About the Author
I've been gaming MtG finance since artifacts were brown. Longtime magic player and TO. Loving husband and father. Cube > Commander.

Privileged Perspective 19 – The Blind Side

Have you ever watched kids play football? I remember hating it at recess; one kid would be “quarterback” and basically every play was a Hail Mary downfield. I would typically take one step across the line of scrimmage and appeal to the kid with the ball that if he just handed off to me, I’d be able to easily pick up a first down (and then some). To the other kids, the entire game of football was just “throw it deep enough times and hope you win.” That is an incredibly stupid game.

In Magic and football, it takes a lot of different elements to be successful. You don’t cast a [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] on turn two and win the game, and you don’t chuck the ball 80 yards on every play. Both take a lot of interactions and exchanges to create a possibility for success. [card]Thoughtseize[/card] doesn’t kill your opponent, but is often responsible for helping you win the game several turns later. [card]Dromoka’s Command[/card] is not the star wide receiver diving into the end zone, but it is definitely the left tackle protecting the quarterback, giving him the time and protection he needs to make the play. Even though it wasn’t the game-winning move, you wouldn’t have won without it. Just like Jaguars great Tony Boselli.


Dromoka’s Command is Very Possibly the Best Card in Dragons of Tarkir

I’ve been building a lot of mediocre to terrible decks trying to get my sea legs in this new format. Every time I cast [card]Dromoka’s Command[/card], I end up winning the game. Not necessarily on that turn, but it is always setting up a key interaction or exchange of resources that throws off the opponent’s plan. Think about all of the things that a player has to track if they want to play around Dromoka’s Command:

  • +1/+1 counter on any creature can throw off math, letting a blocker survive or a smaller creature trade up.
  • Sacrificing an enchantment could mean killing an enchantment creature like [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], [card]Doomwake Giant[/card], or [card]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/card]. Or an artifact creature like ummm… [card]Obsianus Golem[/card]?
  • Sacrificing an enchantment at instant speed is also dangerous in a world where [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] and [card]Banishing Light[/card] are prevalent. If they suddenly have that creature back in play, does it influence attacking? What about their next attack step? What about “enters the battlefield” abilities?
  • Are there any prowess triggers to consider? Prowess resolves before the Command does, meaning that you can make a [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] a 4/4 lifelinker that fights one creature before blockers and blocks another. That’s up to eight life, and you killed up to two of their creatures. NICE RED DECK, NERD.
  • There are also a couple corner-case things to consider, like, does this attack still work if they destroy my [card]Outpost Siege[/card] (set to Dragons) or my [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] (lifelink)? Even though there is a very high amount of playable enchantments in this format, there are few decks that play a very high amount of the card type—it’s likely you’ll only have one in play early on.
  • Again, corner case, but there are a lot of different things that care about +1/+1 counters in this format.
  • Does the blocking player have a large enough creature to fight one attacking creature and live to block another? That is both with and without the possibility of a +1/+1 counter.
  • Dromoka’s Command can trigger heroic for up to two of your creatures at once, if that’s something you’re into.

All of this for two mana. Oh, and that was totally ignoring the first mode (which is also very good, but entirely dependent on them casting something first). I don’t see [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] making a comeback in Standard, but this is a strong answer to it (assuming, of course, you have the mana open).

The only reason I’m upset about preordering these is that I won’t have them in my hands on day one.

Evaluating the Commands

Dromoka’s Command is the best of the cycle, and very likely to be a major player in the format moving forward. How good are the other ones, and what can we expect from them?

Right away, I can tell you that [card]Silumgar’s Command[/card] is the worst, and that is predicated entirely on rate. With Dromoka’s Command, all of the modes are less impactful than Silumgar’s, and each is worth significantly less mana if they were printed on a card. However, at two mana (and only one card), you are always getting your “money’s worth,” and sometimes getting a great deal. With Silumgar’s Command, you are hoping to get your money’s worth, and typically paying a little extra for the benefit of both modes being on one card. The thing that scares me most about Silumgar’s Command is that it comes down too late in the aggro matchups to make the -3/-3 mode be a strong enough tempo play, and you’ll likely be wanting a [card]Crux of Fate[/card] at that point instead. Against the control decks, the [card]Negate[/card] mode is great, but requires holding up five mana—at that point, the stronger play may often be Dig and a Dissolve (or whatever three-mana counter you choose). Destroying a planeswalker is good, and you’ll always want some amount of that effect in a world where Ashiok is a factor, but again, five mana feels like a weird place for it. If you’re playing against Abzan Control and they are on the play, you can kill their Elspeth and… bounce a land? Or a Courser? I’m not sure, it just feels like the few times you get an awesome exchange out of it won’t justify the other times it is underwhelming and overpaid. I guess that makes it the Mike Wallace of Commands?

Ojutai’s Command is probably the best for control, but some of the modes feel disjointed. Getting a little guy back in UW is not typically as exciting as it is in RB, especially since it checks mana cost and not power. [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] is the first guy I think of getting back, but that’s not a strong enough play to take back a losing game. Drawing a card is of course always good, but it’s only at its best when coupled with a strong tempo play. “Gain 4 life, draw a card” is the type of card that you see in someone’s main deck at FNM that helps you realize you’re going to 2-0 them. Ultimately, this is [card]Remove Soul[/card] (or whatever it’s called now) with, “Draw a Card unless you REALLY need 4 life.”

Atarka’s Command already has four slots in my Modern RG Aggro deck. I expect it to do largely nothing in Standard. It costs [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], so it has to be good!

Kolaghan’s Command will either be deceptively strong or deceptively bad. If it wasn’t an instant it would be costed at RB, but because you can force a player to discard during their draw step sometimes, it had to get pushed up an extra one mana. At RB, it’s extremely solid, especially against aggro, and at 2RB it’s stone unplayable. This one is going to require the most work. There are a lot of strong RB creatures in the set though, so maybe Rakdos aggro becomes a thing?

Obviously this is just a first look at everything, and we won’t have a better idea of how these cards look until we get a little more time with them. For now, here are my power rankings:

  1. Dromoka’s Command
  2. Atarka’s Command (Modern)
  3. Silumgar’s Command
  4. Atarka’s Command (Standard)
  5. Kolaghan’s Command
  6. Ojutai’s Command

Also, before we close out today, I want to let you know what my new writing schedule is going to be. From now on, my weekly finance writing will be over at, your home for the best finance content online. My occasional strategy thinkpieces and rye, folksy musings will still be here, but not weekly. Instead, I will only be here when the people need me the most, like Batman.

I am Batman.



Privileged Perspective 18 – DTK Preview Edition!

Sarkhan arose, wearily. He edged closer to the edge of the ravine, gazing into it with strain and apprehension. Ugin sprung to life from within the chasm, letting loose a cacophonous din that seemed to rend the very heavens. “What?” Sarkhan becked in reply, his voice coarse. Again, Ugin roared. Sarkhan seemed to this time take his meaning, and his brow furrowed. “Wait a minute. Doc, are you tellin’ me it’s 8:25? Damn, I’m late for school!”

Sarkhan BTTF

Welcome to another preview card edition of Privileged Perspective! We are going to talk about a couple different things today, but I want to begin with my latest preview card!

BRIEF HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: If you aren’t familiar with my current cold war with the people who hand out preview cards, make sure to check out the FRF edition.

Our last preview card was actually quite a doozy. Although it didn’t appear until recently at a premier level event, [card]Mardu Shadowspear[/card] narrowly missed a top-eight berth at the hands of Tomoharu Saito in Memphis. Being both a human and a warrior is pretty vital right now, especially with some of the new weapons coming out for both black and black/white aggro decks. But hey, that was then and this is now S.E. Hinton, so let’s get on with the show!

And now, without further au juis


Introducing Scaleguard Sentinels!

Scaleguard Sentinels

There’s a lot to take in here. On the face, it seems like we have an [card]Elvish Warrior[/card] with upside. Human and soldier are both semi-relevant creature types in this format, although typically not in green decks. Of course, this card does have an upside, and after ruminating on it for a day, it’s actually pretty significant.

A 2/3 for GG is actually near optimal on rate (we’ve gotten a 3/3 for GG before, but that’s not a frequently printed card), but a 3/4 for GG is incredible. That fourth point of toughness allows the Sentinels to dodge [card]Lightning Strike[/card] and [card]Bile Blight[/card], two of the most commonly played removal spells in the early game. It still gets hit by [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card], of course, but if they’re Chaining your Sentinels, then you’re probably in good shape anyways.

Unfortunately, that +1/+1 counter is going to require some work. While our last preview card slid neatly into a previously existing archetype, Scaleguard Sentinels is currently a card without a home. In order to get our ideal value from this guy, we need a deck that can have GG on turn two, with a significantly high enough amount of dragons in the deck to be able to reveal one, and wants to play an attacker on turn two instead of a [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card].

BRIEF MORGAN FREEMAN VOICEOVER ASIDE: I wish I could tell you that there was a [card]Nameless Inversion[/card] in this format and that Scaleguard Sentinels would trigger off of it. I wish I could tell you that. But Tarkir is no fairy tale world.

Realistically, we need to figure out what the best dragons in this format are. [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] is probably the odds-on favorite, just because it has an aggressive body and rate, as well as protection from one of the best colors in the format. It’s not impossible to imagine a G/r list that is able to cast efficient beaters early and then curve into a Stormbreath to close things out, but at best, that is four cards out of 60 that trigger our ability—and we need to essentially have it in our opening hand each time! While we don’t have the full set available as of this article, most of the dragons are six to seven mana (yes, there are some fives, but not all of them are green). I’m not entirely sure we want aggressive two-drops in the same deck as our game-ending sevens, or even how many of those sevens are going to be Constructed-viable.

BRIEF DRAGON ASIDE: So when I was discussing this set with my LGS owner and longtime pal Eric, I said that Dragons of Tarkir is basically the Dragon version of Avacyn Restored (which is to say “A large Spring set with a hook that is targetted at casual players and collectors—you cannot have too many sealed boxes of it”). In terms of card design, however, it is much easier to create angels more evenly distributed along the spectrum of converted mana cost than dragons. [card]Restoration Angel[/card], arguably the best constructed angel in Avacyn Restored, cost four. There is currently only one dragon spoiled that costs four, and none that cost less than that. While dragons may be more objectively powerful, you also won’t see any in the two to three range, outside of the occasional [card]Dragon Whelp[/card]-type creature.

So what if we ignore the upside on Scaleguard Sentinels entirely? Well, he’s not going to be beating [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] or [card]Rakshasa Deathdealer[/card] for a roster spot, and he’s likely worse than [card]Heir of the Wilds[/card]. Scaleguard Sentinels has something that none of those creatures has, however [Editor’s note: IT’S YOUR PREVIEW CARD?!], and that’s a second green mana symbol in its casting cost [Editor’s note: Oh.]. While most of the Green Devotion decks have slowed down by a turn to take advantage of a stronger top end, there was once an aggressive version that took full advantage of [card]Aspect of Hydra[/card] to end games. Scaleguard Sentinels is currently the only GG creature that doesn’t die to [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card] (unless your [card]Avatar of the Resolute[/card] is coming down later than turn two). Maybe this is where we should be looking instead!

[Deck title=Literal GGs]


*4 Sunblade Elf

*4 Elvish Mystic

*4 Hero of Leina Tower

*4 Scaleguard Sentinels

*4 Avatar of the Resolute

*4 Boon Satyr

*4 Reverent Hunter

*4 Nylea, God of the Hunt



*4 Aspect of Hydra

*4 Gather Courage



*4 Windswept Heath

*4 Wooded Foothills

*8 Forest

*1 Plains

*3 Mana Confluence



It’s a rough draft, but I think it has some legs. It has critical redundancy at all of the points on the curve, and a potential game-breaker in Nylea. There may be a list that has more synergistic interactions, or there may just be enough pull from white to be able to support [card]Warden of the First Tree[/card] (which I considered).

Speaking of Warden of the First Tree, you know what deck is really good right now?

Abzan Aggro

Remember when I told you about that Abzan Aggro list that I really liked? I took it to a 5K and ended 7-2, just outside of top eight on breakers. Well, I gave the list to my friend Devin, and he took it all the way to a top 32 finish (28th!) at GP Miami, including a very strong 8-1 day one finish. His loss on day one was to Andrew Boswell in round nine, who was also on Abzan Aggro. You know, the archetype that everyone said was dead? Huh.

Here’s the list that I gave to Devin:

[Deck title = BoltTheBird Abzan Aggro]


*4 Fleecemane Lion

*3 Heir of the Wilds

*3 Warden of the First Tree

*3 Anafenza the Foremost

*4 Siege Rhino

*3 Whisperwood Elemental



*4 Bile Blight

*1 Pharika’s Cure

*4 Hero’s Downfall

*4 Abzan Charm

*2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor



*3 Windswept Heath

*1 Plains

*3 Forest

*3 Llanowar Wastes

*2 Caves of Koilos

*2 Mana Confluence

*4 Temple of Malady

*1 Temple of Silence

*4 Sandsteppe Citadel



*4 Thoughtseize

*3 Back To Nature

*3 Glare of Heresy

*3 Drown In Sorrow

*1 Whisperwood Elemental

*1 Mastery of the Unseen



This is a deck that is positioned to beat WR and other assorted aggro decks. The [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] as a fifth Bile Blight (that is to say, a BB removal spell that you must have when Rabblemaster or Mentor comes out) is pretty big, and it is also nice game one against the assorted green ramp lists (although it eventually comes out). Abzan Charm isn’t great against the aggressive decks, but is tremendous against everything else. I haven’t gotten a chance to sit down with Devin and see what his impressions of the deck were, but I have a feeling we will both be playing it at FNM.

Let’s close this bad boy out with some…

Quick Hits

  • Since I came up with that green deck, the new Surrak was spoiled. He is a potential top end for that deck. If you try picking up a version of the list, let me know!
  • Wes asked me last week about supplemental products. We will be discussing them next week.
  • I still haven’t sold anything on TCGplayer.
  • Speaking of, I’m looking for TCGplayer points again. :)
  • The last week has been pretty insane for (American) football fans. Off-season indeed.
  • I realized the other day that GP Vegas could be 10,000 people and 15 rounds. Pass.
  • No DTK cards jump out at me yet except the RG Command (Atarka? Artarka? Atari?). I would like four foils right now, please.
  • If you are reading this and enjoyed my thoughts on Scaleguard Sentinels, please pass those feelings along to Trick and the other WOTC people who handle the front-facing aspects of the game (MaRo and Aaron are too busy). I think the Game Day Gimme Card has gotten no respect (no respect, no respect at all!), so I feel like the least they can do is give it to me.
  • Modern Masters is gonna have [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] in it (as well as [card]Karn Liberated[/card]). I would not be surprised if there are other major cards from MM1 in MM2.
  • Thanks as always for reading!

Privileged Perspective 17 – Last Week and the Future

So last week’s article happened. The feedback that I got was mostly reticent confusion, which is how I imagine most test audiences walked out of advance screenings of Donnie Darko. Let’s address the problems with last week’s article:

  • I started an experiment that I knew could not be quantified within my typical writing window (my creative process works best somewhere between “Oh crap, it’s already Tuesday” and “Shit, it’s Thursday”).
  • Even though I briefly alluded that it would take more than a week, I didn’t rigidly lay out my plans and expectations, nor did I clearly express a hypothesis. I also failed to purchase one of those three-fold science fair boards.
  • It somehow took me 16 articles to reference Dream Theater’s flawless album Train of Thought. I still can’t believe Portnoy went to A7X (and that I just referred to them as “A7X”).

I think these problems arose partially because it was not a fully explored idea when I began and partially because I’m still getting my sea legs as a writer. So let’s synthesize all of my data since last we met:

No orders


BRIEF REFLECTIVE ASIDE: Now, I’m lucky—I registered for this site essentially on a lark, I’m not counting on it for an income. If I was starting a new store, and I wanted to be active on TCGplayer without massively undercutting my first X sales to get past Level 1, I’d be dying a death. The influx of “civilian vendors” (sellers on TCGplayer that aren’t also brick-and-mortar shops, just like me) means that you have to undercut a LOT of people to get established, and many of those people have much less overhead to manage. If you’re a store, your margins are immediately worse than a civilian dealer, because each month you are also paying for AT LEAST rent, liability and property insurance (assuming you have no other employees), and utilities. I know a lot of stores that use TCGplayer as a means of selling cards. I also know that some of those stores that played the “Race to the Bottom” game died a slow death.

My goal for this next week is to make it out of Level 1. However, I don’t think that having a few random foreign cards listed is going to do the trick. In order to make this work, my plan is to list some Constructed (mostly Standard and Modern) staples, and see how low I have to go to get them to move (I’ll factor in fees to show what I really got at the end of the day for them, and we will compare that to buylist prices and other “civilian” outs). My hypothesis is that I am going to take a loss, but that the expected “gain” is moving up a level or two on TCGplayer (whether that is worth my time, energy, and ultimately my [potential] money is yet to be seen).

I can’t imagine being a new store trying to get established on TCGplayer.

Basically, just know that this is going to be something that we occasionally check in on, but likely won’t be the singular focus of another article. I hope the above also cleared up some of the confusion about last week.

Abzan Aggro

Speaking of things that happened last week, I got eleventh place (7-2, missed top eight on breakers) in that 5K I mentioned! Big congrats go to friend of the program and Floridian end-boss John Cuvelier on taking down the whole thing with Mardu. Let me show you the sweet list I played:

[deck title=BoltTheBird Abzan]


*3 Anafenza, the Foremost

*4 Fleecemane Lion

*3 Heir of the Wilds

*4 Siege Rhino

*3 Warden of the First Tree

*3 Whisperwood Elemental



*2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor

*4 Abzan Charm

*4 Bile Blight

*4 Hero’s Downfall



*2 Caves of Koilos

*3 Forest

*2 Llanowar Wastes

*1 Mana Confluence

*3 Plains

*4 Sandsteppe Citadel

*4 Temple of Malady

*1 Temple of Silence

*2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

*4 Windswept Heath



*2 Back to Nature

*2 Brutal Hordechief

*3 Drown in Sorrow

*3 Glare of Heresy

*1 Mastery of the Unseen

*4 Thoughtseize



This is largely a stock Abzan Aggro list. However, the formerly headlining [card]Wingmate Roc[/card] has been replaced with [card]Whisperwood Elemental[/card]. My earlier lists featured both (three Rocs, two Elementals), but I noticed that I wanted to draw more Whisperwoods, and eventually made the bold move of cutting Roc entirely—which coincided neatly with the rise of [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]. Playing 26 lands was a last minute maneuver that I’m ultimately glad I made. Even though I drew more lands than I wanted, I also manifested a bunch of them, and that feels like the greatest thing in the world.

The sideboard may ultimately change, I think I want the two Hordechiefs to become a third [card]Back to Nature[/card] and a [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] (I also think I want to shave the 26th land for a Cure in the main, at least for FNMs).

I won’t do the whole tournament report run-down, but I will do an abbreviated Quick Hits type segment on the deck and this particular event.

  • As I said before, Whisperwood Elemental is incredible. Manifest is a tough nut to crack, especially in terms of crafting an understanding of it. Soul Summons, which is essentially just “1W, Manifest” is being cast on each of your end steps, except that you aren’t spending the additional cost of a card to play it AND you have a 4/4 body to boot! If we consider a card to be worth a half of a colorless mana (which is likely overly conservative), then we have gotten the benefit of 3WW out of our Whisperwood by the end of our second turn with him in play—that is a very quick recoup on our rate! I never had to activate its sacrifice ability because I just won every time it was in play. Being able to get the manifest guy at the end of your turn also allows you to be less conservative on defense, since you don’t have to leave as many of your creatures behind to guard against attack-backs.
  • If you weren’t aware, Manifested (and morphed) creatures don’t share a name while they are face-down. Nice [card]Bile Blight[/card], bro!

/Reveals [card]Caves of Koilos[/card]

  • I had an unfortunate situation where a match was decided (in my favor) because of a judge call in game three (my opponent had a scry trigger, and drew the card by mistake [with an immediate mini hand-shuffle, which I have to assume was just habit]). I knew my opponent prior to the match, which only made it more difficult. I don’t think they did it on purpose, and I hope there are no hard feelings. We’ve all made mental mistakes, especially towards the end of long days.
  • Speaking of which, this next point is going to be a big one. How conditioned are you for playing in long events? If you are a veteran event grinder, then you likely understand what I mean. You’re waking up early, spending a long day mostly sitting inside, and then leaving late, and you have to be mentally processing thousands of interactions and iterations over the course of the day. I don’t play as often as I used to, but I’ve learned that in order to give myself the best possible chance, I need to make choices that help preserve me for the long haul. This is why I prioritize getting byes for TCGplayer events: I know that eventually I will hit a wall, and I’d rather it be in the top eight than halfway through the Swiss. I also play more aggressive decks, so that I am not consuming a larger portion of mental energy per round. I pack a cooler with water and Red Bulls, and I try to walk around as much as I can, especially outside. I like to find (when possible) a quiet place to sit and read or pray. That way I am not constantly overwhelming myself with stimulation.

BRIEF JEDI MIND TRICK ASIDE: I don’t know if newer players know as many Jedi Mind Tricks as us old-timers, but a good defensive one is being able to just clear your mind in a match. If you can seriously wipe away all of the extraneous information, it will keep your brain (which is like a computer) from overheating. Conversely, if you fashion yourself as a Sith lord, you can attempt to overwhelm your opponent with extraneous information, to make them overload (but you will get Dark Force points).

The Truth About Modern Masters

Hello, Neo.


What if I told you that everything you thought you knew about Modern Masters wasn’t true? What if I told you that it wasn’t under-printed? What if I told you we could see more of it on the market, and soon?

Do you know how Magic distribution works? Don’t worry, it’s hard to if you don’t work with a store or haven’t been around for a very long time. The vast majority of stores only get a small percentage of their product directly from Wizards of the Coast. WOTC has too much else going on to worry about getting checks on time from smaller operations. Instead, large wholesale distributors buy from Wizards and then allocate and sell product to game stores (they also deal with sleeves, sports cards, different card games, and all that other stuff). Now, here is where things get sticky.

Once the product gets purchased by the distributors from Wizards, it is out of WOTC’s control. Wizards, as you may or may not be aware, also hosts distributor meetings and showcases a few times a year, to get the distributors excited about upcoming releases (and hopefully inspire them to buy more!).

Without revealing my sources (journalistic integrity!), I can tell you that every one of those distributors has cases of Modern Masters in their rafters. The set wasn’t under-printed (well, at least not as much as we thought), it just never made it past the middle man.

A part of this is normal. Distributors own the product, and so they will often set some aside to have down the line, or will buy unopened product back from stores that are closing. One of the things that is happening with Modern Masters specifically is using it as a honeypot to move unpopular products. Things like Core Set precons, which typically just gather dust, get a discount rate on Modern Masters (or even just the opportunity to buy more!) tacked on as an incentive. Something along the lines of, “Hey, store owner, if you buy six cases of these M15 Intro Decks, I’ll sell you a case of Modern Masters for $900!” This allows the distributor to not only move low-interest products, but also recoup back what they paid for the Modern Masters product as well as the sunk cost of not moving it before!

There was a sentiment expressed that if Modern Masters 2015 features many of the same ringers as the first series (distributors who attend WOTC’s showcases sign very explicit and strict non-disclosure agreements, so no, I don’t know the immediate future of [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]), then the distributors may not know what to do with all of their excess Modern Masters. I expect that it would suddenly start appearing more frequently on store shelves, which would likely do little to the prices of mythics and chase rares, but lower the value of the key uncommons.

Two of the changes to Modern Masters 2015, the increased MSRP and higher printing, are actually checks against distributor hording. The higher MSRP reflects a higher wholesaler cost to purchase, which will be harder to ignore up front. The increased supply as well will cause more of it to be sold up front to offset those higher up-front costs, even if some amount of it does end up in the midst of a warehouse a la Raiders of the Lost Ark.

