. It also has affinity for artifacts, so often it will end up costing far less than seven mana to cast.

-[card]Dictate of the Twin Gods[/card] – There is already a similar card in this deck ([card]Bitter Feud[/card]), but this one has flash and can be used to set up sweet combo kills with Bosh and expensive artifacts.

-[card]Ward of Bones[/card] – This is an odd card, but in order to keep parity, this will allow you to limit your opponent’s creatures.  It’s also a six-mana artifact ripe for the throwing when you’re done with it!

-[card]Thran Dynamo[/card] – Somehow this ended up in the blue deck and not the red one. I’ll never understand why, but it’s definitely a huge boon to this deck.

-[card]Kuldotha Forgemaster[/card] – This needs a few smaller artifacts to get going (good bye [card]Ichor Wellspring[/card], thanks for the card!) but it allows us to tutor up our big fatties to help end the game. It can also find Bosh in a pinch if he gets shuffled into our deck with effects like [card]Chaos Warp[/card].

-[card]Worn Powerstone[/card] – Did you know the blue deck and the black deck get this card but the red deck doesn’t?  It’s a travesty, really.

-[card]Hellkite Tyrant[/card] – Well, might as well save the sweet dragon for last, right?  This guy lets us steal our opponent’s big artifacts and throw them back at them! That seems like everything a Bosh deck wants to do.

hellkitetyrant

Honorable mentions: [card]Urza’s Blueprint[/card], [card]Darksteel Colossus[/card], [card]Blightsteel Colossus[/card], [card]Mycosynth Golem[/card]

I hope this little exercise has helped you pick out some nice improvements for your copy of Built from Scratch. If you have any suggestions or comments, you know what to do.

Tiny Leaders: Tips for Getting Ahead in Baby Commander

For those unaware, Tiny Leaders, which I affectionately call “Baby Commander,” is a variant of the Commander format. One still plays a singleton deck with a legendary creature acting as commander. The most significant differences are its banned and restricted list, its deck size limit (50 instead of 100), and one huge caveat: all cards must have a converted mana cost of three or less.  I’m here to help those new to the format to figure out ways to get ahead,

Restrictions Breed Cheating on Casting Costs

The biggest difference between Tiny Leaders and Commander is the restriction on the cost of spells. Not being able to play any cards that cost more than three mana limits the quality and power of the cards you can play.  Or does it?  I’ve found a few tips to get bigger effects from smaller cards.

X Spells

20 11 98 204 129

These are just a few examples of the flexibility that X spells can give you in a game of Tiny Leaders. They are typically ineffective early, but when the game gets much longer and drawn out, their power is unquestionable. Some, like [card]Engineered Explosives[/card], are just fantastic for their flexibility. There are 221 X spells in magic that have a converted mana cost of three or less mana. That means plenty of choices for every deck!

Buyback

buyback buyback2 buyback3 buyback4

Buyback spells are similar to X Spells (and sometimes also X Spells), as they give you a way to maximize your mana every turn. When you are playing a format of cards that cost three or less, it’s not uncommon for every spell to be played and a ton of mana to go unused every turn.

Kicker

kicker kicker2 kicker3 kicker4 kicker5 kicker6

Kicker was developed as a way to strengthen otherwise weak spells. You could play [card]Kavu Titan[/card] as a decent two-mana 2/2, or you could play it later as a much more impressive five-mana 5/5 trampler. The flexibility of these spells make them good stopgaps early and allow you to pack more power for the later game.

Getting the Most from Your Lands

land land2 land3

If all of your lands only produce mana, you’re going to have a rough time winning games. This is just a tiny sample of non-basic lands you can use that have a serious power outside of producing mana. Every color has access to one on-color  man land (with [card]Treetop Village[/card] and [card]Faerie Conclave[/card] being the best of the bunch), so it’s hard to not include any.

Keep Thinking Outside the Box

morphmorph3costmorph2overload1invoker invoker2

There aren’t as many of these, so they don’t each get their own categories, but it’s easy to see how morph, overload, cards with “additional cost” downsides, and cards with abilities that cost a lot of mana can give you additional power to add to your Tiny Leaders deck.

To top it all off, I’ll leave you with the deck I’ve cooked up.  It’s still a little rough around the edges, but iterative deck design is my favorite way to play!

[deck title= Geist of Saint Traft Tiny Leaders]

[Leader]Geist of Saint Traft[/Leader]

[Creature]

* Vendilion Clique

*Invisible Stalker

* True-Name Nemesis

* Stoneforge Mystic

* Trinket Mage

* Snapcaster Mage

[/Creature]

[Artifact]

* Engineered Explosives

* Sensei’s Divining Top

* Relic of Progenitus

* Ratchet Bomb

* Runechanter’s Pike

* Sword of Feast and Famine

 

[/Artifact]
[Instant]

* Hindering Light

* Azorius Charm

* Sphinx’s Revelation

* Ajani’s Presence

* Swords to Plowshares

* Path to Exile

* Exclude

* Vapor Snag

* Think Twice

* Cyclonic Rift

* Counterspell

* Spell Snare

* Disrupting Shoal

* Dissolve

* Impulse

[/Instant]

[Sorcery]

* Ponder

* Preordain

* Serum Visions

* Martial Coup

[/Sorcery]
[Land]

*3 Island

* Plains

* Azorius Guildgate

* Mystic Gate

* Urza’s Factory

* Opal Palace

* Eiganjo Castle

* Tranquil Cove

* Academy Ruins

* Flooded Strand

* Kor Haven

* Celestial Colonnade

* Faerie Conclave

* Glacial Fortress

* Command Tower

* Hallowed Fountain

* Temple of Enlightenment

 

[/Land]
[/deck]

Have you tried out the format? Found any ways to get big effects that I didn’t mention here? Sound off below.

 

Collectibles: Why Magic is One of the Best and Nintendo is One of the Worst

As far as collectibles go, Wizards of the Coast has one of the best systems in place in the gaming industry to support its customers. This position may sound weird, given all the cries for reprints and the soaring costs of eternal formats, but Magic has one of the greatest distribution methods and most finely tuned market practices to offer long-term support to this great game. Recently, I’ve been looking to acquire some other game collectibles, Nintendo’s Amiibos, and it’s been one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done.

yoshi

Nintendo’s newest collectible product, for those unaware, are miniature statues that can hold data and unlock things in other games (this varies wildly by game). Their most marketable trait is their ability to save data from the wildly popular Super Smash Brothers franchise and bring it with you to other consoles. This makes them uniquely different than other collectible statues because they have an in-game impact. Rather than just having them on a shelf to look pretty when you have guests over, they are an active part of your game experience. Sound familiar? Magic cards are similarly appealing to collectors as they are to players of the game.

Something we take for granted as Magic players is the speed and efficiency of new card releases. Each product has a page where very simple but very important information is listed—set name, release dates, languages it’s printed in, number of cards, Twitter hashtag–pretty much everything except for the cards themselves.  Anyone can derive from that information when and what they should expect from a given set.

Modern Masters

On the flipside, Nintendo’s Amiibo information is a disaster. The official information page for Amiibos has every figurine listed, even if it hasn’t yet been released! There is no breakdown of release by wave (as they are known by collectors). There is no exact release date—just a month. You don’t know when they may be in stock and when to go to stores to buy them. This, coupled with the fact that there is actually a rarity for some figures, just compounds the problem.

Have you ever picked up a card from pre-Stronghold and tried to figure out the rarity?  It’s pretty miserable not knowing which ones will be difficult to find and which aren’t. And to top it all off, four of the eleven figurines in wave three will be in-store exclusives! How miserable would you be if you could only buy packs of cards with [card]Flooded Strand[/card]s from StarCity Games, only [card]Polluted Delta[/card]s from Channel Fireball, and [card]Siege Rhino[/card]s from Card Kingdom? I’m pretty sure many people would outright quit.

One of my biggest gripes is the print run for these figures. Certain Amiibos were deemed to be mainstay characters and received several times more figures than other characters. Outside of Mario and Peach, it’s pretty much a crap shoot trying to find other characters in stores. This is basically like Wizards saying they think Mountains are more popular and printing more of them than Plains. We know when a new set is released that sometimes there is a small shortage if it’s very popular on the release weekend, but I’ve never seen an in-print set ever be out of stock for more than a week. If this has happens at your LGS, it’s most likely a problem with their ordering habits than actual availability.

pikachu

“But wait, there are tons of Magic products with limited print runs. Why aren’t you complaining about those?”  It’s because they’re all reprints. The Amiibo shortage problems are on brand-new toys! According to some sources, the Rosalina and Luma figurines from Target sold out of pre-orders in less than a day. Today, much of Magic’s short-printed products are promotional cards (like judge foils) and limited-edition products (From the Vault, Duel Decks Anthologies, etc).  These are not first-time printings of cards, so they are purely for collector value. They don’t inhibit the players of the game or force them to shell out lots of money for premium versions.

Not every collectible works that way. About a week ago, I was looking online for a Captain Falcon Amiibo. I had long ago decided I wasn’t going to collect them all and limited myself to 4 of the 29 previewed up until that point. I was lucky and got a Donkey Kong one on release day at Wal-Mart when I was picking up my copy of Pokemon Alpha Sapphire. The remaining three (Diddy Kong, Captain Falcon, and Bowser) were not released then. It was unclear when they might be released and I didn’t think much more of it. Then people figured out some figures got short printed: Marth, Villager, and Wii-Fit Trainer are extraordinarily rare.

Nintendo did the equivalent of printing fewer [card]Bloodstained Mire[/card]s because they wouldn’t be as popular as the other fetches. Obviously, this caused a problem and now each of those figures can fetch upwards of $140 on eBay. Now, I’ve apparently missed Captain Falcon’s release day by about a week and they are sold out everywhere. And it’s extremely unlikely any retail store will get them in stock within the foreseeable future.

The difference from Magic with this situation is that these figures are not promotional versions. It’s not like it’s the super shiny, alternate pose, neon-colored Captain Falcon figure. It’s the only version available and now that I  don’t have it, I probably never will. The amount of “feel bad” this creates is pretty impressive.

pack rat

Even when Standard legal-cards reach prices out of the grasp most people’s wallets, we can still buy a pack and open one. It’s not guaranteed we will open the cards we want or need, but each pack will contain some rare or uncommon someone needs. This fuels the secondary market. That’s why fall sets typically reach record low prices for singles around December. This is when the most significant amount of product has been opened and cards are readily available.

