Chris’s Commander Corner: Diamonds in the Rough

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It occurred to me that I've never written much about myself in my articles, so you may not know a whole lot about me or my connection to the game. While probably not super important, some context about who I am and what my strategy is regarding MTG finance might help you decide how to approach my recommendations moving forward.

I got my start writing for Quiet Speculation in August 2018 thanks to Sigmund and a couple of quick conversations at GenCon. Sig and I had known each other by name for the better part of two years at that point, thanks to his awesome articles and me commenting on a few of them back when I first signed up as a QS Insider. Sig and I connected through our commonalities in both our personal lives and our views on finance (both MTG and Wall Street). We developed a good relationship passing each other information about cards (and stocks).

My finance strategy when I was passing information back and forth with Sig was focused heavily on the Reserved List, with a particular focus on lesser-known cards. I kicked my strategy off in 2016 and carried it through 2017. The strategy consisted of acquiring tons of Reserved List cards which, at the time, were priced $2 or less. These are some of the gems I found in that timeframe: Harbinger of Night, Lake of the Dead, Undiscovered Paradise, Second Chance, Corpse Dance, and Retribution of the Meek.

The timing of my acquisitions could not have been better as the player base was in full growth mode, EDH was booming, and a broad run on Reserved List cards was about to happen.

Expanding My Horizons

I ended up using the profits from this time period in my MTG finance career to expand my MTG bankroll in a significant manner. I was fortunate enough to rotate tons of Reserved List bulk into massive profits (some as high as 10,000%) and turned those profits into inventory for the long-run (mostly acquiring dual lands, Old School pieces, and some higher end RL cards such as Chains of Mephistopheles.

My strategy of finding unknown cards on the Reserved List fell to the wayside as the rest of the market caught up to the idea and unknown cards suddenly took less time to be discovered. As a result, I adjusted my focus to the broader EDH market. In a lot of ways this was just a natural transition since my Reserved List bulk often spiked because of newfound demand from EDH usage.

Besides the fact that I love playing EDH, the format has a real appeal to me from a finance perspective: it is a non-rotating, ever-growing format like Legacy and Vintage but with fewer barriers to entry. You can play EDH on a serious budget and come up with some really fun strategies in the process.

This means I don't have to constantly worry about a shifting meta or stay on top of things like rotation and Standard spoilers. Instead, I can simply focus on the new legends printed in each set and apply an "EDH lens" to existing cards.

This strategy also fits nicely into my personal life as I don't have as much time to play Magic as I used to (changing even more in April as my wife and I are expecting our first baby!), and my passion for playing has been tied to EDH since 2013I haven't played Constructed since Invasion and although I do still have a Legacy Eldrazi deck, I hardly ever get out and play with it.

Look no further than Teysa Karlov, Niv-Mizzet, Parun, or Arcades, the Strategist. Each of these Commanders demanded the attention of EDH circles as soon as they were spoiled and they infused newfound demand on cards that synergized well with them. I reacted to these new Commanders being spoiled by immediately acquiring cards they would eventually make relevant.

Chris's Commander Corner

While today I focus the majority of my MTG financing on reacting to new legends being printed (or relevant non-legends such as Smothering Tithe), I do occasionally still brew EDH decks for personal use. When I do this, I tend to focus first on budget options, then work my way up via upgrades. Sometimes this means I have to accept being a little less competitive with my new decks until I upgrade them. But in certain cases I find unknown gems that are extremely potent to the point where they lock themselves into the 99.

I want to share three cards that this happened with recently; I believe all three of these cards are unappreciated and underplayed in EDH circles. I had the pleasure of seeing them at their fullest potential in recent games with my playgroup.

Reminder about my ratings scale (you can read more about this scale here):

  • 5 - Must-buys
  • 4 - Budding EDH all-stars
  • 3 - Cards with newfound momentum
  • 2 - Early movers
  • 1 - Cards just making it onto my radar

Conviction: 3/5

There is a piece of me that wants to call Preferred Selection a must-buy (5/5) because of its Reserved List designation, but I have to temper my expectations here a bit as it only sees play in 45 decks according to EDHREC. I'm not sure why the number is that low but that's as good a time as any to A) locate a hidden gem and B) speculate on it for the long-haul.

The main knock on Preferred Selection is the mana cost—2GG is expensive when you can play Sylvan Library for half that. The flip side of this argument is that consistency is king in EDH, so why not run both?

Preferred Selection is a phenomenal card filtering tool for green and an incredible budget option to its more expensive counterpart. Being able to take a bulk Reserved List card and draw legitimate comparisons to Sylvan Library meant there were clear grounds for further investigation and testing, so I did just that.

