Traderous Instinct – A Financial Review of Commander, Part 4

Back in Black

Welcome to part four of my seven-part series on the financial value of Commander!

On our plate today: black. The color of horrors, hatred, hellfire, and, uh, Hyalopterous Lemures.

Black has long been a well-respected Magic color, and swamps have consistently shown up at the top tables since the game began. The color was at its height during the so-called “black summer” of 1996, when the entire metagame was Necropotence vs. Anti-Necropotence.

Ever since then, mages of all shapes and sizes have tried to re-discover mono-black control regardless of viability. Sometimes (when Cabal Coffers was legal in Standard) it worked quite well. Other times (nearly every other time) it wasn’t so hot. No matter what, people love playing black. Especially in mono-colored decks.

Except, oddly enough, in Commander.

I’m not saying that black cards don’t see Commander play, because they do. But black is most often a secondary or tertiary color. Black cards are usually jammed into decks like Sharuum and Vorosh to provide tutoring and creature kill.

In fact, ever since the banning of Braids, Cabal Minion as a general, I don’t think I’ve seen a single mono-black Commander deck!

But whether you plan on ‘going rogue’ with MBC or just throwing a couple of tutors in your blue deck, this article should help you get a sense of what black is up to in Commander.

Paint it Black

If white is like the know-it-all that gets an A on every test and blue is like the jerk who made two grand last semester selling candy bars to freshmen, black is like the goth girl who does killer doodles in class, but whom you’re kind of scared to talk to because you’re not sure what’s really going on in her life.

Black cards all tend to come with seemingly stiff drawbacks, and you’re never sure how bad they’ll end up being. Sometimes they’ll be negligible, and other times you’ll throw 20 life at a Necropotence and still not find an answer.

Black’s best creatures in Commander generally do double-duty by beating pretty hard while providing you the option of destroying one of your opponent’s creatures. Its best spells tend to focus on killing a lot of creatures, letting you trade life for cards, or allowing you to reanimate creatures from a graveyard.

Popular black generals include Maga, Traitor to Mortals, Visara the Dreadful, Ghost Counsel of the Orzhova, Selenia, Dark Angel, Teysa, Orzhov Scion, Sygg, River Cutthroat, Bladewing the Risen, Wrexial, the Risen Deep, Kaervek the Merciless, Nath of the Gilt Leaf, Vhati Il-Dal, Zur the Enchanter, Doran, the Siege Tower, Teneb, the Harvester, and Vorosh, the Hunter.

Card-By-Card Analysis

For those who didn’t read my first article, let me start by explaining my methodology.

In this guide, I will evaluate each card on a scale from one to ten based on three distinct categories:

Trade Appeal: How desirable is the card? Often there will be great cards with very low trade appeal because few people know about them yet. Cards with very high trade appeal are extremely sought-after Commander staples that I can’t keep in my binder to save my life.

Please note that this score is based solely on my own experience. Since the format is relatively new and very diverse, your experiences may vary completely as different cards will have ‘caught on’ in your area. This is also another reason to trade as much as possible in new areas!

Undervalued: Do I think the card will go up in value? I am not talking about the immediate future, but rather the long-term future of the format. Undervalued cards are usually easy to trade higher than their book value and are cards that I will trade for at book value without missing a beat.

Likelihood of Reprint: Do I think this card will be reprinted? Since Wizards is making Commander pre-cons later this year, it stands to reason that many of the best Commander cards will be reprinted in them. While the print runs should be low enough to prevent the value of a card from tanking too hard, it will nonetheless hurt the trade appeal of that card. Often, cards with a high reprint number have already been reprinted in multiple sets or duel decks.

Of all the categories I weigh, this is the least scientific. Luckily, it is also the least important. I have no idea what will actually be reprinted, so this is mostly just my own educated guess.

It is good to know, however, which cards are on the Reserve List. While Wizards will sometimes make a nearly functional reprint of a card on the list, (see: Fork and Reverberate) the more unique Reserve List cards are generally the safest possible investments you can make.

Important note: Many of the staples of Commander have their values tied much more closely to their playability in other formats. Damnation, for example, is a totally sweet Commander card, but since it is also an essential Legacy staple, I won’t be bringing it up here.

I may bring up some cards that have uses in other formats, but in those cases I will be keeping my review aimed solely at their future in Commander. These will usually be cards that are low enough in value that I think Commander playability will affect their price. (Example: Phyrexian Arena)

I also will not be listing recent commons and uncommons that still trade at bulk prices. While it’s true that Doom Blade is great in a mono-black Commander deck, I don’t think you’ll have a problem getting one out of a bulk box.

All prices are from ChannelFireball where possible. If ChannelFireball doesn’t have a price listed, I will be using prices from other large and well-known singles sites.

Ambitions Cost – Eighth Edition – $0.50/$3.00 ($2.50 Foil)

Starting us off is the first in a long line of cards that allow the savvy black Commander player to turn life into cards. One of the most popular strategies for the color is to get fast mana going as early as possible, and then use cards like this to plow through the rest of your deck looking for ways to take out all your opponents at once.

Life is often a negligible resource in normal magic (it’s only the last point of damage that kills you!) and this is even truer in Commander. Thus, black card draw can be just as powerful as the raw stuff in blue if you are smart about it.

