Insider: An Under-the-Radar Commander Opportunity

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As someone with a traffic-ridden, lengthy commute to work each morning, I have developed a deep appreciation for MTG finance podcasts. I won’t make comparisons between them here (although that may be an interesting, controversial topic for another time) so I will just write about them generically for now. Needless to say, I’ve sampled them all given the roughly seven hours of commute time I spend in the car every week.

Given my visibility in the MTG finance community, I frequently earn mention on some of the casts’ episodes. This is always entertaining because I can be painted in all sorts of different lights: an experienced Old School investor, a risk-averse chicken little, a market manipulator of Reserved List cards, and everything in between. Good, bad, or indifferent, I appreciate any and all publicity to help expand my reach in the community.

That said, there was one mention on a recent cast episode that deviated far enough from the truth that I felt it merited mention. What’s more, I think the cast overlooked a growing trend that has not gotten much attention yet. That is all about to change with this article.

Popeye Stompy?

On October 1st, Channel Fireball published a satirical column by Bob Huang showcasing a Pirate-themed deck he called “Popeye Stompy.” The deck list used all the Rishadan pirates from Mercadian Masques alongside some admittedly convincing Legacy staples. But I think the one-of Ramirez DePietro was the red flag that indicated the deck’s silliness.

Despite this, the price of these Pirates shot through the roof. Once rumors spread of the list’s power on Reddit, all bets were off, even though there were no such results.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Rishadan Brigand

Coincidentally, I showcased a bet I made on Pirates right around the time that this list was posted. When discussions surfaced about the controversial Channel Fireball article, my name got thrown into the mix as someone who got taken by the parody list. However, this could not be further from the truth. Allow me to explain.

Admiral Beckett Brass

A couple weeks ago I checked EDH REC’s most popular generals and I saw a new Ixalan creature in the bunch: Admiral Beckett Brass. I clicked on the link to see what cards people chose to investigate with the Pirate general. What I found was a list of new Ixalan cards (no opportunity there), Kukemssa Pirates (already spiked), and a bunch of Portal cards. Looking closer, the opportunity leaped out at me!

It turns out that Talas Warrior, a rare from Portal: Second Age, spiked in price so quietly that it made no noise in social media. Since Portal: Second Age cards don’t show up on MTG Stocks by default, even active speculators overlooked this Pirate. But it is now a $10 card with actual demand.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Talas Warrior

I managed to grab eight copies from a Japanese vendor for around $2 each and have since sold five on eBay at around $10 each. Buylists haven’t really caught up to this one yet for obvious reason, but when these started selling I knew I was onto something.

I also grabbed a stack of Cloud Pirates for around $0.30 each as part of the same purchase because they were virtually sold out within the U.S. Despite being just a common from Portal, it seems enough people are enthralled by Pirates to boost its price. Rather than sell these individually though, I chose to buylist most of my copies to Card Kingdom for $0.65 each for easy gains. I did manage to sell a playset on eBay for $10, however.

Tribal Pirates - The Real Deal

These new prices are real. I don’t know why this theme isn’t getting more attention. Two weeks ago when I browsed the top commanders on EDH REC, Admiral Beckett Brass was fifth or sixth most popular for the week and there were only a couple dozen lists made at that point. Now we’re up to 93 total lists for this general and he shows up as the second most popular commander for the week.

That means he got more attention than The Ur-Dragon, The Scarab God, and even Atraxa, Praetors' Voice. This guy is the real deal.

Admiral Beckett Brass is climbing in popularity, and with a slew of new Pirates yet to be introduced with Rivals of Ixalan, I expect this trend to accelerate. Like Vampires and Dragons, Pirates will have a huge casual following that will attract buyers of even the most random cards.

Are you convinced yet? I hope so, because I think there are still some untapped opportunities here worth your attention. The Portal cards were some extremely low-hanging fruit given the age and rarity (not to mention unlikeliness of reprinting) of these once-hated cards. It doesn’t matter that Cloud Pirates is a Flying Men with downside; people want to add Pirates to their Pirate deck!

So let’s check out what other Pirate cards players are brewing with on EDH REC. I’m sure the best ideas are easily picked out of these lists based on what older cards show up most.

Let’s start with a flavorful addition to the deck: Coastal Piracy.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Coastal Piracy

This enchantment has a lot going for it: it captures the flavor of pirates very well while also being a useful card in combination with things like Talas Warrior. It also has “piracy” in its name, so it’s quite on theme. The card already spiked a bunch, but I suspect there are still some cheaper copies out there worth grabbing. If you can find foils near the old price, that would be even better.

While you’re at it, you may want to grab a few cheap foil copies of Open into Wonder. It’s from Amonkhet so the time horizon on this one may be longer, but its ability is pretty on-theme for what the Pirates deck tries to do.

