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[Editor's Note: Please welcome Ryan Abcede to Quiet Speculation! He has an interesting financial overview of the Commander format, and if this type of information is something you're interested in please share in the comments! He'll be sure to come back with more!]
December 2, 2010 will be remembered as one of the most important days in Magic history. On that fateful day, Aaron Forsythe and Monty Ashley announced Wizards of the Coast’s full-fledged support of the casual community created format, Elder Dragon Highlander (renamed to Commander), through the Magic: The Gathering Commander decks. This was a huge move by Wizards, and an indication of where the game is going and their priorities lie. I could continue on and on about what this means for the game but that's really an whole article; it's looking at the financial implications that have occurred due to Wizards officially supporting Commander that I'm interested in here.
Before jumping into all the nitty gritty numbers, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Ryan Abcede (yes, almost like the alphabet). I’m from Toronto, Ontario. I’ve been playing since Fallen Empires, but only really started playing casual competitive during Time Spiral block. Prior to that I mainly drafted, and went to Prereleases. I am pretty much the trading guy at my local game store. I try to play FNM as much as I can, but due to my work schedule usually doesn't work out that way. To get my Magic fix I started a Commander League on Thursday nights. This brought my full attention to Commander, and really showed me that there is a lot of money to be made through the EDH market.
Let’s start off with what has now become a cliché casual statement: what is the most expensive card from Ravnica? Most people would say it’s a shock land, or possibly Dark Confidant. But for the longest time it actually was Doubling Season (only until recently has Dark Confidant threatened to take that throne). Doubling Season is a purely casual card. It has not seen any significant constructed play, and it probably never will. However it's been on more kitchen tabletops than Islands have in all the Top 8’s in all of the tournaments ever held.
Casual appeal is the safest factor affecting the price of a card, are are eternal as they come. Rarity can change, cards can get banned or become underpowered/irrelevant depending on metagame shifts, and ultimately they rotate out of Standard and Extended. But with casual cards these normalfactors affect card prices very little. Look at Staff of Domination. It sees limited Legacy play and was banned for Commander use, but it’s price didn't budge at all because casual players as a whole still love the card. That’s the beauty of the casual market: players essentially make their own rules and metagame when playing in the vast wilderness of kitchen tables across the world.
There are a few ways to take advantage of trading in the trading in the casual market as it's a great resource if managed correctly. Casual players do not value price as the only factor when trading because:
- When a casual player wants a card they really want a card.
- Casual players are usually not as up-to-date on the value of cards.
- Tournament players don’t really care about their casual cards.
I am not saying take full advantage of a casual player and their lack of price knowledge; I’m not into lying and keeping things from people to rip them off. But what I am saying is to leverage the level of attachment various players have to particular cards to get some serious value. Find out what they want and provide it to them at a premium. Casual players usually don’t have a network of stores they frequent or players they regularly can trade with. They usually stay within their groups and do not travel far outside of that group. That’s why I try to keep as many casual cards as I can because when you see a new casual player you never know when you will see them again. And because they are usually not regular traders they'll have one or two gems in their binders. Even foil commons or uncommons can be great finds from a casual player.
On the flip side, tournament players are the easiest way to get casual cards at undervalued levels. You can get casual cards at lower than market price from almost any tournament player as long as it’s for a card they want for a tournament deck. They need their cards for a purpose: to win, and tThis means they will usually overvalue them if required. Tournament players often have little attachment to their casual cards, and you are really preying on that.
Usually, it works out favorably to trade up your casual cards to casual players and trade down your constructed cards to tournament players. It’s a great way to get value at each step of the trading game, almost like getting compound interest while trading.
While this is basic information for you all, the main reason I wanted to write this article is to highlight the big gainers in the past six months since the initial Commander announcement. Most of these cards that have gained value have never really had a significant price change in the last two or more years. This is as close as we get to the creation of a new format, until Modern/Overextended or something similar gets confirmed. Yes, Commander (EDH) did exist before but now with the full backing of Wizards it has basically become legit. Money is now being put into the format to grow it and this can only be positive for the value of the format's best cards. It is not to late to get in on the trend (obviously 6 months ago was prime time), but there is still a glimmer of hope. I do believe that once the Commander decks come out there will be a second but more gradual price increase once all the new and returning players settle in.