At the End of Your Turn…

Until next week, when we will discuss my totally real preview card.

One last sneaky finance tip for those of you who made it this far—foil copies of [card]Plasm Capture[/card] seem like they should at least cost more than the terrible packs they come out of. Just sayin’.

Privileged Perspective 16 – Once More Unto The Breach

So today we are going to do something that we have never done before, and could theoretically never do again. Thanks to a conflux of semi-recent events, driven primarily by the new foreign card market, I am about to sign up for TCGplayer—and you’re going to go through it with me! Obviously this experiment is going to take more than a week to have quantified results, so we will see how far we get today and I’ll update you as appropriate.

AUTHOR’S WARNING: The proceeding segment is an extreme stream of consciousness, like the righteous Dream Theater track of the same name.

Okay, so the first thing I did was make a bunch of guacamole. Basically mash up some avocado, add taco seasoning, diced tomato trinity from the supermarket (not as good as pico, but way easier), and lime juice. Avocado is a super-food, which means you can eat way too much of it and not hate yourself for it! Any sort of gourmet sweet chili flavored chip will do nicely.

The next step was going to TCGplayer’s website. Down at the bottom of the home page appears to be the registration link.


Also, the USS Enterprise for some reason? How is that okay? Does CBS know about this? And I can only assume that the superhero figure is supposed to be my noted nemesis, Frank Lepore. Hang on, folks, it only gets worse from here.

Hey, log in time! This should be-



Ugh, this is gonna be a while. So, did you watch the Oscars? [Editor’s note: No.] Yeah, me neither. Hey, how about [card]Whisperwood Elemental[/card]? I haven’t really talked about it on here, but I was starting to get psyched up about it on Reddit leading up to this weekend, and I guess everyone else figured it out too. A 4/4 for five mana (an easy-to-cast five to boot!) is a decent rate, and its ability is sort of in that EDH school of card advantage, where it’s an incremental gain that left unchecked can take over a game (but does little to nothing if stopped immediately). I say “EDH School” because traditionally things like rate and card advantage were only evaluated on an up-front basis—[card]Divination[/card] was two cards right now no matter what, while [card]Rhystic Study[/card] was maybe more than two cards later. Obviously both are better in certain formats, but this just highlights WOTC’s push to have interaction and development on the battlefield and not the stack.

Okay, so TCGplayer’s guy emailed me. Looks like he’s going to reset my password? As someone who got locked out of his university provided email account very often, this feels eerily familiar.


No screenshots here because I’m filling in my info. Just look over there for a minute, okay? C’mon, don’t make this weird.

Ugh, bank stuff. I can’t have this just go to my PayPal account? I’m starting to really regret this.

Okay, now they need to verify my email AND phone? They want to either call or text me. Uh, text obviously. I’m a Millennial, we fear human interaction. We capitalize Millennial, right? Probably. Damn kids.

So now that they’ve texted me, taken a blood sample, and know my entire life story, we are finally able to start selling cards! First thing I’m going to add to the inventory is a promo Pernicious Deed, because why not?


Okay, seems pretty easy so far. Let’s try a harder one, Euro promo Forest.



Luckily, I was able to find it by sorting by rarity (they let you sort by all the different columns, which is nice. I appreciate that). Here’s the next problem though.


…I guess we are just gonna keep this one.

Okay, let’s get down to the real business and start listing some foreign cards! The first thing we are going to list is a JP foil Shrine of Piercing Vision.


So basically, we scrolled down until we found the listing (there are a lot!) and punched it in. Oh! I changed the shipping price too. It was on the front page of the selling page, it lets you set flat rates for everything. I’m also listing a JP non-foil Polukranos, a JP foil Seventh Edition Gravedigger (spicy!), an English foil Scourge Form of the Dragon, four Demon of Death’s Gate, a Russian Day of Judgment…


Oh, brother. What now?

Okay, so it looks like I can only have ten cards listed at once, and I can’t move up to a higher level until I sell two things. I went ahead and dropped the quantity of those demons to three so I could throw up that Day of Judgment. Hopefully somebody buys something soon!

/Looks at clock, word count, clock again

Okay, so I guess let’s just run this down to the buzzer.

Duel Deck Questions

I am fascinated to see what happens when this Duel Deck comes out on Friday. Elspeth’s price is still firmly in the $16 range, which is about as low as it’s ever been. The best probable corollary to her is [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card]—a Standard staple ‘walker that got the Duel Deck treatment last year. The spot that the arrow is pointing to is the exact date that the product was released.


Of course, I don’t think the Jace comparison paints the entire picture. While Jace was a four-of in Standard, he was only played in a few decks. Elspeth, while typically maxed at three copies or less, is played in a wider variety of archetypes. While I’m sure people bought the Jace decks just to own Jaces, they were still four [card]Sphinx’s Revelations[/card] and more away from playing most of the Jace decks in the format. Elspeth, on the other hand, casts a wider net.


This is also probably the best Duel Deck in terms of marquee names. Elspeth is a Standard powerhouse with Cube and Commander potential, and Kiora isn’t Tibalt. In actuality, I like Kiora a lot, and it’s a very popular seller in my store (my LGS, not the TCGplayer store we started just now). While I don’t expect either to make the jump to eternal (or “non-rotating”) Constructed events, they’re both individually powerful cards that will likely hold strong casual demand. Sadly for Kiora, I expect her value to plummet (perhaps more so than Elspeth) as she becomes the unwitting casualty of people tearing open these decks to load up on Elspeths. [card]Mother of Runes[/card] is about to outstrip its demand entirely, shy of the Urza’s Legacy/FNM foils.

I’m excited that we are getting more copies of [card]Decree of Justice[/card], because that card is very cool and neat. That was our best control finisher once! You kids don’t know how lucky you have it.

The [card]Explore[/card] art is great, and there are two in the deck, which is funny. I’m glad whoever designs these was also not bullish enough to only put two copies of [card]Accumulated Knowledge[/card] in the deck—that would have been unforgivable. Still, it needs an [card]Isochron Scepter[/card] to imprint one on…

Well, I’d say we’re about close enough for government work, so let’s close out this bad boy with some:

Quick Hits!

  • My MTG finance call of the week is Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Cherry Tango Chocolate Squares. So decadent! It’s like my mouth is swimming in a midnight sea of amaretto.
  • Haven’t sold anything on TCGplayer yet. Dammit.
  • Speaking of TCGplayer, I’m going to go win one of their 5K Open things on Saturday. I went to check out the comment section, and discovered these are your choices for interacting.


It’s like internet stratigraphy—it gets older as you go down! LOL HOTMAIL SUCKS.

  • I tried to list one of those JP Jace v Chandra [card]Counterspell[/card]s on both PucaTrade and TCGplayer (they should pay me for this week’s article at this point), and neither platform support it.
  • Saito went 11-3-1 at GP Memphis with a very affordable mono-black aggro deck. It played no mythics at all, with [card]Obelisk of Urd[/card] as a four-of as well as [card]Mardu Strike Leader[/card]. The first-ever Privileged Perspective preview card, [card]Mardu Shadowspear[/card], was also a four-of. I’m not going to play it in a tournament that I’m paying $35 to enter, but I am definitely going to start slinging it at FNM.
  • Dragons of Tarkir spoilers start soon! I can only assume WOTC is going to do the right thing and give me my preview card on time. Come on guys, be cool. WE NEED THIS.
  • If you haven’t already, check out the Brainstorm Brewery Patreon and donate. Your generous contributions keep their podcast on the airwaves, and stop writers like me from jumping ship to Star City (they wish they had me).
  • Were you aware of the crazy Wheel of Time pilot that aired two weeks ago? It ran at 1:30 a.m. on FXX, and starred friend of the program Billy Zane (is that better, Jason?). Apparently the director died and the producers are now suing Robert Jordan’s wife! Show business is crazy.
  • Whisperwood has gone up $5 since you started reading this. Wait… $6.
  • Don’t forget to submit questions for my mailbag article! I’d like at least one of them to be Magic related, but whatever. I’M GIVING THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.

Privileged Perspective 15: Challenging Perspectives

Confession: I wasn’t 100 percent sold on the name of this column when I started. I liked “Privileged Position,” but I think someone else is already using it. Privileged Perspective sounds like a Magic card name, and maybe some day it will be, but I’m worried the name doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you haven’t read my first article (you read it, right? Sweet). Well, today we are going to challenge a lot of firmly-held, inaccurate beliefs that Magic players have, and hopefully expand their visions to see the bigger picture. And for the record, the name has grown on me—probably because I really enjoy writing these.

Challenged Perspective #1, “Playtesting”

“You wanna playtest?” How many times do you hear people refer to casual games as “playtesting”? Almost everyone is guilty of it at some point, myself included. The truth of the matter is that there is a big difference between playing a couple casual matches before FNM and legitimate playtesting.

BRIEF SELF-ESTEEM ASIDE: I suspect part of the reason many people say “playtest” is because they want the word “test” to overshadow the word “play,” since most adults feel silly saying, “You wanna go play?”

Here are some guidelines to follow if you want your “playtesting” to actually serve its intended purpose:

  • Play a Ton of Games: Don’t just play a match and consider yourself done. Every game presents a dizzying amount of choices, and you need a high amount of iterations to be able to see consistent flow.
  • Play Mostly Sideboard Games: I watch a lot of fledgling Spikes play a lot of game ones, and then treat sideboarding as an afterthought. The reality is that two-thirds of many matches are sideboarded games, and you need a lot of experience knowing what to bring in and what to bring out.
  • Diversify: If you play a thousand rounds against Sidisi Whip, but nothing else, you will not be ready to waltz into a tournament. If you want to be able to beat the best five decks in a format, find people with those decks and develop a coherent plan against each archetype. This leads us directly into our next point…
  • Take Notes!: This is perhaps the best advice I can ever give someone about Magic. Your brain can only hold so much information at a time. Taking notes relieves you of having to track so many different things, and can be a good place to store oblique interactions that you’ve observed during testing, in case they reappear during your tournament matches.
  • Practice How You’re Going to Play: If you’re watching TV or being otherwise distracted, you’re less likely to absorb quality information. You’re also more likely to keep bad hands. Make the game your primary focus.
  • Understand That It’s Still Practice: Do I allow takebacks in my testing sessions? Absolutely. If a player is on a complex turn, and they play a Swamp instead of a Ghost Quarter, and they think out a line, and decide it’s better to play the Ghost Quarter? Awesome, that’s what this is for. If you don’t help your partner parce out and process their lines, then you aren’t helping them. That said, don’t try and take back something that was more than a turn ago—then nobody is learning. Talk through lines of play with your partner, and discuss possible lines of play, as well as what should and should not be respected in a certain situation (“Do I play around removal or go all-in here?” “Do I Abzan Charm and draw two or kill your Tasigur?”). Sometimes in a game, I like to take a snapshot and replay that turn multiple times (shuffling unknown portions of the deck each time). This is especially useful for combo decks like Storm when they ask, “Can I go off from this situation?”

Ultimately, playtesting is about getting in quality practice reps with a likeminded partner. If they don’t have the same mindset, then understand it’s just play.

Challenged Perspective #2, “Magic Cards as Stocks”

The rise of the MTG financier has created a lot of misconceptions about how Magic finance actually works. Many neophite mages think that a card’s success in a format is the primary driving factor in a card’s value. You’ll see this a lot after events. Let’s look in on a timely example of this: [card]Amulet of Vigor[/card].


This first chart begins with the birth of the Modern format (the little E), and details the price history of the card to the present day. Can you guess when the Modern pro tours were?

Now, [card]Amulet of Vigor[/card] has some unusual wrinkles to it (chief among them being printed in Worldwake), but it’s a great card for teaching the lessons I want to get to.

After major events, you will often see knee-jerk reactionists claiming that a card that had a strong finish is primed to rise. This was most recently the case with Amulet, coming off of a second-place performance in PT Fate Reforged. If this *were* the stock market, then the positive news would drive price, especially on a commodity with a capped supply (the specter of a reprint is always looming in Modern, but it wouldn’t be until at least this summer). Magic is different because there are contextual elements that impose restrictions—namely that Amulet of Vigor is a one-trick pony. If the card were played (or playable) in multiple archetypes, then both its starting price and trajectory would likely be very different. The Amulet deck is also very difficult to pilot properly, especially over the course of a large event. It also has extremely limited applications in formats like Commander, where you have so many turns that you don’t care if your lands come in tapped (and you dont have sufficient redundancy to abuse it). The spikes you see in those charts are reactions to the deck having success (as well as feature matches); the tapers are reality correcting the price. We are going to loop back to Amulet, because there is a finance concept I want to touch on that Amulet exemplifies, but I want to mention how Standard fits into challenging this perspective.

Unlike the other constructed formats, Standard is comprised almost entirely of sets that are currently (or have just stopped) being printed. The supply is either at its peak or increasing. The reason why cards of equal rarity experience different prices ([card]Outpost Siege[/card] versus Tasigur, let’s say) is largely based on predicted, and later experienced, demand. So when someone says, “Hey, this card won SCG Wherever, I bet it’s going to go up!” they really meant, “I love you” “The demand for this card will likely rise!” We could spend all day talking about how Standard finance is wonky, but Marcel pays me the same no matter what, so just know that I don’t really believe in Standard finance. Maybe the next section will help explain why.

So Yeah, That Amulet Deck

So yeah, that Amulet deck. What I wanted to say before is that one thing that the deck has going for it financially is that a lot of the cards have scarcity issues (insomuch as a Modern deck can). Do you know what the most important piece of information on a card is for MTG finance? The set symbol (and its color). Amulet of Vigor has been printed once, in Worldwake, and that’s doing more work for the price of the card than almost winning a PT. Summer Bloom was last seen in Ninth Edition, with its only other printings being Portal and Starter 99 (at rare!), as well as Visions and Sixth Edition (at uncommon). What inferences can you glean from that information?

The first thing that came to my attention when I saw that list was that, despite five printings, there is only one foil version! Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Editions were also those down years where literally nobody wanted Core Set cards or packs—there were no new cards, and they typically sold very poorly (at least Seventh Edition shook things up by having terrible1 art!). That means that we have one foil printing for a key part of the deck from a set nobody ever wanted. In terms of non-foil, only two versions have black borders, Visions and Portal. Each also has different artwork. The Portal artwork is rarer (and the card itself was rare), so those are the most pricey non-foils at roughly $3.25. Visions is in second for about a dollar less, with Sixth and Starter close behind. Ninth copies are about $1.50 because they are new frame, the most populous, and kinda ugly. If we were doing Aesthetically Pleasing Power Rankings, this would be my pick order (excluding foil Ninth from judgment, since the foil would win by default). Summer Bloom also likely sees more Cube, EDH, and casual play than Amulet.

Anyways, I said all that to get to this: Your job when looking for buys or spec targets isn’t too find good cards, it’s to find good situations. [card]Summer Bloom[/card], while only an uncommon, is unlikely to ever see a printing outside of a supplemental product (I could have sworn it was in a Duel Deck). Other good cards from the deck ([card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card], [card]Hive Mind[/card], [card]Serum Visions[/card]) are all but assured to be either in Modern Masters 2015 or see some semi-immediate printing. Amulet is somewhere in the middle, high-profile enough to get some demand for another printing (unless people start to call it “The Summer Bloom Deck”), and not too out of line with current design philosophy to forbid it from coming back to Standard (where it would do literally nothing). That puts Summer Bloom in the best situation (or worst, depending on your perspective). Other cards that have their price impacted by their situation include the Worldwake manlands, [card]Sleight of Hand[/card], [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] (although Commander has breathed life into that set), [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], and [card]Noble Hierarch[/card]. These aren’t necessarily examples of cards you should run out and buy today, but they are historical presedents of this concept. Be on the lookout for cards with similarly exploitable situations!

Quick Hits

We may revisit this concept in the future, but I thought today’s article went well. I think the kids liked it too, they seemed pretty engaged throughout.

  • Even though they support my arch-nemesis Frank Lepore, I really like the TCGplayer tournament series. I mentioned those point cards last week—there is absolutely nothing better than having guaranteed byes in a tournament that typically doesn’t pull in more than 200 to 250 people. They’re just 5Ks, so they don’t have the same pull as SCG Opens, and they have a guaranteed cash payout. Those point cards are an interesting phenomenon, too! They were considered worthless the first year, but people caught on and now they can command a pretty healthy premium on site (I’ve seen people actually pay $3/point the morning of). Listings on [popular auction site] typically close at about half that much, since the demand is not as strong or constant. If you live in an area where the smaller TCGplayer events run (the best source of points cards), then always target them in trade (I’d do .75-1 per point). They also expire after two years, which is dumb, but worth remembering. Don’t buy old points!
  • [card]Mastery of the Unseen[/card] into [card]Whelming Wave[/card] is something I will do at FNM this year.
  • I am not even remotely interested in the new From The Vaults. Friend of the program Dr. Jeebus made a good point the other day.


  • I really like [card]Outpost Siege[/card], as well as the rest of the cycle (to varying degrees). I think the red one is splashable enough that it could see play in multiple decks, if the mana is ever good enough in Standard that you can just do whatever the hell you want.
  • “You have sent 325 cards with a total value of $1,570.65 and you have received 314 cards from other members with a total value of $1,500.06.” This is not including the ~3800 points I have available, or the 3200 that are currently in escrow. Crazy how well this lines up!
  • I’m hoping to do a mailbag article soon, so please leave questions in the comment section (or tweet them or email them or whatever). We can talk about whatever, I guess.

1I actually love Seventh Edition art, but the set has been referred to as “the time comic book artists took over WotC.” I don’t really get it, but I pretend I do. I bet Mike Linneman could tell us all about it.

Privileged Perspective 14: Loser

Magic casts a pretty wide net. I’ve met a lot of different people playing this game, with various work and education backgrounds. Magic finance, on the other hand, seems to largely attract those who have some sort of economics or business background (or like to think they do!). Perhaps this is why my perspective is a little more tempered on risks—my background is in insurance, which is a financial tool designed to prevent against loss, rather than facilitate gains. While strong investing does require an element of risk, it shouldn’t cause you to make stupid choices or unnecessary risks. We are going to talk about losing in Magic (both in finance and in playing), and how to hopefully do less of it.

Not Losing in Finance

The majority of fledgling financiers seem to say the same thing; “I just want to make the game a little less expensive to play.” It’s a sentiment we can all share—Magic is very expensive, and anything that can curb that cost is worth looking into. If that’s the case, though, then you should not be devoting time and money to trying to predict what is coming off of the Modern banned list! Not only are you playing a game with very high risk, you are committing your financial capital to something that you don’t need, and may not be able to sell! If you whiff, then your stock almost instantly plummets back to earth. If you’re right, you have an extremely narrow window to out the cards for a profit before the price acclimates somewhere just north of where you bought them. A lot of people want to swing for the fences on every pitch, but that’s an easy way to strike out1.

We talked about this a little last week, but always know when is a good time to get out. Notice I didn’t say the best time to get out, because knowing when that is is impossible. I’m going to tell you a story, and I honestly don’t remember if I’ve told it here before—if I have, then I apologize, but it fits with our point very well. I also don’t want this to come across as bragging, because hubris is annoying. What follows is my [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] story.

Future Sight came out in May 2007, at the tail end of my freshman year of college. I lived in Orlando, which had (and still has) a large Magic-playing community, fueled by a decent amount of Magic stores. “Magic Finance” in the way many of you know it did not exist, or at least, not enough people cared about it. Magic also just wasn’t in a very good place, and it felt back then that you were either a Spike or a ghost (go look up “Dreamblade” later to learn just how close the Sword of Damoclese was to Magic’s head). Because I was a Spike in a Magic hotbed, there were still plenty of events going on, including the poorly received “2007 Summer of Magic,” which encouraged players to check out all kinds of stores in their areas. Due to a series of circumstances, including a bum ankle, I forfeited my opportunity to march with Carolina Crown (oops!) and decided to stay home and play a bunch of Magic to take my mind off of it.

Magic information also traveled more slowly then. We all had the internet, but not in our pockets. Tournaments were happening, but there was no Star City circuit, and there were way fewer GP weekends. Formats, especially the one at that time, took much longer to solve, and vastly unique regional environments were more common then they are now. You didn’t have to be as fast as you do now to get in on the ground floor of a card. Legacy was a niche crowd that most people didn’t really take the time to care about if they weren’t in it, and EDH was unknown to virtually everyone that wasn’t a judge.

I don’t want to say I “discovered” Tarmogoyf, because I most certainly did not. I was a brewer, and my fascination with Tarmogoyf was largely due to his interaction with cards like [card]Tarfire[/card], [card]Nameless Inversion[/card], and [card]Stone Rain[/card]. I picked up my set, and worked on ways of slotting it into Karstenbot Babykiller. Eventually the price on Tarmogoyf started sneaking up. Stores were much more lax in their pricing, so while I was going to different events, it was easy to find outdated prices on Goyfs: $3 instead of $5, then $5 instead of $8. Eventually, I had a few extra sets, but I stopped buying when they eclipsed $12. Cards in Standard never got much higher than $20, so things seemed a little abnormal when ‘Goyf got that high. By the start of 2008, the card was $50 and officially the most expensive non-foil in Standard ever. I buylisted my extra copies to Cool Stuff for about $25 each—I knew it was a totally unique set of circumstances, and I was happy to get out well ahead of where I started.

Knowing what we know now, it would be foolish to out those ‘Goyfs in 2008. However, the history of that card is a series of strange and unusual circumstances, and continues to be one of the game’s great outliers. It would have been as idiotic to buy in on a Standard card at $45 then as it would be stupid to buy in on a standard card at $90 today. I didn’t get out at the best time, but I certainly got out at a good time. Knowing that you are coming out ahead is more important than guessing at the future. If you want to make the smart decisions, go for the ones that guarantee a desirable degree of success.

Not Losing in Playing

I’m not going to do the whole “Tilt Talk” thing, because it has been done to death already. If you haven’t read a thousand of articles about tilt already, then… you must be new here? Welcome!

I will say this though, that tilt happens to everybody, even someone as old and terrible at this game as me. Sometimes your mental mistakes just add up and you hate yourself. Sometimes your opponent is a jackass. Typically, my first recourse is to go grab a beer and just repeat, “Well, I’m more of a Legacy player anyways,” until I believe it’s true.

But more importantly, I want to talk about proactive ways to not lose. Great example, SCG Regionals were this weekend. One of them was located relatively close by, so a lot of people at my store ended up attending. My good buddy and teammate Justin made the top 16 (‘grats!), while some of the other locals ended up not doing very well at all. There are a couple things that Justin did right that they did not, and they are some of the simple, common sense things that players tend to overlook.Regionals

  • GO THE F*** TO SLEEP: Don’t stay up playing EDH until 3:00 a.m. if you want to do well in the tournament the next day. I will usually skip FNM the night before an event to avoid falling into this trap. And eat a real breakfast! Donuts don’t count.
  • Know Your Deck: Don’t play something that your friend hands you the morning of, unless it is significantly easier to pilot than what you had planned on playing. Audibling to something harder at the last minute is going to very likely cost you at least 2-3 games over the course of the day, unless you’re such a stone master that you could win the tournament with a ham sandwich. And if you are, then why the hell are you reading this?
  • Stay Fueled and Hydrated: Your body needs a lot of water, even more if you are loading up on caffeine and B vitamins to try and stay awake through this tournament. Make sure to have some good brain food with you (and something high in protein/carbs) to avoid crashing physically after round 4 or 5.
  • Something About Taurine?: Mike Flores says it’s important, and I believe everything he says. Take some Taurine. It gives you wiiiiiings!

Okay, but seriously, here is the most important one. Do you really need to play in this tournament? Ask yourself honestly. Do you have a deck that you’re familiar with? Can you beat that stupid red-white deck? How much have you played this format? Is it worth $35 plus gas plus your day to go? A lot of people just play in every tournament they can, hoping to win enough metaphorical dice rolls to “get there” without realizing how much of a long shot it is if you haven’t done your homework leading up to the event. This is especially true in new formats (Fate Reforged has been out for almost a month, so I consider it still quite new). How much are you going to be punished for not knowing what their cards (or even your cards!) do? My friend I mentioned played the same deck he has been on for a couple months, with few if any modifications from FRF—it is better to stay the course and remain consistent than to fail by trying to do too much new stuff at once.