By intentionally short printing some figures, Nintendo has guaranteed they will be sold out—but it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of people who couldn’t get them. The company also caused artificial inflation in the secondary market, because people will buy them only looking to sell them immediately for several times the retail price.

So next time you complain because of the price of [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] or how shops don’t sell From the Vaults for MSRP, know that it could be much worse.

Pimp My Deck: Commander 2014Guided by Nature (the Green Deck)

Hey, everyone, I’m here to bring you a brand-new article series to help newer players get into Commander.  I’m planning on covering all the new decks over the course of a few articles, and today I’m going to start with the green one, Guided by Nature. The first thing I’m going to do is break down the article based on which Commander we’re going to use and keep the cost of our upgrades within a specific range.

[card]Ezuri, Renegade Leader[/card] – The $30 Upgrade

What to remove:

-[card]Titania, Protector of Argoth[/card] – Titania is sweet, but she really doesn’t fit with our theme. We need to cut cards to add cards, so she’s getting the swift axe.

-[card]Terramorphic Expanse[/card], [card]Crystal Vein[/card], [card]Evolving Wilds[/card], [card]Myriad Landscape[/card] – We want to shave a few lands from the 37 we’re playing, and these are mostly in the decks to work with Titania.

-[card]Harrow[/card] – also a card that is best with Titania

-[card]Hunting Triad[/card] – Yeah, it makes elves, but it’s one of the worst elf cards in our deck.

-[card]Elvish Skysweeper[/card] – This guy is pretty bad for a one-mana elf.  He doesn’t make any mana and should be replaced with an elf who can!

-[card]Seer’s Sundial[/card] – This card is fine, but it’s pretty slow in this deck and we’d rather be playing elves.

-[card]Assault Suit[/card] – I’m not honestly sure why this card is in this deck, but it’s not particularly good.

-[card]Rampaging Baloths[/card] – We’re getting rid of all the land stuff, so this guy is going, too.

-[card]Loreseeker’s Stone[/card] – We’re replacing this with a more mana-efficient artifact.

-[card]Sylvan Safekeeper[/card] – It’s blasphemous that they aren’t using the sweet Olle Rade art, but since we’re removing Titania, this guy gets a lot worse (and he’s not even an elf!).

-[card]Moss Diamond[/card] – We’re going to have plenty of elves to make mana. We don’t need this.

-[card]Commander’s Sphere[/card] – This is often going to be three mana: draw a card.  We can do better.

What to add:

-[card]Forest[/card] – FREE – You should have one of these.

-[card]Slate of Ancestry[/card] – $1.50 – We need some card drawing once we dump all our cheap elves into play.  Not much better in tribal decks than this.

-[card]Caller of the Claw[/card] – $1.50 – Much like [card]Fresh Meat[/card], we need some contingencies for sweepers. This one also happens to be an elf.

-[card]Fierce Empath[/card] – $0.75 – Oh, hey, it’s an elf.  It also draws a card!  And the card is a sweet one!

-[card]Birchlore Rangers[/card] – $0.50 – Unlike its $6 cousin, [card]Heritage Druid[/card], this guy makes a bunch of mana and helps power our sweet turns. It’s important to note that you can use summoning-sick elves to power its ability.

-[card]Wirewood Symbiote[/card] – $3.50 – Much like [card]Birchlore Rangers[/card], this guy is a Legacy staple. Yep! Legacy, the format with [card]Force of Will[/card], [card]Wasteland[/card], [card]Show and Tell[/card], etc. That should tell you how good this 1/1 insect is.

[card]Wirewood Channeler[/card] – $1.00 – Oh, well, what do you know? It’s a sweet elf to untap with [card]Wirewood Symbiote[/card]. This guy can make a ton of mana in short order.

[card]Arbor Elf[/card] – $0.25 – A guy that makes some more mana. Can’t ever have too many of those, right?

[card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card] – $2.00 – Shhhh. The trees are speaking. They said this makes all of your elves into [card]Sol Ring[/card]s.  That’s a good deal, right?

[card]Coat of Arms[/card] – $8.00 – The most expensive card on this list. I was trying to figure out a way to squeeze in [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card], but you really need tutors to make the most of that monster.  This card is pretty good in a tribal deck.

[card]Triumph of the Hordes[/card] – $0.25 – This has elves in the art!  But seriously, it’s one of the best green win conditions in EDH, and for a quarter, you can’t get much more bang for your buck.

[card]Elvish Harbinger[/card] – $2.00 – Makes mana, check. Is an elf, check. Brings more elves to the party, check. Seems like a slam dunk in this deck.

[card]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/card] – $6.00 – This goddess loves green mana symbols in play and green mana in your mana pool. Elves provide these.

[card]Bow of Nylea[/card] – $2.00 – [card]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/card] combined with her bow completes the one-two punch of deathtouch and trample.  It makes blocking all our little dorky guys exceptionally hard.

[card]Yeva, Nature’s Herald[/card] – $0.5 – This is one big girl.  A 4/4 elf is nothing to sneeze at, but it also gives our deck tons of play against sweepers because we can flash in creatures during the end step.

What’s the Damage, You Say?

It’s $29.75 on most retail websites. Just a touch under $30 before shipping. We’ve focused the deck by removing most of the extraneous stuff that combos with Titania and streamlined our elf theme. I’m going to assume you make these upgrades before you move onto my [card]Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury[/card] section. Both Ezuri and Freyalise play well into the elf theme, so you can do both sets of upgrades with either general.

[card]Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury[/card] – The $100 Upgrade

What to remove:

[card]Terastodon[/card] – This guy is pretty good for most budget decks, but we’re going to replace him with a creature that doesn’t give our opponents elephants when we blow up their stuff.

[card]Sylvan Ranger[/card] – This card’s effect is pretty marginal.  It’s just a worse [card]Elvish Visionary[/card] most times.

[card]Drove of Elves[/card] – This card is slow and klunky.  It can be big, but a lot of the time, it plays naturally into cards that kill it ([card]Wrath of God[/card], etc).

[card]Grim Flowering[/card] – This card is really expensive and slow.  Ideally we don’t want to draw cards after all our guys are dead.

[card]Desert Twister[/card] – This card is also, you guessed it, really slow.  Paying six mana to destroy what is likely going to be an enchantment or artifact is pretty expensive.  Occasionally, you’ll want to kill a creature, but we should have the biggest guys in town.

[card]Sylvan Offering[/card] – This puts a lot of dudes into play but also gives our opponents blockers.  I don’t think its mana cost justifies it.

[card]Emerald Medallion[/card] – It might be wrong to take this out, but we’re planning on casting a lot of cards with only green mana symbols in their costs. This card doesn’t reduce those cards’ mana costs.

[card]Wolfcaller’s Howl[/card] –  I know there’s a mini wolf theme in the deck, but this is easily the worst card.  It’s not guaranteed to trigger, and I think there are better things we can be doing with four mana.

[card]Whirlwind[/card] – There’s already a [card]Predator, Flagship[/card], [card]Silklash Spider[/card], and [card]Tornado Elemental[/card] in the deck. [card]Whirlwind[/card] is overkill after our additions.

[card]Masked Admirers[/card] – Four mana to draw a card and have a 3/2 is not a great deal in Commander.

[card]Thornweald Archer[/card] – This guy is a pretty effective rattlesnake-style card. I want us to be able to do bigger and stronger things, though, so he’s going to get the axe.

What to add:

[card]Genesis Hydra[/card] – $2.50 – We’re getting this guy in here to help find our more powerful permanents. It scales well with elf mana and can put a lot of our most powerful cards into play for free!

[card]Eternal Witness[/card] – $2.50 – Being able to rebuy any of our spells is pretty awesome! It also dies to [card]Skullclamp[/card].

[card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/card] – $12.00 – If you’ve played with [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] in Standard, you know how powerful playing lands from the top of your library is. Oracle also happens to ramp and be an elf, so it seems like a win/win situation in this deck.

[card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] – $12.00 – This card is the number-one reason why people concede to a green deck in Commander. Its power and grace cannot be matched.

[card]Chord of Calling[/card] – $5.00 – Thanks to the recent reprint, this card is more affordable than ever!  It allows us to tutor up corner-case creatures or just find a big [card]Regal Force[/card] for value!

[card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] – $6.00 – Much like above, this card is also a lot less mana so we can find cheap mana elves to accelerate us more easily.

[card]Heritage Druid[/card] – $6.00 – The big poppa of making mana.  This elf rivals [card]Priest of Titania[/card] in the sheer volume of mana that can be generated. Also, it’s a legacy all-star.

[card]Glimpse of Nature[/card] – $26.00 – If you’ve never cast a [card]Glimpse of Nature[/card] with a hand full of cheap elves, you haven’t lived.  This is the most expensive card we’re adding, but its power speaks for itself.  The only card that I would say is more important is [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card], but that’s a little out of our price range.

[card]Woodfall Primus[/card] – $4.50 – The gift that keeps on giving!  Don’t be afraid to blow up your opponents’ dual lands with this guy. All is fair in love and war and Commander.

[card]Regal Force[/card] – $15.00 – This will likely be your second-most tutored creature after [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] because of the sheer volume of cards it can draw.

[card]Tooth and Nail[/card] – $8.00 – The most powerful green card in Commander.  For the low, low cost of nine mana, you can tutor up [card]Regal Force[/card] and [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card], and on the off chance you don’t immediately win the game, your hand is full of cards. I almost always start green Commander decks with [card]Tooth and Nail[/card]

Damage on the Stack?  

The total cost of these upgrades is $99.50, and along with the Ezuri upgrades, you’ve got yourself a very competitive Commander deck.  Now that we’ve got the elf theme done, we’re going to work on the hard deck.  [card]Titania, Protector of Argoth[/card] is not a commander that is supported very well in this product. I’d say you need to start from scratch if you want to make a truly good deck. With that said, you can just remove your 15 least favorite elf cards and play the 15 I’m going to list below to make it a lot better.