Let's start off with the prime target of most of my trades in the past six months, to fully illustrate what kind of cards I am talking about:
Bribery – Rare from Mercadian Masques, 8th Edition; not on the Reserved List
Test time: how much do you think this card is worth? How much was it worth when Wizards announced the Commander decks?
Ready? Time’s up; Bribery is worth roughly $10 retail right now. StarCityGames is sold out of near mint copies, of the Mercadian Masques version, at $9.99 and has two in stock of 8th Edition. Some sites are selling Masques versions slightly higher, but SCG seems to value both the same.They have a few slightly played copies from each set in stock at $8.99. While SCG does not have historical pricing, working from memory I am sure it was around $5.99 less than six months ago because that was the value I was trading for them.
To illustrate how much this card, and every other card discussed today, has jumped I will be using BlackLotusProject prices.
Bribery was $5.09 on BLP on December 2nd. Today’s price is $7.83, which is a 54% increase in just six months! Yes, there are cards that have jumped quicker than Bribery in Magic’s history, but this is a safe and solid increase with very little risk and is something applicable for all cards I am talking about today. Some cards have higher chances of getting reprinted or banned, however they all have one thing in common: the mass of casual players that want them for multiple decks, including Commander. This market is growing by the day and there seems to be no end in sight.
Some colors have more staples or money cards than others, and I really tried to make my initial list even for each one. But as you will see that just was't possible. If there is enough interest for a future article I will elaborate on which cards you should be looking for and what I expect them to be priced at. So don't forget to comment at the bottom if you want to see more Commander financial articles!
December 2: $1.37 Today: $1.95 (34% Increase) SCG: $2.99
This is one of the best Wrath of God effects you can have in Commander, and I would even say at times it's better than and actual Wrath. Commander is not a format to just play the best cards, which is why something like Tarmogoyf is pretty underwhelming. He's just an efficient body, that’s it. All cards have to “do something” and Austere Command does so much more than a regular Wrath of God. In Commander, the difference between four and six mana is fairly negligible, and the extra two mana is usually worth it for the extra flexibility Austere Command gives you. There is a reasonable chance of being reprinted, but as long as it’s not reprinted in standard it’s power and flexibility should maintain it’s demand. Pick these up if you can as it's easy money once the market experiences it’s next level of growth.
December 2: $2.47 Today: $3.94 (100% Increase) SCG: Out of Stock at $4.99
This is the meat of many combos in Commander, and it's played in the Legacy deck Cephalid Breakfast. This is a huge pick up, and could easily be $10 retail in the near future.
December 2: $1.12 Today: $2.34 (154% Increase) SCG: Out of Stock at $2.99
This is Stoneforge Mystic before she took steroids and made a deal with the devil, and a very solid Commander card. Every deck at least has one to two pieces of Equipment, and just tutoring those up while providing a body is all you need. It is easy to find at near bulk prices, but scarce enough to gain value over time. Being from Morningtide helps as well as that set was not opened up all that much.
RECAP: White has many other cards that are good and has experienced some price increases, but these are ones that stick out in my mind as being perfect Commander cards. Another tip is pick up any random Wrath-type card, especially if they can be asymmetrical in some way. There are tons out there as every block seems to have at least one.
December 2: $0.66 Today: $1.05 (59% Increase) SCG: $3.99
This usually works just like another Bribery in most decks. Artifacts play a huge role in Commander, and Acquire preys on that fact. I feel this is severely undervalued, and SCG’s price is closer to where it should be.
December 2: $5.09 Today: $7.83 (54% Increase) SCG: $9.99
Bribery is usually #1 in most decks, and it bears noting again that this card is hot. If you can get it for anywhere near $5 to $8, get it. I don't think a reprinting will happen and if it does it won't hurt the price that much. You can always find someone who wants a Bribery, especially more competitive players taking their stab at Commander and building a “broken” blue based deck. (Isn’t this always the case?)
December 2: $4.07 Today: $6.28 (54% Increase) SCG: $9.99
This is both on the Reserved List and has the "free spell" mechanic. What more do you want out of a card? Get these now, and get as many as you can. The sky’s the limit on this one. [Editor's Note: I recently tried to pick up a foil copy and found the price to be absolutely insane at around $40. Really.]
