This entry is part 28 of 41 in the series In General

Grandpa (Eric)

By Eric, AKA Grandpa Growth

 

Commander 2015 is now out and the format has received a big batch of awesome new cards to play around with. Amidst the hubbub from the new product release, I’ve been busy brewing and testing with the new cards trying to figure out where they will all fit in the format. It was among these many hours of testing that I got into a conversation with Uncle Landdrops about the particular appeal of Commander 2015.

 

Unlike the previous annual offerings in this product line, CMDR15 doesn’t seem to have any big ticket singles for Legacy play that are driving the price of these decks up past their MSRP. This line of thought inspired me to take a look back at the previous Commander sets. I talk as little as possible about finance in my column because I deal with it at work all day, but for today’s article I’m diving in head first to do a retrospective about the value of Commander’s marquis singles and how their value has changed over time. I’m going to discuss some select cards that originally made their debut in Commander product, but specifically not the legendary creatures.

 

Huge thanks to www.mtgprice.com for their awesome site. These guys do some serious data collection and collation, and this article wouldn’t have been possible without them. All pricing information is taken directly from their estimates and are quoted in U.S. dollars, for simplicity’s sake. Also, if you are new to MTG finance or investing in general, check out this four part primer that I did back on The General Zone earlier this year:

 

MTG Finance:

 

 

 

Without further self-promotion, let’s get to the article.

 

Homeward Path

High: $9.00, Oct. 2013

Low: $2.80, Sep. 2014

Current: ~$4.75

 

Apparently Commander players hate having their stuff stolen. So much so that the original Commander product included a land that single handedly hosed Control Magic effects.  Surprisingly, this card has not held its place in the format very well. Homeward Path has fallen out of popularity as more and more awesome colorless lands have been printed in recent years. This growing body of competition has made playing Path a bit tougher to justify and definitely hurt the card’s popularity. Now it primarily sees play as the centerpiece of the “Rath/Path” combo in Starke of Rath decks.

 

Multiple re-printings have continued to drop cost of acquiring a copy, but the card continues to carry a healthy price tag despite Wizards best efforts to sink the ship. For investors, this isn’t a good value bet. Any price appreciation is likely to be diminished by the possibility of future reprints.

 

Hydra Omnivore

High: $15.00, May 2014

Low: $2.30, May 2015

Current: ~$2.00

 

What a difference a year can make. Can you believe that at its high point, Hydra Omnivore was a $15 dollar card? This is even more astonishing considering that fact that Commander is the only place the card has ever, or will ever, be played. Sadly, a reprinting in the Conspiracy product shattered the value of this multiplayer beast. And now with the release of CMDR15 and all the new Myriad creatures, the future doesn’t look very bright for our multi-headed friend. Other cards that can compete in the same space will ensure that the price of this card will never recover to its former highs.

 

Spell Crumple

High: $10.00, Dec. 2014

Low: $1.35, Aug. 2014

Current: ~$2.50

 

Spell Crumple was a bit of a late bloomer, but saw a steady rise until it hit its peak after the release of Theros. As one of the best Blue answers to God cards, it joined Hinder in tucking away Commanders for more than six months until a dramatic shift in policy by the EDHRC changed the way tuck effects work with Commanders. This landmark rules change shook up the format and upset quite a few players, including this author. As a result of the change, the value of Spell Crumple tanked within a few weeks and it has settled at an unimpressive $2-3. At the time of this writing, MTGO software engineers had still not incorporated the changes into online play. So, if you missed the way tucking used to be, you could still get your fix online. The dream of the tucks is alive on MTGO. It was like an alternate reality where Sheldon Menery lost the election and didn’t ruin everything. However, with the release of the limited edition Legendary Cube on MTGO, the rules change has finally taken effect.

 

Scavenging Ooze

High: $22.00, Oct. 2013

Low/Current: ~$6.00

 

Even though it was only ever the second best ooze in the format, Scavenging Ooze was a breakout card from the original set and helped to drive up prices of the “Counterpunch” pre-con deck as speculators and Legacy tournament competitors scrambled to pick up as many copies as they could. Prices soared past the twenty dollar mark for a few months, but eventually a reprinting in M14 would bring the rollercoaster of price appreciation to a screeching halt. Since then, things have held steady. A side effect of that reprinting is that the card is legal for play in Modern, which has kept prices stable despite the demise of Birthing Pod decks. If you don’t have a copy, I think now is as good a time as any to buy in, but I don’t expect any meteoric rises in the value of this card.

