All posts by Travis Allen

Travis Allen has been playing Magic on and off since 1994, and got sucked into the financial side of the game after he started playing competitively during Zendikar. You can find his daily Magic chat on Twitter at @wizardbumpin. He currently resides in upstate NY, where he is a graduate student in applied ontology.

Pro Tour Theros Watch 2013

ADVERTISEMENT:


By: Travis Allen

The day this article goes up, Wednesday October 9th, will be one day before Pro Tour Theros begins our first earnest endeavor into the Mediterranean sun-soaked Standard format. I’m going to point out some cards I’ll be keeping a close watch on over the weekend, and I recommend you do the same.

 

Advent of the Wurm

Advent of the Wurm

ADVERTISEMENT:


This is one of the cards I most expect to see considerable price movement on in the wake of the Pro Tour. Advent of the Wurm was a 4x in the last winning PT deck, and just put 14 copies into the Top 8 at SCG Cleveland last weekend. The card was originally slated to be at Mythic rarity in its current form until late development changes forced them to push it to rare may or may not have been mythic at some point in design. Simply put, the card’s power level is superbly high and the current price of sub-$4 is way too low for what it is capable of. Advent of the Wurm is one of the top two Selesnya cards in Standard.

I will refrain from rambling about the various ways in which the card is excellent, but suffice to say I feel there’s a very good chance we’ll see it at the Pro Tour, and the price could easily triple from where it is at the moment. How confident am I? I picked up 26 copies myself just a few days ago.

 

Boon Satyr

While we’re on the green train, I’ll flash this guy in. He did not show up at the last Pro Tour like Advent of the Wurm did, but of course he was not legal then either. He did however have a great showing this past weekend at SCG Cleveland, as well as having been on the receiving end of a lot of praise from various PT-grade players. The lowest he has managed to dip so far was just under $2, but he is now firmly in the $4-$5 range as of Monday the 7th. If he is still in this range as of Wednesday, he could quite easily hit double digits with a strong showing over the weekend.

I will say that unlike Advent of the Wurm, if he does crest $10 that price will be comparatively a lot less stable. Advent of the Wurm is now out of print and supply is at the maximum, which means there won’t be much working to push the price lower if it does see a spike in demand. Boon Satyr, however, is at the start of his journey, and we have nearly a year worth of drafting, MTGO redeeming and box-cracking before his numbers settle. The result of all of this is that if Boon Satyr does indeed pop, I would sell any available copies into the hype quickly.

Boon

 

Prime Speaker Zegana

Prime Speaker Zegana is the guild leader that is seeing the least amount of play relative to power level. Zegana Bant was quite a thing for a stretch there, and she had the ability to run away with the game almost immediately if she resolved alongside any reasonable creature. She’s currently at an astounding $2.50, which means she has absolutely nowhere to go but up if anyone anywhere casts her at any point.

Zegana is strong enough to show up in controlish Bant or BUG lists, as well as act as the curve topper for a more aggressive Simic deck as a means to refill after dumping a slew of massive threats such as Kalonian Hydra. That she is good in various styles of decks is great news for her price potential. Furthermore, she falls on the right side of the new Legend rule. Before we move on, one last tantalizing thought: Corpsejack Menace + Zegana. Aw yiss.

ADVERTISEMENT:


 

Underworld Cerberus

Underworld Cerberus

Hopping to the other side of the color pie, Underworld Cerberus remains my pick for most likely breakout of the entire Theros set. Has this been cast against you yet? It is obscene. The card is essentially unblockable, which on a 6/6 for 5 in BR is no laughing matter. Should your opponent manage to kill him with something like Murderbore, you get to refill with all the obnoxious creatures your they already dealt with.

Like Zegana, Cerberus can fit into multiple strategies. Following up several turns of pain-in-the-ass creatures like Boros Reckoner with Cerberus means that life will be miserable should anyone remove him. Alternatively, use him in a B/R/x midrangey build alongside a plethora of spot removal to make sure they never actually have three creatures with which to block. I’m pretty close to buying in as it is, and if I see a single copy in a single decklist on Wednesday I’ll make the jump.

 

Loxodon Smiter

Like Advent of the Wurm, the full set of Smiters was main deck in Wescoe’s PT winning list. There were 12 copies in the Top 8 at Cleveland last weekend, and perhaps most intriguingly he has definitely made his presence felt in Modern. He was all over Standard before rotation, and there is no real reason for that to change. Acting as a giant wall against aggro decks and a huge uncounterable threat against UW/Esper, the righteous elephant puts in a hard day’s work against plenty of foes.The price on Smiter has been rather suppressed lately, but now that we’re properly on the right side of Theros, there is little holding him back. Mature-set Standard staples are typically better than $4, especially when they are multi-format capable.

 

Bow of Nylea

Bow of Nylea

Admittedly I was pretty gun shy at first about the bow, and to an extent, I still am. However I have heard tale that the card is better than I originally anticipated. It is no colorless 2-mana planeswalker, but every time I cast the card I find myself amazed at just how many abilities there really are. None of the modes are particularly spectacular – I do not think anyone will make that case – but just having access to so many gives you a lot of options in a single slot.

Cards with that many moving parts are frequently misunderstood at first, so it is entirely conceivable we have all overlooked it. I’m not convinced by any means, but I’ll be watching for it just the same. At the very least, if you can convince people to do these at $1 in trade at FNM, you won’t regret it.

 

Heliod, God of the Sun

I’m lumping Heliod in with Bow of Nylea. I’m not convinced about either, but Heliod did indeed show up both in both Worchester and Waco recently, and like the Bow, there’s a bit of chatter that Heliod is better than people are aware of. He is certainly capable of being played in multiple types of decks, so he does at least have that going for him. Keep watch this weekend to see if he’s peeking out from behind the clouds.