Magic tournaments are hard. In a nine-round tournament, you are really only guaranteed to make the top eight if you go 9-0 or 8-1, meaning you need a minimum match win percentage of 89 percent (yeah, there are opportunities to draw in, but you have to go 7-0 for that to be an option). Do you think you are in a position to do that? If your homebrew deck went 2-3 at FNM, and one of those was a bye and the other came off of the ten-year-old with the hydra-themed deck, then really consider not going to this one. Just like we’ve been saying, “You miss all the shots you don’t take, but don’t take stupid shots.”

Standard Update

Okay, so that sweet Jund deck I posted last week? Well, I wasn’t able to put it together in time for FNM. The good news? I played an Abzan aggro deck that I absolutely love. I have a TCGplayer 5k at the end of this month, and I will 100 percent be playing a (tuned) version of this deck.

[Deck title=Abzan Aggro, BoltTheBird Style]
*3 Warden of the First Tree
*3 Rakshasa Deathdealer
*4 Fleecemane Lion
*3 Anafenza the Foremost
*4 Siege Rhino
*2 Wingmate Roc
*4 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
*1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
*1 Murderous Cut
*3 Abzan Charm
*3 Hero’s Downfall
*4 Bile Blight
*4 Windswept Heath
*4 Sandsteppe Citadel
*3 Forest
*2 Plains
*2 Temple of Malady
*2 Temple of Silence
*3 Llanowar Wastes
*3 Caves of Koilos
*2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

My sideboard was garbage, so I won’t even bother. The only things that were good in my board were two copies of [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card]—so much so that I want a third.

The mana was good, but I want to play a ton of fetchlands to fuel Tasigur. That card honestly feels like a development oversight. And what I love most about Tasigur is that when you play him in a deck with a lot of very powerful cards, you are always drawing something good. If anything, he makes me want to slow the deck down to more of a grindy midrange list to cut the smaller creatures for more high-impact cards. Going forward, you really have to have a good reason for not starting your Standard list with four Tasigurs and four Siege Rhinos.

That’s going to be it for this week. I’d really like to do a mailbag article soon, so if you have anything you’d like me to answer (Magic or otherwise!), feel free to tweet or email ([email protected]) your questions. As soon as we have enough for me to cobble into an article, it will go live! THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO BE FAMOUS ON THE INTERNET.

Oh, and if you have any TCGplayer points, let me know. I need 40, like ASAP. I can do PucaPoints or cash. Sweet.

I got the points after writing this. But these things are crazy, right? We will definitely talk about those a bit next week.



1This is the extent of my knowledge of baseball.

Privileged Perspective 13: Beginning to Look to the Future

Sometimes it is difficult to get the writing process started, and other times the words flow out as if someone else already did everything for me. There are weeks, like this one, where I have fragments of the piece I wish to assemble, but they are adrift of each other and devoid of interlocking context. For example, I know that I want to talk about my Modern experience from Saturday (it wasn’t great!), as well as touch briefly on a couple of things that have been on my mind over the course of the weekend. Perhaps the best course of action in a time like this is to compose a succinct, introspective introduction and then just get at the issues I want to discuss, continuity be damned.

Ugh, Modern

I am having a difficult time putting my finger on Modern. Unlike its older cousins Legacy and Vintage, Modern feels in some ways like Standard. There are a lot of decks that are focused on developing a board state and casting very strong-but-believable threats like [card]Siege Rhino[/card]. The decks that feel unfair are those like Tron and Affinity—the ones where sometimes their plan comes together so quickly that you instinctively backpedal into survival mode, which is an overwhelmingly losing proposition.

The only deck that feels truly oppressive to me, however, is Burn. It is not the best deck in the format, but it has enough critical redundancies that it is able to execute its plan at a very high consistency. The fact that fetches into shocks make up the bulk of the format’s foundation only makes that plan more viable. I have a lot of written and unpublished pages about burn (from a more comparative historical perspective) saved on this computer, so maybe we’ll have Burn week someday.

The deck I played in the event did not feel overall to be bad. Starting in round two, I mulliganed every opening hand except two for the rest of the tournament (I played three more rounds and left). Some of the mulls were the usual “right amount, wrong color” or “no curve” hands that you teach yourself are unfortunate but happen, and some were the “draw four copies of one card and three of another” hands where you seriously think you are doing something totally wrong. I don’t want to sound superstitious, but I was using a new, unproven brand of sleeves. Maybe they’re defective? Or evil? Maybe I would have won the tournament and the respect of my father if I had just used yellow Dragon Shields? When you comin’ home, Dad? I don’t know when, but we’ll have a good time then. You know we’ll have a good time then.

At the heart of my list is something very powerful, and it’s good enough that I have decided to continue to develop it. [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], one of my all-time favorite cards, saw some success in Standard alongside [card]Lightning Mauler[/card]. Two mana for four damage across two bodies is an incredible rate, especially in a format where most removal is in the form of [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]. However, the deck has now added a third element to that synergy in [card]Jund Hackblade[/card]—worse in terms of overall damage output by one a turn, but better overall than any other creature on the curve. While it may ultimately be cut, [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] was an excellent second source of turning on Hackblade, allowing for an impressive five damage on turn two. [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] was also a crucial element, and I will be gaming with four of them every time. The rest of the deck, however, will need an inspection. Here is the core of what I believe to be a workable archetype:

[Deck title=Gruul Shell]
*4 Rakdos Cackler
*4 Burning-Tree Emissary
*4 Jund Hackblade
*4 Lightning Mauler
*4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
*4 Lightning Bolt

If you have any thoughts, let me know. The existence of Rampager pulls us toward red/green, but Naya and Jund are both valid options.

Futures Sight

Author’s Disclaimer: We are not going to come close to finishing what I want to say here, so be prepared to have this topic spill over into future articles.

I feel like a lot of people are trying to make money by seeing the future. The problem with this, of course, is that it is impossible. I’m not sure if I have ever really expressed my thoughts on speculating or buy-outs, but I am typically against them. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t speculate at all, it just means that I have a very conservative approach to buying what are essentially card futures. When I do plan to move in on something, I consider the following.

“Where is it at now?” Many of the cards I move in on are, at the time of the buy, between bulk price and $3 (the typical cost of an in-print booster pack).

When you get a card at the floor price, you don’t have to wait for it to hit the ceiling to be able to get a return. It may mean leaving a percentage on the table, but that is just the tax you pay for not having to sell a card at its ceiling to make a gain. You are also tying up less of your Magic capital (assuming you have a limited amount to spend on Magic at any particular time, or have insulated your Magic spending in any other way). This gives you the ability to wait longer on a card, which is a check against doing something you will regret later. To guarantee getting in on the floor of newer cards, I advise waiting until about December or January for large fall sets, and one or two months post-release for small sets. Typically Game Day is the earliest for small sets.

BRIEF MISTAKE ASIDE: Remember Overextended? That was the proto-format that existed during the lead-up to Modern. Anyways, there was serious hype for a format to bridge the gap between Legacy and Standard that wasn’t Extended, but Wizards stayed pretty quiet on the situation until the announced creation of Modern. In the months before their announcement, Overextended (a Gavin Verhey joint) took off as a possibility, and savvy traders slowly started to move in on staples. It was during this point that I moved in on Ravnica shocklands (then hovering around $7 to $10, depending on colors and condition). I made a big move on them early, but WOTC’s continual silence on the format made me anxious—I had a lot of my eggs in this basket! At GP Providence, I was able to out them for just over cost to a smaller vendor. Not much later was the announcement of Modern, along with a huge spike on the lands. Yes, this story (which, gosh, I really ramble, don’t I?) could also be about staying disciplined to a buy, but it’s also about not tying up too much at once. I could have gotten involved in a lot of other options during that time that my money was essentially frozen in shocklands, but I was lucky to break just north of even.

That $3 I mentioned earlier? That cap is more in place for foils, although I will move on things that are floating in the $3 range if I think they are relatively safe in the long term. The overall understanding of foil pricing is very off in my opinion, but my rule of thumb for a foil rare or mythic spec is this: “Is it less than the pack it comes in?” If it is, then it is most certainly a good candidate for a target. My most recent target was [card]Rune-Scarred Demon[/card], which I bought aggressively under $3, and was able to out for a little over $4 each at GPNJ. I didn’t realize going into it that the card was also a precon foil, which is likely what kept it from going to $10 in the years since printing.


But how do you know if you have a good target? Certainly playability is a factor, but that means different things to different people. A card may even be very good in a particular deck or style of deck, but be a bad speculation target.

BRIEF PREDICTIVE ASIDE: I don’t think there will be a good Dredge deck at the Pro Tour. A “true” Dredge list would need at least Dread Return to be considered viable, and that ain’t happening this week (or ever, hopefully). The lists that do exist are incredibly fragile and unable to operate outside of their single axis. I know Magus of the Bazaar has been popular lately, but I don’t suspect it will be hoisting a trophy come Sunday. If anything, we will see a Vengevine deck that gets extra press going into day two.

Playability is, as I mentioned, extremely subjective. Prior to the EDH boom, casual and multiplayer decks were often built around things like Underworld Dreams, a card that has always traded well to casual mages, but I would never deign to call “playable.” Rather, I prefer to look for “uniqueness,” or at least scarcity in terms of ability. [card]Caged Sun[/card], a card I have been well-stocked on for a while1, is one of only a handful of cards that rewards you for playing a mono-color deck, and fits firmly in the Commander philosophy. A card that I went deep in on last year was [card]Dictate of Karametra[/card]—it’s not unique, but it is certainly in rare company. So far there hasn’t been growth, but I got in so low on them, that I am neither rushed to out them, nor do I have much to lose.

BRIEF MUSING ASIDE: You know this game is getting huge, right? You and I may have decades of cards memorized, but newer and casual players still rely heavily on things like Gatherer and friends to learn about new cards for their decks. Until the Orzhov introduce SEO for Gatherer cards (which they will charge the other guilds for what they feel are very fair prices!), visibility is going to favor some cards much more than others. This is another big reason to target something that is at least semi-unique. It may buoy bottoms a little bit, but the upside is better.

We are gonna wrap for today, but when we come back next week, we are going to talk about losing, in all facets of Magic, and how to not do it as much.


[Deck title=Jund Graveyardigans]
*4 Elvish Mystic
*4 Satyr Wayfinder
*4 Sultai Emissary
*2 Tymaret, the Murder King
*4 Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
*1 Mogis’s Marauder
*4 Nighthowler
*4 Undergrowth Scavenger
*4 Commune With The Gods
*4 Grave Strength
*3 Tormenting Voice
*4 Bloodstained Mire
*4 Forest
*4 Llanowar Wastes
*2 Mountain
*3 Swamp
*2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
*3 Wooded Foothills

  • This deck is extremely raw. But who cares? I’m playing it at FNM tonight anyways! And in case you didn’t realize, Alesha can grab Undergrowth Scavenger and Nighthowler (their P/T are 0/0 in the graveyard, which is less than 2/X), and the Mogis’s Marauder number may go up since she can grab it too (it will be too late for haste, but the intimidate will still get in before blockers are declared).
  • [card]Rest in Peace[/card] is probably one of my favorite long-term holds. They are very slowly creeping up, but I certainly think their floor as a multi-format staple is somewhere between $1 and $1.50. If player population continues to push print-run size, then this will start to trend upward at a higher clip.
  • Speaking of Rest in Peace, this is the best example (see below) I can give you for a card to trade for and stash away. A lot of people complain that finance people aren’t straightforward enough, but read my lips: “TRADE FOR THESE AND TUCK THEM AWAY”.


  • I try my best every week, but next week’s topic has been rattling around since the beginning. Be here.

1Damn you, black Commander 2014 deck!

Privileged Perspective 12 – The Real PP12

Okay, so last week was a long one, as well as the start of my first meta-series. Today is going to basically be an extended edition of Quick Hits, where we touch on a bunch of different stuff at once (this hides the frequent loss of focus that comes with running WoW1 in the background). Also, I’ve been sick all week, so I’ve been pretty in and out when it comes to cognitive writing ability. This should be fun.

Recent PucaTrade Finance

PucaTraders (or at least, the finance-minded ones) are getting smarter. The pricing algorithm that Puca uses is great for mapping steady prices, but it tends to lag behind on spikes. Twice in the past two weeks (fortnight? Can I use that there?), there have been spikes on cards, and by the time their point total caught up, all the wants were gone. The first was Golgari Grave-Troll, who had tons of people wanting them at ~300 points when the price elsewhere was starting to touch $10, but by the time it refreshed, you couldn’t send one off to save your life. The same thing happened with Tasigur after this weekend. As of right now, nobody wants either card for their current point total (675/1055 for non-foil Troll printings, and 1299 for Tasigur). I don’t think the price update times are public, so these people are either:

  • Taking a big hit when they turn over (a loss for them),
  • Getting a ton of cards shipped to them for their pre- or mid-spike prices (a potential win/loss depending on outs)
  • Taking the wants off as soon as they see the prices adjust to avoid the first situation (a win from them).

Seriously, We Need to Talk About Shipping Cards

I’ve received a lot of cards with pretty poor shipping jobs, and it has got to stop. I’ll preface by saying that this applies only to small quantities of cards, since once you’re shipping over 4 cards at once, things get trickier. Let’s go through this nice and easy, and hopefully we won’t have any more problems.

  • First, put the card you are mailing in a sleeve. This is non-negotiable.IMG_3645
  • Second, put the card into a toploader, with the TOP of the card going in first. This means the bottom of the card (and therefore, the sealed bottom of the sleeve) will be the by the open end of the toploader.


  • Tape the open end of your toploader, but use enough tape that you can create a pull-tab on one side, to allow for easy opening. To do so, simply fold one end of the tape in on itself. I like to have my tabs on the front of the card, since it will contrast with the card and be more apparent.


  • You can typically fit two sleeved cards in a toploader (depending on the type of sleeve), and usually no more than two toploaders in a sealed plain white envelope. Be careful though, because sometimes the Post Office will get cute and send it back wanting extra postage.
  • Always write “Non-Machinable” and “Do Not Bend” on the front and back of your envelope. The USPS has a machine that they run envelopes through for faster sorting that destroys toploaders.IMG_3649
  • For PucaTrades, I always write the trade number on the back of the envelope. This way the recipient knows it’s not bills or junk mail.


  • A lot of people wrap their sends in paper, but I don’t.
  • I always tape the envelope after I seal it. If you have some, I prefer the ReadyPost tape they sell at the Post Office (clear tape with a blue dispenser thing), since it won’t lose adheasion in the cold or moist weather like regular tape will.
  • Shoutout to @Hackworth, who had the first (and best) explainer on how to ship cards.

Modern Is Still a Thing

And I am playing it this Saturday! In a PPTQ, even! I am pretty excited, although a little unsure still in terms of deck selection. I have been playing Gifts in Modern for a while (although I have never played the format consistently), but I traditionally want to be aggressive in a “new” format. I don’t expect this particular event to be very large, and I suspect that Gifts is probably better in a smaller setting. My Gifts deck is built around Smallpox, which may be good in these first couple of weeks, although I can’t resolve more than one without already having Loam up and running. My other deck choice, the aggressive one, is a modified version of the Jund Aggro deck I played in my Extended tournament last month:

[deck title= Modern Experiment Jund]
*4 Experiment One
*4 Rakdos Cackler
*4 Burning-Tree Emissary
*4 Jund Hackblade
*3 Flinthoof Boar
*3 Lightning Mauler
*3 Falkenrath Aristocrat
*4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
*4 Lightning Bolt
*3 Abrupt Decay
*4 Wooded Foothills
*2 Verdant Catacombs
*2 Bloodstained Mire
*3 Stomping Ground
*2 Overgrown Tomb
*2 Blood Crypt
*1 Woodland Cemetery
*1 Dragonskull Summit
*2 Rootbound Crag
*2 Mountain
*1 Forest
*1 Kessig Wolf Run
*1 Abrupt Decay
*3 Bonfire of the Damned
*4 Thoughtseize
*7 ???

The upside here is that I am strongly familiar with the deck: some of the numbers that may seem odd here are the results of tuning and retuning. The huge percentage of fetchlands means that our already low land count is functionally going to have a much harder time hitting four than the deck did in Standard. This means we want to draw fewer Aristocrats, since multiples will be painful. [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] is a fine two-mana card, however, so he got bumped back up to a four-of. He’s probably a better two-mana card than a four-mana card in this deck.

The sideboard is (so far) a deckbuilding experiment for me. Since I am already playing the most effective creatures on curve, I only expect to be sideboarding in or out from that 7 card subset of non-creature spells. Therefore, I want to make sure that the effects I am boarding in or out are similar on curve, but varied in effectiveness towards a certain style of matchup. I won’t be bringing in things like Creeping Corrosion or Thrun, but I plan on Bonfire coming in to replace Abrupt Decay in matches against token decks (and replacing Bolt if they have Jeskai Ascendancy). Ancient Grudge may take three of those currently open slots. Liliana, too. Let me know if you think I’m missing something!

Something for Later

If you haven’t read Travis’s article about his trip to Japan already, you should do that. After you read this, I mean. Well, and comment on this on our site or Reddit. And tweet about it. Anyways, here’s the link (for later).

[Ed. Note: Dammit, Ross, You Stole My Elton John Pun]

I’ve built my first Tiny Leaders deck! The archetype is lands, although not having access to any five-color idiot as a general disallows such degeneracy as [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] plus [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card]. My general is the Sultai Placeholder, which is pretty disappointing. I plan on making something more fun to look at to fill the time. Here’s my list:

[deck title= Hold Me Closer, Tiny Leader]
*1 Terravore
*1 Satyr Wayfinder
*1 Haakon, Stromgald Scourge
*1 Laboratory Maniac
*1 Crop Rotation
*1 Life From The Loam
*1 Liliana of the Veil
*1 Nameless Inversion
*1 Villainous Wealth
*1 Engineered Explosives
*1 Elixir of Immortality
*1 Raven’s Crime
*1 Mulch
*1 Rites of Flourishing
*1 Grisly Salvage
*1 Compulsive Research
*1 Oblivion Stone
*1 Exploration
*1 Zuran Orb
*1 Entomb
*1 Treasure Hunt
*1 Syphon Life
*1 Volrath’s Stronghold
*1 Island
*1 Opulent Palace
*1 Overgrown Tomb
*1 Bojuka Bog
*1 Academy Ruins
*1 Polluted Delta
*1 Tranquil Thicket
*1 Barren Moor
*1 Breeding Pool
*1 Glacial Chasm
*1 Lonely Sandbar
*1 Ghost Quarter
*1 Nephalia Drownyard
*1 Forest
*1 Cephalid Coliseum
*1 Bazaar of Baghdad
*1 Command Tower
*1 Swamp
*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
*1 Cabal Coffers
*1 Wasteland
*1 Tolaria West
*1 Watery Grave
*1 Cabal Pit
*1 Verdant Catacombs
*1 Misty Rainforest

The Quick Hits of the Quick Hits Article

  • I will never type out a Commander deck.
  • I have no clue what SCG tournaments I’m supposed to play in anymore. I get their emails telling me about events “in the area,” but I’ve definitely fallen behind in knowing how their structure works. There is no reason to play in an Open Trial, right? And IQ events are the ones that people can grind for points? But it’s really only worth it to win one or play a whole bunch? And is anyone doing Game Night? I feel like this is City Champs all over again, except I liked City Champs.
  • This is going to be one of the better Super Bowls of the past decade. Of course, we thought that last year, too. If Seattle can win defensively upfront and hit Brady early or get Gronkowski arrested, then I would expect them to repeat. Both teams have great corners and terrible receievers, so expect a lot of running plays to be called, especially in the first half. The halftime show will be flat and uninspired.
  • I know a lot of people like the Super Bowl commercials, but I think they are starting to lose the allure they once had. They’re still super expensive, but I can’t think of any recently that have better than that Pepsi one with the skydiver and the ducks. I think that was ’97, because I’m pretty sure Green Bay won that night. Either way, the game will be better than the commercials, which will be better than the halftime show. Actually, Super Bowl, Puppy Bowl, Commercials, Halftime. That’s better.
  • Oh crap, can we say Super Bowl? /Roger Goodell bills Marcel $10,000.

I’ll be back next week with my results from Modern, some more finance talk, and the devastating emptiness inside that comes with the end of football season.


1If anyone is interested, I found a free Blizzlike program that has Vanilla (Classic) WoW and BC. I would love to have some people to quest with! For the Alliance! Check out for info.

Privileged Perspective 12 – Facilitating Value

When I first accepted my prestigious and highly paid position here at Brainstorm Brewery, this article was one of the ones on my mind. So much so that I have taken several months to ruminate over some of my points. This will not be an all-encompassing treatise on Magic finance, but rather the humble beginnings of a likely meta-series on valuable fundamentals.

Some of the segments of this article will be more or less applicable for different types of traders. If you own a game store or are a vendor, then you have some firmly established means of moving cards, and you probably already knows what moves and what doesn’t for your particular markets. Most of you, however, are probably much more like me: an honest, blue-collar guy, who loves his country and just wants to make playing this children’s card game a bit more affordable.

Having Options

Let’s say you have a card that you want to sell. What are your options? And I mean you, personally, not a ficticious amalgamation of all Magic players. You, reading this now. Think about all the different ways you know you could sell a card today if you had to.

I’ll wait.


Done? Awesome. The different options are part of what I consider a person’s Magic Network. Now, which option you choose will largely depend on what type of card you are looking to sell, which is something you need to make sure you are aware of. Some network options are stores, some are individuals, and some are websites.

  • Stores as Options: Stores are an important option, because they are often the only option that will put 100-percent cash in your hand today. The downside, of course, is that they are not in the charity business, so you will be buylisting, and therefore eating a considerable percentage as a cost. We will talk about buylisting more in depth in a little bit, because I think it is often maligned, when it really shouldn’t be.
  • Inviduals as Options: It’s rather callous and impersonal to treat human beings as merely some sort of financial tool, but that’s not what this article is about. Individuals are often excellent options for moving cards, because you will typically know what a person is willing to buy before you ask them. Oh, and for the record, I don’t consider everyone I’ve ever FNMed with as an option. These are the people who spring immediately to your mind when you know you have something they want. If you stumble upon a NM Alpha [card]Lich[/card], who is your out? A JP foil [card]Havengul Lich[/card]? Japanese non-foil [card]Blackcleave Cliffs[/card]? Individuals are often your best choice when you are trying to out something that has high value and low demand, or fits squarely in a niche market. You may not have your personal directory developed yet, but it is a great tool for having quick outs for hard to move cards.
  • The Internet: This is tricky, because there are several different platforms for selling cards, and they all have unique aspects. Let’s try this again…
  • Twitter as an Option: Ah, that’s better. For the last few years, Twitter has been an excellent way for me to out cards. The cards that I have the easiest time moving are typically foils and higher-end Constructed staples, as well as foreign copies of (typically Commander) cards. Rather than tell you what to look for, let’s go over a couple of my handy rules for trying to sell cards on Twitter:
      • Your price should take several factors into context. You will not get 100% market rate on your card, which means you may want to set a minimum threshold for what you sell. I typically tend to price things between 70 and 80 percent, depending on the spread between SCG and TCGplayer and eBay. If SCG has a card for $20, TCGplayer mid is $18.50, and copies are clearing on eBay for about $16 or $17? I’m going to ask for $15, but include shipping (in the US). The goal is to get better than buy list rates, not retail rates.
      • Expect shipping to be worth about a buck for the US, and about $2 to $3 anywhere else in a plain white envelope (PWE). If it’s a high-ticket item that you (or they) don’t feel safe shipping it like a letter to Santa, then I offer $5 for the priority plus tracking through USPS (it’s actually $5.75, but I eat the extra as a courtesy for them buying from me). We will touch on shipping some day, because SO MANY OF YOU DO IT WRONG. Well, not you, you’re actually one of the good ones, but some of these other clowns make it look like rocket surgery. How have you been, by the way? Good? That’s good.
      • They pay first using PayPal gifts to friends and family. Don’t do goods and services, they’ll ping you for extra fees. As far as I can tell, this is fine since none of us are actual businesses.
      • When you are posting things for sale, always include pictures and make sure to mention if there are any condition issues. Don’t purposefully try to minimize a crease or wear with some fancy sleight of hand. Even though there is no rating system involved, be forthcoming and respectful with every trade—they are doing you a favor, after all.
      • Hashtags are okay, but you typically don’t need more than #mtg or #mtgfinance. I know some people (hi, Cory!) are trying to push #mtgbuysell, which is a good idea, but it hasn’t gotten traction yet. Also, never, ever, ever say or imply anything that makes it seem like you will be selling, or will sell, cards at an event site. The old rules of no sales at a tournament apply online, and SCG especially is very vigilant in terms of making sure their #SCG[place] tags aren’t being used for people to sell cards. Got that? Never use a tournament’s hashtag to sell cards.
      • I would say that these rules apply to Facebook, too, but I don’t care what my dad’s cousin’s wife or some dumbass I went to high school with thinks about Obamacare, so I don’t use Facebook.