RECAP: Blue may be the most popular color in all of Magic, and Commander is no different. Control Magic effects are big as well as countermagic that “do something,” like Draining Whelk and Desertion. Keep your eye out for anything powerful that a tricky blue mage would love.
December 2: $1.98 Today: $2.83 (43% Increase) SCG: $3.99
This is easily a $5 card. Get these if you can find them, and if you can get them for below retail. Wrath effects that draw cards are far better than regular Wraths. I know; it surprised me too.
December 2: $6.64 Today: $7.60 (14% Increase) SCG: $11.99
This is the staple of all black decks. In a 100-card format, tutors win games. Even though it was "only" a 14% increase, Demonic Tutor is always worth something and will never lose its value. Nostalgia is big factor for this card as well.
December 2: $10.31 Today: $11.47 (11% Increase) SCG: $19.99
As we said before, Tutors win games. Almost every black deck should start off with a Demonic Tutor and a Vampiric Tutor. New players introduced to Commander will eventually realize this. Be there to trade to them when they need them.
RECAP: I had problems finding more cards for black that are either real money makers or solid stable cards. Mind Twist, Damnation, and [caard]Phyrexian Arena[/card] are three other decent pick ups I'd suggest looking into, but have not experienced any significant price spikes yet. Could this actually be the perfect time to pick these up?
December 2: $5.70 Today: $4.72 (17% Deccrease) SCG: $9.99
That is not a typo: this card did go down in price, but it's still a hot card. Kiki-Jiki is to red as Karmic Guide is to white. Both set up combos, game winning plays, or just sheer brokeness (and also sees play in Cephalid Breakfast). I believe Kiki-Jiki will be in the FTV Legends set, but that will not affect his price in any way.
RECAP: Really? Only one card in red and it has a negative value change? Yes, red is pretty much the worst color in EDH and red rares in all of magic really have a hard time becoming money rares. Before Mythics came along I can’t remember a red chase card that held it’s value.
December 2: $2.75 Today: $2.58 (6% Deccrease) SCG: $3.99
This is an eternally safe green card to invest in. Don’t let the negative change scare you; I treat these like pocket change. They are easy to use to equal out trades and easy to trade away for the same amount or more. I don’t think anything, even a standard reprinting, can make this card drop in price either. It will also be a player in Overextended/Modern if that happens.
December 2: $5.55 Today: $6.39 (15% Increase) SCG: $11.99
This is areat card for green and depending on your creature quality it can act almost like a tutor. Old, and hard enough to find that people will trade out the nose for him. Hopefully you are the only guy who has them actually for trade.
December 2: $4.40 Today: $6.46 (47% Increase) SCG: Out of Stock at $7.99
Part of this card’s price is due to Legacy, but this can only work in it’s favor. Being a dual format superstar allows this card to be traded to almost any player out there. It has a somewhat nostalgic feel to it as well, another little bump in it’s price.
December 2: $3.65 Today: $5.16 (41% Increase) SCG: $9.99
This is what Commander is all about: big splashy spells creating "deal with it or I win" situations. This card also saw previous constructed play, so if Modern or something ever actually hits paper this could potentially be a strategy there as well. It would also be great in monogreen Eldrazi/8-12-16 Post hybid deck. Any time I get one of these “in stock” it flies right out of my binder, getting replaced with some great constructed cards.
RECAP: Green is arguably the most powerful color in Commander. If blue is actually more powerful, green is certainly not far behind. Green is also the most casual friendly color because most casual players love to beat down with big monsters and that's what Green does best. Cards like Woodfall Primus and Vigor are slowly creeping up in price as well, so keep an eye on those ones.
December 2: $4.42 Today: $5.68 (29% Increase) SCG: $7.99
Commander players love Mana Flare effects. Big mana is a major part of most player’s strategies. The price of this card surprised me at my last major trading session, and it was a good thing I checked its price before letting it go.
RECAP: Multicolor cards are more limited in their ability to tap into the Commander craze due to the color restrictions. Most are either very high priced due to Legacy playability or very low priced because of their narrow appeal. The Wake is the exception to the rule because it is a casual superstar.
