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Financial Review of Commander 2014

As I'm sure you know, the latest and greatest in the commander deck series is hitting stores November 7, 2014. In celebration of Halloween, instead of handing out candy, Wizards gave us the treat of release the complete spoiler which featured sexy reprints and 61 new cards that are sure to be played on the kitchen table, if not the legacy portion of the upcoming Grand Prix New Jersey.

Right off the bat, it is important to note that the MSRP of each of these five decks is $34.99, which should be the price you actually pay since they will be sold in your local big box, along with game stores and internet vendors. Last year there were shortages of the Grixis Mind Seize deck that contained True-Name Nemesis, which lead to Wizards changing their wholesale policy and allowed retailers to purchase lots weighted towards the most popular decks. So while it is possible that there are shortages of one of the Commander 2014 decks (more on this later) in the first few weeks post-release, Wizards has made it clear that you will be able to get your copy at MSRP before too long. This means that unlike some limited releases (like the From the Vault series), once the initial period of hype dies down and supply increases, the value of the cards in a deck are not going to be more than its $35 price tag while the decks are sitting on store shelves. In fact, if you add up the total value of the cards in the five Commander 2013 decks, you find that they are worth $196 - almost the $174.95 MSRP.

Moving forward, we will be looking over the five decks and discussing some of the most important new cards, as well as some of the reprints, with an eye on the short, mid, and long term price trajectories of these cards. Thankfully, we have two Commander releases worth of price histories to help educated our opinions. Since there are so many new cards, and even more reprints in Commander 2014, I won't be talking about all of them, so make sure to check our the decklists here for a full picture.

The Planeswalkers


 Daretti, Scrap Savant [C14]

All five decks are lead by a legal-as-your-commander planeswalkers based on a character from magic lore of yesteryear. Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: With one possible exception, none these planeswalkers are legacy playable. Even my grandfather, who lost most of his fingers in a tragic chainsaw accident, can count the number of legacy playable planeswalkers on one hand (pretty much just Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, and Liliana of the Veil, with apologies to Elspeth, Knight Errant and Tezzeret, the Seeker). The bar is just too high. Notice what all those planeswalkers have in common? They cost four or less and protect themselves the turn they come into play. With the exception of Daretti, Scrap Savant, the planeswalkers from Commander 2014 cost five or more, so finding a legacy home is unlikely.

On the other hand, planeswalkers are super popular, and the twist of being playable as a commanders means there is likely to be even more casual demand for these cards than some "normal" planeswalkers or past commander set mythics. The problem is, if you look over the current prices of Commander 2013, you'll find that the most expensive new mythic from the set is Oloro, Ageless Ascetic at $1.50. So even if Nahiri, the Lithomancer and the rest of the 2014 planeswalkers get a little bump from their card type, it's hard to imagine any of them being more than a few dollars at this time next year. In the long term (maybe three years from now), $5-8 is not impossible based on the prices of the most popular casual mythics from the original commander decks.

The Big Two

Daretti, Scrap Savant

Daretti, Scrap Savant is the one planeswalker that may be the exception to the not-tournament-playable rule for two reasons. First, it passes the four mana or less test, which as we have seen, is basically the baseline for potential eternal playability. Second, there is already a deck (albeit a tier 2 deck) which could easily slot in a couple Daretti, Scrap Savant.

Is Daretti, Scrap Savant better in Imperial Painter than Chandra, Pyromaster? Its hard to say for sure. Chandra has the benefit of picking off a random unflipped Delver of Secret or Snapcaster Mage while also providing true card advantage once it hits the board. Daretti, Scrap Savant, on the other hand, is far more synergistic with the Painter's Servant/Grindstone combo, allowing you to sac a Sensei's Divining Top or Phyrexian Revoker to get back a missing combo piece from the graveyard, and digs deeper assuming you have some cards to discard. Only time will tell, but as Dack Fayden suggests, it only takes fringe eternal play to push a planeswalkers towards the $20 mark (which is the current pre-order price). While I'm not sure Daretti, Scrap Savant can maintain this price over the next year or two, it is a good bet to be be at least $10 a year from now.

Containment Priest

Containment Priest

Speaking of constructed cards, Containment Priest is the most important in all of Commander 2014. It's fine on its own (like Snapcaster Mage) and it has an ability that hoses a ton of decks in legacy. Decks like Reanimator, Sneak and Show, Dredge and Oops All Spells straight up scoop once Containment Priest hits the table. This alone make Containment Priest a solid sideboard option in the format. But Containment Priest is also surprisingly relevant against a large number of cards like Aether Vial, Green Sun's Zenith, and Natural Order and decks like Merfolk, Death and Taxes, Elves, and Maverick.