We will come back to more of my finance fundamentals in the future. I would rather spread them out over several weeks to keep getting paid to make sure that every subject gets its fair due, and to address any questions or concerns that may arise. Let’s talk about the [card]Siege Rhino[/card] in the room and address what happened this week with the bannings.

About Those Bannings

A lot of people are coming out of the past week with feelings of regret and frustration. With the popularization of “Magic finance,” ban list update time usually brings a rare frenzy of activity1.

BRIEF PHILOSOPHICAL ASIDE: I was thinking about Tuesday morning, and the following came to me. You know that famous Gretzky quote, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take”? I think so many people on the finance side are so afraid to miss taking a shot that they don’t realize that all of their shots won’t make it.


Because the B&R announcement has historically caused spikes immediately after its publication, speculators have attempted to anticipate the announcement by going deep on cards as early as a week before publication. This is stange on several levels, which we will address progressively. This time, it was [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card], which actually maintained semi-realistic prices (outside of the promo copy), and [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]. The previous B&R announcement, it was [card]Skullclamp[/card].

What do these three cards have in common?

There Is No Chance in Hell These Cards Will Ever Be Allowed in Modern

Of course, many people felt that this same sentiment applied to [card]Bitterblossom[/card], which was the first such card to get the “Pre-Announcement Buzz,” and was the only one people actually got right2. Bitterblossom was a menace in Standard, and everyone who was playing then definitely has an opinion of the card. Of course, Modern is not Standard, and since Morningtide, [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] has become a multi-format all-star. I’ve actually played against the Modern Fae decks a bit, and they don’t have nearly as much bite as they did then. The deck is still mostly small value creatures, counters, and disruption, but they are extremely weak to [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and Decay, and they get relatively little that wasn’t available to them when the deck was in Standard (besides better mana). Fae games back then were always defined by sticking Bitterblossom on turn two or not, and when you can just Decay it? You didn’t just slow them down a turn, you took out their incremental advantage engine.

BRIEF COMPARATIVE ASIDE: “Ross, if Abrupt Decay is so great, then what’s the big deal with Stoneforge Mystic?” That’s an excellent question, Straw Man! While the two cards are notorious, Stoneforge Mystic is more than a powerful card; it represents two things that WOTC doesn’t want to push in modern design. Stoneforge tutors for a card and then helps you cheat it into play, and is priced so aggressively that you are often saving mana on the cheat (several, in the case of [card]Batterskull[/card], your most likely target). The card is a development error, and Wizards does not this format to be represented by “mistake” cards like Stoneforge or Jace. Sure, Abrupt Decay will hit Stoneforge, but you still got to pay 1W to [card]Demonic Tutor[/card] for your likely win condition.


Count Your Many Bannings

Smarter people than me have talked about this before, but there are some cards on the Modern banned list that could theoretically come off. There are some, however, that are clear development errors that will literally never see the light of day in Modern. If your Magic background is not very deep, and you don’t have familiarity with all of these cards, then it may be difficult to tell the difference. The small run on Skullclamp last year is an example of people thinking that a card they weren’t familiar with contextually could come off the list. We are going to highlight the cards on the current list and briefly touch on whether or not they are candidates to make it back.

[card]Ancestral Vision[/card]: This could come off, possibly soon. The card trades cost for time, which means that combo decks can’t abuse it without either having to delay going off or target a single turn for attempting to go off. It’s a card that fits more with control, which prefers raw draw power to filtering, but I think the biggest fear is that combo would somehow appropriate it, which would land it back in the penalty box.

[card]Birthing Pod[/card]: I have surprisingly little experience with this deck, with or against it. I could see it coming back as a potential shot in the arm if popularity wanes in the long term, or if people complain too much about it leaving. The format is probably better without it, though.

[card]Blazing Shoal[/card]: This was allowing players to combo off as early as turn 2 in GP Philly. Fragile or not, that’s good enough to get a life sentence in Modern.

[card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card]: Cascade is so good that I’m surprised we are allowed to have [card]Captured Sunlight[/card]. This is not the card that made Jund the menace it was, but it did let a middle schooler top eight a standard GP. One of the more likely candidates to come off the list, if just by virtue of how many are here for life.

[card]Chrome Mox[/card]: I wish I could tell you that Chrome Mox fought the good fight, and WOTC let it get unbanned. I wish I could tell you that, but Modern is no fairy tale world. This card would give Storm more ritual mana (although at the cost of another card), and I think currently Wizards wants to play it safe. I like the card, but I’m not gonna get my hopes up.

[card]Cloudpost[/card]: My first Modern deck was 12=Post, and it was fun. That said, Cloudpost is very unlikely to come back—the Tron engine has a fairer drawback system, while still rewarding you for playing situationally terrible lands.

[card]Dark Depths[/card]: Now that this card has two ways of going off ([card]Thespian’s Stage[/card] and [card]Vampire Hexmage[/card]), I think it’s safe to say Depths won’t be coming back ever, especially since the Stage route is counter-proof.

[card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]: This is the card that made Jund what it was, and he is going to be locked up for a very long time. This card is way too good.

[card]Dread Return[/card]: This is one of the key pieces that the dredge/sundry graveyard strategies are missing. Dread Return won’t come back, because several other things (including the recently paroled [card]Golgari Grave-Troll[/card]) would have to simultaneously get locked back up.

[card]Glimpse of Nature[/card]: All the other pieces for Elves are already in Modern (besides Cradle, which is admittedly a big one), but the deck doesn’t see play. I’m afraid WotC may someday unban this as a litmus test, where they will discover that it is still way too good. Regardless of your opinions on the card, I think it is too expensive as a buy-in for a “maybe someday” gain.

[card]Great Furnace[/card] (and the other artifact lands): I would actually like to see Great Furnace come off the list—not the whole set, just Furnace. There is some utility to playing four in mono-red, which was a thing in Extended to turn on [card]Shrapnel Blast[/card]. Affinity (or Robots, or whatever) makes this extremely unlikely. Sorry, guys, you’re too much of a developmental whoopsy.

[card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]: Be thankful you have Chord of Calling. I’d like to see this card come back, but it does something that Wizards doesn’t really like to have in the spotlight so often, and it creates repititive game states.

[card]Hypergenesis[/card]: Wizards wants the crucial turn in Modern to be roughly turn four, and this is a turn-three combo. Sorry, but at least [card]Living End[/card] is a thing?

[card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]: Seriously?

[card]Mental Misstep[/card]: If they won’t let you play it in Legacy, you probably won’t get to play it in Modern. To quote High Fidelity: “It was like trying to borrow a dollar, getting turned down, and asking for 50 grand instead.”

[card]Preordain[/card]: Somehow this card is not restricted in Vintage. Long story short, it makes Storm and the other combo decks just a bit too consistent. Sorry not sorry.

[card]Ponder[/card]: See above, except this one is restricted in Vintage.

[card]Punishing Fire[/card]: This pushes aggro decks out of the format, so while development-wise it is fine on its own, having [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] makes this a bit too oppressive.

[card]Rite of Flame[/card]: Ha, yeah right.

[card]Second Sunrise[/card]: Rather than play a statistically significant amount of matches to determine whether Second Sunrise is safe for unbanning, many Wizards employees would rather kill themselves.

[card]Seething Song[/card]: See also: Rite of Flame.

[card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card]: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

[card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]: We talked about her earlier. Ain’t ever happening.

[card]Skullclamp[/card]: The day of Regionals in 2004, I added a few of these to my cleric combo deck. The sheer increase in speed was indescribable. I knew then that this card was never meant to see print as is. You’re lucky they let you play this in Commander.

[card]Sword of the Meek[/card]: Maybe? The fact of the matter is, this combo is not as scary or oppressive as people viewed it before, and the decks it was good in were primarily using it as a back-up plan for Dark Depths. Financially, it’s not a great target since it’s just an uncommon, and the deck is probably not good enough to push out Splinter Twin or other, better combo kills.

[card]Treasure Cruise[/card]: See also: Mental Misstep.

[card]Dig Through Time[/card]: This is some sort of Minority Report precog thing, where Organized Play saw a grim future of Dig Through Time just taking over the Treasure Cruise slot. I strongly doubt either come back.

I have to say, looking at this list and breaking it down card by card, it feels like Wizards has got a better feel for the format a couple years in. I don’t have any major issues with it as is, and nothing on the list desperately feels like it needs to come off. Let’s finish off this bad boy (we had a long one today! [Ed. note: I’ll say]) with some Quick Hits.


Quick Hits

  • One of the undermentioned features of PucaTrade is that you are able to send and receive cards immediately, in terms of prereleases. You can out the stuff you expect to fall, and people can send you what you want so your deck is ready in time for the first FNM! I got a [card]Brutal Hordechief[/card] mailed out at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, and it was here Tuesday.
  • Speaking of Brutal Hordechief, if you have him, assign blockers to your Heir of the Wilds—then you get to just kill their two or three best dudes.
  • [card]Golgari Grave-Troll[/card] sets are selling for silly amounts. My-friend-and-local-store-owner Eric and I were watching his get bought up Monday. I do not expect the card to have an immediate impact on the format, but you may see more graveyard decks in your local Modern tournaments. [card]Leyline of the Void[/card] and [card]Rest in Peace[/card] haven’t had big upticks in price, and I doubt they will, but they’re the two best tools for fighting Dredge.
  • I literally just discovered the card [card]Sudden Reclamation[/card], and I am in love. It doesn’t really go in anything, but I need about 100 JP Foil copies just in case.
  • Am I the only one guilty of this? I see a card, usually an uncommon, and I think, “Eh, card’s not that good.” Then I see a JP foil copy of that uncommon, and I think, “Hey, maybe that’s a spicy one of!” I am not good at decks.
  • I always appreciate your feedback!




1I hate that DailyMTG updates at 11 AM EST now, EXCEPT for the fact that these announcements are no longer made at midnight.

2Scary to think about how many poor decisions can be made in the wake of success.

Privileged Perspective 11 – The Combine: Fate Reforged Edition

I like a lot of games, but very few are able to truly grab the full focus of my attention (a side-effect of attention deficit disor—*checks Twitter*). Magic, first and foremost, is one of those games: its pull on me is so powerful that it has singlehandedly pulled me away from other games like World of Warcraft. There is another game, however, that is able to enrapture me for weeks on end, and that is professional football.

Many sports get kind of a bum rap in nerd communities, which is unfortunate. Football especially is often considered a “meathead” sport, where a bunch of idiots smack into each other chasing a ball—probably because to many non-fans, much of their exposure is high school football (which is terrible). In actuality, football, especially at its highest level, has a lot in common with strategy games like Magic: you evaluate your team’s strengths and weaknesses, exploiting opponent deficiencies while minimizing your own. Even though many players may play the same position, their individual skills and attributes can be radically different ([card]Siege Rhino[/card] and [card]Polukranos[/card] are both green four-drops, but don’t always belong in the same deck).

Just like when new cards enter the public sphere, new football players undergo intense scrutiny. The athletes leaving college go through a series of interviews and exercises called the “NFL Combine,” and are then drafted (or not!) by NFL teams. Today, we are going to give Fate Reforged cards the NFL Combine treatment, and joining me today are three NFL legends to evaluate this class of rookies:

AJANIGRUDENAJANI GRUDEN: Mr. Gruden is the former head coach of both the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is a statement that becomes less and less impressive every year. He is perhaps best known for being one of the current analysts for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, as well as being “Gary Busey level” insane. He is also an anthropomorphic cat planeswalker from Lorwyn or whatever.




PHIL SIMMIC: Many consider the quarterback position to be the most intellectually and athletically challenging of any position in all of sports. That Phil Simms was able to succeed there is a strong argument to the contrary. He is currently breathing loudly with his mouth open on CBS.




EMBERSMITH: Hall-of-Fame running back Emmitt Smith helped the Dallas Cowboys win three Super Bowls during his fifteen-year career. He is also the least articulate human being on planet Earth.


Together, the four of us will review some of the more intriguing cards in the new set, as well as some Twitter requests. May God help us all.

[card]Mastery of the Unseen[/card], as requested by @ChasAndres:


This is probably one of the more difficult cards in the set to grade. If red decks are a problem at your FNMs, then you can probably skip ahead. But if this format slows down, then this could be somewhere between “Card Advantage Engine” and “Takes Over Games By Itself.” Many of the Ux control decks have had trouble playing significant threats, but this lets you just tick out guys at the end of their turn and eventually just get there. There’s also the possibility of building around this in a deck with actual creatures, but it could just as likely be a control mirror trump that lets you sandbag your counters and draw spells. I’m personally still not on the Trail of Mystery/Hooded Hydra/Master of Pearls hype train, but those people are out there and they will return—and in greater numbers.


[card]Sage’s Reverie[/card], as requested by @LochCorrigan:


You know he says crap like this all the time, right? Like, briefly breaking the fourth wall or whatever, but Phil Simms spews useless filler like this all the time. Even on Madden, he’ll be like, “And it’s always better to win the game than to lose it!” like we somehow didn’t know that. I don’t know what’s going on with the Giants, but all of their best QBs seem to have the IQ of a rock.

[card]Sage’s Reverie[/card] is an obvious foil target for Uril, Bruna (or whichever of those angels it is), and a few other decks. I don’t think there are enough auras seeing play right now (bestow aside, which is difficult to predict) to get this to see Constructed use. Financially, this set would have to be ludicrously under-opened for non-foils to have any real value, and even then, they are best in decks that only want one. Even if this gets picked up by Bogles players in Modern, it won’t be enough to drive them outside of foil.

[card]Crux of Fate[/card]:


This was one of the first cards we saw from Fate Reforged, and I have been salivating over it ever since. While dragon is definitely getting pushed in terms of flavor and ASFAN (did I spell that right? Is there a hyphen somewhere?), it’s still going to be a top-heavy creature type in terms of converted mana cost. This is mostly going to kill non-dragons, and then your mix of [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card]s, [card]Utter End[/card]s, or [card]Murderous Cut[/card]s will deal with any creatures that you can’t counter after that. It’s worth noting that against a deck like Abzan Aggro, this is just a [card]Wrath of God[/card]. It’s even better if you somehow have a Dragon out! I think the 3/7 hexproof dragon is too slow to be a control finisher, but maybe the UW one could see play? It costs seven, which is where [card]Pearl Lake Ancient[/card] sits on the curve, but it’s easier to kill. More importantly, this card is good. Next!

[card]Warden of the First Tree[/card]:


I was really hard on this guy at first, and I am not too proud to admit I was wrong for the first time in my life. This card is not terrible, he is just misleading (and possibly okay but not great). The obvious comparison here is to [card]Figure of Destiny[/card], a Red Deck Hall of Fame enshrinee who has a very similar mechanical structure. I’ve played with Figure of Destiny, and I can tell you this man is no Figure of Destiny. In actuality, [card]Warden of the First Tree[/card] is more of a 3 or 7 drop, who can sometimes sneak in when you have otherwise unused mana on earlier turns (I played Abzan Aggro for the first time last week, and there were a definitely few turns where I had to pass with a useless G open). His top end is obviously better than Figure of Destiny, but everywhere else along the scale he is about the same or worse. If you are able to activate him more than once, you are probably winning the game, but you may never have to as long as he is played in just the best good stuff decks of the format. Color me cautiously optimistic.

Tasigur, the Golden Fang:



Anyway, this is probably one of the biggest wild cards of the set—delve influences our traditional evaluations of converted mana costs, but it’s very situationally dependent. This guy could seriously cost anywhere from B to 6. The earlier you cast him, the more likely you are to lean on the fact that he’s a 4/5, which is certainly a Tarmogoyf statistic (although since our new friend is legendary, you can’t rely on two of them doing clean-up duty). Later in the game, he becomes a very weird pseudo card-advantage engine: mana-intensive and random, but repeatable and somewhat controllable through delving. This guy certainly has Commander appeal (I’d play him), but it is almost impossible to come up with more than best-case scenarios for him at this point. I expect he will get a lot of practice reps from players to try and evaluate his intangibles, and maybe see some significant playing time his rookie season.

[card]Soulfire Grand Master[/card]:


I honestly have to assume that part of the inspiration for this card was putting an Xzibit meme on a white creature. This card almost feels tailor-made for the white-red deck Mike Flores was pumping on Top Level Podcast a few weeks back, where you are just able to pick up incidental value off the life gain, and then eventually have the last ability on SGM allow you to loop your burn spells as a way to end possible stalled board states. I don’t think this card is a major pillar of the format, and I don’t think the last ability will make or break many significant games, but there will always be attractive financial value on him as long as that middle ability remains unique in Magic.

One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned is that this could maybe see sideboards in Modern burn, since they are already splashing white for Boros Charm and Lightning Helix. I don’t know enough about that list or its mirror tech to say for sure, but if it is ever going to be a slam dunk in Modern, it’ll be in the burn deck.

[card]Grave Strength[/card]:


If you’ve learned anything about me by now, you probably know that I have a strong predilection for graveyard synergies. This card is certainly something that is up my alley, and could be another push towards letting [card]Nighthowler[/card] end the second half of his playing career with some sustained success (which I guess makes Nighthowler Larry Fitzgerald). Three cards is not major in terms of fueling these types of decks, but by stapling it on a card that is good at multiple phases in the game (sometimes you just want to make your Elf a 2/2 or a 3/3 early on, or late game you want one big swing), it’s definitely good enough to start as a four-of in my lists. I expect the foils to look insane.

[card]Mob Rule[/card]:

Just me this time. I just wanted to point out that this card shares it’s name with a Dio (well, technically Black Sabbath) album. That is all.

[card]Orc Sureshot[/card]:


[card]Brutal Hordechief[/card]:


I really think this guy is awesome. He makes the black aggro decks respectable on his own, and is probably good enough to steal a couple slots in Abzan Aggro. The first ability is great at messing with combat math, as well as giving you the occasional free drain for three or so, and should not be underrated. The last ability is very mana intensive (and possibly just unobtainable for the Black Aggro lists), but it will be a clear game breaker in the Abzan Aggro mirror. By forcing bad blocks, you can choose to wrath their board (or make the most favorable trades) while still getting damage in off the first ability, or you can assign all their blockers to your smallest guy and end the game by everyone else getting through! Either one will be a realistic play depending on the life total and hand size of your opponent, and I seriously expect this guy to do some major work in the format. I wish he was a rare so I could get my four for cheap right away, but he is way too good.

[card]Ghostly Conscription[/card], as requested by @Lowbeyonder:


I think this will ultimately be another good-but-not-Great black Commander card, where the foil copies will maintain a premium,while the regular ones sink to near bulk-mythic price. A lot is made of the fact that you probably won’t be able to get the full value out of flipping the manifested cards, but I think that if you look at the card as a graveyard hoser plus army in a can, then the ability to possibly flip some is just upside. Black has few massive token generators ([card]Army of the Damned[/card] and [card]Empty the Pits[/card] come to mind), but they are always swingy and demand an instant answer. If that’s your thing, then this is a good card—just don’t bother trying to make this work in Standard.

[card]Plains[/card], as requested by @HRSlaton:


I hate you so damn much.


Well everybody, just like Peyton Manning, we are done! Thanks for reading to those of you that actually made it this far, and I will see you next week!

Privileged Perspective 10 – My 100% Totally Legit Preview Card Spectacular

Welcome back! I hope your holidays were as relaxing and unproductive as mine were. Even though Christmas is typically Magic’s downtime, there was a lot going on with the beginning of spoiler season. Next week I’m going to talk more about what we are seeing out of Fate Reforged and how to contextualize it, but I do want to start this week with my preview card!


So this happened:


So what I am going to do is assume the Game Day promo is my preview card, and I will do this AS LONG AS IT TAKES until Trick or Gleemax or the corporate fat cats at Hasbro give it to me for real. We can even keep score (starting next time). So let’s see what card I get to start with!


It’s actually fitting that this is my preview card this time around, because I’ve been playing some Mono-Black Aggro lately, and this card is a seemingly obvious inclusion.

There are some deck construction conflicts here, because black now has four playable one-drops, as well as two conditionally playable ones in [card]Cruel Sadist[/card] and [card]Ruthless Ripper[/card]. If you decide to build your deck more synergistically, you can play Shadowspear with [card]Bloodsoaked Champion[/card] and [card]Tormented Hero[/card], which then pushes you pretty strongly towards a small white splash for [card]Chief of the Edge[/card] (and consequentally, some of the better combat tricks). Prioritizing power gives you Gnarled Scarhide over the Tormented Hero, which is essentially a [card]Savannah Lions[/card]/[card]Falter[/card] split card and doesn’t pressure you into playing a very sketchy manabase (likely including some number of tapped lands) in your small creatures deck. I would not recommend playing more than 10 to 12 one-drop creatures in your list, unless you are confident you won’t see Anger of the Gods. If you decide to do that, however, [card]Pain Seer[/card] becomes even more of an automatic four-of than it was already (and it was a pretty big deal before).

Let’s look at my list:

[deck title= Just Win Baby]
*4 Bloodsoaked Champion

*4 Gnarled Scarhide

*4 Pain Seer

*4 Mardu Skullhunter

*4 Mogis’s Marauder

*3 Mardu Shadowspear
*3 Master of the Feast


*4 Thoughtseize

*3 Despise

*1 Hall of Triumph

*3 Murderous Cut

*4 Sign in Blood

*11 Swamp

*4 Bloodstained Mire

*4 Polluted Delta


This is the kind of deck I would never pay time and money to play with in a large event, but it is more than capable of stealing wins in smaller, less tuned environments (you know, like FNM). It has some of the qualities that I look for when playing an aggro deck in a small format, but it hasn’t been able to check all of the boxes yet. Here are some of the things going for this archetype that make it well suited to play at FNM.

