I'm not too proud to admit that there's a part of me that really enjoys Black Friday.
I've never done the 4am doorbuster thing, and I really can't abide Black Friday's creep into Thursday afternoon, but I've definitely waited in line for limited edition exclusive items on Friday morning, wallet in hand. Finding good deals is always really satisfying, and shopping is more fun when it becomes An Event.
I'm not leaving my house on Black Friday this year, though. I have no interest in catching or spreading COVID-19 for a small shot at a new game system, and waiting in line isn't nearly as much fun when you're masked and six feet apart. Besides, there are plenty of great Black Friday sales online this year. We can still get those sweet, sweet deals from the comfort and safety of our own laptops, desktops, and phones.
As luck would have it, this website right here is rather famous for running some killer Black Friday sales in the past. I wish I could tell you exactly what they're planning for this year's sale, but the top brass here at TCGplayer are keeping things so tightly under wraps that they haven't even let me in on the final details. That means that I'm going to find out about the sale at exactly the same moment you are: when I get the email on Black Friday.
What I can tell you is that this year's TCGplayer Black Friday sale will be somewhere in the neighborhood of last year's offering. That was a 10% credit kickback on all card purchases for the day, with a total potential store credit cap of $50 per item. This is a pretty killer deal, especially if you're anything like me and credit on this platform is just about as good as cash. Assuming the kickback percentage is roughly the same in 2020 as it was in 2019, that means you can spend up to $500 on each card without hitting your credit cap.
But what cards should you pick up during the sale? If you've been reading this column for a while, you'll know that I'm a big proponent of buying cards toward the end of each calendar year, when prices often hit their seasonal lows. This is especially true for cards that were released during that year, and I'll often pick up whatever cards I missed in November and December. This has proven to be one of the most robust yearly trends in the history of the game, and I've never regretted my flurry of end-of-year purchases. I always seem to hit more than I miss.
While I usually wait until late December to start buying, the TCGplayer kickback deal changes that math a bit for me. It's rare that prices will drop more than about 10% between late November and late December, while some prices will actually rise as we approach the holiday season. That means that you can take advantage of the TCGplayer Black Friday kickback deal to move up part of your shopping spree by about a month with very little risk.
So—what cards are in my shopping cart for Black Friday? Here's what I recommend picking up:
Just to be clear up front, this article is going to exclusively feature cards that were released in the year 2020. That's because I want to take maximum advantage of seasonal price lows in addition to the Black Friday kickback deal. There's certainly nothing wrong with picking up older cards during the sale as well, though—heck, go buy a bunch of Reserved List staples if you want. Go finish your Legacy deck. Go build that cube you've always wanted to own.
For the purposes of this article, though, I want to highlight cards that I think are at or near their overall price floor. That way, you can fill your Black Friday shopping cart with the most low-risk/high-reward specs and holds that we can muster up.
Nyxbloom Ancient has proven incredibly robust all year long, spending almost no time under $15 since mid-May. It's almost back down to $15 now, though, likely as a result of seasonal trends and a focus on shiny new Commander cards from Commander Legends. This card should rebound and spike over $20 at some point next year, though, so if you've been holding off on getting a copy for your Commander collection, now's the time.
Heliod's Intervention is another key Commander card that's been kicking around in the $1-$2 range all year. It's one of the best Commander cards in Theros Beyond Death, and I doubt it'll be reprinted soon due to its plane-specific nature. Grab your copy before it ends up in the $4-$5 range.
Underworld Breach is one of the most powerful Magic cards printed in quite some time. It has been banned in Legacy, but it's still legal in Modern and Commander, which gives the spell a pretty robust price floor as well as a tantalizing ceiling. Underworld Breach is also unlikely to be reprinted anytime soon since it has already eaten a ban. I definitely want to make sure that I have a set of these in my collection before the start of 2021, and not just because I'm hoping to make a deck that's loosely themed around the video game Hades!
The Triomes have been slowly rising for some time now. Take a look at this price chart for Ketria Triome:
And here's Zagoth Triome:
These cards are incredibly important to Standard right now, but they're on my list almost entirely because of their power level in Commander. There are no better three-color lands in that format, and I can't imagine not putting Triomes in every Commander deck I brew that uses three or more colors. Combine this robust level of long-term demand with the chance that in-person Standard events come back late next spring, and it makes sense to buy these Triomes now.
As for the foil Showcase versions, I feel much the same way. Here's the price chart for the foil Showcase version of Zagoth Triome that looks pretty similar to the non-Showcase chart above:
It appears as if there's even more of a hint that prices will be going up in the coming months due to the increased fluctuations toward the right end of the chart. If you want these cards, get them during the sale—don't wait.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den may not have the power level that it had before the companion rules change, but it's still the third most-played creature in all of Modern. I also can't imagine that any of these cards are getting a reprint anytime soon, since WotC still has egg on their face after the companion debacle upended literally every competitive format for about three weeks. You might as well pick up Lurrus now, then, while the price is low and copies are in relative abundance.
As an aside, can you believe that Ikoria's companions were released this year? Barely six months ago? It feels like another lifetime to me.
Surprisingly, Ruinous Ultimatum is one of this year's breakout Commander staples. It's not in the best colors for that format, and it's really hard to cast if you're running 4+ colors in your deck, but the effect is so powerful that it's being run in practically every deck that can even think about running a copy. The price looks like it's about to get a little frisky based on that chart, too, so I'm going to grab a few extra copies during the sale.
According to EDHREC, Nethroi, Apex of Death is easily the most popular Commander from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Nethroi is also a mythic rare that's easily available for $2-$3. I can't imagine it goes any lower, and the sky's the limit for a card that has proven somewhat beloved in Magic's most popular format. This is a no-brainer of a creature to pick up and stash in your long-term spec box.
It might be worth focusing on Showcase foils here too, since people tend to like having the splashiest possible version of their Commander. Luckily, the Showcase foil version of Nethroi, Apex of Death is also at bottom right now. Looks like a buy to me!
Jumpstart is an odd set. Cards surged in price through most of the fall as the promised "second wave" of product failed to materialize in the numbers that many were hoping. Values did finally start to drop late last month as stores began receiving product again, though.
It's certainly possible that Jumpstart will be widely reprinted in 2021, but I doubt it. Instead, my guess is that WotC moves on to "Jumpstart 2" fairly quickly, likely for a planned 2022 release, and that it will include many of these same chase cards. I also wouldn't be surprised if many of the best Jumpstart cards show up in other reprint sets over the next few years, making them risky long-term holds.
For now, though, this seems like a pretty good buying window for Jumpstart's best cards. Take Emiel the Blessed, one of the most popular Commander cards in the set. It appears to have leveled out around the $35 mark, and the price will start to climb again if more Jumpstart doesn't hit shelves again soon. This sale is a great window to pick up any of these cards, especially if you don't want to wait for another print run that may or may not actually happen.
As you can see, Tinybones, Trinket Thief price chart is flatter than Emiel the Blessed, but buying in now still seems fine. The card has been slowly trending down since mid-October, and it appears to have either leveled out or even ticked up a bit over the past few days. Most of the key cards from Jumpstart are engaging in similar behavior right now, so buying almost any card in the set during this sale seems fine to me.
Back when I wrote my Jumpstart review, one of the main questions people asked me was when you should pick up cards from the "Thriving" cycle of lands for their Commander decks. It looks like the answer to that question was "early September," but they're still under a dollar and slowly rising. With the added discount from the Black Friday sale, this seems like the perfect opportunity to buy in, and possibly your last chance for less than $1 each.
Here's a price chart for Thriving Heath. You can see the gradual price increase:
I want to highlight Neyith of the Dire Hunt because it's not just the second-most popular Commander in Jumpstart, it's the most-played main deck Commander card in the set other than Emiel the Blessed and the Thriving lands. Neyith's price has mostly just dropped during 2020, but the fact that it has bottomed out in the $8-$9 range and rebounded before tells me that we could be close to its bottom dollar right now. If you have an extensive Commander collection, don't leave 2020 without a copy of this card.
The summer Core Set nearly always brings a couple of high-profile reprints that bottom out the winter after being released. I've made some of the easiest money I've ever earned buying these cards at their seasonal lows and selling them off 18-24 months later. I've done it with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Chord of Calling, Crucible of Worlds, and several other cards over the years. I've never failed to make at least a small profit on these buys.
This year, it's Ugin's turn. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon has been worth $50-$60 forever, and you can currently pick them up for less than $20 despite the fact that basically nobody bought into Core Set 2021. If you don't have these in your collection, now is the time to change that.
Here's the other key Core Set 2021 reprint I'm targeting right now. I don't trust Grim Tutor as much—its price has long been kept high due to a lack of supply, not an increase in demand—but both Ugin and Azusa, Lost but Seeking have proven to be key cards across multiple competitive formats as well as in Commander. Azusa finally dipped below $8, and that's enough of a discount for me. I'm grabbing an extra set during the sale.
I don't think I'm going to highlight any other bulk rares in this article, but Sanctum of All is a really unique card. Not only is it one of the most interesting cards released this year, but it's actually the most popular Commander card in the entirety of Core Set 2021—at least according to EDHREC's metrics. The fact that you can snag these for $0.20 tells me that there's money to be made stocking up on this bulk rare, sticking them in a box, and waiting a few years.
Mangara the Diplomat
Here's my other underrated Commander spec from Core Set 2021. Mangara the Diplomat price chart has been flat since mid-July, but it's the most popular mythic rare for Commander in Core Set 2021. It's not just a solid general, either—it's a great main-deck value card that's mostly flown under the radar because white isn't that great in Commander right now. At some point, white will improve and Mangara will see an uptick in play. I wouldn't be shocked if this card casually doubles or triples in price at some point over the next few years, especially since reprinting character-specific legendary mythic rares is kind of difficult.
I've mostly talked about Commander thus far, but it's finally time to look at some sweet Modern staples at amazingly low prices. Not only do Masters cards tend to bottom out the winter after they're released, but all competitive staples are down quite a bit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With no Modern tournaments to speak of, demand for these cards has cratered—especially after also dealing with a high-profile reprint in Double Masters.
That won't last. Between reports of vaccines having a high efficacy rate and the latest New York Times news about persistent antibodies (yes, I spend far more time than I should anxiously reading pandemic news), I am more confident than ever that tabletop Magic events will return at some point in 2021, with large events hopefully returning in early 2022. That means Modern will be back, and this might be the last big seasonal price lull before it is.
At any rate, Thoughtseize is one of the most-played cards in the format, and this is what its price chart looks like:
It's certainly possible that this card will simply keep dropping until it's well in the single digits, but my guess is that we're close to bottom right now. It shouldn't take much for Thoughtseize to start heading back toward the $20 mark, and the fact that you can buy in for $10-$12 seems solid to me. If you've been in the market for a while, this seems like a fine time to pull that trigger.
It has been a while since Engineered Explosives was a $40+ card, and I don't see it hitting those lofty heights ever again, but $3 is clearly bottom for this venerable Modern staple. Engineered Explosives still sees quite a bit of play in the format, and the current buy-in is less than the price of a sealed booster pack. You really can't beat that, especially with the Black Friday kickback discount added on top.
Here's another formerly valuable card that has been decimated by reprints. I can't imagine Mishra's Bauble jumping up above the $10 mark again soon, but $2 is rock bottom for this card and every Modern player should have a set in their collection. Seems like a good card to pick up during the current sale.
Jace the Mind Sculptor
Jace's price chart looks pretty similar to Thoughtseize, and I can certainly see an argument that this card will continue to drop throughout the winter. Jace, the Mind Sculptor does still see a lot of play in the format, though, and my guess is that it will spike at some point between now and the next time that WotC decides to inevitably print the card. Buying Jace is riskier than picking up most of the other cards on this list due to its high price, but I still can't imagine that you'll ever be too upset spending $45 for a copy of this card. It won't take much to cause Jace to climb back up to $80 again.
