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Insider: Scouring for the Undervalued

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Today's article is one that I really enjoyed writing. It took a bit of research and a decent amount of scouring decklists, but I think it'll pay off in the long run. The goal is to find cards that are undervalued right now for one reason or another, for the purposes of buying them up.

I've run articles like this before, and hit some all-stars. Cards I've picked in the past include:

  1. Ensnaring Bridge ($4)
  2. Burning Wish ($5)
  3. Gamble ($5)
  4. Blood Moon ($6)
  5. Cryptic Command ($7.5)
  6. Ancient Tomb ($6)
  7. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite ($15)
  8. Divert ($0.5)

That list isn't just to provide people with confidence--it also forced me to reminisce about why I picked each card to get me in the right mindset. It's important to remain as objective as possible, so I will list the good aspects as well as the bad aspects for each of these potential specs.


1. Counterbalance - This U/W/x Miracles staple has been stable for the past few years. It has waffled between $6 and $9 or so the entire time Legacy has been popular. It provides a form of card advantage (actually quite rare in Legacy where card selection is more common). Without good instant-speed deck manipulation in Modern it hasn't made a splash there yet, however it does have potential (even blind) so long as the format continues to focus on one- and two-drops.

The printing of Abrupt Decay did put a bit of a damper on this cards growth, but Abrupt Decay's difficult mana requirements do limit the number of decks that can play it. It's also worth noting that Counterbalance does provide two blue devotion.


2. Grim Lavamancer - This guy often finds himself as a one- or two-of in a few Legacy decks and could find a home in Modern as well. His ability is incredibly powerful.

In decks that don't have the ability to re-use cards in the graveyard (or gain any sort of advantage from them) he has no downside. His creature types of human and wizard are both surprisingly relevant. His recent reprinting in a core set along with his relatively innocuous stint in Standard tricked a lot of people into misinterpreting his power level, especially since creature power level has continued to rise since the days of Torment.

He provides card advantage using a resource some decks have no use for. He can kill Deathrite Shamans, Dark Confidants, and Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration along with every creature in Elves and almost everything in Death and Taxes.

The other aspect holding him back (in Modern) is the lack of a lot of good cantrips to fill the yard, although Modern players still get fetchlands. There are no good threshold cards, and with the exception of Snapcaster Mage and Past in Flames, few ways to truly abuse one's own graveyard in Modern.


3. Meekstone - This card is amazing against grindy decks. It's mana cost of one allows a deck to cast it (on the play) before anything but Force of Will can stop it. The fact that it hits 3+ power creatures means that it happens to really hurt Delver of Secrets and Nimble Mongoose, not to mention medium-size or greater Tarmogoyfs.

It's colorless and can be put into a lot of combo decks as a way to turn the opponents creatures into mere "Lightning Bolts". The fact that it's an artifact makes it more difficult to get rid of than a creature.

The only major downside is that the biggest threats in Legacy don't really get held up by it (Griselbrand just draws into another one and Emrakul destroys it and all the other permanents you have). It also hurts that the card is symmetrical so one's deck needs to take it into account (which is often why you'll see it in Elves/Goblins sideboards).


4. Gaddock Teeg - This card should be seeing more play in Modern. It is the best hate bear in Modern and a good one in Legacy. In Modern he stops Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, Ad Nauseam, Past in Flames, Supreme Verdict, Elspeth, and Chord of Calling. There are few Modern decks which he doesn't hinder greatly.

The biggest factor holding him back is that there aren't any strong G/W Modern decks that would want to play him, save Modern Junk. This is one of my favorite type of calls because his power level is known and accepted, but he's just lacking a home. As metagames shift and new sets are released the probability that he finds one increases.


5. Bridge from Below - This is probably the most controversial pick because it's use is solely based on the popularity of Dredge decks. However, this is one of they key cards in the deck that keeps the engine running and it's only had two printings (both of which are quite small compared to today's print run sizes).

Dredge is also one of the pillars of Vintage and the upcoming Vintage Masters release on MTGO will likely raise interest in the format. We've already seen a lot of the Power 9 start to disappear from retailers and the Dredge deck doesn't really require any power (it's the "cheap" top tier Vintage deck).


