Before I detail some actionable MtG speculation targets this week, I'd like to share some thoughts on building a speculation portfolio. As the title suggests, uncommon magic cards can make a great foundation for a speculation portfolio. It is generally much easier to acquire a large position on the cheap when buying into an uncommon card and returns often triple the initial investment costs. That move represents moving from twenty-five cents to a dollar, but returns aside maintaining a healthy inventory of in demand uncommons will help bridge the value gap in difficult trades.
Being the person with uncommons is great, as players will seek you out before they think to trade rares with others. This provides you with the chance to trade up into value or sideways into other speculation targets that happen to be stamped gold. Trading uncommons is also a way to ease new magic players into magic trading. Let them compete playsets and finish decklists while you slowly accumulate value and a good reputaion.
Now on to the targets:
Illusionist's Bracers is a unique piece of equipment that is begging to be abused. Any untap effects can easily get things into the infinite. Generally, it's good advice to avoid pre-orders on cards. The window for profit can be very small and pre-orders carry the risk of getting to you too late. That said the Bracers look tempting at $1 and Ebay has some pricing just a hair under that target.
With Prime Speaker Zegana spoiled it looks like Master of the Pearl Trident could finally see Standard play. Augur of Bolas and Talrand help round out a deck that could make use of Simic Fluxmage's ability to great effect. Master of the Pearl trident is a very good trade target and completed Ebay auctions suggest TCG low pricing to be too cheap at around $1.50. While I don't yet see a winning Standard Merfolk deck, that doesn't mean players aren't going to try with the limited tools they have availible. The Master has the benefit of seeing play in Merfolk decks across formats and represents a fairly conservative investment.
Boros battalion is a great feature for today's first strikers and/or hasted creatures. While Firemane Avenger still represents my favorite battalion effect, the recently spoiled Frontline Medic could serve a crucial role in future Boros' decklists. Unfortunately, pre-sale prices are insane for this 3cc drop. Restricting Boros speculation to cheaper, already available cheap and efficient W/R creatures makes the most sense. Also, Slayers' Stronghold offers a cheap way to ride any future Boros success in Standard. Giving things haste to enable battalion makes sense. Even if the mana cost is a bit prohibitive, the paper costs aren't. Interestingly, Ebay has Stronghold pricing all over the place with several auctions selling at $1 per.
Penny pick for the week:
Trepanation Blade looks like a big winner in light of the new Dimir Guildmage. While Jace, Memory Adept has quickly gone up in price in anticipation of future mill strategies, the Blade is still available for less than five cents from multiple vendors. Turning sideways to deal damage before blocks are declared looks very promising. The mill component has an added benefit of playing nice with both the Havengul Lich and Lazav, Dimir Mastermind. The Lich is an interesting speculation target that I've written about before, while Lazav is presently selling on Ebay from thirty to forty dollars a playset. Prices like that are too high, even for a mythic from a small set. Should he slip to the four dollar range, I'll be looking to pick copies up. Lazav equipped with the Trepanation Blade has the ability to morph before blocks are declared making swings a dangerous proposition for your opponent before combat damage is applied (again with a Duskmantle activation).
More Uncommon Ground
Speaking of, have you seen Duskmantle Guildmage? If not, take the time to click the links above. Duskmantle likely gets Mindcrank banned in modern. Two piece combo with built in protection versus removal with the Crank in play (removal hits graveyard to trigger damage cycle). Picking up the Guildmage for $0.25 a pop is now a difficult proposition but a playset can still be yours for less than $1.50. This card is more versatile than Blood Artist and should easily push $1. Mindcrank is a great card to pick up as a throw in. Trading away an Oblivion Ring for three or more looks like a safe play on the second part of THE modern combo deck.