 

Ruric Thar & Sire of Insanity

When Sire of Insanity was spoiled by @LSV, people were flipping out. Sire hung around for a few weeks, but then quietly slipped into the shadows. Ruric Thar was similarly recognized for being exquisitely punishing to certain strategies, but did not accomplish much for long. I have not heard much chatter about them lately, but they still remain very threatening sixes that are able to hold their own even against the decks they were not built to prey upon. I am not suggesting these two end up $18 or anything, but both are currently available for under $.50 on TCG Player, so it would not take much to see a healthy ROI. Just something to keep in mind.

 

Reid Duke

Reid has been crushing it this year, and I see now why reason why he would stop now. What makes his banner year so thrilling for the rest of us is just how personable he truly is. Aside from his aversion to actually remembering my name, he’s been supremely pleasant and friendly every time I have spoken with him. My only disappointment is that he will likely win a Pro Tour long before I manage to make it there to congratulate him.

Reid Duke on the beach in Miami

Tune in next week when we review the results of the Pro Tour!

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at MTGPrice.com - it's free!

ADVERTISEMENT:


Please follow and like us:

The Importance of a Good Trade Binder

Today we’re going to talk about one of the best tools of the value seeker: the trade binder.

Trade Binder
My latest weapon of choice

Most people that read this article series – or any financial article series really – will have a trade binder. It’s the most common way for the event-attending mage to leverage their knowledge and tactics. Within the last 9 months I came to realize just how important actually having an available binder with decent cards is, and I want to share that experience with all of you.

For years now I’ve had a trade binder or two ready and available. I carried them with me to most Magic events, and did a great job of growing my collection with just incidental trading wherever I could.

This past March, three factors led to the near-total dissolution of my binders. The first was that I had acquired a few collections, and I had moved a major quantity of cards out of my trade binder and into a box that was exclusively for sale online. (If you’re curious about why I would do that, refer to the linked article.) This removal of many high value cards from my trade binder drastically reduced my potency at trade tables.

The second factor was that I had just signed onto a six-month job contract in March, and subsequently was flying out of state every Monday through Friday. The inability to attend any Magic event during the week – including FNM – meant that the number of opportunities I had to trade decreased significantly.

The third was my Return to Ravnica (RtR) holdings. Because I was going to be out of state so often, I would not get to play much Magic over the summer. I quickly traded all of my good Innistrad block cards such as Huntmasters, Bonfires, etc. into undervalued RtR cards such as Jace, Architect of Thought (who was under $10 at one point.) It did not take long before I had a big ol’ pile of RtR cards that I knew would go up after Theros, but in the short term I had little left that anyone actually wanted.

Huntmaster of the Fells

 

The culmination of these factors was that I had few cards worth trading, and fewer events still at which to trade them away.

What I found occurring was that when I did manage to land early enough Friday afternoon to make it to FNM or the odd Saturday afternoon draft, I would be regaled with great trades of fellow binder grinders such as the effervescent Joe Shea of the Slam Dunklers podcast, whom some of you in the Northeast may recognize from prior GP and SCG events by the late-nineties Dr. Seuss Cat-in-the-Hat.

I would invariably find myself slightly jealous that peers would stumble upon these great trades with people that valued their Force of Will at $30 or your Praetor’s Grasp at $3. I would bemoan my lack of bad luck and inability to find these soft trades that do wonders for increasing your Magic net worth. Months prior I had been able to profit similarly, but now I just could not get a good trade to save my life.

The truth of the matter was not that Joe or anyone else was particularly luckier than I was, or that I was necessarily a worse trader. Rather, it was more an effect of availability.

ADVERTISEMENT:


We never stray too far from the concept of opportunity cost when discussing Magic finance, and I think that’s really a central idea of what I’m discussing today. To use what I assume is a sports metaphor, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” The reason I was not finding great trades was not because I was asking the wrong people or that others had gotten there first. It was because I did not have anything to offer them that would allow for these interactions.

Rakdos's Return
Rakdos’s Return

Consider Rakdos’s Return. I currently have a playset or two sitting in a plastic sleeve at home, waiting for them to jump. I picked them up between $2-$4 each, and I’m holding out for $10, or $15 if I’m lucky. If they hit $8 or $9 by December, not unreasonable numbers, I will have “made” about $4 to $7 on each copy. That’s a pretty solid profit margin on an individual card.

There is a real cost to having that card socked away in a drawer for months however. A playset of that card at my house is $20 not in my binder. It’s $20 that I don’t have the opportunity to trade to someone. You never know what random player is going to have a miscut Daze in their binder and is dying for Rakdos’s Returns.

If there’s a guy with an Avacyn in his binder that he values at $10 (currently $16), and he gives you $6 on your Rakdos’s Returns (currently $5.75), then you can easily get his Avacyn for your two Rakdos’s Returns. At that point, you have essentially traded your Returns at $8 apiece – which is what you were waiting for them to be anyways, and you did it as early as months ahead of schedule. This may sound like a dream scenario, but if you trade with any regularity, you see trades like this all the time. I am constantly finding people with outdated price models, and it is easy to exploit that if you know your data and act quickly. (As in, offer trades before they whip out their smartphone.)

Remember – a card in your binder is not a card you have already traded away. It’s a card you might trade. This is an important distinction. Just because you like a card for short or medium-term gain, it does not mean you need to pull it aside and sit on it until you get there. By leaving it in your binder, you are increasing your number of potential trades and trade partners.

You may even find trade partners you would not have otherwise by virtue of having more cards available. Someone not in the mood may turn down your trade request. But if his buddy is looking through your binder and sees a card he knows his friend wants, there’s a good chance he’ll tell him. That’s a great way to be one of the only people to see that individual’s trade binder that day.

