Standard No More – Innistrad Block Cards That Add Future Value to Your Binder, Part 1 of 2

This article series is for anyone that missed the boat on maximizing value from previous Standard staples.

If you’re the average player, to stay competitive in Standard you have had to keep certain cards from Standard up until the last second – even in those final months before a block’s rotation. You know that the cards will go down, but you are forced to hold onto them in order to stay competitive. It is common that players will lose a good chunk of value on cards they’ve held up until rotation.

In this case, the block in question would be Innistrad. What many Standard players may not realize is that even though a card has rotated and they’re left holding the bag, it can still have a life beyond Standard – Modern, Legacy, Commander, and even just general Casual play can still allow a card to maintain or develop a surprising price six months or a year later.

Don’t get me wrong – $30 Huntmaster of the Fells are never going to happen again. Looking beyond that though, there are opportunities for many other cards you may still own.



Let’s review my top cards from the Innistrad block that have left Standard recently and see what you can do with those leftovers.

I will identify what format the card will be desired in (Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Commander, Casual) and why I believe the card will retain value due to this demand.

Today I’ll start with Innistrad, and next week I’ll cover Dark Ascension and Avacyn Restored.


Army of the Damned

Army of the Damned

FORMAT – Commander

Army of the Damned was a terrible, terrible card in Standard. This is why it still sits in your binder – there was simply no place for it in the Standard metagame.

On the other hand, if someone is playing Black in Commander, you can bet that they either have this card in their deck or will want to include it in the future. I expect this card to increase in value over time as Commander players recognize its raw power and add it in decks accordingly. The combination of its evocative flavor and its power in a slow format like Commander make this card a good long term hold.


Balefire Dragon

Balefire Dragon

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

Dragons are a fan favorite and players that have a fascination with the creature type like to collect them.

Mythic rare dragons always deserve careful consideration due to this casual appeal. I believe that Balefire Dragon has a powerful ability that fits in with a Kaalia of the Vast Commander deck, a popular general due to her synergy with two all-star tribes.

Balefire Dragon was also a Standard dud but has the potential to retain its value and increase over time due to casual and commander demand.


Garruk RelentlessGarruk, the Veil-Cursed

Garruk Relentless

FORMAT – Modern, Casual

Garruk is the first Standard powerhouse in this list. Commanding an initial price of $30+ when first spoiled, this incarnation of Garruk got to work quickly making his presence known to the Standard metagame.

Eventually, this version of Garruk was joined by the Primal Hunter, and both took turns being the best Garruk that Garruk could be over the next several months.

In Modern, I believe that Garruk Relentless has potential. He is a solid planeswalker that can fit into multiple strategies especially because of how easy he is to splash.

He is additionally a good Casual target because he is the first transforming planewalker, which makes him unique.

If you’re still holding onto a few Garruk Relentless you very well may see these slowly creep back up over time.


Geist of Saint Traft

Geist of Saint Traft

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy, Commander

Geist not only was a Standard powerhouse that was the key role player in Bant Hexproof decks, but was adopted early on in Modern and Legacy strategies as an uninteractive powerhouse attacker.

Geist of Saint Traft may have dropped down in price on its way out of Standard, but do not expect him to stay below $15 for very long.

Geist has an efficient body and a powerful ability. I expect to see a lot of this card in the future as he is played in tournament tables and casual tables alike.

In fact, I would recommend picking up extra copies of this card if you can while he is down from the Standard rotation lows. If any card on this list is expected to go up, Geist of St Traft is definitely in the top five. This is a great spec target moving forward.


Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

Grimgrin was never good in Standard but I knew plenty of people that built Commander decks around this Zombie Warrior legend. I don’t really expect this card to ever break $5, but I doubt it will ever be bulk either. I see it slowly creeping up over time and I expect foils to retain good value.


Liliana of the Veil

Liliana of the Veil

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy, Commander

Liliana is right up there with Geist of Saint Traft in my top five from Innistrad block. Not only did this incarnation of Liliana see a $70 price at its highest in Standard, even now after rotation it has not dropped below $40.

dark confidant


Besides Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant, I expect Liliana to be a running staple in Modern for years to come. Though not played quite as often in Legacy, it can still be seen in plenty of archetypes to keep the price from ever going much lower.

Holding onto Liliana will keep you very happy even just a year from now. I expect players to slowly acquire Liliana over time for Eternal format play. The price will go up with this demand.