[card]Dryad Arbor[/card], [card]Wasteland[/card], [card]Strip Mine[/card], [card]Petrified Field[/card], [card]Tectonic Edge[/card], [card]Dust Bowl[/card] – What? You weren’t expecting a ton of lands in the deck that revolves around putting lands into play and sacrificing them? These lands will serve as a base for the rest of the deck to revolve around.

[card]Crop Rotation[/card] – Searches up one of our best lands, puts a land into the graveyard. Pretty much everything Titania wants to be doing. It’s good before you cast her because you can return the sacrificed land to play, and it’s good after you cast her because you get an elemental.

[card]Constant Mists[/card] – The buyback is the really appealing part.  It helps protect our life total as we grind our lands into 5/3s and enables Titania.

[card]Crucible of Worlds[/card] – Well, if we’re going to sacrifice a ton of lands, we need a way to get them back into play, right? Unlike most decks that play [card]Strip Mine[/card] and [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card], this deck will kill you quickly with the 5/3s it’s generating.

[card]Exploration[/card] – As close to the banned [card]Fastbond[/card] as we can get. More land drops will lead to more lands being sacrificed and more elementals!

[card]Scapeshift[/card] – This may look like a weird card, but it lets us [card]Armageddon[/card] ourselves to make a bunch of elementals and search up our most powerful lands to close out the game.

[card]Natural Balance[/card] – I’ll be honest, I did not know this card existed until I was searching for cards that had “sacrifice” and “land” in their rules text.  It’s a sweet little balance that helps you recover from sacrificing a bunch of lands and curbs your opponents’ mana development. If you’re confused by the wording, basically: everyone has five lands when the spell resolves.

[card]Overlaid Terrain[/card] – Okay, seriously. Read this card again. It’s so sweet in this deck, right!  I’m about to pick up a foil as I’m writing this article.  It’s only ever going to be in Titania, but it’s a really cool way to make an army of elementals.

[card]Life From the Loam[/card] – Good way to get back lands, keep the wheels turning, and find more important lands.

[card]Terravore[/card] – Fine, we got a boring one to round it out. This is a big creature with sweet art.

Honorable Mentions

-Any green fetchland (ie [card]Misty Rainforest[/card])

-Multi-lands with a drawback of sacrificing a land (e.g., [card]Lotus Vale[/card] and [card]Scorched Ruins[/card])

-[card]Smokestack[/card]

Thanks for reading, and I hope you all enjoyed it. I’d like you to vote on the bottom of the article for which deck I’ll work on next.

What deck should I pimp next week?

  • Built from Scratch (red) (43%, 163 Votes)
  • Forged in Stone (white) (30%, 115 Votes)
  • Sworn to Darkness (black) (16%, 60 Votes)
  • Peer Through Time (blue) (11%, 41 Votes)

Total Voters: 379

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Commander 2014: A Financial Review

With the release of the newest Commander decklists, we are greeted with a few potent new cards, but also one of the nicest group of reprints in a sealed deck product in a long time.  I’m here to break down what you may have missed about this spectacular release!

decks

The New

p2 p3 p4 p5p1

The new centerpiece of these decks is a set of five mono-colored planeswalkers that all have an extra line of text: “~ can be your Commander.”  While the EDH/Commander governing body has stated there are no plans to allow other planeswalkers to become your commander, it would not surprise me if that stance is changed in the future (source).  These walkers will be highly sought after for their uniqueness in the casual format. None of them are playable in Modern, but there has been some interest in Daretti in Legacy and Vintage. Having a hasted [card]Goblin Welder[/card] (or as I would more accurately call a combo card of [card]Faithless Looting[/card] and [card]Trash for Treasure[/card]), is apparently a big deal. Its single red mana cost also makes it very effective in red prison-style decks (which already rely on [card]Blood Moon[/card], [card]Chalice of the Void[/card], and [card]Trinisphere[/card]).  I don’t know if this card is better than [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] in those decks, but it’s something to keep on your radar. Daretti is pre-ordering for $18 or more on most retail sites, and unless it has a very dominant weekend, I don’t expect it to stay that high a month after release. None of these planeswalkers are particularly impressive and will likely not carry huge price tags after release.

b4 feldon g5 u1

The new legendary creatures (save for the white one, Jazal Goldmane) are all really unique and pretty strong build-around commanders. There is a precedent here, and those style commanders tend to be popular and good. These guys are much more in the realm of [card]Kaalia of the Vast[/card], [card]Animar, Soul of Elements[/card], and [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card] and less like [card]Basandra, Battle Seraph[/card] and [card]Oloro, Ageless Ascetic[/card]. One or more of these could become very popular, and I think they will all hit at least $5 long-term—the current $2 or $3 each seems unusually low.

b2 g4 r6

The lieutenant cycle is interesting, but I think these three are the most powerful.  One has haste, one has an ability that effectively has haste, and the last has hexproof.  The problem with the other two is that they have no way to affect the board before your commander comes onto the battlefield. They are much more just like big-stat sticks than anything else. [card]Tyrant’s Familiar[/card] is pretty oddly a non-bo with [card]Kaalia of the Vast[/card], but I think the upside most times is going to be so good that it won’t matter.  I think these guys can become staples of their respective decks, but it will take a while for them to become popular. Keep an eye out for bulk or near-bulk pricing to pick these up after Christmas.

w2g3 masterwork

These are the standouts for eternal formats.  [card]Containment Priest[/card] does a fine job of hosing powerful combo cards (such as [card]Goryo’s Vengeance[/card], [card]Through the Breach[/card], [card]Show and Tell[/card], [card]Sneak Attack[/card], [card]Reanimate[/card], etc).

[card]Song of Dryads[/card] could catch on if there is a need for flexibility. This card has so much utility that it’s hard to immediately write off a three-mana green sorcery speed removal. The only thing I see that might stop this card from seeing play is if all of your targets can also be killed by [card]Krosan Grip[/card]. The fact that it is equally effective against [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Griselbrand[/card], [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], [card]Counterbalance[/card], [card]Batterskull[/card], and [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] is a big deal. If there is a resurgence of Maverick-style green decks in Legacy, I could see this card seeing as much play as [card]Council’s Judgment[/card].

[card]Masterwork of Ingenuity[/card] is a very unique card.  There haven’t been any cards less than three mana that could copy equipment ([card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card], and [card]Sculpting Steel[/card]), and one-mana artifacts are especially important because they can be searched up via [card]Trinket Mage[/card]. What does all this mean? Not much right now. All of the cards are pre-ordering for too much and are not necessarily slam-dunk picks. Wait until January before picking them up for cheap.

csphere g2g1  w1r2 r5reef worm

This last set of cards are new and have a lot of uniqueness, which drives card prices.  I think [card]Commander’s Sphere[/card] especially will be a very popular card.  It’s a [card]Darksteel Ingot[/card] with a lot more upside and probably will be played in every Commander deck going forward.  I don’t see a world where these aren’t $3-4 cards by the time Commander 2015 comes out. [card]Command Tower[/card] has four printings and still has a retail price of $2 to $3.

[card]Siege Behemoth[/card] is a very odd card because it plays a lot like an [card]Overrun[/card] but also has a lot of power and hexproof.  I expect this to join [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] and [card]Triumph of the Hordes[/card] as finishers of choice in green Commander decks.  [card]Lifeblood Hydra[/card] joins the other supporting cast of great hydras post-Theros, including [card]Genesis Hydra[/card], [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card], [card]Hooded Hydra[/card], and [card]Hydra Broodmaster[/card].  I don’t know if it dethrones any of them as the top hydra, but it gives them a run for their money.

[card]Angel of Dire Hour[/card] doesn’t have fateful hour (as seen on all-stars such as [card]Faith’s Shield[/card]), which is a flavor fail. But it also has a clause that doesn’t not allow you to pair this with [card]Deadeye Navigator[/card] for a creature shield. It’s one-time effect is still extremely powerful and will likely find a place in most decks with Plains in them.

[card]Reef Worm[/card] (which is notably not a wurm, which is a flightless dragon) is a very flavorful card and sure to be very popular among Cube enthusiasts and casuals alike. I don’t think the demand will be very high initially, but its uniqueness will make it a great long-term hold. There are also tokens included in these decks for the fish and the whale, which I would suggest picking up immediately. As the only two non-dollar rares, [card]Dualcaster Mage[/card] and [card]Scrap Mastery[/card] have obvious parallels in other colors ([card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] and [card]Living Death[/card]), but being in red is a big difference. You don’t often get cards this powerful in red and I hope to see more in the future. But right now, their prices are too high. Keep an eye on them, and if they drop off a lot and then start to creep back up, then it’s probably time to buy in.

Reprints!

r3 wurmcoil

While [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] is the most headlined reprint, it’s important to note that this is the first non-foil printing of [card]Goblin Welder[/card] in a modern border. It’s a no-brainer at this point to ship all non-foil [card]Wurmcoil Engines[/card] as this will make them worth 30 percent or less of their current value.

Notable new modern border additions:

[card]Stroke of Genius[/card], [card]Dregs of Sorrow[/card], [card]Collective Unconscious[/card] (in black border), [card]Desert Twister[/card] with Noah Bradley’s Vintage Masters art, [card]Predator’s Flagship[/card], the original Karoo lands ([card]Karoo[/card], [card]Everglades[/card], [card]Coral Atoll[/card], [card]Dormant Volcano[/card], and [card]Jungle Basin[/card]), and [card]Priest of Titania[/card]

Notable cards with new art:

[card]Exclude[/card], [card]Sacred Mesa[/card], [card]Sylvan Safekeeper[/card], [card]Wellwisher[/card], [card]Cathodion[/card], [card]Skullclamp[/card] with Vintage Masters art, the cycle of 5 diamonds (ex [card]Sky Diamond[/card], and 5 medallions (ex [card]Sapphire Medallion[/card])

All in all, this release seems to be chock-full of value, but I think the hype train is too strong right now for there to be any financial gains at this point. Give it a few months and then comb through the prices again to find the gems in the rough.

Post-Pro Tour Finance: Khans of Tarkir

As I’m sure all of you are aware, the pro tour was last weekend and with it came an bunch of unsustainable spikes.  What does that mean exactly?  I’m glad you asked!