In Commander 2013, True-Name Nemesis and Toxic Deluge were the two big constructed powerhouses. I don't think Containment Priest if the format-warper that True-Name Nemesis was (and in some ways continues to be) but I think its going to be played far more than Toxic Deluge, which is generally a sideboard one-of. True-Name Nemesis is currently $18, Toxic Deluge is $8. I would imaging that Containment Priest will be the most expensive card from the set, and fall somewhere in the $12 to $14 range a year from now. If it somehow is the next True-Name Nemesis it could be closer to $20. I would be a little worried about a possible standard reprint, simply because it would probably would have less of an impact on the format than Scavenging Ooze, and as the reprinting of Scavenging Ooze and Hornet Queen in recent core sets shows, WoTC isn't afraid putting expensive commander cards into standard if they think they are safe.

And Dualcaster Mage

If you look over past Commander releases, you will find that there are generally two or three new eternal staples (I already talked about Toxic Deluge and True-Name Nemesis in 2013; in the original decks it was Flusterstorm, Scavenging Ooze, and maybe Edric, Spymaster of Trest), a handful of fringe eternal playables like Hornet Queen, Unexpectedly Absent, and Chaos Warp, and several constructed reprints (Mother of Runes, Oblivion Stone etc.).

 Dualcaster Mage

In 2014, Containment Priest is a slam dunk for one of the staple slots, with either Daretti, Scrap Savant and/or Dualcaster Mage filling out the other staple role. Since both of the latter are in the same deck, this means you need to buy Built From Scratch if you can find if for MSRP. Last year, you could walk into your local big-box, buy Mind Seize for $40 (assuming they were not sold out) and flip it to a buylist for $60.  If this is going to happen with any deck from 2014, it's Built From Scratch. Not only do you get two of the three currently-most-expensive cards in the set, but Built From Scratch is just full of value with reprints like Goblin Welder, Chaos Warp, Solemn Simulacrum, and Wurmcoil Engine offering significant value along with other new cards like Scrap Mastery and Feldon of the Third Path.

While you are not going to get retail prices for selling your cards, looking over the SCG pre-order prices can give us pretty good idea of which decks are most valuable and how they stack up against each other. For this list, all "bulk" rares are counted as $0.10, and bulk commons and uncommons are considered to valueless. Here they are in descending order:

  1. Mono-Red "Built From Scratch": $72
  2. Mono-White "Forged in Stone": $68
  3. Mono-Black "Sworn to Darkness": $46
  4. Mono-Green "Guided By Nature": $42
  5. Mono-Blue "Peer Through Time": $41

The reason that the red deck wins out over the white deck is that it has more high end cards (which should be in demand and easy to flip immediately), and because much of the value in the white deck comes from casual cards (which generally lose more when reprinting) while the value in the red deck comes from tournament cards like the new cards, Wurmcoil Engine and Goblin Welder which should lose less and rebound faster than cards like Cathars' Crusade.

Other (Potential) Constructed Cards

  Malicious Affliction   Feldon of the Third Path   Titania, Protector of Argoth

 Masterwork of Ingenuity   Flamekin Village

These five are the most likely to have some type of fringe eternal value, however the cards from the red deck are likely to suffer in the short term due to the two constructed hits from the deck eating up most of the decks value. Malicious Affliction is a built in 2-for-1 with morbid, and a deck like Shardless Bug which already needs double-black for Liliana of the Veil is a potential home for a one-of. Using a Liliana of the Veil edict and casting Malicious Affliction on a Tarmogoyf and a Delver of Secrets is living the dream. Even though a harder-to-cast Doom Blade does not scream for eternal play, it still does something without morbid. The upside may be enough to push it into the format.

With Feldon of the Third Path on the battlefield, you can run the Kiki-Jiki Mirrorbreaker combo with Pestermite or Restoration Angel in your graveyard. While this combo has generally been too slow and fragile for legacy (while being a powerhouse in modern), maybe having a Kiki-Jiki Mirrorbreaker that costs three will change that. Probably not. But keep an eye on the results over the few months.

Titania, Protector of Argoth seems good with fetchlands and Wasteland, but the only current deck that might play it as a one-of is the tier 1.5/2 Nic Fit.

Masterwork of Ingenuity and Flamekin Village don't really have a current home. I guess you could test the equipment in a Deathblade build, but the only equipment that is really worth copying is Batterskull, which is usually no more than a one-of, and drawing a Masterwork of Ingenuity with just a Umezawa's Jitte on the battlefield is just bad. Hall of the Bandit Lord currently sees very fringe play in some builds of MUD, so there could be some deck that wants Flamekin Village. The trouble is, in eternal formats, paying 3-life is often better than paying one extra mana, so unless your playing a deck that can put Flamekin Village into play untapped, it might just be worse in the format.

