Late March is fantasy baseball season, which means I have once again remembered to shamelessly steal a column format from one of my favorite writers over at ESPN, the great Matthew Berry. I may not always agree with him on player analysis, but he is one of the undisputed masters at infusing boring topics with a spark of real fun.
If you missed my last ten lists of ten, the idea behind it is quite simple. I am going to present ten lists of ten items. The order matters on some, but not on others. Some will be Magic finance related and some won’t be.
I will be referencing a lot of prices in this article, and as always they are retail values taken from this very site.
10. Top Ten Scars Block Cards That Will Hold Their Value Post-Rotation
10. Steel Hellkite ($0.50)
9. Mimic Vat ($1.50)
8. Darksteel Plate ($2)
7. Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur ($7)
6. Blightsteel Colossus ($7)
5. Inkmoth Nexus ($10)
4. Karn Liberated ($12)
3. Batterskull ($15)
2. Mox Opal ($20)
1. Sword of Feast and Famine ($30)
This was a hard list to make, because there are a lot of cards in this block that should still be valuable post rotation. Elesh Norn, for example, should clock in at $20+ for a while yet. Thrun should stay over $10 and Green Sun’s Zenith will be a hot commodity for years. Ditto Consecrated Sphinx, which is a first rate Commander staple. I didn’t include any on this list, though, because I think there will be a good opportunity to pick them up after Standard rotation at a discount. I don’t expect a dip from any of the above cards.
The card I am most certain about on this list is Inkmoth Nexus. The price is down right now because it’s now been in two event decks, but I don’t see them re-printing it again for a while. Lands that are four-ofs in eternal formats will always command a premium, and that premium usually goes up as time passes.
9. Top Ten Most Expensive Foil Commanders
10. Captain Sisay – Invasion ($30)
9. Sakashima the Impostor – Saviors ($30)
8. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker – Champions ($30)
7. Jhoira of the Ghitu – Future Sight ($30)
6. Venser, Shaper Savant – Future Sight ($30)
5. Hanna, Ship’s Navigator – Invasion ($35)
4. Progenitus – Conflux ($35)
3. Azusa, Lost but Seeking – Champions ($35)
2. Radiant, Archangel – Urza’s Legacy ($50)
1. Reya Dawnbringer – Invasion ($50)
Interestingly, the top two on this list are seldom-used in the Commander format – the price is mostly inflated due to angel collectors, who have been snapping up those short-printed set foils since release. Progenitus and Kiki-Jiki’s prices are clearly influenced by eternal playability, but the other six cards are pretty much exclusive to Commander.
A lot of VERY popular generals aren’t on this list, (Momir Vig, Simic Visionary, Thraximundar, Scion of the Ur-Dragon, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Sharuum the Hegemon, etc.) meaning that they still retail for $25 or less. The original set foils of these legends are likely solid investments that should hold their value or go up as long as the format remains popular.
8. Top Ten Favorite Films
8. High Fidelity
7. The Breakfast Club
6. American Beauty
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey
4. Annie Hall
3. Almost Famous
2. Back to the Future
1. The Empire Strikes Back
This was a hard list to put together because I wanted to cover childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Every single one of these films was number one on my list at one point or another and was responsible for influencing my life at one time or another. Even still, I probably forgot an important movie or two that I’ll be kicking myself over about ten minutes after I submit this article.
Ultimately, I had to give the crown to The Empire Strikes Back. Like many nerdy kids, the first time I watched Star Wars was a life-changing moment. Up until that point I was having trouble forming strong friendships with kids at school (I had just moved from California to New England), but once I had Star Wars to bond with people over my social life began to have purpose. I forged a group of friends who ate, slept, and breathed Star Wars just like I did, and those friendships led me to the Decipher Star Wars CCG that laid the groundwork for my discovery of Magic.
When I got a bit older and began to study film, I became more and more impressed with how perfect a movie The Empire Strikes Back really is. The first Star Wars film is such a tough act to follow, and Empire does it so deftly – the entire film is filled with beautiful character moments in the midst of a conflict that is essentially a 90-minute fight for our heroes to stay alive. There are barely even any small victories for our heroes in Empire, and even though it’s a high concept space opera with puppets and droids it manages to be relatable in a way that very few films are. I’ve probably seen The Empire Strikes Back thirty times now and I’ve yet to tire of it.
7. Top Ten Hottest Standard Mythics at the Trade Tables
10. Sun Titan ($6)
9. Geist of Saint Traft ($20)
8. Consecrated Sphinx ($10)
7. Primeval Titan ($20)
6. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad ($30)
5. Phyrexian Obliterator ($30)
4. Sword of War and Peace ($45)
3. Liliana of the Veil ($30)
2. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite ($30)
1. Huntmaster of the Fells ($25)
Judging by the finishes at the SCG Open in Sacramento, Wolf Run is still a fine choice in Standard and Huntmaster is still the most in-demand card. As a 4-of mythic from a small set that’s going to stop getting drafted soon, I don’t see it dropping below $20 before maintaining a nice price tag for the next year or so. The only reason Primeval Titan isn’t higher on this list is because of how many times it’s been printed.
