Not everyone knows about definition number three. You probably wouldn’t know that Glimpse the Unthinkable and Doubling Season are worth $9 and $10 each unless you were up on the up and ups of MTG market watch. Neither card is Standard legal. Neither card is (or ever was) in a Tier One deck in a competitive format. Yet here they are, worth just a few dollars under Standard staples like Ajani Goldmane and Garruk Wildspeaker, and a few dollars over Extended all-star Dark Confidant. Would you ever think that you could trade a Bob for a Glimpse or a Doubling Season straight up and come out ahead in the trade?
The question is, “Why?” What drives the prices of these anomalies up past the prices of Standard staples and mid-level chase rares?
The primary factor is obviously casual player demand. The majority of cards in the Magical universe have prices that are determined by their competitive playability. If a card isn’t going into a competitive deck, it’s generally not going to be worth very much. However, as I said before, Glimpse and Doubling Season have never seen tournament lime light, yet they clearly carry staple rare value.
Casual player demand is a very tricky thing to try to analyze. You could say that many of the cards that aren’t necessarily competitive but are still strong cards are “casual player cards.” Godsire is insane! Thornling is huge and has old school flavor! And what about Hellkite Overlord? It’s one of the most aggressive dragons ever printed! Though obviously not fitting for competitive play, these guys have “casual player” written all over them, yet sit at less than half the value of our anomalies.
What about Glimpse the Unthinkable and Doubling Season make it so that their prices are head and shoulders above other casual player favorites? They are both extremely fun cards, but that is a given. Being both from Ravnica could have something to do with it, except for the fact that Ravnica was a very popular set and had tons of packs opened (supply wouldn’t be the problem here). We have to look deeper into the cards themselves to figure out why they are anomalies.
Glimpse the Unthinkable might be one of the best mill cards ever printed. It mills a whole ten cards for just two mana! The thing to keep in mind is that mill is a very specific strategy. If you are building a mill deck, all the cards in your deck should be focused on either milling your opponent or allowing you to survive so you can draw your mill cards. This isn’t like aggro or midrange or control where you have a variety of options as far as colors, creatures, utility spells, etc. If you are playing mill, you’re likely going to be blue-X and choosing from a very specific subset of cards. Anyone that chooses mill as their kill of choice, likely is going to need four Glimpse the Unthinkable. And given we are talking about a kitchen table metagame (as opposed to PTQs or higher level events), mill is probably a very viable and popular strategy.
Doubling Season, on the other hand, isn’t exactly the same as Glimpse. Glimpse tells the mill player, “You need me.” No singular strategy necessarily needs a Doubling Season to win or even just to work. However, Doubling Season says, “I can do some extremely fun and crazy things if you pair me with some of your other favorite cards. Planeswalkers? Decree of Justice? Maybe even Darksteel Reactor? You may not NEED me. But you definitely WANT me.” Doing something fun and something different are the key components to building casual decks. But when you take that goal to the extreme, you have cards like Doubling Season waiting for you, just asking to be broken in half.
Both cards are cards that can’t exactly be replaced to get the same desired effect. There are thousands of burn spells, spot removal spells, board sweepers, and fat finishers for casual players to choose from. But the best mill spell? The only card that lets you double the amount of counters or tokens you put into play? Of that lot, there is only one. Gilder Bairn comes close. –Experiment Kraj]
What would a visit to the pawnshop be without a little insider tip? I’ve done a little research and found a few other cards that competitive players don’t really have on their radars, but do some really fun and broken things. I only went as far as Time Spiral block because 1) these cards should be very easily accessible, even to newer players and 2) if there were casual sleepers in older sets, they probably would have panned out by now. The best part is, these aren’t all very high in price yet, but the value is definitely on the rise.
Akroma’s Memorial – Akroma, Angel of Wrath was voted the best legend of all time. She has everything you want all wrapped in a tight little eight mana package. But what if, for only seven mana, you could turn ALL your creatures into mini Akromas? Is that something you might be interested in? Akroma’s Memorial is currently worth around $4, twice what it was going for last year.
Haunting Echoes – This card isn’t really a sleeper, but it was a definite fan favorite before it rotated out of Extended. Now that it’s Standard legal again and reunited with one of his old best friends, Traumatize, expect Haunting Echoes to see a rise. Being a reprint might do a little to slow that rise in price, but expect the casual combo player to push it up. Haunting Echoes is currently trading just around $4.
Master Transmuter – Master Transmuter started off as one of the rares to get in Conflux. Once the competitive group realized it was a silly casual card, the price plummeted in half. However, the casual market still hasn’t given up on her and prices are slowly coming back up. Now that she can put [card]Darksteel Colossus[/card] into play in Standard, expect even more casual players to vie for her services. Master Transmuter is currently a little over $3, up more than 17% in the past two months.
Sanity Grinding – I’m not sure that Glimpse the Unthinkable has competition, but when Patrick Chapin writes about a deck, people are sure to listen. Making the jump from casual, budget deck to possible tournament contender has breathed new life into Sanity Grinding and the price should carry through its Standard rotation. Sanity Grinding is currently $4.
Sliver Legion – The sliver deck is the epitome of casual player archetypes. They’ve never been competitive, but they always hold value. Just like Sliver Queen and Sliver Overlord before him, Sliver Legion’s price is an anomaly that can only be explained by casual player demand. While Sliver Overlord and Sliver Queen are peaking at $7-9 and $18-21, Sliver Legion is a great value currently at around $5.
Stuffy Doll – Stuffy Doll is sort of an alternate win condition, but is really just kind of fun and flavorful. Stuffy might not end up being the next Doubling Season, but I definitely expect it to slowly rise in value over time. Stuffy Doll is currently worth just under $4.
Tombstalker – Tombstalker is a card that everyone has always wanted to play with, but never really got to fit in their deck. Casual players have been eating their graveyards up for years with him though and his value is on the rise, double in the last year. Might be due to Legacy’s “Team America” deck (yeah, Mashi!) or might be due to the casual player demand, but Tombstalker is a good buy for traders looking for value. Tombstalker is currently $4-5.
Everyone is hellbent on finding the next Tarmogoyf. I wouldn’t mind just finding the next Doubling Season (and then trading my Tarmogoyf for a playset of them!) I hope you enjoyed your visit to the pawnshop today. Make sure to stop by next week when I break down the age old question, “Is it better to buy a box or just buy singles of a new set?” with M10! Thanks for stopping by.
With the rotation of Wrath of God, players will be looking for the next best board sweeper to fit in their control decks and sideboards for the Summer PTQs. As of right now, it looks like the choice is Hallowed Burial and the price is reflecting that. Hallowed Burial has doubled in the last month and is sure to continue trending up. Don’t sleep!