Ambitions Cost was only printed in P3K and Eighth Edition, so it’s getting harder to find. Pull them out of bulk bins, because you’ll be able to trade them easily at $1.

Note that the functionally equivalent [card]Ancient Craving[/card] was printed in Portal II and Starter 1999. This card usually sells for $3-$4 because it is a rare and is therefore significantly harder to find.

Trade Appeal: 7
Undervalued: 7
Likelihood of Reprint: 4

Avatar of Woe – Prophecy – $5.00 ($25.00 Foil)

One of the nice things about Commander is how accessible it can be. At the highest levels (should there even BE any ‘highest levels’?), games can be about combo-ing off or denying your opponent the resources to fight at all. But at the ground floor, cards that seem powerful usually ARE pretty powerful!

Avatar of Woe is a simple creature. Once you near the end of a game, you can play it and use it as either an evasive win condition or as a way to pick off the most troublesome creature each turn. Ask someone who has only played one game of Magic how powerful the card is, and they will say, ‘very.’

And they’ll be right. Timmy is going to stuff this card right into the heart of his Commander deck, and for once he won’t have a condescending older brother telling him it’s rubbish. This is the sort of giant dork the format was built for, and because of that he is always in demand.

I can’t say that $5 is a good price for a casual only card that Wizards likes to re-print, but you’ll find no shortage of players interested in taking it on at full retail.

Trade Appeal: 7
Undervalued: 3
Likelihood of Reprint: 9

Beacon of Unrest – Fifth Dawn – $2.00 ($5.00 Foil)

There are cheaper ways to get a critter back from the dead, but the reshuffle effect on the Beacon is usually pretty good. This card is not going to be dead at any point in the game, so drawing it a second time is usually awesome.

Beacon is also drawback-free, unlike cheaper cards like Exhume, Animate Dead, and Reanimate that often don’t make the cut.

$2 seems like a good price point for this card. It’s a mid-level rare that’ll hold value and trade well, but not quickly.

Trade Appeal: 6
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 6

Contamination – Urza’s Saga – $2.50 (No Foil Available)

Contamination has my vote for the meanest card on this list. With just a couple of dorks to throw away, this can act as a one-sided Armageddon for just three mana. It’s brutal in the midgame, often taking over a table and ensuring that the late game will be yours alone. Since black is relatively scarce in Commander, this card will divide your table into allies and enemies like no other.

Even though the card is only an all-star in decks that are heavily black, it will trade easily due to its age and absurd power level. I think it is undervalued at $2.50, and the card should double in price as the format gets more popular.

Trade Appeal: 9
Undervalued: 8
Likelihood of Reprint: 2

Death Cloud – Darksteel – $1.50 ($5.00 Foil)

Death Cloud is kind of like the black Balance. If you know it’s coming and can set your board up to take advantage of it, it can leave you in a position of outrageous power over your opponents. Those who don’t see it coming will be absolutely wrecked by it, especially if they’ve been sandbagging 2-3 great cards in their hand.

I loved this spell when it was in Standard, and it is even more powerful here. You have to play a heavy black manabase to make it work, but the payoff is quite good.

Death Cloud is slightly undervalued at $1.50 and should trade at $2 to those who need it. The only reason it is this low is because of the heavy black commitment you must have to play it. If Wizards ever prints a really competitive mono-black general, many of the prices on this list will go up.

Trade Appeal: 4
Undervalued: 6
Likelihood of Reprint: 4

Decree of Pain – Scourge – $3.00 ($5.00 Foil)

Death Cloud is cute, and setting up for a good one is fun, but Decree of Pain is a BEATING. Playing it will usually lead pretty quickly to victory. The card advantage it generates is nothing short of absurd, and it is the best readily-available wrath effect in the color. (Unless you want to save up the $50 – $80 for P3K’s Overwhelming Forces)

Decree of Pain is fairly valued at $3, though you can pick it up cheaper than that. You should also have no issues trading it at retail – it’s a staple of the highest order.

Trade Appeal: 8
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

Demonic Tutor – Revised – $10.00 ($40.00 Judge Foil)

If you own this card and you’re playing black in a format where it’s legal, you are playing this card. It’s that simple.

Providing a rare amount of consistency in a singleton format, Demonic Tutor can snag the answer to whatever big bad you’re facing down at the moment.

My favorite part of DT is that you don’t have to reveal what you tutor up to anyone. With luck, you can use this as a way to get into the minds of your opponents.

Be aware that this card has risen from $5 to $10 over the past year, a fact that not everyone is aware of yet. It is very easy to trade Demonic Tutors to new Commander players who are awed by its power, though older players will be reluctant to pay what they deem a premium on a card that isn’t legal outside of casual and Vintage.

This is a great card to target when trading with people who have been around since Revised, as it was an uncommon in that set and didn’t break the $5 mark until this year.

Trade Appeal: 10
Undervalued: 4
Likelihood of Reprint: 5

Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief – Rise of the Eldrazi – $2.00 ($4.00 Foil)

Keep in mind that Drana was an intro pack foil, so her value will never be all that high. She also never managed to find her place in Constructed despite being the consensus first pick in RoE limited. She’s not quite as good in Commander as she was in that Draft format, but pumpable evasive threat plus creature kill is not a bad package for a single card.

You can pick up this card for $1 in trade quite easily, and her value is only higher than that because Vampires are a hugely popular casual tribe.

