Tag Archives: Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

PROTRADER: Accountability – Reviewing Rotation Calls

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There’s very little more important to me than accountability in Magic finance. I write to help people afford this game, not to make myself rich—this is why I don’t speculate. Still, I obviously follow the market very closely, and that’s why I’ve been writing over the last few weeks and months about the cards I thought were good pickups as we neared rotation. With so many important cards leaving Standard, it was clear we were going to see some new stuff rise up to take those places, and even if the archetypes themselves have remained the same, we’ve seen new cards fill in.

Without further preamble, I’ll dig in with the first article I wrote on the subject, published on August 13, 2015.

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PROTRADER: PT Khans of Tarkir Block Constructed

By: Travis Allen

I’ve never been one for professional sports. I don’t know if it’s the toxic masculinity that I’ve never felt beholden to that is woven into the fabric of the pastimes, or if it’s instead my distaste for the veiled sycophantic jingoism that manifests as obsessive support, emotional and financial, for a team that owes allegiance to nothing more than your tax dollars. Whatever it is, I have a natural aversion to that particular brand of entertainment. I don’t watch ESPN. I don’t check scores. I don’t keep track of who is injured or what trades may happen. I didn’t even understand people’s exhaustion with Draft Kings and FanDuel until I saw ten minutes of a football game at my girlfriend’s parent’s house and was exposed to just how significant their advertising presence was.

LAS VEGAS - MARCH 19: In this handout provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, the Mirage Resort Race and Sports Book in Las Vegas is shown crowded with basketball fans during NCAA March Madness Tournament March 19, 2010. in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau via Getty Images)

Along with all the other things that I don’t experience related to professional sports is gambling. Of course, none of you reading this have ever gambled on sports games, because unless you live in Nevada or overseas, it would be illegal, so bear with me and just imagine it’s something you’ve done. Not having bet on games before, I’m unfamiliar with the emotional rollercoaster involved in the activity. Of course, I experience it in some capacity. After all, I bought $60 worth of Wingmate Rocs and Dragon Whisperers. While you could argue that speculation is gambling in its own right, it’s not quite the same. My hopes and dreams for Roc don’t live and die on one play of the game; there is no singular pointed moment in time that holds within it financial victory or ruin.

So when we did a fantasy Pro Tour draft this time around and I found myself sweating the outcome of Finkel versus PVDDR, a match that would determine whether I got second place or fifth, it was a novel experience. I found myself unwilling to watch them play, a behavior I know for a fact I’ve wondered aloud at when I’ve seen others not watch an event they’re financially invested in. I just kept working on the newsletter in silence, peeking at Twitter every thirty seconds for updates. When Finkel was finally victorious and I was locked for second place, a thrilling sensation washed over me unlike anything I get when a spec target quintuples overnight. All in all, it was an exciting experience, and it will be made all the more sweeter when I only need to pay four percent of a $400 dinner bill, rather than 14 percent.

Oh, also, Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar happened this weekend. Right. That’s probably what you would prefer to read about.

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Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar By the Numbers

Last weekend, we got our first look at the cards played from Battle for Zendikar in Standard and I was definitely surprised by the results. In order to make it more convenient for everyone I’ve created a table that inlcudes all cards found throughout the decks sorted by most played. I’ve even tracked the sideboard cards played, to show the direction that the format is taking.

Here’s a breakdown of the played cards at the Pro Tour by card type:

Land (199) Sorcery (21) Creature (127) Instant (99) Sideboard (120)
25x Flooded Strand 8x Dragon Fodder 16x Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy  Flip 11x Fiery Impulse 11x Disdainful Stroke
20x Wooded Foothills 6x Hordeling Outburst 15x Hangarback Walker 11x Dromoka’s Command 9x Surge of Righteousness
17x Windswept Heath 7x Treasure Cruise 12x Warden of the First Tree 10x Wild Slash 9x Duress
16x Mountain Enchantment (12) 12x Mantis Rider 8x Crackling Doom 9x Arashin Cleric
15x Polluted Delta 8x Silkwrap 10x Den Protector 7x Abzan Charm 6x Roast
15x Bloodstained Mire 4x Jeskai Ascendancy 8x Siege Rhino 6x Ojutai’s Command 5x Transgress the Mind
14x Plains Planeswalker (22) 8x Anafenza, the Foremost 6x Kolaghan’s Command 5x Rending Volley
14x Mystic Monastery 20x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar 7x Wingmate Roc 6x Jeskai Charm 5x Exert Influence
12x Forest 2x Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker 6x Tasigur, the Golden Fang 5x Valorous Stance 4x Wingmate Roc
8x Prairie Stream 4x Zurgo Bellstriker 4x Titan’s Strength 4x Ultimate Price
8x Canopy Vista 4x Soulfire Grand Master 4x Murderous Cut 4x Tragic Arrogance
5x Sunken Hollow 4x Seeker of the Way 4x Dispel 4x Silkwrap
5x Smoldering Marsh 4x Monastery Swiftspear 4x Dig Through Time 4x Radiant Flames
4x Shambling Vent 4x Deathmist Raptor 4x Atarka’s Command 3x Mastery of the Unseen
4x Llanowar Wastes 4x Abbot of Keral Keep 3x Temur Battle Rage 3x Fiery Impulse
4x Island 3x Nissa, Vastwood Seer  Flip 3x Become Immense 3x Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh  Flip
4x Battlefield Forge 2x Lightning Berserker 2x Utter End 2x Whisperwood Elemental
3x Swamp 2x Hidden Dragonslayer 1x Secure the Wastes 2x Valorous Stance
3x Cinder Glade 2x Dragonmaster Outcast 2x Tasigur, the Golden Fang
2x Nomad Outpost 2x Hordeling Outburst
1x Shivan Reef 2x Felidar Cub
2x Evolutionary Leap
2x Dragonmaster Outcast
2x Dispel
2x Den Protector
2x Crackling Doom
1x Sorin, Solemn Visitor
1x Self-Inflicted Wound
1x Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1x Ruinous Path
1x Radiant Purge
1x Ob Nixilis Reignited
1x Negate
1x Narset Transcendent
1x Lightning Berserker
1x Gideon’s Reproach
1x Boiling Earth
1x Abzan Charm

Quick Stats:

Top Creature — Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

Top Land  Flooded Strand

Top Instant — Fiery Impulse / Dromoka’s Command

Top Sorcery — Dragon Fodder

Top Enchantment — Silkwrap

Top Planeswalker — Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Brief Summary:

Abzan took down the Pro Tour, which is shocking to nobody. Key cards from the deck include Warden of the First Tree, Hangarback Walker, Den Protector, Anafenza, the Foremost, and Siege Rhino. Interestingly, even with a Pro Tour win I’m not sure how much Siege Rhino can gain throughout the rest of its Standard life. The Clash Pack printing has devastated the price of the card and I’m not sure if it is going to spike up a large amount simply due to the fact that there are so many other decks out there that aren’t playing Abzan colors, Pro Tour win aside.

Hangarback Walker is the talk of the town, as usual, as noted by its second place listing among the most played cards of the Top 8. I’m sure further breakdowns of the Top 64 and beyond will continue to show the trend, but as we all knew Hangarback Walker is going to continue to shine in Standard due to the fact that it is the strongest colorless option (amongst three and four color decks) that players can choose to include because it does so well against the sorcery speed removal of the format.

Which brings me to Silkwrap, one of the premier answers to Hangarback Walker that is left in the new Standard after Theros block has rotated out. I’m not surprised that copies are bordering on $2 at this point, and keep in mind that it is in Dragons of Tarkir so its shelf life has a farther expiration than Khans and Fate Reforged. I don’t expect Silkwrap to go down in value (unless of course it gets the event deck / clash pack / whatever reprint) so pick up your copies now in order to deal with the Hangarback Walker threat that will be seen over the course of the winter.

Of the most played cards in the Pro Tour Top 8 from BFZ, we have Prairie Stream, Canopy Vista, Sunken Hallow, Smoldering Marsh, and Shambling Vents making a splash in the decks. Outside of lands, the only cards from BFZ to see play in the maindeck of the top decks include Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Dragonmaster Outcast, and Dispel – not a great showing of Battle for Zendikar since two out of those three cards are reprints. Based on these results, expect Gideon spike up to new highs and stay there for a while until the format becomes solved over time as players try and figure out how to make Ingest and Devoid work in Standard. I wouldn’t pick up extra copies of Dragonmaster Outcast since it is a reprint and will continue to drop in price as more BFZ packs are opened over the coming months.