I also think that this is the price floor for Liliana and Sorin. Both have quietly started seeing more and more play, and I expect both to hit $35+ before too long.
If you haven’t noticed the price jump in Phyrexian Obliterator, you’re not alone. This card has been far pricier than it should have been for way too long because it’s a casual favorite, so now that it’s showing up in top 8’s I expect its demand to keep climbing.
Consecrated Sphinx seems primed for a resurgence, as U/B and Esper control decks are showing their meddle as a top tier Standard option. I expect Geist of Saint Traft to keep trending downward as Delver and blue-based aggro strategies keep seeking other options.
6. Top Ten “Wait, that is worth WHAT!?” Casual Cards
10. Patron Wizard ($6)
9. Idyllic Tutor ($7)
8. Door of Destinies ($8)
7. Lord of the Undead ($8)
6. Rhys the Redeemed ($10)
5. Creakwood Liege ($8)
4. Deathbringer Liege ($10)
3. Thraximundar ($10)
2. Death Baron ($12)
1. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ($12)
Some crazy numbers on non-foil versions of popular Commanders, as Niv-Mizzet and Rhys the Redeemed each find their normal copies hitting double digits for the first time. The lieges keep rising in price as well and show no sign of slowing down.
Ever since Innistrad block hit the street, all the other casual zombie cards have seen a marked increase in value – and none more so than Death Baron and Lord of the Undead. You can still occasionally find these in people’s bulk, so watch out for them.
If you’re looking for the next big casual card to speculate on, I recommend powerful tribal cards and popular Commanders. These seem to always have the most staying power.
5. Top Ten Worst Inclusions in the Official WOTC Cube
To be fair, most of the cards on this list are meant to represent strategies that are kind of baffling to me about the official MTGO cube. For example, it’s not really JUST Tendrils of Agony that’s a problem, it’s the fact that there’s a storm subtheme present in the cube that is not supported enough to ever work. And it’s not just Celestial Purge that’s an issue, it’s bloating the cube with a ton of situational sideboard cards.
Other baffling inclusions: Manriki-Gusari with, like, 10 other pieces of equipment out of 720 cards, too many durdly utility lands, and a bizarre affinity toward mediocre 3-color uncommons. If you’re going to reward someone for playing all three Jund colors, give them something more than a Thrinax in return.
Biggest omissions? I assume a lot of stuff was nixed based on power level, but there’s no reason a solid role-player like Phantasmal Image should have been omitted. Also not present: nearly every aggressive white card and the Shadowmoor block filter lands.
4. Top Ten Commons and Uncommons You Think are Bulk
10. Seething Song ($1.50)
9. Primal Rage ($2)
8. Daru Warchief ($2.50)
7. Mind Harness ($2)
6. Choke ($1.50)
5. Wirewood Lodge ($3)
4. Wall of Souls ($1.50)
3. Turnabout ($3)
2. Cloud of Faeries ($1.50)
1. Invigorate ($1)
I could get to twenty without breaking too much of a sweat, but you get the idea. When you’re sorting through collections and/or your own bulk, do you really know which commons and uncommons have value? Sure you’re not going to pass up a Rancor, Swords to Plowshares, or Sensei’s Divining Top – those are well-known cards that see tons of play – but did you have any idea that Turnabout was worth three freaking dollars?
Make sure you check multiple sources, too. Channel Fireball still has Gilder Bairn listed for $0.50, but that’s likely because they haven’t had one in stock for months. This card usually retails for $2+ everywhere else.
You won’t break the bank on most of these – indeed, you’ll be lucky to get $1 out of a playset of Invigorates yourself – but these things add up. School yourself on money commons and uncommons and you’ll always be able to get the most out of your collection.
3. Top Ten Financial Busts from Lorwyn to Now
10. Eyes of the Wisent ($10 on release)
9. Abyssal Persecutor ($30 on release)
8. Murmuring Bosk ($20 on release)
7. Warren Instigator ($10 on release)
6. Garruk Relentless ($40 on release)
5. Chandra, the Firebrand ($30 on release)
4. Skaab Ruinator ($25 on release)
3. Sarkhan Vol ($25 on release)
2. Elspeth Tirel & Venser, the Sojourner ($50 on release)
1. Time Reversal ($30 on release)
All of these prices were retail on the week of the prerelease. I didn’t want to include current value since many of these cards are no longer in Standard and did level out at prices higher than they’re at now. In many cases, though, the eBay values upon the card’s preview announcement were even higher! I have a friend who spent almost $20 each on his set of Warren Instigators.
