By: James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)
Shadows Over Innistrad picks up where we left off five years ago, revisiting a plane that delivers on both flavor and play-ability. After the ripples of dissatisfaction that seem to have marred our collective experience with returning to Zendikar, the flavor home run on Innistrad is a welcome boost to fan satisfaction. In terms of card power however, SOI seems to be a set rich with unique, subtly powerful cards that are likely to make their mark at some point down the road.
So what does this mean for those of us looking to make some money on Shadows?
First off, on average, now is the time to sell the set if you’re selling. If you intend to crack cases and sell singles, you should already have them in hand, as within two weeks or less you’ll be facing a saturated market and prices that have fallen to local lows as much as 40-50% below starting prices. At present there are over ten rares and mythics and SOI priced above $10, a completely unsustainable cohort of power cards that will be cut by half within the next few weeks.
Secondly, as a large set packed with cards that are tough to evaluate, but with a lot of potential both mid and long term, the prospects for SOI cards are likely to be a mix of short-term Standard spikes and long term breakouts unlocked by rogue deck building and the printing of companion pieces.
Finally, with the Expedition-style Innistrad Echoes rumors now debunked, card values from this set will be less repressed than they were in Battle for Zendikar.
Now as there has been some confusion in the past over the intent of this article series, let’s get clear. Digging for Dollars is about looking for opportunities that aren’t played out yet, not identifying the most powerful cards in the set, or the obvious cards most likely to see the biggest gains. Many of these picks need planets to align to earn you money, so make sure you’ve exhausted your best options before you go digging folks. Where a card has not yet found it’s bottom, or has been hyped above it’s value, I will try to identify the proper entry point.
This time around we’re going to break up our specs into three categories: Standard Breakout Targets, Future Modern Staples and Long Term Casual Targets. The first group generally needs to find a home within the year in multiple standard decks to do well for you. The latter two groups are mid to long term holds that you should be aiming to acquire at their lows for solid future gains.
STANDARD BREAKOUT TARGETS
1. Nahiri, the Harbinger
Timeline: Short to Long Term (0-12+ months)
Nahiri tops my list largely on the basis that she is a solid card in Standard that may have a shot at turning into a significant card in Modern. Yes, Modern. This afternoon I watched a Jeff Hoogland Modern stream to find him running two copies of Nahiri in his KikiChord deck, only to run up against a WR Humans deck that started aggro, established early board presence, dropped Nahiri and proceeded to find Emrakul for the win. It’s especially nice that you can discard your single copy of Emrakul to Nahiri for extra value and have it shuffled right back into your deck for future shenanigans. Without top 8 camera time, she may not ever get there, but any $10 mythic that may show up in multiple Modern decks deserves a second look. Her floor is between $6-8 during her Standard tenure, so there’s not much risk in picking up a play set to use, with solid potential upside. In Standard, Nahiri has mostly been showing up in WR Eldrazi and Naya Superfriends builds. Last weekend, Jacob Bard placed 12th in the SCG open running four copies in the main.
I’m in for three play sets for now, and my confidence is at 60% that this will pay off before she rotates out of Standard. Foils are already around $30, which is pricing for success in Modern, but if I see some closer to $20 my wallet may open.
2. Olivia, Mobilized for War
Now: $10 (try to acquire around $20 at peak supply)
Target Buy Price: $7
Target Sell Price: $14 (+100%)
Timeline: Short to Mid (0-12 months)
The vampire queen enjoyed significant hype pressure shortly after she was announced, as we all assumed that SOI would cough up a serious BR Vampires aggro deck. Instead testing showed that there wasn’t quite enough power in the tribe, nor enough relevant madness cards, and Humans turned up in force as the best aggro deck. The thing is, we still have another set to go in this block, and we may well get the one or two aggro oriented vampires in Eldritch Moon that are necessary to put Olivia back on the table. If the new vampires are sexy enough, you may be able to unload into a preview spike regardless of whether the deck breaks out. If none of that happens, look to nab Olivia around $5 during summer lulls, as she has a solid chance of topping $10 a few years down the road on casual demand alone. Pick confidence at 6/10 on this one.