  • Critical Redundancies: Mardu Shadowspear is just one example of critical redundancies in this deck. You always want to make sure you hit your aggressive one-drop in a creature-heavy aggressive deck, and having several to choose from solves that problem easily. [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Despise[/card] do work as proactive removal spells for difficult to answer permanents, especially in the board-presence-heavy format we are in now. Thoughtseize also allows you to keep the control decks from casting their removal on time, forcing them to either dig up more or otherwise commit resources to staying alive rather than progressing a game plan. The top end for this deck is pretty unimpressive, but there are options available, including the Fate Reforged offering [card]Brutal Hordechief[/card].
  • You Get To Cast Thoughtseize: You know this card is insane, right? Being able to cast a guy turn one, then play another guy and take their best card is a strong opening line against most archetypes, but sometimes you start with more than one Thoughtseize. You never play it turn one in this deck since you need to lead off with a threat (there isn’t enough raw damage in the deck to allow you to skip an attack), but you should still be able to resolve it before anything dangerous comes online.
      • This also lets you play the old JSS game of “Let’s See How Good My Opponent Is.” Looking at their hand will obviously give you an advantage of structuring your lines of play for the next several turns, but it will also allow you to determine future choices in the match. Did they keep an obviously bad opening hand? Are there any unusual card choices that seem like they may be substitutions? Are there tapped lands instead of fetchlands? Are there too few or too many lands in their hand? Are they obviously playing something cobbled together from M15 packs? Figuring this out can influence sideboarding options and keeps in the remaining games.
  • It Has Foolproof Mana: Temples, refuges (the “+1 life” lands), and tri-lands are so good that they encourage the midrange decks to basically do nothing in the early phase of the game. By sticking to one color (even though I want this deck to play [card]Butcher of the Horde[/card] SO BAD), you prevent yourself from having to waste mana on scrys or future fixing. Also, since our curve is so low, you’re able to keep most two-land hands. Also, you don’t have to play Urborg, which would only benefit your opponent and cause you corner case headaches in multiples.
  • It Has A Clear And Consistent Gameplan: A lot of the decks that you see people bring to FNM are scattershot in terms of operational objective, but this is not. While this strongly limits the flexibility of play, it also prevents you from making a lot of mistakes. This is especially good if you are FNMing after a long day of work, you haven’t played in a while, or you had a couple of grownup drinks before the tournament started.
  • It’s Cheap! …Well, it’s cheap for a Standard deck. You know, assuming you own Thoughtseizes and fetchlands by now. You should really own Thoughtseizes and fetches by now. The beautiful thing about this deck is that if you don’t own the fetches, you can just play 18 Swamps (not a typo, I would shave one for either the last Despise or Shadowspear).Otherwise, the majority of the pieces are uncommons or easily acquirable rares.

Overall, there are not many changes I would make to the list, but that may change with the final reveal of Fate Reforged. Brutal Hordechief is a very likely candidate for making the list (although we will need to figure out how to make that off-color activation work), as well as [card]Mardu Strike Leader[/card]. It is worth noting that all of them are warriors (including the token generated by Strike Leader), so Chief of the Edge may be worthwhile on his own. Also, judges, correct me if I’m wrong, but you can use Brutal Hordechief’s ability to force their entire team to all block one creature of yours, as long as they are satisfying the blocking requirement. That’s a pretty impressive diversion if so. Speaking of the Hordechief…


There is something seriously concerning with the rarity situation in Fate Reforged. Many of the apparent tournament staples (like our aforementioned friend Brutal Hordechief) are at mythic, with several legends at rare. This is concerning, given that the understanding when the change in rarity happened was that the tournament staples ([card]Char[/card] was the example cited at the time) would largely remain at rare. I understand that the situation is nuanced, and it seems many cards are at mythic simply because they are very long and boring to read from beginning to end (I assume Robert Jordan is posthumously given a design credit).

It’s confusing, at least in part, since some of the mythics don’t seem out of the realm of possibility of being rare. [card]Warden of the First Tree[/card], which appears to be Casey Affleck’s Invitiational card, is only mythic in the sense that it is eventually very good and also costs G to cast. [card]Monastery Mentor[/card] is likely only mythic because it says “prowess” one too many times—it’s less that the card is too good to be rare (although as printed it basically is), and more that creating tokens with prowess creates an on-board math nightmare that WOTC only wants showing up occasionally in Limited. [card]Temporal Trespass[/card] is mythic partially as a means of prestige: it’s a callback to an extremely powerful card, although the “fixed” text of exiling itself (and also costing a bunch to cast in multiples) keeps it from being oppressive as is.

Ultimately, Magic is not in danger from Fate Reforged—but it will be if every set is like Fate Reforged.

Next week, we will be addressing card evaluation more fully (with guest stars!), but I just wanted to touch on this subject today since it is pertinent. Now, let’s close this thing out with some quick hits!

  • 2015 is starting off pretty strong with an early set release, as well as a stacked Clash Pack. Sure, the next few FNM promos aren’t close to [card]Stoke the Flames[/card] quality, but the Elspeth vs. Kiora Duel Deck will make up for that.
  • Speaking of that Clash Pack, here’s what worries me about the rarity thing in Fate Reforged. If rares are fair game for reprints (as we are learning, apparently), then it’s pretty scary that a lot of the important cards for Standard seem to be sitting at mythic in this set. I can’t seem to think of any mythic promos outside of… Zendikar block? I know GP promos kind of alternate, but in terms of any other type, have we seen mythic promos? Is that infringing on FTV sets? I can tell I’m rambling.
  • There were a lot of really awesome pictures of great gifts in the PucaTrade Secret Santa program this year. Unfortunately, they all dried up and what we’ve been left with is a bunch of people (like me!) wondering where their present is. I will still plan on participating next year, since I believe that most PucaTraders are really great people, but I wonder if there is a way to filter out the people who aren’t in it for the right reasons. Shout out to the people who went above and beyond this year.
  • Bonus shoutouts to @DamageDirect and @TheProxyGuy, who helped make next week’s article possible. It is not PP6, that’s the week after next (I promise! Unless it isn’t).
  • Top Level Podcast is the best podcast I think I’ve ever listened to in terms of understanding the dynamics of Standard (or any other format). You’re leaving money on the table if you play Standard and don’t listen regularly.
  • The second installment of #BTBExt will be January 31, 2015, at Premier Sports Cards in Orange City, Florida! $5 entry (all of it going into the prize pool), and bonus prizes will be raffled off! Registration begins at 12, with the event starting at 1. If you’re in the area that weekend, we’d love to have you! Fate Reforged will be legal, so that will be exciting.

Therefore, be excited! See you next week.

Privileged Perspective 9 – Magical Christmas Land

The calendar of a Magic player is pretty different from most other people’s, and this time of year is probably the single best example. While many people have been anxiously counting down the days until Santa Claus comes to town, December is typically the slowest part of Magic‘s entire year. There are fewer tournaments to watch as the circuits take a rare break from hosting events, and FNM attendance dips as people (especially if you live in a college town) flock home to be in the warmth of kith and kin and kithkin.

It’s a little bit ironic that for people who get four spoiler seasons a year (that many people call some amalgamation “Magic Player Christmas”), that the real thing is our down period (although I think Fate Reforged spoilers are gonna start right around Christmas, due to the bumped release). Now maybe the reason Magic slows down at Christmas is so we can have the opportunity to cherish our loved ones and spend time in quiet reflection of the life of our savior Jesus Christ.

Or maybe we just haven’t optimized it yet! We are gonna explore a few ways to try and buck this trend, and make sure that you’re “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime”!

Ugh, I am so sorry. That was totally uncalled for. Like, I thought I would be kinda hipstery and just sort of pull it off and move on, but I literally feel sick having written that. That song is the worst. …or is it?

BRIEF HOLIDAY POWER RANKINGS: The Six Worst Christmas Songs!

6. “Last Christmas” by Wham! 

I don’t remember anybody asking George Michael to make a Christmas song, yet he did. The ’80s are over, and this should have been destroyed along with the Berlin Wall and Brigitte Nielsen.

5. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Bob Geldof and a bunch of drunk ’80s musicians

 George Michael makes the list twice, which is either pretty surprising or not surprising at all. The biggest problem with this song is that yes, they (Ethiopia) do know it’s Christmas, since Africa contains almost a quarter of the world’s Christian population (23.6 percent as of 2010). Possibly almost excusable (but still super ignorant) the first time, the song was remade this year, much to the delight of literally nobody but Bono.

4. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” 

What. The. Hell. This is not even remotely okay. I had to sit through a freshmen orientation program when I started college, and every scenario they described when talking about consent is literally in this song. Season three of True Detective should be Ewan McGregor and Matthew Lillard tracking down whoever wrote this before it’s too late. If this song wasn’t somehow tangentially tied to the holiday season, this would have been banished to the Phantom Zone with all those racist Tom & Jerry cartoons.

3. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” by Alvin and the Chipmunks, apparently

All I can say is that I was genuinely surprised this song was not listed somewhere in the CIA torture report as a means of enhanced interrogation.

2.  “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney and “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon

It’s a tie. Say what you will about the legacy of The Beatles, but these songs are lazy, tedious, and painful to listen to. You know what band never broke up and then made crappy holiday songs? That’s right, RUSH—the greatest band of all time. Shout out to Canada.

…Oh, and if RUSH ever did make a Christmas song, it would be badass, and you know it. And you know Neil would do a sick drum solo and Geddy would sing about the trees coming to life and Alex would just be shredding like he was during “Working Man” on the Time Machine tour. Man, RUSH is the best.

1. “Christmas Shoes” by NewSong 

Okay, so I was wrong before: this is the worst Christmas song. You may not be religious, but follow my logic here: Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Jesus, who decried materialism and the self-serving, sinful nature of man. In the song, the guy does a nice thing for a kid who is about to lose his mother. Awesome, except it feels less like “doing the right thing” and more like “let me tell you what I did.” The song becomes a smash hit, gets to #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts, and spawns a movie with Rob Lowe! And you know Rob Lowe isn’t working for cheap—Rob Lowe works for Rob Lowe. Unless 90 percent of the profits from this “song/movie/probably a book” went to some sort of heartbreaking poor kids charity, then “Christmas Shoes” shall remain atop this list forever. Do the right thing, NewSong.

Holiday Trading

With FNM attendance down for the season, it has previously been hard to capitalize on the low, low prices that accompany this time of year. Fortunately, the solution is PucaTrade. I’m not going to write a whole long piece on how great PucaTrade is, but this is the time of year to capitalize on being a member. As I mentioned, this is the time of year where store attendance will typically bottom out, drying up your opportunities to trade aggressively. The hidden costs for using PucaTrade any time of the year are going to be shipping (postage and supplies) and time (most trades will take at least a few days to complete), but the benefits include a wider card availability and access—you don’t need to wait at your store for other people to show, and you can mail out cards from wherever you spend the holidays.

Price Memory is something that ends a lot of trades this time of year, especially when prices bottom out harder than people expect. Even though more players are whipping out their smart phones at the start of a trade, most will hesitate to pull the trigger if it doesn’t feel right. If your trade partner1 is appalled at your offer of 13 on his [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card], it’s not because you’re too low—it’s that they still associate it with the spike the card saw a month ago.


The beauty of the PucaTrade system is that once they’ve listed the card for trade, they’ve already partially pulled the trigger. Sure, they still have to send it, but once you see those juicy points on the side of the screen, it becomes a lot easier.

BRIEF PRICING ASIDE: Also, and I can’t speak for anyone but myself here, but I’ve started using their point values for the majority of my pricing. A lot of people argue over using SCG, TCGMid, or whatever, but when someone asks me a price, I will usually look it up on Puca and then move the decimal space two to the left. Anybody else doing this?

So if we are operating under the assumption that the benefits of availability exceed the costs of shipping and sunk time, how can we optimize the experience? Well, I would strongly suggest constructing a PucaBox, especially if you plan on taking it with you on holiday travels. Here’s how to do it:

  1. If you haven’t already, determine what you want listed on your Haves. Make sure to sleeve every card individually. Finally, a great way to get rid of all those extra sleeves!
  2. Get a long box that is big enough to fit all of your cards, but still has space for toploaders. If you know you will be traveling with it, make sure to not get something so big it becomes a hindrance.
  3. Fill as much of the extra space with toploaders as you can. They won’t fit perfectly, but they’re crucial. Also, you may want to throw a page of stamps in there, and pack a box of envelopes. Your mom shouldn’t have to give up her perfectly good envelopes.
  4. If you’re going out of town, make sure to either empty your Wants list or turn on Vacation Mode, especially if you expect to be gone for a long while.

The PucaBox is good for traveling, but it also really helps if you decide to just dedicate a portion of your tradable collection to Puca. Don’t forget, PucaTrade is like a sewer—what you get out of it is based on what you put into it.

Another tip? If you’re traveling home for the holidays, but you have some down time when you get there, make sure to look up your old friends and see if they have any cards they want to get rid of. These are all warm leads on collections where you should have an idea of what is inside (at least in terms of a year range).

Holiday Playing

So with everything dying down for the holidays, how can you keep actually playing Magic?


Very funny. No, besides that.






…That’s better. So, if you want to play Magic over the holidays, what can you do? Well, Hearthstone and MODO are options, but that’s kind of a cop out. And let’s be real, you can’t just jump into either of those if you weren’t at least considering it already. If you plan on spending a lot of time with family or friends, have you considered building a Portal Cube?

The idea behind this is simple: having a box of sleeved Magic cards that you can play out of that scales down a lot of the complexity, but also doesn’t devolve into playing the same beginner decks a bunch of times until cabin fever sinks in. If you need to teach people (or give a quick refresher course to a lapsed player), you can quickly build some two color decks to show people the ropes, and get them familiar with the mechanics of the game. Then, depending on the skill level (or bravery) of the people you are playing with, you can move on to drafting.

BRIEF DRAFTING ASIDE: What we’ve done with my Portal Cube is a modified Rotisserie Draft, much like deck-building games use (think Ascension). You lay out six or seven cards, and when one gets picked, replace it out of the cube with another one. This makes it to where newer players don’t get bombarded with a bunch of different cards for the first several picks, and encourages open discussion during the process about how cards work. Newer players (especially kids or drunk adults) will be less embarrassed to asked how something works if everyone is puzzling over it together.

Why is it called a Portal Cube? Well, there was once a terrible supplemental product called Portal that tried to teach people Magic by changing a lot of the rules and wording to make cards worse (I can’t believe it flopped!). Anyways, in an attempt to lower complexity, they stripped the game down to basic lands, creatures, and sorceries.

Now, my cube doesn’t limit itself to those three types, but it does keep in the spirit of Portal in other ways. Creatures are kept less complicated, and I have tried to err towards having versions of cards with reminder text when possible. Instants appear, but at a lower frequency than sorcery. Cards are meant to be understood quickly, so I’ve tried to limit combos in the Spike sense (“Splinter Twin my Deceiver Exarch, kill you”), and gone more towards combos in the sense of interactions (Conjurer’s Closet plus a thing!). “The less text, the better” is a good rule of thumb for putting something like this together. The complexity of Magic will be there regardless.

BRIEF MARK ROSEWATER ASIDE: MaRo says in Drive to Work a lot that the complexity in Magic is always there, and playing the Portal Cube proves his point unequivocally. It is amazing how much is going on, even in these “watered down” games. So try to keep it simple, you can always add more stuff later.

Oh, and there’s one other interesting thing about my Portal Cube, see if you can spot it.

When I first started putting it together a few years back, my wife remarked to me that a lot of the artwork for the black cards I was including was likely a bit too scary for the kids that were going to be playing with it. After about five fruitless minutes of trying to find less scary black cards, my inner developer kicked in: “Can I balance a cube and exclude a color?”

So far the results have been positive, although white seems to be way better in this cube than in any other I have ever built. Personally, it’s also a good challenge since so many of my other cubes have been very black-heavy, and it’s definitely the color I play the most in Constructed. Red has also stepped up as being the other good removal color, which is what happens when you make [card]Flametongue Kavu[/card] better. Eventually I’ll add black in, but for now it is kind of fun seeing what creativity is bred from that giant restriction. Oh, and enchantress is a viable strategy in this cube, so I’m sure it’s going to be Zak Whyte’s favorite.

Well, I think that does it for this week. If you have any feedback on my Portal Cube or you’ve built your own, I’d love to hear about it. Or if you want to talk about RUSH, I’m always down for that. Otherwise, I’ll see you next week*!

*No you won’t, I’ll be off for Christmas. Same for the following week. See you in January!


1 Freudian Slip: I typed “opponent” the first time through—which goes to show how I feel about trading these days.

Privileged Perspective 8b: Packs

This is the article that was supposed to go up last week, but due to assorted delays, didn’t. Sadly, the biggest loser in this case was the time-sensitive information I had touched on up front—the Walgreen’s booster sale that happens every year on the week after Black Friday. If you aren’t familiar, the premise is simple: booster packs were buy one, get one free (“BOGO” from here on out), with no limit. Walgreen’s doesn’t carry a deep stock of packs, so the “no limit” part can be a bit deceptive, and not every store I went to had Khans packs. The crazy part is that this sale puts the packs individually below wholesale, so if you’re able to buy enough, it can be a great opportunity to stock up.

The downside to going deep on Khans packs right now? That set is about to hit its bottom. That’s right, this is that mythical time of year that newer finance people are always asking about: “When should I buy in?” The best answer is this month, probably in about a week or two, but you won’t lose anything significant moving in now. Khans rares are at their all-time low right now, with the possible exception of the blue fetchlands and possibly [card]Windswept Heath[/card]. Those may dip down a little more after Christmas, but if they don’t, go ahead and move in. I bought all the fetchlands I was missing last week, with the exception of Windswept Heaths, because green-white decks are dumb and I am cool.


BRIEF EXTENDED ASIDE: These fetches have the rare honor of being known quantities in literally every format on Earth and reprinted1 for the first time in over a decade. They will follow a trajectory similar to the Return to Ravnica shocklands, in that I expect them to maintain a somewhat artificial inflation, at best hovering around $10 for the majority of their life cycle. Most players will realistically aim to get a personal set of all five, and conservative or kiddie pool investors will target them in trade as safe long-term holds. Every aspiring financier will tell you how they went deep on shocklands, and that steady demand really kept their price stable, especially during the run-up to rotation that I expect will kill the Temples. Modern and Legacy beginners will want access to sets, especially as a short-term replacement for the currently much higher Zendikar fetches. Wooded Foothills does a decent enough impersonation of Misty Rainforest that most people would rather save the $40 difference. If you think you’re the type of person who is going to become an overnight hundredaire or thousandaire buying all the fetches, know that they won’t ever take off percentage-wise like the Zen ones did, and that it will likely be two years before you can move them for a worthwhile gain. I’ve already begun outing some of my excess sets of shocklands because I don’t like having that much of my Magic money tied up in dead weight.

Yes, We’re Talking About Packs Today

Packs are a kind of an interesting topic to discuss. Typically, one of the early signs of becoming a “good” Magic player is when one stops cracking all one’s packs, either in the interest of having lots of available draft sets, or just being able to brag that you are one of those guys who doesn’t open his packs. If you live in a place where drafts fire often, then this has measurable practicality—I drafted up to six nights a week in my college years, and having spare sets made it a lot easier. Sealed packs also maintain their value independent of ownership: as long as they aren’t open, you can pretty easily get $9 or $10 for a draft set anywhere in the world. If you don’t draft or have the exposure to easily sell your packs, though, you may as well open them.

Magic casts a pretty wide net these days, and it is really interesting to see how the swaths of new players treat things that have, to people like me, have become akin to muscle memory. The store I play at gets a lot of these new players, as well as what Mark Rosewater and company would call “casual players.” There has developed, strangely, an almost folk wisdom regarding opening booster packs, cultivated by a jovial store owner who has no problem encouraging people to open “just one more.” Opening packs and boxes is a thing in the sports cards community, primarily because it is one of the only things you can do with sports cards (sick burn), and I feel like some of that mentality has bled into my local Magic environment. Here are just a few things I’ve learned from them:

  • Always open the top left pack, and the one right below it. That’s typically where the foil rare is.
  • Always go for the very middle of the box. That’s typically where the foil rare is.
  • With M10, only open packs with [card]Captain of the Watch[/card] on them. Those have the best rares. I’ve heard more stories of which art work has the “best” packs, but the Captain of the Watch one has always stuck with me for some reason.
  • Always go for the bottom right of a box. That’s typically where the foil rare is.
  • Boosters from Fat Packs are better than packs out of boxes. You’ll get better rares from them.
  • Always feel the weight and thickness of the boosters. The thickest and heaviest ones have foils in them, and you can tell the difference.
  • Never leave one last pack in the box.

The last one is my favorite, and I’ll tell you a story why. Friend of the program and former Naya human Joe Herrera had built up a small amount of credit at our old game store, somewhere around 25 to 30 packs worth. He decided to “cash in,” taking packs of Worldwake, the newest set at the time. Anyways, he has just enough credit to take all but one pack from the open box behind the counter. The store owner asks him if he wants to buy it, he declines. The store owner (Roger) asks Joe if he’s sure, since the store is going to open it otherwise. Again, Joe declines, thereby breaking the above cardinal rule. Sure enough, Roger opened the Jace, and Joe’s heart sank. He immediately tried to return the packs.


I don’t advocate any of the “flip it or rip it” games, but I do advocate all forms of Pack Wars. There are two primary forms: the MTG finance version and the one where you actually play Magic.

The first type of Pack Wars is the one that you see in the sports cards community. Every participant opens a pack (they should all be the same set), and the player with the highest price rare or mythic wins all of the opened packs. Some people don’t include the foil, but I think you should—it’s painful to open a foil [card]Polluted Delta[/card] and lose it because your [card]Temur Ascendancy[/card] didn’t beat their [card]Mantis Rider[/card]. This is also the form of Pack Wars that you can play with non-Magic players who are also compulsive gamblers.

The second type of Pack Wars is the one most commonly known to Magic players, although there is no codified set of rules. I’m here to fix that, by publishing the well-circulated Florida Rules that have been in place here in the Sunshine State for the last several years.

  • Each player opens one booster pack and removes the basic land and token without looking at any of the other cards (inasmuch as possible). Hint: usually the top two cards facing down are the land and the token, although this isn’t always the case.
  • Turn order can be determined any way you choose, although traditionally it will be whoever got the better (or cooler looking) token goes first. Subsequent matches will have turn order determined by the loser. You always want to go first.
  • You start with no cards in hand. You draw one card a turn. You can cast one card a turn, and X can be anything you want. Some people say X can only be a maximum of 5 when targeting players (Blaze becomes Lava Axe, not Door to Nothingness), but that’s lame.
  • You get one free “Cycle” per turn, so if you draw a crappy card (or a non-basic land, which is often useless), you can discard it and draw a new card for free. You can do this on your opponent’s turn as well, but only once.
  • Once per game, you can declare “Desperation Mode.” This allows you to cycle as many times as you want on the turn you declare it. The implication is that you are looking for your out, because otherwise you are about to die. You should never declare Desperation Mode while you are winning the game, as it goes against the robust spirit of the game.
  • Depending on who you are playing with, the winner will get both packs.
  • Yes, you can Kick Sadistic Sacrament in Pack Wars, and yes, it is a beating.


I strongly encourage you to play more Pack Wars, both varieties.

Extended is Still a Thing (Sort Of)

Speaking of packs, I gave away some sweet packs in the Extended tournament I ran last Saturday! If you were following my coverage of the event online, then you know already that while the event was small, it was well-received. We currently have more people wanting to preregister for the next tournament than participated in the last one. I won’t go through round by round coverage, but I will through out some quick hits, as well as my decklist from the event. Then we will close with a couple of quick finance bits.

  • There was one guy playing RDW in the event, and I have to imagine that had he played one or two more lands, he would have taken the entire thing down. He did around 13 damage (enough to kill me) to me on turn four. That’s insane.
  • [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] and fetchlands are really good. So much so that I don’t think Shaman will ever see Modern play again. That being said, it is probably a really good long-term hold, especially at around $8 in trade.
  • The first website to put [card]Restoration Angel[/card]s on sale is going to sell me a playset. The card is good, especially with [card]Thragtusk[/card] and [card]Siege Rhino[/card].
  • The deck that I expected to have a better performance was Elves! I don’t know if the deck was just a little too slow, or if there were sequencing or construction issues, but it was the 2014 New Orleans Saints of the weekend: hyped coming in, but failed to beat Cam Newton at home.
  • Everyone who played the format had fun, and everyone who came to watch remarked that they wanted to play in the next one. If you’re looking to flex your brewer muscles, evaluating unexplored formats is a great way to build your skills. Trying to crack an admittedly useless format (for now…) won’t win you a PTQ, but it will help you develop some of the skills that make you better at Magic. Plus, it’s fun!

