Rather than rehash picks from the last year or write some lame duck article about more picks from a set that came out like 4 months ago, I decided to comb through my articles from the last year and coalesce all the techniques I came up with that were new in 2019. There were quite a few, they were the result of doing this for 8 years and I basically mentioned them and then didn’t again. If I do this it will both serve as a revision guide so you don’t have to re-read everything I wrote for a whole year (you’re welcome to, I’d like to think it’s pleasant and informative to read my writing) and it will also serve as a handy reference for all of 2019’s new techniques. Let’s do it to it.
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Now that Standard has returned to something approaching normalcy with the removal of Oko and crew, this weekend’s Mythic Championship looked great. Deck diversity abound (at least as far as Standard is concerned) which is all anyone wants. Simic Flash, Jeskai Fires, GB Adventures, Simic Trade Binder, etc. Get ready to start riding the rollercoaster, because Wizards is watching. The cycle is going to be 1. Print cards that are almost assuredly busted, 2. Let those cards either prove to be fair or, more likely, slowly take over Standard 3. Finally ban the card after it’s become entirely oppressive 4. Reap the reward of people being excited that Standard doesn’t suck any longer. Imagine that in a “10 20 goto 10” joke format if necessary.
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That’s right, a non-foil Standard pick. Truly remarkable.
Cavaliers, while having been slow to start, are making a foothold in Standard. Cavalier of Thorns, the green Cavalier, was beating people up in Simic Ramp at the MC, and Cavalier of Flames and Gales are both a big part of Jeskai Fires. There’s no question the Cavaliers pack a big punch. That’s to be expected, since they’re five-drop mythics that have deep color requirements. No question they’re intended to be titans redux, if not a little more fair.
Ok, what’s my point. Well, back in the days of the original titans, they each had their moment, and it was a different time for each. Frost Titan specifically stands out in memory, as it was the cheapest of the group, until people realized that it was the Titan that beat the other titans, and the price soared. Over time, each Titan found a home and became a staple. Just because it doesn’t land immediately, it doesn’t mean that shifting formats and new cards won’t make one a staple.
Looking at this pattern from several years ago, I find myself wondering about Cavalier of Dawn. There’s no question the enter play ability is potent. Beast Within was a key card during its own Standard, and continues to see sporadic play in various other 60-card formats, and is a staple in EDH. With the rise in Planeswalkers, especially lower on the curve, this is an even more potent effect. Nice Oko idiot. Here have an elephant. The general way to evaluate an effect like this is “if there’s no good target for the ability, you’re already winning.” Even the death trigger is useful, since we know Banishing Light is returning in Theros from the leaks several weeks back. Cavalier returning a Banishing Light that got destroyed a few turns prior on death will be helpful.
Of course, right now the card is completely unplayed, which makes this purely speculative. Can we buy Cavalier of Dawn based solely on the fact that the other Cavaliers are good? No, probably not. There’s more here though. We also saw the Elspeth Planeswalker from those Theros leaks, and that card also looks like it’s going to be legitimate. Playing Elspeth on four and then Cavalier on five is going to be a hell of a whammy. That also puts you in a position to be playing devotion as well. White wasn’t the color you went to for devotion in the first Theros, but that could change this time around.
All of this makes Cavalier of Dawn a highly speculative pick, but I like the way the pieces are falling into place. Buying in playsets you’ll pay about $2.50 a copy today. I’m not recommending you start adding them to your cart, but you’ll want to pay close attention to the card as Theros creeps up on us.
Creeping Chill (Foil)
Price Today: $3 Possible Price: $10
We started with Standard, now we’re doing Pioneer, and we’ll finish the week with EDH.
Creeping Chill should be familiar to anyone that’s played Modern. Milling the card domes for three, and in a strategy that’s putting plenty of cardboard in the graveyard, you’re looking at 9 to 12 damage for free in a game. It’s become a common sight in Modern strategies, although you’d be forgiven for not knowing that at this point, because who is looking at Modern lists?
A recent Pioneer league saw Dredge manage 5-0, and in the main deck, four copies of Chill. That got my attention, because so far the archetype has been relatively quiet in Pioneer, but that is highly unlikely to be the case for long. Wizards can’t stay away from the graveyard for too many sets in a row, and in fact, in Theros alone we know we’re getting a mechanic that returns cards to the battlefield, and supporting pieces to go along with it. If Dredge doesn’t have the tools to make itself a serious part of Pioneer today, it’s only a matter of time.
As graveyard strategies do more work in Pioneer, I expect Creeping Chill to be a mainstay. It’s good enough for many Modern lists, and there’s certainly more room for it in Pioneer lists. Furthermore, as a card that isn’t EDH-oriented and was recently printed, it’s going to be a long while before we see another copy, especially foils.
There are only about 40 vendors on TCG right now, and there’s no inventory walls to speak of. A few players looking to fill up their collection are going to quickly tax the available inventory, and then these will be another annoyingly expensive foil uncommon.