You do not need to put every copy of a card you have into your binder either. I have quite a few Deathrite Shamans, but I only put two into my binder. I was not keen on trading them at their retail price of ~$13, but you never know. Lo and behold, at a release event this Saturday, someone flipping through my binder saw them and asked “Are these for trade? They’re like $20, right?” That conversation worked out well for me.

Remember too that you are not required to slavishly adhere to any particular prices, regardless of what someone else’s phone says. If an individual wants to give you $5 on your Rakdos’s Returns, even if that number is fair, you are not obligated to accept it. Simply inform the other party that you understand that is the fair market price, but you are not ready to trade them away at that rate. 95% of people will accept that and move on. Those individuals that really want the card may be willing to give you more on them if they really need them, at which point you’re getting the value out of your cards that you wanted to in the first place.

Exquisite Blood
Exquisite Blood

Before you dump every card you own into sleeves, there are certainly some cards that are not worth putting in a trade binder. Back in July I would not have included my Jace, Architect of Thoughts for the sole reason that I would have gotten tired of telling people I didn’t want to ship them for $14 apiece. I also would not bother with Exquisite Blood, because there will be so few interested in that card as it is, you may as well save your back the extra weight and let them appreciate in dusty storage. Make sure you don’t overload your binder either. Nobody wants your Cho-Arrim Bruiser.

The next time you sit down at FNM and open your binder, imagine that 10% of your cards have an animated line tracing an arc to a random individual in the room. Those lines are potential trades that have a chance to be very profitable for you. The less cards in your binder (or if you don’t have one at all), the less of those lines will appear. The more of those connections you can see, the better you’ll do that day.

I missed a solid six months of good trading to learn this lesson. I hope all of you can learn something from it.

The latest hot news:

  • There are few copies of Chandra, Pyromaster under $30, and all foils are gone as of the evening of 9/30. I watched the price move drastically all day long.
  • Stormbreath Dragon is a solid $30 right now. I’ll be selling at least two of my three sets.
  • Jace, Architect of Thought is bare minimum of $22. I don’t think he’s quite done yet, but I’m moving most of my copies anyways.
  • Blood Baron is easily $14, up from ~$7-8, despite not having done all that much at the SCG event this weekend. Not entirely sure why it moved more than Obzedat, but there you have it.
Please follow and like us:

Worshiping at The Shrine of Plutus: Financial Overview of Theros

My goal with card reviews is to approach them a bit more holistically. Considering the card, what conditions it needs to be good, and how those factors impact costs is very much in the fish-teaching school, of which I am a big fan. Hopefully this Theros review will illuminate for you my evaluation process so that you can understand how to make informed trade and purchase decisions throughout the life of the set.

Any card I don’t mention is one that either I consider total bulk or I don’t feel that I have anything particularly helpful to add.

 

Chained to the Rocks

Chained to the Rocks: Chained to the Rocks is poised to be one of the strongest removal spells in the format, especially with how good decks with Sacred Foundry look at the moment. I see it available for about $2.50 on TCG Player as of 9/23/13, which likely is fairly close to its floor. Mizzium Mortars never really sunk below $2 retail, and I think Chained compares pretty well. The ceiling on this card isn’t particularly high though. While it’s quite a powerful effect, you still need to have actual Mountains (and a good deal of them) to use it, not just lands that tap for red, such as Clifftop Retreat. I can’t imagine this breaking $5 for longer than a week or two, if ever. The best strategy regarding this card will simply be picking them up in trade for $1-$2 and trading them away at $3-$4.

 

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion: Between Garruk, Caller of Beasts and this new Elspeth, Wizards is obviously not messing around with six mana Planeswalkers anymore. Elspeth is indisputably powerful. The question here will not be “is she strong enough,” but rather “is she strong enough for her cost relative to other options.” I feel like of any six mana Planeswalker, she has the best chance to be a major force in Standard. Not only does she protect herself when she comes down, she does an excellent job of it, and quite possibly the result of two back-to-back +1s is that you have more creatures than your opponent. In conjunction with her pseudo-wrath ability, you have a Planeswalker that can stabilize on turn 6 with either ability and then start driving towards a pretty quick victory immediately after.

Her applicability is not even necessarily restricted to control. Similar to Garruk, Primal Hunter, she may also play well as a strong alternative threat in a midrange strategy. Admittedly, unlike Primal Hunter, she doesn’t draw you cards. She does however present a different vector than simply slamming other efficient creatures. While her path to victory does include the red zone (unlike, say, Jace, Memory Adept), she keeps churning attackers out turn after turn. On the whole her path to victory isn’t as much of a deviation from a creature strategy as you may want it to be, but the sheer strength of her abilities may be able to overcome that for a midrange deck.

Elspeth is still in that Planeswalker honeymoon period of $30+. Given her high mana cost, I anticipate it may take a little longer before she starts showing up in decklists. I’m guessing she may pull a Gideon Jura though, where people are lukewarm at first, playing only one copy, but then adding more and more. I’ll be keeping a close watch on her price and quantity of appearances in T8 decklists. If she shows up as a one-of in the maindeck of a winning list and the author talks about how great she was, expect positive movement. Like most Planeswalkers, if she dips below $15 it is time to start seriously considering picking her up in trade.

 

Fabled Hero

Fabled Hero – Aside from having possibly the best flavor text in the set, Fabled Hero is another “dies to Doom Blade” face smasher. He doesn’t protect himself, but as long as you have one more guy than they have removal spell, he kills real quick. I expect he’ll see light to moderate play, depending on how good the heroic support is. If the format ever reaches a point where spot removal is weak, even if only for a single weekend, his stock rises significantly.

