Insider: The $0.80 Rule – Gauging the Relative Impact of Commander Demand on Price

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Greetings, exacerbaters!

Anyone else confused about what happened this weekend?

A Legacy of Pricing

Star City Games, by all accounts, put on a hell of a tournament. The value of the mat/sleeves/box/Batterskull/Month of free SCG Premium combo made the Grand Prix in Edison, New Jersey this past weekend essentially free. Parking was a little tough but the event started on time, had enough judges, enough vendors, real perks for VIPs and great artists including John Avon, whose line was so long he was given his own ballroom to hold court.

People had fun, good guy BBD won and everyone got to play Legacy. For my part, I was also a big winner because I didn't have to spend more than five hours at a time in New Jersey because the event was in the part of the state where it was easy to take a train into Manhattan where the real fun is. Star City has a lot of experience putting on events and it really showed with a well run GP.

They also have a tendency to move markets, and quite a few cards moved this weekend. Some were due to them seeing play on camera. Some were not. Star City had a considerable opportunity to buy lots of cards from Eternal players and they used the opportunity to double their buy price on unlimited power.

While I don't expect all of the price shifts from the weekend that seemed meta-dependent to tank--Dragon's Claw was scarce this weekend. Feel free to not try and pick up any copies today--it is possible a few of them may stick. While large Legacy events don't happen all of the time and therefore you're not likely to encounter as many burn decks as you would have seen at GP Edison in future events, it's possible that Kor Firewalker was due for a price correction and will stay about where it was this weekend in some dealer cases.

But it's really hard to tell. I think even some of the perceived scarcity inside the dealer hall was imagined. I watched a guy pay $7 for a Shattering Spree and I saw three playsets inside a dealer's case for $3 ten minutes later. I certainly wasn't about to tweet "ZOMG Shattering Spree going for $7 on the floor of the GP! #GPNJ #Buyout #Kony2012" or whatever like some of the other tweeters I saw this weekend.

I had an article all planned about how historically an SCG-hosted Legacy GP on the East Coast can have permanent effects on prices, but we're not seeing that this time. While they increased their buy price on power and basically made it more expensive until they print more Black Lotuses, duals are not moving. It's possible we'll see movement in the next few days. Volcanic Island, for example, saw a weekend price of closer to $350 than $250, due to getting played way more than Underground Sea, despite Star City's insistence on charging way less for it. It could be that perception of Sea as the best dual and its applicability in Vintage (no actual way, couldn't even type that with a straight face) is leading the discrepancy.

If you look on MODO, Black Lotus goes for way more than Mox Sapphire despite Sapphire being in more Vintage decks on MODO. Underground Sea's price could have some "prestige float" built in, or Volc could be due an upward correction (or Underground a downward one, lest everyone on earth be priced out of Legacy).

A more likely explanation is that there was no real need for dual land prices to go up as sharply as they did at GP Richmond based on demand but rather price spikes in Zendikar fetch lands led to a lot of people being able to trade inflated fetches for duals. Once SCG started hemorrhaging dual lands, they increased their buy and sell prices and the market followed suit. It happens.

There's enough there for an article, but as of Monday evening, Volc isn't moving anywhere in price or in stock numbers and I don't see that changing. I was inspired to write about something else.

Something Else

In a recent Money Draught cast, Khans of Tarkir and its EDH nastiness inspired us to talk about projected future prices of EDH cards and something fairly important occurred to me.


This is what the price trajectory looks like for a card so good in EDH that every time the Banlist changes are announced, everyone holds their breath. EDH has the power to make good, old cards like Doubling Season expensive, true. But nothing in EDH is expensive on principle.

This is a very important thing to remember. Cross-format applicability is important. How important?


Glimpse the Unthinkable is following a price trajectory pretty close to that of Doubling Season before its reprinting with zero applicability in EDH. While something like Doubling Season has both casual and EDH applications, Glimpse the Unthinkable does a pretty good job of demonstrating how casual appeal in four-of formats can matter. Why do I even bring casual and EDH cards up at all?



