Tag Archives: Finding Value

Gods Part I: The Theros Five

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By Guo Heng Chin

I initially planned to write this article sometime during the summer, but last week happened. The Commander rules committee announced one of the biggest shake-up to the format in recent memory: commanders can no longer be tucked. Players can now choose to send their commanders back to the command zone if their commander was sent to the library, just as they could if their commander was sent to the graveyard or exiled.

Removing tuck proved to be a controversial move, accompanied by some very vocal dissension on Twitter and Reddit. I would not dissect the implications of the change on the format in this article as I am not exactly the most qualified person to speak about it. Plus I am in favor of the no-tuck change, being a fan of build-around-me commanders. For those interested to read about the impact of the new ruling, I would highly recommend reading Jason Alt’s article on the change, one of the most impartial commentary on the removal of tuck.

The new ruling made me reevaluate a set of Standard-legal cards that are also Commander staples. What I am going to talk about today is a set of cards which I think would make a good long-term investment. A set of cards that, to paraphrase Mark Rosewater, were designed to be a wow factor in Theros boosters. Those cards have been getting a lot of love in Commander, and whose power level was bolstered with tuck removed from Commander.

Don't get your hopes up. Just kidding, read on.
Don’t get your hopes up. Just kidding, read on.

The Theros block gods are ostentatiously impressive. They have flashy abilities, come in special Nyx-ified frames and are indestructible enhancements that become alive if your board state is sufficiently devoted to their cause. Sounds like a recipe for a long-term casual hit if you ask me. Also how cool is it to be able to play with gods?

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Their abilities and indestructibility made some of the gods enticing commanders and a few, like Kruphix, God of the Horizons seemed to be designed with Commander in mind. The fact that the gods are enchantments unless their devotion is activated blanks a slew of commander removal. Together with indestructibility the gods are practically glued to the board once they resolve. Tucking used to be one of the few ways to remove a resolved god commander.

Would god become more popular as commanders in a post-tuck world? I do not know the answer, but one thing for certain, the gods are more resilient now and players can run build-around-me god commanders without worrying about their engine being tucked and having to play with a pile of garbage for the rest of the game.

As scoeri’s monthly Commander metagame sweep shows, the gods are already quite popular as Commanders.

scoeri gods
Popular commanders from 30 March 2014 to 30 March 2015. The number indicates the number of decks for that particular commander. Snapshot taken on 31 March 2015.

Three of the Theros block gods are in the top 50 most played commander in the previous twelve months. Purphoros, God of the Forge and Erebos, God of the Dead used to be on the list as well, but they have been knocked off in recent updates.

Of course, the gods were not just popular as commanders. They were also played as one of the 99 and I believe they saw more play as one of the commanded rather than the commander. There are a lot to be written about them and rather than spill it all out in a single encyclopedia of an article, I would to split it into three parts.

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In the first part today, we are going to take a look at the Theros gods and their long-term financial potential, with a focus on foils.

The Theros Five

Theros Gods
Breakdown of the most played cards from Theros. The digits indicate the number decks running those cards. Snapshot taken on 31 March 2015.

scoeri’s analysis offers a multitude of options for dissecting the popularity of Commander staples and one of them is a breakdown of the most played cards by set (only for recent sets). scoeri’s list is an invaluable resource for Commander aficionados and I would certainly recommend anyone engaged in or merely interested in the format to read it.

In the image above, we have the breakdown of the most popular Theros cards in Commander. Unsurprisingly, Burnished Hart and Prophet of Kruphix occupied the top two spot, one being a ramp spell that fits into any deck (whose foil is a good spec target) and the other being borderline bannable.

All five Theros gods are on the list, with three of them in the top ten, and Nylea, God of the Hunt and Heliod, the Unloved trailing at eleventh and twelfth respectively. They are the most popular Theros mythics in Commander.

Purphoros, God of Pew Pew Pew

It’s not surprising to see Purphoros as the third most popular Theros card for Commander, and the most popular Theros god. Purphoros is pretty much a staple in any deck that runs red and makes creatures. Token strategies are popular in Commander and when he is not attending to his forge, Purphoros is the God of Tokens.

Purphoros is also a Duel Commander staple. Marath, Will of the Wild and Prossh, Skyraider of Kher are top tier commanders in the format and Purphoros is a staple in both, although the Prossh Food Chain deck was killed by the recent Duel Commander banning of Food Chain. Nevertheless, Prossh Elfball is still legit and Prossh remains one of the top ten most played commander in multiplayer Commander.

More importantly in terms of financial prospect, Purphoros was one of the biggest benefactor of the new no-tuck legislation. Purphoros is a classic build-around-me commander. A Purphoros, God of the Tokens deck is pathetic without Purphoros himself. Five mana for four goblin tokens just would not do in a format where five mana nets you your opponent’s Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. Unless it comes together with a double Flame Rift‘s worth of commander damage.

Purphoros Six Months

As of writing, a foil Purphoros is sitting at $17, a little on the expensive side. However, scoeri’s weighted 200 list which shows the percentage of decks that included a card when possible (e.g. how many decks running red included Purphoros) tells us that Purphoros enjoys a similar level of ubiquity as with another monocolored staple Doubling Season.

16% of lists with red play Purphoros compared with 14% of lists with green running Doubling Season and Doubling Season foils are hovering between $36 to $42 after three printings. Granted, all three printings of Doubling Season would probably yield less foil Doubling Seasons than foil Purphoroses, but you can’t use Doubling Season as your commander.

I am not advocating that you should go out and buy ten foil Purphoros right away. Foil Purphoros is a good trade target at the moment if you get the opportunity as Theros cards just started their downward spiral. Foil Purphoros may fall a little at rotation, but I doubt he would drop below $12.

As for non-foil copies currently sitting at $7, I would wait for rotation to buy in. Picking up a few at $3 to $4 looks like a no-brainer long-term investment. After all, Purphoros is the only god who made it into the top 200 weighted list.

Popularity do come at a price. Sheldon Menery noted in his article elaborating on the Commander Rules Committee’s decision to ban tuck that they are keeping an eye on Derevi and Purphoros, two commanders who became more powerful (or annoying, depending on which side of the table you are on) in a world without tuck. So don’t get too deep on foil Purphoros and if you do, keep a close tab on the general sentiment in the Commander scene regarding Purphoros.

Although we don’t like the idea of an official Watch List, it would be disingenuous of us to say that we don’t keep our eyes open for danger spots and/or cards that we know folks are talking about. – Sheldon Menery

The Big Mermaid

She may have a tiny casting cost of three, but  Thassa, God of the Sea is no little mermaid. Ushering elementals  through blockers and fixing topdecks since Pro Tour Theros, Thassa recently experienced a bit of an uptick since Shorecrasher Elemental was spoiled, but the heralded revival of Mono-Blue devotion has yet to arrive.

Regardless of whether Mono-Blue makes a comeback, Thassa has found a home in Commander. She really is three cards in a single three casting cost card that could easily slot into any blue decks. She is an indestructible source of card advantage, a trump card in clogged board states, and a 5/5 creature when needs be.

Thassa may not be a popular commander but she is definitely a staple as one of the 99. Besides multiplayer Commander, she is a key component in Geist of Saint Traft Duel Commander and some Merfolk builds in Modern run her.

Thassa also has the benefit of being one of the two three gods legal in Tiny Leaders. Thassa Merfolk may not be tier one, but it’s something!

Thassa Chart

With normal copies at $8 and foils at $21, I would wait until summer or rotation to pick Thassa up. Thassa is one of the top 50 most played blue cards with Modern playability, is played in Duel Commander and is the leader for a fringe Tiny Leaders archetype. Thassa is definitely one of the Theros gods I am keeping an eye on as rotation enters the horizon.

Erebos, Not Erebor

Erebos Chart

Erebos, God of the Dead is going for $5 non-foil and $15 foil. I would not mind trading into foils at the moment, but I would wait until summer or rotation to grab some non-foils. A pseudo-Phyrexian Arena on a stick that hoses lifegain shenanigans (aplenty in Commander) can’t be too bad. Erebos is also on the top 50 most played black cards list, right in the  middle.

Nylea, the Ugly Duckling of the Pantheon

Nylea Chart

Nylea, God of the Hunt foils at $11 may be one step cheaper than the three discussed above. She is allegedly not as popular as the rest. Nylea is not even in the top 50 green list. I would stay away from both foils and non-foils ($5) for now.

Heliod, the Unloved

Heliod Chart

Heliod, God of the Sun is one of the most interesting god in terms of financial potential. Heliod is the cheapest among the Theros pantheon in foil ($8) and non-foil ($2.50) but he enjoys the same level of popularity as Erebos and Thassa in their respective color’s top 50 most played list (Purphoros was the only god to be in the top ten – fifth indeed – of the top 50 by color list).

I suspect Heliod may be severely underpriced due to the fact that he was the only Theros god who saw no play in Standard. $8 for foil Heliods looks good. $2.50 for a non-foil of a mythic that is a white staple in Commander? Hell yeah.

Closing Thoughts

Besides their Commander appeal, one of the most enticing aspect about investing in gods is their extremely low chance of being reprinted. The gods are inexorably tied to the Theros plane in their flavor and their Nyx-ified frame adds a further restriction on where they could be reprinted. I cannot imagine seeing one of these in Modern Masters 201X a few years down the road. And I certainly could not envision visiting The Mothership one day to be greeted by ‘Announcing From the Vaults: Gods’.

Personally, I would focus on acquiring foils, because Commander staple foils turn into gold bars over time (the only recorded instance of successful alchemy), and because Nyx-ified cards look gorgeous in foil.

It's hammer time!
It’s #humblebrag time!

Foil gods are appealing picks when the price of Theros cards bottom out upon rotation. Most of the gods discussed today do not see modern play and that is a good thing. Look at the price of foil Keranos, God of the Storms who saw a little Modern and Legacy action, mostly from the sideboard.

scoeri’s statistics show that the Theros gods are Commander gold, and unlike Modern staples which do not dip in price upon rotation, Commander staples do see a drop upon rotation and would gradually appreciate over the years. Investing in foils provides extra buffer against reprints, which are getting increasingly frequent these days.

I have yet to set a date for the next part of this series, with next week being the week before the Pro Tour, and it is customary for Magic finance writers to throw their hats into the ring and bet on breakout cards. Comments are more than welcomed. Drop you thoughts below or find me on Twitter @theguoheng.

Edit: There are three gods legal in Tiny Leaders, not two, as a reader pointed out in the comments. Thanks ‘Annoying commenter’ (yes, that is his/her username. Check the comments below)! 😉


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Dragons of Tarkir Tiny Leaders Review: White and Blue

By Guo Heng

It’s review time in the Magic writing community as Dragons of Tarkir is a few days from being released. I hope you all have had a fun (and hopefully awesome prerelease weekeend) and if any of you had the good fortune to open a Narset Transcendent during your prerelease and is wondering what to do with it, you can check out the piece I wrote a few days back about the cards I would trade an overpriced Narset Transcendent into.

If you are looking for a set review, Travis Allen wrote an epic 7,000-word financial review of the rares and mythics last week. Jared Yost sifted through the commons and uncommons for financial value yesterday. And of course, Brainstorm Brewery did their customary review in their latest episode (which you can get access to before the general public if you are a MTGPrice ProTrader).

My review today is going to take a look at the new toys we get in Dragons of Tarkir through a pair of Tiny Leaders lenses. Whether you are a huge fan of the next big tiny thing, or you just engage in Tiny Leaders casually, have a seat and let’s go through what Dragons of Tarkir has to offer us.

Even if you are not interested in Tiny Leaders, you may want to read on as Tiny Leaders demand has and will be driving up the price of cards, especially foils.

We shall go down the list by color.

White

Anafenza, Kin Tree Spirit

Anafenza, Kin Tree SpiritThe new Anafenza  is the Dragons of Tarkir card I am most excited about for Tiny Leaders. I am of opinion that Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is one of those cards that could create a snowball effect if she stays on the board for a few turns.

Creature-based strategies are the most common strategy in Tiny Leaders, as control and combo are neutered by the three casting cost and singleton restriction (combo and control still exist, they just do not occupy as large a niche as they do in other eternal formats) and Anafenza 2.0 fits just about into any creature decks that could run her.

Can you imagine Anafenza’s Bolster trigger being abused with Alesha, Who Smiles at Death‘s creature recursion? You can expect to get multiple Bolster triggers every turn in Alesha decks. Not to mention as Alesha’s ability triggers when she attacks, you could Bolster your Alesha to increase her odds of smiling at death during combat (bolstered by Anafenza 2.0, Alesha could finally defeat Anafenza 1.0 in combat).

Anax and Cymede swarm builds are another home for Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit. The quality of your one and two drops increase significantly if they all come with an enter-the-battlefield Bolster trigger. Indeed, Anafenza should be an auto-include in any swarm decks running white.

As a dedicated Anafenza, the Foremost player, I am ecstatic to see her new incarnation. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit combos with Kitchen Finks and a sac outlet for the infinite life combo I have been championing in my previous Tiny Leaders articles for Anafenza, the Foremost builds.

I am excited because Melira, Sylvok Outcast has always been the weakest link in the combo. All the other combo pieces are solid value cards by themselves and are cards I’d be happy to play outside the combo. Melira would have been a waste of deck slot had she not been an integral component of the combo. I’ve accepted the fact that I risk having a dead card in my hand sometimes for the privilege of running an infinite combo in my midrange deck.

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit changed it all. Even if I am not running the infinite combo, I would play Anafenza in my Anafenza deck (Anafenzaception). Why?

  • The deck runs on value. Most of the creatures in the deck are already undercosted in terms of casting cost to power and toughness ratio. Anafenza 2.0 amplifies that.
  • Anafenza 2.0 functions like Gavony Township, one of the MVPs of the deck. She turns your Birds of Paradise and 1/1 flying spirits into formidable threats. Nothing breaks open board stalls by having a Bolster trigger attached to every non-token creature you play. Her edge of over Gavony Township is that she does not require mana investment to Bolster your creatures. Her downside is that she is easier to remove compared to Gavony Township.
  • Having your hard-to-remove creatures like Cartel Aristocrat and Varolz, the Scar-Striped enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter is enticing.
  • Making your Kitchen Finks immortal without wasting a card slot.

I would not be surprised to see Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit spawn a new archetype in Tiny Leaders. A white weenie swarm deck with Crusade and Spear of Heliod looks to be a good shell for Anafenza 2.0. Swarm strategies are a strong route to take in Tiny Leaders due to the lack of board wipes.

Financially, I would not be getting Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit foils right away as foils would likely drop in price during her time in Standard.

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$2.66 for non-foil copies is a decent price to buy Anafenza 2.0 if and only if you want to run her in your deck.

Arashin Foremost

First and foremost, there are not many warrior creatures in decks that run white. Arashin Foremost is no Silverblade Paladin.

Gleam of Authority

Gleam of Authority could potentially find a home in either Anafenza decks to create an insanely huge creature. However, you are pitted against some of the best removals in Magic and enchanting a non-Hexproof creature is just setting yourself up for getting two-for-oned.

Hidden Dragonslayer

There are no dragons to slay in Tiny Leaders. Hidden Dragonslayer may be a sideboard card for white swarm decks to deal with Anafenza, the Foremost decks. I am not counting on that to bolster Hidden Dragonslayer’s financial value.

Myth Realized

Again, you would be facing some of the most efficient removals ever printed in the history of Magic. I do not want to sink effort and mana into growing a card that could be plowed.

Radiant Purge

Too narrow.

Secure the Wastes 

Secure the Wastes

Secure the Wastes is an easier-to-cast, cheaper version of White Sun’s Zenith that could fit into decks that would run White Sun’s Zenith had White Sun’s Zenith had a cheaper casting cost.

Anax and Cymede players probably relish having Secure the Wastes. Cast Secure the Wastes at the end of your opponent’s turn for an instant horde which you could then pump with Anax and Cymede and go in for the kill on your turn.

However  Secure the Wastes is one of the more expensive preorder rares at $3.50 and I would probably wait for it to drop a bit before buying in. Do note that Secure the Wastes is one of the Dragons of Tarkir intro pack rares, so the ceiling for non-foil copies are lower than other rares.

I would keep an eye on the foils when they drop in price from their current extortionate $12.

Silkwrap

Silkwrap

I don’t usually review uncommons, but you’re telling me that white now have a Smother? Foils are the way to go with Silkwrap as the margin for non-foils is way too small for a long-term spec. To compare, foil Worldwake Smother spiked from under $1 to nearly $6 in January this year when Tiny Leaders exploded in popularity. Smother is not played in any other formats, so it could be safely assumed that

Foil Silkwrap is currently $1.50, which is not bad if you want a copy for your Tiny Leaders deck. But I would wait until foils drop to below $1 to buy my specs. Or trade for them.

Blue

Anticipate

Anticipate

I am going to briefly talk about Anticipate as it one of the most playable blue card in the set and there were talks of the card being potentially played in Modern as a Telling Time that digs one deeper.

I do not anticipate Anticipate seeing much play beyond the few blue-based combo (Ambassador Laquatus and Nin, the Pain Artist pop into my mind) decks in Tiny Leaders that really needs to dig for combo pieces. And if they have a slot. Unlike Modern, Tiny Leaders have access to real blue cantrips like Ponder and Preordain.

If there are any drivers for the price of foil Anticipate, it would be because Scapeshift replaced Telling Time with Anticipate.

Mirror Mockery

You risk getting mocked by your opponents if you run Mirror Mockery.There are currently only three blue-based leaders that want to attack with creatures – Geist of Saint Traft, Sygg, River Cutthroat and Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest – and Mirror Mockery fits in neither.

Shorecrasher Elemental

Shorecrasher Elemental has potential in other formats but would be stranded like a beached whale in Tiny Leaders.

Silumgar Sorcerer

Silumgar Sorcerer

 

My initial assessment  of Silumgar Sorcerer in regards to Tiny Leaders play was one of excited anticipation. I mean its a counterspell on an evasive body that could be played at instant speed. Four abilities on a three casting cost creature! So much value and tempo.

After giving it some thought I’ve decided that Silumgar Sorcerer may not be that good in Tiny Leaders after all. The problem lies with finding a home for it. Decks that run blue and cares about tempo (again, Geist, Sygg and Shu Yun) are not exactly full of exploit targets and who else would Silumgar Sorcerer exploit but him/herself.

The only decent exploit targets that would net you value that I can think of are a Stoneforge Mystic that has ran her course or an exhausted Snapcaster Mage. The only token generator in those decks would be Monastery Mentor in Shu Yun.

If Silumgar Sorcerer sees Tiny Leaders play, adopt the same spec strategy as with Silkwrap discussed above.

Stratus Dancer

Her abilities are good, but their cost is too prohibitive for a format that is dubbed singleton Legacy.

Closing Thoughts

Dragons of Tarkir brought some nifty white cards into Tiny Leaders and I am keen to see how they would impact the build of current tier one decks. Blue was a bit meh unfortunately.

However, my biggest disappointment was that there were no tiny dragons. Being the Vorthos that I am, I was wistfully hoping for a dragon leader or something of that sorts.  Alas Mark Rosewater dashed any hope of seeing tiny dragons when he mentioned that there weren’t any baby dragons for them to make as the dragons of Tarkir were born out of dragon tempests.

Part of me wondered why would they opt for dragon tempests rather than baby dragons which would have been a hit among Vorthoses and casuals.

Cardboard Crack has a great answer.

That’s all for today. I have something else in mind for next week (hint: it’s Commander-related) and I would get back to evaluating the remaining Dragons of Tarkir cards for Tiny Leaders playability after that. In the  mean time you can follow me on Twitter @theguoheng.


 

 


 

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What To Trade Your Narset for at the Prerelease

By Guo Heng

The clock struck twelve midnight. The sound of hundreds of Dragons of Tarkir booster packs being cracked rippled through the room as players began to open the contents of their clan packs. The first wave of Tarkir dragons have arrived. You join the throngs of Magic players around the world in being the first to get a taste of Dragons of Tarkir. 

As you open you Ojutai clan pack, you were mildly stoked that your seeded booster rare is Ojutai’s Command. Not exactly an expensive rare nor the Elder Dragon you were looking to use as a Commander, but at least its playable in your sealed pool. 

You pop open your first Dragons of Tarkir pack. Obscuring Aether. To the bulk stack. Second pack. Dragonlord’s Perogative. Not exactly a money card, but it may be playable in your pool. Third pack. Volcanic Vision. Dammit, is this going to be another sealed pool with not a single money card? You began to wonder if you should have just saved your money to buy singles instead. 

Of course you would not open money cards. The odds are always against you when you are opening packs. If they are not, everybody would be cracking packs instead of buying singles. You berate yourself for that lapse in judgement. Oh well, at least you are supporting your local game store. 

As you crack your fourth and last Dragons of Tarkir booster pack, you decided to slowly reveal the card on the rare slot. You slide the card to unveil its top left corner. It’s a gold card. Could it be another Command?

You slide it a little further to reveal the mana pips. Blue and white. Could it be another Ojutai’s Commande? Or perhaps a Pristine Skywise, who would be sweet in your Ojutai deck. You take out the card. 

Bam. It’s this bad girl:

Narset's planeswalker spark ignited after she mastered the notorious Flying Crane Technique.
Narset’s planeswalker spark ignited after she mastered the notorious Flying Crane Technique.

You are overjoyed. It looks like you would not only make back your prerelease entry fee, but you have a good chance at taking down the prerelease too, having opened one of the best bombs in the set. 

The question that pops into your head right now is this: Do you keep your Narset Transcendent after the prerelease, or do you trade her off at the next available opportunity?

What to Do With My Narset Transcendent?

A question that inadvertently pop up the week after a prerelease is “Do I keep the chase mythic planeswalker I opened at my prerelease?”

I wrote this piece as an answer to the question that would undoubtedly arise regarding Narset Transcendent, currently the most expensive card in Dragons of Tarkir at $42. However, the content that follows would also apply for whatever chase card you pop this weekend that you think are overpriced and would like to get rid of.

First off, congratulations if you are one of the few lucky prereleasers to open a Narset Transcendent. If you are planning to play with her frequently over the next month or so, it would not hurt to just keep that copy for your own use. Look at your prerelease fortune as having saved you some cash off your quest to acquire the Narsets you need for your deck.

Personally, I fall under this camp. I am looking forward to get back into control and there are a couple of brews I am keen building for a PPTQ next week: William Jensen’s Narset Control or Shaheen Soorani’s Esper brew, which I would probably end up building. Sweet as Jensen’s build look, I am not willing to splash for four Narset Transcendents on release weekend. Plus Soorani’s deck runs Dragonlord Ojutai as a finisher, a card I am really bullish on.

However if you do not plan on playing with her right now, the best thing to do is to trade her off as soon as possible. While the planeswalker tax may not be as ubiquitous as before, Narset Transcendent does not have the makings of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, who after nearly two months, is still $5 – $7 more than his preorder price.

Narset is undoubtedly a powerhouse in Standard, but multicolored planeswalkers have a lower theoretical ceiling compared with their single-colored counterparts. Call it the multicolored ceiling, Magic Finance’s variant of the glass ceiling.

Narset’s situational, build-around-me abilities do her price no justice as well. They limit her potential homes in all formats and as an extension her price.

Those factors combined convinced me that Narset is overpriced right now at $42 and if you have no intentions of running decks that would want to play her, it may be best to cash out on her inflated value.

So what cards are good pick-ups to trade your Narset Transcendent into?

Khans of Tarkir Fetchlands

Flooded StrandPolluted DeltaWooded FoothillsWindswept HeathBloodstained Mire

Flooded Strand: $14

Polluted Delta: $14

Windswept Heath: $11

Wooded Foothills: $10

Bloodstained Mire: $9

We have hit peak supply for Khans of Tarkir. In a week’s time, the supply of Khans of Tarkir would grind to a trickle. I can’t say for sure if we are at the price bottom for the the Khans fetches as the Return to Ravnice shocklands bottomed out only at May and the Theros temples during July and AugustThe difference of a few months could also be attributed to the different draft structures of the sets.

However, the fetchlands should be pretty damn close after their dip in the middle of February.

Windswept Heath Graph

Flooded Strand Graph

Fancy taking a dip in a strand or delta?
Fancy taking a dip in a strand or delta?

If you have yet to complete your playsets of fetchlands, there are not many things better to trade your overpriced Narset Transcendent into than helping you complete your playsets of fetches.

If you are looking for fetches as long-term investments, the appreciation you stand to gain from the fetches, especially the blue ones, far outweigh that of Narset Transcendent.

Seeing that we are at the peak supply of Khans of Tarkir, what other Khans of Tarkir cards are worth picking up with your Narset Transcendent?

Foil Non-planeswalker Narset

In this timeline, Narset's planeswalker spark was shaken, not stirred.
In this timeline, Narset’s planeswalker spark was shaken, but not stirred.

Since the release of Khans of Tarkir, Narset, Enlightened Master quickly rose among the ranks of the Khans to become one of the most popular commander (mirroring her rise to prominence among Ojutai’s clan in the new timeline. Vorthos alert).

It’s easy to see why: in a format that revels in resolving grand spells with prohibitively high mana cost, the possibilities are endless for a card that allows you to play spells without paying for them. It’s even better when you can play up to four of them.

Taking extra turns is one of the most popular thing to do with Narset. The Beacon of Tomorrows spike last November was attributed to Narset’s popularity. Narset also cheats in planeswalkers, which mean players could jam in all the best white, blue or red planeswalkers, including the new kid dragon planeswalker on the block, Ugin. Taking extra turns and manifesting a board of planeswalkers at the same time is one of the most fun thing to do in Commander, for the Narset player at least. Personally, I prefer to Long-term Plans for an Omniscience with my Narset, Enlightened Master trigger on the stack.

Narset has also been gaining traction in the Duel Commander scene.

Foil Narset, Enlightened Master is only $12 at the moment. With her popularity as a commander, foils at $12 would not be a bad investment. It definitely has more room to appreciate compared with Narset Planeswalker at $42.

Speaking of Khans…

Foil Anafenza, the Foremost

First and foremost, in Tiny Leaders and Duel Commander.
First and foremost, in Tiny Leaders and Duel Commander.

Now this is a more controversial pick. $14 seems steep for foil Anafenza, the Foremost. But I think she has a lot of potential to grow for the following reasons.

Anafenza is an immensely popular leader in Tiny Leaders. The majority of Abzan decks run Anafenzas their leader. Her +1/+1 counter has a wide range of synergies, and her second ability hoses a myriad of other popular leaders like Alesha, Who Smiles at Death and Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (running Anafenza against them felt close to cheating. True story).

On top of her popularity in Tiny Leaders, Anafenza is also the most played aggro commander in Duel Commander.

On the other hand, since Birthing Pod got the axe in Modern, Anafenza had all but disappeared from the Modern scene. Nevertheless, Tiny Leaders and Duel Commander demand should be sufficient to boost her price beyond her current $14. While she would not hit the $60s heights of foil Zur the Enchanter (whose foil price continued on a gradual hike even after Zur was banned in Duel Commander) as the supply of Khans of Tarkir is substantially higher than Coldsnap’s, it would not be hard to imagine foil Anafenza to hit at least $30 in the long run, especially when she has higher demand than Zur.

Foils Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, the most popular control commander for Duel Commander on top of being a popular fun police casual commander spiked up to $75 before he was reprinted in Modern Masters.

$14 is a safe entry point for foil Anafenza, the Foremost as her foil price is likely to be remain around that through her life in Standard, buoyed by tremendous casual demand.

Foil Dragonlords

Dragonlord OjutaiDragonlord SilumgarDragonlord DromokaDragonlord Atarka

Courtesy of the seeded prerelease packs, there will be plenty of players opening foil Dragonlords during the prerelease. As of writing, foil Dragonlord prices have yet to settle. Major retailers either do not stock them yet, or have sold out of them and eBay winning bids ranged from $10 to $20 per Dragonlord.

With the exception of Dragonlord Kolaghan (and I may even be wrong about foil Kolaghans), I would be happy to trade my $42 Narset Transcendent for a couple of foil Dragonlords.

I do not know if that exchange would yield profit in the short-term, foils of Dragonlords who does not see Standard play within the month may even drop in price when more Dragons of Tarkir hit the market. However, Narset Transcendent’s short and long-term trajectory are very likely to be downwards and even though foils of the Dragonlords-not-played-in-Standard may tank in the short run, you can bet they would be spike in the long run driven by casual and Commander demand, as I’ve advocated in my analysis of the Dragonlords. After all, they are the only foil Elder Dragons besides the From the Vaults: Dragons Nicol Bolas.

Finally, you reach for your single Fate Reforged pack, still giddy from ripping that Narset Transcendent. You have already covered your prerelease entry cost and ‘made a profit’. It doesn’t matter what you get in your last pack. 

You tear the Fate Reforged pack open with abandon. Straight to the rare slot, no slow reveal this time. 

It’s a foil Ugin, the Spirit Dragon


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Hall of the Dragonlords

By Guo Heng

Dragons. Elder Dragons. Dragonlords. 

Dragons of Tarkir is a Timmy’s and Vorthos’ dream come true. The definitive dragon set, Dragons of Tarkir contains the highest number of dragons we have ever seen in a Magic set and by extension also the highest as-fan of dragons.

And as if that was not enough, we were spoiled with the return of the Elder Dragon subtype, one of the most iconic creature type in Magic. They were the progenitor of the Commander format, and they were integral characters in early Magic lore. Well, modern Magic lore as well, if you consider Nicol Bolas an Elder Dragon even after his planeswalker spark ignited.

The excitement surrounding the introduction of five new Elder Dragons was palpable.  Elder Dragon was a rather rare creature type, appearing in only five cards throughout the twenty-two years of Magic’s existence. There are more Gods than there are Elder Dragons in the Magic universe.

Let’s take a look at the new Elder Dragons through our Magic finance monocles. Starting alphabetically we get have our largest of Dragonlords:

Atarka, Dragonlord Hodor

Mother of Bogardan Hellkites.
Mother of Bogardan Hellkites.

StarCityGames Presale: $9.99

ChannelFireball Presale: $6.99

TCG-Mid: $5.88

As you can see, I am not particularly fond of Dragonlord Atarka.

Standard: Dragonlord Atarka is the Magic dictionary’s definition of clunky. Yes, her enter the battlefield trigger will take down at least one creature in the current metagame of Siege Rhino, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon. She may even take down a relatively fresh-on-the-board Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, or a ticked down Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.

However, if you are going to tap for seven, you would want more than just a two-for-one. Think Hornet Queen, who usually nets you at least a three-for-one, or at least turn the tides and stabilize your board. Dragonlord Atarka could stabilize your board by taking out a creature and being a 8/8 blocking body, but her board presence is less resilient than Hornet Queen.

Dragonlord Atarka is one mana cheaper than the iconic Bogardan Hellkite but her enter the battlefield trigger does not target players. Which is a shame, because you could not finish off opponents merely resolving a Dragonlord Atarka.

It waits to be seen if Dragonlord Atarka will see play side-by-side with Frontier Siege as Cedric Philips proposed in his article spoiling Dragonlord Atarka.

Modern: Don’t even think about it. You can’t even Dragonstorm Dragonlord Atarka for the win. Not that Dragonstorm is a deck in Modern anyway.

Commander: Her rare version was more interesting, as /r/EDH noted. I concur with them; I would rather have a seven mana commander that renders my dragons double strike (Thundermaw Hellkite for ten).

Plus, Dragonlord Atarka’s enter the battlefield trigger of five damage is nothing to fete about in Commander games.

Verdict: Dragonlord Atarka is what happens when you attach a pair of wings on Hodor. Or give him a can of Red Bull. Dragonlord Atarka’s price would drop from her preorder price, and experience a slow rise through the years buoyed by casual demand.

Predictions:

1 month: $5 – $6

Peak supply at the release of Magic Origins (3 months, 3 weeks): Under $5

Long-term: $5 – $10

Invest in foils if you are looking to make some long-term dough off Dragonlord Atarka.

Dromoka, Dragonlord-in-Chief

Dragonlord she may be, Dromoka still does lookout duty from time to time.
Dragonlord she may be, Dromoka still does lookout duty from time to time.

StarCityGames Presale: $7.99

ChannelFireball Presale: $6.99

TCG-Mid: $6.25

When a card was spoiled in the Mothership’s Command Tower column, it probably makes a good commander.

Standard: Dragonlord Dromoka may be the second most playable Dragonlord in Standard. An uncounterable 5/7 flying lifelinker for six mana is already playable as the top-of-the-curve for GW decks or even Abzan decks.

The Grand Abolisher clause is mere icing on the cake. I imagine the opponent can’t cast spells during your turn ability to be not too useful when you hit six mana most of the time except maybe that time where your control opponent has no answer to Dragonlord Dromoka for a few turns.

Her 5/7 flying body walls the majority of popular creatures in the metagame, and with lifelink, she could turn the tide when you are behind in board position.

True to her clan’s roots, Dragonlord Dromoka is the epitome of grindy. Imagine Siege Rhino and Dragonlord Dromoka in the same deck.

Modern: Dragonlord Dromoka has the makings to cut it in Modern, but her six casting cost makes her chance slim. A resolved Dromoka could block Tarmogoyfs, Tasigurs and Lingering Souls all day long and turn the tide of grindy midrange mirrors with her lifelink, but tapping six mana for a threat vulnerable to Path to Exile is setting yourself up for tempo loss.

If she does see play in Modern, she would probably be a one-off in the sideboard of midrange decks or Zoo variants.

Commander: Here’s where Dragonlord Dromoka truly shines. Dragonlord Dromoka excels both as a commander and one of the 99.

The two most popular GW commanders as of writing are Captain Sisay and Karametra, God of Harvests. Being legendary herself, I have a feeling Dragonlord Dromoka would be an auto-include in Captain Sisay decks as a tutorable hatebear hatedragon with upsides.

I do not play a lot of multiplayer Commander, so I can’t tell if Dragonlord Dromoka is better than Karametra as a multiplayer commander. To be fair, they both cater to different builds.

Besides ramping, Karametra decks could abuse the top of their decks with Karametra’s ability to trigger a shuffle. A Dragonlord Dromoka deck have me giddy at the thought of resolving an uncontested Genesis Wave or any of the GW hard lock combos available.

Verdict: I am excited about Dragonlord Dromoka both financially and as a player. She has cross-format potential and could be one of the Dragonlords to end up with double-digit figures in the medium to long-term.

Predictions:

1 month: $8 – $10, up to $15 if she sees significant play during Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir.

Peak supply at the release of Magic Origins (3 months, 3 weeks): $10

Long-term: $15 – $20

I’m keeping an eye for foils of Dragonlord Dromoka when foils drop to slightly above $10. The current price of foil Narset, Enlightened Master, one of the most popular commanders from Khans of Tarkir which will be opened  more than Dragons of Tarkir (and presumably redeemed more as well, because foil fetches) is $10 – $12 right now, and with Dragons of Tarkir opened less, I would imagine foil Dragonlord Dromoka to drop to a slightly higher price at peak supply.

Kolaghan, Dragonlord Disappointment

Dragonlord Kolaghan

StarCityGames Presale: $3.99

ChannelFireball Presale: $3.99

TCG-Mid: $3.93

The cheapest of the Dragonlord in preorder price, Dragonlord Kolaghan was the most difficult to evaluate using theorycrafting. She could be decent, or totally crap.

At best, Dragonlord Kolaghan turns a few cards in your opponent’s hand into dead cards, that is until they draw into their Hero’s Downfall, Murderous Cut, Chained to the Rocks or Valorous Stance.

Without testing her out in real life, it is difficult to evaluate how triggerable her target opponent loses ten life clause is. Theorycrafting alone says that it would not be that often: it’s not often that control opponents resolve the same planeswalker twice, and the creature clause works best against creature-centric decks, but you don’t really want a six drop against those decks. Plus with the prevalence of Delve, you opponents could easily Delve away creatures in their graveyard to fuel a Murderous Cut.

Standard: RB is not a color combination that sees much play in the current Standard meta and unless an aggressive RB shell becomes a thing in Dragons of Tarkir Standard, I am pessimistic about the financial future of Dragonlord Kolaghan.

Plus, she gets picked out by fellow Dragonlord Atarka.

Modern: Nope.

Commander: Dragonlord Kolaghan seems to be designed with Commander in mind.

Verdict: I am tempted to put down Dragonlord Kolaghan as a bulk mythic. The only format she has any chance to make a break in is Standard and even if she does, she would unlikely be a four-of.

Predictions:

1 month: $2

Peak supply at the release of Magic Origins (3 months, 3 weeks): $2

Long-term: $5, on the merit of being an Elder Dragon.

I am not even sure if foil Dragonlord Kolaghan are good investments. Maybe if you can get them at bulk price, but she is an Elder Dragon and kitchen table demand may prevent her foil prices from descending to bulk.

Ojutai, Dragonlord Playable

It's a bird...it's a planeswalker...it's Ojutai!
It’s a bird…it’s a planeswalker…it’s Ojutai?

StarCityGames Presale: $5.99

ChannelFireball Presale: $5.99

TCG-Mid: $4.95

Dragonlord Ojutai has my vote as the most undervalued Dragonlord. True to his clan’s reverence of cunning, Dragonlord Ojutai is one of those cards that would probably turn to be much better than he looks once we get to play with him in our decks.

You can jam out Dragonlord Ojutai on turn five with impunity, knowing well he would survive to the next turn barring an End Hostilities or Crux of Fate. You can untap the turn after and have removals or protection up as you ride Dragonlord Ojutai to victory.

In the right build, I doubt it would be hard to connect once or twice with Dragonlord Ojutai to reap his value.

Standard: There are so many archetypes Dragonlord Ojutai could find a home in. He looks to be a good curve-topper for Jeskai burn where you could protect him with counterspells and clear the skies with burn to ride Ojutai’s value train.

Dragonlord Ojutai has synergy with Jeskai Ascendancy, and while the interaction looks cute, I am wary of discounting any Jeskai Ascendancy interactions as Jeskai Ascendancy has proven over and over again during Khans of Tarkir Standard that it is a powerful value engine that fits in a swath of Jeskai builds.

On a side note, you also get Vorthos points for the irony of running Dragonlord Ojutai in a Jeskai deck.

Dragonlord Ojutai could also find a perch as a finisher in UW or Esper Control decks. His mini-Brainstorm Ponder trigger digs you more gas, answers or Dig Through Time.

I do not know if Mono-Blue Devotion would be as viable as hyped once we enter Dragons of Tarkir Standard, but it would not be far-fetched to imagine Mono-Blue Devotion splashing white for Valorous Stance, Ephara, God of the Polis or Dragonlord Ojutai.

If needs be, Dragonlord Ojutai is able to trade with Siege Rhino and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. He is also the only Dragonlord immune to Dragonlord Silumgar’s charisma, which may be useful in control mirrors. Speaking of which, control mirrors may be a matchup where Dragonlord Ojutai excels as a pesky threat.

Unfortunately, Dragonlord Ojutai does not fare well against Stormbreath Dragon and if there is a factor that represses the playability of Dragonlord Ojutai, it would be the pervasiveness of Strombreath Dragon.

If that happens, I wouldn’t fret. Remember when Thundermaw Hellkite was cheap because he was unplayable in a Vapor Snag and Snapcaster Mage Standard?

Modern: Dragonlord Ojutai’s five casting cost puts him at the fringe of Modern playability. UW is not really a thing in Modern and I imagine Jeskai builds would rather run Keranos, God of Storms, or just plain Stormbreath Dragon over Dragonlord Ojutai.

Commander: Dragonlord Ojutai has the potential to be a control or stax commander, being relatively cheap and having in-built protection which plays well with the veritable selection of enchantments and artifacts that grants vigilance.

It would also be easier to trigger Dragonlord Ojutai’s ability in a multiplayer game.

Verdict: I think Dragonlord Ojutai is tied with Dragonlord Silumgar as the most playable Dragonlord. He is chock-full of potential in Standard and is Commander-playable.

Predictions:

1 month: $10 – $15

Peak supply at the release of Magic Origins (3 months, 3 weeks): $10 – $15

Long-term: It depends on how popular Dragonlord Ojutai is as a commander and if anyone breaks him in Modern (what are the odds? Low in my opinion).

Dragonlord Ojutai is one of the few cards I am preordering. It baffles me that he is preordering for less than Dragonlord Atarka.

Silumgar, Dragonlord Charisma

From Reddit: Draw me like one of your Dragonlords.
From Reddit: Draw me like one of your Dragonlords.

StarCityGames Presale: $7.99

ChannelFireball Presale: $6.99

TCG-Mid: $5.12

Reid Duke ran a good piece analysing Dragonlord Silumgar last week (his verdict: 7/10). I wrote extensively about Dragonlord Silumgar in my previous article (mainly praises). Without rehashing too much from both articles, Dragonlord Silumgar is easily the best of the Dragonlords.

Standard: UB and Sultai Control are obvious homes for Dragonlord Silumgar. Whether he belongs in the sideboard or mainboard is more contentious. I am of opinion Dragonlord Silumgar is good enough to see mainboard play.

Dragonlord Silumgar stabilizes the board  with his Charisma trigger and five toughness which allows him to wall Siege Rhinos, Tasigurs and Stormbreath Dragon all day long. Not that they usually come back for a second encounter seeing that Dragonlord Silumgar has deathtouch.

Due to his very convenient three power, Dragonlord Silumgar is the only Dragonlord who does not die to Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

Dragonlord Silumgar excels in control match ups as well, being an answer to opposing planes walkers that would steal the game if your opponent does not have an answer to Dragonlord Silumgar in return. Or conveniently ultimating your opponent’s planeswalker, but I imagine players would be playing around that possibility shall he becomes a mainstay of the Standard meta.

Modern: Sower of Temptation barely sees play in Modern and Sower only costs four. I doubt Dragonlord Silumgar would cut it in the current Modern meta where Path to Exile is so pervasive.

Perhaps if the meta shifts towards less Path of Exile, Dragonlord Silumgar may have a chance, but I highly doubt it. Six mana is prohibitive unless it’s  a Primeval Titan.

Commander: In my previous article, I mentioned that Dragonlord Silumgar seems to be designed with Standard rather than Commander in mind, but better Commander minds think Dragonlord Silumgar may have a spot as one of the 99. I can’t argue with that.

Come to think of it, stealing big creatures or opposing Jace, the Mind Sculptor, would be quite fun in Commander. Dragonlord Silumgar is just not cut as a Commander himself.

Verdict: Dragonlord Silumgar, alongside with Dragonlord Ojutai would probably be the two Elder Dragons that see the most play in Standard. 7/10 in Reid Duke’s assessment is a pretty good, and I would venture to say Dragonlord Silumgar looks to be pushed in design.

Prediction:

1 month: $10 – $12

Peak supply at the release of Magic Origins (3 months, 3 weeks): $10 – $12

Long-term: Dragonlord Silumgar will probably maintain a mid $10s price tag through the majority of his Standard life.

Dragonlord Silumgar is a fine preorder if you want to play with him. While I think Dragonlord Silumgar has potential in Standard, I doubt he would be a four-of like Whisperwood Elemental, which is currently $14.

Also, a Dragonlord who wears the highly playable Tasigur as a necklace can’t be bad right?

All Hail the Dragonlords

Regardless of how much play they see in Standard, the Dragonlords will be casual hits. Kitchen table demand may actually be a strong driver for the price of the Dragonlords  due to their immense casual appeal.

Casual demand is the invisible hand (I am totally misusing Adam Smith’s term) that drove up the price of angels and dragons and I would imagine the Elder Dragons to be the primary chase cards among the kitchen table crowd.

The kitchen table is where Dragonlord Atarka and Dragonlord Kolaghan have the best chance of being a hit. Dragonlord Atarka is the embodiment of the ultimate Timmy dragon. Kitchen table players are more likely than spikes to attempt abusing Dragonlord Kolaghan’s very situational ten damage clause.

It baffles me as to why Dragonlord Ojutai is one of the cheapest Dragonlord to preorder. Perhaps his prowess on the board would be better than what he looks like on the computer screen.

If the price trajectory of the foil Avacyn Restored angels – Avacyn, Gisela, Sigarda and Bruna –  are anything to go by, Dragonlord foils would make for good long-term investments due to their immense casual and Commander appeal.

Of course, the month or two after release is not the best time to amass your foil Elder Dragons. Wait for Dragons of Tarkir to hit peak supply when Magic Origins is release when Dragons of Tarkir would have been drafted for nearly four months and redemption is in full swing.

In my previous article I mentioned that Dragons of Tarkir – Fate Reforged would ‘grind to a halt when Modern Masters 2015 is released’. I may be wrong about that.

While Wizards is ramping up the print run for Modern Masters 2015, the price of one Modern Masters 2015 pack would be three times the price of a Dragons of Tarkir booster pack. I don’t imagine the casual crowd to switch over to just drafting Modern Masters 2015 for the month between the release of Modern Masters 2015 and Magic Origins.

I suspect the supply of Dragons of Tarkir card would still trickle into the market after the release of Modern Masters 2015 and would only grind to a halt except for redemption once Magic Origin comes out.

Comments are more than welcomed, drop one below or catch me on Twitter at @theguoheng. Till then, may the Dragonlords be with you.

Edit: An earlier version of this article cited that Dragonlord Silumgar does not die to Valorous Stance, which is not true. A reader pointed out that Valorous stance actually checks the creature’s toughness, not power.

My bad. Running foreign language copies of Valorous Stance in my deck, I’ve always read it as “Destroy target Siege Rhino or Tasigur, the Golden Fang”.


 

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