Personal Experience

I first ran Preferred Selection in my Seton, Krosan Protector Druids deck and it was a driving force that helped me close out a game in casual 1v1 EDH with my brother. The card filtering was premier and the higher casting cost didn't hurt me because of the ramp Seton and team were able to produce. The fact Preferred Selection allows you to see two cards at a time in green and have the added late-game benefit of paying four mana to draw an extra card makes all the difference in a close game.

I have since added Preferred Selection to my Gishath, Sun's Avatar EDH deck as a way to filter into more Dinos. I've considered it in my current brew around Muldrotha, the Gravetide as well, although I'm not sure if it will make that cut or not.

Investment Plan

I've been acquiring NM and LP copies of Preferred Selection as throw-ins (on average of $1.09 per copy) to get to free shipping on various sites since December 2018 when I first discovered the card. I didn't call it out sooner simply because I wanted to test it a bit more before backing it, but I'm confident now it is the real deal. The fact Preferred Selection is a bulk Reserved List card makes it a low-risk investment that I think has upside once players test it, especially in mono-green builds.

I recommend picking up at least a single copy to test for yourself. The NM copies have slowly risen over the past year like most Reserved List cards, but the played copies are plentiful and very cheap. I truly believe this one has the financial upside of a $5+ Reserved List playable as EDH players discover the potency of card-selection in mono-green ramp decks.

Conviction: 2/5

Cards that give creatures protection from one or more colors have a tendency to be underrated in EDH. I looked up Seht's Tiger (1,145 EDHREC) to compare to and while it is played more than Favor of the Mighty it is still pretty underplayed overall.

The fact that Favor of the Mighty is seeing play in only 123 EDHREC decks is shocking to me; it makes your biggest creatures extremely tough to deal with and gives them evasion to boot. I noticed the "Recent Decks" list on EDHREC shows General Tazri which I find strange because allies don't typically have high CMCs. I do see Zacama, Primal Calamity on the list which makes me feel a little better, but overall I just see opportunity for Favor of the Mighty to grow in usage.

Personal Experience

Any of you that follow me on Twitter or Instagram know that I was calling out Favor of the Mighty for its performance in my Gishath, Sun's Avatar Dinos EDH deck a couple of weeks ago. Not long before I began writing this article, I put Favor of the Mighty into my Gishath deck to test it out. I drew into it on my third turn in one game, cast it, and the rest was history; Gishath won a very grindy game and the resilience was because of Favor.

The ability to give your hasty-Gishath protection from all colors all but guarantees you can get an uncontested attack in and build an immediate board-state. Favor of the Mighty is ultimately what made the deck resilient; I was eating board-wipe after board-wipe because of my commanding ground game, but the "protection from all colors" clause made targeting Gishath with instants virtually impossible, so each of my turns I just recast it and drew into more Dinos.

After seeing how this card performed in my Gishath deck I immediately slotted a copy into my Scion of the Ur-Dragon deck to test it there as well. I'll be providing updates on how Favor of the Mighty does on my Twitter account next time I play Scion (likely sometime in mid-March when I can get out to play again).

Investment Plan

I acquired a couple playsets of NM foils of Favor of the Mighty a while ago when I first discovered it. My records show this was in August 2018 at an average of $1.49. I also acquired a playset of non-foils recently in bulk (these are now my playable copies).

Similar to Preferred Selection, I wanted to test this card before calling it as a legitimate diamond in the rough. Now that I have seen it in action I am confident in its potency and believe it is a good fit in any stompy strategy, whether that be Dragons, Dinos, Eldrazi, or something else. It is also a "tribal-Giant" card, so if the Giant creature type ever gets some attention, Favor of the Mighty would be a good reactionary buy (especially if a good tutor was printed).

I recommend grabbing a copy to test it out yourself. Foils have already moved a bit, especially NM, but there are still deals to be found on it under $3 if you look hard enough. Being a single-print from Lorwyn bodes well for its upside (especially foils) should newfound demand come online.

Conviction: 1/5 (add to watch list)

I won't spend too much time talking about Signal the Clans as all I need to do is compare it to Eladamri's Call to show its potential.

  • Similarities: 2 CMC; Instant speed; tutor for a creature and put it into your hand.
  • Differences: color-shifted from white to red; Signal the Clans forces you to find three creatures, and randomizes the card you end up with.

Eladamri's Call is in 9,233 EDHREC decks while Signal the Clans is only in 2,061 EDHREC decks. Sure, the drawback is you end up with one of your best three creatures instead of the specific creature you want, but you're telling me 7,000 decks don't think the tutor-ability for one of their three best creatures is worthwhile? That's crazy to me and I am going to be testing Signal the Clans in every deck I can.