Is this an EDH card? It kind of is, but its price is entirely dependent on its applicability in another format. Containment Priest was heavily sought before and during the GP this weekend. People imagined it was a much better sideboard card than it actually is, but it was also hard to get enough copies of it as doing so involved buying a $35 (or more) sealed deck.

Six copies in the Top 16 of the Legacy GP is decent, but nothing to go nuts over. It's a sideboard two-of in Legacy. Could it also be this year's True-Name Nemesis?

Really, what's the best card to compare Containment Priest to? It could be True-Name Nemesis, although that is a maindeckable card, it spiked before Wizards announced their intention to reprint in-demand EDH decks as needed and was more often a four-of in the decks that ran it. If this is our card to compare to, what's the price trajectory to expect for Containment Priest?


Brutal. With the efficacy of True-Name Nemesis evident in its first week of legality, its inclusion in a deck that won big during Eternal weekend and lots of copies in the Top 8 of the SCG Open that same weekend, we still saw a drop as supply caught up to demand. With the policy already in place at the beginning of Containment Priests' life, its efficacy much less clear (who knows how often it was boarded in or even mattered?) and its relegation to the board and as a two-of, its fair trade price is on par with post-crash TNN.

I saw a guy pay $50 cash for a priest at GPNJ and I held my tongue because far be it from me to cockblock a sale. What happens at the GP stays at the GP after all, and weekend prices are weekend prices.

Do I like Containment Priest at its current price? Absolutely not. We're at minimum supply. The weekend's scarcity made some people think it should be worth more, but if they're expecting to buy at its current retail price and make anything, I don't see it happening. Remember, MSRP is going to enforce a cap on the entire deck's price and Priest is picking up a lot of the slack already.

I think a better card to compare Priest to may be another card seeing semi-decent Legacy play, mild EDH play and with roughly the same supply.


This is the Legacy effect on card prices. Now, Deluge is going to be worth a bit more than a Legacy-playable card from a regular set like Khans of Tarkir. We can see what Deluge's price might look like if it were an EDH card rather than a Legacy card.


Primal Vigor's price is almost entirely based in EDH demand (some casual too) and it has the same trajectory as Deluge but half of the price.

So why did  I mention Deadeye Navigator?

The $0.80 Rule

Deadeye Navigator is from a third set that wasn't opened as much as other sets in the block. It's an auto-include in a lot of EDH decks. It's good enough to be banned in EDH. So why is it only $0.80 when a much more situational card like Primal Vigor is $4?

The key is how you get the cards. While Primal Vigor is guaranteed every $20 or so whereas $20 in boosters won't always yield the equivalent Vigor, Deluge or Priest, or whichever card you want that's in a regular set and not a precon, the people buying the Commander precons usually want the cards in it. You can get the cards in collections, but usually when you're buying the entire deck.

Deadeyes are in boosters, were distributed through MODO redemption and are everywhere due to how many boosters sold. If your LGS sold five Mind Seize decks, they'd have to restock. If they sold five cases of booster boxes, they'd be in the same boat, but that would dump way more Navigators on the store and most people wouldn't want them. Commander players aren't going to give you a Primal Vigor in bulk, but I get Navigators as bulk rares all the time. Most players don't want the card even though the people who want it really want it.

If you're looking at a recent card that has no cross-format applicability and is non-mythic, don't expect the non-foil to get there because of EDH. If the card is expected to see less play than a card like Deadeye Navigator, how can you reasonably expect it to be worth more than $0.80? It doesn't make any sense. There are a lot of factors that affect the price of an EDH card and can buoy its price, but EDH playability is not chief among them.

Next time you're wondering what to do with a card that should see EDH play from a new set, think about Deadeye Navigator sitting at $0.80. Do you really want to go deep for a few bucks when the set first comes out hoping it will see $5ish? Is that really something that can happen to a modern card in the post-mythic era? Not for cards out of boosters.

Think about how the copies of the card are ending up in players' hands. If it's buried in a $35 precon and it's not super cost-effective for dealers to buy and bust them for singles, the scarcity will buoy the price. If it is super cost-effective to get them out, the demand will buoy the price. Either way, the lower availability of the card compared to a card from a booster is a tenfold greater indicator of price than EDH playability, even if it's an EDH-only card.

