Digging for Dollars: Magic Origins

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By James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

So far, Magic Origins looks like a triumphant finale for the long-running summer core set of Magic: The Gathering. The final core set (soon to be replaced with the 2nd set in the 2nd block of each season) is chock full of subtle and original cards that many players, both pro and amateur alike, have been having trouble evaluating.

Unlike Dragons of Tarkir, which was widely panned as “for casuals”, only to succeed in shaking up the scene in both Modern and Standard, Magic Origins features a ton of cards that are seemingly powerful, but hard to evaluate, resulting in a mix of both over and under-costed cards currently for sale.  Also, like DTK, Origins is up against several previous set’s worth of very, very powerful cards that may preclude many of the new cards from seeing extensive play until the fall rotation in October.

Many of the best cards in Origins have already been identified, and it’s possible that too many are already priced for success. Remember however, that you’re really going to see the greatest returns if you skip the armchair theorizing and buckle down to test the decks ahead of the curve.

Here, presented in order of likely upside, are my picks for the cards in Magic Origins most likely to reward timely speculation, with all target prices assumed to be possible during 2015 unless otherwise noted:

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1. Nissa, Vastwood Seer (Mythic)

   

It may seem pretty odd to be calling out the most expensive card in the set as my top underdog pick, but hear me out. Nissa has already been called everything from hot garbage to Elspeth by both pros and MTGFinance writers alike. Personally, I’m with Pat Chapin on this one. I see a very flexible early utility creature that turns into a stellar late game draw once your ramp strategy has activated. I also see an iconic mythic that will likely be played as a 4-of when it’s played at all. The Standard meta is going to get shook up something fierce with the release of Origins, so anything could happen, but if Nissa pops up at top tables in some early Standard tournaments, I can easily see her pushing the upper limits of standard playable mythics. Also, with Eldrazi ramp almost certainly a thing once Battle for Zendikar is released in October, the trend-line would seem to favor the home team. Though her percentage returns wouldn’t be the highest in this list, the raw returns would still be $5-10 per copy, and potentially more in trade, especially if you can snag some at peak supply for under $20.

Now: $26
Target: $35-40

 

2. Erebos’s Titan (Mythic)

This big black beat-stick may be a bit lower on players’ radar screens than it should be. The triple black casting cost really reduces the number of decks it can be played in, but there are likely still potential homes in Black Devotion or BG Recursion strategies. Sure he’s big and cheap, but his true form is as a multi-faceted control hoser. His conditional indestructibility has the potential to turn off kill cards from decks that don’t have early drops or can’t keep them on the table, and his recursive potential is unlocked by any deck that either a) plans to use Delve (Tasigur, Angler, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time) or b) plans to abuse Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector. He also beats Tasigur, Angel of Tithes and Siege Rhino in combat and survives Languish and Stoke the Flames/Exquisite Firecraft. The fact that he is so useful in turning on Erebos, God of the Dead may not end up being a thing, but it’s certainly worth testing to be sure. Between strong kill and Thoughtseize, mono-black certainly has the tools to make a run.

Now: $8.50
Target: $12-15

 

3. Abbot of Keral Keep (Foil Rare)

Here we have a rare with at least some potential to be as powerful as Snapcaster Mage. Using the Speculator 3000, I see a low casting cost, an aggressive body, and the potential to generate relevant card advantage in a low slung deck streamlined to abuse it. I have little doubt this will see some play in Standard while it’s legal, but in pointing the finger at foils I’m really saying that it might have a home in Modern or Legacy. Picture a deck with Snaps, Young Pyromancer, Delver of Secrets and this guy alongside a pile of 0/1 casting cost spells. StarCityGames is sold out at $9.99 and currently I can’t see many for sale under $20, which is steep without proven results. I’ll be target these around $15 if I can get them, ramping up my commitment quickly if I see tournament results or deck ideas that seem to drive the value.

Now: $13
Target: $50+

 

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4. Evolutionary Leap (Foil Rare)

I feel reasonably confident that this is a card that will earn a spike within the next 2-3 years. Is it worth going deep on copies now without results hoping this is the next Collected Company in Modern? Probably not. CoCo is already giving green decks a somewhat similar option whose potential hasn’t been fully plumbed, and there are more reliable options for your hard earned dollars. That being said, this is more combo card (think Polymorph into an important creature off of a token) than a Birthing Pod to my eyes. Perhaps what it really needs to go off is reliable card stacking, a la Congregation at Dawn or Sensei’s Divining Top. It’s the perfect example of a card that most players won’t be able to rate effectively until they’ve seen a smarter player bring it to a top table and since I haven’t divined the proper build for it, this spec comes with a giant sized caution label despite the slight potential to be massive in Modern and/or Legacy.