The Hype

siege-rhino

Many cards spiked over the PT weekend based on the amount of play and success they saw. Among them are [card]Pearl Lake Ancient[/card], [card]Siege Rhino[/card], [card]Wingmate Roc[/card], [card]Anafenza, the Foremost[/card], [card]Dig Through Time[/card], [card]Rakshasa Deathdealer[/card],and [card]Perilous Vault[/card].

If you had your copies before Friday, you’re in luck! These cards have increased to almost double the value of what they were last week in retail.  What do we do with them now?  Well, if you’re not playing them, now is the best time to sell them.  Most of these cards (save [card]Dig Through Time[/card]) are likely not eternal-playable and this may be their peak price for the foreseeable future.  The price of Khans of Tarkir singles is unsustainably high and it’s better to count the dollars you make now than the cents you could make by holding out longer. These cards could continue to grow, but it’s much more likely they see a significant dip as people continue to open Khans of Tarkir sealed product.  It’s a safe bet to get rid of your excess product now, because if any of these cards become a bust in the coming weeks, they can come crashing down like some other Khans cards.

The Busts

savage knucks

Some of the tri-color creatures in Khans haven’t lived up to their hype.  [card]Savage Knuckleblade[/card] and [card]Butcher of the Horde[/card] in particular are seeing some rough times price-wise.  I would keep an eye on these for further dips and buy in when they’re around $2.  The power level is definitely there for the cards, but they just don’t currently have the deck to be successful.

All other Khans cards over $3 that aren’t seeing tons of play are likely to come down in the next month.  These cards may still have some price memory from pre-order period, but lack of play will cause their prices to flop.

Sell, Sell, Sell!

xenagos

Some older cards have not proven their worth and price tag in new Standard. Among these are [card]Jace, the Living Guildpact[/card], [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card], [card]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/card], [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card], [card]Keranos, God of Storms[/card], [card]Kiora, the Crashing Wave[/card], [card]Purphorous, God of the Forge[/card], [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card], and [card]Master of Waves[/card].

See the pattern?  These are all Standard-playable mythic rares that for the most part don’t have a ton of casual appeal buoying their prices. I would look to get rid of these as soon as possible as all except Keranos see no play in competitive Magic. I would like to say especially that it’s time to get rid of Xenagos—he is prime for a Duel Deck reprint with Elspeth.

Keep a Holding Pattern

anger of the gods

If you read my grinder finance articles from the Khans of Tarkir pre-order period, I advocated buying a few cards and I think it’s still a good idea to hold them. [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] has almost doubled in price since I recommended buying it, but I don’t think it’s done growing. It’s one of two cards that efficiently deal with [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] in the sense of both cards and mana. (The other being a black uncommon, [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card]).  I think this can become an $8 or $10 card if people continue to play Rabblemaster and [card]Mantis Rider[/card].

[card]Hornet Queen[/card] is probably at its peak, but I don’t think they’re quite worth selling yet. There is a possibility that the new Abzan midrange deck from the pro tour decides to play them as an answer to the mirror match.  [card]Hornet Queen[/card] is really the trump in green mirror matches.

The Fetch Question

delta

Please don’t buy them.  They’re still too expensive and make up far too much of this set’s price.  They will be down to $8 to $14 by Christmas time.

Invest!

ashen rider

[card]Ashen Rider[/card] is still far too cheap.  A $2 mythic means it’s basically bulk (this is like Tibalt levels of bulk) but this guy is an EDH all-star and plays phenomenally well with [card]Whip of Erebos[/card].

That’s it for this time! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Grinder Finance: Khans of Tarkir #2

We’ve got more spoilers and I’ve got more opinions based on recent market movement.  This will be a quick update based on spoilers from earlier this week.

Cards I’m Preordering

savageknuckleblademantisrider

It appears that that Wizards of the Coast is pulling out all the stops in this set.  The reward for playing three-color decks is very high and if these creatures are any indication, we are likely to get a five-card cycle of efficient, powerful, three-color creatures. They are all powerful enough to see play, but if any one of them becomes especially dominant, it is likely to spike in price. I would advocate preordering any of them that start under $3. The flexibility you gain by doing this early will surely be rewarded in the first few months of post-rotation Standard.

jeskaicharmmarducharmtemurcharm1

The number of power uncommons in this set continues to grow.  I’m not particularly surprised that these three charms are as powerful as [card]Sultai Charm[/card], and I continue to advocate preordering them.  They are likely to become staple cards in the color combinations that see the most play. For $1 or less each, it’s a no-brainer.

siegerhino

This is a lot of card text and power and toughness for a four-mana creature. It’s a little awkward to cast sometimes, but I don’t see a lot of better plays to cast off of a [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] to brick wall midrange and aggro decks alike. This card is not without it’s downsides.  It’s extremely susceptible to the most powerful color-hosers in Theros (e.g., [card]Glare of Hersey[/card] and [card]Dark Betrayal[/card] ) and with more three-color decks becoming popular, those hate cards will not just be for mirror matches.  I’d be especially careful of any Mardu and Abzan creatures because of this.  That being said, for $3 or less, this will likely be a good pickup.

adamantnegation2 murderouscut warnameaspirant

These three uncommons are cards I think that also deserve some praise.  [card]Adamant Negation[/card] could skyrocket to obscene prices (see [card]Gut Shot[/card] and [card]Dismember[/card] at the height of their popularity) due to eternal play. This is often a hard counter with a [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] in play, and may eventually remove [card]Spell Pierce[/card] as the cheap counter of choice. If you play eternal formats, I can’t imagine a reason why you wouldn’t want these (unless I guess you don’t play Islands).

[card]Murderous Cut[/card] is another card I can see being eternal-playable.  It’s especially powerful in a format with fetch lands and only costing B to kill a creature in older formats is pretty insane.  It’s not as splashable as [card]Dismember[/card], but I can see it finding a good home in especially graveyard-centric decks like Dredge.

[card]War-Name Aspirant[/card] is probably not as good as the other two cards, but it will likely be slotting into the two-drop slot of any red-based aggro deck that pops up. Its ability to run past [card]Elvish Mystic[/card]s and [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card]s early and Elspeth tokens late makes it pretty powerful for an uncommon.

Things I’m Watching

pearllakeancient

This guy has a lot of really good text for its mana cost.  Yeah, it’s big and bulky, but it’s hard to kill, has flash, and can’t be dealt with easily in the mirror match. Its durability is much lower than [card]Aetherling[/card] and it plays worse defense, but its ability to push past counter spells while representing your own is pretty important. It does get brick walled by Elspeth tokens, which is a small tick against it, but at less than $2, I can’t imagine it goes down from here. I think this card will be a real player (considering it was played a bunch in WOTC’s FFL based on the article on Daily MTG).

cleverimpersonator emptythepits rakshasadeathdealer

I’m grouping these cards all together because they seem powerful, but they require the right circumstances to be played. [card]Clever Impersonator[/card] is a unique card and has a lot of upside, but at a $15 preorder on most websites, it seems too much for a card that may not be played outside of casual or EDH.

[card]Empty the Pits[/card] also has a huge upside (it is an instant, which most people miss), but [card]Bile Blight[/card] still exists in standard.  I don’t know how good the best-case scenario is on this card, but if you do successfully cast it, then you will likely not cast any more delve cards, which is a price to consider.

[card]Rakshasa Deathdealer[/card] is a small, efficient creature but I can’t see its pump ability allowing it to rumble past many bigger threats. Right now it doesn’t sound too appetizing to trade my third turn and this guy to trade with a [card]Savage Knuckleblade[/card].

Older Cards I’m Liking More

anger

Unless there is a significant change in the rest of the cards revealed, this card slots in perfectly into the Temur mindset.  Its best creatures are 4/4 and bigger, meaning sweeping up all the stray tokens becomes a lot less painful.  [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] is also becoming a lot more prevalent and this card is one of the few ways to clean up the tokens without losing card advantage.  Most retail websites have this card for less than $3 and that seems criminally low for a card that sees a lot of Modern play too.

ashen rider hornet queen

Do you know what self-mill leads to?  Graveyard decks.  Do you know what graveyard decks lead to?  Reanimating fatties. These are two of the biggest and best creatures to reanimate these days, and their price tags could definitely see a jump if a graveyard strategy becomes good. That being said, they’re also not totally unreasonable to cast in the slow Abzan grindy deck. They’re fairly powerful flying finishers and I can see them having a lot of room to grow.

worst fears

I might be going a little deep, but wouldn’t this card being $8 be your worst fear? I can see a world where the format slows significantly and this becomes a trump card out of the sideboard.  It saw limited play in sideboards at the last pro tour and I don’t see Khans of Tarkir speeding up the format from there.

Is there anything I didn’t mention that  you think is worth a preorder?

Grinder Finance: Khans of Tarkir #1

Now is the time to consider your options and look into preordering cards from the newest fall expansion, Khans of Tarkir. There are many things to consider when preordering cards, but generally I pick out ones that seem underpriced for their effect, or cards from older sets that are likely to become more playable.

Note, these are not necessarily cards I believe you should speculate on or dump tons of money into copies of. Instead, I’m saying these are cards that you should buy your playset of if you ever think you will play them.

Cards I’m Preordering

cracklingdoom

[card]Crackling Doom[/card] – This is preordering for $1 on most retail websites, and although it’s expensive and hard to cast, it may become the premier removal spell in the format and could easily jump from $1 to $5 or $6 without too much trouble. I’d rather get in my set at $4 and lose that $4 in value than have to pick up a set for $20. When considering another card on this list, I think this spell could become favorable in short order.

sagumauler

[card]Sagu Mauler[/card] – This card could be very hit or miss. It’s a big body with a slightly cheaper CMC if you morph it, and it’s extremely difficult to kill and can be powered out on turn three with cards we have already seen spoiled.  I think it’s safe to get these at $1 because if they become popular even with the casual crowd, they could easily reach $3 or $4. The flexibility that morph grants you allows this to be a real beating if other very powerful morph creatures are printed because it “counters” removal spells. It also seems like it might be the perfect card to ensure ferocious triggers on other Temur cards.

mysticmonastery

Tri-color lands – These are “power” uncommons and will likely be in high demand on release day. They’re slow and cumbersome but will likely be needed for a while before people have developed more cohesive mana bases.

sultaicharm

Charms – If Sultai Charm is the worst of the bunch, we are in for a pretty huge cycle of cards. If it’s the best, you probably aren’t hurting yourself too much by preordering your playsets. Some charms end up being “sleepers” that get better as time goes on and some of their modes become more relevant (see [card]Golgari Charm[/card]). I think for under $1, it’s a mistake not to get these now.