As we continue into the Standard season, I hope that more variety is introduced to the decks. I’m really excited to see what Battle for Zendikar can add to Standard, but it seems like the power level hasn’t quite been figured out yet. Cards like Oblivion Sower seem really powerful in a vacuum but I’m not sure if they are good enough for Standard yet based on the Pro Tour results. As we continue on through Standard there should be opportunity for other cards to shine, like sideboard inclusions Radiant Flames and Exert Influence. Until then however, I would expect aggro decks and Jeskai (whether splashing black or green) to be dominant forces at FNM as more and more players realize that yes, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy (and his insane price) is not going away from Standard anytime soon, unfortunately.

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Developments from the Pro Tour Road

(It’s been a while since I wrote a freely-available article, so I wanted to take this opportunity to do so. I hope you enjoy! – Corbin)

By the time this article comes out, you’ll be knee-deep in Pro Tour speculation, with all the pros gathering in Wisconsin to battle it out for the plane of Zendikar (and up to $40,000 on the line). Personally, I’ve been on the road for a week at this point, from Grand Prix Madison to a bus and some downtime in Milwaukee. I’m not usually much of a story guy, but I can safely say that fun has been had, drafts have been drafted, and Canadian Highlander is the best new format I’ve encountered since EDH.

So how about one quick story: Marshall Sutcliffe and I were playing a game earlier today, and I—having not built my own deck for the format yet—was simply playing my Karador, Ghost Chieftain Commander deck with my commander shuffled in. It’s far from optimized for the format, but due to the grindy nature of the deck, it actually competes reasonably well with some of the decks in the Canadian Highlander. Anyway, there were some great games today, from Marshall Mind Twisting me for five only to see me shrug it off and go to town over the next ten turns with Life from the Loam and cycling lands on the way to a win.

But the best story is probably the following: I had to mulligan twice, and my hand by the fifth turn was Unburial Rites, Sun Titan, Karmic Guide, and Animate Dead, and I had just cast Oblivion Ring on Marshall’s Liliana of the Veil. With four lands in play and nothing else to do, my hand was completely dead. Luckily, Marshall had my back and Mind Twisted me for five off a Grim Monolith. I untapped, flashbacked Unburial Rites, returned Sun Titan, returning Animate Dead, returning Karmic Guide, returning Acidic Slime. Pretty sick.

After a few turns of battling like this, Marshall was at one life and had wiped the board. We both whiffed for a few turns, then I topdecked Birthing Pod. He followed by topdecking an answer. I topdecked Makeshift Mannequin, starting the chain over. Given that I had Swords to Plowshares in hand to Marshall’s no cards in hand and Grindstone in play, I felt fairly safe from Painter’s Servant combo. It would take an absurd topdeck to beat me.

Which means, of course, that Marshall ripped Dig Through Time to find Fabricate (to fetch Painter’s Servant), then had exactly enough mana to Muddle the Mixture my removal spell. That’s just one of the crazy awesome games I’ve seen out of this format, and I highly recommend giving it a look.

Could it be financially relevant? Maybe. The format has been around for a while, but hasn’t taken off, nor do I think it necessarily will, given that it appeals primarily to competitive players. I will say that it’s already more of a thing than Tiny Leaders, so I hope we don’t see a repeat of that debacle. If there’s interest (let me know!), I could revisit this topic in the coming weeks with a more financially based perspective. I tentatively have a retrospective on my post-rotation Standard picks slated for next week, so just let me know what you want to see!

Now, let’s get on to some more immediately-relevant matters.

Standard Spikes

We’ve seen some major movement over the last few weeks, and while much of it has been expected (and predicted in this column), there’s still plenty worth talking about.

Let’s start with Dragonlord Ojutai. Still the best finisher in Standard (and in Canadian Highlander if you’re Randy Buehler), Ojutai has doubled in price over the last two weeks. Truthfully, there’s not much to say here except that Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy (which I wrote about in detail last week) will continue to be played across the field, and Ojutai will almost always accompany it. I don’t expect the price to crater anytime soon.