Personal Experience

I got to see Signal the Clans for the first time playing against an Animar, Soul of Elements. They were able to search up two Dragons and an Eldrazi and ended up with Utvara Hellkite which promptly closed out the game for them. While Signal the Clans wasn't the reason that player won the game, the fact is they were able to pick from their three best creatures and land one of them for two mana at instant speed (i.e. at the end of my turn).

I still need to test it in my own decks, but the thought of being able to get one of my three best creatures is enough for me to give this one a look.

Investment Plan

I played against Signal the Clans in December 2018 and have since been acquiring NM foils for bulk prices (< $1). In that time, I have acquired four foil playsets: one for personal use and three for speculation. I also bought two playsets of non-foils at bulk pricing which I will be using as my personal copies.

Similar to my first two recommendations, I would recommend picking up a single copy of Signal the Clans to test it for yourself. I do not recommend going deep unless you are comfortable sitting on them for a while (I was). The NM foil copies have been slowly drying up under $1, but it is going to be a longer mover I suspect unless players start to realize the potential sooner (because it gets reprinted in a Commander set, for example) or a major content creator writes about it.

Until then, I love knowing about it as a diamond in the rough and am happy to pick up foils at bulk prices to get me to free shipping or as trade throw-ins. Of note: it does have the print-run size argument going against it. It came from Gatecrash which was heavily opened due to shock lands—this could lead to downward pressure and minimize upside long-term.

Wrapping Up

My MTG finance strategy has come a long way since 2016, but I still like to lean on my roots and dig into the lesser known realms of Magic from time to time. Information travels faster than it did even just three short years ago when I first began digging bulk. The MTG finance community has equally grown in size and sophistication from those days—but that doesn't mean you can't still find diamonds in the rough on occasion.

Fortunately, EDH keeps just about every Magic card relevant in some capacity because of the amazing interactions new cards can sometimes create. As a result, there are always hidden gems just waiting for their time to shine. Until then, I will keep searching!

For reactions and commentary, find me on Twitter (@ChiStyleGaming) or in the QS Discord (@Chris Martin#5133). As always, see you on the battlefield!

10 thoughts on “Chris’s Commander Corner: Diamonds in the Rough

  1. Did you see my article on why EDH REC may not be a good choice for EDH playability numbers?

    Preferred Seelection

    Why not play both this and Sylvan Library: well, you have Mirri’s Guile, Sensei’s Divining Top, Scroll Rack and a few others that you may rather play.

    I wouldn’t argue against the ability to filter, but I would argue against this being the 2nd choice after Library. Also 1 on 1 EDH may not be representative of real EDH games.

    Favor the Mighty

    How do you guarantee your creature has the highest casting cost? Your card may as easily help opponents and the more opponents you have the more likely they are to have something more expensive in play. Did you perhaps again try this in 1 on 1 rather than real games? It would be considerably more reliable in that scenario.

    Signal the Clans

    With Eladamri’s Call you need a single silver bullet, with Signal the Clans you need 3 that deal with the same problem to be sure you end up with a solution. It’s definitely a whole lot better to be able to just get what you want for deck construction purposes. If you often use it to get a finisher you might be better off just playing an additional finisher (leaving you with a better chance to draw another finisher should they be able to deal with it).

    Add to this indeed the print run size, I seem to remember it was in a precon as well, and much easier reprint. I would not be too confident in this card.

  2. The 1v1 example with Preferred Selection was only the first time I played it. The card is actually much better the larger the pod because the games tend to last longer and you see even more cards. You compared it to multiple cards which are double-figures in price. You can buy a Preferred Selection with coins you find in your couch, and that’s appealing.

    As for Favor of the Mighty, sure there is potential for it to backfire, but if you are playing Dinos or Dragons EDH, for example, there is a strong change you will have the highest converted mana costed creature. If you don’t, best to have a board wipe on standby! I played it in a pod of 4 for the record and it was a superstar in the games it landed and stuck. I have not tried it in 1v1 though I imagine it might be even better in that setting.

    Signal the Clans is a bulk tutor (even in foil which is what I specifically believe is a decent pickup as a penny stock spec)… anything that tutors up creatures at instant speed and for 2 CMC should be on my radar, but somehow I didn’t even know this card existed until I played against it in a pod of 4. I’m not anticipating this card to make you rich, but if you’re getting NM foils sub-$1 or LP foils sub-$0.70, I think you will do okay with them over time.

    All three of these cards are wonderful “entry level” cards for EDH. They’re also all very good replacement/budget level options.

    1. You’re assuming EDH play on a budget? That’d be another strike against using EDH REC as a source as posting deck lists doesn’t really require any budget and thus is more likely to reflect the ideal deck.

      Preferred Selection

      In my experience EDH players, even starting ones, will try to upgrade their decks. I honestly couldn’t estimate how many would buy Preferred Selection yet not save a little more for the better options. Crystal Ball and Darksteel Pendant btw.