Cards I’m Ordering from Older Sets

manaconfluence

[card]Mana Confluence[/card] – If you don’t have your set now, then you probably missed the boat on the cheapest copies.  With the introduction of fetch lands, it’s going to be hard to play multiple colors of spells sequentially without Mana Confluence.  That being said, I don’t think these get cheaper going forward.

jace the living guildpact

[card]Jace, the Living Guildpact[/card] – His price has probably also bottomed out, and there could be really good delve spells.  It’s too early to tell if this is a good investment, but it’s unlikely you will find him cheaper if you want to play him.

Cards I’m Cautiously Optimistic About

anafenzatheforemost

[card]Anafenza, the Foremost[/card] – This card has some serious power, but it’s well hidden.  This card will be especially popular in Pod mirror matches because it can be poded into off of [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] and stops your opponent’s Voices and [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] while resetting your own Finks on the attack. It’s a legendary [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] with a lot of upside. I think the sweet spot for powerful legendary creatures that attack is three mana (as we see with [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]). The fact that this card is likely eternal playable is a big plus to its long-term price.

narsetenlightenedmaster

[card]Narset, Englightened Master[/card] – This card also has some serious power.  Depending on the quality of spells that you may end up casting, this may become the defacto [card]Aetherling[/card] replacement. It rumbles well with Elspeth and if we get a super value spell (a la [card]Prophetic Bolt[/card]) to play for free, this card gets very good, very fast.

utter end

[card]Utter End[/card] – This is a powerful card with a powerful effect, but I think at $5 it might be too expensive.  If preorder prices drop to around $3, I would pick this up.  That being said, we are probably not getting another card that kills planeswalkers in this set.

Cards I’m Not Buying

foothills polluted delta strand

Fetch lands – No seriously, don’t buy them now.  The fact that [card]Flooded Strand[/card] and [card]Polluted Delta[/card] are the most expensive when the serious Standard demand will be on green ones (for [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]) is absurd.  These cards will likely fall to $15 or less a few weeks after release.  I suggest not preordering any until you know more of the set and which deck you want to play. Then only order the set you need and wait for the rest until they drop.

Grinder Finance 102

So now that we know when to buy new cards, there are still some topics to discuss when it comes to grinder finance. I’d like to point out that this is not the only way that it can be done, but merely a recommendation of one way.

Protecting Your Investment

A lot of players don’t invest in proper sleeves or change them often enough. Unfortunately, the life of a grinder involves tournament entry fees plus around $10 for a new package of good sleeves. For any competitive REL tournament, it is strongly recommended  that you use new sleeves to avoid any unnecessary judge scrutiny due to dings, dents, or scuffs that may imply cheating. A good way to invest in the future is buying in bulk!  I order my sleeves from Potomac Distribution and the savings can add up quickly. The cost of a pack of KMC Hyper Matte sleeves (my sleeve of choice) is about $9.  If you order a case from a distributor, you can get them for as low as $4.50 plus tax and shipping.

41uTv6qXKeL._AA160_

Many people use just basic sleeves to protect their cards, but I would highly recommend also double sleeving your deck.  A lot of players are turned off by the idea because it seems excessive and causes your deck to bulge, but it’s really something I cannot recommend enough. Double sleeving your deck makes the outer sleeves fit better and ensures the cards move around less. The extra sleeve can be the difference between a played card and a near-mint card after a few weeks of play. Since the inner sleeves never get dirty, you almost never have to replace them, and if they keep even one chase mythic from becoming played, the sleeves have basically paid for themselves. Other benefits from double sleeving include an easier deck to side shuffle, an extra layer of protection if an outer sleeve splits, and increased protection for foil cards against bending or curling.

Investing Your Winnings Properly

Most local game stores offer prize support (and hopefully yours does) and what you do with that can make a big impact on your bottom line. My store offers booster packs as prize or store credit equal to $2.50 for each booster pack you would have won. My suggestion to everyone is to get store credit when you can. If your store doesn’t offer it as an option, ask if they can have it for future events.

Store credit options allows you to focus your reinvestments where they count the most. I personally am not in the market for enough Standard cards that any booster pack is really much of a gain for me. Even if the expected value of the booster is higher than its value in store credit, you are not guaranteed to open anything worthwhile. If I save up $200 in store credit, I could have opened 80 booster packs instead. Those 80 boosters may include $200 or more worth of cards, but if they’re filled with cards you don’t need or you can’t trade, is it really a gain?  If I buy one [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] that I need to finish my deck, isn’t that a better investment? If you were to open 2.2 boxes of M15 right now with that store credit, you may open enough Nissas or Garruks to make it up in retail pricing.  The problem is that in the long run, those cards may not hold their value as much as a Modern staple or even a pack of sleeves will.

tarmogoyf M15-Booster-Nissa

The other thing that store credit is very useful for is entering events. A lot of stores allow you to use your credit for entry fees. If yours doesn’t, hopefully you can ask them to change it.  If you make a habit out of winning, you can reinvest your winnings in more entry fees and save money for those new staples in the coming fall set, or just have a nice savings account for emergencies. Not letting Magic take over your personal finances is a big deal and being able to play a hobby essentially for free is not something a lot of people can do.

Be Outgoing and Cheerful at All Times

Your attitude says a lot about you as a person.  If you are always negative and complaining about stuff, then people don’t want to be your friend or be around you. Make sure you are presentable (shower, comb your hair, shave or comb your beard, use deodorant, brush your teeth, etc.) and don’t drive people to dislike you.  A big thing that a lot of Magic players don’t realize is that if you do these things, it gives you access to making much better friends.

Similarly, people who make an effort are more likely to be outgoing and help you when you need it. A solid group of friends that you can trust and enjoy spending time with make Magic that much better. Having a solid core of grinding friends also allows you to borrow cards you might be missing for an event or bounce sideboard ideas off of. In the end, this will make you a better player and a happier person. A word from the wise: sometimes it doesn’t matter who’s right. A lot of arguments I hear between players with negative attitudes involve subjective topics that there is no clear right or wrong to. It just ends up making them both sound like idiots because they’re arguing over an irrelevant topic. Good friends are an invaluable asset that everyone needs.

I hope I have brought to light some money saving tips and you all enjoy playing Magic without breaking the bank! If you have questions or comments, you know what to do.

Grinder Finance 101

So maybe you dabble in MTG finance. You buy a few cards here and there and turn them in for some store credit when you’re short on cash. Maybe you’re just a player who wants to balance between buying a playset of every set that comes out and not being able to play the deck you want for two months. The grinder’s outlook on finance is different that people looking to speculate and turn a profit.

The grinder is a fickle person because his needs conflict. Grinders naturally want access to every card so they can play any deck, but also don’t want to be burned or overpay for cards that may go down or be less useful. This leads to a different mentality when it comes to buying cards—one that deserves some talk. I have a few rules I usually follow when new sets come out, allowing me to be competitive in Standard while still maintaining a savings account.

Stay away!

  • Don’t buy any planeswalkers. This rule may change in a few years, but generally speaking, most planeswalkers will go down from their release price and usually very quickly. Some go up or stay the same, but the chances of that being the case are far less likely than a planeswalker’s price tanking on release day. Generally these cards are busts and will be easy and cheap to pick up when the next set nears release.
  • Don’t buy mythics over $15. It’s really hard for any mythic rare to sustain that kind of price for any amount of time. It needs to be a four-of in many top-tier decks to see that kind of price tag (unless it is a planeswalker or a casual card). Ignore this rule if the card fits into one of our “buy” categories.
  • Be careful when buying “similar” cards to older cards. [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] is a recent example of a card that is similar to [card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/card] but could have ended up being very bad. In this case, the stars aligned and made it a $20-retail card for some time, but this is an extreme case. I would wait until after the first two weekends of SCG Opens before purchasing these kinds of cards. People will test them and if there is not a significant number in top eights, then they’re probably not good enough.

Invest!

  • Consider buying sub-$5 mythic rares. Most bulk mythics will stay about $3 or $4, but if you think one is better than its price tag suggests, pick it up. It likely won’t get much cheaper.
  • Buy powerful, proven reprints. These cards are usually Modern all-stars or cards that carry a heavier price tag due to availability issues.  Most of these cards fall dramatically from their previous price points but keep price tags close to that of their release day, at least throughout their set’s life cycle.  These cards are impactful and powerful—multi-format players allowing you to unlock the maximum number of deck choices for the minimum amount of investment.  Recent cards that fit into this category are [card]Thoughtseize[/card], [card]Mutavault[/card], [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], etc.  Avoid immediately picking up competitive cards that are buoyed too much by availability and casual demand, like [card]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/card].
  • Buy the dual lands. No seriously, just get it over with. Over the course of the lifetime of a block, the dual lands will only increase in price as the set in which they’re printed is drafted less and less.  You need lands to play decks and everyone needs dual lands to be competitive. If you don’t own a reprinted land, buy those too. First printings of lands usually go up more, but even if reprints see a small dip, it won’t be enough that you should care. You should even buy the ones you don’t think you’ll use. At the end of the day, buying a full set of duals keeps the price at a minimum even if some go up and down.
  • Buy cards with unique, powerful, and cost-effective abilities. Cards with effects that have never been done before, are not done often, or have not been done at that mana cost are worth investing in.  These cards are most likely to be early spikers (assuming they are not already an exorbitant amount of money). Examples of this are [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] and [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card].
  • Buy the powerful uncommon. They’re not likely to get cheaper than their preorder prices. Would you rather spend $1 on a card you may be able to buy for $0.50 later or $1 on a card that might cost you $3 or $4 later?  Chase uncommon are becoming more expensive as they become harder to open in quantity.  Starting with Magic 2015, Wizards of the Coast has increased the number of uncommons in large sets to help the draft environment. Sometimes these are similar to older cards but with different names, which drives demand up. An example of this is [card]Banishing Light[/card] (which is functionally an [card]Oblivion Ring[/card]).