Pick these up out of bulk bins. Her tribe will keep her value consistent for as long as Wizards keeps printing more blood-sucking Vampires.

Trade Appeal: 6
Undervalued: 3
Likelihood of Reprint: 4

Graveborn Muse – Legions – $1.00 ($3.00 Foil)

Graveborn Muse is a funny card. If you play her with a couple of Zombies, she’s the most broken card draw engine this side of Yawgmoths Bargain. If you play her with too many Zombies, though, she’ll murder you in your sleep.

This is why Graveborn Muse never really caught on as more than a 1- or 2-of in casual Zombie decks. She was always very risky, especially in multiples.

In Commander, you don’t need any other Zombies to make Graveborn Muse pretty solid. Add in two or three, though (from Grave Titan tokens maybe?) and before long you’re casting a free Ancestral Recall every turn.

This card is only a buck, so pick it up in bulk if you can. I don’t expect it to ever break that bank, but it’s a solid effect to know about and keep in stock.

Trade Appeal: 4
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 7

Herald of Leshrac – Coldsnap – $1.00 ($3.00 Foil)

Herald of Leshrac is one of my girlfriend’s favorite pieces of secret Commander tech. I’ve yet to see anyone else play it, but I can assure you that it is quite a beating if it isn’t dealt with.

We played a game last week when the Herald stole (in order):

Turn 1: Maze of Ith
Turn 2: Reliquary Tower, Boros Garrison
Turn 3: Simic Growth Chamber, Dimir Aqueduct, second Reliquary Tower.

And on, and on, and on.

The card is a dollar rare from Coldsnap, meaning that any added interest at all should drive the price up. I feel like there were only about two dozen boxes of the set opened worldwide. Pick it up as a throw-in and try it in your deck. Lands are often the most powerful cards out at any given time, and in a large enough game it is possible to steal dozens of lands.

If you’ve used this card to any success in the past, leave me a note in the comments and tell me what your record is for most lands stolen!

Trade Appeal: 3
Undervalued: 7
Likelihood of Reprint: 2

Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni – Betrayers of Kamigawa – $7.00 ($15.00 Foil)

I first learned about Ink-Eyes’ price increase last month, when I saw it priced at $7 in the case at Superstars and had to rub my eyes a few times. For those of you who were playing back when this was new, it ran $5-$8 for most of its run in Standard despite only seeing occasional play. The reason? Everyone wanted to play a Ninja deck, even if most of them were merely okay.

After sitting in the $3 zone for years, a new generation of players seem to have discovered that Ink-Eyes is the sneakiest and most fun Ninja there is. Yeah, Ninja of Deep Hours might actually be a better card, but ol’ Inky can really wreck your opponent out of nowhere and take something from them. That’s what a ninja should be trying to do, right?

Your window is rapidly closing to get these for under retail, as I definitely see this card maintaining its new price point. Everyone loves a sweet Ninja!

Trade Appeal: 8
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 4

Liliana Vess – Lorwyn – $5.00 ($8.00 Foil)

I almost put a ‘10’ under ‘Likelihood of Reprint’ for Liliana, but at least 10% of me thinks that Wizards will mercifully decide to retire The Lorwyn Five in Magic 2012. Of course, it says a lot about the casual demand for Planeswalkers that this card has been printed in three sets, has never seen significant tournament play, and still sells for five dollars.

Liliana is much better in Commander than she is in Standard, offering up a free tutor at the very least and threatening a powerful endgame if left unchecked. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her ultimate go off, but I’ve sure scurried around like hell trying to keep it that way.

Liliana trades well due to Planeswalker attraction and fringe Standard playability. I can’t say $5 is a good deal considering how many copies of her there are in the world, but ending up with her at retail in a trade isn’t the worst. You’ll eventually be able to find someone who will pay the price.

Trade Appeal: 7
Undervalued: 2
Likelihood of Reprint: 9

Massacre Wurm – Mirrodin Besieged – $10.00 ($18.00 Foil)

In Standard, this guy has to compete with both Wurmcoil Engine and Grave Titan. While I personally don’t think I’d run this guy over those two most of the time, the jury’s still out on how big a player he’ll end up being in the world of 60 card decks.

In Commander, though, you can play this giant Wurm along with his other two friends. So while Grave Titan and Wurmcoil Engine’s prices will mostly be affected by Standard play, Massacre Wurm should hold a reasonable amount of its value due to people going after it for their 100 card brews.

Of course, $10 is way too steep for a fringe or non-Constructed card. Take a look at Praetors Counsel, a better card for the format that is selling at just $2.50. That said, it’s important to note that this is likely going to be one of the Commander player’s first targets out of the new set.

This card should trade well with pretty much everyone right now, so I’d get as much value out of is as I could before the value starts to slip due to Constructed disappointment.

Trade Appeal: 10
Undervalued: 2
Likelihood of Reprint: 2

Necropotence – Ice Age – $4.00 ($5.00 FtV or Deckmasters Foil)

Necropotence is the most iconic black card ever printed.

White has Serra Angel and Wrath of God, blue has Counterspell, Red has Lightning Bolt, Green has, uh, Llanowar Elves? Giant Growth? Survival of the Fittest? I don’t actually know…

But Black definitely has The Skull.