Now: $15
Target: $30 (don’t hold your breath)

 

5. Harbinger of the Tides (Foil Rare)

Harbinger of the Tides needs a few things to happen to end up facing the right direction. Firstly, he needs to successfully slot into Modern Merfolk as everyone expects him to, and then put up a strong set of results that demonstrates he takes the deck up a notch. Hopefully, that deck wants four copies, though it’s possible they just don’t have all the slots available. If he could simultaneously find a home as a 3-4 of in a dominant Jeskai tempo strategy in Standard for a few months, that would certainly bode well for hitting the target below. Ideally I’ll be looking to scoop up a few sets under $15, looking to hold for a long term double up.

Now: $18
Target: $30+

 

6. Demonic Pact (Mythic)

Normally, I would be seeing this as a bulk rare, but the reality is that there are plenty of tools in the current Standard to make this work. With cards like Dromoka’s Command and Silumgar’s Command on deck to make sure you never actually lose the game, both Abzan mid-range and U/B control might be able to find reasons to run this.

My conditions for success here are as follows:

  • dominant deck runs 4 copies
  • or 2-3 consistent decks run 2-3 copies
  • and format stays slow enough for a do nothing 4-drop to matter

I’m also only 75% sure this isn’t playable in Modern or Legacy, since funny ways to donate it to opponents might be found.

Now: $3.75
Target: $7-10

7. Animist’s Awakening (Foil Rare)

This card has all the hallmarks of a Modern or Legacy card that will be forgotten about until the day the right combination of cards suddenly makes it spike off of a Top 8 performance that comes out of nowhere. You need to be generating a lot of mana already to make it sexy, so it’s really about finding interesting utility lands or lands with auto-win conditions and benefiting from them all coming into play at once.  If these dip towards $4, and I think they will, I’ll consider acquiring some to stash away in the long spec box.

Now: $10
Target: $20+ (long term)

Bonus Notes:

  • Day’s Undoing foils are over $50 on low supply at present. I’m a believer that someone breaks this in Modern and/or Legacy, likely in some kind of aggro or burn build. If it happens fast, this price will solidify and could climb to $100. If it doesn’t, I’ll be looking to get in on these under $20 with a willingness to wait until it gets snapped in two.
  • Hallowed Moonlight foils are carrying a 4x modifier at present on the assumption of Modern and/or Legacy play. I’d like to snag some under $10, which should be possible once we hit peak supply.
  • Liliana, Heretical Healer might be playable in Modern. I’m brewing with Athreos and Kitchen Finks at present to try and figure out the right angle.
  • Woodland Bellower may end up a big hit, and it may even be modern playable. I’ve got my eye on this guy.
  • Several cards in this set are over-priced already if they don’t find a home in a big deck in a hurry. These short-sell targets include: Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy (Foil) at $40+, Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh (Foil) at $40, Day’s Undoing at $14 and Kytheon, Hero of Akros at $14.

So there you have it, the long-shot specs of Magic Origins. Which ones are you going after and why? Anything I missed that you think has a shot at a big rise?

DFD: Dragons of Tarkir Update:

In Digging for Dollars: DTK, I called out the following specs as undervalued cards with some chance of financial success (shown with original and current pricing:

  1. Dragonlord Ojutai: $4 to $16 (+400%, 700% at peak)
  2. Sidisi, Undead Vizier: $3 to $1 (-67%)
  3. Zurgo, Bellstriker: $2 to $2 (0%)
  4. Stratus, Dancer: $2 to $1 (-50%)
  5. Surrak, the Hunt Caller: $2 to $0.75 (-62.5%)
  6. Blood-Chin Fanatic: $1  to .25 (-75%)
  7. Dragon Tempest: $3.50 to .50 (-85%)
  8. Boltwing Marauder: $.50 to $.25 (-50%)
  9. Icefall Regent: $1.50 to $1.25 (-17%)
  10. Profaner of the Dead: $.50 to $0.25 (-50%)

Dragonlord Ojutai is clearly the big winner here, and the amount of money I made on my 20 or so copies, easily made up for funds invested in 12 copies of Sidisi, Undead Vizier and Zurgo, Bellstriker that haven’t gone anywhere. It’s laughable however, that I set the ceiling on Ojutai at $8, when in hindsight we see one of the defining finishers of the format, and a card that has already seen Modern play.  (Having hit $30 earlier in the season, Ojutai now looks like a solid pickup for the fall if decks that want him can figure out how to get around the sacrifice effects that have rendered him less effective.)