Here’s what I played:

[deck title= Experiment Jund Rides Again]
*4 Experiment One

*3 Bloodsoaked Champion

*4 Burning-Tree Emissary

*4 Gorehouse Chainwalker

*4 Flinthoof Boar

*3 Lightning Mauler

*3 Ghor-Clan Rampager

*4 Falkenrath Aristocrat


*3 Lightning Strike

*3 Abrupt Decay

*2 Dreadbore

*1 Kessig Wolf Run

*4 Bloodstained Mire

*4 Wooded Foothills

*2 Blood Crypt

*2 Overgrown Tomb

*2 Stomping Ground

*2 Mountain

*1 Forest

*1 Swamp

*1 Dragonskull Summit

*1 Woodland Cemetery

*2 Rootbound Crag


*3 Thoughtseize

*3 Liliana of the Veil

*3 Lifebane Zombie

*3 Deathrite Shaman

*3 Firefist Striker



The only thing I would change is I would cut the Strikers from the sideboard (they never came in). This deck felt so consistent and aggressive that I plan on trying out a modified version of it in my next Modern tournament. [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card] and [card]Bloodsoaked Champion[/card] happened enough that I’m fine letting [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] hit free agency. In Modern, the Deathrite Shamans will become [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card]s. Liliana was unreal good and might belong in the main deck, although there aren’t any ways to truly abuse her, 

MTG Finance Quick Hits

  • Remember when I mentioned Restoration Angel, Thragtusk, and Siege Rhino? Of course you do, quit playing dumb. All three of those feel like they either are, or will be, at their cheapest this month. Buy the last two now, and Restoration Angel when it goes on sale. Thragtusk is more of a speculative buy, but Siege Rhino is going to do a lot of work soon, and this is its floor for the next two years.
  • [card]See the Unwritten[/card] is the card I expect to break out. It’s not in a deck yet, but when it is, it’s going to be a See the Unwritten deck. This is in contrast to something like [card]Empty the Pits[/card], which will just be a one- or two-of in a control list. Get literally every See the Unwritten at $2 in trade that you can.
  • A guy at my FNM played an end-of-turn [card]Dictate of Karametra[/card] into [card]Villainous Wealth[/card]. Not sure either of those cards will ever get far outside of the bulk zone while in Standard, but both are attractive Commander foils.
  • [card]Savage Knuckleblade[/card] is the kind of card that people really like, but I’ve learned not to be too afraid of it when it gets played against me. It’s possible that this is the kind of card that requires a higher level of skill and familiarity to maximize (like how Pack Rat really cost five), but it’s popular with the FNM crowd regardless. It may be worthwhile to buy a couple extra sets now at the bottom, just to know you’ll have copies in your binder for the next year and a half.
  • SCG has [card]Utter End[/card]s for $1.35. That’s almost three for the price of a booster pack. Obviously “[card]Vindicate[/card]’s Less Handsome Cousin” isn’t the best a card can be, but it’s probably the best that a $1.35 card can be.
  • [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] has been sneaking up in price, so try and get your set now before it settles in for its senior year of Standard. Sidisi is crucial to that deck’s success, and she’s only $3. [card]Soul of Innistrad[/card] is really good in the list, but I’m not sure if most lists want four. Most of the key pieces to that deck rotate in the fall, so watch to see if there are any graveyard enablers in Fate Reforged (previews start in two weeks!).
  • I’ve picked up mono-black aggro in Standard, and it’s dumb and I hate it.

Next week will be that big article I was supposed to run a couple weeks back, I promise. Unless it isn’t. But it should be! I think.



1No, Judge Foils, you don’t count.

Privileged Perspective 7 – Extended


Note from the author- this article was originally meant to be published December 7th, but was pushed up a week by me to help spread awareness of the format. Next week’s article will be the one originally advertised for today about how to evaluate and maximize your methods of trading. Oh, and I archive these on my PC as “PP[X]”, and today’s is PP7, so shout-out to ‘Goldeneye 64’.


We are currently missing out on the coolest format ever. While I was always a fan of the original, seven-year Extended, it occurred to me recently that the current-four year iteration (M12 through Khans) is probably one of the better Constructed formats to ever exist. Forget everything else that is going on—today we are going to really explore this format.

SHAMELESS PLUG: If you live in the Central Florida area, you can play in my super sweet Extended tournament on Saturday, December 6! Premier Sports Cards in Orange City is hosting, and I expect it to be a good turnout. More details will be available soon (likely by the time this finishes getting written!), so I’ll make sure to get them out.

UPDATE! Entry will be $5, with all entry money going to payout. Additional prizes will be raffled off based on attendance, including boosters from various Extended-legal sets. Registration begins at noon, tournament starts at 1:00. I’ll be collecting decklists, so expect to see the results here on Brainstorm Brewery the following week.

The Format Overall

The format has what I would consider perfect mana. Like Modern, it has fetchlands, shocklands, and buddy lands (the M10 duals and their Innistradian cousins). Unlike Modern, it currently has [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]. Unlike Standard, it has [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] and [card]Llanowar Elves[/card] (but for only one more year!). The format has several sweet “build around me” pillars, including [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], [card]Pack Rat[/card], [card]Primeval Titan[/card], [card]Jeskai Ascendancy[/card] (the most obvious combo deck), [card]Maze’s End[/card], and [card]Delver of Secrets[/card]. I’ve gone through a lot of decklists from the last couple of seasons, and every archetype seems to get something that makes them more efficient and exciting. The best part? A lot of the cards that have rotated are actually pretty cheap. Obvious staples for Legacy and Modern, like [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], are still going to be pricy, but some of the prices surprised me. [card]Thragtusk[/card], a card that most assumed wouldn’t make the leap, is at about $2.50 right now, and I’m pretty sure my deck will play four of them.

Brief Aside: “Making the leap” is another way of expressing what used to be called “Broodstar Syndrome.” Broodstar was a Standard powerhouse that never made enough of an impact in Extended or Legacy to keep its pricetag out of the bulk zone once it rotated. Famous other examples include [card]Malakir Bloodwitch[/card], [card]Hell’s Thunder[/card], and University of Florida product Tim Tebow1.


TRGR, Extended Edition

The first thing to do when cracking into any new format, is to find out what worked in the closest analog formats. This isn’t the key to long term success, but it does help fill in some of the large gaps of information relatively quickly (this is where the “Block is future Standard!” notion comes from, which is neither right nor wrong). The first deck that came to my mind was the Mono Black Devotion list of last season, but with some noticable improvements:

[deck title=Mono-Black]


*4 Deathrite Shaman

*4 Pack Rat

*4 Desecration Demon



*4 Thoughtseize

*4 Abrupt Decay

*4 Lingering Souls

*4 Hero’s Downfall

*4 Underworld Connections

*4 Liliana of the Veil



*3 Bloodstained Mire

*3 Polluted Delta

*3 Overgrown Tomb

*3 Godless Shrine

*6 Swamp

*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

*1 Gavony Township

*3 Mutavault

*1 Sandsteppe Citadel



This deck uses a lot of the technology from last year, while maximizing on a couple obviously strong synergies. [card]Gavony Township[/card] is a very low-cost option that can help win stalemates, and is the main reason I upped us to four [card]Lingering Souls[/card]. Deathrite Shaman is incredible here, and can very easily stick a turn-two Lili or Connections while also making it very easy for us to hit the occasional green or white mana that we need. [card]Pack Rat[/card] continues to be insane. There absolutely is a strategy similar to this that leans harder on Pack Rat, pitching [card]Unburial Rites[/card] and [card]Thragtusk[/card]/[card]Angel of Serenity[/card] (Pack Rat Reanimator was easily one of my favorite decks for ISD/RTR standard).

Here’s another archetype that’s near and dear to me:

[deck title= Experiment Jund, Part Deaux]

*4 Experiment One

*3 Bloodsoaked Champion

*4 Burning-Tree Emissary

*4 Gore-House Chainwalker

*4 Lightning Mauler

*3 Mayor of Avabruck

*3 Ghor-Clan Rampager

*4 Falkenrath Aristocrat

*3 Lightning Strike

*3 Dreadbore

*2 Abrupt Decay

*1 Kessig Wolf Run

*4 Bloodstained Mire

*4 Wooded Foothills

*2 Rootbound Crag

*3 Blood Crypt

*3 Stomping Ground

*2 Overgrown Tomb

*2 Mountain

*1 Forest

*1 Swamp

This is actually less the evolution of Experiment Jund, and more a hybrid between that deck and some of the Aristocrats decks. [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] is benched in favor of the rookie [card]Bloodsoaked Champion[/card], which gives us the extra incentive to max out on the “humans matter” theme. Bloodsoaked also has a cute interaction with veteran signal-caller [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card], who can eat the Champion for potentially multiple counters during combat. [card]Mayor of Avabruck[/card] on turn two (hopefully off of one or two Emissaries!) is a solid play, and bloodrushing a Rampager on turn three does not count as casting a spell for the turn, if you feel like you want to get him flipped right away. A more straight-forward version of this list would eschew the human synergies for [card]Flinthoof Boar[/card] and [card]Mogg Flunkies[/card]— possibly Cackler back in over Champion, although that may just be due to unfounded concerns regarding mana.

This is likely not optimized, but it’s terrifying.

[deck title= Red Deck Wins]

*4 Firedrinker Satyr

*4 Grim Lavamancer

*4 Vexing Devil

*4 Ash Zealot

*4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

*2 Bonfire of the Damned

*4 Bump in the Night

*4 Boros Charm

*4 Skullcrack

*4 Stoke the Flames

*4 Blood Crypt

*4 Bloodstained Mire

*6 Mountain

*Sacred Foundry

*4 Wooded Foothills

This legitimately scares me. The Bonfires and full set of Lavamancers tell you that it isn’t optimized, although a surprise Bonfire will help your little guys get through (I’m not sure how Bonfire for Miracle + Eidolon works, but if I find out, I’ll pass the word along). Red Deck is an archetype that always has a couple pieces in a format, so the larger your format is, the more tools at your disposal. Former teammates that didn’t make the cut include [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card], [card]Hellrider[/card], [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card], and [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card]. There is almost certainly a creature-heavy red deck that maxes out on the cheap aggressive creatures and [card]Titan’s Strength[/card], Bump, etc. Red seems really deep!

I’m not a traditional UW control player, but those of you that are should be able to figure this out on your own. [card]Ponder[/card], [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] are legal. If you can’t get excited about that, then maybe you should be sleeving up RDW after all.

That Boy Band That Marky-Mark Was In

The most exciting part of exploring a new format is step two: finding new decks that didn’t exist before. The first one is a saucy number that I stumbled upon while working on that red deck we just talked about. Tell me this doesn’t get you excited:

[deck title= Down, Down to Goblin Town]
*4 Foundry Street Denizen

*4 Legion Loyalist

*4 Burning-Tree Emissary

*4 Mogg Flunkies

*Goblin Chieftain

*4 Goblin Rabblemaster


*4 Goblin Grenade

*4 Krenko’s Command

*1 Hall of Triumph

*3 Hordeling Outburst

*4 Stoke The Flames

*3 Mutavault

*4 Bloodstained Mire

*4 Wooded Foothills

*9 Mountain


[card]Hordeling Outburst[/card] may not make the cut, but it certainly looks good when it’s six haste damage on turn four. Other possible considerations include [card]Obelisk of Urd[/card], [card]Hellrider[/card], and seeing if your opponent doesn’t realize [card]Goblin Guide[/card] isn’t legal in the format. Just looking at that list, I may have talked myself into playing it. [card]Goblin Grenade[/card] and [card]Stoke The Flames[/card] is a big turn four.

[deck title= Sultai Dredge]


*4 Deathrite Shaman

*3 Birds of Paradise

*3 Lotleth Troll

*4 Satyr Wayfinder

*4 Nighthowler

*3 Splinterfright

*2 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

*3 Shadowborn Demon



*3 Tracker’s Instincts

*4 Mulch

*4 Commune With The Gods

*2 Whip of Erebos



*3 Polluted Delta

*3 Wooded Foothills

*3 Overgrown Tomb

*2 Watery Grave

*2 Breeding Pool

*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

*1 Rogue’s Passage

*3 Forest

*3 Swamp



This is perhaps the most raw of the lists, and could benefit from a few rounds of practice. Sidisi, [card]Boneyard Wurm[/card], [card]Splinterfright[/card], and a [card]Chord of Calling[/card] package seem like more exciting options for this list. The mana base also has to be constructed with Jarad in mind.

Community Contributions

These other brews were sent in from other deckbuilders. People are starting to really get on board the Extended train, none more so than reader Davie, @FullOfGravy. He sent me twelve (12!) different deck lists, which I would absolutely publish here if Marcel paid us by the word2. The first we will feature is a spin on a Modern menace:

[deck title= Bant Hexproof]


*4 Gladecover Scout

*3 Birds of Paradise

*4 Invisible Stalker

*3 Voice of Resurgence

*4 Geist of Saint Traft

*1 Eidolon of Countless Battles



*4 Rancor

*1 Curiosity

*4 Ethereal Armor

*4 Spectral Flight

*4 Unflinching Courage

*2 Ajani’s Presence



*4 Windswept Heath

*1 Flooded Strand

*3 Breeding Pool

*3 Temple Garden

*1 Hallowed Fountain

*1 Mana Confluence

*3 Cavern of Souls

*1 Forest

*1 Island

*2 Sunpetal Grove

*2 Hinterland Harbor



How saucy is that [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card]? I have a feeling that one or two is likely the right amount, but I bet when you connect with it, it feels pretty unstoppable. The only change I would make is likely upping the fetchland count and playing [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] over Birds—in conversation with Friend of the Show Byron King, he said Deathrite Shaman is likely bannably good in this format. Time will tell.

[deck title= Jeskai Delver]


*4 Delver of Secrets

*4 Monastery Swiftspear

*2 Young Pyromancer

*2 Snapcaster Mage



*4 Ponder

*3 Thought Scour

*2 Pillar of Flame

*3 Vapor Snag

*4 Boros Charm

*4 Mana Leak

*4 Lightning Strike

*4 Treasure Cruise



*4 Flooded Strand

*3 Polluted Delta

*2 Hallowed Fountain

*3 Steam Vents

*2 Island

*2 Mountain

*1 Sacred Foundry

*3 Shivan Reef



From Davie: “The lack of Gitaxian Probe means that the land count has to be realistic, but Scour and Cruise are BFFs. Pillar has to be one of the best spells in the format. It kills all of the mana creatures, red aggro creatures, Delvers, Snapcasters, Voices, Huntmasters, and it still goes to the face”.

I agree on all counts, especially with Pillar. I think it’s one of the smaller factors in defining the format (whatever is below “pillar” in the hierarchy), and is probably the benchmark for removal. Also, [card]Thought Scour[/card] and [card]Treasure Cruise[/card] seems firmly awesome.

The last community list I will feature here is from the aforementioned Mr. King:

[deck title= Dimir Delver]


*4 Deathrite Shaman

*4 Delver of Secrets

*3 Snapcaster Mage

*4 Pack Rat



*4 Ponder

*4 Thoughtseize

*4 Mana Leak

*4 Abrupt Decay

*1 Liliana of the Veil

*1 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

*2 Hero’s Downfall

*1 Bile Blight

*3 Dig Through Time



*4 Polluted Delta

*3 Flooded Strand

*3 Bloodstained Mire

*4 Watery Grave

*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

*1 Overgrown Tomb

*1 Breeding Pool

*2 Island

*2 Swamp



This list definitely looks aggressive. [card]Ponder[/card] and [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] are both banned in Modern, and [card]Mana Leak[/card] and [card]Pack Rat[/card] have each made a lot of enemies. I would not be surprised to see something like this make the top eight of my Extended event.

Financial Impact

Those of you who don’t play as much (but still made it this far), are probably wondering if there are any financial possibilities here. There are, but they are a combination of moderate- to long-term holds and cultivating local interest. The multi-format staples won’t change in price, but getting local players interested in acquiring them can draw people into trading for things they may not have otherwise wanted (allowing you to divest out of one blue-chip stock into multiple options with potential for more aggressive future gains). There are also some cards with awkward price discrepancies: [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] is $4.50 on TCGplayer, and $8 on SCG—this may be something to move on, especially if they are something you can get in trade. The trick to this, however, is getting people motivated to play. My store has great showings for Standard, but not enough people to regularly sanction Modern play; I anticipate that this format will be better suited to the collections and appetites of our current playerbase.

A part of me also wonders if there may be some hidden Modern potential here. As Modern gets bigger, the marketshare of a single deck will diminish—you think everyone will still be on [card]Birthing Pod[/card] in five years? Anything that you like in Extended that seems to play well is a possible future player in Modern, especially since this format has a high bar in terms of power level. If you stumble on any hidden Extended gems, they may have high enough potential upside to be worth an investment—especially if they have a set-specific mechanic or name. I’m still talking about Huntmaster of the Fells.

Grassroots formats are not unheard of. Prior to the advent of Modern, former pro player and possible time lord Gavin Verhey got people genuinely and earnestly excited about OverExtended, which in part helped him get his current position at Wizards. And really, that’s all I care about too—getting a sweet WOTC job so I can leave this no-horse town.

Thanks for reading, and make sure to come back next week when we talk about what we were supposed to talk about this week! 



1 Cue the “I don’t know why Birthing Pod won’t give him a chance! He beat Pittsburgh in the Wild Card!” crowd.
2 That is a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very good idea.

Privileged Position 5: No Sleep ‘Til Edison

Last weekend was Grand Prix New Jersey, the third-largest GP (or any tournament, really) of all time. I had a great time, but more than anything else, the past couple of days were a glimpse into what is likely the future of Magic’s organized play program.

The official attendance for this tournament was 4003, but that number is a little bit disingenuous, at least in terms of explaining how the weekend went. That count does not include vendors, judges, floor traders, side-event participants1, security personnel, etc. The venue, especially on Friday and Saturday, felt packed. I think a lot of people got a different impression of the final number because they compared it to SCG’s publicly announced cap of 6500 attendees (as if 4000 could be small somehow), but in no possible sense was this a loss for them.

I think the biggest question we have to ask is: was this a successful Magic tournament? Obviously we know what BBD’s answer would be, and SCG’s as well, but was this representative of the GP system? Someone2 recently mentioned that GP weekends are starting to resemble conventions, rather than pro-level tournaments, and this weekend certainly made that statement more apparent as well. So my question is: if it was a Magic Convention, what would have actually been different? If the main event did not award Pro Points or PT invites (but maybe offset that by paying out more cash), how many people would that have really turned away? The closest analog would likely be Eternal Weekend or the European Bazaar of Moxen (named presumably for my cat, Mox Kitten). Eternal Weekend didn’t attract 4003 players, but it also was not run by Star City Games, which has been plugging #GPNJ for the past several months.

Okay, so it turns out that everyone is writing about this, and you’re probably sick of it by now. As a means of compensation, please accept this excellent Strong Bad Email

Of course, the main event is the crucial axis that the financial aspect relies on for weekends like this. Cards like [card]Chalice of the Void[/card] were in heavy demand all day Friday and into Saturday morning, and [card]Containment Priest[/card] was selling for the price of two Commander decks! I won’t credit myself as getting that called shot correct (who are we kidding, of course I will), but I think there is a trend starting to emerge—when there’s a Legacy-playable option in a Commander release that goes on sale the week before a big Legacy event, bring lots of copies. These decks are already more plentiful than last year’s offering, so I don’t expect that price to stay high long term, but this definitely shows the pressure a deck registration deadline can put on a Legacy singles market.

Power Overwhelming

Have you seen the prices of Power this week? Probably not, since they’re so high. They’re so high, you’d need a telescope to price them, since they are likely breaking through the ionosphere right now. They’re so high, Tal Bachman wrote a hit song about them. Their prices are getting so high, Lindsey Lohan tried snorting a Mox Ruby.

Those terrible jokes are right, though: these prices are getting out of hand. You can now trade a NM Alpha Lotus for a NM Hyundai Elantra. Of course, there are very few mobile pieces of near-mint Power left in the world, if any. The best ones have already been graded, and graded Power has always had a higher market price. Power also doesn’t change hands very often, especially pieces that have been personalized or are too played to attract an interested buyer. Star City is saying they didn’t aggressively target Power over the weekend, but at least a few floor traders are saying they were. The SCG buy prices changed almost immediately after the weekend was over, though, and there doesn’t seem to be any other possible reason why.

If you have plans of ever owning Power, start getting it soon. There are a couple of things to be aware of when acquiring Power, so let’s touch on them here:

  • Power has multiple prices: The retailer price, the eBay price, and the cash price.
    • If you went over to SCG’s website and added an Alpha Time Walk to your cart, you are paying the retailer price. This is the highest possible price, although the trade-offs include a very high probability that the card is real, and they are pretty strict about condition3. They will also probably give you some Game Night tokens.
    • The eBay price is going to be somewhere in between retail and cash. Like everything online, it will involve fees in some form or another, shipping costs, and waiting, but with eBay you have a higher chance of getting burned by less than authentic cards. This isn’t to say that this type of thing is common, but always temper yourself if you see a deal that has to be too good to be true. This is where you want to deal with experienced sellers with great feedback.
    • The cash price (sometimes colloquially known as the “Bro Deals Price”), is often times going to be the cheapest option. Cash talks, and very often it strikes a solid bargain. The downside to this is that it almost always happens in person, or with someone who you’ve dealt with consistently online (outside of a structured system like eBay). This is the price where trade-ins will get you the most value, especially if the person with the Power has a stronger market for newer cards.
  • If you are at a large event with dealers, you can absolutely go up to a dealer table (if they aren’t busy!) and ask a buyer to inspect a piece of Power. Fakes are getting better and better, and if you aren’t confident in your ability to spot a counterfeit, then don’t buy something without a second opinion.
  • I’ve said this before, but always trade Modern or Standard cards for eternal staples and Power if you can. When I got my first piece of Power, it was entirely off of trades, and many of the cards I traded have actually gone down in value since that trade was made. While this is unfortunate for the dealer, he likely sold all of them before that happened, since his ability to move those cards is greater than mine.
  • Understand that it is okay to convert the majority of your collection to Power. Keep what you absolutely need for the decks you can’t live without, and be willing to part for the rest if you get the right price. Remember, life is a game of Mario Party, and Power is stars. All other cards are just coins.

Even though the prices on Power are the only things to have gone up significantly so far this week, I would expect things like Library of Alexandria and Time Vault to go up soon as well. If you have ever wanted something from the first few Magic sets, you may want to start working towards it now.

Cheers and Jeers: GPNJ Edition!

Cheers: SCG. Even though there were some logistical issues throughout the course of the weekend, I am confident that any other TO would have done a much worse job. Also, Ben was seriously on top of stuff this weekend, including indirectly helping me get to the event on time Saturday!

Jeers: My deck. You should be guaranteed a feature match and day two if you play above a certain percentage of sweet foils, regardless of what the deck actually does (or in my case, doesn’t do).

Cheers: Legacy. Despite everyone saying that Treasure Cruise, Monastery Swiftspear, and Dig Through Time ruined the format, they were proven wrong. The format is still rich, diverse, and impossible to predict. I didn’t play against UR Delver once this past weekend!

Jeers: Legacy. This format is rich, diverse, and impossible to predict. I showed up ready to crush UR Delver and didn’t play against it once. Instead, I got crushed by Food Chain and turn two’d by Through The Breach. Go home, Legacy, you’re drunk.

Cheers: The high-end vendors. There was a lot of cool stuff at the vendor booths this weekend (not to mention literal Cool Stuff, the store). I saw a test print City of Brass, which I didn’t realize existed, as well as a textless foil Lightning Bolt (picture below). There was allegedly a Summer Sol Ring and Bayou, as well as some other fascinating obscurities, along with quite a lot of Power.

Test City

Jeers: SCG. I’m not sure if this is just a Star City policy, or if it extends to other Tournament Organizers, but there were hardly any packs for sale at vendor booths. One vendor told me it is because SCG sells current Standard packs, and so they tell other vendors not to bring them as a condition for buying booth space. Another told me it is to prevent people from buying packs and going to the hotel bar to draft, rather than signing up for a side event. I’m leaning more towards the first, since if that was SCG’s modus operandi, then they wouldn’t be slinging packs either. Anyways, it was hard to find sufficient packs for wacky draft, and that is a shame. I WANT MORE WACKY DRAFTING. WHY ISNT THERE A WACKY DRAFT PRO TOUR?