6. Unmask - This card often finds itself in Vintage Dredge, as well as some old Legacy Dredge lists. It provides a powerful effect for no mana and is a great form of disruption. It has one printing (from Mercadian Masques) which wasn't all that popular with the players at the time.

I always look carefully at the "free" spells from Masques block as many of them have found homes in different decks (Daze, Massacre, Misdirection). Again with the increase in interest we expect from Vintage Masters, any Vintage-playable cards that are rare, from older sets, and haven't moved in price in quite a while are worth examining.


7. Firestorm - This card is one of my favorites because it tends to waffle between $10-$20 depending on how popular Dredge is. You may have noticed by now that I feel there are quite a few Dredge cards that are undervalued. Look at Ichorid--it sat at $4-5 for a long time and now it's over $11. I feel the rest of Dredge will catch up since Ichorid doesn't see play in any other deck but has already jumped.

Firestorm does serve as a cheap mass removal spell and/or an uncounterable discard outlet. The downside is that in a format where card advantage is incredibly valuable and difficult to come by, Firestorm comes with a steep cost that many decks can't or don't want to pay.

Should any other graveyard based synergies surface in Magic's future, then this card has a lot of upwards potential, though the power of the dredge mechanic has shown Wizards that they need to be weary of that sort of mechanic (which is why scavenge seems to be quite underpowered).


8. Thorn of Amethyst - This prison staple was the original Thalia. It is more difficult to remove than Thalia and it's not legendary so you can have multiples in play. The obvious downside is that each copy costs more than the last. It also doesn't provide a clock (like Thalia), but it is colorless so it can be played in multiple decks.

Thalia's existance also means that the decks Thorn is good against (Storm and Belcher) are prepared for this type of affect. It's played in mono-red MUD decks as a way to slow down the previously mentioned combo decks that are too fast. It's often coupled with our next entry...


9. Sphere of Resistance - Another prison staple used to fight fast combo decks. The MUD style decks have really fallen out of favor and I feel that their power level is still there. But they will need to evolve into something that can fight the current metagame of high-powered creatures cheated into play and evasive threats backed up by boatloads of protection and mana denial.

Fortunately, until these decks evolve, their staples will continue to remain undervalued and underappreciated and remain great pickups.


10. Goblin Welder - Hopefully you've noticed a pattern; I like to find cards that were previously key pieces of powerful archetypes that have fallen out of favor. The beauty of Legacy is that while archetypes' power levels wax and wane, the power level of individual cards often continues to go up. Goblin Welder gets better every time an artifact gets printed (how much better heavily depends on the artifact itself.)

Goblin Welder can fit into several archetypes (MUD and Painter Stone decks), providing protection against counterspells by recurring dead artifacts.


11. Engineered Explosives - A colorless Pernicious Deed gives a lot of decks answers to cards they don't normally get answers to. Red-black has a way to remove troublesome enchantments that cost less than two.

It often finds a home in the sideboard of three-color decks as a sweeper that kills almost everything troublesome in the format (for fun try to name 10 permanents that cost more than three and are commonly played in Legacy.)

3 thoughts on “Insider: Scouring for the Undervalued

  1. This is a LONG list of suggestions. I cannot possibly open a sizable position in all of them at this time. What is your top recommendation? I can definitely keep an eye out for these when trading, but since I like to buy/sell cards for speculating it helps to hear what others are paying cash for.

    1. I wouldn’t suggest you open a sizeable position in any of them. These are cards I personally believe are undervalued at the moment. There’s no telling when they will go up in value, but I have strong faith that they will. These are cards I’d target if I see in trade binders, not necessarily that I’d throw tons of money in (especially since the date of selling out is completely unknown).

  2. I understand that this list is slightly dubious, but off the top of my head (I stopped when I hit 10):

    Griselbrand

    Emrakul

    Jace, the Mind Sculptor

    Batterskull

    Krenko

    Goblin Ringleader

    Omniscience

    Dream Halls

    Craterhoof Behemoth

    Bloodbraid Elf

    That out of the way, I like your list, though I have less faith in Gaddock Teeg. Seems to me that everything that it’s good against already has to keep Echoing Truths and Lightning Bolts around anyway, though as you said, the card is obviously strong.

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