The only other cards I offered up as solid picks were Zurgo, Bellstriker and Sidisi, and both saw some good early play before falling off the side of the metagame. That being said, both cards are still positioned reasonably well heading into the fall, though major financial gains will be difficult at this point without top table support. I suspect there may be a GB Recursion strategy that wants a couple of copies of Sidisi at the top end but it won’t be a 4-of unless Battle for Zendikar offers up a powerful ramp strategy to effectively reduce it’s casting cost.

Of the true long shots, none of them have yet managed to hit the targets I set for them should they see widespread play.

The results of DFD: DTK then, provide further proof that buying a full portfolio of long-shot lists like this is nearly always a bad strategy. Cards like Dragon Tempest, Blood-Chin Fanatic and Boltwing Marauder too often hinge on the emergence of a specific linear deck, whereas flexible and powerful cards like Snapcaster Mage and Abrupt Decay offer up multi-format appeal that can be tucked into a myriad of decks.

Note: One of my biggest misses from DTK was my complete predictive whiff on the power of Collected Company in Modern and the resulting explosion in the value of CoCo foils. Like everyone else I just saw a poor man’s Birthing Pod at a casting cost that seemed too high for the format. The ability to leverage instant speed status to recover from sweepers, get in under counterspells and occasionally combo off, has however, proven to be extremely powerful. Fortunately, I clued in earlier than most (about a week after publication) and managed to snag 20+ foils around $10-12. Today those foils hover around $40, and I also made strong returns on early acquisitions of Death Mist Raptor and the other Dragonlords, so DTK was a strong win on the spec sheet despite getting stuck holding 3 playsets each of Dragon Tempest and Descent of the Dragons 😉

See you next time and have fun at the pre-release!

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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7 thoughts on “Digging for Dollars: Magic Origins”

  1. I really don’t agree with most of your analyses. Evolutionary Leap isn’t really a combo card at all, but more a way to get better value out of your small creatures before they die. I see it in B/G sac if anywhere. Harbinger of the Tides at $30, even for a foil? Are you kidding me? The closest comparison to Harbinger, Tidebinder Mage, is sitting pretty at no dollars. Harbinger is marginally more flexible but definitely will not see play as a full set, and since it seems you’re not really aware of this, Modern and Standard have very little drive for foil prices. Demonic Pact and Animist’s Awakening are 100% unplayable in both Modern and Legacy, especially in the latter. I don’t see your price goals as unreachable simply due to casual/EDH demand but you need to play a single game of either/both of those formats if you think those have half a chance.

    1. He did say this about whiffing on Collected Company:

      “Like everyone else I just saw a poor man’s Birthing Pod at a casting cost that seemed too high for the format. The ability to leverage instant speed status to recover from sweepers, get in under counterspells and occasionally combo off, has however, proven to be extremely powerful.”

      I think the same could be said for Evolutionary Leap. People don’t seem to be evaluating this card right based on the simple fact they are comparing it to BANNED cards. Evaluate this card based on what we have and what we are likely to get in new sets.

      If anyone hasn’t noticed by now… WotC is basically experimenting with “reset-button” cards at the moment. Something that can bring you back from a devastating play and give you a chance at pulling out a win. I wonder why they are doing that? Oh wait… Aren’t we going to Zendikar…

  2. Bacon, Modern absolutely drives foil prices!!! Standard does in the short term, but why do you think Snapcaster foils jumped from $125 to $250 before the GP. Look what happened to Siege Rhino and his foil a few months back when Abzan was ruling Modern. Taz is mostly a Modern card with some Legacy appeal and he has a 5-6x foil multiplier. How about Serum Visions! Oh, and where do the Shock Lands get their foil multiplier from? There’s a gazillion examples. I may not agree with all of anyone’s opinions, but to say Modern appeal doesn’t influence foil prices is just incorrect my friend.

    Now I don’t quite agree with James’s price trajectories, but if you look at some prices from M15 and DTK they aren’t as unlikely as you or I would think. I’m pretty sure M15 Nissa hit $60 last year and he’s targeting a lot of foils with his predictions.