P.S. New term: A wacky packs Winston Draft is henceforth known as a “Crazy Ivan”.

Cheers: The building the tournament was in. It was almost like it was built specifically for Magic events. VIP lounge was nice, even though the somelier’s recommendation of the malbec with the duck confit was a bit pedestrian. The free box of Arturo Fuentes with our VIP Modern Masters draft was a nice touch though. Oh wait, we were instructed not to tell the proles about the super secret VIP perks. Sorry. :(

Jeers: Everything outside the building in a roughly three-mile radius, the state of New Jersey. Turns out, the convention center was in the middle of an industrial park. No convenient access by train, bus, or subway. There were also no restaurants within walking distance, and if you elected to stay at one of the cheaper hotels, renting a car was a necessity.

I know it’s common for people to crap on New Jersey. The roads are confusing and full of crazy people. They think “Thunder Road” is the magnum opus of western composition. Garden State was a terrible movie. And thanks to semi-recent political shenanigans, they are constantly being shit-talked by Wesley Crusher look-alike Rachel Maddow. But don’t worry, New Jerseyians (Jerseites? Jersuits? Jersey Boys?). I just want you all to know, deep down in your heart of hearts, that it’s all absolutely true.

Sorry for the short article this week, but due to travel and catching up on work, I didn’t have the time needed to write this article and fully put off writing this article. Come back next week, when I talk about building and growing your network. Until then, keep standing on the overpass screaming at the cars you want to get better.




1 I played a couple Modern events, and I don’t think any of my opponents actually played in the main event.

2 I honestly spent the better part of an hour trying to find out who. I want to say it was Matt Sperling. Anyways, I really wanted to link you the article, so if you find it, please post the link in the comments and we will tack it on somehow.

3 By American standards. Apparently the Japanese are on a whole other level when it comes to this kind of thing.


Privileged Perspective 4: The Mana From Another Place

One of my favorite aspects of Magic finance is the one that is very likely the least discussed. People will pore endless hours over set reviews, Modern breakouts, and Reserve List buyouts, but there is, comparatively, nothing written about foreign foils and obscurities. There are several different factors that contribute to this, but in an era where it feels like Magic information is being homogenized and disseminated faster than ever1, it’s strange that the foreign markets have so little to go off of. We’ll touch a little bit on how the foreign foil premium works (spoiler alert: it’s pretty random!), some of the resources that you can use to grow your reach with niche markets, and we will get to look at lots of pictures of cool cards! Let’s rock!

Grasping at Straws; or “Known Knowns and Known Unknowns”

When you are operating with unknown or incomplete information, it is best to look at everything that you know is concrete, and extrapolate from that. In the context of today’s theme, this means we want to look at everything we do know when trying to determine the price of a card that we don’t know.

FIRST OF (SURPRISINGLY FEW!) BRIEF ASIDES: Very rarely will a site like SCG have a published price on a foreign foil or rarity. If they do, treat this as one possible price, not the correct one—it may be several months old or predicated on unavailable information (like what their buyer paid for it). Also, they are likely to tack on a “Star City Premium” (and I don’t mean the kind where they charge you money to watch Todd Anderson videos), because most people simply wouldn’t know where else to find these types of cards.

The very first thing I figure out is what language a card is in. This will give us some idea of the scarcity/demand relative to its standard counterpart, the English copy. While almost all languages receive shorter print runs than English2, not all of them experience the same influences when it comes to final price. Here is a handy cheat sheet when it comes to identifying languages:

  • With European languages (excluding Russian, but including Spanish and Portuguese even though the majority of their speakers live in Central and South America), the price is typically going to be lower than English. While supply is lower, demand is lower as well, and many players prefer English copies as they typically trade better, especially internationally. The caveat here is any card where the translation makes the name of the card hilarious. Popular examples include Spanish [card]Sarkhan the Mad[/card] (Sarkhan, El Loco), French [card]Delay[/card] (Retard, which I personally don’t think is funny, but I’m just presenting facts), and for a brief period, German [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] (which many expected to include the word “Jagermeister” in the name). There are also occasional misprints for specific languages, the most notorious being Spanish Meloku, who makes 2/2 tokens, instead of 1/1s (because that card wasn’t good enough already).
  • Chinese cards are actually printed in larger quantities than English cards (you would know this already if you were reading the footnotes). This results in lower prices on the majority of cards, but things like foil [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] are typically in line with the English price. When I am preordering or buying cards just to play with in Standard, I will typically buy Chinese copies to get a little bit of a better deal on them. Ignore the stigma of potential counterfeits by buying from trusted, reputable vendors: I buy exclusively from MTGMintCard, because they have great pricing and are (I think) based in the US, allowing for cheaper and faster shipping. My most recent purchase from them was a preorder of four Chinese [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card], which were almost $2 less a piece than the English price. In the wild, I am able to identify Chinese cards by comparing the bulkier printing style to Japanese lettering. Chinese lettering in the name of the card often appears thicker than any other language.
  • Japanese has long been the “cool” language, and so it sees a price increase by virtue of being Japanese. Because the Japanese Magic community travels well, there is a great arbitrage opportunity trading English cards to Japanese players at events. English cards often fetch higher prices overseas, and there is a large subset of American players who like the look of Japanese cards. Foils will always outpace the pricing on English copies, and tournament staples for Modern or Legacy can have even stronger premiums attached. The easiest way to tell Japanese from any other language is by checking the card name (top left)—there will often be a small row of characters on top of the name. Japan, moreso than Korea or Russia (to my knowledge), has an extremely strong Magic community, and so there are some easy-to-find store sites with prices on #JPFoils (a hashtag I invented along with Zak, Heiko, and a couple others—shout out!). My personal preference is
  • Korean was a supported language for a few years (starting with Visions and then ending with Urza’s Saga), before it was discontinued. It has since been resumed (as of M12 and Innistrad), and is a popular choice with people who like foreign cards. For some reason, the beginning of the new Korean printings seem prone to several typos and misprints, including [card]Gideon Jura[/card] and Ashiok.
  • Russian is the last of the premium languages. It has a very small printing, and started around Gatecrash. Because these last two languages are relatively new, they have had a hard time ousting Japanese as the de facto cool language. I’m not going to make a lame Yakov Smirnoff joke, BECAUSE I AM A PROFESSIONAL, DAMMIT.
  • Henceforth, I will refer to Japanese, Korean, and Russian as “prestige languages.” This is in no way, shape, or form an endorsement of Hugh Jackman.

Once you have determined the language of a card, find out the price on the English equivalent (in the case of a foil, you will want both the foil and non-foil prices). For cards with either of the “modern” frames, the foreign and English prices on non-foils will be roughly the same (I might pad the sale price a little bit for prestige languages). If you are working with foils, then what you are looking for isn’t the price of the English card, but rather the foil premium between English versions. We will use two cards from Ravnica: City of Guilds as an example, with all prices coming from Star City Games.

[card]Blood Funnel[/card] is listed at 99 cents for non-foil and $1.99 for foil. These are, after doing some cursory research, about the lowest prices SCG will list older rares (and foil rares) at. We can establish the minimum foil premium at 100-percent markup, or double the price of the non-foil.

[card]Life from the Loam[/card], on the other hand, has a non-foil price of $4 (and out of stock!) and a foil price of $40. This means that the perceived value for [card]Life from the Loam[/card] (in spite of several additional printings and another foil printing!) is so high, that the foils are able to fetch ten times the non-foil price!

If I was presented with an opportunity to determine the prices on Japanese copies of these two cards (let’s say I’m somewhere without cell reception, like a giant concrete convention building or Mississippi), then I am going to value the [card]Blood Funnel[/card] about on par with the foil English copy (I’d probably settle on $3 in trade, which is pretty good for freakin’ Blood Funnel).

The Loam, however, is going to be trickier. Despite being unable to find any JP foil copies of Loam for sale with a quick Google search, I can tell you its typical sale price is about $180. The foreign premium will not always be the same percentage as the foil premium (thank God), but if there’s a foil premium in excess of the standard3, then the foreign premium for prestige languages will be in excess as well. I wish I could tell you exactly how the Loam got to $180, but it isn’t an exact science. A lot of times, however, it seems the rule of thumb is “double it, then double it again.”


The growth of Magic’s presence on the internet has made getting foreign foils and niche cards much easier over the last couple of years. The expansion of eBay into other countries (with PayPal serving as a financial Tower of Babel in easily converting currencies) and social media have largely replaced the old system of, “Go to a GP and try and trade with the Japanese players.” While that original system of arbitrage is still largely in effect, the majority of my recent acquisitions have been from my phone, typically while pretending to work. Look, let’s just bullet point these so we can get on to the cool pictures of foils and stuff, okay?

  • You already know about eBay, but make sure you’re able to see foreign sellers as well (I think sometimes this gets disabled in settings, I don’t know, I always look at it on my phone). Here’s a great tip: type “Japanese Foil” or “Japanese Foil MTG” into eBay and just read through all of the listings some time when you’re bored living in the most technologically advanced civilization to ever exist. Not only will this help you familiarize yourself with the kinds of prices and margins you’ll be dealing with, but it makes a fantastic car game on the way to a tournament. You, the phone person (and hopefully not driver), say, “How much is Japanese Foil [CARD NAME] worth?” and the other people in the car try to guess closest without going over.
  • Another quick eBay tip: Make sure to write down the names of some of the more frequent users you see dealing in foreign/niche cards. If you are going to be getting into this stuff, it’s good to know who the other players are, and you will likely buy from them repeatedly, so build a friendly rapport. This will allow you to build a network of people who are able to find things for you across the globe, which is pretty cool.
  • In a future portion of this article, I will tell you about a website called Magic Librarities. One of the things listed on it is every printing of every FNM/Arena/Gameday promo in every language it was printed in. I personally like Japanese FNM promos ([card]Grisly Salvage[/card] especially), so you can browse that website for promo cards to see what language they are in. I also have a sweet Japanese [card]Slave of Bolas[/card]. Will you deliver a message to future Ross for me? Tell him, “The owls are not what they seem.”
  • Websites like TokyoMTG and MTGMintCard are great if you know what language you are looking for. MTGCardMarket is a good source of European language cards, but you have to live in Europe to be a member. Therefore, I recommend either making a friend in Europe who doesn’t mind being a middle-man in facilitating trades, or committing international identity theft. Actually, you should probably just do the first one.
  • I literally just have a little blurb at the end of my PucaTrade profile that says, “If you have any foreign or weird foils that you don’t know what to do with, I’ll take ’em,” and people message me out of the blue all the time with cards they want to get rid of. It’s sweet!
  • I’ll let you in on a secret: your LGS can get foreign boxes from WOTC. They can’t get much (and I believe it is partially dictated by your store level), but if you’re the only person in your town that likes Korean cards, then make friends with the store owner. Be willing to pay up front if this is something they don’t do often—many small stores have a hard time selling foreign packs to casual players.
  • Trade with foreign players at large events! There are a lot of great guys like Saito who have been doing this for a while, and will be happy to scratch your back if you scratch theirs. DISCLAIMER: do not actually scratch another attendee’s back without consent. Can we look at cool cards now? Awesome.

The Sweetness

Do you ever scroll through Librarities? If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a website that catalogs all of the rare obscurities of Magic’s past, as well as a comprehensive collection of every promotional card ever printed. It’s and you should really go check it out after finishing my article and leaving me a comment about how great this was. Don’t worry, the link will still be there. Now, grab a cup of damn fine coffee and settle in, we’re gonna check out some sweet cards!

Tenth Edition Foils

Were you aware that foils in Tenth Edition didn’t have reminder text? This was before core sets featured new cards, so all the cards that got this treatment were reprints. The most famous is [card]Time Stop[/card], which sells for about $30, twice the price of the original set foil! Many of the cards with this treatment also received flavor text that otherwise didn’t fit. [card]Time Stop[/card] just looks sweet though.


Test Foils/Test Prints

While foils weren’t introduced to Magic until after Urza’s Saga, Wizards spent some time internally developing how they would look, including printing some test versions of cards that already existed. These are rare, and are not even technically supposed to exist. Likewise, right before the card frame overhaul in Eighth Edition, Wizards tried a couple different templates, including some that made it to print. These were never intended to leave the building, but a few made it out alive. We know these are legit because they were featured in an Arcana on the Mothership. Featured below are two scans of actual test prints: a basic Plains with a frame for Eighth Edition that was ultimately scrapped (as well as the Unglued set symbol, and the art for Parallax Tide), and a test foil [card]City of Traitors[/card], with a red text box.


Bear in mind that neither of these were ever expected to be seen by the public eye, so these aren’t mistakes—they are just attempts to see every possible permutation before announcing a change to the public. Obviously, when you get to this level of the game, things like price become much less concrete. I’m posting a couple of links to test prints that are on eBay. The high-end Magic crowd doesn’t play around.

The auction for that Plains I showed you

Giant Growth Test foil, for the best-looking Infect list ever

Here is a Counterspell with a price tag higher than some credit card limits

A Somehow Even Less-Playable Shivan Dragon

One of the more interesting things about Magic obscurities is that they can sometimes become lost, even to the hyper-aware Magic finance crowd. Featured below is the CoroCoro Magazine Shivan Dragon promo that was released in Japan to celebrate the upcoming Seventh Edition. (Note for young people: magazines were like the internet, but strictly worse. But sometimes they came with crap inside!)

corocoro shivan

Notice the alternate card back. This card is literally unplayable in sanctioned Magic (sweet gift, thanks!). The great thing about older, unimpressive regional promos like these is that they don’t stay in the public eye. Because people aren’t trolling eBay and such for these niche cards, it makes it possible to pick them up for surprising prices. I snatched one of these of eBay for $10, and was able to flip it for double. SCG actually has quite a few of them in stock, all for between $25 and $30 based on condition, but these were going for about $40 NM a while back. While demand is not very high, it’s still a collectable, and I imagine SCG is just content owning a bunch of them and moving them whenever. I’m still a buyer at $10, but not much higher.

More Expensive Promos. Like, Much More

It’s interesting to me that Wizards seems to be moving away from the regional distribution of promotional cards. Every GP gives away a [card]Batterskull[/card], every PTQ gives away a Liliana (I want yours, by the way), but it wasn’t always like that. I’ll lead off with what is likely the most high-profile example of a regional promo:


Only 32 of these exist, and they are going for roughly the same price as a beat up Unlimited Mox. If you didn’t make top four of Champs (which was basically States before “States” meant “eight-hour win-a-box tournament”) in England or Ireland, you likely don’t have one. Why these were not the selected promo for all Champs events is beyond me (I got a Doran).

Do you know what the JSS was? It was a tournament series for kids too young to understand the moral severity of cheating in Magic tournaments, but old enough to watch Rounders during FNM to ranch fish for scholarship money. No joke, many people still refer to, “Swamp, Duress” on turn one as the “JSS Opening,” since: #1. Duress was a great card 10 years ago, and #2. You immediately got to see your opponent’s hand to determine if he was playing an actual deck or not. Anyways, WOTC gave out a bunch of promos for JSS events, some of which are really expensive today. The program was later extended to be internationally run, and its somewhat abrupt end4 caused some promos to be under-distributed (or not given away at all). The best such example is the APAC Glorious Anthem, which was never given out, but has slowly leaked into the market through other means (supposedly, a former Wizards employee was given one as a parting gift). The APAC version is only identifiable by the APAC stamping on the foil watermark (I highlighted it for you).


I saw one of these close recently on eBay for about $650, although they’ve been known to go for much more.

The last thing I’ll leave you with is the Hachette or “Pegasus” cards. There was a program in Italy (and/or possibly Spain?) where you could basically register for a “Magic Encyclopedia Program” and they would mail you terrible decks to play with your friends. The cards were all white-bordered, had a unique Pegasus set symbol, and were part of a terrible system that nobody signed up for. Fast forward to our times, and the cards sell as yet another collectible oddity. The most playable card printed for this program was probably Marrow-Gnawer, although there was a Sliver deck with Riptide Replicator. You can find all of the decks (with card images) here.

I will see you again in 25 years. Or next week. Whatever. Actually, I’ll see some of you at GPNJ!




1 Nowhere is this more pronounced than Magic Online, where WOTC is literally restricting the amount of decklists that get published to try and delay format stagnation.

2 The only one I know of that has a larger printing is Chinese. More on this later!

3 Remind me some time to tell you why the foil premium is BS.

4 It was actually “redesigned” as the Magic Scholarship Series in ’07, and the Glorious Anthem was for that, and not the JSS. That said, the redesign only lasted a year, so meh. Everyone just called it the JSS then anyways.

Privileged Perspective 3 – Tired Legacy Pun

So I’m starting to get the handle on scheduling out my writing. Tuesday is my day, so it’s easier to schedule my own deadlines, allowing for more topical discussion. We are approaching what has traditionally been a slower time in Magic’s calendar, so for the most part, we aren’t missing much in terms of breaking developments. Of course, I’m also averaging more references to Billy Zane movies per article than decklists, so maybe I don’t quite have this down pat yet. Feel free to tell me how great I am in the comments below.

Last week, I talked about how to approach a Legacy GP from a finance perspective, but, like everything else in Magic, there is a lot more to it than that. Today is going to be my attempt at trying to explain everything I have learned about Legacy, from the perspective of a player and a… financier? Wait, is that right? Really? It does not sound right at all. We really gotta work on that—I get that #mtgfinance is too entrenched to stop, but it’s not like I’m writing Tezzeret a small business loan, or diversifying Garruk’s stock portfolio. Anyway, today is going to be my attempt at trying to explain everything I have learned about Legacy, from the perspective of a player and a… Magic buyer/seller/trader/make-money-occasionally person. Crap.

Legacy, An Incredibly Brief History

There was a very large stretch of time where Legacy was an irrelevant format, at least in the United States. It began in 2004, when Wizards split Type 1 into two formats: Legacy and Vintage (this is a gross oversimplification, but I’m fine with it). For years, it was essentially a sanctioned casual format, with cult followings scattered across the country, but not enough competitive level backing to make it a relevant format. In Europe, however, there was demand, and lots of dual lands crossed the Atlantic during the format’s down years. It is not inaccurate to say that the rise of Legacy stateside coincided with the beginnings of the SCG Open Series, and savvy players learned to look to European developments, which was at times weeks ahead of American environments (most notably, Maverick was a European strategy that later became popular in the US). For a period, Euro Legacy GP Madrid (2011) held the record of largest Magic event ever (replaced last year by Charlotte and then Vegas). Legacy has effectively existed for 10 years, but was only in the public consciousness for half of that. I won’t even bother telling you what has happened to the price tag on [card]Underground Sea[/card] between the release of Matchbox Twenty’s “Unwell” and now. I know right now you don’t care.

The next two sections will address the format from a player perspective and from a finance perspective—although it may be difficult to understand the former if you skip the latter. Brace yourselves, this is gonna be a long one.

Legacy, From the Player’s Perspective

Let’s rip the bandage off quickly and move on. Magic is expensive sometimes, and until you develop time travel, you will be forced to operate within the parameters of our current situation. WOTC is firmly behind the reserved list, even though they don’t seem to like it any more than we do. This, however, does not make getting into Legacy impossible—it just makes it require more work. Trust me, it is worth it.

Legacy and Vintage (and to a much smaller degree, Modern) are fascinating in the sense that there are an overwhelming amount of archetypes in the formats. This causes two things to happen:

  1. It rewards experience.
  2. It allows you to “level up” your deck over time, which grows experience.

That’s right, Legacy is actually a Spike’s Magic RPG!

BRIEF ASIDE: When I started really getting into Legacy a few years back, I started small. I was fortunate to be diving into the format alongside Zendikar, which allowed me immediate access to [card]Verdant Catacombs[/card] (GB has been, is, and forever will be my preferred color combination). The list I started with was a budget version of a deck called Eva Green, which is essentially a suicide black deck that someone (not me) named after the actress. I tried to look for my original list to no avail, but I can tell you it featured [card]Gatekeeper of Malakir[/card] and [card]Vampire Hexmage[/card] alongside [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and [card]Thoughtseize[/card]. While I was fortunate to start out with Goyfs at my disposal, I can also tell you I have not played the card in Legacy in at least two years. Just because it is good doesn’t mean you cannot live without it.

Very few people get into Legacy with one fell swoop of a credit card. I certainly didn’t. What I always tell people who are serious is pick an archetype or strategy that you really like, and dedicate yourself to it (sounds like what we talked about in Privileged Perspective 1!). I started with the black deck, because [card]Dark Ritual[/card] into [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card] or [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card] is what I consider to be fun. If Delver or Infect is your cup of tea, so be it. A surprising percentage of cards that are good in Legacy have the modern card frame(s), so in terms of playing, you really don’t have to reach that far back in time. The absolute most important part is that you put something together, and start playing with it. You need to start grinding XP!

SECOND BRIEF ASIDE: A lot of people will tell you to just play red. While this is kind of a crummy, stereotypical thing that seems to compound the whole “Legacy is expensive” stigma, the real, under-articulated reason people say that is because it is the best deck in terms of raw percentage points that you can put together on a budget. You don’t lose games to sequencing errors (hopefully), your game plan is linear and redundant, and you won’t experience the same, “Long Round Fatigue” that sets in on Miracles players after round four. Some of the cards, like [card]Chain Lightning[/card], are rebounding from the PDS box, but the deck is still affordable since the majority of the cards aren’t even rares. This allows you to start grinding with a known quantity right out of the gate.

So you have a starting deck. It won’t be winning any beauty contests, but it is yours. You may be playing shock lands instead of duals, but the important part is that you find (or help cultivate) a local Legacy environment, and you start playing in events. It is one thing to read decklists, but until you see what CounterTop can do in person, or you feel the pressure exerted by Infect, you can’t really understand how to best defeat them. The more you get a feel for these matchups, the more you can tune your deck to more concisely shore up your weaknesses. You’ll also start racking up wins as you go, and the prizes can be turned into the cards you are missing! As you improve your game, you’ll be able to decide and determine whether you really need those Goyfs that were pricing you out of Legacy, or if it’s better to keep playing [card]Treasure Cruise[/card] and find another creature that is more synergistic with delve.

I had a long-winded diatribe on Twitter the other day about [card]Wasteland[/card]. More than anything, Wasteland is the key to getting into this format. I really, really, really hope we get a more generous printing of this card soon. You know how good Mono-Red is in Modern because everyone starts at 14 life? Well, whereas life is the check against greedy mana in modern, [card]Wasteland[/card] is the check against it in Legacy. It is also crucial in the fair/tempo decks, since it can prevent your opponents from progressing into the later phases of their game on time. If you buy or trade any big-ticket card to get into the format, there probably isn’t a better choice than Wasteland.

We’ll wrap up this section with one more Legacy secret. So, unless you’re the Cutler family or Jenny McCarthy, you understand how herd immunity works. [card]Force of Will[/card] is an important part of Legacy because it keeps the very unfair decks from overrunning the format, but it is also $100. If your small Legacy environment has fewer combo players than [card]Force of Will[/card] players, you will likely be fine without Force, since the people that do play them will suppress the overall success of the combo decks. If your environment doesn’t have [card]Force of Will[/card] players, however, this is your chance to play some Belcher (another one of the few decks where shock lands are literally just as good as duals!). If you can’t get Forces and you don’t play combo, then make sure you have a proactive game plan against combo decks, by which I mean disruption. [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is just as good as Force in that you can answer their bottleneck card, although you need to live long enough to cast it. [card]Spell Pierce[/card] is probably the best straight-up replacement for Force, since neither are great against creature decks, and the two-mana tax is typically significant enough to throw off their ability to combo off.


