Going Mad – Welcome to the Rodeo

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By: Derek Madlem

The Battle for Zendikar is under way, those of you who’ve peaked the fat pack insert already know the outcome, but for the rest of us…we have other concerns.

Expeditions

In case you missed all the Magic financiers jumping from buildings doing their best impression of a 1929 stock broker, Expeditions prices are basically in free fall. We all thought for sure these would be the coolest thing since sliced bread, and they still might be, but there are a lot of snakes that bit off too much and had to regurgitate. What the hell am I talking about?

So picture a snake. This snake normally goes around eating mice and other small vermin. One day this snake comes across your Aunt Marigold’s pet chihuahua “Chuckles” and just can’t help himself. Chuckles is quickly choked out and the snake dislocates it’s jaw to fit that boney little head into its mouth. The snake quickly realizes that it is left in a vulnerable state so it has to just regurgitate it and go back to eating mice and chipmunks.

So what the hell am I talking about? I’m talking about the army of armchair vendors that all decided to cash in on Battle for Zendikar. These guys (and presumably some gals too) preordered BFZ by the case with the prospect of opening infinite moneys and realized once they had a $600-2000 hole in their savings account, they had to recoup some of that money IMMEDIATELY.

So began the race to the bottom. These snakes had a big meal and they just can’t sit around waiting for it to digest to get the most out of Expeditions, so they’re firesaling these cards to recoup as much of their “investment” as they can. Some people just don’t have the nerve to ride it out. Here’s where we’re at now:

Cinder Glade – $40
Smoldering Marsh – $44
Canopy Vista – $47
Sunken Hollow – $50
Prairie Stream – $55
Temple Garden – $65
Blood Crypt – $75
Godless Shrine – $78
Overgrown Tomb – $80
Sacred Foundry – $80
Watery Grave – $85
Stomping Ground – $85
Breeding Pool – $90
Hallowed Fountain – $100
Marsh Flats – $110
Wooded Foothills – $115
Windswept Heath – $120
Steam Vents – $130
Bloodstained Mire – $130
Arid Mesa – $135
Verdant Catacombs – $160
Flooded Strand – $240
Polluted Delta – $270
Misty Rainforest – $270
Scalding Tarn – $285

Average: $117.56

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In just one short week, Expeditions lands have shed 30% of their value, and in all likelihood this number is probably even lower by the time this article is published. So what about the rest of the set? Are those cards tanking as well?

Results

Obviously the format is still in flux, but the first SCG Open is in the books and the initial posturing has begun. In what appears to be some kind of cosmic irony, Burn took down the tournament despite losing Lightning Strike and Stoke the Flames. What hot BFZ rares and mythics made the cut? A paltry two copies of Cinder Glade.
Cinder Glade

Now’s the part where I eat crow. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar showed up big this weekend with 24 copies in the top 16. Gideon appears to be the real deal. So – I was wrong. Does this mean that I now think Gideon has a chance of retaining his $40 price tag? Not in the slightest. If you aren’t intending to use Gideon in the comings weeks, it’s probably a good idea to ship ’em.

In other Planeswalker news, there were 0 main deck copies of Ob Nixilis or Kiora in the top 16 this weekend. Which either means these are not cards that anybody is excited about, or they’re all saving them for their super secret Pro Tour brews. I know where I’d place my bets.

bringtolight

The big story of the weekend is manabases. The bulk of the BFZ cards showing up among the top finishers are dual lands of some sort and this little gem. As it turns out, there only thing better than four copies of Siege Rhino is eight copies of Siege Rhino. The exceptional mana available to deck builders in this format allowed some pretty sweet four and five color builds of traditional archetypes. Not only did we get a sweet five color Abzan toolbox deck courtesy of Gerry Thompson, we also get hot tech splashes:

Jeskai splashing black for Crackling Doom and Kolghan’s Command? Sure, why not! Why not throw a Butcher of Malakir in the mix? Going forward, this opens the dance floor to basically any powerful card, regardless of whether or not it’s in the “right” colors.

Other cards that made modest appearances this weekend include:
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Dragonmaster Outcast
Ruinous Path
Brutal Expulsion
Fathom Feeder
Radiant Flames

None of these seem like great investment targets.

Khans of Tarkir – Fate Reforged

Hey guys, where’s the big spikes? I know we’re not to the Pro Tour yet so it might be too early to declare victory but there’s a distinct lack of $5 Rattleclaw Mystics, $10 Siege Rhinos, $25 Sarkhan Dragonspeakers, and $15 Wingmate Rocs. While it may be more meta related than rotation related, I’m significantly less worried about that guy printing out my terrible article and putting it on every table at the next Grand Prix so that everyone knows what a ****ing idiot I am.