    And Harbinger is (much) better than Tidebinder Mage as Tidebinder is completely conditional. Harbinger u can Vial in at 2 to Unsummon an attacking creature…super valuable as merfolk is typically racing fair decks. The comparison is close, but Harbinger can bounce a flipped Delver and that’s tempo the Delver player likely can never get back…HUGE UPGRADE imo! Now $30 for his foil…not quite sure about that one, i am targeting around $15-20

  3. James, thanks again for your in-depth writing. I like your honesty about your last set predictions…and you need to try the new Liliana in a Modern CoCo deck, very promising. I don’t know if Cartel Aristocrat starts to see consistent Modern play cause of Lili.

    Few questions and opinions of my own (would love your response): I feel Abbot is the next Spirit of the Labyrinth…Spirit is played as a few of in D&T and that’s it despite it hosing a ton of decks (I thought it would spike in the brief Cruise era and the banning of Cruise may have hurt Spirit’s price possibilities). My biggest question with Abbot (like Spirit) is “is the creature body left behind worth it??” I like the idea of Brainstorming or Pondering and stacking the top of your deck to get value out of the card exiled by Abbot, but is a 2/1 Prowess creature worth the time and effort (he dies very easily to bolt even with some juice pumping him)?? Additionally, does he fit in Modern or Legacy Burn? If so I could see him following Eidolon of the Great Revel a bit but not to the same level…what do you think?

    I wonder if Animist’s Awakening can fit into Legacy Lands…I think not but that’s where I’d look to find it. But in Standard I think alongside Nissa in some sort of Sultai Control shell or Green/Eldrazi ramp strategy (also using Shamen of Forgotten Ways probably) so I’m with you on interest level. Titan has very short term potential and I’m staying away as the black devotion cards, Nykthos, and Whip are leaving Standard too soon. And I typically hate this excuse but “it just gets exiled by Path and Swords”, and it doesn’t return to the battlefield, it’s returned to your hand so I don’t see it gaining Eternal play. I have no idea if it’s an EDH card but it’s not a general so I don’t much care 🙂 And the fact that the ability is dependent on your opponent’s graveyard interactions is super awkward.

    And lastly, I love Day’s Undoing…but I also love Monastery Mentor. I love foils and right now I’d much rather have Monastery Mentor foils for $10 less than Day’s Undoing foils…am I wrong? Mentor is making it in vintage, he’s waiting to be broken in Legacy, so I think this a decent comparison between 2 potentially broken mythic foil cards…am I undervaluing the potential brokenness of Day’s Undoing?

    Thanks man, have a great weekend

  4. Which ones are you going after and why?

    #1 – Abbot of Keral Keep:
    Like Collected Company this is outstanding in a low casting cost deck. This guy can draw that last card which may be the push you need to end it a turn early in a Legacy/Vintage world where you don’t see too many turns. If not his Prowess may come in handy, just ask Monastery Swiftspear. Legacy/Vintage might like this. Red needs all the draw it can get. Art is great. Foils for sure.

    #2 – Demonic Pact:
    Normally I wouldn’t like a this kind of card bc it’s risky. Risky bc it’s a dead card in your hand early if you’re not prepared to get rid of it. However, since it’s 4 to cast by the time it hits it hurts. Yeah it’s good if you can get rid of it after you reap the rewards but it’s great if you can just win the game before the kicker. Once this hits your opponent will try to empty their hand to avoid the only Pact they can so the discard should be first choice unless the other choices are your win condition. It is a Mythic. Dark art. Foils look great.

    Anything I missed that you think has a shot at a big rise?

    Jace’s Sanctum:
    Discount counters and draw help. Blue like. Goes well with Day’s Undoing, which is going to be popular.

    Flameshadow Conjuring:
    Cloud be fun. Splinter Twin esque.

    Herald of the Pantheon:
    Works great with whats available.

    Not solid specs bc they are ‘wanna bes’:

    Animist’s Awakening:
    Wants to be the Collected Company for lands and wants to steal their art from Collective Voyage. Someone might make it combo out if it.

    Evolutionary Leap:
    Wants to be Survival of the Fittest. Always nice to have something to sac your already dying creature to. The Fittest have big shoes to fill though.

    Day’s Undoing:
    Wants to be a Twister but its only the wind. JK. This is good even with it’s handicap. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

    I think these cards will be up and down till they rotate.

  5. I think you’re missing a trick with Foil copies of Molten Vortex. The Legacy Lands players i’ve discussed it with suggest that it may see play over Seismic Assault. It may also be the case if Modern Loam becomes a thing.

  6. What is your opinion on the foil planeswalker promos from the Magic: Origins prerelease? Particularly Liliana. I pulled one and am wondering if I should sell it now or wait and see if it finds a home in modern.

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