 

Chaos Warp

High: $12.00, May 2013

Low/Current: ~$2.00

 

Yet another tragic story of the reprint blues. This card was sitting pretty as the premier Red removal spell in the format and commanded a high price tag for a couple years until it was shown in the spoiler for the Commander 2014 product. However, in this case, many players were excited to see the cost of acquiring such an important piece of Red technology come down. Since the reprint, prices have dropped steadily to an all-time low of about two bucks, which is so cheap that anyone can get one. I actually recommend this, because Chaos Warp is positioned quite well in the format even after the tuck rule changes. Right now the format is saturated with too many copies of this card, but it will continue to see play in a variety of decks, which will lead to a steady increase in value of the card. I wouldn’t call it a hot investment, but it’s certainly worthwhile to pick up a few extra copies for your trade binder.

 

Flusterstorm

High/Current: $65.00

Low: $16.50 Jul. 2013

 

MTGPrice’s data only goes back so far, so I couldn’t find accurate data about pre-order pricing for this card, but I think that you get the idea: it’s expensive. Flusterstorm has always been highly sought after as a Legacy sideboard card against Storm/ANT decks. Unlike the previous cards I have discussed, the reprint bug has yet to bite this card. It was given a foil treatment for the Judge Rewards program, but that’s the only other physical printing the card has seen. Judge foils tend to trend separately from the normal versions of their cards; the high desirability, the prestige, the limited print runs, and exclusive access make Judge foils more valuable, not less. Flusterstorm also dodged a bullet because it wasn’t eligible for inclusion in the Modern Masters sets, or it almost certainly would have been. So far the only mass “printing” the card has received was in Vintage Masters, but that was an online only release. I would almost guarantee that Wizards will reprint this beast on actual cardboard at some point, but there are a couple of problems with that:

 

First, Storm is not a design-friendly mechanic. Every time they have put Storm into a regular set, it has become the dominant deck in Standard. This puts pressure on the design team to keep Storm out of Standard and you can’t rightly reprint Flusterstorm in a Standard-legal set without its namesake mechanic.

 

Secondly, core sets have gone away. In recent years there was a trend to highlight a past mechanic in each new core set. Storm might have been a decent candidate for such a throwback, but it never materialized. With this window of opportunity slammed shut, we’ll have to wait for another throwback set like Time Spiral to present itself.

 

Lastly, we move from Standard considerations to Modern. Flusterstorm isn’t legal for Modern play, but as I mentioned, Storm isn’t a likely candidate for a Standard mechanic. If it is going to be reprinted in any capacity that makes it legal for Modern, you can bet the farm people will be all over it. A reprint that is Modern legal could actually increase demand for the card as it becomes adopted by the wide variety of Blue decks in the format.

 

Sad to say, but I don’t see any end in sight for Flusterstorm’s enormous price tag. It’s rarity and playability in eternal formats will continue to push the price upward, but I don’t recommend buying-in now. There’s so much demand for a reprint that I expect Wizards to make it happen somehow, but we could be stuck waiting for several years.

 

Toxic Deluge

High/Current: $16.00

Low: $10.00 Dec. 2014

 

It is amazing what one-of play in Legacy sideboards can do for a card’s value. Toxic Deluge isn’t even really played in Commander. The creatures are much too big and paying eight or more life just to shave a mana off Damanation isn’t worth it. Alas, in Legacy, any reduction in mana cost is worth it. This card would be much easier to reprint, but also much less necessary. I just don’t think enough people care about this card for it to get shoehorned into a future set. Normally, that would indicate this is a safe place to invest for value, but the slow price appreciation over the last few years concerns me. There are cards that have generated much better returns. The lack of a trade market for this card is also a problem, as you may not be able to offload a bunch of copies if price trends suddenly reversed. I would pass on this one.

 

Primal Vigor

High: $10.00, Apr. 2015

Low: $4.00, Sep. 2014

Current: ~$7.00

 

People sure love their Doubling Season — so much so that they’ll play anything just to get that same fix. Primal Vigor originally released to modest prices and tepid speculation. The fact that Season compares much more favorably and had also seen recent printings in Modern Masters kept the price of Primal Vigor down for some time. Now, though, after we’ve gotten some distance from the Modern Masters boom, Primal Vigor is starting to steadily climb in price. This card will continue to maintain popularity among casual players who simply can’t get enough of that token love. However, the card is a good possibility for reprinting in future casual product releases. I wouldn’t pick one up unless I were fully intent on playing it immediately.

