We've got a lot to go over this week! First, I want to talk to you about quirks of the collector market in Legacy and Vintage. I'll also touch on a pop-up card and some out-there picks in anticipation of Return to Ravnica.
But first, have you seen Izzet Charm?
I love Charms a lot and it's nice to see their power level going up. Let's hope that this is emblematic of the other charms, too. This is imminently playable and intuitive to everyone how awesome it is. It's got three, near-universally useful abilities that will change in power over the course of the game. With nine more guilds to look at over the next few months, I'm sure we'll see two or three stand-out Charms. I am particularly excited about the enemy-colored charms in Orzhov (B/W) and Simic (U/G) on account of those color combinations being weird and sometimes very powerful.
Vintage and Legacy Collectors Are Really, Really Picky
When it comes to staples like Force of Will, dual lands and fetchlands, Eternal magic players are pretty generous. Played and beat staples like these are still currency, since so many people want them but don't care about the condition very much (myself included). However, there are a few instances where condition matters a lot.
Foreign languages: I have seen many a trader overvalue their Japanese non-foil cards, sometimes still at two or three times the value of the English counterpart. I've seen people think that $19 is fair for a Flooded Grove that looks like a sushi menu. The thing is, with the huge stocks in online stores and the push for foreign languages in the market, cards in different languages don't really command a premium any more. I've noticed this on big retailers like SCG and Cape Fear Games. CFG, in particular, tends to have Japanese versions of cards for the same value, sometimes only a penny or two more. So when you get those Japanese Lodestone Golems, don't get too excited that some Vintage player is going to pop out of his Workshop for a moment to pay you $20s on those things.
Foil versions of Japanese cards are still hot stuff. You know this. English foil versions are sometimes slightly less hot stuff (foil Spell Snare is still $40) but sometimes they are just blanks (foil Phyrexian Revoker is a glum $3). Don't trade for foils based on them being Vintage cards unless you are sure of what they run!
Let's shift to Magic's debut for a moment. Chas Andres did an excellent rundown on SCG awhile back that exhaustively looked at the Beta market. If you're looking at getting into it or have a lot of Beta cards to get rid of, the cost of their subscription is worth it for that article alone! To summarize one of Chas' big points: condition matters. Condition is nearly everything. If your card is more Beat than Beta, there's no market for it. This means cards like Purelace should be Mint (and if they are, they're worth $10) or else they'll poison your binder for years and years. Now when you're looking at Beta dual lands, it's a different story, but most Beta cards are valuable to people who are collecting Beta. The condition of their Scryb Spritess matters to them, not the card's playability.
Overmaster has been heating up recently, thanks to three copies appearing in the winning Sneak & Show list from GenCon's Legacy Championships. We've been discussing this card on the QS Forum for several weeks and the reaction to the card among posters is mostly tepid. The card has gone from five pennies to about a dollar at this point, so it's worth a bit more. People report that they're selling briskly on Ebay, but with such small actual-dollar margins to be made, I don't know that this is one that I'd pursue very much. Even worse, trading these away has been miserable.
Overmaster is clever, I'll give you that. It's not blue though, which is a major strike against it and a reason why I'd consider something like Spell Pierce over it. You're not going to use it to beat Counterbalance anyway (stop your Overmaster with C-Bal), so you might as well use a more proactive card instead. However, foil versions have been getting a few bites. This tells me that the always-reliable Legacy deck pimps want their Overmasters to be reflective and are paying for them. Again, I'm not big on this card at all, but it's worth looking for in boxes of foil rares if you have them around.
Crazy Picks from Recent Sets For RTR
Return to Ravnica is going to be the talk of Magic for the next several months. I'm already prepared for long and insufferable Standard reviews of it. I'm also prepared for a glorious and sprawling, awesome set filled with goodies for everyone. I already want half of the cards spoiled, so they're getting something right.
One of the set mechanics is Populate, which will clone a creature token. The anticipated combo that people are looking forward to is a Populate Dude paired with Cackling Counterpart. Simply play the Populate guy and then Cackle him at the opponent's endstep. It'd be this season's Splinter Twin if a monster with Populate actually comes along. The big question, though, is if we're actually going to see anything that Populates with a suitable mana cost. This is holding people back and this is bad thinking! Cackling Counterpart is really, really cheap. It's fractions of a ticket on MTGO and about a quarter in paper. The upside on hitting with this is great, since you're looking at a card that would be at least $2-3. The downside is that you've spent $5 on innumerable copies of a card that will probably have some appeal down the road to Commander players. To put it in terms of The System, you're risking only 10 cents on each copy since you can bulk them out for 15 cents. This is not as good as Twin was, but it'll still be good if they print anything that works with it. The time to buy this, if you want in on it, is now and not when we all see that 2W Populate or 1G Populate guy get printed - by then, everyone will know to pick up Counterparts.
I'll give a hat tip to Sylvain Lehoux from the QS Forum for this next one, Blasphemous Act. He correctly pointed out that there's no white sweeper in M13 and this is a cheap card that gets cheaper with tokens. I'm excited about Blasphemous Act; it scales with the Selesnya hordes to make a pretty cheap sweeper. It doesn't compete on the same angles as Bonfire (Bonfire is best when you have mana ramp around) and it is very, very easy to splash into decks. We're going to be Farseeking up a lot of Stomping Grounds, folks. Unlike Mutilate, there's nothing that punishes us for running only one Mountain in our G/U deck to turn on Blasphemous Act. I don't know if it'll outcompete Black Sun's Zenith, but I don't have high hopes for black decks in Ravnica. Dimir and the U/B color combo in general has usually been considered too good in development to actually get good cards. We are going to have to work harder to remove lots of permanents. This means we'll be playing lots of Swamps or maybe paying BB4 to kill an X/4 army. Blasphemous Act is by no means a catch-all, but it gives a lot of sweeping options.
That's the bill for this week! Next week, I'll tackle some more Insider Basics as we wait for RTR to heat up. Until then,