I would expect his price to typically hang out in the $1-$3 range on any given weekend, but spiking an event could jump him to $6+ pretty easily. If Brave the Elements targeted, then we’d be in another ballpark. Even still, I think this is the type of card that can oscillate pretty easily. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him dip, jump, dip, and jump again all within his journey through Standard.

 

Gift of Immortality

Gift of Immortality: Intro deck rare. I love the card, but do not buy into this with the intent of profit.

 

Heliod, God of the Sun

Heliod, God of the Sun: Heliod reads to me as the second weakest of the five gods. Vigilance is one of the weaker combat keywords, compared to Trample/Flying/Haste. Low white curves do tend to be heavy on mana symbols though (think Precinct Captain,) so Heliod may be able to spend a reasonable amount of time as powerful threat. His activated ability also provides aggressive white decks an outlet for mana late in the game. Two power on tokens is also a lot larger than one. A lot. As in, the first time someone starts cranking those out against you, you’re going to be amazed at how much more effective they are than you expected them to be.

The gods are a little tricky financially. They’re almost-sorta a new card type, and subsequently I don’t feel like I have a good gauge for how their casual support is going to be. If I had to take a guess (which I suppose I do since I’m writing this article), it’s that the gods in general will be more popular with the casual crowd than the average decent mythic. I feel like the floor on Heliod – and all the gods – is probably around $5-7. Their upside is easily over $20, but there will have to be tournament results to support that. I wouldn’t expect to see that anytime soon, so feel free to ditch any copies you picked up at the prerelease.

My opinion on the gods, and other cards in general of which I’m not confident in my predictions, is to ship them early and wait until I understand them better. There’s always another card to make money on, so staying away from an unknown quantity is perfectly acceptable.

 

Soldier of the Pantheon

Soldier of the Pantheon: Boy, Savannah Lions has come a long way, huh? Remember that we just came out of Ravnica, so “Protection from multicolored” reads a little better now than it will in a year. It will still probably be in discussion for any Modern white weenie deck, so if you can find Craig Wescoe, you know you’ve got a buyer. Other than that, your white one drop has to see heavy, sustained play (think Champion of the Parish) to maintain a $4+ price tag.

 

Artisan of Forms

Artisan of Forms: Artisan seems very weak to me. These days, a ton of the value in good creatures is their ETB effect, which Artisan doesn’t get you. You also have to do a lot of work to even get the clone effect. Bulk rare; trade away accordingly.

 

Bident of Thassa

Bident of Thassa: Release promo. Bulk.

 

Curse of the Swine

Curse of the Swine: Bulk, unless they reprint Aether Flash.

 

Master of Waves

Master of Waves: I have a lot of trouble seeing Master accomplish much. Blue token makers are fairly rare, but creatures that die when their Master dies just seem miserable. Given the current state of blue, what permanents do you have in play that give you a healthy amount of devotion that are not already putting the game away for you?

 

Prognostic Sphinx

Prognostic Sphinx: THE TEEF will never be a four-of. I’d say $2 at his absolute best.

 

Thassa, God of the Sea

Thassa, God of the Sea: I believe Thassa is quietly the best god in the set. Purphorous and even Erebos are getting a lot of chatter, but most Thassa discussion has been less high-energy. However, I believe this is due in part to people underestimating the power of scrying every upkeep. In discussions with other players, the common opinion seems to be that the fair yet still playable cost for an enchantment that was just the upkeep scry would be 1U. That effectively means you’re getting the entire rest of the card for one colorless mana. Not competing with Jace or Supreme Verdict on the mana curve is also a great position to be in. When you finally do get Jace down, all it takes is UU somewhere to suddenly be within range of closing the game out fast. Notice that Thassa is capable of making herself unblockable.

Of all the gods, Thassa is the one I’m most interested in financially. If she ever does get below $10, I’ll start grabbing as many in trades as possible. I think it will take time for the format to begin including her, so there will hopefully be a window where she’s under-priced.

 

Agent of the Fates

Agent of the Fates: This card seems fantastic to me. The base stats of 3 power for 1BB is respectable, if not exciting. Adding deathtouch gives you a creature that is almost always relevant in combat. Then you tack on the Heroic ability and the power level of this card becomes worth discussing. The very first time you target Agent with a spell, you have immediately gotten a Cruel Edict for free, which is worth two mana. Even if they respond with removal, they’re down two cards (creature + removal) for your two cards (Agent + targeted spell.) Nobody says you have to play this on turn three, either. Running him out on turn four allows you to retain priority once he resolves, immediately giving you one mana to target with. Not to mention what happens if they actually don’t have the removal spell, which will certainly happen a reasonable amount of time.

Agent of the Fates loves Warriors’ Lesson, which is already good enough to see play on its own merits. How about Hidden Strings? Tap your best guy, untap my Agent (heroic!), cipher onto Agent, deal three, cast Hidden Strings, Tap your whatever and untap my Agent (heroic!)

Agent of the Fates is $2 on TCG Player while I write this, which is almost low enough for me to just start buying copies. If he gets under $1, he will be a major trade target, and under $.50 I’ll start in with cash.

 

Erebos, God of the Dead

Erebos, God of the Dead: Erebos has been the second most popular god so far, and I’m pretty sure that is due entirely to people not realizing how high of a cost his draw is. Two life is not an insignificant amount of life to pay to draw a single extra card. Yes, it’s repeatable, but the toll adds up fast. The ability is strongest late in the game, when both players are already limping. I don’t think the ability worthless, but I get the impression people read the words “draw a card” and ignored everything to the left of the colon. On top of that, his static anti-lifegain clause goes from “highly disruptive” to “niche ability” with Thragtusk rotating.

Erebos seems poised to see a pretty heavy drop off in demand. I’d get out now and not look back.

