Let’s Discuss Affordable Pioneer Staples

I’ve been writing off-and-on for MTGPrice.com for a few years, but I’m pleased to report that going forward I’ll be publishing articles every Monday discussing developments in the competitive Magic scene and their potential implications on MTG card prices. I’m still working on finding my groove as a writer, so I hope you’ll provide your feedback (good and bad!) along the way via Twitter @OkoAssassin.

Prior to jumping into week-by-week specifics, I thought it would be best to zoom out first and look at the big picture. This week I’ll review a few current role players within the Pioneer format, and next week I’ll look at Modern. Once we have level set a bit, in future weeks I’ll begin to share a noticeable change in the key competitive formats and their potential impacts on prices.

Most players used to shrug when Pioneer’s name came up, but that all changed when WOTC made their long-awaited organized play announcement, which made clear that Pioneer would be a signature format going forward. The Pioneer metagame has been fairly consistent over the last months including a combination of the following archetypes, along with others:

  • Izzet Phoenix
  • Rakdos Midrange
  • Azorius Control
  • Boros Aggro
  • Burn
  • Mono-Green Ramp
  • Lotus Field
  • Mono blue/Bant spirits

While some of these strategies are more dominant than others, each plays an important role in shaping the Pioneer format. Cards that overlaps between multiple archetypes – or are otherwise unique – are often worth a look due to this format’s growth potential. As Pioneer becomes more popular, prices should increase going forward, albeit maybe slowly. Paper events are key here – if COVID locks down the world again, Pioneer will once again fall on hard times. So take all this commentary with a large grain of salt.

If you don’t think Pioneer matters, look at the price of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker – which is the 11th most played card in the format. It currently sits around $11 for an in-print rare! Similarly, the top played pioneer card Unlicensed Herse is around $15! Both get support from other formats – but I would argue that Pioneer is a key driver for the price of both cards. 

Many of the key pioneer stables are commons and uncommons, making them unattractive from a speculation perspective, even if they see quite a bit of play. Additionally, the number of mythics that see play is also relatively lacking, and most played mythics have seen one or two reprints over time or their prices are fairly high due to their lack of reprint. For these reasons, today we’ll be focused on evaluating a few played but potentially underpriced rares.

Supreme Verdict (Foil Borderless)
37th Most Frequently Played Spell in Pioneer  

Current Price: $10
Potential Price: $20 in 18 months
Confidence: 8.5/10
Disclosure: None

Supreme Verdict is a long-time staple in both Modern and Pioneer. Blue/White Control is fairly popular in Pioneer and these decks typically run three copies of Supreme Verdict. It’s also solid role player in EDH, being included in nearly 45,000 decks on EDHREC.com.

Absent another reprint the Double Masters 2022 Foil Borderless edition should do well over time – especially if you’re able to time this purchase at its lows. My guess is that these lows will be in December, while others are betting on today. I’m betting December because more collector boosters will eventually be opened and hype will wind down over time, but we shall see. Even at today’s prices, having this card go from $10 to $20 is not unreasonable and seems very likely.

Graveyard Trespasser
23rd Most Frequently Played Card in Pioneer  
4rd Most Frequently Played Creature in Pioneer  

Current Price: $3.00
Potential Price: $10 in 12 months
Confidence: 7/10
Disclosure: None

This card protects itself well even on the turn it’s cast, provides mainboard graveyard hate, and comes at a relatively efficient mana value. Personally, I used to not rate Graveyard Trespasser very highly until I played against it. All it takes is a few frustrating games to understand why this card is so highly played in Pioneer. This card has maintained a high price point on Magic Online for a while based on its high level of play, but that same enthusiasm has mostly not yet transferred to the paper version of this card. It’s a rare from AFR and the supply is extremely deep for the regular and showcase versions of this card. But the Double Feature version is relatively scarce by comparison. 68 copies of the Double Feature version sold already on TCGPlayer.com in July, which is very solid relative to current inventory levels. Assuming this card doesn’t fall out of the metagame – and isn’t reprinted in the upcoming Pioneer Challenger Decks (a risk in Orzhov Humans) – it could see solid gains going forward.

Old-Growth Troll (Foil Extended Art)
38th Most Frequently Played Card in Pioneer  
13rd Most Frequently Played Creature in Pioneer  

Current Price: $5
Potential Price: $15 in 12 months
Confidence: 8/10
Disclosure: None

About 13 percent of Pioneer decks run a full playset of Old-Growth Troll – and only a limited number of Foil Extended Art copies remain available at a reasonable price. The low supply is surprising considering that Kaldheim was cracked heavily by vendors leading to a seemingly never-ending supply. Mono-green has been a staple since Pioneer’s inception, so it’s unlikely to fall off the map completely anytime soon, although its power level has fluctuated over time. Combine all these factors together and I can easily see Old-Growth Troll increasing in price to $15 over the next year.  

Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance (Borderless)  
3rd Most Frequently Played Land Card in Pioneer  

Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire (Borderless)  
10rd Most Frequently Played Land in Pioneer  

Current Price: $5.50
Potential Price: $12 in 18 months
Confidence: 7/10
Disclosure: None

Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance, and Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire both see a reasonable amount of play in Pioneer. They both average a paltry 1 copy per deck, but they see play in many decks as they provide free value, in a similar way as Otawara and Boseiju. They do not see Modern play for the most part, which is reflected in their relatively low price point. Both also see solid EDH play as well, being included in 20,000 and 30,000 decks respectively. I believe cards like these seem underwhelming for now, but over time, they will continue to slowly grow in price as copies drain out based on modest but well-rounded competitive plus EDH demand.