Olivia Voldaren

Olivia Voldaren

FORMAT – Modern, Commander

Olivia sees marginal play in a few Modern Jund builds, but otherwise has not done too much else outside of Standard.

I believe that most of the reason that this card will rise over time is that she is a mythic rare vampire that is an amazing Commander card. These two factors, in addition to her potential tournament playability, increases her collectability and makes her a pretty safe investment.


Past in Flames

Past in Flames

FORMAT – Modern

Past in Flames is a tricky target. Currently at bulk mythic prices ($2), I do not believe that the card can go any lower. Despite some players attempting to make the Past in Flames deck viable in Standard, it never made it mainstream. Pure spell-based combo in Standard was something that Wizards wished to avoid as a popular archetype.

Even as a weaker Yawgmoth’s Will, Past in Flames is still powerful. That potential power is why I  think that it will be good to hold onto moving forward. All it takes is one player, or even one new card to break this in Modern and make it more desirable. Because it is a mythic rare, the price shock could be quite surprising if this happens, potentially making the card $10+ overnight.

I don’t know what the future holds in store for Past in Flames, but to me the pros of stashing my copies away outweigh the cons of bulking out.


Hinterland Harbor

Innistrad Checklands (Clifftop Retreat, Isolated Chapel, Hinterland Harbor, Sulfur Falls, Woodland Cemetery)

FORMAT – Modern, Commander

Though the checklands have fallen out of Standard and seen their price plunge because of this, moving forward it will be a good idea to hold onto them (or perhaps even start collecting them) in anticipation of Modern usage.

The Innistrad checklands are unusual because they will follow a different path from the core set checklands. They only had one printing, as opposed to the multiple printings of the core set checklands, resulting in less severe devaluing than their core set counterparts.

Each of them can be currently had for about $2-$3 a piece, which for now is still pretty good. They should slowly creep back up over time until they are reprinted again. I don’t expect them to be reprinted for a while, so until they do they will marginally increase over time.


Parallel Lives

Parallel Lives

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

Even though this card is not Doubling Season, it is the closest we are going to get for a while. For years Doubling Season was worth no more than a few dollars, right up until Commander became a format. Casuals then snapped them up pretty quick for decks.

Parallel Lives will follow a similar path and will increase in value as time goes on. I do not think it will see Doubling Season prices of $20 or more (foils probably will) but it will certainly gain value due to its casual demand.


Rooftop Storm

Rooftop Storm

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

Another very flavorful card that I believe will retain casual appeal for a long time.

This card allows for infinite combos in U/B Zombie decks and other shenanigans. It will only get better over time as more Zombies are printed.

This card is definitely a sleeper. I don’t expect it to raise much over time until a powerful Zombie is printed that really pushes Rooftop Storm to the edge.


Snapcaster Mage

Snapcaster Mage

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Commander, Casual

You can feel very comfortable holding Snapcaster Mage after his Standard rotation. This is my number-one card for long term gains. He will see play in every format that he is legal in moving forward. Any deck that plays blue at some point considers if they want to run Sanpcaster.

The best comparison I can make to Snapcaster is Dark Confidant. He will stay around $15-$20 for a while, maybe even a few years, but expect him to slowly creep up over time until he hits $40-$50+.


Invisible Stalker

Invisible Stalker

FORMAT – Casual

The first uncommon that I am marking for long term gains. This is the most powerful uncommon from the Innistrad set, so I expect him to keep his current price of $1.50 and slowly creep up over time until he sees a reprinting. Casuals love this card because it is an efficient unblockable creature that they can Voltron while not worrying about whether their opponent will blow him up.

He will not see Path to Exile or Spell Snare levels of increase, but will always trade well over time to casual players.

Tune in next week for part 2 when we finish by looking at Dark Ascension and Avacyn Restored.

Where’s the Price Drop?

A few weeks back, I posted a list of cards I expected to get low in price, then creep back up as casual demand increased.

Some of those cards did not drop quite as much as I expected, and I want to talk about why I think that is. Ring of Three Wishes

I’m going to focus on Primeval Bounty as one example. While I was right about many of those cards, the Bounty is still $7! Now that we’re in Theros season, less M14 is going to be opened and the price on Bounty might start creeping upwards, which would really run contrary to my expectations. I expected Bounty to bottom out like Ring of three Wishes or Rise of the Dark Realms, and it has not.

So why was I wrong about this? I thought it would hit bulk prices, and it’s been far above that!

In case you don’t know, I’m a teacher and I take this responsibility seriously. After I give a test, if the whole class misses one question, then it is probably my fault. So what are the potential reasons for me to misdiagnose the card this badly?