 

Hero's Demise

Hero’s Downfall: Domri Rade is going to find himself on the business end of a minotaur hoof frequently in the coming months. Hero’s Downfall will be a major factor in the forthcoming Standard landscape. Murder was always “almost,” and adding ‘Planeswalker’ to the card text will definitely push it over the edge. That said, I don’t see much of a reason for this to deviate from the Mizzium Mortars/Dreadbore path. I expect it to spend a very stable life hovering in the $2-$5 range. Your profit here will be trading for them at $2 and then trading them away at $4. If black ends up being the best color in Standard, the top end here may be as high as $6 or $7. (There is also no chance I call this anything other than Murderbore for the next two years.)

 

Nighthowler

Nighthowler: Possibly playable card that I doubt will ever crest a dollar. I bring it up because it’s the Game Day Top 8 promo, and it looks super sweet. The promo will likely hold value better than it’s playability would have you believe because of this.

 

Throughtseize

Thoughtseize: There’s really not too much to say here. Thoughtseize is and will be a Standard, Modern and Legacy staple. Expect Snapcaster-esque prices for the next two years.

 

Whip of Erebos

Whip of Erebos: Cool card that’s in an intro deck. If it hits the Standard scene, don’t look to profit on this, but rather the other cards it will be dragging out of graveyards. And yes, it does work as well with Obzedat as you’d like it to.

 

Anger of the Gods

Anger of the Gods: Possibly a better Slagstorm depending on what you’re in the market for, and an effect we have been desperately in need of. (Take that, you lousy Burning-Tree Emissary decks.) This has bonus points for being impactful in Modern. I see no reason to expect much price behavior different from Murderbore.

 

Firedrinker Satyr

Firedrinker Satyr: Maybe it’s because I’m not a Jackal Pup kind of guy, but I really don’t care for this much at all. I’d ship these fast and avoid down the road. People tend to remember old cards, or new cards similar to old cards, a little too fondly in vastly different formats than when they were originally good. Remember when Nantuko Shade was like $8 preorder or something?

 

Hammer of Purphoros

Hammer of Purphoros: Solid looking card, but falls into the Koth trap of mostly being only good in really heavy red decks. Even if the card is fantastic, how many Hammer of Purphoros decks can there really be? I wouldn’t take the risk of trying to make money here; there’s better places to put your gaming bux.

 

Purphoros, God of the Forge

Purphoros, God of the Forge: I will say right now that I am less enthralled with Purphoros than many others are. One thing that I can’t look past is that he feels like the type of card that typically has one “right” deck at any given time. He may be phenomenal in that deck, but an all-star in a single deck in a single format is going to have a very real price ceiling. I don’t doubt that he’s very powerful, but $25 will be a very difficult price tag to maintain amidst a lot of other very competitive-looking mythics such as all three Planeswalkers, Stormbreath Dragon, and Thassa.

For what it’s worth, I also don’t think he’s the top-end of a very aggressive deck. Aggressive red decks want their four drop to be capable of ending the game on the spot: Hero of Oxid Ridge, Hellrider, Falkenrath Aristocrat, etc. Even if you resolve him on turn four and he’s instantly a creature, he still can’t attack right away. Purphoros seems more at home in a big red/Boros style list, where you can continue making creature drops after he resolves. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him alongside Boros Reckoner and Stormbreath Dragon in the near future.

In any case, I’d be trading these away ASAP. The odds that he loses a lot of value are far greater than he gains any. If he slips towards $10, feel free to start grabbing them, because someone will probably give him a breakout performance at some point.

 

Stormbreath Dragon

Stormbreath Dragon: This card is the real deal. Compare to Thundermaw Hellkite: both are flying hasty five drop dragons. We lose one point of power and toughness, which is for sure not irrelevant. Protection from White is going to be better than tapping all fliers in many situations, especially because it dodges Azorius Charm, Chained to the Rocks, Detention Sphere, and many fliers for the rest of the game instead of just once (nice Angel of Serenity. You’re still dead.) In fact, looking through every creature in the format with flying, there are close to zero that are nonwhite. Shadowborn Demon, I guess?

Last but certainly not least is the monstrous ability. Without monstrous, Stormbreath is already doing a very good Thundermaw impression. Once we add monstrous, our dragon is looking very threatening. Seven mana may seem like a lot, but with cards like Xenagos and Satyr Hedonist capable of providing small mana bumps, and plenty of other reasons to want to be capable of generating large amounts of mana (Polukranos, Ember Swallower, Fleecemane, etc), we may find ourselves with a very frightening dragon more often than not. The extra damage from the cards in our opponent’s hand isn’t even particularly important most of the time. Just turning him into a 7/7 is absurd enough.

As I see it, Stormbreath is poised to step in and assume Thundermaw’s role without missing a beat. Preorders have jumped from $15 to $25, and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable number for him to hang around at. Thundermaw hit $50 for a period, and if Stormbreath comes out of the gate terrorizing heros, I would expect no different. At this point he’s too expensive to buy into to spec on, but if you want a set, I wouldn’t hesitate to trade for him. I doubt you stand to lose much, and his upside is very high. If he dips below $15 again, I’d start snatching them wherever possible.

 

Boon Satyr

Boon Satyr: I want to cast this card strictly so that I can say “you’ve been boondoggled” when I kill someone with him. Even though there’s a lot of chatter about Boon Saibot, he’s still only $2 right now. Keep in mind that Loxodon Smiter has seen significant play in Standard and has even broken into Modern yet is still currently only about $4. There’s a real limit to how expensive an in-print rare can be. It will be tough for Boon Satyr to maintain a price over $4-$5 while he’s in the current set even if he’s seeing excessive Standard play. However, if he is consistently putting up results over the next year or is prevalent at the Theros Block Pro Tour, look to start snatching them up next summer when he’ll be at a low.