December 2: $9.99 Today: $13.16 (32% Increase) SCG: $19.99
The price for this, out of all the other cards, surprised me the most. It has pretty much doubled in a year, but I understand why it's so high. This card is following the footsteps of Doubling Season, and all casual players could see one in their collection. I don’t see this dropping in price, but it’s retail SCG price seems like the top end of its value.
December 2: $2.59 Today: $3.94 (52% Increase) SCG: $5.99
This is probably one of the best card advantage artifacts available for multiplayer. I wouldn't be surprised if it showed up in one of the upcoming Commander decks, as it is tied very closely to that format as a whole. I don't think a reprint would affect it's price that much. On that note however I do not see it gaining much more value either. It is easy to find people who want this card so don’t be scared to trade for these.
December 2: $3.87 Today: $4.87 (26% Increase) SCG: $5.99
Almost every Commander deck has this in their 100. As with Mind's Eye, I wouldn't be surprised if it showed up as a reprint in an upcoming Commander deck. But it's broad casual appeal and nostalgic feel will keep its price on a slow climb.
December 2: $3.54 Today: $5.51 (56% Increase) SCG: $7.99
This is exactly the type of card Commander players love. It does so many things while being a random creature to tutor, sacrifice, recur, equip, attack, or block with. Flexibility is the name of the game in Commander, and Mr. Jens is flexible as they come.
RECAP: Artifacts are the lifeblood of Commander. Every deck has access to them, and this allows colors that do not have access to specific effects a chance to break through the color pie. There are numerous artifacts that are Commander stars but it's just too many to list for this introductory article.
December 2: $4.89 Today: $3.78 (23% Decrease) SCG: $5.99
Just like in standard, everyone loves Monoblack Control. Even though it is in a decreasing trend, look at it more as an opportunity to get in while the market is low. A few reprintings have also kept the price of this card down, but the power level of this land is off the charts. Black also has numerous ways to tutor for this card. If Xiohou Dun, the One-Eyed is in the From the Vault: Legends box set as many are speculating, expect a price spike for Cabal Coffers. Everyone and their mother will be making that deck and Coffers is essential.
December 2: $3.37 Today: $2.50 (26% Decrease) SCG: $2.99
Strip Mine is in every Commander deck. If it isn't they are building their deck wrong. Strip Mine and Wasteland keep utility lands in check, and every deck has at least a few utility lands. I usually never really Strip Mine a land to cut someone off of a color or mana, but I do hit many utility lands. And when I do it usually prevents the table from getting blown out. This is a great staple to keep well stocked as everyone needs at least one and can always use more, especially when they get the deck building bug and build multiple Commander decks.
December 2: $4.34 Today: $7.58 (75% Increase) SCG: $9.99
This card is always the best land on the table. It kills legendary lands which are usually game breaking. It also sees limited Legacy play. This is probably the third most popular land in Commander, after Strip Mine and Wasteland, and it's reasonable to get these at $6 at the moment. I would get as many as you can at that price as Vesuva can only go up from here.
RECAP: There are many other lands that have spiked, many that are multi-format all-stars, but it's just too many to list. Some are already too high to even remotely jump on the bandwagon, like Wasteland and Gaea's Cradle. The beauty with lands is that most of them don't really cost you a card in a 100 card deck because you need so many lands to make the deck work anyway. As with all of Magic, if you invest on lands you can't really go wrong.
Thank you everyone for staying with me through this price induced adventure. When I was researching this article over half of these cards were out of stock on SCG's site and they may recently got restocked, possibly even just in the past day or so. I speculate that they are holding back on some stock they think might fare well after the Commander decks are released. Why sell out of everything while the busy buying season is just on the horizon, right?
I may be wrong, but I think holding back a few key cards isn't the worst business move to be made. If they are not holding back then all the out of stock means is that those cards are selling like hot cakes, and supply is definitely not meeting demand. Either way, both situations are great for investing if you believe there will be an increase in the player base.
Magic is in a renaissance. Wizards has everything moving like a well oiled machine, and they really seem to understand all their markets now. They acknowledged casual players in the past but the Commander boxed sets are really the first step that Wizards has made to fully embrace the purely casual side of Magic. No matter how much some of us love playing and watching Caw-Blade mirrors week in and week out, there are other amazing places this game can take us.