Reason #1: Casual appeal

Demand for Bounty has stayed high enough to keep this price where it is. It’s that good in casual formats, and playing with it is just value all over the place. It gives life, creatures, and counters, all for doing stuff you would do anyway.

This is a card that people open in an event, realize how powerful it is in play, and immediately run home and add it to a deck. I confess I tried adding it to my two creature-centric EDH decks and it was underwhelming to me. I expect a lot out of cards in my decks, after years of tweaking to get each deck where I want it. I underestimated the appeal of this card.

For someone as focused on casual formats as I am, I might have allowed my personal experience to influence my thinking too much.


Reason #2: Standard

There have been decks using this card in Standard, though it is not getting a ton of attention. It has been just popular enough to nudge its price up a few bucks, and I did not see a six-mana enchantment with zero immediate effect being good enough in Standard.

This is likely because I do not play enough Standard to make the assessment of how good such a slow card can be. Next time, I will consult with some other players who can give me a better outlook on the speed and nature of the format.


Reason #3: Burnout

Wizards of the Coast does not release specific sales information. We do not know how much of each set gets sold, and that is probably for the best. Specific information on how many copies of a certain card exist would be prime information for speculators and those seeking to artificially raise prices. What we do know is that Magic has been consistently growing and breaking its own sales records, though.

However, the Core Sets are not the biggest sets in terms of sales. Ideally, they should move a lot of product because it’s summertime. Kids and parents have more free time, and many game stores have extended summer hours. The fall blocks usually sell more packs though because of their story lines  flavorful worlds, and unique prerelease experiences. (The Helvault, the Guild Packs, The Hero’s Path, etc.) 

The Hero's Path








This summer there were two factors working in concert to overshadow M14:

1)    Modern Masters came along a month before M14 was released. Not only did that eat into the usual buildup and spoiler season, it took a lot of budgets with it.

2)    Theros was getting teased and spoiled all through the summer, taking attention and excitement away from the Core Set.

Granted, these factors haven’t stopped the Ring of Three Wishes from being a touch over a dollar, or Rise of the Dark Realms from being $2.50. But I do believe that there’s been less M14 opened, and that in conjunction with larger demand than I anticipated, might be enough.


Reason #4: Redemption

This was brought to my attention by those who take the time and energy to collect and redeem a full set on Magic Online. It’s gotten significantly more expensive to redeem a set, from $5 up to a whopping $25, which does not even take into consideration the costs to acquire all of the cards. Anyone who runs a trade bot will find it is not too difficult to pick up complete sets, and redeeming them for $5 plus shipping was an easy choice. Now at $25, the margin for profit is much smaller, which likely has led to many less redemptions.

It’s worth mentioning that set redemption for M14 has only been available since the beginning of September. It is possible we haven’t seen the full impact of the MTGO redemptions, which may still reduce the price of M14 cards like Primeval Bounty.

I was wrong about Primeval Bounty, and several other cards in M14. These are four potential reasons that may have occurred, but it may be something I haven’t thought of. It’s not easy to look back and admit when I’m wrong, but it’s a necessary part of making predictions. Self-evaluation is a necessary process for us financial types, as it keeps us credible and gives both us and our readers an opportunity to learn from mistakes.

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.

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.

Theros Event Deck Financial Review & Hot Standard Picks

The newly spoiled Theros event deck has been revealed, and for some strange reason it has gotten me excited. Not that the deck is any good, unlikely to even do well at an FNM, but this event deck has ten rares included. The event deck list is as follows with rares in bold for your convenience:

4 Azorius Guildgate
1 Hallowed Fountain
5 Island
14 Plains
2 Ascended Lawmage
2 Banisher Priest
3 Battlewise Hoplite
3 Dryad Militant
1 Fabled Hero
1 Frontline Medic
3 Hopeful Eidolon
2 Imposing Sovereign
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
3 Lyev Skyknight
1 New Prahv Guildmage
1 Precinct Captain
1 Skymark Roc
1 Soldier of the Pantheon
2 Dauntless Onslaught
2 Detention Sphere
2 Gods Willing
1 Ordeal of Heliod
2 Ordeal of Thassa
2 Pacifism

*There are no relevant cards in the sideboard

Wow! Some of those cards are ones that I believe will take off in the near future. Not only are there a lot of rares in the deck, but instead of most being bulk, they are solid and will probably see Standard play at some point in the future.