I recommend playing this card either very early in a game or very late. On turn 3, you can use it to just take control before anyone else has gotten going. At the end, you can win a topdeck war without breaking a sweat. In the midgame, though, you may find yourself burning through your life total and regretting the loss of your draw step. Necro is sweet, but it’s not going to win the game by itself in a format as crazy as Commander.

The values on this card are all over the place. You’ll find many people who will only value this at a buck or two, due to the fact that it’s from Ice Age and nothing in the set is worth more than $3-$4 at most. Others will be awed by it and will prize it very highly.

One of my favorite cards to trade for is the foil version of this from the Deckmasters box set. The card is only worth $3-$5, but will trade at $10+ due to the fact that it is an early foil promo of an iconic card.

Trade Appeal: 7
Undervalued: 3
Likelihood of Reprint: 2

Nezumi Graverobber – Champions of Kamigawa – $0.50 ($3.00 Foil)

Those who don’t know about this card yet are in for a surprise.

For just two black mana, you get a 2/1 that can pick off reanimation targets, Strip Mines that are being Crucibled back into play each turn, and cards waiting in a graveyard for a timely Eternal Witness or Regrowth.

Then you can throw some mana into your ‘robber and turn him into an unstoppable machine who will single-handedly win the game if he goes unchecked.

Uh, yeah. If casual were the only format, this would be THE power uncommon.

As it is, this little rat can be found in bulk bins for $0.10 each if your store is sweet enough. Even at fifty cents, it’s pretty undervalued. It doesn’t trade all that well, but that’s only because so few people know about it.

This is an easy problem to fix – snag a few copies and then tell your friends to read the card!

Trade Appeal: 4
Undervalued: 7
Likelihood of Reprint: 2

Nirkana Revenant – Rise of the Eldrazi – $5.00 ($10.00 Foil)

Even though black is the color of Dark Ritual and Cabal Coffers, there aren’t as many effective ways to make fast mana in the color as one might want. While Drain Life effects have kind of fallen to the wayside in recent years, there are still plenty of mana-hungry spells that you probably want to play.

Nirkana provides you with welcome acceleration on top of a body that will win the game by itself if left unchecked. Oh – and combined with Cabal Coffers, you pretty much just win outright.

Nirkana is an awesome card to snag from tournament players, as its $5.00 price tag is propped up almost entirely by casual play. It is one of the few recent mythics to not see Standard play yet break the $2-$3 range, so there’s a logic disparity that is easy to exploit.

Casual players love Vampires. Love them, love them, love them.

Trade Appeal: 6
Undervalued: 4
Likelihood of Reprint: 5

Oversold Cemetery – Onslaught – $4.00 ($8.00 Foil)

This is an absurd effect for two mana. Once your Oversold Cemetery gets over soul’d, the death of your Creatures ceases to become a problem for you. Combine this with black’s wrath effects for maximum fun.

The fact that Enchantments tend to be among are the most ‘permanent’ Permanents in Commander helps, too.

Most people don’t know that this card is even $4, but I think it has the legs to go higher. It’s good-to-great at any point in the game, and it is easily splashable in decks that don’t want to run more than a couple swamps.

Trade Appeal: 7
Undervalued: 6
Likelihood of Reprint: 5

Phyrexian Arena – Apocalypse – $3.00 ($8.00 Foil)

Arena in Commander gives me the same sense of despair that Senseis Divining Top does in Legacy. Once it comes down on my opponent’s board, I don’t feel like I can win the game unless I do something soon.

Many other cards on this list will let you trade life for cards, but Arena is incredibly fair and economical about it. Graveborn Muse is fragile and might kill you. Necropotence gives you a threshold that you cannot pass. Phyrexian Arena just keeps methodically doing its job.

I was hopeful they’d bring this card back in Mirrodin Besieged, and I still hold out hope for it in New Phyrexia. It’s a solid $3 in value, and should trade easily because it sees play in fringe eternal strategies as well.

Trade Appeal: 8
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 8

Profane Command – Lorwyn – $1.50 ($6.00 Foil)

All but the red command are top-30 cards in Commander, and the black one is nothing to sneeze at. Removal, recursion, and two different ways to finish the game off are tacked onto this one powerful spell. There aren’t going to be too many games where this won’t be useful.

A buck fifty is really cheap for this, and I expect it to gain value over time. I doubt they’ll reprint it, and it’ll probably be a while before a better ‘charm’ cycle gets churned out of the WOTC printer.

A word of warning: most people seem to value this at around $3, so make sure you don’t pay too much if you trade for it.

Trade Appeal: 4
Undervalued: 6
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

Promise of Power & Reiver Demon – Mirrodin – $0.75 ($5.00 Foil)

I am combining these cards because they sell for the exact same price, are from the same set, and I have roughly the same thing to say about each of them.

Both of these cards are undervalued at under a dollar. They each provide a ton of value in a splashy, expensive format, and they should be more sought-after than they are. I blame the lack of a powerful mono-black general.

Both of these cards are more likely to be reprinted than not, as they are both flavorful and indicative of black’s best assets. If you ever see them in bulk or can pick ‘em up in trade for retail, do it. If heavy black decks become more popular in the future, neither card should trade for under $2.