Shifting gears, let’s turn away from “signature cards” and towards the creatures that make the Pirate deck truly represent its namesake. The first one that leaps out at me is Thassa, God of the Sea.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Thassa, God of the Sea

Theros isn’t really old enough yet for my liking, but you can’t argue with Thassa's fit in the Pirates deck despite not being a Pirate. She helps make your creatures unblockable, which is exactly what a Coastal Piracy-type deck wants to be doing. Checking Thassa’s price graph, it appears she has finally found a bottom. Unless there’s a reprint on the horizon (unlikely), this may be the optimal time to pick up a few copies. Foils aren’t oppressively expensive either if you’d prefer to go that route.

About 30% of lists include the Reserved List card Kukemssa Pirates. When I noticed that card spike from bulk to $3, I thought the movement was silly and would be short-lived. But now that I read the card’s ability and think about the unblockable nature of the deck, maybe this card is actually quite playable. Stealing an opponent’s Sol Ring or other mana rock seems quite attractive.

Given the age and rarity of Kukemssa Pirates, maybe selling at $3 was the wrong play… I could see it climb even higher as Admiral Beckett Brass grows in popularity.

The last card I want to mention is possibly the biggest stretch of them all, but my appreciation for old cards cannot be ignored. Check out Pirate Ship foils from Time Spiral. They’re just a buck and they’re the only foil printing of this card.

Is it a good card? Not really. But that hasn’t stopped 14% of deck builders from including it in their Pirate EDH list for flavor’s sake. How can you play a load of Pirates without a Pirate Ship? This probably doesn’t have legs, but the fact that $40 could basically buy out TCGplayer of this card makes it a very possible target should Pirate hype catch on. I’m going to be watching this one closely.

Wrapping It Up

Despite not being a viable Legacy deck, Pirate-themed decks will still be quite popular and yield good speculation opportunity. I have already started making money on some of the rarer Portal Pirates, but I don’t think all of the potential has been realized yet. Even the Mercadian Masques Rishadan Pirates have potential to rise in price despite already jumping a bit on reckless Legacy speculation. Each of these cards shows up in many Admiral Beckett Brass lists on EDH REC.

It may be worth seeking any and all playable Pirates for potential inclusion in these Pirate lists. There aren’t a ton out there (yet), so even cards far down in the barrel such as Cloud Pirates are suddenly in demand. I have the sales to prove it.

I would encourage you to look through your bulk, or the bulk at your LGS, for these Pirate cards or any blue cards that can make your creatures unblockable. Older foils would be your safest bet, but even something like Thassa, God of the Sea has some potential. Even foil copies of Bedlam may be worth looking at.

These Pirate cards truly have legs given the popularity of the creature type. Pirate decks in Commander have been growing in popularity and I believe Rivals of Ixalan will introduce even more Pirate cards to make the deck stronger and more popular. Despite being largely ignored thus far, this is a trend that will eventually get the attention of speculators and players—best to act now before this happens. I’ve already started, but I think there is still plenty of runway left.



For Sigbits this week, I want to focus on Power. Since publishing my article on Power a couple weeks ago I’ve been trying to find opportunities to acquire another piece using sales from the spiked Reserved List cards. Turns out finding a good deal on a Mox is quite difficult. For example…

  • ABU Games has three Unlimited Moxen in stock, but they’re all “Near Mint” and therefore quite expensive. $1799.99 for a Mox Jet and $2299.99 for a Mox Sapphire? Too rich for my blood. I suspect they have no played Moxes in stock because those were priced attractively enough to justify acquiring with that lovely 50% trade-in bonus.
  • Card Kingdom’s stock follows a very similar trend. They have a Near Mint Mox Jet for $1799.99 and two EX for $1439.99. These are all too expensive for my taste. Once again, I suspect the cheaper copies were already acquired with trade credit, leaving only the most unattainable copies behind. They actually have just as many Alpha Moxes in stock as Unlimited, probably because Alpha copies are so difficult to acquire with trade credit!
  • Star City Games has very good stock of Unlimited But their prices are a bit high despite having some pieces on sale last week. I count 22 in total, but only two are cheaper than $999.99 (both HP Mox Rubies). I guess if you’re using trade credit, some of these copies are priced fairly. But I don’t know who is in the market for slightly played Power that carries significant premium over moderately and heavily played. Paying $1399.99 for a “PL” Mox Emerald seems awful when you can find HP copies elsewhere on the market for nearly half that.
  • Do you want to know my favorite vendor for purchasing Power? Cool Stuff Inc! They have very fair prices and they mark their Heavily Played pieces down near market pricing. Given you have the reassurance of authenticity by purchasing from a reputable vendor, I think they are one of the best stores to acquire Power from. Their stock fluctuates often, but the fact that you can get an HP Mox for $699.99 - $799.99 from their site is quite fair given they have to pay rent and keep lights on. Short of waiting on eBay auctions or risking counterfeit copies on Facebook, this is the way to go to acquire Power. They even have attractive prices on played Alpha and Beta copies!

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