Grinder Finance – The Battle for Zendikar… Expeditions

steam vents big
Steam Vents by Noah Bradley –

So you’ve seen this beauty right?  Noah Bradley (one of my personal favorite artists) has some new lands in the next set… and a half?  This Steam Vents art is being used for the “full” art lands in Zendikar Expeditions.  

What is Zendikar Expeditions?

Let’s start out and dispel anything myths about this set.  I see too much misinformation being passed around.

  • Zendikar Expeditions (henceforth abbreviated as ZE), is a set of 45 cards that is not part of Battle for Zendikar or Oath of the Gatewatch sets but will be found in their booster packs.
  • There you can open 25 of the ZE cards in Battle for Zendikar.  These 25 cards are the 10 shock lands (Steam Vents, Godless Shrine, Overgrown Tomb, etc), the 10 fetch lands (Scalding Tarn, Marsh Flats, Polluted Delta, etc), and the 5 new Battle for Zendikar dual lands.
  • We do not have any confirmation on what the next 20 cards, available in Oath of the Gatewatch, will be.  They may not even be lands.  There is no information available about them outside of the fact that there are 20. (Note: This is incorrect, Matt Tilling in the comments linked the correction – here – They are all lands)
  • The rarity of a ZE card is approximately slightly lower than the rate of opening a foil Mythic rare.  This is very roughly approximately 1 per case (6 boxes) of Battle for Zendikar.
  • ZE cards are NOT legal in Standard.  They ARE legal in limited if you open them in a draft or a sealed pool.
  • ZE cards are not able to be redeemed on Magic Online, but they will be available to be opened.
  • ZE cards will be available throughout the entire print cycle of Battle for Zendikar.  This is unlike the treasures found in original Zendikar packs which were supposedly only available in the first print run.
  • ZE cards will be expensive.

Well now that we got that out of the way, what does that mean for players?  Well, a lot.  It means pre-ordering almost any card in Battle for Zendikar is a losing proposition.  It’s clear people will open obscene amounts of this product and have far more copies of most cards than they will ever need.  It also means that the price of cards from this set will quickly bottom out.  If you read my article a few weeks ago, Grinder Finance – Winter is Coming, you will know how I feel about card prices for the fall set.  Battle for Zendikar is going to continue the tradition of the fall set being the “most opened set of all time” and more because of Zendikar Expeditions.  If people are really hyped to buy cases of product to ensure opening a Zendikar Expedition card then it will drive the price of opened product down.

What’s the plan for this pre-order season?  Well it’s pretty simple.  Don’t buy anything you don’t plan on using in the first week of Battle for Zendikar Standard.  Don’t buy all of the lands.  Don’t buy the sweet new Omnath for your EDH deck.  Don’t buy bulk rares and hope they spike.  There will be cards that go up.  It’s inevitable that some things will spike the weekend of the Pro Tour.  However, the reality is if you can wait until late December, you will find that card prices absolutely plummet.  Right now most websites have the new Battle for Zendikar dual lands pre-ordering for about $40 for a playset.  These duals might be a little stronger than Theros block scry lands, but even the most expensive scry lands were only $8-10 at their peak.  The scry lands that were in Theros were always the least expensive because of the sheer number that were opened.

temple of abandon temple of deceit temple of mystery temple of triumph


All of the temples, regardless of how playable they were, exhibited the same dip at the end of December.  You could have saved 30% to 50% on these lands if you waited until their low points to buy them.  In fact, only one of the lands even went up from it’s pre-order price after release.  I expect a similar thing to happen with the Battle for Zendikar dual lands.

new lands


There will probably be one that increases a little in price as it is in top decks, but the rest will likely see a steady decrease in price until the new year.

Battle for Zendikar Mythic Rares

Don’t buy them now unless you absolutely need them.  I can’t imagine a world where Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger continues to stay at or above it’s current $20-25 price tag. Look at what happened to Khans of Tarkir mythic rares.

wingmate sarkhan sorin solemn

Pre-order prices were conservative.  Cards were then released.  The mythic rares that got played on the Pro Tour saw a huge spike and then ever since they have just been on a downward spiral.  Do you know what the top 10 most expensive cards are in Khans of Tarkir?  Polluted Delta, Flooded Strand, Wooded Foothills, Bloodstained Mire, Windswept Heath, See the Unwritten, Sorin Solemn Visitor, Dig Through Time, Anafenza the Foremost, and Sarkhan the Dragonspeaker.  You know what’s importantly missing from this list?  Cards that see a ton of play in Standard!  Siege Rhino isn’t even the 11th most expensive card!  Monastery Swiftspear beats out almost every Mythic and Rare in the set because of it’s eternal play.

With Battle for Zendikar looking to be the world heavy weight champion of the “most opened set in Magic history”, I don’t like pre-ordering any of the cards.  Right now, I think it is time to shore up your collection with cards from Magic Origins. 

hangfather jace

With these two cards seeing play in Legacy and Modern, there is likely not going to a reprieve for their price point.  Jace might not see a ton of Standard play but his pack foil is as of this writing, a minimum of $80 on TCG player.  That’s a sign there is strong eternal demand from players who intend to keep him in their deck long term.  I know I called him a sell a few weeks ago, but I did not see him becoming a force in Eternal formats.  Eventually it’s time to tap out and realize that this is clearly not a hype train.  Sustained growth for 2 months is a sign of a card poised to carry a lot of the weight of a set.

Hangarback Walker is the single most underrated card in the set on release.  It’s deceptively flexible and people were too worried about over paying for all of it’s effects.  What’s clear is this is no Chronomaton.  With it showing up in Vintage shops, Legacy Mud, and Modern’s Affinity, it’s hard to point to a reason this won’t be a twenty dollar bill for the foreseeable future.  With people scraping every penny they can find together for Battle for Zendikar, it is safe to say that supply on Magic Origins cards is near it’s peak.  I can’t see a reason to wait to buy in at this point.


After coming down from it’s brief $11 price point, Languish is a card to keep an eye on.  If we see a lot of Allies that have less than 4 toughness, this may quickly find itself a home in many decks.  It also does a pretty decent job cleaning up Hangarback Walker scraps.  I don’t know if it will drop more before the release of Battle for Zendikar but it’s important to keep it on your radar.  If it starts to turn after the first week of post Zendikar SCG opens, you may want to buy in.

14 thoughts on “Grinder Finance – The Battle for Zendikar… Expeditions”

  1. This whole ZE stuff does not give me a warm fuzzy. Means more pack mills will open stuff to sell them for absurd amounts of money. If I do get a ZE on pre-release, that thing will not be going home with me.

  2. The Steam Vents art is amazing and Arid Mesa is pretty impressive as well. I think they picked 2 of the best lands from ZE to preview as I’ve been underwhelmed with the others spoiled thus far (that could change and this is just my opinion). I don’t buy or speculate on magic art, but if anyone does or has any ideas how I might be able to get the magic art for some of the ZE lands I’d love to hear it (other than the book). And on that note Jim, is there investment potential in magic art and the art for these lands in your opinion? I know at Eternal Weekend the big prizes to the Legacy and Vintage winners are framed full art cards but it’s a market I know nothing about. Thank you

      1. Thanks for your quick reply Jim. Little disappointing to know that it’s a digital creation and not a collectible but nice to know I can afford it if I want. Again I don’t know the market so is this actually the norm for Magic Art?

      2. I don’t have the necessary capital or interest to consider investing in original Magic art in order to make money. There is a market for people who want it but you’re best off sticking to a piece you’d rather own than flip.

  3. Oh, and I second your opinion that BFZ is NOT a set to speculate on for single cards. If every big set is the new “most opened set ever” I’m wondering if Origins isn’t the last set I should be spending money on for singles and even boxes. I’m sure that’s not true, but it is a little depressing that I know I have to move singles within a month after opening them to try to get value out of them for BFZ and likely Oath. If Siege Rhino was in Origins it would be a $20-$25 card right? but it’s only $4ish cause it was in Khans (I’m comparing him to Rabblemaster playability and value). I have to hope for sets to suck like Born and Journey to speculate on cards…seems wrong 😀 lol

    1. Sets later in a release cycle are always worth more long term. There is less of it opened. That’s why 3rd set and core set mythics/rares have always held the highest price points. Right now some of the most expensive cards in Magic are from Avacyn Restored, New Phyrexia, and Rise of the Eldrazi because they were all 3rd sets (spring).

  4. I feel like there will be a lot of disappointed collectors and players after buying product with this release and they will subsequently NOT buy product of future sets. The new money grab standard rotation will hurt sales after this set too.

  5. Even though Zendikar Expeditions will make BFZ a very widely-opened set, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to buy a booster case and sit on it for 5 years? Worldwake booster boxes are going for $500-600 on ebay, and really the only reason to get one is because of Jace TSM. Innistrad boxes are climbing because of Liliana/Snapcaster and I imagine they’ll be $400 within a year.

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