Trade Appeal: 5
Undervalued: 8
Likelihood of Reprint: 6

Sorin Markov – Zendikar – $13.00 ($25.00 Foil)

Everyone in my playgroup is always up in arms about Magister Sphinx, despite the fact that you need to run Esper colors to play it. I think the problem is that it is stupidly easy to tutor up and bounce/recur in Sharuum decks.

Sorin, blessed with the same powerful ability, seems to run under the radar in Commander. I don’t know why. He’s pretty insane if you can get him online.

Sorin is also a powerful fringe rare in Standard, and the fact that he looks like a vampire makes people want him for casual decks. He’s recently pushed back past the $10 mark, though I see him settling into the $7-$8 “Sarkhan Vol” range once he leaves Standard.

Keep your eye out for the early M12 spoilers. I can see this guy making it to the core set if they decide to mix up the walkers next year.

Trade Appeal: 9
Undervalued: 2
Likelihood of Reprint: 5

Vampiric Tutor – Visions – $15.00 ($25.00 Judge Foil)

Most casual players won’t want to drop fifteen bucks on this card, but as the format matures spells like this might end up as major gainers.

Commander’s appeal is that it is a format that breeds innovation while stifling repetition. You can pick a ‘build around me’ general and create a 100-card synergy, but at the end of the day you’re going to have to select 55-65 unique spells to populate your deck. This makes strategies like “play a bunch of rituals and then a huge Tendrils of Agony” hard to pull off. Your deck is supposed to play out differently each time you play with it.

Cards like Vampiric Tutor allow you to go get your combo pieces or powerful disruption with very little drawback. If you run every tutor that there is, you can remove a huge amount of variance from your deck. Is this a good or bad thing for the format? Well, that’s up to each player and their playgroup.

If you want to make the most powerful black deck regardless of how fun it is, though, I would certainly think about using Vampiric Tutor.

Just like Demonic Tutor, this Legacy-banned card gained value over the past year or so. You should still be able to find people willing to trade them at $8-$10 if you are patient.

Trade Appeal: 8
Undervalued: 4
Likelihood of Reprint: 2

Visara the Dreadful – Onslaught – $5.00 ($10.00 Foil)

Ms. Dreadful is one of my favorite trade targets because she is ‘sneaky valuable.’ She looks like another $1-$2 casual Legend from Magic’s forgotten past, but in fact she’ll sell and trade at $5 all day long.

Visara provides much of the same functionality as Avatar of Woe for two mana less. She is also an awesome flying Gorgon. And she can be your general if you want.

She’s reasonably affordable, incredibly effective, and fairly splashy. Pick her up when you can, because she is pretty close to an auto-include in a heavy black Commander stack.

Trade Appeal: 8
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

Yawgmoths Will – Urza’s Saga – $12.50 ($25.00 Judge Foil)

They don’t call this card ‘Yawgmoth’s Win’ for nothing, and most times it will allow you to replay a land and 2-3 incredibly powerful spells. The only reason it’s not banned is that most Commander spells costs a ton to play, so unlike eternal formats it is doubtful that you will be able to just vomit up your whole graveyard in one go.

$12.50 isn’t a cheap price for a relatively casual format, but hard-core commandos are going to want this for all their black decks. Newer players are going to be awed by the brokenness that oozes out of every pore of this card.

If you have a couple copies of this card, you should not have any problem trading them whatsoever.

Also, remember that it is on the Reserve List. Beelzebub will be playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins before they do a functional reprint of this bad boy!

Trade Appeal: 10
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 0 (On Reserve List)

Pick of the Week: A Look Back

Before I give you a pick this week, I am going to look back and see how I’ve done on all of my picks so far.

Pick #1 – Kalastria Highborn

Price then – $2.50
Price now – $8.50

I’m very proud of this pick. The card’s price at the time of my writing just didn’t add up to me. All the other cards in the Vamps deck had gone up in value – why not one of its most important engines? I estimated a value of $5 for the card, which turned out to be too conservative. Grade: A

Pick #2 – Goblin Guide

Price then – $8.99
Price now – $7.99

My pick at the time was not to buy Goblin Guide at $9, but to be aware that his price shot up from ~$5 to ~$10 overnight. I still don’t know why that happened, and advised everyone to pick up any available Guides at the old $5 price in trade. If you did this, you made out a little, but not much. The card has since dipped, and doesn’t regularly trade for $10. Grade: B-

Pick #3 – Prismatic Omen

Price then – $1.99
Price now – $12.99

I nailed the correct card from Worlds to speculate on, though I wildly underestimated it. I figured it would hit $4 as a formerly casual rare in a tier 2 deck. Instead, it became a staple in a tier 1 deck. This would have been an A+ pick, though unfortunately my articles were being run a week behind at the time. By the time I was published it was impossible to get an Omen anywhere for under $15. My deadline is now much closer to the date it goes up, so this shouldn’t happen again. Grade: INCOMPLETE.

Pick #4 – High Tide

Price then – $0.70
Price now – $0.79 (out of stock. In stock at $1.50 on Star City Games.)

If you snagged a few of these as bulk commons when I told you to, you may have had the chance to move them for some value to people building some Spring Tide variant. Overall, though, this was a small pickup that didn’t help or hurt anyone all that much. Grade: B

Pick #5 – MoJhoSto Avatars

Price then – Fractions of a ticket
Price now – 1-2 tickets for both

While it is sill possible to find the Jhoira and Stonehewer Giant Avatars for pennies, it is much harder. Stonehewer is still readily available for about a quarter of a ticket, but Jhoira has started trading higher. It’s hard to get her for under one ticket now.