Good news! If you are looking to Legacy as a way of diversifying your Magic portfolio, you don’t’ really need either Force or Wasteland! These, along with duals and some other things, are the equivalent of blue-chip stocks, which are great long term, but you really won’t see a huge ROI when you decide to move them. If you want to own sets for personal use, or are able to trade standard cards for them, then these are fine targets, but today I will mostly focus on more volatile options.

REALLY BRIEF ASIDE, I PROMISE: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS TRADE STANDARD CARDS FOR RESERVED LIST CARDS IF YOU CAN. Elspeth, the Whatever is expensive now, but [card]Bayou[/card] will be expensive forever. Take a little bit of a hit if you have to, but this is the safest thing you can do by far. Know what is and is not on the RL, and make this offer with every store owner you know—most LGSs would rather have fat stacks of Theros mythics than that dual land, anyway.

One thing I should get out of the way now is harp on condition. If you are buying these cards to play, like our friends from the previous section, then buy the most beat-to-hell copies that are still sleeve-playable. In fact, every big GP I go to, one of the first things I ask dealers during their slow time (early Saturday) is what super-beat cards they have, and what kind of a deal they can make me. My first three Forces were $50 for all of them. They looked like garbage, but I was still able to trade them away two years later for a healthy gain. If you are looking to have stuff to sell, however, you probably want as close to mint as you can get. Negotiating condition on anything below NM- on the internet is a pain in the butt, so if you are looking for stuff to sell, target quality condition.

So let’s talk about some things I do like: what makes a good eternal-format spec? Well, it has to either be on the reserved list, or be pre-Mirrodin. While there are some great eternal playables in the newer frames, the added pressures of a Modern reprint limits the long-term potential of many of these. The best example of a card I like as a target is [card]Cabal Therapy[/card]. Cabal Therapy is not on the reserved list and is not currently in Modern. Now, CT is one of my absolute favorite cards, and I wish they would have put it in Innistrad, but there is a problem: it’s way too good!

I had a brief exchange with a WOTC R&D member on Twitter recently (not disclosing your sources is legal, check the Patriot Act), where he/she/Ashiok described to me some of the myriad reasons why [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] is not a likely candidate for Modern. As a fan of the card, this is unfortunate, but as a collector and speculator, this tells me it is safe to move on these, even after the big price jump they made last year. The only versions of the card that exist are the set copies, FNM promos, and the PDS ones. I like all of them equally, but try to prioritize making sets, since this is a card that gets played as a four-of, and players will want matching sets (this avoids giving away free information to opponents). Also, since the only non-foils were from the set printing over a decade ago, those will stay strong with people trying to avoid foils.

There are few more criteria CT has going for it—first, the card is awful in Commander.

BRIEF ASIDE: [card]Goblin Welder[/card] would have been a decent recommendation from me up until last Friday, when it was spoiled in the Red C14 deck (called it!). This is great for the rest of the cards in the Welder decks (Painted Stone, UR Welder, assorted Forgemaster/Metalworker decks), but will probably keep Welder down for a while, given what I expect to be a healthy printing.

Cabal Therapy is beyond awful in Commander, which means it is a virtual 0-percent chance of a reprint in one of those supplemental products. After next year’s swan song core set, we are likely to see very few actual reprints appear out of nowhere (The Cabal, it should be mentioned, is a proper noun, making it even harder to get this into any given set. Thanks, Vorthos!).

The last thing I want to harp on here is something I touched on just a little bit ago—understand what is and is not acceptable by current design standards. [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] is way too good for Standard, which means it will never make it to Modern, which keeps it relegated to the land of Legacy. Understanding what is too good to exist in today’s game can help you find a lot of hidden gems. These are the things like [card]Shallow Grave[/card] that randomly spike and then stick, rather than things like [card]Summoner’s Egg[/card] that spike and then bottom back out.

So we just broke down the majority of Legacy Finance 101 by evaluating a single card! Now when you want to break down Legacy spec targets, you know the different variables to consider before doing so. Of course, this is just scratching the surface, so if you want a more in-depth breakdown, let me know in the comments, and we will do another Legacy special again sometime soon.

Let’s close out this week with some quick Legacy hits!

  • [card]Show and Tell[/card] is one of those cards that everyone suspects is probably a little too good for Legacy (or at least in post-Emrakul America). It’s too high to buy in with cash (I don’t like tying a lot of my cash up in stuff that I don’t expect to move), but if the format keeps pushing towards fast, aggressive decks, then S&T may slip a bit in popularity. Be careful though, I see S&T as a prime choice for a functional reprint (but at a much fairer mana cost) since the original doesn’t mention planeswalkers and the effect is interesting for multiplayer. If that happens, then the possibility of a S&T ban is not impossible.
  • All versions of [card]Entomb[/card] (especially the Judge Promo) feel too cheap to me. By the way, did you know that Entomb was supposed to be a Judge Promo right before PDS Graveborn came out? These are (according to a judge friend of mine) them.
  • In no world does [card]Rishadan Port[/card] feel like a $120 card. It is also terrible in this environment. It is probably fair enough to exist in some future Commander or Conspiracy type product. I wouldn’t keep any of my eggs in that basket.
  • [card]Cabal Coffers[/card] wasn’t in the Black C14 deck. If they haven’t spiked already, expect a possible price bump soon.
  • [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] is a pillar of the current format. Easily has more room to grow.
  • The two most immediately playable cards from C14 in Legacy are Containment Priest and Dualcaster Mage. I expect the former to see play in the majority of White decks- it is more than “just” another Hate Bear. The latter may make it into some of the more adventurous Red lists, since copying a Fireblast EoT and then untapping and attacking is a cool 10 damage. Expect to pay a premium if you plan to buy the White deck soon, especially if you’re in the Northeast in the next two weeks.

As always, thanks for reading!





Privileged Perspective 2: A Fistful of Bullet Points

No time to chit-chat, we’ve got a lot to get to. What are you doing?! Go to the next paragraph, hurry!


I’ve lived through a lot of changes to Organized Play. I saw the fall of the Junior Super Series, the old States, Regionals, Player Rewards (I’ll mention these again later!), and more, but this is the strangest of them all:


There are several interesting takeaways here.

  • First, the idea of consistently being able to fire a cube draft as a part of, rather than as opposed to, the FNM structure is exciting. It’s always hard to get enough people at the table all at the same time, and using the built-in attendance of Friday Night Magic is a great way to draft your cube with sketchy strangers and kids who don’t know what half your cards do.
  • They have just about every format but Vintage listed. Sure, it wouldn’t matter if they did, since they would almost never fire, but still—it’s disrespectful.
  • The fact that they have a choice called “Invent Your Own Format” followed immediately by “Any Combination of the Above” is possibly the most nihilistic thing I have ever seen. Screw it! LET THE PEOPLE PLAY WHAT THEY WANT. THERE ARE FANATICS OF XENAGOS TO BE WON.
  • If you’ve ever run FNMs, you know there is always a new kid who has a deck that is basically every white card he has ever seen, and there are usually some non-Standard cards in the mix. The first thing I thought of when I saw this announcement was, “Well, I guess I won’t ever have to worry about that again”. I’ll call my new format “Standard Plus Shitty Grab-Bag Commons for Middle Schoolers.”You can’t stop me!
  • Emperor is seriously underrated. That was my favorite multiplayer format, and I guess still is.
  • Story time: The only time I ever played Archenemy was at Pro Tour San Juan (what we would now call Pro Tour Rise of the Eldrazi), and they were debuting the format as a part of their “Summer of Multiplayer” program. I was pitted against Randy Buehler (the archenemy!), and my team was a couple of Puerto Rican kids who had come to visit the event site and spoke no English. Now, I speak enough Spanish to lie my way through a job interview, but trying to translate how to play actual Magic against a Hall of Famer who has, like, 1000 life and keeps drawing extra cards somehow wasn’t in my linguistic wheelhouse. So yeah, Archenemy sucks.
  • I’ve never heard of Wizard’s Tower before and it sounds dumb. I bet WUBRG the Muppet plays it a lot.


Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Ross, these stories are really great and entertaining, and I would love to send you money on Patreon, but what about the REAL NEWS? We can play Commander FNMs now!”

That’s true! But I don’t think that this is going to be a major change for the format as a whole. Like any good researcher, allow me to walk you though personal experiences I’ve taken from a small sample size:

There are a handful of guys that show up at my LGS to loiter play Commander on FNM night. They do not play in the Standard tournament. Most of them have what you would consider to be competitive or powerful decks, and they never fail to show up weekly, even though the only thing they are doing is taking up valuable table space and cursing loudly. Your first thought might be, as mine was, along the lines of ,“Now they can play FNM!”

But in reality, they may not want to.

As generous as these new formatting options may seem, they are still sanctioned Magic tournaments. Many players, for one reason or another, use proxied cards in their decks, and these guys are no exception. This is our first snag to getting people to play CMDRFNM: card availability. Card availability is always an annoying argument to make, and it exists to some degree in all formats. In this case, cards may be more than a decade removed from printing, and may not be available for purchase in the store at all. The players who want to participate will power down their lists, while the rest will continue to play unsanctioned, proxy Magic for free.


What will happen to those that do play? Well, the local environment will quickly dissolve into Haves and Have Nots. Competitive Commander is in many ways less balanced than Legacy or Vintage, in the sense that the padded life totals and deck restrictions actually favor combo, while pushing out aggressive strategies almost entirely. This means that the winner of the events is going to consistently be the guy who shows up with Five-Color Tutors for Turn-Two Combos, which will get old fast. The idea of a “gentleman’s agreement” in this format goes out the window when you pay $5 to play. It won’t be long until the fish go back to playing free, proxied, unsanctioned Commander, and the sharks go back to Standard, sanctioned Draft, or Wizard’s Tower.


The best weekend of the year is coming up for MTG finance people, and you may not have even been aware of it. I don’t mean some sort of cyclical, Farmer’s Almanac sort of week where prices are at their lowest (I’ll take that secret to my grave!), but it’s a week where anything can happen, and where you can get really good deals on high-profile cards. It’s Legacy GP weekend! If you aren’t sure why these are a big deal, let me walk you through a couple quick points, and then we will dive in deeper from there.

  • This is one of the few high-profile Legacy events on the yearly calendar. Sure, SCG has their circuit, but these are typically more in line with the Bazaar of Moxen or Eternal Weekend (formerly just known as GenCon). You will see a lot of players fly in from out of the country for this.
  • This is the only grand prix where players have access to Reserved List cards, or anything else below the Mirrodin line. This creates some very interesting opportunities for floor-traders and dealers going into the weekend.
  • The dealer situation at these events is typically the best of the year. You may get the big boys at most of the GPs (SCG, CoolStuff, etc), but Legacy Weekend draws out more than usual, and they bring all their high-dollar items with them.
  • Those vendors I just mentioned? They typically end up with more stuff than they want to take back home, creating a great opportunity for buyers with cash in-hand. The smaller vendors that end up with high-dollar items are also more than happy to trade for Standard staples, if you’ve ever wondered how many Elspeths it would take to make a [card]Mox Emerald[/card].
  • If you have any interest in the niche Magic markets like #JPFoils, these are basically a family reunion. Who’s hungry for casserole!


Some of those are self-explanatory, but let’s walk through the important parts. Legacy is a tough format to crack, since it is one of the few formats that is still defined regionally (every store has Khans, but how many have Revised?). The list of decks in the format is staggering, but there are some that you will see more often because they are easier to assemble for newer players. The percentage of those decks appearing scales with player attendance. To put it plainly, the guy with the set of Candelabras is going to show up no matter what, but the majority of people who decide to come either on a whim or with friends is likely going to register some number of [card]Fireblast[/card]s. If Grand Prix New Jersey even comes close to its lofty attendance expectations (I’ve seen numbers that would put GP Vegas to shame), then the amount of people registering these more common decks becomes a serious metagaming consideration.

Let’s use an example of this to discuss the second bullet point. Grand Prix Providence was the Legacy GP in 2011, and the format was starting to see serious growth due to the SCG circuit in the US (Europe has, for various reasons, a much longer pedigree with eternal Magic). One of the better decks in the format at the time was Merfolk, which was (and still somewhat is) very easy to put together by Legacy deck standards. The deck was all over SCG streams, and was considered by many to be a known quantity going into the tournament*. Prior to the start of the main event, Merfolk pieces saw a rise to match the obvious demand, but what really shot up were the expected hate cards. I am not proud to say how much I spent on my two of [card]Llawan, Cephalid Empress[/card], but they were some of the only available copies left in the building. Dealers were paying great percentages on them because they knew they could make a quick flip before the event started, but by Sunday evening they were back to reality. One copy of Merfolk made the top eight of that event, and I played it twice on Saturday.

*If you are playing in a Legacy tournament, knowing that you will play a certain matchup at least once is a considerable advantage, since Sideboard space is limited. Knowing you may play it multiple times over the weekend? Valuable.

Let’s skip past the next bullet, but make sure you read it. Got it? Okay.

In 2014, it’s going to be rare that you go to a GP or equivalent-sized event in the US and don’t see some combination of Star City, Cool Stuff, Card Kingdom, Strike Zone, Troll & Toad, etc. At the very big events (like this one!) though, you’ll see smaller shops come out of the woodwork, and boy, do they want to make a splash. Come Sunday of Legacy GP weekend, though, and they are looking at a lot of cards they don’t want to lug back home. You see, Star City Games (and a very small percentage of their competitors) is large enough that they have the luxury of being able to “sit” on that crimped, miscut, artist-signed [card]Moat[/card] they bought Saturday morning—they know the right buyer will come along eventually, and when he does, they will get whatever they want for it. The vast majority of vendors, however, are going home to a much more predictable market. Maybe they are bringing back some beat up dual lands because they know there are a couple guys who will pay cash for them, but for the most part, they are burdened with a lot of stuff that is going to rot in a display case for a long time.

This creates the second great phenomenon of Legacy GP weekend—the buyer’s market. Bring cash, and negotiate prices (within reason. Being a jerk by offering insulting prices is the quickest way to lose out). When negotiating with a vendor, especially on high-dollar items, consider the following:

  • How much do they have in this already? Assume that they were likely buylisting for at least 55 percent. If they weren’t, who would have sold it to them? If it is a very unique or expensive item (think Power or an absurd foreign foil), it is not rude to ask what they have to get out of it to make a deal (although I wouldn’t ask anything much more probing than that unless you have an established relationship with this dealer).

  • Keep perspective of what you’re buying. The Reserved List isn’t going away, so these prices don’t have the same risks inherent in Modern cards. With the exception of Kai Budde’s house, dual lands don’t just show up out of the blue anymore, so getting 85 percent on an [card]Underground Sea[/card] is going to be a real value.

  • Condition is always negotiable. Again, don’t be a jerk, but if you honestly don’t feel happy paying $X for Y, tell them. They will either talk it down with you, or let you walk.

With all that being said, here’s a little cheat sheet on how to plan your weekend, if you are going to GPNJ and don’t care about actually playing in it:

FRIDAY: Sell into hype with vendors, trade with players (remember, no selling to players!)

SATURDAY: Trade with vendors (how many [card]Steam Vents[/card] for your [card]Time Walk[/card]?) since they have nothing to do during the early rounds anyway. Try to learn what they need, and build a rapport. Identify which ones you will want to check in on tomorrow.

SUNDAY: Starting around lunch time, have cash and make deals.

I hope this all helps! Legacy GP weekend is also a lot of fun, so don’t spend all your time wheeling and dealing.

Come back next time, when I answer all the questions you’ve ever had about Legacy (but were too afraid to ask).



Privileged Perspective 1: Genesis

Hi! My name is Ross. I typically prefer to keep these initial introductions pretty short, since you will hopefully learn more about me through my writing than a ham-fisted miniature biography. Perhaps you are familiar with some of my many award-winning tweets? Haha, you’re right, that WAS a good one! Take that, status quo!

The purpose of this article series is simple: page-views. exploring Magic through various perspectives. I have an academic background in history, and every historian knows that the moon landing was faked. one side doesn’t tell the entire story. As someone who has been around all aspects of Magic for more than a decade, I certainly feel that I have the advantage of perspective to share. These articles will typically be more train-of-thought in structure, or like a podcast in the sense that I may totally lose track of what I’m talking about or lie to my publisher to avoid deadlines (Hi, Jason!). I hope at the very least that my writing inspires you on a deeply resonant spiritual level and makes me a ton of money.


This week it’s specialization, conspiracies (not the draft set, the “holy crap, he’s insane” ones), and some Standard finance talk. Let’s get started!

On Specialization

If you have watched any sort of streaming Modern tournament in the last year, you have heard some iteration of the following: “This format rewards players who focus on learning to play one style of deck”. While the statement may seem obvious and unnecessary to repeat ad nauseum (because it is), this is also very likely the saving grace of the Modern format. Modern replaced Nu Extended, which replaced Extended, which was my favorite format. If you weren’t around for the halcyon days of Extended, then you’ve likely heard that it was “just a PTQ format” (PTQs were tournaments you could pla—eh, forget it). Because Extended rotated annually (like Standard), the ability to “specialize” was very difficult—archetypes dependent on a single card or interaction all had an expiration date (think [card]Birthing Pod[/card]), and there were fewer events to hone the particular set of skills required to elevate your play. Legacy and Vintage have always had these specialists, because the dead are not bound by the shackles of time.

The ability to specialize affords Modern a lot of hidden benefits at every level of play. While I am mostly okay with the original idea of Standard-only pro tours, it is definitely exciting to see skilled players master an archetype over several seasons, and builds a unique anticipation for the events. On the opposite end of that spectrum, it is easy to grow new Modern players locally if they are able to make the transition off of a particularly robust Standard season (of which we have had a few recently).

BRIEF ASIDE- I’ve helped push a few players at my store out into the breach of Modern, and having easy access to recently reprinted staples like [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and shock lands has definitely helped. I don’t envy someone who tries to buy in three years from now, and sees the prices on things like [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], [card]Thoughtseize[/card], and [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card].

Part of the reason why [card]Bitterblossom[/card] received such a hearty welcome on its unbanning was because people who had committed to playing it for so long had the chance to truly specialize in the deck. I’ve played against Modern faeries a few times, and the players who didn’t play the deck when it was in Standard have yet to take a game from me.


An Inconvenient Truth

At this point, I have no doubt that Khans of Tarkir will be the best-selling Magic set of all time. Then again, that is a distinction that is losing credibility every time it gets handed out (like a Grammy!).

When Zendikar became the best-selling set of all time, it was at the beginning of the player boom that we are now several years into. When Return to Ravnica became the best-selling set ever, it wasn’t a surprise—WotC even back-loaded the announcement because they knew people would go crazy-town banana-pants for it.

Zendikar and Return to Ravnica were sets that weren’t just “fun to draft” or “had exciting rares.” There was a magnetism in the air that you could feel. People weren’t just excited, they were enthralled. With Zendikar, I remember driving around with some friends to every store we could think of in central Florida, just trying to get our hands on as much of it as we could. The fear that product would actually dry up as stores waited for the second print run was something unimaginable in that era, and yet it did! Return to Ravnica, possibly the most genuinely hyped set ever, had such demand on release that stores were afraid that the distributors wouldn’t even have enough!

Then, apparently, Theros outsold them both.


It’s like when Titanic was the highest-grossing movie ever, and you said “That movie was incredible! They were in love, even though society would never allow it! “She changed her last name to Dawson to remember him forever!” And then the Lord of the Rings trilogy broke that record and you said, “SHIT YEAH! FRODO AND GIMLI AND LEGOLAS AND THE GUY FROM A BRIEF HISTORY OF VIOLENCE AND THE GUY FROM LOST AND BOROMIR AND ORCS AND THE GUY WHO PLAYED COUNT DOOKU AND MORE ORCS AND…” Well, let’s just say you were pretty excited about those movies too.

And then Theros, like some sort of comic book movie sequel blows them both out of the water, because people bought Super Deluxe HD 3D tickets that cost $45 dollars each, and a part of you just sinks. Theros wasn’t a bad set, and Khans certainly isn’t either, but they don’t have that same spark in the air that was inescapable with the first two. I’ll never let go, Jack!

…This, of course, brings us to a much darker point.

The reason why these sets keep blowing each other out is the astronomical population growth I ever so briefly mentioned before. This is also the reason why, if that population ever stops growing or regresses, Magic finance will be absolutely turned upside down. It may sound crazy, and we may never actually get the hard numbers, but here are some things that I have been pondering over for the past year or so:

    1. Zendikar was the beginning of the player boom, fall of ’09 (five years ago).
    2. Mark Rosewater says that the average player sticks around for roughly eight years.
    3. Because of the double-digit population growth in Magic, half of all Magic players have been playing for two years or less.
    4. We are currently more than halfway through the life of a player who started at the beginning of the boom.
    5. Jet fuel burns at 800-1500 degrees, but steel melts at 2750 degrees.

These problems are still several years away, but WOTC is in the business of working in the future (some in the “future future”), and print runs are very difficult to change last minute. If the eight-year mark sees a drop in player growth that matches the gains we saw five years ago, then the trend may continue (bursting a player bubble, if there is one), and meaning sets, at least in the short term, get overprinted, thus meaning a supply spike, a demand drop, and very likely, the return of Elo ratings and block PTQs.

The flipside to this, of course, is that player population doesn’t start dropping off, and that we stay on this “everyone just plays Magic now” train for years to come. If the drop off at the eight-year mark is slight, or is so small the amount of new players coming in makes up for it, then I expect blocks even as popular as RTR and Theros to have some huge financial upside. Print run orders got ramped up after the Zendikar shortage, and like baseball players in the ’90s, I expect they get juiced more and more every year. The reason early Modern cards (or just Future Sight in general) hold some of these weird premiums is that print runs for analogous sets (fall block to fall block, etc.) are in some cases way off in terms of scale.


A couple common-sense Modern rules of thumb: if it’s a frequent three- or four-of in multiple decks ([card]Abrupt Decay[/card], [card]Thoughtseize[/card]), it’s safe no matter what set it’s in. If it’s in a third set, especially if it has a set-specific mechanic ([card]Birthing Pod[/card], [card]Spellskite[/card]), it’s safe. I expect the next Modern Masters to be printed in higher volumes, but I don’t know if the set cutoff (last time it was Alara Reborn) will make it up to New Phyrexia or Innistrad. It likely depends on if it’s coming this summer or not. If they don’t make it to New Phyrexia, expect another surge on the two cards I mentioned in this paragraph.

PT Watch

You’re most likely You are reading this after PT Hawaii ended. Who won? Never mind, that’s not important right now. How many [card]Wingmate Roc[/card]s were in the top eight? This is a card that is getting talked up a lot prior to the PT, and is likely one of the better mythics in Khans. If you didn’t buy in before the price hit $10, however, it may be best to wait it out.

Every [card]Wingmate Roc[/card] deck had Elspeth in it, right? They synergize really well together, and can do a good job of playing offense or defense. Elspeth is, like most of the jocks from my high school, going to go out on top, before failing to ever make something of herself in the real world. I don’t see her coming down for any reason until rotation, though, so if you need a set, you may as well bite the bullet.

Two cards that I expect to be big gainers? [card]Hornet Queen[/card] and [card]Doomwake Giant[/card]. Each one is good in part because of the other, and both are in ranges where they could easily see a significant price increase. If [card]Doomwake Giant[/card] hits, expect him to bring [card]Eidolon of Blossoms[/card] with him, since they don’t appear in decks without the other.

hornet queen

I don’t expect to see much new in terms of red deck technology, especially from a financial perspective. Black aggro is probably just a shade worse, but the disruption buys them time, and [card]Master of the Feast[/card] is slowly gaining traction. Look for him to break out at an SCG Open later in the year.

I’ll end with this: the big gainers are going to be out of Born, Journey, or M15. Theros and Khans don’t have the right ingredients to see something shoot up, although the rich (Elspeth, Stormbreath, Temples, other planeswalkers) will likely get richer. The time to buy in on Khans is coming up—if you don’t need it tomorrow, wait until around Christmas. We are already seeing stuff like fetch lands drop. After all, Khans is going to be the most popular set ever.