It’s no shock that Time Reversal was the biggest bust ever – most finance experts and pros at the time were actively mocking its price. Sarkhan Vol can be explained by the fact that planeswalkers AND mythics were both very new, and we hadn’t quite figured them out yet. Koth could have joined Venser and Elspeth in the #2 spot, but he held his value for long enough that I can’t really call him a total financial bust. All three Scars ‘walkers suffered from post-Jace insanity, which explained their inflated values.
The moral of the story, as always, is to always avoid pre-ordering high value cards. It’s a losing proposition.
2. Top Ten Best Episodes of NBC’s ‘Community’
10. Basic Rocket Science (The ‘Apollo 13’ episode.)
9. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (The D&D episode.)
8. The Science of Illusion (Pierce becomes a wizard & the girls are buddy cops.)
7. Critical Film Studies (The ‘My Dinner with Andre’ parody.)
6. Paradigms of Human Memory (The ‘clip show’ episode.)
5. A Fistful of Paintballs/For a Few Paintballs More (Second season paintball two-parter.)
4. Epidemiology (The zombie episode.)
3. Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas (The claymation Christmas special.)
2. Modern Warfare (The original paintball episode.)
1. Remedial Chaos Theory (Multiple parallel universes and the darkest timeline.)
In honor of the return of Community to NBC’s Thursday night lineup, I wanted to celebrate my love for the series by trying to list my favorite episodes. And man was it hard!
The main thrust of the problem in rating these is that season two had all of the best concept episodes. These had all of the most unusual ideas and weirdest plots, and thus are most easily recalled when making a list like this. I mean, how can I leave off either of the paintball episodes?
I was shocked that I only had room for one season three episode on the list, because I think I actually like this season more than last overall. The difference is that the jokes are sharper and the character writing is better, but the scope is much smaller since the show has scaled back on the insanity that made season two so unique.
At any rate, if you haven’t watched this series yet I highly recommend it. If you’re looking for a good entry point into the series, check out the pilot and then skip to ‘Debate 109,’ then watch ‘Modern Warfare.’ If you’re not interested after that, it’s probably not the show for you.
1. Top Ten Most Misunderstood Pieces of Magic Financial Advice
10. “Your whole collection is fungible. Everything you own should always be for trade.”
9. “Value is everything. As long as you’re winning a trade on paper, make it.”
8. “Always trade for the hottest cards at prereleases.”
7. “Always (or never) dump your excess cards to buylists at large events.”
6. “Never trade your Legacy/Vintage cards for Standard cards.”
5. “Make sure to sell/trade your rotating cards before they leave Standard.”
4. “Information is the most valuable commodity you have. Never give it away.”
3. “Finishing a deal, even one you’re not 100% on, is better than walking away.”
2. “Speculate on cards constantly. That’s where all the money is made.”
1. “Don’t worry about your own opinions. Just listen to the experts.”
I had originally planned on doing the top ten worst pieces of Magic financial advice, but I ultimately found this list far more interesting. All of these statements are things I’ve heard people say, and none of them are 100% wrong…depending on who you are and the situation at hand.
Speculating, for example, is fine to do in moderation if you’ve got some extra cash lying around and a passion for it. While some people do strike it rich, those who do the best are those who trust their instincts. For example, I have a friend who wanted to go big on Steelshaper’s Gift. It wasn’t a card that anyone was talking about as a hot speculation target, but it was one he had started to see a lot more demand for in his Commander group. He trusted his instincts, bought in quietly, and turned an easy profit. Of course, he was the exception to the rule. Most people speculate without thinking their purchases through and end up getting burned. I think far, FAR too many people speculate, honestly. If you do it, make sure to keep accurate financial records and make sure it’s worth your time.
Trading for hot cards at prereleases is another thing that lots of Magic finance people espouse, forgetting that they have a network of buyers to whom they can flip the card easily. Most people don’t have that luxury and end up sitting on their brand new Planeswalker for far too long.
Trying to finish all your deals no matter what is good…if you’re making 100 trades in a day. If you’re only making one, it’s going to sting a little more if you leave the event feeling like you were talked into something you didn’t like. Casual traders also need to think more carefully about what they trade. Too often, they let go of something they wanted to keep for years because they assumed it would lose value on rotation or be easy to reacquire. Again, this is true if you’re constantly churning trade stock, but not if you’re only casually making deals.
Information is king, that’s true…but giving away strategic bits of advice here and there is only going to help you connect with your partner and facilitate a smooth trade with strong elements of trust. If you keep everything close to your vest, you’ll come off as shady and dishonest.
If you are reading this column on a regular basis, chances are your instincts are good. The important thing is to develop a strong feeling about trading style and execute it. Take all advice with a grain of salt – what works for some may not work as well for others. Find out what works for you and make it happen.
Until next time –
- Chas Andres