      Favor of the Mighty

      I assume you would agree that the more players the better the chance someone will have more expensive guys? From a deck building perspective it just makes so little sense to me to include a card that has the potential to help others. EDH tends to often boil down to big plays, most decks have a few 7-8 mana creatures and 9 isn’t even that uncommon. That’s the range Dinos and Dragons are in, now if you’d go with something that tops with a few options at 10 I think you may have a decent chance of making it playable, but that’ll be quite rare.

      Also the card wastes a slot that could’ve gone to anything. Is giving a big creature protection not a ‘win more’?

      1 on 1 is pretty much irrelevant for EDH, but yes, it will be better there. Your pod of 4 is a small EDH game, 5-6 is far more common in my experience.

      Signal the Clans

      Basically you’re saying ‘buy tutors’? You don’t really address the problems I mentioned that I believe it has.

      “All three of these cards are wonderful “entry level” cards for EDH. They’re also all very good replacement/budget level options.”

      So now we get to the meat of it. Where I think your assumption is flawed is that you assume people keep buying these when they are no longer replacement/budget options, as you assume you can profit enough on them to make the effort worth it.

      For example those sub $1 Signal foils, selling at $5 would be worth the effort, but with shipping both ways and related effort it couldn’t be much lower before it’d be a waste of time. Will a budget minded EDH player a. buy foils over non-foils, b. buy these at $5 and c. not save up for a better card instead?

      I am not claiming there will never be cards that have the chops to go from cheap to a decent profit, but cards that have been around for this long, which many budget minded players won’t know because they’re form before they started to play, I don’t see it happen to the extend that it would be worthwhile.

      1. I am not trying to exclusively “profit off of these cards” first and foremost. I have copies as specs because I think they are very good, yes, and I disclosed that in both QS Discord and the article. But I bought the copies intentionally after testing the cards in games. I think you are reading my article incorrectly if that’s how you are interpreting it.

        The article is all written with a “play these first and give them a shot” tone. I’m not advocating spending $50 to spec on any of these cards. But all three are very much the type of card that fits my target wheelhouse – they’re all lesser known to the average player and they are budget options that do really great things in the right context. (I am very surprised you don’t think players build EDH decks on a budget; I am of the camp that says there is a huge audience who keep their decks to $100 or less, but realistically neither of us will have surefire data to back these claims, thus we have to make our own assumptions).

        I would suggest trying each card out. I can tell you are making assumptions in your writing that indicates to me you haven’t actually played with these cards. Regarding Favor of the Mighty specifically, there are so few 9+ drops in MTG that 8 is the “magic number” and all of the best Dinos just happen to be that number. Sure, if I were playing against Eldrazi, a Draco, or a bunch of Leviathans with my Dinos then Favor might backfire, but in the overall large pool of decks available there are very very few which have creatures above 8 CMC.

        1. (of note: I do not currently run a Zacama in my Dinos deck because of my own budget desires and not wanting to pay ~$7 for a card I view is worth no more than $3-4, but Zacama is a 9-drop)

        2. I have played against each of these and have played with Preferred Selection, though not for long as it just wasn’t good enough. I’ve spent significant time on thinking about Preferred Selection and Signal the Clans for decks, but they just couldn’t make the cut. I’ve not thought about Favor of the Mighty as much because the logic simply doesn’t work out, not even for my Mayael deck. For over 10 years almost any Magic I’ve played has been EDH, for most of that time on a weekly basis. I am a fanatical deckbuilder if nothing else.

          Perhaps rather than attacking my merits as a commenter, why not assume that I may actually have some idea what I am talking about and address my objections to playing the cards instead? If I don’t the objections should be easy to deal with.

          I was not suggesting you are trying to profit off of these in the sense that you bought in and are now trying to get others to do the same so you can reap the rewards. I am suggesting that if these are meant to be good buys they should be sell-able at a significantly high price to be worth buying in to.

          I think you must’ve misread, I am not suggesting people don’t play on a budget, I think the vast majority does. I only asked if you were assuming the context of EDH budget building, which I think you are. In that context: these all need to increase to a value beyond budget building to be interesting from a finance perspective, so who is your target audience then? It’s not about showing that they have merit for budget minded players now, it’s about showing that they will have merit for less budget minded players in the future.

          1. I read all of your comments as very dismissive to my points and a little bit critical as if I am writing to pump and dump some bulk cards which is completely and utterly false. These three cards are underplayed, unappreciated, and in most cases unknown. If you don’t think these are good cards, don’t buy them or play them. I won’t be continuing this conversation any further.

  3. 100% agreed, Pi, and thank you for taking it offline with me and discussing so we could better understand each others’ perspectives.

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