Let’s go over the value of the rares in the deck. All values are TCGPlayer average prices as of a few days ago:

Hallowed Fountain – $13.35
Fabled Hero – $2.07
Frontline Medic – $2.08
2x Imposing Sovereign  – $5.50 (good speculation target)
Lavinia of the Tenth – $0.36
Precinct Captain – $0.89 (good speculation target)
Soldier of the Pantheon – $3.98 (good speculation target)
2x Detention Sphere  – $6.42 (good speculation)
Total Value = $34.65

Not only do the rares of the deck add up in value to make it worth more than the MSRP of $25, but there are several cards in the deck that I believe are great speculation targets that will increase in price in the coming months as they are adopted into the new Standard environment. If any of these cards see an increase in price over time this event deck will be a great deal.

To make things even better these are just the rare values! Cards like Banisher Priest or Dryad Militant are included as well, which is additional icing on the cake and incentive for picking up this event deck.

Other Theros Spec Targets for Standard

In addition to the event deck, I wanted to talk about a few other cards from Theros that have grabbed my attention since the previous week:

 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver – Todd Anderson was talking about Ashiok and how underrated the card seems to be in Theros Standard. While I don’t necessarily agree with his analysis, it is hard to disregard the comments of a professional player that has more top 8’s and wins than I can count on two hands. I myself am certainly not a pro at magic, so when it comes to speculating on cards, I believe that listening to professional players is a great way to understand a card’s potential impact in Standard. Listening to experienced players also can confirm a gut feel that you initially have about a card.

I admit, my initial reaction to this card was “total garbage”. While I still don’t think that Ashiok can command a price that is over $10 for very long, when Ashiok dips down into the price range where I feel comfortable buying in I won’t hesitate to do so. At the very least, this card will have an immense casual appeal that will keep the price from dipping too low. If it does take off in Standard, I can at least say that I did my due diligence and listened to people that are actually good at the game. When you’re humble enough to listen to sage advice from the pros there is often profit to be made.


Firedrinker Satyr

Firedrinker Satyr – My opinions of this card teeter back and forth constantly. On the one hand, you will be completely blown out by this card if you are facing down a Boros Reckoner or a burn mirror. Jackal Pup replacements seem to have been outclassed by all of the creature power creep that has hit Standard over the past few years.

Yet, at the price that Satyr currently stands, I feel comfortable picking up at least a playset to see what happens. Any deck that would play this card would play it as four of in the main deck. If the hype around the card by players such as Craig Wescoe and Taylor Gunn ends up being real, the risk of $1.50 would have definitely been worth it. The price ceiling on Firedrinker Satyr could turn out to be exactly like Stromkirk Noble’s, which saw prices upwards of $8 when it was popular in Standard. There is a ton of potential profit there!

Stromkirk Noble Price Graph



Steam Augury

Steam Augury – Again, like Firedrinker Satyr, my initial opinions of this card placed it as better than Divination but worse than all other rare or mythic card draw in Standard. A Fact or Fiction where you make the piles is not as powerful as when your opponent is forced to make the piles for you. Basically, any card that involves a choice where your opponent gets the last option seems worse for you than you may initially anticipate.

After doing some research I found that Craig Wescoe, Gerry Thompson, and Melissa DeTora had some good things to say about Steam Augury, both in the control shell and aggro/control. It turns that out even when a Fact or Fiction is reversed, there is still a fair amount of skill involved with choosing the piles. Based on your deck build, you can still create the piles in a manner that will be advantageous to you when you resolve Steam Augury.

Given the hype on Steam Augury, $3 could make it a target worth considering. Again, I recommend you pick up your playset and then see what happens when the card is actually put to the test. I’m not sure what the ceiling on this card could be, and I don’t want to be the guy that compares it to Sphinx’s Revelation or Gifts Ungiven, because it certainly is not as powerful as those cards. Fact or Fiction is the closest comparison, and that card was a Standard powerhouse back in the day, but like I said prior I would not call it an even comparison because your opponent has the final say. Tread with caution as speculation target.


Spellheart Chimera

Spellheart Chimera – I think that in the long run this uncommon has a lot of potential to be a casual hit. In terms of Standard, the card is definitely a build-around-me card that will require its own deck to shine. I see people playing this card in conjunction with Young Pyromancer and tons of burn spells to create an aggro/control deck similar to past Delver lists. I recommend picking up a playset, as well as trying to grab them as trade throw-ins because they will hold casual appeal for a long time.