Tag Archives: Khans of Tarkir

Limited Landscape

Humble Defector

Limited Landscape

With all the excitement surrounding the Dragons of Tarkir release and the resultant flurry of set reviews and podcasts we have figured a few things out about the new set. However, in terms of limited there are always additional facets of the format to analyze.  Questions remain about the relative power level of each color and clan, the playability of a few build-around-me cards, and how we should color our perception of the format based on Fate Reforged.  Simply playing the set is often the best way to answer these questions. But having spent some time with Fate Reforged we may be better equipped, and may in fact be better served, to take another look.


Both the influx of new cards and the exodus of Khans of Tarkir have led to an interesting position for Fate Reforged in the format.  In the previous format, the set felt top heavy and lacked truly playable cards in the bottom half of each pack.  It wasn’t infrequent to open packs with only 2-3 playables.  Since the Fate Reforged packs were cracked first in the KTK format most of these playables would dry up by picks 4-5.  This generally made it hard to make meaningful reads on the cards being passed to you early and the fact that many players in a pod would be married to their first pick made feeling out the format a bit more unintuitive.

Now with Fate Reforged being opened as the final pack in the current draft format we will see a whole new side to the set.  After a dozen drafts I’ve found myself picking up high priority rares around picks 5-6 and getting high priority commons at a stage in the draft that would’ve been impossible in the FTR-KTK-KTK format.  For example, cards like Jeskai Infiltrator and many great FTR rares are being passed multiple times.  The question to ask yourself is how can I capitalize on this as a drafter?

Make the correct reads.  This format is much easier to read accurately than the two previous and the benefits of doing so are far greater.  Fifth pick Sage Eye Avengers and his ilk were fantasies in the past and a reality now.

The last general tenet of DTK-DTK-FTR drafting I would pass on is to remember that there are between 3-6 cards, all of which are rare and one being mythic, per clan that incentivize staying in their respective two color combination.  This means you can very easily go with any pairing you please so long as you consider the consequences it could have on a synergy driven deck.  So when you see an Atarka’s Command first pick first pack and don’t know whether or not to take it over a great mono color card, remember you don’t have to commit to a clan and the rewards can be great for staying open.

Fate Reforged Card Analysis

Despite the headline I won’t be going through each card and grading it or anything like that.  I’ll be outlining a few commons that I believe will either have risen or fallen given the change in format.  By no means will this list be indicative of what I believe to be the best commons in FTR necessarily.

Goblin Heelcutter:

This was my favorite FTR common in the previous format and I don’t see myself changing my tune anytime soon.  Heelcutter does things you’d expect from an uncommon and is a card you find yourself counting as a live draw for lethal.  My favorite common got even better, if you find yourself in Kolaghan colors this is the card you want to see most next to Pyrotechnics, excluding rares, in many cases.  This card absolutely punishes decks that want to exploit and go for value.  Dashing out Heelcutter early can provide enough pressure to force opponents to play sub-optimally to stay out of burn range.

Jeskai Sage:

There has been a lot said about Palace Familiar and all of those things can be said about Jeskai Sage.  The real power here is that while Palace Familiar gives you an exploit value card and something to stop all the X/1s in the format, Jeskai Sage can trade up into X/2s while providing the same level of value.  You’ll often find yourself hoping to find 2-3 Jeskai Sages from your FTR pack.

Return to the Earth:

This card was a decent side board option in the previous format, but with the addition of DTK this card is now (mostly due to the weakness of green) a true main deck option. Return to the Earth also provides green with a card to look for in their FTR pack where green is noticeably lacking playables.  It’s not the most exciting card but has certainly risen in value.

Typhoid Rats:

A Limited staple for years Rats is finding itself positioned better in this format where it can be exploited for value and cards like Tail Slash give deathtouch creatures added levels of flexibility.  DTK isn’t a set that features many “go wide” strategies whereas Khans featured cards like Ponyback Brigade, Hordling Outburst, and Take Up Arms.

Sandsteppe Outcast:

No surprises here, Outcast is still fantastic although white is markedly weaker in DTK than it was in Khans.  To this point, it is fairly common to take Sandblast over Outcast in this format where white is depending on both Green and Blue, most commonly, to provide removal.

Notably improved Uncommons.  This is a short list of a couple uncommons that benefitted greatly from synergies in DTK.

Humble Defector:

This is a card that was very strong in the previous format but has a couple cute synergies in the new set.  The primary one being with Swift Warkite, Warkite may already be the strongest of the uncommon dragon cycle in DTK.  But bringing back Humble Defector, drawing two cards for free, and netting a 4/4 flyer + a 2/1 with upside is a huge game.  If you end up with a Warkite or two keep an eye out for this card.

