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First of all I’d like to thank Monty & the rest of the people working on the mothership for featuring the Twitter Snowball piece in Friday’s Community Spotlight. I’ll do more of them in the future, twitter willing, and I have claim no ownership of the concept so feel free to start your own snowballs rolling! Secondly I’d like to welcome all the first time visitors and I hope you’ll stick around 🙂 Lastly thanks to Jon Medina from MTG Metagame for inspiring today’s post with his comments here.

Today I want to talk about something that’s been bugging me a lot. I pay a lot of attention to the secondary market as I don’t have the disposable income to drop on a case of each new set, so I like to make smart buys on sleeper cards which I can trade up when they make the big time. Preorders used to be a great way to do this as the prices were usually lower than they would be once the new metagame sorted itself out – Bitterblossom preordered at $7, for example. To me this is the natural state of things – the cards are unproven, they may not even find a deck. There is no reason to take the plunge on an expensive unproven card as its not like retailers will run out of stock, but this state has been upended by the emergence of tournament staple mythic rares.

Future Sight


Jon puts the origin of this change at Future Sight and the ubiquitous villain of the secondary market, Tarmogoyf. Old Goyfy was the mother of all sleeper rares, going unnoticed as a $3-$4 card for a few weeks after the set was released. Then people realised it was broken in half, and the price just kept rising. Past $20, past $30, past $40, to the almost unbelievable price of $50 for an in print, standard legal card. And people bought them by the truckload. Without 4 Goyfs you were really limiting the card power available to you and if you wanted to get on the Pro Tour or just have the best shot at winning FNM, getting Goyfs was a high priority. What is important to this discussion is that the players became resigned to the fact that $50 a card was not an  impossible price for a standard card. Despite not being reprinted Tarmogoyf was a vision into the future of magic – a future with increasingly expensive cards.

The Wicked Witch


Flash forward to M10. Goyf is long gone from standard but we have these new mythic rares to worry about. So far they have been fairly sedate, price-wise, besides the Shards of Alara planeswalkers. Then we see a Serra Angel upgrade – better power, better toughness, better abilities, and a Mythic Rare. SCG put a $15 price tag on it but that was quickly revised upwards as the articles started flooding out about how it was the most busted card in standard, possibly the best creature since Tarmogoyf. $30 seems about right for a top standard rare, based on comparisons with Mutavault, Reflecting Pool and Bitterblossom which were other top cards at the time.

Then Brian Kibler’s team designs the PT:Austin winning extended deck with maindeck Baneslayers, and the crowd goes wild. The set was short-printed, making this mythic rare even rarer, and now Baneslayer is showing up all over the place. The price takes another leap – $50 each, where it has stayed ever since. People are getting increasingly comfortable with $50 cards in standard, and Wizards explain that people misunderstood when they announced mythic rares – all bets are off, and nearly any card can have that little orange symbol.

More Flops than John Travolta

Zendikar spoilers. Mike Flores announces Lotus Cobra, the 2/1 for 2 with the famous name, and pronounces it ‘obviously better than Dark Confidant’. It pre-sells for $30.

Worldwake spoilers. Abyssal Persecutor is hyped out the wazoo. Another $30 card. Even more outrageously Jace, the Mind Sculptor preorders for $60, making it the highest priced card for a standard format it isn’t even legal in yet.

Both of these $30 cards have lost over 50% of their value since that time.

Now. Rise of the Eldrazi spoilers. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is preordering at $30 and if he is at a higher price than Lotus Cobra/Abyssal Persecutor in 6 months time I will be astonished. Even more ludicrous is Hellcarver Demon for $15. This guy is a bulk mythic without a doubt, and this price is just silly. While there are a lot of awesome cards in the set some of the pricing decisions on preorders are way off base.

Going Forward

So, now that preorders are more expensive than buying the cards down the track and $50 mythics are expected, what can you do? Don’t preorder the hype cards, for one. Everyone is worried about missing out on the next Baneslayer, but when the preorders are already at Baneslayer prices what are you missing? I wrote a piece about why I didn’t get Jaces before Worldwake’s release and I stand by everything in it. Even though he has turned out to be all that and a bag of crisps, his price has hardly changed. If you want to play with the hype cards but can’t afford it, hold off for a couple of months. Most, if not all of them will see a dip as people realise their true worth, and even if they are smash hits they are unlikely to rise much.