The best case for all of these cards is probably Edric, Spymaster of Trest, which held steady at around $4 with very fringe legacy play, until it ended up winning a SCG open last April and spiked to $15 overnight (before getting reprinted in Conspiracy a few months later and dropping dramatically). While I won't be actively buying these cards at current prices, I would be interested if they fall in the $1 or $2 range. If I'm lucky enough to buy some stores out of the red deck, I won't be dumping Flamekin Village or Feldon of the Third Path immediately. Instead I'll be sticking them away and hoping I can sell them off if and when they manage to spike a tournament and triple in price.

Casual Reprints

Commander 2014, like the commander release before it, has a whole bunch of popular casual reprints. If you look back over the price histories of cards reprinted in the first two commander releases, you'll see that these cards are going to take a beating as the supply of these cards increases (demand stays relatively the same). Cards like Angel of Despair, Simic Sky Swallower, Murkfield Liege, and Karmic Guide, and Mirror Entity lost around half of their value due to their commander printings, and as of yet, none of these cards has significantly recovered in value.

The commander version of casual rares and mythics follow the typical price trajectory of newly release cards - starting off high in value, usually pre-selling for at least half of their original versions, and then dropping in value as more and more commander decks are opened.

The exception to this reprint rule is for in-demand uncommons. Cards like Seaside Citadel (and the rest of the tri-land cycle), Boros Charm, Path to Exile and the like. Not only do the original printings of these cards not lose much, but most of the commander printings actually increase from their low starting price while they are in print.

New Casual Cards

All of the new casual cards are going to crash in value if we use Commander 2013 as our guide. While some of these cards may be long-term winners, none of the 2013 cards have spiked, and the casual mythics from the original commander decks took between 2 and 3 years to make any real gains. I also suspect that there is more of Commander 2013 in circulation than the original decks, and that there will be just as much (or more) 2014 as 2013. So at this point, there is really nothing to see here, but don't forget about these cards completely and revisit the list a year or two from now when we have a better picture of how the 2013 mythics react with more time to grow.

Saffron's List for Commander 2014

1. To paraphrase Mr. Woo, take out a second mortgage on your house to buy as many copies of the mono-red Built from Scratch deck as you can. Actually don't. But seriously though, if there is one deck that is going to be an instant-flip profit maker from 2014, this is it. The $72 pre-sale value of singles is in the range of Mind Seize last year, even if no one card comes close to [[True-Name Nemesis]'s $40 price tag. 

2. Consider the mono-white Forge in Stone deck. Although the fact that most of its value is in medium-to-low price casual cards, its $68 pre-sale singles price is not far behind Built from Scratch or Mind Seize. The trouble is, you're going to have more difficulty moving a stake of Sun Titan's and Martial Coup's than a Dualcaster Mage and the values of the cards in Forge in Stone are likely to decline faster.

3. Buy the other decks only if you want to play them, or are planning on keeping sealed copies for the next 5 years (or so). There is no money to be made cracking the blue, black, or green decks, so don't even try.

4. Don't forget, Wizards is going to keep printing these decks. So even if it is worth buying stores out of Built from Scratch next Friday, it won't be for long. If you are going to move forward with this strategy, unload the high value cards ASPS, and also be wary of supply. Last year, my local big-boxes only had two or three copies of each deck for the first week or two. If you walk into your local Target on Friday and they have 20 copies of Built from Scratch on their shelves, think twice before buying, because distribution may have changed. However, judging by the fact that Star City is currently sold out of Built from Scratch at above MSRP and Forge in Stone at MSRP, you are probably good to go.

5. If you have been holding cards that were reprinted in Commander 2014, dump them now. There are still buylists out there paying $14 for Wurmcoil Engine, $5.06 for Goblin Welder, $2.70 for Imperious Perfect and so on. The point is this is not going to last long so get out while you can. You can already purchase the Commander 2014 versions of some reprints for less than you can buylist the original version for, so take advantage and act quick.

6. Don't expect your non-spike, non-uncommon reprints to recover any time soon. It's been 3 years since the first Commander release, and most of the casual rares from that set still have not recovered.

7. Don't dump your uncommon staples for pennies on the dollar - they are the cards most likely to hold their value. This goes for original printing as well as the 2014 reprints.

8. Don't expect the tournament staples to hold their value. If True-Name Nemesis - not long ago the most important card in legacy - could not, neither can Dualcaster Mage, Daretti, Scrap Savant, or Containment Priest. A year from now they will all be worth less than their pre-sale price.

Well, that all for today, have fun next Friday driving from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart only to find Built from Scratch already bought out (hopefully by me). You can always snag a complete set of Commander 2014 off Ebay for ~$150 (~$25 off MSRP) if you're so inclined. As always, send my your thoughts in the comments or @SaffronOlive on twitter.

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