 

Nylea, God of the Hunt

Nylea, God of the Hunt: Nylea is widely considered to be the weakest of the gods. I’m not entirely convinced that is true, but she certainly has an uphill climb to prove otherwise. On the one hand green decks that will want trample are likely to be strong devotion enablers, and she’s a solid beater herself. The activated ability feels very weak to me however. She’s $9 right now, and I expect that to start slipping very quickly. I’d say $4 is her absolute floor though, so if she gets that low don’t be afraid to grab a few sets. Even if she never gets there in Standard, it’s likely the gods will always maintain solid casual demand.

 

Polukranos, World Eater

Polukranos, World Eater: Polukranos is a powerful card that is going to be responsible for a lot of dead 2/2s and 3/3s. He’s in the Duel Deck though, so his price has a firm ceiling. While I’m seeing copies under $5, I’d guess is floor is around $2.50. If he slips under $3, there’s a lot of room for potential profit there with little downside. I also wouldn’t hesitate to trade for a set now for personal use, as again there isn’t that much to lose.

 

Sylvan Caryatid

Sylvan Caryatid: Caryatid is the Buy-A-Box promo. Without even having to read a single piece of card text, let’s take a quick look at past BaBs:

M14: Ratchet Bomb (Standard Playable)
Dragon’s Maze: Render Silent (Unknown, but not yet)
Gatecrash: Nightveil Specter (Block Playable, possibly Standard)
Return to Ravnica: Supreme Verdict (Standard Playable)
M13: Cathedral of War (No Considerable Play)
Avacyn Restored: Silverblade Paladin (Standard Playable)
Dark Ascension: Gravecrawler (Standard Playable)
Innistrad: Devil’s Play (Standard Playable)
M12: Chandra’s Phoenix (Standard Playable)
New Phyrexia: Surgical Extraction (Standard Playable)
Mirrodin Besieged: Mirran Crusader (Standard Playable)
Scars of Mirrodin: Memoricide (Standard Playable)
M11: Birds of Paradise (Standard Playable)
Rise of Eldrazi: Guul Draz Assassin (No Considerable Play)
Worldwake: Celestial Colonnade (Standard Playable)
Zendikar: Day of Judgment (Standard Playable)
M10: Honor of the Pure (Standard Playable)

This list of every BaB promo shows that Wizards has a great track record for making the card relevant in Standard. I have no reason to suspect Caryatid will behave otherwise. As a two drop mana dork, my biggest concerns about this card are Supreme Verdict and Anger of the Gods. Your mana dorks are frequently at their best on turn one, which obviously isn’t an option here. It’s possible you may not even be able to tap this for mana once before your opponent wraths it away. Having said that, the extra cost buys you some real versatility relative to Birds of Paradise.

A lot of people expect Caryatid to be a major part of the standard landscape, and I agree. She (?) is currently right around $5, which sounds a tad high. Like Daniel Boone, I expect there will be money to be made on Caryatid next summer.

 

Ashen Rider

Ashen Rider: Probably won’t be too expensive, but foils will command a premium. If it ends up being a 4-of in Obzedat’s Aid/Erebos’ Whip type decks, the price could quintuple very quickly though.

 

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver: Many players I’ve spoken to are not wild about Ashiok, but I am quite confident Ashiok will be a part of the Standard landscape. On turn three, Ashiok ticks up to five, making Ashiok a tough kill. If your opponent doesn’t remove Ashiok, you simply untap, let Ashiok do Ashiok’s thing, and use your mana to protect Ashiok. Being able to steal creatures out of midrange decks will be quite helpful in wars of value and attrition, while threatening to obliterate a control player’s resources is a real threat indeed. Ashiok will be at Ashiok’s worst against highly aggressive decks, but that is not uncommon for Planeswalkers. I’ll let more tournament-minded players speak in-depth about Ashiok’s strength, but suffice to say I am on board.

Ashiok is still rather pricey at ~$18. I anticipate Ashiok cratering pretty quickly, as it may take time for Ashiok to find Ashiok’s way into lists. Once the number is below $10, I will gladly start picking up Ashiok in trade.

 

Daxos of Meletis

Daxos of Meletis: If a single thing on this card was missing, I’d be proclaiming it bulk. As is though, Daxos seems to have a lot of intriguing puzzle pieces. The can’t-be-blocked clause means it may be a lot easier to get through than we realize. Suiting up in a single Ethereal Armor makes Daxos a nightmare to block profitably, if at all. The life gain will be very relevant against plenty of opponents, especially if you’re sometimes gaining four or five life. Finally, being able to cast off-color cards may occasionally be supremely powerful – UW casting Murderbore will be fantastic. At $2, I’m not interested. If Daxos slips below $.50 though, I’ll definitely consider acquiring aggressively depending on if he’s appeared in any results. When a card ends up below $.50, the risk is just so low and the profit potential so high.

 

Fleecemane Lion

Fleecemane Lion: This could end up being the most overpriced card in the set. We already have something better than Watchwolf at the moment (Call of the Conclave) and nobody is playing it. The monstrosity clause is almost surely better than the state of being a token, but is it by any meaningful amount? Decks that play Watchwolf want to put guys into play and attack with creatures like Stormbreath Dragon, not spend their turn five mana to do one extra damage in a format full of good edict effects. There will be games where the monstrosity wins the game, but plenty more where you’ll wish you had just played Scavenging Ooze instead. I sold mine at the prerelease; I recommend you do the same.

 

Medomai, the Ageless

Medomai the Ageless: Nifty card that is almost surely unplayable in Standard. Foils will be worth a bunch for EDH.

 

Polis Crusher

Polis Crusher: Potentially great card but he’s in an intro deck. It’s possible someone will manage to make money on him, but it won’t be me.

