Insider: Ask Kelly – Snapcaster Mage, Restoration Angel and Fostering Healthy Trading Communities (+Bonus Insider Q’s)

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In this new series, Quiet Speculation founder Kelly Reid dips into the reader mailbag and brings answers that come from his Magic expertise, business experience and writing at Forbes. He answers questions on specific cards, general trends, the Magic lifestyle and more.

Each week, the winner of the best question will also be awarded a month of free Insider access. Already have Insider? Don't worry! You can give it as a gift or add it onto your current subscription.

Have a question? Ask Kelly here for your chance to win.


Q: With the titans rotating out of Standard, do you foresee any 5+ drops making it big?

- Ben from Singapore

Kelly: The titans were absurdly powerful for their cost. 6-cost cards need to be really game-breaking to see constructed play, and the Titans were all good enough to suit.

Primeval Titan was clearly the best, but that was due to interactions outside the card itself. Without Valakut, Inkmoth Nexus and Kessig Wolf Run, Primeval Titan got a bit less scary.  That said, the whole cycle was innately powerful because it affected the board immediately, both with the ETB ability and the 6/6 body.

That's generally the standard to which I hold a high cost card - how heavily does it affect the board when cast?  The first card that comes to mind is Sigarda, Host of Herons.  She meets all the criteria - the Sacrifice clause has a direct impact on the game since a lot of the best removal is based around the "edict" mechanic and she's a 5/5 flier for 5 mana.  While she is not nearly as devastating as a Titan is, she comes down a turn earlier, flies, and is far harder to kill once on board.

Griselbrand has already proven that he's a beast, but not in the traditional hard-cast sense.  A lot of the fatties in Standard will enter via Unburial Rites rather than the tapping of lands and paying of mana costs, so I doubt there will be many that make the cut as frequently as Titans did.

Q: What do you think about speculation on sealed mtg products like displays, FTV and Commander Decks?  What are the pros and cons compared to single cards? Can you get more money with the same cash invested?

- João from Portugal

Kelly: Sealed products are a really interesting gamble.  It's rare that you'll get a big return on investment. Even the most valuable sealed products don't do more than double up in a few years.  Considering there's no real guarantee they'll appreciate, nor a guarantee there will be a market for them, I'm not big on the strategy.

That said, I am a professional seller and not a casual player, collector or investor.  I'm much more interested in a quick 15% rather than a long 50%.  Booster boxes are usually fine to throw in the closet for a few years, especially from popular sets or short-printed sets.  I know I'm fine sitting on a case of AVN for a while since it was one of the most popular sets in recent memory and is PACKED with great cards.

On the other hand, I may end up cracking those boxes for singles since, in the short term, I can turn over all the singles with ease for a quick margin.  It comes down to your personal goals and timelines.  Single cards are more versatile, but more work since you have to sell each card individually.  A box can just go up on eBay and you're done.

This Week's Winner:

Q: What can a person do to help foster a new store's trading community?  A local store has just started FNM and gets 12-20 people, but no one seems willing to trade. Last FNM, I sat at a table with a binder open and no one even came to look or ask if stuff was for trade. Is there anything to do to show people trading is fun/ok?  I know they need cards, as the store doesn't have a good selection yet.

- Jim from Pittsburgh

Kelly: First, spread the word about QS!  Hopefully you brought our M13 Cheat Sheet to your prerelease, but, if not, bring  one to the Launch Party.  The more people that feel comfortable trading, the better.

Second, don't be "That Guy" who tries to value-trade everyone with dealer prices.  People aren't dumb and they hate people who do that, since it doesn't foster a trading community at all.  The problem I see is that you sat with a binder open, but you didn't ask anyone if they wanted to trade.  Trading favors the proactive.  Most people are not proactive, so you need to be the one to initiate the trade interaction.

Trade to trade, not to profit.  I find that working on a Cube or Commander deck is the best way to trade for fun, since slinging Standard staples is basically just a value-grind for me.  Have a list of stuff you need so people know what to do when they trade with you.  A lot of people just don't understand the idea of trading for its own sake, and, if they do, it might just not be their style.  I have seen a lot of people stop trading because of wanna-be sharks and "value" traders, so be especially sensitive to this.

If the store has a poor stock of singles, it will benefit everyone if you become a go-to guy for the stuff they need for FNM.  Give people your contact info and tell them to hit you up if they ever need anything.

Above all, be personable, friendly and approachable.  You can make your margin while trading pretty fairly, but right now focus on transactions just to get people opening up their binders.

Q: What is your opinion on Snapcaster Mage? It seems that it's power level will be much weaker come rotation, should we be dumping them now and picking them up when the price settles?

- Felix from Chicago

Kelly: Snapcaster Mage is a "forever card", but you're right - it does lose some power in Standard once Ponder, Mana Leak and Vapor Snag leave the format.  No one is going to get excited over Snapcaster'ing back an Index (which won't see much play), and Snapping a Rewind doesn't really get me going either.

I'm going to withhold my judgment on Snapcaster's power level until I see R2R, which I am guessing will have a very high power level.   The only instant in M13 I'm interested in targeting with Snapcaster Mage is Vile Rebirth - 1UB for a 2/2 and a 2/1 seems very powerful at instant speed, and it can also deal with opposing Undying type creatures.  Even if graveyard hosing isn't a primary objective, plenty of guys will die on both sides to warrant this interaction.

Snapcaster Mage's price has been steadily dropping.  They are around $17 right now, but can still trade around $20.   I see no upside, barring something totally insane in R2R, but I wouldn't be eager to "dump" them.  They're still commodity staple cards which means that they trade with high liquidity.  I would not go 'overweight' on them since there's only downside but I don't think we're going to see the price drop sharply.

Remember that supply is about finished - Innistrad isn't going to be widely available for much longer.  Foils will hold their value and non-foils will probably stabilize around 15.

Q: Kelly, where do you see Restoration Angel's price going after Birthing Pod rotates? Do you see Delver sticking around with Seachrome and the Swords gone?

- Pete from Ohio

Kelly: That card is insane.  Birthing Pod has almost no bearing on its price. The Delver decks are wholly to blame.  Restoration Angel is one of the most powerful things you can do for four mana right now, especially considering the context.

The real question is, will Delver still be a deck?  The answer is a resounding "yes".  It will be slower without Seachrome Coast unless they bring back Hallowed Fountain, in which case mirror matches will be over in a blink.  I can foresee the choice of whether to play your shock lands untapped becoming a major factor in match outcomes.  Delver decks that only use Runechanter's Pike have seen plenty of success, so when every deck loses Swords, Delver loses very little.

The real loss other than Seachrome Coast is Vapor Snag.  The tempo loss can be replicated by Unsummon, but the extra damage added up very quickly.  Vapor Snag can be, and was, responsible for between 2 and 5 points of damage in a given game.  Restoration Angel's price should be offset by the promo, but it isn't.  You just can't get this card for under $11.  I don't know if it can sustain that price, but Avacyn Restored has come and gone.  I think it's a $10 card for life.

Q: If you could unload any card en masse right before Columbus, what would you want to trade away/sell?

- Michael from Miami

Kelly: I can't really think of anything I'd want to get rid of, but I think Modern cards are much harder to find than most people realize right now.  I haven't seen a ton in trade binders lately, so I'd actually do the opposite - I'd be bulking up my Modern stock for the GP.

The decks and cards that perform well at the GP will be the first lists people look at when Modern becomes a PTQ format again, likely this Winter, so take note.  There's still a long time until the PTQ season, so Columbus is a great opportunity to trade out your Modern staples at competitive prices.  You'll have at least 4 months to restock!

Most of the rotating cards from Standard have already had their prices slashed, so the window of opportunity there is closed.  The Scars lands are not far from being good pick-ups at this point, to be honest, but I'd wait until R2R so we have a better idea of what things look like.  The Scars lands will make a nice compliment to shocks in Modern for certain, so we may even see a surge in demand for them at the GP.

Kelly Reid

Founder & Product Manager

View More By Kelly Reid

Posted in Ask Kelly, Free Insider

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6 thoughts on “Insider: Ask Kelly – Snapcaster Mage, Restoration Angel and Fostering Healthy Trading Communities (+Bonus Insider Q’s)

  1. Sigarda and Restoration Angel are two that I have my eye on for MTGO. AVR is coming up to a seasonal low, historically this will coincide with the release events of M13. Get your tix ready!

    Kelly, I read your response to Joe Spanier yesterday. I think one of the best parts about QS is the respectful dialogue and constructive criticism that has been fostered and encouraged within the forums and article comments. I'm not sure if it would be possible without a paid subscription model given the typical internet comment maker. Keep up the good work!

    1. QS Insider isn't for everyone! The people that pay for it know the value and as a rule, our retention rate is pretty amazing. Joe Spanier made a few points I didn't agree with and did so in a completely classless manner, so I'd suggest we all just graciously ignore his outburst and not feed the trolls.

  2. On the topic of titans needing a replacement after m13 rotates, how do you feel about Wolfir silverheart, or Thundermaw hellkite? Both have a significant impact on the board when they enter, and are 5cmc just like sigarda. Is there any upside in either of these cards?

  3. I think both carry too much risk: Wolfir jumped from $1 to $10 overnight and while good, is only a rare and is in a precon. Thundermaw was selling for $18 but is now on buylists for $17 and hasn't made a decklist. Would he be a 4x, 2x, or a bench player? With his current price tag, from a speculation standpoint, I would be hesitant to go deep. If you want 4x to play with, I don't see a problem getting them now as you could unload for approx same later.

    PS: How much weight have you lost Kelly? Good job man.

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