Merciless Executioner:

This one is a given.  It had the exploit mechanic before it was actually introduced, given that this format doesn’t feature “go wide” strategies but does feature tons of on death value creatures Executioner can do some disgusting things.

Fearsome Awakening:

Fearsome Awakening is a card that generally wheels and in certain decks has the potential to be insane.  Coupled with a couple Gurmag Drowner you can toss away morph dragons and bring them out buffed the following turn.  It makes cards like Icefall Regent borderline unbeatable and makes the uncommon cycle of morph dragons much more playable.  I wouldn’t take it very early but it will normally be available in the back half of FTR packs where there is a noticeable lack of playables for most archetypes.


Conjured Currency Arbitrage


Recently, I have read several articles by people and their ability to pick up magic cards at steep discount in their travels.  Today my plan is to show you how you can deliver big returns by using the power of the dollar in your favor no matter where you are.  You can even take out the flight cost.

One thing Magic Financiers tend to overlook is how opaque the magic market actually is.  Everything is about information, and when it comes to speculation you sure as hell better be informed.  I think being informed is the easy part,

the difficult part is getting that information immediately when trying to execute a trade or a decision regarding your cards.  There are certain standards everyone tends to use.  I’m pretty sure I’ve only traded with one person at my local game shop (lgs) who did not use tcgplayer mid.  Personally I prefer this because it’s more fun to trade.

When it comes to trading what really matters is economies of scale.  According to Wikipedia: In microeconomics, economies of scale are the cost advantages that enterprises obtain due to size, output, or scale of operation, with cost per unit of output generally decreasing with increasing scale as fixed costs are spread out over more units of output.  As an individual we each have our own markets that we participate in.  Some examples would include your LGS, Ebay, PucaTrade.  How do you move your cards and at what cost?  Different markets have a different cost.

So, how does one take advantage of information?  I’m going to show you how to take full advantage of your hard earned US Dollar.  Just like a magic card your dollar is a commodity, and it holds a relative value.  The differences of these items, and in which market can cause for a large spread in pricing.  Think of a magic card as a derivative, its price is floating due to supply and demand.  The same thing happens with your dollar relative to other currencies like the Yen.  This creates arbitrage opportunities.

At the time of writing your one USD is worth 119.63 Yen. The next step is to find Japanese stores who ship overseas and sell online.  The one I use for this example is Hareruyamtg.  Next, you need to compare apples to apples.  In my calculations I take the relative cost in local yen of the same MTG cards in English.  Yes, we could do this for Japanese cards if we wanted. Knowing each of the legs of the calculation what we will come out with is a USD price on an English card.  In my example I use MTGprice.com as my pricing data (I like an index for pricing).

After all my calculations I was able to identify five out of 12 cards that were great opportunities to build in paper value if purchased today.  If executed correctly a real return with a bang for your buck. Those cards were End Hostilities, Clever Impersonator, Hardened Scales, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, and everyone’s favorite Siege Rhino.  Of the five I would probably purchase Clever Impersonator, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, and Siege Rhino if I was to execute the trade today because they had the best margin.

Card Name MTG Price USD Hareruyamtg (JPY) Hare (USD Conversion) Difference
End Hostilities (Eng) 1.7 200 1.671821449 0.028178551
Ashcloud Phoenix (Eng) 3.93 700 5.851375073 -1.92137507
Clever Impersonator (Eng) 3.27 300 2.507732174 0.762267826
Hardened Scales (Eng) 0.91 60 0.501546435 0.408453565
Sarkhan, the Dragon Speaker (Eng) 11.73 1300 10.86683942 0.863160578
Siege Rhino (Eng) 8.39 800 6.687285798 1.702714202
Sorin, Solemn Visitor (Eng) 13.6 1700 14.21048232 -0.61048232
Bloodstained Mire (Eng) 9.61 1300 10.86683942 -1.25683942
Flooded Strand (Eng) 15.01 1800 15.04639305 -0.03639305
Polluted Delta (Eng) 14.16 1800 15.04639305 -0.88639305
Windswept Heath (Eng) 11.01 1400 11.70275015 -0.69275015
Wooded Foothills (Eng) 10.67 1500 12.53866087 -1.86866087

What about shipping costs you ask?  I even calculated all of those as well.  Surprisingly at a per card basis it’s really not that expensive.  Again doing all the calculations and conversions I came out at an added cost of $.15 USD at the high end and obviously going back to the economy of scale $.05 per card.