Think about whether it has cross-format applicability. If it's useful in Legacy, even as a sideboard card, the fact that it's a popular four-of format and the players who want it are the kind of players who patronize the major retailers who influence the prices of cards will have a much greater impact on the price than EDH playability.

Also, think about whether the card is better than Deadeye Navigator. Chances are that it's not. If it's an old card like Palinchron, being less playable in EDH than Deadeye Navigator doesn't matter as much because scarcity is a better determinant of price than EDH playability. If it's a worse card and just as common, how can you expect it to be worth more than $0.80?

Finally, ask yourself if there is any money to be made on the card. EDH playability won't affect the price more than cross-format applicability, ease of getting copies into the market or scarcity due to age. There is one thing that EDH playability does affect, in spades. I'll leave you with one more graph.


14 thoughts on “Insider: The $0.80 Rule – Gauging the Relative Impact of Commander Demand on Price

  1. Great article, Jason, my favorite of yours in a while. You spent the right amount of time breaking down the factors that affect playability and where they fit in the hierarchy of price determination. Much appreciated!

  2. I loved the article, but the only issue I have with using Deadeye Navigator is that a decent percent of the EDH community WANTS it banned (we house banned it) and even the fear of banning can effect a cards price (just as the belief in an in Bitterblossom’s case can do the same). I only bring this up, because I’ve had people ask me what cards should go in their U/G/x edh decks and Deadeye is usually one of the first cards I mention only to have them reply back “but he’ll probably get banned”…apparently that fear holds back people from risking $0.8…

    1. If the card isn’t good enough to be banned, the comparison has less weight. The rules committee has never indicated DEN is a problem and people have been bitching through 4 bannings so far.

  3. “If the card is expected to see less play than a card like Deadeye Navigator, how can you reasonably expect it to be worth more than $0.80?”

    The conclusion in my eyes, there are so many reasons why a card could be worth more or less that’s impossible to make a ‘rule’ out of it.

    The question is simple, is demand higher than availability? No, then it’s cheap.
    This can change over time.
    If DEN doesn’t see reprint within the next 5 years, expect it to get a decent price. Maybe it’s just to early for him to skyrocket like forked bolt.

  4. I think there’s a lot of truth to what you’re saying but its a little short sighted.

    The prices of cards like DEN, increasing ambition, and other EDH staples that are basically bulk status are being oppressed by the fact that there is a glut of supply – right now.

    You’re absolutely right that most people who have DENs don’t even want them. The guy who bought a booster case of Avacyn Restored is more than happy to throw in a DEN in a trade because he has 12 of them and the most he’s ever going to use is 1 in an EDH deck maybe. He doesn’t care about the card.

    The guy who grinded MTGO redeeming sets of Avacyn Restored. He accidentally flooded the market with 100s of copies of DEN because he was looking for Bonfires and Griselbrands. He was ecstatic to flip his DENs for .25 to the highest buylist at the time. It helped cover some of his shipping costs and that’s about all he could ask for.

    And that’s why Starcity restocks with 1000 copies for .50 every time they do their semi annual sale. But here’s the thing – every time they do these sales a couple hundred copies sell. One day they’re going to run out. We’re at the point now where more Deadeyes are selling out of vendor inventories faster then they’re stocking up. Redemption of Innistrad block just ended so zero copies are entering the market that way. Very few people are cracking boxes of Avacyn Restored. And every day a few dozen people buy copies of this card one at a time from TCGPlayer for their EDH decks. Slowly but surely the supply is dwindling and one day the price is going to catch up. Its a buyers market for cards like DEN, Increasing ambition, zealous conscripts, and harvester of souls right now.

    Compare it to a card like Exsanguinate from SOM. It was a bulk crap EDH card for the longest time until one day it wasn’t. Same with Mimic Vat. Venser’s Journal. Ezuri Renegade Leader. True Conviction.

    These aren’t cards that spike crazy over night (usually). They’re cards you pick up a few hundred copies of and put them in the box because you know you’re going to double your money on them in a year. Patience 🙂

      1. That’s why you diversify. Get a basket off specs. They will reprint some things but they won’t reprint everything and the profits from the homeruns will cover the losses you cut on the flops

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