If you followed my advice, you made a little bit of e-dough. Hopefully, you got to play the amazing MoJhoSto format as well. Grade: B

Pick #6 – Contested War Zone

Price then – $1.50
Price now – $7.99(!)

So far, it looks like Contested War Zone has become the breakout rare of the set. It is the first card to significantly gain value since release, and has become a very hot card on the back of a very aggressive deck at the SCG Open in Indy.

If you listened to me last week, you had about 72 hours to buy your War Zones at $1.50 each. If you bought two playsets on spec, you made $50 (retail) on your investment overnight. Not bad!

I don’t know if the $8 price tag will hold up, and I could certainly see the card heading back down toward the $5 level before long. If you have a couple of sets, I would sell half now while the card is scorching hot. Grade: A+

Pick of the Week 02/07: Grim Monolith & Goblin Welder – Urza’s Legacy
Monoliths are out of stock at $18 on CFB right now, but (at least while I’m writing this) there are many sets still available for $20 a pop on SCG. Welders seem out of stock everywhere in the $7 – $8 range, but you still might be able to find a few on eBay.

The new Forgemaster/Welder deck that finished second at the SCG Open this weekend seems like it really has legs. It also looks like a blast to play, and is the first truly new Legacy deck in quite a while. Keep an eye on all the cards involved.

Due to the fact that the deck needs a ton of high-value rares, I don’t know how much room to grow there is on any of its cards. This is, however, the first good use for the Monolith since the unbanning and Welder’s first ‘real’ appearance in years. Doug Linn over on Quiet Speculation predicts $40 Monoliths in a few weeks, and I can certainly see that happening if the circumstances are right. At the very least, picking up a few sets at $20/card is a relatively risk-free proposition. I doubt you’ll lose much money even if the deck doesn’t end up being that popular. Welders are fantastic value right now at $6-$8, but you’ll be hard up finding ‘em for under $10 right now. Pick them up if you do.

That’s all I have right now. Join me next week for more financial fun!

– Chas Andres

41 thoughts on “Traderous Instinct – A Financial Review of Commander, Part 4”

  1. Sick, I moved a foil Keiga, the tide star to some n00b commander player for a goblin welder + lotus petal+ ringleader+ matron, and I for sure got the lion’s share on that one. For the record, this article series is the best… it lets me know the value on my constructed unplayables, so I can do things like move a Keiga that I’m not sure how I came by (and certainly wasn’t ever going to use) for a bunch of tier 1 legacy playables that are shooting up in value. Thank you Chas Andres!

  2. Really!?
    A whole article on black in commander and not even a mention of the best Black General?
    Xiahou Dun, The One-Eyed??!
    Seriously, you didn’t want to discuss an unblockable general with a graveyard recursion ability?
    For anyone seriously considering BLACK look him up, every website with an EDH, #cough#, sorry, Commander, forum has a thread about him from The Source, MTGS and our very own Ch.Fireball!

  3. @Harrison: I was the person you traded with.

    I still don’t regret the trade since everything I traded was extra stock that I picked up extremely cheap years ago.

    I’m well aware of the value of the cards I traded, but Keiga has been harder for me to find. And like I said, it was for my Dragon collection, not Commander.

    But I’m glad you’re happy with what you got, cause that will be the last trade you get from me based on your attitude here. I’ll make sure to spread the word to others in the store as well.

  4. Where is damnation on this list?

    Good thing I got my one demonic tutor for $6 two months ago. Also, I cannot find contaminations in trade binders at all.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Are you kidding? Around here, mono-black is played more than the other four mono-colored options combined. It’s by far the most popular decktype.

    Also, you are undervaluing foil Decree of Pain.

  6. @ wizbit: I’m just getting into the Commander format, but won’t Xiahou cost 2 more to cast each time you use his recursion ability?

  7. I probably should stop being a tool at some point… that said, I just can’t get behind commander as a format. I feel like it delegitimizes magic as a mental game, but what can I say? I guess I was just destined for a stigma-ed hobby from a young age. It’s life, live and learn.

  8. @q1006662:

    That’s only if you put him in the command zone instead of the graveyard. You let him go to the graveyard then recur him with cards like Profane Command, Volrath’s Stronghold, etc.

  9. @Harrison Hite

    Nice…make sure you’re out of earshot before laughing about how much of an idiot you think someone is. Different players value cards differently, plain and simple.

  10. I’m a little surprised how regularly you harped on the lack of mono-black generals. Mono-black is BY FAR the most commonly played mono-color deck among people I’ve played with, and I regularly play in multiple environments across several states. It packs all the power of Blue with none of the “go screw yourself” factor. In fact, a card on this list (Drana) appears to be an extremely popular general for the more budget-minded. Sweet general damage opportunities plus savage card advantage? Maybe this is just me, but my Drana deck is actually mt favorite deck to play for its sheer mix of fun and power. If anything, I’m actually just really curious about your playgroup at this point. If you’re less budget-oriented, Xiahou Dun, The One-Eyed is even more absurd than Drana. Maybe this is just me, but I also find a lot of the casual “build around me!” generals are monoblack. The consistency with which you comment on the unpopularity of monoblack makes me think you’re undervaluing at least a few of these cards, although I couldn’t point to any examples because I know less about the Magic market than you clearly do. Just something to keep in mind!