Try following these tips during the release of Khans of Tarkir and compare how much you spent to how much everything is worth with the release of the second set in the block.  You will be surprised at how close these two numbers will end up being.

Know Your Promos!

I’m kind of a snob and I seek out lots of foils and cards with specific art for my EDH decks, so knowing promos is just something I do. But I’m often surprised by the lack of card knowledge shown by a lot of other people.  You can easily find yourself getting fleeced in trades if you don’t know if your card is a promo, and if it is, which one it is.  Let’s test out some card knowledge.

The Basics of Promos

Do you know which of these are promos?

promos (15) promos (14) promos (13)

Give up?  I’ll help you out a little.  [card]Necropotence[/card] was originally printed in Ice Age and has never had a promo.  These cards are from Fifth Edition, Deckmasters, and From the Vault: Exiled, respectively.  You have probably heard of the first and last one, but Deckmasters is one of the weird boxed sets that Wizards used to print.  It had foils in it that were basically equivalent to today’s Duel Decks product.  The only other foil card in the set is [card]Lhurgoyf[/card] and to top it all off, every other card is non-foil and white bordered.  In the grand scheme of things, Deckmasters isn’t the oldest set like this, as it is one of the few with colored expansion symbols (and all the same expansion symbol for that printing).

But maybe you don’t play with [card]Necropotence[/card] every day.  You don’t really get a lot of chances to. How about we take a look at some cards every knows?  Which of these are promos?

promos (20) promos (19) promos (18)

Well if you said the first and second ones, you were right!  The third [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], although only available in foil, is from the Premium Deck Series: Fire and Lightning precon.  You may be a little confused—and you should be. The second Bolt is black-bordered with art last seen in Beta.  There were no Beta foils, so this must be a promo.  It’s actually a pretty old judge promo and is on average four times as expensive as the textless Player Rewards Lightning Bolt.  Knowing the difference is pretty important.

And now promos get a lot more annoying.  Here are three counterspell promos.

promos (23) promos (22) promos (21)

One of these [card]Counterspell[/card]s is an FNM promo, and that’s pretty easy to tell.  The other two look pretty much identical except that one is foil.  These are two promos that were given out for very different reasons but share the same art. It causes a lot of confusion. The non-foil card is a Legend Membership promo (basically the original Player Rewards), and although it is extremely rare, it’s not as expensive as the judge foil version.  Without too much research, it would be easy for players looking at prices online to mistake the cards for each other, even though one version is more than double the other’s value.

Only Promos Allowed

Some cards are only available as promos.  The most popular of these is [card]Mana Crypt[/card].

promos (11) promos (12)

Although this card only comes as a promo, it is only legal in EDH and Vintage so demand isn’t super high and its price isn’t too out of control.  There are still more things to be aware of with the card, though.  The one on the right is a judge foil and the only foil printing of this card.  The one on the left comes in English with black borders, Spanish and French with black borders, and Spanish again with white borders.  All of these are worth varying amounts of money and really complicate this card’s price.  Making sure you look up the correct version of this promo is pretty important.

Going a Little Deeper Down the Promo Wormhole

Now I expect everyone knows what an FNM promo looks like and can keep up with enough media to know the newest judge foils, so let’s take a look at some more obscure promo groups that may evade people.

promos (26)promos (27)  promos (25) promos (17)

These promos can be very confusing and are often mistaken for pack foils because of their set symbols.  The [card]Enlightened Tutor[/card] should be a giveaway, though, because Sixth Edition didn’t have foils (the first core set that did was Seventh Edition). [card]Rhox[/card] is a pretty innocent foil.  Both the pack foil and the promo are bulk rares, but the different art sets them apart.  Other than that, there’s no unique identifier on the cards that tell you they’re promos.  The last two are more recent promos, and Wizards has been so kind as to include additional identifier information.  It’s pretty much impossible to see in these pictures, but when you look at the set symbol on the bottom of these cards, they are numbered like they would be in the set but have a star after the number, indicating it is a special printing.  These two are from the Holiday Gift Sets sold the last couple Christmas seasons (which is why both are from fall sets).

Deceptive Promos

Now it’s really time to get into the nitty-gritty of promos.  Some of them are pretty much impossible to assume and require specific knowledge.  Back in the day, Magic didn’t have foil cards.  Some test prints were done for Exodus (the set that introduced the rarity colored set symbol) but were never released.  Some test prints (notable ones include City of Traitors and Survival of the Fittest) got out and you’ll probably never see them.  The first set to introduce pack foils was Urza’s Legacy, but there are still cards with the Urza’s Saga set symbol that are foil.  You’re probably familiar with these:

promos (24) promos (16)

Although they were given out for different reasons, any foil card with an Urza’s Saga set symbol is a promo card.  Also, as I stated earlier, any card from any core set before Seventh Edition is also a promo card.

A Test for the Hardcore

To end this fantastic learning experience, let’s try to identify some of the more difficult promos.

promos (10) promos (9) promos (8) promos (7) promos (6) promos (5) promos (4) promos (3) promos (2)

To make it a little easier, I’ll give you a hint.  Only two of these Islands are not promos. Can you figure out which?

 

Captain Clash Pack: Here to Save the Day!

Here they come to save the day, Clash packs!  They’re like duel decks with standard legal reprints, right?  But no sweet alternate art foils or older popular cards…. Wait, you mean they have alternate art foils now?  That’s right folks, the M15 clash pack comes with 1 of each in a new art foil: Prophet of Kruphix, Temple of Mystery, Prognostic Sphinx, Font of Fertility, Fated Intervention, and Hydra Broodmaster.  And to top it all off, that’s not even all of the value in the deck!  It comes with 4 Elvish Mystics, 2 Reclamation Mage (probably going to be one of the premier uncommons in m15), Arbor Colossus, Hypnotic Siren, Curse of the Swine, Aetherspouts, Genesis Hydra, and a Courser of Kruphix.  At the MSRP of $30, this looks like insane value!  If the previous duel decks are any precedent, this clash pack should also be available at big box stores (Walmart, Target, etc) for a reasonable price.

And now, the financial implications!

This is probably one of the best (if not the best) sealed deck product that WotC has released with only standard legal cards in a long time.  The Mono-black Born of the Gods event deck is the most recent deck that comes anywhere close.  But even if you only account for the $20 retail Courser of Kruphix, this is almost as much value as getting Mind Seize decks for MSRP at release.  This deck hits high notes for so many different players I can’t not see it sell well.  It has the ease of play and the fact that it includes 2 decks means the casual duel deck players want them.  The sweet alternate art foils (including the especially popular Commander staple, Prophet of Kruphix) will appeal to collectors and Commander players. The expensive power house from Born of the Gods, Courser of Kruphix will help to ease the price for standard grinders.  This is a perfect recipe for these packs to be flying off the shelf and the majority of the cards becoming in high supply.

What does this mean for the future?  Well I don’t know if every Clash Pack can hit this kind of a home run but it’s important to know now that standard legal rares are likely targets for alternate art foil reprints instead of just commons and uncommons (which are FNM promos).  Many people bought tons of Prophet of Kruphix hoping to capitalize on the long term growth of a powerful casual card but the new printing (especially in foil) really hurts people’s ability to speculate on that kind of card.  Even more odd is the alternate art dual land, which almost never happens.  The already not in high demand temple may drop further due to increased supply.  If it hits $1 or less I may see myself buying some Temple of Mystery and hope a breakout deck needs 4 of them during Khans of Tarkir block.   It wouldn’t be hard to see it rebound to $5-8 with heavier demand.

I personally have already pre-ordered one box in order to get the Prophet of Kruphix and Hydra Broodmaster for my Commander deck but it will be interesting to see if all of these cards have the M15 card frames.  It’s not clear from the article on the mothership if they will or will not but if the new frame takes off it could keep some of these reprints higher in value than their older frame cousins.

Long-Term Plans – Building to Your Playgroup

Hey everyone!  Sorry for the hiatus. I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays.  I have been debating a lot of the future of this column and I’m writing a mini-article to bring the series up in the new year.

What’s changing, you ask?  I will be making the articles more poll-driven, with multiple per article to help shape the deck, as well as including some caveats for the inclusion of some cards in certain playgroups.   The goal is to have a deck built mostly by the community and I want to involve everyone as much as possible in the process!

How Competitive is Your Playgroup?

Today, I want to discuss the different ways to approach Commander from a playgroup perspective.  A lot of people have different views on how Commander should be played (French rules, don’t be a dick, etc.), but it’s important to match your deck’s competitiveness with those of the people you play with.  A lot of people play Commander as a more casual format for gunslinging fatties and generally just having a good, stress-free time.  Other people are coming just to win.  They are the kinds of guys that will play [card]Azusa, Lost but Seeking[/card] with [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card] and [card]Strip Mine[/card]. Some groups have a bunch of people playing Commander pre-cons straight out of the box.  You need to find the sweet spot to maximize the enjoyment of everyone at the table, because in the end, you can’t play Commander with a bunch of people that don’t have fun.

Figuring out how competitive your playgroup is is the key to having fun playing Commander.  There are a number of things you should consider when determining how people want to play the game.  The most obvious is the choice of Commander. Some Commanders are generally just much more abusive than others and consequently lead to much more competitive decks.  [card]Azusa, Lost but Seeking[/card], [card]Sharuum the Hegemon[/card], and [card]Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind[/card] are some of the more competitive Commanders.

Another thing to consider is what kind of spells they are playing.  Are the blue decks loaded with counterspells?  Is anyone playing Eldrazi? How synergistic are the spells that they are playing with their general?  Is the Sharuum player playing a [card]Mindslaver[/card]?

The last thing I look for is how much mana denial and acceleration they are playing.  Generally speaking, most players would rather play more acceleration and not much mana denial.  Only the highest tier of competitive players will end up playing cards like [card]Armageddon[/card] or recurring [card]Wasteland[/card]s and [card]Strip Mine[/card]s, and then you should be ready to fight to keep your mana.