Commander is on board; don't miss the boat.
10 thoughts on “Where Were You December 2, 2010?”
If you were surprised by the price of foil Treachery, you may not be qualified to write about Commander…you also may want to ask your children to leave the room before finding out what a foil Bribery goes for.
Awesome article! I think this was a nice little re-cap involving the kinds of cards to be on the lookout for now, and in the future. Great tips all around on speculating as well! Holla from London, Ontario! 🙂 Carl
Article was O.K. There were some big misses I feel, so it could have been more in depth. No mentioning of Maze of Ith? Skyshroud Claim? Listing the obvious one or two cards of each color is boring. I think you could have done a bit better, but I'm not turned off to reading another article, but make it more interesting.
Thanks for the comments everyone! Will try to take all the suggestions and come up with a whole series on the financial side of EDH.
I personally knew the ballpark of a foil Treachery. It was the editor that commented on the foil price. I actually want to do another article focusing on foils, especially generals because we all know, some of those are worth some decent paper. Is anyone else interested in that? I find some of my best trades are for EDH Foils.
For Vesuva, I think the price spike had a lot more to do with EDH, and possibly some speculation for legacy that hasn't readjusted itself. Take a look at the BLP graph and you'll see 2 spikes, one for extended season and one in the past 6 months. Could be that SCG raised their buy price in February, which could have caused the price spike, not 100% sure on that one.
Thanks for the kind words! Hit me up next time you are in Toronto!
I didn't want to get too many specific cards into the article as it's an intro article. Also, I wanted to keep the price window for the cards somewhat affordable for speculators. Maze of Ith was just out of that price range in my opinion. It is also a lot harder to find than all of the cards on my list. As for Skyshroud Claim, I actually have plans for another article highlighting common/uncommon staples that can get you some serious change if you keep the big ones around in your binder. IMO any time you can trade away a common/uncommon that isn't over $1 is almost free money. They'd be sitting in common bins or boxes at home otherwise.
I know the author and don't want to discredit his opinions, but I see the only real money in magic being in vintage … not legacy, not extended and certainly not in type 2 … new players fucking hate the game the second they realize that their initial investment has "rotated" … legacy is better, but the meta game changes all the time … one second high tide is king … then in the very next set wotc balances the game by printing mental misstep … this happens EVERY set. Cards that are universal like force of will, fetch lands, sol ring, strip mine and standstill are the only ones that should keep increasing in value. … Dark Depths?!? Is that shit even playable anymore?!? … Only vintage retains the same meta/archtypes year after year, and if you dislike the idea of investing $5,000 in a deck, then go ahead and spend that same amount over 5 years ending up with nothing more than memories and unplayable filter paper!!! Creating new formats to allow never-before playable cards (due to high casting cost) to become playable seems bad, as not many people who play commander even care about what you are up to, caring more about playing shivan dragon and beating down cause it's somewhat cool. I see commander flopping HARD!!! Cards like bribery, akroma's memorial and doubling season are just terrible in legacy and vintage. Conservative play and then combo-ing off seems more realistic … if you are to "invest" in cards only cause they are good in commander, then I'd recommend sticking to cards that are playable in multiple formats instead. Is wasteland even good in MULTI-PLAYER edh games?!? Wouldn't a card like city of solitude + an infinite combo be better in multiplayer than a 1 for 1 like wasteland or strip mine?!?
Hey man thanks for the comment.
To start off, casual cards are a total different beast than competitive cards. No one is saying bank on 100 Doubling Seasons and hope to make a decent chunk of change in 5 years. Casual cards are not money like Vintage is. You don't invest in casual the same way you would in a set of Power 9. But while on that topic, the potential gain in Vintage cards has been dwindling in recent years. That's why Beta Underground sea has gained so much in the past year, but Beta Black Lotus has pretty much met it's plateau. On SCG, which is a decent base price to follow especially for older cards, Beta Underground Sea is now the 2nd highest priced card in Beta. It is somewhat difficult to get accurate price histories on such high end cards using Blacklotusproject.com due to the fact that the software is not 100% perfect. It can't weed out the graded cards, which IMO is the only real market out there for Black Lotuses at the moment, aside from random people trying to complete a P9 set. People aren't heading out in droves to buy Black Lotuses to play with, they are collecting and/or investing in them. But just looking at the general trends over even the last 3 years for both cards and you will see what has happened with Vintage and what is happening with Legacy. A few writers have written about this and if anyone has links to good articles about the "demise" of Vintage please feel free to share them here.