  11. I only have to say that I don’t understand how you consider playing Contamination, if a guy shows up at my table and casts that we’ll just kick him out.
    Also playing tutors seems to defeat the purpose of the format… I wonder if any of the guys buying those cards is really having fun or they’re better off going back to the 60 cards decks.

  12. @fd8s0:

    It depends on how competitive your group is really. Xiahou Dun is my primary general and I do have Contamination and such in there if I know people are going to be cutthroat (Chains of Mephistopheles will be added as well once I get one since I don’t like using proxies).

    If I’m playing more casually, I’ll change the majority of the deck (usually changing my General to Mirri, the Cursed) but usually leave Contamination in since I see it more as a Time Walk effect since my opponents likely won’t be casting anything during their turns aside from artifacts. Typically I’ll let it die the upkeep after I play it unless I need it out there to stop someone.

    On a side note, I’d suggest keeping an eye on Mirri, the Cursed as well since she’s quite good for a Vampire-themed EDH deck and out of the 3 main online stores, only CFB has 2 in stock. I don’t think she’ll hit really high numbers, but definitely more than the $1 she’s going for.

  13. Quite the strange assessment of black’s viability in commander.
    While I have yet to see a mono-black deck every single commander deck I play has a hefty abount of black in it, and the same holds for the majority of the decks in my playgroup. Teneb, Merieke, Kaervek, Sharuum, Thraximundar, Glissa, Oros, Kresh are all black. Only Memnarch lacks black but he steals all the black stuff anyway, and the one-win wonder deck of 99 forests+Nemata has never since been played.

  14. Chainer is one of the strongest late game generals in my playgroup. Recurring Shriekmaws, Eternal Witnesses, Acidic Slimes, Mulldrifters and eventually Sundering Titans all the while gaining life with Diamond Valley or Miren is pretty strong.

  15. @q1006662
    either leave Xiahou in the graveyard to be returned by;
    reanimate/animate dead/living death type spells, a recursive replayer such as Chainer (BBB;3life. return Xiahou to play), or phyrexian reclamation(1B;2life return from g’yard to play)
    or my favourite option, use tutor, find cabal coffers, Xiahou sac(to command zone) to get tutor back, play tutor again, fetch deserted temple, use temple + coffers, cast Xiahou from command zone, sac (again to command zone) replay tutor again, fetch up rings of brighthearth…now rings+desered+coffers = infinite black mana, using Xiahou and this you can now infinitely recur and cast any card in your graveyard.

  16. Geth, Skittles, and Balthor are popular black generals based on message boards. The format is still very locally driven so it doesn’t surprise me the author doesn’t see a lot of mono-black. Around here, I’m seeing the two new legends a lot.

    The word hellfire was mentioned in the opening of this article, and black paying life for big effects was too, but the card hellfire wasn’t mentioned. I’ve been on the wrong end of that card a few times. One sided wraths hurt.

    Also, monoblack tends to be fueled by coffers. The Magus of the same name sees some play.

  17. Greven Il Vec wasnt listed! Check this out. 7 power for 6 mana. it takes 21 general damage to take someone out right? 7, 3 times is game over sonny! paladium myr 3rd turn greven fourth. Has fear/intimidate too. ttyl.

  18. Err, why no Balthor? He’s a very popular Mono B general, with a relevant type (Zombie) and ridiculous ability…

  19. While I enjoyed this article and look forward to the reviews of other colors, does anyone else find it a little shifty that an article, while in one part designed to inform players of good cards, also has a purspose to encourage card speculation and is posted on a website that sells cards? The author can post “I think this card will go up in dollar value” for every card suggested, people will then begin to speculate and we in turn see Channelfireball increase their prices accordingly. It’s like a conflict of interests, and while I realize this isn’t the NASDAQ, there are rules/laws about pumping up the value of your own penny stocks to then dump on the market at an artificially raised price.
    My post may draw criticism, but I’m just calling as I see it, even if I did find the article a good read. Oh, and FWIW, when it comes to monocolor Commander decks, I see way more Black then I do White or Red in my area.

  20. A gem that I’ve introduced to our playgroup is Dauthi Embrace, a Tempest enchantment for 2b that for bb gives any creature Shadow until end of turn. A good way to sneak in General/Commander damage without the drawback of permanently having Shadow so your creature can still block. Sold out at CFB, it’s only .75 at Coolstuffinc.

  21. @SOB: I give this site credit regarding conflict of interest. For grim monolith, the author states this site is sold out, and lists a competitor by name that has them and at what price. If it was really that big of a conflict, he’d be made to pick a card this site had in stock to be pick of the week.

    Collecting cards is part of the game, and I am glad it gets covered.

    Also the price change when people mention cards isn’t a new thing. BOAB has that problem all the time.

  22. What is the purpose of being competitive in edh? I’m really puzzled about why people would play contamination, it’s something that doesn’t make any sense to me.
    I mean you want to win, but if you want the game to be unfair and one-sided, then why bother playing at all.. is not like you’re winning anything.