Noble Hierarch is another venerable Modern staple that has fallen onto hard times. After spending most of its life above the $20 mark, and some of it above the $60 mark, here it is selling for just over $12 per copy. There's no way this price lasts. Not only does this chart seem to show a leveling out more emphatically, but the card has been seeing more play in Modern in recent months. If you play Modern at all and don't have a playset of Hierarchs, pick them up ASAP.
Let's end our Double Masters talk with another Commander card. What can I say? Commander is the most financially important Magic format right now, especially during the pandemic. Cyclonic Rift is one of the five or ten best cards in the entire format—no kidding—and it appears to have bottomed out after its Double Masters reprint. Take a look:
This card was $40 back in June, and it's just $17 now. If you're waiting for it to keep dropping, you'll have to hope that WotC hits us with another reprint in the next 6-12 months. That might happen—WotC has been quite reprint-wild lately—but if not, Cyclonic Rift will be a $25-$30 card by this time next year. It's a great staple to stock up on during the sale.
You can make a reasonable argument that every card from Zendikar Rising belongs in this article. We are sitting at a moment of confluence between peak supply, record low Standard demand due to the pandemic, end of year price lull trends, and the TCGplayer Black Friday sale. It's likely that most of the cards in this set will never be cheaper than this. I'll highlight a few of my favorites, but you have my blessing to pick up anything you need from Zendikar Rising.
If you only take one of my recommendations today, complete your set of the Pathway lands from Zendikar Rising. Believe me, you'll be glad you did. Not only will these cards come roaring back in price once tabletop Standard becomes a thing again, but these cards are true Commander staples that probably won't be reprinted any time soon.
It's also pretty clear to see that these Pathway lands are at peak supply right now. Most of the Zendikar Rising packs that will ever be opened have already been cracked, and the price of these cards never really lined up with how good they are because of the soft pandemic-addled Standard market. As a result, their price charts reveal a great buying opportunity. Here's Clearwater Pathway:
And here's Brightclimb Pathway:
I can't imagine these cards drop too much more, and it looks like Clearwater Pathway might already be on the way up. For less than $5 each, just grab a set and stick them in your collection. Even if they're reprinted again in a year or two, which I doubt, they might not be this cheap again.
This is another Commander spec. Scute Swarm is one of the most popular Commander cards in Zendikar Rising, and it's the exact sort of uniquely powerful card that could break out in a competitive combo deck at some point, too. You really can't go wrong for less than $2 while the set is at peak supply.
Don't sleep on the most powerful card in Zendikar Rising. Omnath, Locus of Creation might have been banned in Standard, but it currently sees play in Modern's very best deck. Omnath is also the most popular Commander card in the set by a pretty wide margin. Between those two things, it's incredibly difficult for me to see demand drop for Omnath at any point in 2021. Even if Omnath is banned in Modern, Commander demand will keep it high.
It also looks like Omnath may have already hit bottom and is starting to rebound a little. Check out this chart and tell me that it doesn't scream "buying opportunity" to you:
Yeah, I thought so.
I'm skeptical that the Zendikar Rising Expedition Lands will be amazing long-term buys. WotC keeps printing more and more promos, making every previous round of promos feel that much less special.
That said, if you love these cards and want to pick them up for your personal collection, this is a pretty good time to do so. For example, here's the price chart for foil Expedition Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Note the tick up at the very end:
And here's Polluted Delta:
Of course, this is me cherry-picking a little. Most of the other cards from this subset are flat, while a few cards like Seachrome Coast still look like they're trending down a bit:
Taken as an index, though, I have to believe that these cards are pretty close to rock bottom—even with the promise of another fetch land reprint in 2021. If you're looking to fill out your Black Friday shopping card with something incredibly cool, pick up a few of these cards. They really do look incredible, and you're probably not going to regret your purchase.