Casual cards are more of a fluid market. I would never really hold onto casual cards unless there is a big event on the horizon like the release of the Commander decks. Otherwise their prices raise pretty stagnant. But like I said in the article, they are very stable, and not much effects their price. Nothing rotates for a casual player. Bans don't happen very often either. Barring a strictly better printing of a card like something like a "Tripling Season", new cards don't really push out cards, archetypes or decks in casual either.
We all like to think that the tournament player base is the biggest part of the magic world, but that is pretty much wrong. We are just the most informed and the most active. Casual players make up the bulk % of players around the world. They won't drive the price of something like Doubling Season to $100 but they will keep the price at a price somewhere around what it is now, barring a Standard set reprint, or mass printing like Foil Reya Dawnbringer promos. I specifically say Standard set reprint because any boxed set like the Commander decks still costs a certain amount of $ and is printed at a lower # than a standard set is. The number of boxed set rare cards in circulation is a fraction of what a regular rare from Zendikar in circulation is. So even if Doubling Season get's reprinted in a Commander set, it won't drop as much as if it were printed in Innistrad. It also may not even drop depending what else is in that particular box set. Jitte was in Rats Nest and the reason why that didn't effect it's price is because it took up the whole price of that precon.
As for investing in Commander specifically, I may not have been clear enough in my article. What I really meant to show is now is an excellent time to invest in Commander, not Commander is something you should be banking all your money in. I also think you are wrong about Commander flopping. The presales around the net are doing extremely well. In my opinion, the Commander product is bringing Magic closer to a boardgame if that makes any sense. They are a perfect product for players who have quit due to having no time or having moved on in their life, but still love the game. I could see dad's getting these for their kids to play at the cottage or at a family gathering. I also think as a prepackaged product a lot of tournament players will try it out, and at least a % of those players will, from then on, be EDH players as well as tournament players. I can also see older players who have friend who still play getting back into it through this product as well. Essentially it is the perfect casual product for the biggest portion of the magic player base. Every player has different tastes and Commander seems like it will appeal to the largest % of players out there.
I do agree with your comment that the best cards to invest in are cards that are multiformat playable. I did touch on that a little in the article, and will touch more on it in following articles. ANY constructed playable card that has casual appeal is always worth going after. A recent example of this was Vampire Nocturnus. Vamps wasn't even that great of a deck in that time, but it was definitely playable, combo that with the Twilight craze and you got it's price while in standard. BUT guess how much he is worth right now, seeing no play in constructed formats. He's roughly around $10, which is nothing to just brush aside. Hope this opens your eyes to the worth of the casual market.
PS Wasteland/Strip Mine are both extremely good in EDH as some lands are so broken that they need answered. EDH being a multiplayer format, curves are generally higher so having 2 colourless lands that deal with other lands will not hinder your deck.
PPS Sorry everyone for the super long reply. There was just lots to talk about in Allinsons post.
IMHO I think that since commander has already shown a rise in popularity, the "spike" in the price of format-defining cards has already happened.
Great Article Ryan, always a pleasure trading with you. Happy I got my Treachery and Bribery already, prior to the Commander craze. Some generals are also hard to get/expensive, especially the full art versions, guys liek Doran or Niv-Mizzet are quite expensive, with normal foil generals.. Jhoira ($30!), … the commander craze will take hold, even our local store has made an "EDH Staples" book to look through.
Personally, as someone who isn't yet intimate with commander, I loved this article. I got a list of cards that are fun in EDH or that I did not know previously, but most importantly I got to know what cards in EDH are staples or are at the very least highly sought after. Again, for someone who doesn't play commander or invest much time in reading about it, this was a very interesting and fun read.
I would love to see more lists and thoughts about cards and their financial values. Great article!