3. Fevered Visions
The key with Fevered Visions is that you get to draw first, which is a big step up vs. many of the previous Howling Mine variants. Last weekend Todd Anderson was on camera at the SCG Invitational, abusing the heck out of this card in his innovative UR Control build in Standard. In that Pyromancer’s Goggles driven deck, four copies of Visions come out of the sideboard to put slow moving opponents in a very uncomfortable position. The ability to redirect the damage triggers to take down planeswalkers is a sexy bonus. There is every reason to believe that the meta could adapt within a reasonable time-frame and possibly push this deck out of the format, but I’m happy to pick up copies of this card under $1 now, with the knowledge that they could easily hit $3-4 in a few years on creeping casual demand or a break out Modern appearance. If you wait it out, you may be able get these on sale somewhere this summer around $.50. The skeptic in me is keenly aware that Dictate of Kruphix is still widely available at $1, so my confidence in the pick is a mere 5/10.
Target Buy Price: $0.50
Target Sell Price: $3+ (+300%)
Timeline: Short to Long (0-12 months)
POTENTIAL MODERN PLAYABLES
4. Traverse the Ulvenwald
In a world where you can’t reliably achieve Delirum, this is a pretty lame land retrieval spell. In Modern or Legacy however, where stocking the graveyard fast and early is relatively easy, the prospects for a card that can tutor for any land or creature for just one mana are worth paying attention to. Lengthy Commander games are even more likely to find you with the necessary four card types in your graveyard to turn on the powered mode here.
It could take some time, but I expect this card will find a home in Modern sooner or later. Foils are currently around $10, but if this ends up played in a Tier 2+ deck in Modern at some point you may be able to unload over $20, after getting in around lows of $6-8. My pick confidence rating is 6/10 here.
Target Buy Price: $2-3
Target Sell Price: $10 (150%+)
Timeline: Long-Term (12-36 months+)
5. The Gitrog Monster
Target Buy Price: $5-6
Target Sell Price: $15+ (115%)
Timeline: Long Term (12 months+)
Potential Commander in EDH? Check. Unique set of powerful abilities that ooze synergy? Check. Big dangerous body? Check. Mythic and memorable? Check, check.
All of that is enough is to convince me that this card will eventually top $15. My guess is that it takes a few years, unless of course, someone figures out how to bust it in Modern, and it ends up as a 3-4 of. As a 1-2 of in a single deck, regular copies would still likely need some time to top $15. Foils are currently priced for success at $20, but I’d be more interested at $15, and will look for deals over the next couple of weeks. Pick confidence of 8/10.
6. Drownyard Temple
Target Buy Price: $1.50-2
Target Sell Price: $10+
Timeline: Very Long Term (36 months+)
This card has gone under the radar for most players, but as Todd Anderson has demonstrated in gleaning value from the card in UR Goggle Control, being able to pay discard costs with Temple can be pretty sweet. This is not an uber-powerful staple by any means, and the growth is likely to be slow and steady for 3-5 years, but I think you’ll get a chance to get these under $2, and get out down the road as high as $10 when the implied synergy becomes valuable in a previously unseen Modern deck that wants either discard cost reduction, extra landfall triggers, or both. Lands with snyergistic upside are some of the best long term targets, so there is little to fear here. Pick confidence is 8/10.
Long Term Casual
7. Startled Awake
This card is no Glimpse the Unthinkable, but it does provide casual mill players with a form of inevitability and thirteen cards off the top is a lot in sixty card formats.
Now: $3 ($7 foil)
Target Buy Price: $2 ($5 foil)
Target Sell Price: $10 ($20+ foil)
Timeline: Very Long-Term (36+ months)
7. Relentless Dead
When this card was revealed during spoiler season for SOI, everyone was convinced it was going to be an automatic 4-of staple in Standard, and speculation about Modern play-ability was being bandied about. But then the zombie deck components failed to show up in the full set list, and this card has been on the backslide ever since. Long term the power level is high enough that between potential synergies with Eldritch Moon cards, Modern potential and casual demand, I’ll be happy to stash some copies away once the price drops low enough. This is the kind of card that gets played as a 4-of when it is played at all, and that’s a great place to be with a mythic that can show price growth from any of one of multiple angles.
Target Buy Price: $5
Target Sell Price: $10+
Timeline: Mid-to-Long Term (6-12+ months)
8. Seasons Past
Note: This article was written the Thursday before the Pro Tour. Apologies that this card spiked before you got to see this guys. 🙁
This is a green mythic that can draw an entire grip full of cards on Turn 4 or 5 in kitchen table magic pretty reliably, and has all the hallmarks of a card that will be forgotten only to get bought out in five years and spike over $10. It’s by no means a high priority, but $2 mythics are largely risk free, and I’d be stoked to stash several playsets away if they up cheaper during an online sale or at summer lulls. It’s also not impossible that someone will find a use for this in Standard on camera before it rotates, which could push it over $5 in a hurry.
Target Buy Price: $2
Target Sell Price: $5+
Timeline: Short-to-Long Term
Cards You Should Be Selling
1. Archangel Avacyn ($40+)
There is no doubt at all that Avacyn could stay a $40+ card for parts of her career if the meta breaks right and for long enough to drive demand beyond her peak supply period later this month. My fear is that the format is going to relegate Avacyn to one major archetype, and that, like Dragonlord Ojutai before her, she will fall under $15 before peaking once again during a future meta shift. If you are playing the card, it’s a hold, but any extra copies are a solid trade out right now and will cover nearly 1/2 of a box to find more cards you need.
2. Arlinn Kord ($25)
Yeah, I know you love werewolves, and flip planeswalker werewolves are awesome, but this card is going to end up under $15 within the month. There a couple of potential shells for Arlinn in Standard, and she could be anywhere from 2-4 copies in R/G Aggro build, a R/G Eldrazi build or some kind of “super friends” deck. None of that is going to change the fact that she is much more likely to fall below $20 heading into peak supply than she is to peak over $30. The one caveat is if she wins a major standard tournament, or starts putting up consistently dominant results on MTGO leading into a buy out, but I find that unlikely. Once she’s closer to $10 she’ll be more tempting, but keep in mind that most planeswalkers peak early, fail to earn their keep and fall back to reality in a hurry without ever enjoying major demand in Standard. Get out now and you’re unlikely to be upset about it later. Jace, Unraveler of Secrets above $15 is a certain exit point as well as I see the card ending up $8-10 within a month or two.
3. Relentless Dead ($11)
As stated above, get out now, and look for any entry closer to $5 when folks realize they have no good place to play this away from the kitchen table and before potential partner cards show up in Eldritch Moon spoilers.
4. Westvale Abbey ($12)
Don’t get me wrong, Westvale Abbey is a very real card, a likely Modern Tier 2 staple and a future acquisition target around $4-6, but as a rare in a large set it is highly unlikely to hold above $10. Sell now, get in later.
Oath of the Gatewatch Update
In Digging for Dollars: Battle for Zendikar, I called out the following specs as undervalued cards with some chance of financial success (shown with original and current pricing):
1. Goblin Dark Dwellers (Promo): $6 to $3 (-50%)
2. Thought-Knot Seer (Foil): $25 to $40 (at peak, +60%)
3a. Slip Through Space (Foil): $1.50 to $3.00 (+100%)
3b. Expedite (Foil): $1.50 to $1.50 (+0%)
4. Stone Haven Outfitter: $.75 to .50 (-33%)
5. Eldrazi Mimic (Foil): $3 to $20 (at peak, +670%), now $8
6. Sea Gate Wreckage (Foil): $7 to $7 (+0%)
7. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar: $16 to $13 (-19%)
8. High Demand Oath Expeditions: Various
9. Wastes (Foil, Kozilek Art): $10 to $15 (+50%)
The Oath portfolio did relatively well in a short period of time, largely on the back of my being out in front on the Eldrazi Winter thing. Early testing showed Eldrazi to look utterly busted, and I correctly called Though-Knot Seer and Eldrazi Mimic foils in time to set you up for solid gains if you got in before everyone realized it was all going to get banned. Mimic still has some long term potential as it gets turned on by colorless rather than Eldrazi creatures, and Thought-Knot Seer foils are actually looking tasty again around $15 given that folks are already showing the deck can be competitive without Eye of Ugin, and given that Eldrazi is very real in Legacy and highly unlikely to be attacked with a banning there. Eye of Ugin expeditions can be found right now as low as $70 and that is a very tempting entry point.
Expedite foils haven’t gone everywhere, but Slip Through Space foils have already doubled up, and I expect both to be $5 down the road when they Top 8 something nasty that involves a lot of cantrips.
Goblin Dark Dwellers promos are the better art of the two options, and are now as low as $3. This card is going to be a 1-2 of Modern staple for a long time in at least Jund and Grixis decks, and I like the card a lot at current pricing. Stone Haven Outfitter is down to a very tempting $.50 and the entry point is excellent. Sooner or later equipment combo becomes a thing, and this card hits $5. Could be a year, could be give but I already have 100+ copies, and I’ll look for more on sale this summer. Sea Gate Wreckage foils haven’t moved much, but that’s because they were targeted for long term growth. Check back in on those two years from now. Kozilek Wastes full-art foils have already gained 50% and will easily beat $20 within the next year or two. A good call there.
And here were the cards I advised be sold:
1. Lesser Expedition Lands: Various, But By & Large Down by 10-40%
2. Kozilek, the Great Distortion: $20 to $6 (-70%)
3. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet: $8 to $20 (+150%)
Lesser Expedition lands and Kozilek were good sell calls, having shed significant value from their peaks. Kozilek can be had now around $7-8, and I like that entry point for slow future gains with potential in Standard and Modern. Kalitas ended up doing much better in Standard than he was set to when I made the call to sell him, but the larger miss was seeing his potential in Jund for Modern. Mea culpa.
Battle for Zendikar Upate
In Digging for Dollars: Magic Origins, I called out the following specs as undervalued cards with some chance of financial success (shown with original and current pricing):
- Drana, Liberator of Malakir: $15 to $8 (-47%)
- Oblivion Sower: $5.50 to $8.75 (+60% at peak)
- Retreat to Corelhelm (Foil): $12 to $4 (-67%)
- Woodland Wanderer: $4 to $1 (-75%)
- Emeria Sheppard (Foil): $8 to $5 (-38%)
- Painful Truths: $1.50 to $3 (+100% at peak)
- Bring to Light (Foil): $16 to $6 (-63%)
So far, this list isn’t doing very well. Let’s see what’s going on.
In many ways Battle For Zendikar has played out as we predicted. The presence of some very expensive lottery tick – er, I mean Expeditions has held down the price of most of the cards in the set, and if it weren’t for fetch/battle lands driving insane mana bases, Standard would have been pretty affordable this season. Those Expeditions found their lows during peak supply in late November, and have since rebounded, just as I expect the Oath ones to. Moving forward it will be worth keeping an eye on Expedition pricing, as boxes of BFZ around $90 may get pretty tempting next fall if the prices climb high enough on the sexy lands.
Drana, Liberator of Malakir is a decent card that simply hasn’t found a home. I’ve been running two copies in my WB Aggro/Control build in Standard for months, but most players find her to have too little board impact in a format that is contending with fast aggro decks and angelic bombs. If she hits $5 I’ll take another look, hoping for new synergies in Eldritch Moon with long term casual as the backup plan.
Oblivion Sower peaked around $9, but has since fallen back to $3, which is a very solid entry point for a Modern playable mythic.
On the long term side, the Retreat to Corelhelm deck hasn’t posted a big result in Modern yet, but that’s a good thing here because you can now get in on the prospect of this busted card eventually doing big things for just $4 per foil. I love that price. A Bant Company deck did well on camera at the SCG Invitational last weekend running the combo with Knight of the Reliquary, and sooner or later it will stick.
Emeria Sheppard foils are back up to $5 now, and I endorse stashing some of those away for future EDH/Casual angel gains. Painful Truths is flat vs. my buy price, but you had a solid chance to trade out for a double up when it was peaking in early winter. Bring to Light has collapsed, but both cards have foils carrying a whopping 10x foil multiplier, a sure sign that people expect them to do big things moving forward. Both cards are seeing experimental play in Modern, and some enterprising pros are already swearing by Truths in Legacy, so grabbing a bunch of these at current pricing for long term gains seems reasonable.
Magic Origins Update
In Digging for Dollars: Magic Origins, I called out the following specs as undervalued cards with some chance of financial success (shown with original and current pricing):
- Nissa, Vastwood Seer: $26 to $18 (-28%)
- Erebos’s Titan: $8.40 to $1 (-87%)
- Abbot of Keral Keep (Foil): $13 to $20 (50%+)
- Evolutionary Leap (Foil): $15 to $6 (-60%)
- Harbinger of the Tides (Foil): $18 to $6 (-67%)
- Demonic Pact: $3.75 to $3 (-20%)
- Animist’s Awakening: $10 to $4 (-60%)
So far, the only solid win from the list was Abbot of Keral Keep foils, if you rode the earlier spike above $20. I correctly identified that the card was Modern-playable and likely to rise on demonstrative play. As it turns out, the card is seeing play in both Grixis and Temur decks in Modern, including the innovative Temur Prowess deck played to a solid finish last year by Patrick Chapin. Since the fall spike noted in our last check-in, these foils have fallen back to $10 or so as the price of Jace has continued to rise. I’d recommend moving in on the card at this price if you haven’t already, as I still predict a future price over $20 on further Modern play.
As for the rest, Erebos’s Titan and Pact never got anywhere, but Abbot, Leap and Harbinger all represent excellent long term value. Of the three, Harbinger and Abbot are the most proven, so focus on those.
So there you have it. Anything I missed that you’re on top of? Logic to kill one of the specs? Have at it. Let’s figure it out!
James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.