I’ll be discussing spoilers this Wednesday over on ManaNation and then after the whole set is revealed I’ll be doing a Financial Value of… piece with a non-BenBleiweiss-plagiarizing title. Suggestions welcome 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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Twitter is a fantastic tool, just have a read of @robjelf’s blog post to see why you should be using it if you’re not already. However when people start to spitball combo decks and everyone joins in to tack on a third, fourth, or fifth card to the combo that will ‘definitely’ push it into tournament playability you end up with an unplayable pile most of the time. @YoMTGTaps coined the term “Twitter Snowball” to describe these decks, and today I decided to see what sort of a deck the assembled power of the world’s most talkative MTG minds could come up with, starting with just one card.

Djinn Snowball

4x Sage Owl

4x Djinn of Wishes

1x Kozilek, Butcher of Truth

1x Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

1x Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

11 creatures

.

4x Ponder

4x Jace, the Mind Sculptor

2x Splinter Twin

4x Fabricate

1x Mirror of Fate

3x Dreamstone Hedron

1x Darksteel Colossus

2x Selective Memory

3x Cruel Ultimatum

24 non-creature spells

.

4x Crumbling Necropolis

4x Scalding Tarn

4x Halimar Depths

3x Mountain

10x Island

25 lands

The central plan of the deck is to cheat on the mana cost of expensive spells by using Djinn of Wishes. The expensive spells we have to choose from are one of each of the legendary Eldrazi, a Darksteel Colossus, and the mighty Cruel Ultimatum. To help set up on the top of our deck we have a number of options including Halimar Depths, Ponder, Sage Owl and Jace. Splinter Twin is an odd choice but it does let you create new Djinns to avoid using up counters, and making a Sage Owl every turn makes sure you always have something good on top of your deck.

A more nutty way to go is the combo of Selective Memory and Mirror of Fate which lets you arrange your library however you like! We have Fabricate to find our one Mirror, because getting two is not that helpful, and I’ve also included Dreamstone Hedrons as either some decent card draw or a potent plan B, ramping into monsters the old fashioned way. Jace is an absolute monster in this deck, as his first and second abilities have obvious applications and his unsummon ability is great for reloading on wish counters.

There we go! Every nonland card was suggested on twitter besides the Colossus and Hedrons, which I added in to help out Fabricate. Thankyou everyone for your suggestions, and if anyone is game enough to give this deck a try please let us know how it turns out 🙂

Hey folks, just a quick post to alert everybody to a brand new deck archetype that just won an MTGO Premier event – Naya Allies! It beat Red, UW counterless control and Jund in the top 8 and FFfreak, Brad Nelson himself, finished 22nd so you know this was no lousy competition. The best part is, the deck is super budget – for the time being! Without further ado, here’s the list:

lord_ra (1st Place)
Standard Premier #1043317 on 03/23/2010
Main Deck

60 cards

Arid Mesa
Forest
Jungle Shrine
Mountain
Plains
Raging Ravine
Stirring Wildwood
Sunpetal Grove


23 lands

Akoum Battlesinger
Bloodbraid Elf
Hada Freeblade
Kabira Evangel
Kazandu Blademaster
Ondu Cleric
Oran-Rief Survivalist
Ranger of Eos
Talus Paladin


30 creatures
Naya Charm
Violent Outburst


7 other spells
Sideboard
Dauntless Escort
Devout Lightcaster
Ondu Cleric
Path to Exile
Tuktuk Scrapper


15 sideboard cards

With only a handful of rares and Bloodbraid Elves to worry about on the cost front, this list could be a real trend-setter in standard. I wish I had time at the moment to test the deck, as it is I can only provide the list and encouragement to try it out for yourselves.

Disclaimer: Between starting this piece and finishing it Wizards have announced they will not be abolishing the reserved list, in fact they are making their reprint policy more strict with regard to the list. This is disappointing to say the least, but the below is provided since I’ve already written it and it was requested on twitter.