Shalai, Voice of Plenty (Foil)
Price Today: $6 Possible Price: $15
I didn’t expect it when she was printed, but Shalai has become one of the most popular creatures in Commander, period. She’s a top 20 popular creature over both the last two months and the last two years — and remember, she was printed less than two years ago. Giving most of your permanents hexproof is big game in EDH. While that sort of lock isn’t quite as airtight in EDH as it might be in Pioneer or Standard, it’s still a monstrously powerful effect. Add in the mana sink, which gives your board a permanent boost when you’ve got excess mana, and plays into the +1/+1 counters theme that’s so popular, and it makes sense that Shalai is seeing so much play. Hindsight, etc. etc.
Flip over to the foil inventory and things look good. Again, about 40 vendors have stock, and nobody has much that’d deep. ChannelFireball, one of the parties notorious for having a block and slowing price gains, is only holding seven copies. Other than that, it’s primarily one-ofs all the way down. Ok, I admit there’s a guy with 13 copies listed — although they’re at $16. Given that Shalai keeps putting up numbers over and over, these should pay off in 2020.[/hide]
Travis Allen has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2013. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.
It needs to be said: 2020 is going to be a rough year for some of our collections.
Wizards is planning on releasing a swarm of Commander-oriented products, and there’s going to be no caveats like “Well, I’ll get a foil, Commander decks don’t print foils” or “This mechanic is really niche, they won’t reprint this for a while” or my favorite “If they put this expensive card in a deck people will only buy this deck like True-Name Nemesis all over again!”
This came up when we were recording MTG Fast Finance the other night, and it’s true: The Mystery Boosters in stores will have some number of foils, and that’s in addition to the product already being opened in GP events.
We’re going to experience 2020 as a minefield of reprints, and some of us are going to get caught. Fear not, though. There’s some principles to apply here and some condolences to fan ourselves with.
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Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.
We guessed last week that with the printing of the Secret Lair sets, we’d see an uptick in the popularity of some tribal cards and decks on the basis of people who didn’t have the decks built building them and people who had them built updating them. This week, we expect to see some of that conjecture borne out by data. Behold!
Ur-Dragon got 59 new decks last week and Arahbo got 47, vaulting both of the decks into the top 20 of the week. While it was cool to look at cards in common between the two decks, drilling down into the decks individually couldn’t hurt, either. Let’s do that, then.
The new cards in this deck aren’t that surprising, and with the exception of the Henge and the Dragon, they’re “you’re playing 5 colors, you need this.”
Henge is basically a card you should really be trading for now. I don’t think a lot needs to be said about it other than that it’s quite good and there may never be a good time to buy it so you’re better off trading away cards that are very good in Standard and won’t quite impact anything beyond Standard. Trading $10 worth of Standard-only cards for $9 worth of Henges is worth it to me and the trade will look super lopsided in a half a year.
The Dragon makes even less sense. Look at the Instants and Sorceries in a typical Dargon deck using EDHREC’s Average Deck feature.
Is there anything worth rebuying here that makes you want to play a really basic dragon? I don’t think I’m cutting gas out of my list to make room for this. So far we’re striking out on interesting stuff, but people who didn’t have a deck and are now building one are going to move the needle more than people updating the decks to maybe put in a durdle dargon, so let’s move into the meat of the deck.
I really didn’t expect a card with multiple printings like this one to basically double in the years since it was last reprinted, but that’s a thing. It’s rebounded a lot better than some rares in the deck and while it’s too late to do anything, it’s worth noting.
Here’s another interesting thing to note.
This was touted in 2017 when the rest of the cycle seemed very strong in light of tribal decks being announced and it seemed like it would hit $10. It did, though it didn’t stay there. However, with this card being good in Dragons and Kittycats and Reaper King decks and any subsequent tribal sets, I think Steely Resolve is a pretty safe bet. While this was spiking off, I said in my 2017 article that I thought Cover of Darkness could get there. Was I right?
This turned out to be a MUCH better bet and it feels good to have called it. So you all know for later, how did I know? Well, that’s a secret.
OK, fine, I’ll tell you. Teach a man to fish an all that. EDHREC doesn’t just give you raw, context-less numbers, it gives you context if you know where to look, and I know where to look, and now so do you.
The bar at the top of EDHREC has dropdown menus and one of them says “sets” which takes you to a menu with every set. Find Onslaught.
Cover of Darkness is the 55th-most-played card from Onslaught and Steely Resolve is 63rd. It’s a very good set. Still, Cover gets played more despite there being seemingly more opportunities for Green cards and Steely Resolve granting Shroud seeming better. You can look at what players will do based on what you think or you can go by what the numbers are telling you and the numbers told me Cover was the way to go, but they also tell me Steely Resolve isn’t done. I rather like it at its current price.
Not much to say here other than that I like its growth plot and while it has plateaued a bit, that’s not accounting for any additional copies being needed for new Arahbo decks. Those new decks can get most of the stuff they need outside of the precon, but need this. This is tough to reprint and it’s associated with the cat deck because that’s the deck it came in, but it’s good in all of them.
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That does it for me. Thanks for reading, everyone. Until next time!
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