  23. @Harrison: lol @ your comment. For the record, given my experience, I would say you presently lost out on that trade. Foil Keiga can be easily moved $15-$20 (yes, I know, above retail). He is a good dragon that saw play in standard at the time. And he’s foil. And CoK sucked, coming after MD5 and all. Welder is sitting @ $8 right now. Petal is like what? $2? $3? Ringleader is $1.50 maybe and Matron is $0. So you traded an easy, easy $15 card for $12 of cards, *and* bragged about it in a article post. To top it off, someone from your store saw it, and now word will spread/ Epic fail

    On the plus side, if I was a regular at your store, I’d still trade with you, given how you value your cards! 🙂

  24. Mr.C is right. That was a trade I would do all day, every day.

    As for the article, enough people have said it, it was a half-assed piece of writing missing many key generals and cards.

  25. @ Foil Keiga controversy –

    Pretty funny stuff! For the record, I would rather be on the side of the trade getting the foil Keiga. That card is insanely hard to find in foil, and trades super well. The lesson, as always, is to be nice.

    @ Lack of mono-black generals –

    It’s cool to see Mono-B’s followers coming out of the woodwork here. I honestly have never seen Xiahou Dun, The One-Eyed! I can see how he’d be amazing, though, providing you’re willing to drop OVER A HUNDRED DOLLARS on your general!

    I harped on the lack of mono black because it’s not popular in my area and the prices seem to bear out the fact that heavy black cards are overall cheaper than comparative effects in other colors.

    One of my hopes by writing this is that more people will take it on! There are tons of suggestions for awesome mono-black generals here.

    @ Damnation –

    The card’s value is propped up far more by Legacy than Commander.

    @ My Face –

    Have you met me? My glasses are pretty much always falling down. That’s what I look like.

    @ Accusations of Collusion –

    Channel Fireball is VERY hands-off regarding what I write. They give me a flat amount of store credit for each article, and that’s it. They edit my article by switching up the formatting and adding pictures, but have never touched the content. I’ve never been told to upsell or downsell a card. I’ve never had references to this site, or Star City Games, or anyone else questioned or removed. I own no part of their business and get nothing if they sell a hundred thousand copies of a card I mention.

    I suppose I could slightly game the market of a card I’ve heavily invested in, but I honestly don’t have that much clout. I also don’t heavily invest at this point – I bought two sets of Monoliths at $20/card, one so I can build the MUD deck myself and one to try and re-sell if my pick ends up right. I touted Contested War Zone, but didn’t buy any for myself until I heard the buzz out of the SCG Open.

    I’d like to see if CFB sells more of a card based on what I say, and I’d be flattered if they did, but I sure as heck don’t get compensated for it!

  26. Damnation sees almost zero play in Legacy. It’s price is propped up by casual, and should have been mentioned.

  27. Lol Then Harrison goes on to say “I feel like it (commander) delegitimizes magic as a mental game” This is just flat out stupid… I find it exceptionally skill testing with many very complex board states and this may be one of the reason people take it to a more competitive level. There are so many cards and interactions you have to be aware of and this is offten why its so easy for combos to go off because many players wont see it coming. Compare this to standard, a format that I now think is total garbage. “Herp Derp I played my primeval titan or 20 gobos/ vamps, guess I win now” This is why top players like to play Jace decks because they are challenging and take more decisions even if its an uphill battle.

    Any how I do enjoy tee articles but this one did feel pretty skimped on.

  28. I still feel Hero of Oxid Ridge is the big sleeper card in MBS. I could be wrong, but I was right about Frost Titan and Knight of the Reliquary!

  29. @Chromatone: The “problem” with commander is that it is mostly played as FFA multiplayer and there is simply no way to make such a format competitive at all, from a strategy game angle. It’s more about the psychological aspects of trying to dodge disruption and look innocent until you are ready to strike. Sure you could argue that this is just another type of skill and you’d be right, but that would more resemble a psychological game like Mafia than a strategy game like 1on1 MTG.

  30. Herald of Leshrac is one of my pet EDH cards, but I don’t remember any single instance of stealing large numbers of lands because it has as big a target on its back as any creature in the game. Just make sure you have a Zuran Orb or something at the right time because either it will be dealt with ASAP or the Cumulative Upkeep eventually can’t be paid. However, one neat thing to note is that since CU was rewritten to use counters specifically, Doubling Season makes it that much juicier.

    I don’t see it going up in price, though. It costs 7 to play and usually dies quickly, so it’s not always the best choice and many black decks won’t use it. Coldsnap was opened in large quantities after Hexmage came out, along with the popularity of Counterbalance, etc. Notice there aren’t boxes sitting in ebay stores for $35 anymore. Anyone who wants one, and you only need one, probably won’t have a hard time finding one for $1 or less for quite a while.

  31. a black card that I really like for commander as well would have to be ” No Mercy ” from Urza’s legacy, its a good way to keep the board under controll, especially if a general connects with you

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  33. @Harrison Hite

    Just letting you know, there are LOTS of people that think you’re an enormous tool in Tacoma. You also need to keep your comments to yourself ESPECIALLY when it comes to a trade. If you can call people things like “n00b” (which nobody says anymore) than you can be called a giant fucking douche, right? Shut the fuck up.

  34. Pingback: Traderous Instinct – A Trip Back in Time, Part One : Magic: The Gathering – Strategy, Singles, Cards, Decks

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