 

Reaper of the Wilds

Reaper of the Wilds: This is my card seems to have a great deal of financial potential. There were only two other creatures in RtR that had three activated abilities: Deathrite Shaman and Lotleth Troll. I hope I don’t need to explain Deathrite, and I don’t believe we’ve seen the last of Lotleth either.

A 4/5 for four is not a thrilling rate of return, but it’s only a single point of power away from the now-industry standard 5/5 for four model (Deadbridge Goliath, Polukranos.) Getting to scry every time a creature dies means that as you remove opposing bodies, Reaper helps keep the flow of removal and threats going. Your first Doom Blade helps find the second one.

The ability to gain deathtouch keeps him relevant in combat throughout the game, and conditional hexproof turns spot removal into a losing proposition. I don’t think this card will necessarily be a major player in Standard for two years, but I do think it will see enough play to warrant a several dollar price tag at some point. Like Daxos, if this slips under $.50, consider me a buyer.

 

Underworld Cerberus

Underworld Cerberus: Cerberus is one of those cards that has a lot of disconnected moving parts that makes him tremendously difficult to properly evaluate. Cards like this are notorious for being misunderstood early on because of their complexity, only to shoot up in playability (and price) once people realize just how powerful they are.

Woofy is the only mythic rare in the set that has a real chance of seeing a considerable and sustained rise from his prerelease price, and the only mythic I’ll be trading for at FNM this week. I’m not sure exactly if he’s good enough, but I know his ceiling is higher than his floor is low.

 

Xenagos, the Reveler

Xenagos, the Reveler: My initial reaction to this card was quite poor. He read like a four mana satyr generator. As spoiler season marched on though, I began to see potential. His +1 ability is inconsequential in many decks – but not all. I’ve read several reviews that seem to focus on him as a ramp enabler, but I believe this is only a surface-level application, and ultimately not what Wizards had in mind, at least for his initial purpose. Rather than ramping into huge fatties that would otherwise be tough to cast, we want to find a way to squeeze usefulness out of an additional two to four mana a turn. You know what loves a few extra mana? Monstrosity.

Xenagos won’t even be the best GR Planeswalker in Standard, but he’s not as bad as I expected early on. His success will hinge largely on the playability of monstrous and monstrous-esque creatures. Expect Xenagos, Polukranos and Stormbreath Dragon to be best buds this fall. A safe price to trade in at will be $12 or so. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him follow Chandra’s price curve.

 

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx: You need at least three devotion to break even on tapping this land, which is not a trivial hurdle. I can’t imagine this having much of an impact in standard. Even if it does make it into Standard, what are the odds it shows up in more than one list? Due to EDH, I see this as a $1-2/$10 nonfoil/foil split. Even if EDH drives up the nonfoil price, it will take years to happen. Get rid of all yours, pick up a foil one for EDH, and don’t look back.

The Scry Lands: I wrote all about this last week. Tl;dr: buy under $3, which is where they will be shortly.

In summary, the cards I recommend you pay most attention to, in no particular order:

1. Underworld Cerberus
2. Agent of the Fates
3. Reaper of the Wilds
4. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Please follow and like us:

It’s My Land Drop and I’ll Scry if I Want To

By Travis Allen

The reveal of the Scrylands in Theros have been responsible for more belly-aching and nonsensical complaints (“these cards have no value! Putting them at rare is a cash grab!”) than any other Magic card in recent memory. The existence of the gates at common in Ravnica block hasn’t helped by providing a strong contrast to what some perceive as a marginally better land. My goal today is to develop an accurate concept of their power, use that concept to prove that a bunch of people are stupid, and then finally discuss common trajectories of rare land cycles in Fall sets.

Consider a Scryland relative to Serum Visions. Serum Visions is frequently played in Modern now that one of the best cantrips ever, Preordain, is banned. It’s completely playable and would unquestionably be a significant portion of the standard metagame were it reprinted in Theros (which there’s still time for.) 

Serum Visions
Serum Visions

Let’s start with scenario A, where you keep a 7 card hand with 2 lands and Serum Visions. You put a Hallowed Fountain into play and tap it to cast Serum Visions. You immediately draw a card, and then scry 2. You end up with 6 cards in hand, 1 land in play tapped, 18 life, and fixed the top 2 of your library.

In scenario B, you have a 7 card hand where 1 of those lands is the UW Scryland. You put it into play tapped, and scry 1. You keep the card or you ship it to the bottom. You end up with 6 cards in hand, 1 land in play tapped, and you fixed the top card of your library.

In scenario A, Serum Visions is similar to Gitaxian Probe in a way – you’re going to replace it with the top card of your deck, but you don’t actually know what that card is. Is it removal? A threat? More mana? We don’t have that knowledge yet. So more accurately, you have 6 cards that are known, and a 7th that is a mystery card. This is in contrast to scenario B, in which you have complete knowledge of what your 7 available cards are. This has a not-insignificant impact on your ability to make mulligan decisions. For example, what about an opening 7 card hand with 3 Serum Visions? You really only know 4 cards at that point.

In scenario B, you know exactly what your hand looks like. If you have 4 Scrylands, you know for sure you’re hitting your first 4 land drops. Along the way, you’re going to be monitoring your top card in an attempt to not draw something you don’t want.

Another way to consider the side effect of impreciseness of information is to consider a 1 land hand. A 1 land hand with Serum Visions is far riskier than a 1 Scryland hand. A 1 Scryland hand is pretty easily a mulligan. A 1-lander with Serum may entice you to keep, and if you don’t have a land in the top 4 cards, you’re in real trouble.