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If you check out the daily and weekly movers you’ll see a spattering of Khans/Fate cards on the winners lists. Obviously fetch lands are sweeter than ever with the tango lands, but there is one sweet Mythic showing up in force that’s seeing some growth:

Anafenza has long been one of my favorite picks in Khans of Tarkir; admittedly, I was a much bigger fan when Birthing Pod mirrors were still a thing. Anafenza shuts off a lot of the delve shenanigans we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, stops Deathmist Raptors or Den Protector loops, and even enables Eldrazi processors…if that ever becomes a thing.  So far Anafenza is not a universal inclusion in the Abzan aggro decks, but as the meta shakes out, there’s a pretty good chance she finds a place.

The other big winner from Khans of Tarkir appears to be Hardened Scales…wut? Expect this card to go full Obelisk of Urd, fluctuating back and forth between $1 and $5 independent of reason.

Alternate Timelines

In case you didn’t get the memo: Atarka’s Command is not a $4 card. The ability to crank out four landfall triggers in a single turn is more than enough to make this the center piece in a few glass cannon aggro decks. Combine Atarka’s Command with Scythe Leopard, Makindi Sliderunner, and Monastery Swiftspear and you’re looking at massive amounts of damage. Worst case scenario, this becomes the premiere burn spell of the format, typically adding 5+ damage every time it’s cast.

This card has already been showing up in Modern Burn decks, the cat should be fully out of the bag on this one.

den protector

If there was any doubt, it should be long gone by now. Den Protector is a format defining staple. Looping Den Protectors is often going to be more than enough to wear down control decks and the ability to walk past Thopter tokens or Gideon’s sidekicks is going to prove extremely valuable in the coming year. Den Protector is currently hovering around $10 and I can easily see this doing a Courser of Kruphix impression, especially during the next six months as we continue to have access to fetch lands – this will be easily splashable in any color deck.

Jace

The $80 Gorilla

There’s an $80 Gorilla in the format and his name is Jace. It turns out that the “next Jace” is…well…Jace again. A number of people asked me this weekend whether or not this price is real and whether or not it can stick and I’m still a little amazed that the answer is: yes.

With Battle for Zendikar hitting the streets people are just done with Magic Origins. Normally an $80 card would be enough to entice people to go back and play the lottery game but there’s bigger fish to catch in the form of Expeditions – and they’re a lot shinier as well.

Jace has a lot going for him financially, he’s universally played as a four-of and he’s a Mythic rare from a summer core set that was sandwiched between two of the biggest releases in years: Modern Masters 2015 and Battle for Zendikar. Magic Origins was a pretty solid core set all in all, but just didn’t stand much of a chance to sell that well with people’s wallets hurting after MM2 and people squirreling away money for BFZ.

Beyond the paltry amount of this product opened, there is the reality that Jace is showing up in every format – even Vintage. While it might feel like it’s too late to buy in on Jace at this point, it felt the same way at $20, $30, and $40…yet here we are, staring down the $80 Gorilla in the room. With the likelihood of Magic Origins packs being ripped open in mass quantities now, Jace is likely to climb higher still.

Every plateau in Jace’s price has felt like it couldn’t go higher, but at this point I’m not seeing any compelling reasons for it to go lower outside of a clash pack or event deck reprint, which is unlikely due to him being a double faced card.

Fat Stacks & Fat Packs

There’s a gold rush at your local big box retailer: people are scouring the wilds for BFZ Fat Packs like they’re going out of style. The big two retailers were offering these at a $60 preorder price and we all scoffed, then we found out that Fat Packs are, and have always been, a limited print run; this is just the first time that limit has mattered. Fat Packs are generally part of the “package” the distributors jam down local game stores’ throats along with all those intro packs you see on clearance two weeks after release.

This might be the first time in a long time that snatching up a pile of Fat Packs is a solid investment. Legends of double Expeditions Fat Packs coupled with a stack of full art lands in every box will make these a sought after item for years to come. So grab them if you still can, while it might seem like you missed your chance, there are numerous cases where these things are sitting in the back room waiting for Magic Origins Fat Packs to sell through on the shelf.

Holding Pattern

The Pro Tour is just a few weeks away and most of the rare and Mythic prices will stay relatively inflated until then, but we’re quickly realizing that none of the new duals are four-ofs thanks to fetch lands and there’s not a lot else (yet) to get excited about in the set so prices are going to fall.