There is definitely arbitrage opportunity here for a trader to create a lot of value for themselves.  Yes, arbitrage is a guaranteed return, it would all come down to your execution.  Do you have the economies of scale to do the transaction, and do you have enough outlets to move your product?  Only you can answer that question for yourself.

Hopefully you have enjoyed my article, please feel free to contact me with questions and feel free to provide comments.

Value of Goals in Speculation

Setting Goals

A very important tool is the ability to set good goals.  Fundamentally, setting goals helps adhere to a certain strategy or theory.  For instance, there has been speculation that of all the tribes in the current Khans block Sultai will be have the highest ceiling when future blocks are taken into consideration.  This would be cause to buy up cards or develop a deck around those colors in preparation for future releases.  This is an example of a speculative play.

Now what does the above speculation have to do with goals? Well first and foremost goals help to establish a benchmark upon which progress can track success or failure.  In the case of the Sultai Speculation it is believed that Sultai cards are currently undervalued relative to the other tribes.  This would be tested by developing a price sheet for the different tribes to value their speculation as the future blocks are released, with the goal to yield the highest value of return.  Ultimately all goals represent a metric which in my opinion is the single most important part of a goal.  Once a goal is established it will also help provide focus, and feedback for speculation

Focus your mind’s eye

Something often overlooked when it comes to Magic in general is a focus.  Players have decks for everything! I mean most players have a Commander, Modern, and Standard deck.  That is three different areas a player needs to split their focus, and understand the different interactions and card mechanics.  This involves a lot of play time and research into the history of Magic.  This lends itself to a much unfocused player, and possibly weakening gameplay.  Would it best to be a generalist and win some or be specialized and win more?  I’m not saying that the above is bad, and many players have been around with the game for a long time.  It’s all about the play style, and the more that is taken could potential reduce and inhibit a player.

With the focus around the Sultai clan as a slice of Khans it is possible to develop a greater understanding and positioning relative to other players in the Khans block.  Rewards could be either financial or increased skill of in-depth card mechanics.  I highly recommend writing down your goal and what your focus is on.

Reflective Feedback

Writing a goal down also creates a channel for reflective feedback.  Feedback can be measured qualitatively or quantitatively.  The closer to real time the more it will help navigate the current atmosphere by adjustment or staying true to the course.

Reflecting on the Sultai example here are some outlined feedback questions:

  • Time Line: Does the current timeline allow for adjustments to be made to game play or financial strategy? Is this an achievable goal, and is there ample time to measure skill or realize financial value?
  • Focus:
    • Standard: Is Standard a narrow game type choice for Magic? Is even Standard too broad, and should it just be Standard Draft vs Constructed?
    • Sultai: Is Sultai enough of a narrower focus? How is Sultai performing relative to its peers in current block? How does Sultai perform financially and in game format?
  • Valuation: Is there a financial gain or loss that can be accounted for? Are game mechanics and knowledge improved? Was time well spent or used?

Each item above can be measured.  First and foremost is timeline.  Timeline helps holding/buying/game play style through the releases of Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir. A timeline also enhances goals by providing a life cycle and stages to mark their success.  It’s very possible that Sultai really sucks during this time frame, but with a timeline it helps improve future decision making. Sultai may also be a very profitable clan to play in this block.  Even though everything is hindsight there is something measurable, and analysis can be performed against the goal.

Focus will enable you to hone your skills and potentially become an expert at a local game shop or in the greater magic community.  Analysis can be performed on trades, and can be catered to varying play styles. Is now a good time to buy or trade Sultai cards like Sidisi, Brood Tyrant? Who knows, but at the very least, there is focus, and research that has been a part of the trade decision.  Even thoughtful hints, tips, or tricks.  Another thing impacted will be a further understanding of the Sultai card mechanics.  Does Sidisi, Brood Tyrant create a zombie token for each creature milled? Or is it per trigger no matter how many creatures? (Per trigger) These overlooked mechanics may help put a twist on value and on game play that has yet to be recognized creating an edge in a market.

Lastly, how can a goal be valued?  One of the easiest values will be financial.  Sidisi, Brood Tyrant purchased at today’s price of $3, and then pops back to eight dollars with Fate Reforged. How many copies were purchased and sold for a financial gain of $5?  An often overlooked value is the knowledge gained on Sultai and gaming mechanics.  Qualitative knowledge should increase about the game interactions and the Sultai clan. This could *possibly* provide an edge for the next year with Khans still in rotation.  Maybe, the Sultai clan deck is pummeling all the other decks at the tournaments and allowing for financial capitalization.

At the end of the day no matter the timeline, feedback, and valuation there are many lines of speculation that can be identified and turned into goals.  Ultimately it will improve game play and possibly lead to some financial gains.