There has been a lot of heated discussion recently about the reserved list. For those of you not familiar with the list, here’s Wizards’ official reprint policy. The reserved list is, simply, a list of cards from the early days of magic that WotC promised not to reprint, ever. They made this promise because the wild popularity of magic meant demand for cards from sets like Legends far outstripped the meagre supply available. Cards like the Elder Dragon legends were going for $20-$30 each based on scarcity. When these and other cards were reprinted in Chronicles, the price went through the floor. Stores and collectors had paid good money for these rare cards expecting them to hold their value, and they didn’t. To stop stores from walking away from the game entirely, Wizards introduced the reserved list. By promising not to reprint certain cards, they guaranteed that their value would not be destroyed overnight by reprints.

In the fifteen or so years since, the game has changed immeasurably. I won’t begin to list the differences in circumstances between then and now as any list I could compile in a reasonable amount of time would certainly be incomplete. Suffice to say that I believe the reserved list no longer serves its intended purpose. Birds of Paradise and Wrath of God are two excellent examples of cards not subject to the reserved list, that have been reprinted countless times, and yet the early versions have held their high value. This side of the argument has been argued well by Ben Bleiweiss and Stephen Menendian and I won’t rehash those arguments here either – there are hundreds of posts on the SCG forum in response to their articles that you can gander at if you haven’t already.

The reason that many people, including myself, want the reserved list removed is twofold – one, so that Wizards can reprint whatever cards they think are appropriate in new sets or other products. Having Sliver Queen in the Premium Slivers deck would have been awesome, for example. I’m not suggesting they should print Moxes in M11, but Wizards would not do that even if they were allowed to because it would be bad for gameplay. The second reason, more relevant to the rest of the post, is that we would like to see Legacy staples reprinted in some form, whether in From the Vaults: Dual Lands, in a paper ‘Masters Edition’ set, or in some other fashion in order to make price less of a barrier to competitive Legacy play. In the interests of full disclosure my only reserved list card of any value is a single Scrubland, so I obviously would personally benefit from this expensive cards being made available in a cheaper form as I would be able to play Legacy without sinking as much money into it.

The counter-argument is what I want to address today, one that has been put forward by in the comments to Matt Sperling’s article on Channel/Fireball, by Lloyd on Yo!MTGTaps Episode 14 and by otherwise awesome dude Jon Medina, @mtgmetagame on twitter a few hours ago. The argument boils down to variations on the following:

“Frankly, to those who say they cannot afford to play Legacy, make it achievable. Save some money, do your part, and don’t just sit there and wait for Magic to abolish that list. Just go slow and steady and you will too have it.” – Narcissism, C/F Commenter

People who dont want to put the work in don’t get to enjoy the format. I know 15 yr olds who bring jank to legacy tourney and have a blast so I have no sympathy for anyone who doesn’t want to put the work in. Yes it’s a high cost but definitely worth it. You want to play but don’t want to pay .. well TFB buddy :)” – @mtgmetagame

I can say definitively that some players enjoy playing with older, more expensive, more powerful cards. You know, the kinds of cards Wizards would never reprint today, except as a promo. I know that personally, the second an opponent plays a foil alternate art Tropical Island, I will be having less fun in Legacy.” – Matt Sperling, Rule of Law

Essentially, this line of argument says that it is right that Legacy is an expensive format, that it should be that way. If we accept that reprinting these cards will have minimal impact on the high value originals, the motivation for this view seems to be that either a) “I had to work hard to get these Legacy cards so its only fair that everyone else should have to as well,” or b) “Legacy is a fun format because, like polo, the high price of entry keeps out the riff-raff. Pip pip cheerio, old boy.” Now to people holding attitude B, I say “Screw you, jerk,” and move on because that is an elitist, selfish attitude that I can’t even comprehend. We want to play too, why won’t you let us?

Attitude A is more understandable. Fairness is something that most everyone wants, it is inherent to human nature and taught to children at home and in schools. What I would say to the people holding this view is that we don’t want to take your cards away from you. We don’t want to devalue your cards. We just want cheaper options available. It is very unfortunate that these cheaper options weren’t available when you were buying into Legacy, I wish they were! But I don’t think that is a good reason to make the rest of us pay a fortune to play Legacy as well, when with reprints it could be made more affordable.

There’s another thing I haven’t seen addressed yet on the point of fairness, the “I sold my kidneys to get into legacy so everyone else should too” argument. If your cards are not devalued, as several experts have predicted they will not be, there’s nothing stopping you selling your old cards and buying the new, cheaper ones that we would like to play with. With so many new people entering the format, it’d be easier than ever to find buyers! But if you want to keep your old expensive cards and stop other people from enjoying the cheaper new reprinted cards, well, that is just selfish.

As noted at the beginning of the article, the decision has been taken swiftly and quietly to end this debate in favour of the ‘no reprints’ side. I am very disappointed. Legacy as it stands is too expensive for it to be worth playing where I live, far away from European GPs and SCG $5ks, so I will just have to go back to ignoring the format.

Narcissism

The other new deck to come out of todays standard pro tour was Pat Chapin’s UW Control. Pat has been writing and talking non-stop about Jace the Mind Sculptor, Treasure Hunt and Halimar Depths to anyone will listen ever since they were spoiled, and here he puts them to good use in a traditional, near creatureless control deck.

UW Control

1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

1 Path to Exile

2 Essence Scatter

2 Flashfreeze

1 Negate

4 Treasure Hunt

4 Everflowing Chalice

1 Celestial Purge

4 Cancel

3 Oblivion Ring

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

3 Day of Judgment

2 Mind Spring

2 Martial Coup

4 Plains

3 Island

2 Arid Mesa

1 Scalding Tarn

4 Halimar Depths

4 Tecton ic Edge

4 Glacial Fortress

4 Celestial Colonnade

sideboard

1 Perimeter Captain

3 Kor Firewalker

2 Negate

x Essence Scatter

x Baneslayer Angel

Blue Control players, your saviour has arrived. Treasure Hunt is really at its best in this deck, with such a high land count as well as ways to organise the top of the deck. The high land count can be supported because so many of the lands are basically spells – Celestial Colonnade, Halimar Depths and Tectonic Edge are practically Serra Angel, Sage Owl and Stone Rain that can be drawn off Treasure Hunt. The card selection that Jace and Depths provide let Pat run a variety of narrow 2 mana counters and always have the right one on hand. Aaron Forsythe would be proud of the 4 Cancels in the deck as well, he has been championing that card for some time.

Pat says that Jace is the strongest card in standard and while I was slightly harsh about it in my post New New Power, it has certainly started to build a track record that can justify its high price tag. The best speculative tip to take from this deck is Day of Judgment – this card is actually Wrath of God, a perennial $15 card in search of a deck.

I’ll have more decks for you as they become available, for now stay tuned to @magicprotour and @mananation for all the latest from Pro Tour San Diego!

Pro Tour: San Diego is underway, and its our first look at standard with worldwake in the mix. It feels like we skipped 2009 entirely with Pat Chapin, LSV and Gabriel Nassif back at the top of the standings after day 1. Lets take a look at their decks, first up is LSV’s Naya deck which was designed by Tom “The Boss” Ross, and is also being played by PVDdR! I’ve copied these lists down from the deck tech videos, so please excuse any transcribing errors. Look for my next post shortly with the UW deck piloted by Chapin, Nassif and Herberholz.

Boss Naya

4 Wild Nacatl

4 Noble Hierarch

2 Birds of Paradise

1 Scute Mob

2 Stoneforge Mystic

4 Knight of the Reliquary

1 Dauntless Escort

4 Bloodbraid Elf

4 Ranger of Eos

3 Lightning Bolt

3 Path to Exile

1 Basilisk Collar

1 Behemoth Sledge

2 Ajani Vengeant

5 Forest

2 Plains

2 Mountain

4 Arid Mesa

3 Misty Rainforest

2 Terramorphic Expanse

2 Raging Ravine

1 Stirring Wildwood

1 Tectonic Edge

1 Rootbound Crag

1 Sejiri Steppe

sideboard

x Cunning Sparkmage

1 Basilisk Collar

1 Stoneforge Mystic

1 Behemoth Sledge

1 Goblin Guide

3 Dauntless Escort

x Qasali Pridemage

x Manabarbs

This deck is doing a lot of things I like. It is an aggro deck with a number of 1 drop accelerants, meaning turn 2 Knight of the Reliquary is a frequent occurrence. There are a number of toolboxes in the deck, with a Stoneforge Mystic able to fetch up either Basilisk Collar to punch through shrouded walls and turtles and Behemoth Sledge to turn every creature into a win condition. Even a lonely Noble Hierarch equipped with a sledge attacks as a Rhox War Monk with trample!

The second toolbox is Knight of the Reliquary, who has just been gaining value as time goes on. This girl can do basically anything you want – kill an opponent’s land, make a creature, act as Mother of Runes, fix your mana, power up Nacatl and end the game by swinging as a huge/huge creature.

The Cunning Sparkmage sideboard plan is also impressive. I’m surprised that with Gorgon Flail and Vithian Stinger already in the format nobody tried this before, but the Sparkmage equipped with a Basilisk Collar acts as a hasty Avatar of Woe.

This deck confirms a number of things I’ve been thinking recently –

Trinket Mage is just amazing, and Stoneforge Mystic is a rare version!

The manlands are insane and at least 1 should go in every multicoloured deck.

Knight of the Reliquary just gets better and better with worldwake.

So, my recommendations? Stock up on Stoneforge Mystics if you can still find people who are undervaluing them and get your sets of manlands before they all top $10 a piece!

New New Power

In case you missed it, Kelly Reid had a great article over on ManaNation last week discussing the meteoric price rises of legacy staples like Tarmogoyf, I highly recommend checking it out. He termed these new $100+ cards “New Power”, comparing them to the original Power 9 in both in-game utility and secondary market price and availability. Today I’d like to talk about something different. Jace, the Mind Sculptor, who – with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek – I am nicknaming new new power.

Just for reference again, here is the card:

New Jace reached sixty dollars on starcitygames before Worldwake was even released. It is currently sold out at that store, but has still managed to make it to #20 in their Worldwake rare/mythic sales charts for the last month. I acknowledge that he is available cheaper through other channels, however the fact remains that some people are buying them from SCG at $60 a pop. This situation is simply astonishing and it deserves a closer look.

First things first – I am not denying Jace is a strong card. If a blue deck emerges it will certainly have to consider playing him as he can provide powerful card selection and card draw, two things blue control decks love to do. He is certainly one of the strongest, and rarest cards in the set. However there are several arguments against his ludicrous price point.

1: He doesn’t have a track record.

Good deckbuilders are throwing out deck ideas for Jace left and right, that is not under question. However none of these theoretical decks have recorded any wins, made any top 8s,  or made up any portion of any metagame that could justify the current price. There is every chance that the Jace decks just won’t be good enough for the new, unknown metagame – a metagame that will develop out of one where blue is by far the worst colour. Baneslayer Angel, an obviously insanely playable mythic with huge casual draw, presold at 15 and it took back to back pro tour wins across two different formats for it to reach $60. Jace is the equal most expensive card in standard before he has ever been played in a competitive constructed event.

2: Blightning.

The entire Jund archetype will be a problem for these theoretical Jace decks, but Blightning is an especially neat answer to Jace. The super Mind Rot is just as effective at wiping out the new Jace as it was at wiping out the old one, and blue decks will still have just as much trouble answering a Blightning flipped off a Bloodbraid Elf as they did previously. Great Sable Stag is still in standard as well – though it seems he has been largely forgotten – and it will eat Jace alive no matter what Calcite Snappers, Walls of Denial or Cancels the blue player can muster to throw in its way. I can’t imagine a blue deck with the cards we have becoming such a preponderant metagame presence that its flagship mythic would justify a sixty dollar price tag.

3: The set has only just been released.

One of the contributing factors in Baneslayer’s high price was the extreme scarcity around release time, due to shortages caused by the short first print run. We have no idea how worldwake is going to sell yet, and it is entirely possible that Jaces will flood the market. Due to it being a small set there will also be plenty more Jaces per case of Worldwake than there were Baneslayers per case of M10. Currently there are no problems on the supply side of things, so the high price is due entirely to demand.

And that demand is pushed overboard by hype. To paraphrase Ben Bleiweiss’ latest article, he claims that Jace will be played as a four of, in multiple tournament quality decks across multiple formats, including the most played deck in standard. This is a wild claim with no basis in fact and while I’m as excited as anyone about the possibility of blue being good again there is nothing concrete that tells me Jace is worth $60. I’ll be leaving him well alone for a couple of months while the price comes back down to earth, and I suggest you do the same as well.