The Watchtower 03/01/21 – Core Values

Core sets have always been Wizard’s way of introducing Magic to new players and trying to reel them into the game. They’re generally unthemed and use more basic cards and abilities compared to regular sets, and contain a bunch of reprints. Wizards tried to do away with them back in 2015 with Magic Origins supposed to be the last core set (if I’m remembering that correctly), but they then brought them back with M19 in 2018 (yes, the numbers don’t line up with the years and I hate it).

Anyway, there’s no Care Set 2022 scheduled, but instead there’s the Dungeons & Dragons crossover set lined up where M22 would be. On top of that, we’ve just had the announcement that we’re also getting Lord of the Rings and Warhammer 40k crossovers as well, and so it may well be the case that these IP crossover sets are replacing Core Sets as a new way of getting some fresh meat into Magic.

This over-long introduction is my lead into saying that Core Sets (or certainly the last few, at least) have had some great spec opportunities in them, and there’s still money to be made. They’re underprinted compared to the Fall sets that follow them, and have some hidden (or at least undervalued) gems that I’m going to take a look at today.

Mangara, the Diplomat (FEA)

Price today: $17
Possible price: $40

White is a colour that’s struggled with power level and card advantage over the past few years, despite Wizards’ insistence that they’re doing their best to remedy this (and yet even with Kaldheim we have another busted UG mythic where the best white card in the set is…Doomskar? Maybe? It’s silly). That means that white cards are still at a premium in EDH, and white probably still remains as the worst colour in the format.

So when we get good card advantage engines in white, we should pay attention. Mangara, the Diplomat is the most popular white card from M21 and the third most popular card from the set, at over 6000 decks recorded on EDHREC, plus another 170 playing it as the general. It provides card advantage strapped to a reasonably sized body that blocks fairly well, and helps to dissuade your opponents from attacking you or casting too many spells in a turn.

Foil extended arts are the version I like the look of here, with supply starting to dwindle and prices starting to go up. This was a $15 card and there are now only a couple of copies below $20 on TCGPlayer, with a total of 36 listings and no major walls of stock around. We’ve already seen mythics from this set like Fiery Emancipation and Terror of the Peaks pop off, and I don’t think that this one is too far away from doing a similar thing. Given 6 months or so, I think we’ll see this around $40.

Yarok, the Desecrated (Foil)

Price today: $25
Possible price: $50

Speaking of foil mythics, jumping back a core set to 2020 brings us Yarok, the Desecrated. It’s the second most built commander from the set, losing out on the top spot to Golos (nothing to be ashamed of), as well as being pretty popular in its own right – although I think that the main draw is to play the card as your general. Yarok is great at doing the EDH thing of “more more more”, and so any time we get more cards printed that play around with ETB triggers then this card is likely to see another bump.

These foils have been climbing from $15 since the end of 2019, but I don’t think they’re close to being done just yet. If we compare this to Golos – which is a rare not a mythic – Golos foils are already pretty much $30, and there are around half the number of Yarok foils on TCG than  Golos. That makes me think that barring a reprint (which I find fairly unlikely), this is due for a correction once the sub-$35 copies get bought, and the card will be heading up towards $50 before long.

Tale’s End (Foil)

Prices today: $10
Possible price: $25

Tale’s End has been a moderately popular EDH card, listed in around 6200 decks listed on EDHREC, and has seen a little play in competitive formats too (mostly in the hands of MTGO grinder Aspiring Spike). It’s not the most prolific card in the world, but it’s pretty powerful in EDH – being able to counter anyone’s commander for just two mana is great, as well as having the flexibility to stop any pesky triggered or activated abilities like a Planeswalker ultimate or even a ‘win the game’ trigger!

TCG is down to only twelve listings for NM foils, starting at $10 and ramping up to $20. Core Set 2020 is going to be two years old soon, and it’s not as if we’re getting any more supply soon. There are the prerelease and promo pack foils as well, but those are both already more expensive and also in short supply. I don’t think it’s even the kind of card that we’d see reprinted in Commander decks, but even if we do it’ll most likely be non-foil, so non worries there. I think that this will tip over the $20 mark in a few months or less, and ride on upwards from there.

David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.