 

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2 thoughts on “Going Mad – Welcome to the Rodeo”

  1. So reserved this week, or I just agree with you. I’m a little disappointed. Yes we haven’t hit the pro-tour yet so we haven’t seen a real spike anywhere other than Jace and Atarka’s command. I haven’t seen Shaman of Forgotten Ways (card is very good though and dodges a lot of removal to set up dragon lords on turn 4) nor See the Unwritten…but I also didn’t see a Rally Deck and that just seems wrong. The SCG open decks seems boring and straight forward, every time that happens there’s a Jeskai Ascendency combo, a Mastery of the Unseen, or Abzan Rally deck that destroys all the grindy decks and makes everyone look stupid for not discovering it already.

    I kinda wonder if Bring to Light is this set’s Frontier Siege, it seems better and more versatile but I just mean that it’s the flavor of the week but seems to fall apart very easily. After all, Chord was NOT a popular standard card and Bring to Light is a Sorcery and a more difficult cart to cast (depending on your perspective, but you do have to jump through more hoops).

    And don’t worry, Gideon isn’t all that. I mean: he’a amazing, he’s the next Jace, he’s going to be $90…wanna trade for mine?? Gideon is fine and he “fills the slot of Elspeth”, but once players start tweeking their decks I think they will find better cards to play. The 2 things he has going for him is that he is “fine” in aggro, midrange, or control decks. I just don’t think he’s back breaking nor demands an answer like Elspeth or Ashiok. Note: I played control and beat 2 decks playing Gideon last night. I’m playing Narset Transcendent as my 4 drop walker…SHE IS INSANE!! Again, he isn’t bad but nothing he does is overwhelming to the opponent. At least not the turn he’s cast.

    And I just want to respond to your comment about Khans cards. I don’t know if EVERYONE showed up for BFZ prerelease and are throwing their hats into the Standard ring but I hear and read a lot of people complaining about Standard decks being so expensive cause of the Fetch lands. This is giving me some hope that Khans cards might actually be in demand because there might be a lot of new players that started in Origins (maybe MM 2) and BFZ and don’t have the Khans staples most of us have had for a year. Possible D Mad??

    I mention this cause I think this means some Khans cards will show growth. Utter End is amazing now as it hits EVERYTHING except man lands at instant speed and is going to be a 2 of in every WBxx deck. It’s a card I forgot about and splashed for and it’s insanely powerful without Stormbreath around and without Downfall. Between being instant speed and 2WB likely easier to cast with these bizarre mana bases than Ruinous Path I think Utter End could hit $5 or more and the full art hitting $10+. Mantis Rider and Anafenza look to be the best 3 drops in the format. Siege Rhino is…well it’s Siege Rhino. Rattleclaw has too much synergy and value with Den Protector and Raptor, I just think Temur is too complicated for the basic player to master (but Radiant Flames is an excellent sideboard card for Temur) tho Temur has the high payoff cards to make a ramp deck viable. Butcher saw some play and is a sac outlet or unlocks some extra Hangarback shenanigans. And the Khans fetches might be in greater demand??

    And Warden of the First Tree MIGHT be the best one drop in the format that isn’t a red aggro card. Unfortunately he’s another high level magic player’s card and only Andrew Bozwell seems to have done well with him, but Warden needs to be answered and is tough to answer early.

  2. Hardened Scales has shown up in the top 8 of some recent SCG IQs as a 3 and 4 of in GW aggro. Most recently, a version of GW Hardened Scales took 16th in at SCG Indy. It may not be top 8, but that’s a solid finish for a deck based around a card that 99% of people seem to think is total trash.

    Wizards continues to put out +1 counter synergies, and Dragons and Origins provided some very nice cards that at minimum, appear to make this strategy at least viable, although certainly not the most powerful in it’s current state.

    I agree that we will see this card fluctuate, especially prior to the next spoiler, as I don’t see this as being a star in current standard given the bias against it as a first turn play. But then again, who knows what can be done since we should definitely see a lot of wild splash choices. However, I disagree that any fluctuation, good or bad, is without reason.

    IF the next offering were to include a card along the lines of Hangarback or Den Protector, both of which are top tier cards that benefit from Hardened Scales, I don’t think we will be talking about $5 as a ceiling anymore. If we don’t see anything worthwhile, then for most folks it will be time to start packing, but I see the floor for this as being around $2.

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