Dragonlord Ojutai

The same goes for Den Protector, which just keeps going and going. I’m going to be honest: there’s not much reason to believe that Dragons of Tarkir cards won’t continue climbing, or at the least remain steady, for the next few weeks and months. The set was, unsurprisingly, a combination of not heavily opened and very, very good.

Which leads me to Ojutai’s Command, which as you saw in Monday’s Floor Report from LengthyXemit (related: I’m the content manager around these parts, so let me know if you want to see more of those). On topic, Ojutai’s Command was bought out on site at Grand Prix Madison at $3 and under, and the growth on this has been steady. I cannot stress enough that this returns Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, which seems to be the most important card in the format. I see this easily moving past $5 and maybe to $10 on a post-Pro Tour spike, and I love picking these up at Friday Night Magic.

Other cards that have shown strong movement are Mantis Rider and Dromoka’s Command. These were both major calls here a few weeks ago, and while another one, Rattleclaw Mystichas shown only marginal growth, these two are steadily rising and even exploding.

I’ve seen Event Decks come and go, and just like it has in the past, the printing hasn’t destroyed prices like many feared. Hangarback  Walker has shrugged it off, while Dromoka’s Command has in fact grown from $3 to $7.

dromokascommand

If you’re in on any of these from when we tagged them as pickups one to two months ago, the time to sell will be after the Pro Tour concludes this weekend. Sunday through Wednesday will be the peak for many of these prices. Remember when the time comes to not be greedy, and instead be happy to lock in profits.

Fetch Lands

Much has been made of how much many dealers are paying on-site for fetch lands, with prices on site for Polluted Delta and Flooded Strand going as high as $22. That’s nuts for a card with a price of $25 TCGplayer mid, and the truth is these may not come down for a while. With Standard stretching so much to four- or even five-color manabases—and even the aggressive decks being two colors with fetches—these could continue to climb over the next three months.

But don’t panic. These are being driven heavily by Standard, and while I imagine many players will hold onto these even after rotation, they will likely fall some before rotation hits. That’s what we saw with Zendikar fetches and with Return to Ravnica shock lands, and I expect the same trend to repeat. Still, there’s definitely value in having these in your binder right now. I’m also not definitively opposed to selling these at $20 or more now in cash, because there’s little reason to believe you won’t be able to reacquire them at at least $20 in six months. For reference, Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn fell to $10 to $12 in the same respective time period.

Zendikar Expeditions

These have certainly come down rather quickly. Remember that a large amount of product (I’m not applying a made-up percentage, just speaking in generalities), is opened within the first two weeks of a set’s lifetime. I don’t think we’re at the valley on these yet, but I also don’t think we’re that far off. People have been rushing to sell these because the majority of people would rather have hundreds of dollars over a single vanity item, and those who do want to splurge for them aren’t in any rush to pick them up as a result.

But if the behavior of fetch lands over the past two months tells us anything, it’s that sets become “old” very quickly, and something that was plentiful seemingly yesterday gets rare fast. Keep a close eye on Zendikar Expeditions if you think you might want to acquire them, because the floor can’t be that far away.

A Called Shot

I made this a Pick of the Week on Brainstorm Brewery a few weeks back (along with Wingmate Roc), but I want to reiterate it here. There are very few surprises left in cards at this point, as we haven’t seen any huge impact (yet) from Battle for Zendikar, and nearly everything that we expected to spike has spiked already.

Hidden Dragonslayer hasn’t yet. But you better believe it’s on the way. Look at this chart.

Hidden Dragonslayer chart

That’s the look of a card about to explode. There will be plenty of people playing Green-White Megamorph at the Pro Tour, and Dragonslayer is almost always at least a two-of. In addition to killing big things, it also is a fine lifelinking two-drop against Atarka Red. Combine that with a chart looking like this, and you have a recipe for a card you can trade for at $1 at FNM and sell for $5 next week. Warden of the First Tree is less exciting given that it’s showing no momentum at $3, but I’d also keep an eye on it this weekend, given its status as a mythic.

See You at the Pro Tour

That’s it for this week. I hope you tune into the Pro Tour this weekend (I’ll be the guy in the background typing on his laptop). Until next time, as always, thanks for reading!

–Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter/Twitch/YouTube

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