I generally rate decks on a scale of 1 to 5 to determine how I should approach playing with that group.

1.  Precons:  They may not be homemade, but the power level of most of the cards is pretty low and the decks are pretty fair. Due to the fact that the decklists are readily available and you may know most of the cards in them, I think they are the lowest power level on the totem pole.

2. Rough Home Brews:  These are usually first-iteration decks that probably don’t have a mana curve and have a lot of pretty bad niche cards that haven’t been cut yet.  Many cards may be acting as filler while more expensive and powerful cards are purchased.

3. More Refined Brews:  These decks are usually third- or fourth-iteration decks that have fewer useless cards and better mana curves.  Most of the power cards are included unless they are very niche. These decks are a bit more competitive.

4. Final Version:  These decks are the last iteration of building and are when people usually start foiling them out.  They’ve committed to the card choices and have the most powerful versions of all spells to win.

5. Ultra Competitive: These decks are piloted in tournaments and personally I think ruin all the fun of Commander.  The only difference between Final Versions and Ultra Competitive is that Ultra Competitive decks include large amounts of mana denial.  I am a supporter of players being able to cast spells and having an interactive game.  Losing a game to a well-timed mana-denial spell is just the worst.

Matching your deck’s amount of “trying” is really important to get the most enjoyment out of playing Commander. Making sure you aren’t causing anyone to not have fun is imperative.

How competitive are the decks in your playgroup?

  • More Refined Brews (52%, 25 Votes)
  • Final Versions (29%, 14 Votes)
  • Rough Home Brews (13%, 6 Votes)
  • Precons (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Ultra Competitive (2%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 48

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What level of deck should we build here on Long-Term Plans?

  • Final Version (49%, 22 Votes)
  • More Refined Brew (36%, 16 Votes)
  • Ultra Competitive (13%, 6 Votes)
  • Rough Home Brew (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Precon (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 45

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Jim Casale – Long-Term Plans: The Mana

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another installment of Long-Term Plans! Today, we’ll discuss the most important part of any Commander Deck: the mana!  But before that, I have a few Commander-related finance calls that I’d like to share with you.

$$$

Commander 2013 was a set with only 51 new cards. Among them are [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] and [card]Toxic Deluge[/card], but there are some less obvious picks from this set. There are a number of cards, like [card]Restore[/card], that are in multiple decks despite being new cards, but there are cards that are especially powerful and only in one deck.  My pick from black for the long term is [card]Baleful Force[/card]. This card is a huge creature that comes stapled to an ability that is like a [card]Phyrexian Arena[/card] stapled to [card]Verdant Force[/card].  For each of your opponents that does not kill it, it gains you card advantage.  I expect this to be a good long-term spec because it is the most powerful of the Commander “forces.” The only possible downside is the fact that [card]Baleful Force[/card] is in the Grixis deck that is currently being popped left and right for the chase merfolk.  A lot of this card’s supply will not end up on kitchen tables and it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to find compared to my other picks from Commander 2013.

Green has two very powerful cards that I think can see a lot of long-term increases in price.  [card]Primal Vigor[/card] is a sweet green enchantment that reads a lot like [card]Doubling Season[/card], which is still about $15, even after its reprinting.  There is enough difference between the two that [card]Primal Vigor[/card] will probably never reach the same value, but it’s currently one-third of the price for a lot of the same effect.  The other long-term spec I think will be good is [card]Bane of Progress[/card].  It’s a reasonably-costed Commander card that has a unique effect and I think could also be a Legacy player later.  It’s a great reanimation target and can act like a giant wrecking ball through a lot of non-green Commander mana bases.  I have added this guy to my [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card] deck and I think he’s probably the best six-drop I have.

My last pick is for sealed product of Commander 2013.  I think the decks that will be in most demand are the ones with the worst singles.  People that buy sealed Commander decks want the whole deck because they will likely play most of it as is.  Decks that seem to be selling poorly because speculators and Legacy players aren’t buying them are prime targets for long-term sealed specs. The Heavenly Inferno deck from the original Commander series has some of the worst singles from the five decks in the series but it is worth the most sealed.  My theory is that people that cracked and sold the singles of the more popular decks ended up with a lot more of the important cards as singles and a lot of the decks did not end up with kitchen-table Magic players.  Nobody opened Heavenly Inferno and that is partially the reason why [card]Kaalia, of the Vast[/card] is so much more expensive than the other Commanders from the series, even though she is a pretty abysmal one.  My pick of the Commander 2013 sealed product is the Naya deck because of its lack of good singles and its strong and unique Commanders.

Mana Time

Now on to the mana!  Most Commander decks want a pretty substantial portion to be made up of land. Being able to cast your expensive spells often requires upwards of six mana in play.  As a general rule of thumb, I try to play at least 45 lands in all of my decks to start because it’s so much worse to have a handful of uncastable spells than it is to draw too many lands. I have found the website http://manabasecrafter.com/ to be a great resource to use to start picking out lands for decks.  This website includes a filter for your Commander so you can see which lands are legal to include.

Grixis won the poll last time, so [card]Nicol Bolas[/card] will be our budget Commander and [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card] will lead our big-spender deck.

Let’s start with [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card], because there are some important lessons to learn when you have every card at your disposal. It’s easy to think that if you can play any card you should always play non-basic lands over basic lands in three-color decks because they will almost always be superior.  It’s important to note that there is a lot of opportunity cost to tapped lands and we should mitigate that as often as possible. That being said, we want to start first with a mana base that uses the maximum number of reasonable color fixers (no [card]Shimmering Grotto[/card]s, for example) and we will refine it later once we determine the breakdown of our spells.

For our [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card] deck, we’ll be starting with these lands:

[deck title=Nekusar, the Mind Razer]

[Commander]

*Nekusar, the Mindrazer

[/Commander]

[Lands]

*1 Badlands

*1 Underground Sea

*1 Volcanic Island

*1 Steam Vents

*1 Watery Grave

*1 Blood Crypt

*1 Blood-Stained Mire

*1 Scalding Tarn

*1 Polluted Delta

*1 Cascade Bluffs

*1 Graven Cairns

*1 Sunken Ruins

*1 Crumbling Necropolis

*1 Command Tower

*1 Opal Palace

*1 Dimir Aqueduct

*1 Izzet Boilerworks

*1 Rakdos Carnarium

*1 Darkslick Shores

*1 Blackcleave Cliffs

*1 Temple of the False God

*1 Dragonskull Summit

*1 Sulfur Falls

*1 Drowned Catacomb

*1 Shivan Reef

*1 Underground River

*1 Sulfurous Springs

*1 Darwater Catacomb

*1 Shadowblood Ridge

*1 Bojuka Bog

*1 Halimar Depths

*1 Cephalid Coliseum

*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

*1 Reflecting Pool

*1 Cabal Coffers

*1 Creeping Tarpit

*1 Lavaclaw Reaches

*3 Island

*3 Swamp

*2 Mountain

[/Lands]

[/deck]

I know what you’re thinking!  I’m aware we don’t really have any utility lands, but don’t worry about that for now.  We will add those to the deck later, when we know what spells are in it.  A lot of utility lands, like [card]Academy Ruins[/card], require a certain density of synergistic cards before  we can consider putting them into a deck. Nothing is more embarrassing than playing an [card]Academy Ruins[/card] in your deck when the only artifact you can put on top of your deck is a mana rock.

Now I know I said I really don’t like lands that come into play tapped, but the Ravnica bounce lands are one of the big exceptions to the rule.  They help you reuse some lands like [card]Bojuka Bog[/card] and [card]Halimar Depths[/card], which is very useful. Even better, drawing one of them is like drawing two lands, because although you must bounce a land to play them, since they make two mana you need fewer lands in play to cast all of your spells. The fact that they also make more than one color of mana is just icing on the cake.

For [card]Nicol Bolas[/card] we need to get a little creative and break some of our rules to achieve a true budget goal.  This is my suggestion for him.

[deck title=Nicol Bolas]

[Commander]

*Nicol Boals

[/Commander]

[Lands]

*1 Bad River

*1 Grixis Panorama

*1 Rocky Tar Pit

*1 Evolving Wilds

*1 Teramorphic Expanse

*1 Dimir Guildgate

*1 Izzet Guildgate

*1 Rakdos Guildgate

*1 Akoum Refuge

*1 Jwar Isle Refuge

*1 Salt Marsh

*1 Urborg Volcano

*1 Frost Marsh

*1 Tresserhorn Sinks

*1 Transguild Promenade

*1 Rupture Spire

*1 Crosis’s Catacombs

*1 Crumbling Necropolis

*1 Command Tower

*1 Opal Palace

*1 Dimir Aqueduct

*1 Izzet Boilerworks

*1 Rakdos Carnarium

*1 Temple of the False God

*1 Bojuka Bog

*1 Halimar Depths

*1 Cephalid Coliseum

*7 Island

*4 Swamp

*7 Mountain

[/Lands]

[/deck]

We definitely need to add more basics to the deck to keep our chances of an uptapped land on our critical turn high, but also because there are not many non-basic lands that produce multicolored mana at common and uncommon. Although both of these mana bases are extremely rough, they each give us a basis on which to build our decks, and we can always tweak the lands as we move forward.

Commander decks are not something you just build in a night (well, some are but they end up not being very good) and with this first step we can start brainstorming spells to use in our deck.  As an aside, if anyone has been paying attention to the price of weird Commander cards, I think a lot of new [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card] players are causing a rise in the price of [card]Forced Fruition[/card].

Join me next time when we continue our pursuit of building two sweet Commander decks! Have thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Jim Casale – Long-Term Plans: Choosing a Commander

Just when it looked like our commander deck might be guilded, the shard/wedge monster came up and delivered the finishing upper cut. Before we start looking at some sweet Commanders, I want to take a step back and address a comment made regarding part one of the series.

Mark wrote that he preferred three-color decks because they give you more flexibility. I believe this is a misconception. Generally, adding more colors allows you to do more things; however, you can often find artifacts that perform color-specific functions but at a slightly higher mana cost. It’s not hard for artifacts to perform many important color-specific roles (card drawing, sweeping, or ramping, for example).

Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about Commanders! I like to classify Commanders in one of two categories: build-around (or synergy) Commanders and value (or good stuff) Commanders. I currently have one of each type in my two decks. [card]Melek, Izzet Paragon[/card] is a synergy Commander because he is the centerpiece of the deck: the entire deck’s plan revolves around having him in play as often as possible. Generally, you end up playing cards in a deck with a synergy Commander that you may not play in other Commander decks because of how well they interact with the Commander.

Value Commanders are the complete opposite. These decks are filled with “good stuff” to complement a Commander that doesn’t need any support to be effective. My value Commander is [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card]. She just requires you to play lands and big creatures to be effective. We’re playing Commander, so those things are already in our deck anyway.

Now for the fun part, the Commanders! I have picked seven legendary creatures from which you can choose. But wait, you think, isn’t that a lot of choices for a poll? Well, of course it is. So I’m giving you a choice of colors, not Commanders. I have picked three pairs of shard-colored Commanders, and one wedge-colored Commander (as there are fewer choices). At the bottom of the article you can vote for one shard or wedge. We will use one Commander for our budget deck and one Commander for our bling deck!

RUG

[card]Maelstrom Wanderer[/card]

So let’s start with our first contestant. At first glance, this guy seems like a very value-oriented Commander, and he is – but he can also find a great home in a synergy deck. There are a number of very interesting reasons why you should pick this card as your Commander. Although it’s arguable, in my opinion, blue and green are the most powerful colors in EDH. Having both of those available in your Commander’s color identity is huge. The card drawing in blue and mana acceleration in green cannot be matched by any other color. [card]Maelstrom Wanderer[/card] is also extremely resistant to counterspells and removal. It’s one of very few Commanders that can provide significant card advantage through multiple castings. [card]Maelstrom Wander[/card] can be placed in a value deck that casts him to basically “draw (and play) two spells” or in a synergy deck with cards like [card]Momir Vig, Simic Visionary[/card], [card]Mystical Tutor[/card], and [card]Worldly Tutor[/card].

Naya (RGW)

Naya Value: [card]Gahiji, Honored One[/card]

Naya Synergy: [card]Hazezon Tamar[/card]

Okay, so I have some spicy ones for Naya. We’re avoiding [card]Mayael the Anima[/card] or [card]Uril, the Miststalker[/card], two of the more popular Naya Commanders.

No siree, we’re using [card]Hazezon Tamar[/card], a card for which you should probably read the oracle text because the card text is pretty unclear. Basically, he makes tri-colored sand warrior tokens during your next upkeep after he comes into play, so the deck plays a lot of ways to sacrifice or kill him before the tokens come into play – if he dies first, you get to keep your tokens. This deck also thrives on token enablers like [card]Beastmaster’s Ascension[/card] and [card]Doubling Season[/card]. Probably the most important card in the deck is [card]High Market[/card].

[card]Gahiji, Honored One[/card] is a more diplomatic card that incentivizes your opponents to attack each other. It’s also a pretty sweet combo with creatures, and man, does Naya have a lot of those.

Jund (BRG)

Jund Value: [card]Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund[/card]

Jund Synergy: [card]Kresh the Bloodbraided[/card]

Ah yes, Jund, the king of value (if you played the Standard deck last season, you know what I mean). Now, Jund is an interesting color combination because it has access to a lot of the most powerful and versatile removal spells in the game. This naturally leads its decks to be very value oriented, but we can include a lot of synergistic cards with [card]Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund[/card]. [card]Kresh the Bloodbraided[/card] loves killing things and there are a few combo cards you can use with him ([card]Fling[/card], for example), but Karrthus can bring the pain by stealing your opponent’s dragons, too! I mean, Commander is also sometimes called “EDH,” or Elder Dragon Highlander, so the chance of your opponents playing dragons is pretty high.

Grixis (UBR)

Grixis Value : [card]Nicol Bolas[/card]

Grixis Synergy: [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card]

And to round out our list of sweet Commanders, we have a more controlling combination: Grixis Commanders. I felt like including an Elder Dragon was a necessary choice, so [card]Nicol Bolas[/card] joins us here as the most fearsome of them of all (and coincidentally the only surviving member in recent lore). He is a tried-and-true value Commander that bring a fearsome ability and a large flying body into the fight. [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card] is a newer Commander, but is just oozing with potential synergy goodness. His abilities are similar to those possessed by “group hug” Commanders, in that they are both beneficial and detrimental so it will be difficult for your opponent to decide if they should kill him or not. Being both blue and red allows his decks to play all of the [card]Wheel of Fortune[/card]-style effects, forcing everyone to draw and discard tons of cards. There are plenty of ways to take advantage of this and he would make for a great multiplayer Commander.

This is a Democracy!

Now that I’ve outlined a few of the Commanders I think we can bring to battle, it’s up to you to decide which shard or wedge to use! Please vote below. Feel free to leave comments if you feel I’ve left out any good candidates. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts!

Which three colors should we use for our Commander deck?

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Jim Casale – Long-Term Plans

In this corner, the greenest merfolk to ever walk into an arena, weighing in at 2UUGG, standing a measly 1/1 before coming in to play, [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card]! And in the challenger’s corner, the weirdest wizard you’ve ever met, weighing in at a whopping 4UR, and standing an impressive 2/4, [card]Melek, Izzet Paragon[/card]! Ready? Fight!

If EDH battles were like boxing matches, that’s how I figure my decks would be introduced. But now I’m on a mission to broaden my horizons as well as yours. To meet this goal I’d like to introduce you to a new article series, [card]Long-Term Plans[/card]. In this series, I’ll detail the never-ending project that is creating an EDH deck and eventually come to two different decks for different levels of financial investment: budget and big spender. Budget players’ decks will include – you guessed it – budget versions of other cards that can be purchased at your game store to get playing. The goal of the big spender is to create the most extravagant yet effective deck possible. There are no monetary considerations when building this kinds of deck and it will be assumed everyone that wants to play it can afford to buy whatever it needs.

To start off the project, I will first run a poll to determine which and how many colors the Commanders will be. I have to advise everyone that the website http://magiccards.info/ is pretty crucial to everything I’m doing here and recommend everyone to get familiar with the advanced search functions because they are far more intuitive and accurate than even those on Gatherer.

Making a Commander deck is an art, some might say. Playing it is like enjoying a fine wine and some smelly cheese but it also requires a lot of thought and preparation to truly enjoy. I have a few steps that I take when building a deck to make sure I come out with a good prototype to iterate upon. The best (or possibly worst) thing about decks in eternal formats like Commander is that they are never truly complete. But starting from scratch, there are a few key steps of which we need to be mindful:

  1. Choose the Commander’s color(s): This should be pretty self explanatory. As a Commander’s color identity is the most important thing to consider when building a deck, we need to strongly consider its color(s).
  2. Choose a Commander: Yep, choosing the Commander is less important than the color(s). There are a lot of Commanders and narrowing down the color identity before choosing the creature makes the process less overwhelming.
  3. Create a manabase: This includes non-land cards such as Signets that you will use to generate mana. Nothing is worse than playing a game of Magic and getting mana screwed. We also want to play all these sweet 7+CMC spells so making the manabase first gives us a good idea of what we can and can’t cast.
  4. Choose core cards: These usually work with the Commander toward a common goal. The set of support cards you use changes the most out of any cards in the deck but also have the largest impact on gameplay.
  5. Choose your staple “good cards”: These cards are catch-alls that are included because of their color, utility, or just general power level. Sometimes there are good reasons to exclude them but most people want to play with as many of them in their colors as possible.
  6. Play a game and revise: Commander does not have a clear-cut deck-building process. There are lots of tweaks and changes that are made throughout a deck’s life that require you to constantly iterate to get the best results.
  7. Make another deck!: Most people, once they start Commander, don’t just stop at one deck. As much fun as a deck can be, it can get boring or monotonous when your deck is so finely tuned that it always does the same thing every game. Having another deck or two to work on keeps the creative juices flowing and keeps the game enjoyable for you and your opponents.

I am going to try to address one of these bullets in each article, which will hopefully be once per week. This means that our Journey to Nyx, or wherever our Commander is from, will take about six weeks and while doing this we will create two Commander decks! With that being said, let’s get started on the point of order on our agenda.

What color or colors should my Commander be? There are a lot of things to consider but there are some important things to keep in mind that are always true:

  1. As you increase the number of colors in your deck, your mana gets worse and the number of cards you want but can’t fit increases.
  2. There are no four-color Commanders at all (some house rules allow you to play nephilim but they’re pretty abysmal as Commanders so I wouldn’t bother).
  3. Colorless Commander decks have the opposite problem of many-color Commander decks: there are not very many cards that you can play.
  4. Some Commanders may be fun for you but are not very fun to play against.

Some very broad advantages to some color combinations exist but as a general rule, the most cost effective, fun to play with and against, and powerful EDH decks are one or two colors. The fact that Return to Ravnica is a Standard set that introduced a ton of juicy gold cards, as well as a few in neighboring Theros, means for a budget player, one- or two-color decks are an easy goal to hit.

Three-color decks come in two varieties, wedges and shards. If you’re unfamiliar with the terms, shards are a color and its two allies (i.e. the Esper shard is blue with its allied colors white and black), wedges are a color and its two enemies (i.e. the fan-named “Ceta” wedge is blue with its enemy colors red and green). If your goal is to play powerful gold cards then typically wedges are a bad choice. There are not as many cards of those colors and even fewer possible Commanders (remember we need a legendary creature that is all three colors). With the new Commander decks right around the corner, it’s also a lot easier to get access to shard-colored cards.

The final behemoths of Commander decks are the colorless and five-color decks. These both have huge problems with mana. The lands required to play the decks with any success are expensive, hard to find, and fold to non-basic-land hoser cards fairly frequently. That being said, I don’t recommend people suiting up [card]Ruination[/card] or [card]Back to Basics[/card] in their EDH decks because nothing is worse than not being able to cast spells. It’s arguably worse than having all of your spells countered (which everyone also loves, right?). These decks, however, wield massive amounts of power because they can freely play some of the most powerful cards in the game.

But enough of my babbling, what kind of deck should we make? Join me next week when I discuss our Commander card options.

How many colors should the Commander deck be?

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