Returning to our original scenarios, which fares better, the Serum or the Scryland? There’s definitely value in scrying an extra card deeper, especially so for a combo deck that just wants to get as deep as possible for particular pieces. However, the more accurate information of the Scryland certainly has value. There are plenty of 1-land Serum Visions hands people have kept and promptly lost because they expected it to do too much work.

Overall, I’d say that in your opening hand, a Serum Visions is reasonably better than a Scryland if piloting a combo deck. In a control deck, the margin between them is considerably thinner.

How about late in the game? Say it is turn 9+, and both you and your opponent are now topdecking. 

Temple of Mastery
Temple of Mystery

In scenario X, you draw your Serum Visions. You pay 1 mana to immediately draw the next card, and you then scry 2, hoping to move lands and irrelevant spells to the bottom of your library. You effectively drew 1 card (the Serum doesn’t really count, since you immediately replace it,) tapped 1 mana, and you scryed 2.

In scenario Y, you draw a Scryland. You put the land into play tapped, and either keep or ship the top card of your library. You end up with 1 additional mana which is tapped, and you scryed 1.

Scenario X sounds a lot better, but wait a moment. What if the card you drew off the Serum Visions was a land? You put it into play, and now you’re in a very similar situation to the Scryland play – 1 tapped land, an additional one in play, and now new cards in hand. You did scry one extra card deeper, though. This is objectively better, but that doesn’t mean it is better in every situation.

Imagine your opponent has no threats on board and your scry sees a land on top and the new Murderbore second from the top. You ship both because you don’t need either; at this point you want a threat. Then your opponent rips a creature, and you find yourself wishing you still had that Murderbore. If you had only scryed 1, you would have shipped the land, and then drew the Murderbore at exactly the right time. This isn’t to say that scrying for 1 is better than 2, but simply that occasionally you will burn yourself by having to make decisions about the game state several turns down the road with very imperfect information.

So far, it sounds like Serum Visions is basically better than the Scryland in both the early game and the late game. However, that isn’t taking into account a very important factor – the Scrylands don’t cost you a card. When you put 4 Serum Visions into your deck, you’re down to 56 cards left. The Scrylands, however, are slotted in as lands.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that lands with added value are incredibly potent. What other lands have functioned as spells? Kessig Wolf Run, Moorland Haunt, and the rest of their Innistrad Ilk have this feature. The manlands from Worldwake, which saw heavy Standard play and continue to see moderate Modern play, are also lands that grant additional value. Most recently, Mutavalt in M14 fills this role. Historically, most lands that have any sort of additional spell function make a good run in Standard.

While Serum Visions is often better than a Scryland, it is a spell and a spell alone. It provides velocity and mild card selection, but costs you information in your opening hand, card slots, and mana. In contrast, the Scrylands are about 1/4th to 3/4th as good as a Serum Visions depending on the situation, but are stapled onto lands so their effect is essentially free. Take a gander at Eyes of the Watcher, which gives us a foundation that scry 2 is worth roughly 1 mana. From this, it is fair to say scry 1 is worth roughly half a mana. The cost to playing these lands is the tempo loss of being forced to play it tapped, which all but the most dedicated aggro decks can often afford. This means that every time you put a Scryland into play, you’re getting roughly half a mana’s worth of value for roughly free. How many other lands can claim this?

There are a lot of nuances to understanding exactly how good the Scrylands will be in various decks and various situations, and Pat Chapin will probably provide better insight than I, but I hope this general discussion will illustrate that the Scrylands are considerably stronger than many out there would have you believe.

Now that we’ve established that they’re not just a “blatant cash grab” we want to consider their financial trajectory. What can we expect out of them early on, and what does their price life look like a year from now?

There are a lot of examples to look back on to answer these questions, the most recent just a quick hop back in time to Innistrad, and before that, Scars of Mirrodin. Both the Innistrad Enemy Checklands and the Scars of Mirrodin Fastlands had considerably similar price histories. During prerelease, they preorder for somewhere between $4 and $10.

As the set becomes drafted and copies begin flooding into the market, prices start dropping. They see some amount of play, but because they’re available in such quantity, and the previous set land prices have risen, they remain suppressed in value. Isolated Chapel and friends were all well under $4, some even dipping below $2 at times. The SOM Fastlands did the exact same thing; I clearly recall seeing Seachrome Coasts being under $2 at one point.

The lands hit their floor typically in early spring. As we approach Summer, players begin to dump their rotating lands from the prior set, and the Magic market as a whole collectively realizes that the only lands they’ll have available to them in September will be the [Fastlands/Checkands/Scrylands.] Prices begin to tick up slowly over the summer, and once fall hits, the lands take turns spiking hard as decks of the appropriate colors show up with a full playset. Isolated Chapel was nearly $20 at one point, as were Seachrome Coast and Darkslick Shores.

chapel

Finally, after enjoying their time in the sun (which is actually autumn and winter), the following spring rolls around, and the circle of life continues. They too follow the footsteps of the prior set’s lands, just as those did one year earlier. Looking backwards, the Shocklands have followed this exact trajectory to date, and are poised to break out in short order. Before them, the Checklands, the Fastlands, and the Zendikar fetches have behaved accordingly.

There is no reason to expect the Scrylands to deviate from this pattern. They’re preording for $5-$9 at the moment, but they’ll be sub-$3 soon enough. I’ll personally be vacuuming them up as soon as they dip that low, and if I see any hit $1.50 on a retail site, there’s a chance I’ll go deep – several hundred dollars deep.

On a completely unrelated and final topic, I’m disappointed that the B&R list didn’t have any changes to a non-pauper format. The formats may be reasonably stable, but there is no reason they couldn’t have shaken things up with some low-impact unbans in Legacy. It leads me to believe that they simply weren’t thinking about it rather than they closely examined their options and chose to do nothing.

See you next week when I do a (mostly) full review of Theros.

Please follow and like us: