So the Pro Tour was last weekend, and now we are in for a long lonely spell until Kaladesh…
…oh yeah. We are still in the throes of a very expensive summer to be a Magic player.
From the Vault: Lore is coming out next weekend, and I can’t remember the last time one of these was so ho-hum. Sure, it’s the first foiling for some of these, but the niche of people who need a Dark Depths or an Umezawa’s Jitte is relatively small. Plus, neither of those are particularly expensive cards.
At least FTV: Angels last summer has some sweet new art Akromas to tempt us with. This looks more like FTV: Barely Worth Retail.
Conspiracy spoilers have already started (the Ghost Assassin!!), and that I’m pretty stoked for. I want to warn you now: Don’t get caught in a trap like I did and start trading for all the assorted ‘draft matters’ cards like Cogwork Librarian. Those haven’t budged in price at all since that set came out, much to the chagrin of my foils.
But what I want to talk about this week is a topic I’ve only recently come to appreciate: how Wizards R & D plants seeds across sets for the stuff that’s coming up.
To get the sense of what I mean, I want to talk about a card that was good when it came out, good with the sets that came later, and good with the last set it’s legal with.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is an awesome Magic card. It’s cheap, could block if you wanted or needed, lets you cycle through your deck, and then turns into a planeswalker who locks things up nicely. It’s a powerful card all by itself, and strong enough to make waves in Modern and Legacy, not just Standard.
Consider this your regular reminder to pick these up at sub-$30 prices and be prepared to reap the profits in a year. If decks are powering out Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang on turn two or three, then JVP has a real chance to be flipped by then.
What else is Jace good with? Madness. Delirium. Self-mill, like Gather the Pack and Grapple with the Past. Cards that want to be in the yard, like Kozilek’s Return and Prized Amalgam. Only because hindsight is 20/20 can we see how good it is with a range of abilities and card mechanics.
Until very recently, I hadn’t learned to appreciate the sneaky-brilliant nature of the game designers that work in Seattle, but I’m aware now. More to the point, I don’t want to get caught out. I want to have a better time anticipating what is good and will remain good in the future.
A few weeks ago, when I was guesting on MTG Fast Finance, I picked foil Eldrazi Mimic at about $6 as a long-term hold, because I love how good Legacy Eldrazi decks are. Still do, as a matter of fact. A couple weeks after that, my compatriot Travis Allen picked nonfoils at 75 cents to a dollar, because they are good with these huge Emerge creatures, but both of us missed a very salient point:
Eldrazi Mimic only cares that the creature is colorless. It doesn’t have to be an Eldrazi, or something with devoid. It could be an artifact creature, and oh look, Kaladesh is going to have an artifact theme!
This is brilliant forethought from Wizards, and once you start looking at it, and thinking about it, you realize that they have been doing this for years! Remember the glory days of Mono-Black Devotion? Gray Merchant of Asphodel plus Nightveil Specter? Who knew that hybrid symbols could be so incredibly relevant? Wizards did.
I don’t claim to be smart enough to have figured out all the plants ahead of time. I do know that I am taking a hard look at cards that notice colorlessness (like Sanctum of Ugin) versus those that are specifically looking for Eldrazi (Kozilek’s Return). I truly love when a plan comes together, like the UR Spells deck that for some reason isn’t playing Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh. It seems like a better Thermo-Alchemist, and playing her is a total blast. I’m enjoying Standard for the first time in a long time. Powerful cross-block synergies is what Wizards is planning for, building, and anticipating. Unlocking that knowledge, and looking for those interactions, is something I want to get better at.
Also, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Shadows over Innistrad gave us token, disposable artifacts right before an artifact-themed block. Tireless Tracker is probably the best, but Tamiyo’s Journal or Magnifying Glass might become super-relevant.
The two sets after Aether Revolt, if I were to speculate, will have something to do with sacrificing. I don’t know what, but I know that Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon certainly are encouraging us to discard and sacrifice creatures, and I won’t be surprised at all if that’s the theme in nine months or so. Probably it will be enough to reinvigorate our interest in Emerge or Voldaren Pariah or something like that.