 

True-Name Nemesis

High: $34.00, May 2014

Low: $15.75, Sep. 2015

Current: ~$17.00

 

True-Name Nemesis was the smash hit from Commander 2013. In my original set review back on The General Zone, I famously said that this wouldn’t be as big as Unexpectedly Absent, which was admittedly incorrect. I don’t know if you were playing any Legacy back then, but you couldn’t make it through a single match without somebody getting True-Named. He was dancing across tournament tables doing an MC Hammer impression. This card was everywhere you looked in the 2014 season and drove up the price of the “Mind Seize” pre-con decks to astronomical heights. People were cracking open the decks just to strip it for parts and that left many Commander fans without the ability to purchase the deck at their local store. It was simply sold out at most locations. Eventually though, this gold Blue rush left the community with tens of thousands of extra copies of Nekusar, the Mindrazer laying around so everyone and their dog decided it would be cool to build a Commander deck around him. Naturally, I found this nonsense incredibly irritating and I’m still bitter to this day.

 

True-Name was never really played in Commander at all and its popularity in Legacy died down over time as the initial hype wore off. With the release of Khans of Tarkir, Legacy RUG decks shifted to include more cheap spells to power Treasure Cruise and this pushed True-Name back onto the bench. The price point has continued to fall steadily and I think that this is a good time to buy if you’re still looking for a copy. It’s unlikely to see a reprint; R&D collectively agrees it never should have been printed in the first place. The only lingering concern is that the card just isn’t playable anywhere right now. It’s hard to justify spending $17 on a card that you won’t even use.

 

Unexpectedly Absent

High: $8.00, May 2014

Low/Current: ~$1.25

 

Unexpectedly Absent never quite took off the way that I expected it too. The card is fantastic and did really amazing things for the format, especially in the face of the God cards from Theros. Unfortunately, it was also severely hurt by the tuck rule changes and the price has been in freefall ever since. At this point, the prospects look grim. This still plays well in Commander, and it has never been cheaper to acquire extra copies, but unless the situation changes dramatically the card’s value will never recover. That being said, I greatly enjoy slapping it on an Isochron Scepter.

 

Containment Priest

High: $24.00, Dec. 2014

Low: $10.00 Sep. 2015

Current: ~$11.00

 

Containment Priest began preorder trading in a flurry of speculation driven by the resurgent interest in the Vintage format. The new availability of many Vintage staples such as the Power Nine on MTGO from Vintage Masters attracted newer players to the format in droves. The transition from online to paper tournaments wasn’t seamless, but the set generated enough buzz for the format to become relevant again among casual-competitive players. During this surge within the player base Oath of Druids was the dominant deck in the format and Containment Priest was conveniently printed just a few months later as a surgical sideboard tool to dismantle the Oath decks. The release of Khans block led many players to move to more spell-based decks featuring Monastery Mentor, which lowered the demand for Containment Priest significantly. This lower demand came coupled with a dramatic drop in price, and as a result there’s never been a better time to pick up copies of this card. It’s an excellent play in multiple formats and it’s unlikely to be reprinted in a Standard set. This should give the card plenty of room for price appreciation as copies become more scarce.

 

Malicious Affliction

High: $8.00, Nov. 2014

Low/Current: $2.00

 

Ahh, the sweet scent of preorder speculation. Whenever a new set is spoiled, people go nuts like rabbits in spring time. Then they find out that they can buy the whole pre-con deck for the price of the singles they just pre-ordered and I assume that’s why Magic players always complain about being broke. Malicious Affliction never really materialized within the Commander format. It’s a solid spell, but not exactly a home run. I actually expect this card to continue falling until it hits the $1 range. People will still continue to like it, because it was part of the Commander set, but they don’t seem to like it enough to actually play it. The Morbid text means this has almost no risk of being reprinted, but the total lack of price appreciation makes this a dubious investment.

 

Dualcaster Mage

High: $14.00, Nov. 2014

Low/Current: $2.00

 

Same story, different card. The preorder speculation on Dualcaster Mage was even worse than Malicious Affliction and, as a result of overblown expectations, the card began trading with an impressive price on release. Alas, with no real demand to hold that price aloft, it soon fell sharply and now trades for about ten dollars less than it did a year ago. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of the people who bought in on this card when it was released. I maintain a couple different Red Commander decks, but have never really had a keen interest in sleeving this up. This is probably the next best Red counterspell behind REB and Pyroblast, but that distinction just isn’t worth as much as it should be. I don’t recommend this for a buy. The process of making this card valuable will take years and require a dedicated effort by R&D to improve Red’s position in eternal formats.

 

Commander 2015 Picks

Before I go, I’d like to give you my picks for the most exciting cards in the Commander 2015 product. These probably won’t accrue the highest price tags, but rather these are cards that I expect to stay relevant to the format and hold value into future. In no particular order:

 

 

-GG

“In General” is the place where I share my ideas on unconventional topics that are often only tangentially related to Magic. This column is a mixed bag where I collect and present ideas that don’t have a home anywhere else. If you want a column about strategy, psychology, design, economics, philosophy, internet culture, and referential humor, you have come to the right place.

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