Tag Archives: Standard

City of Traders: the Fiscal Axis of M14

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By Travis Allen

By the time you read this, it will be a few days past the Magic 2014 pre-release. While you were all jammed together with sweaty nerds in the heat of July in card shops without air conditioning, I will have been tanning getting burned on the sunny sand of Myrtle Beach. We’re all back to the real (fantasy) world by now though, and my goal is to provide some additional perspective on the fiscal axis of M14.

Before we take a look at any specific cards, there’s a well-worn point that yet bears repeating: purchasing or trading for cards at this point in the set’s life cycle is almost unquestionably a poor choice through the lens of value. For every Sphinx’s Revelation or Voice of Resurgence, there are a lot more Armada Wurms or Koths. A set’s cards just cannot maintain the price attributed to them during the pre-release period. Anything you buy into is significantly more likely to lose value rather than gain. If your goal is to make money, you have to be exceptionally confident that you’re better at predicting a card’s trajectory than many other very intelligent people attempting to do the exact same thing. About the only time I would really recommend getting in now is if you notice a very powerful, very obscure combo that nobody else seems to have picked up on yet (e.g. Dark Depths + Vampire Hexmage.) In general, it is far more prudent to wait several weeks for the prices to settle to reasonable levels, and then jump in. If you’re picking up a playset because you need it to compete, or your goal is to hedge against future price increases, that’s understandable, but speculating this early on is a fool’s game.

A strategy I like to use for pre-releases is to go in with a plan. If I show up without any trade targets in mind, I let myself get caught up in the hype and end up trading for cards that have nowhere to go but down. Instead, sit down and open up the notepad app on your phone. Make a short list of specific cards you’d like to acquire. That way, while everyone else is chattering about the new cardboard, you can be trading your inflated property for under-valued targets that will be rising in coming weeks rather than falling. That said, let’s take a pass through the spoiler and see what catches our attention.

 

Scavenging Ooze

The reason I put this card first is because this card is b-a-n-a-n-a-s oozenanas. I’m convinced that anyone that dismisses its power level has simply never cast it. The ability on this guy ranges from tangentially useful to game-dominating. In his worst matchups, he’s a reasonable threat that keeps growing while the life-gain and graveyard-consumption will be inconsequential. In some of his better matchups, he’ll provide you enough life to race or keep your head above water against aggro. In yet others the ooze will singlehandedly shut down your opponent’s strategy by blanking their entire graveyard. Read Ooze again: it exiles any card, not just creature cards.Granted you only get the +1/+1 counter and the life from slurping up corpses, I don’t think you’ll be complaining when your ooze is happily munching on Unburial Rites or Past in Flames.He’s not a one-ride pony, either. Every girl at the party gets a turn: Scavenging Ooze is going to be even more important in Modern than Standard. Out of the top 16 decks from GP Kansas City, there was exactly one deck that didn’t care about its graveyard at all. Read that again: one out of sixteen decks had no interaction with their graveyard in Modern. The rest had some combination of diverse threats such as Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster, Kitchen Finks, or Goryo’s Vengeance. He’s going to have incidental value against a gigantic swath of the field, and be a severe threat to a significant portion. Here’s another way to appreciate his wide-spread application: in Legacy, Maverick decks cut Tarmogoyf completely for Scavenging Ooze.

What other factors are going to affect the price of the ooze? He was in the first wave of Commander precons, so there’s a small supply of him out there already. He’s also the Steam promo for DOTP, which will definitely help suppress his value. The flipside of that is the quantity of formats in which he is relevant. Most recently, the best parallel I can think of is Thragtusk. He’s a high-utility green creature against many decks, his casting cost is not restrictive, and he’s not a single-copy threat in the same vein as Aetherling. Thragtusk peaked at $30, and spent very little time at less than $10:

Thragtusk. August 2012 - July 2013.
Thragtusk. August 2012 – July 2013.

While there are fewer copies of Thragtusk in circulation, Scavenging Ooze is relevant in every real format. So overall, there will be more copies of Ooze available, but both more and longer-term demand. With that consideration, if Ooze ever gets below $10, I’d start getting in aggressively. I expect his demand will spike once the Modern PTQ season begins and he’s needed concurrently in Standard, Modern and Legacy. Even if for some reason he didn’t rebound while he’s still legal in Standard, he certainly will once M14 rotates and he continues to be a premier 2-drop in Modern.

 

Archangel of Thune

I’m a lot less excited about this card than many in the multiverse are, and I’m seeing conflicting reports. Gerry T thinks she is reasonable, but isn’t too high on her making that much of an impact. Sam Black didn’t even mention it in his set review. Meanwhile, others are hailing her as the venerated Real Deal. The closest thing I can liken Archangel of Thune to is Sublime Archangel.  Both are midrange white angels that want to beat your opponent up, and reward you heavily for having lots of bodies.  Sublime Archangel showed up a little over her tenure, although accomplished nothing of note. Having said that, Sublime Archangel spent months above $20, and only recently slipped below $10. Archangel of Thune is a mythic, an angel, and the type of player that likes angels is likely to like lifegain. Sam Stoddard also pointed out some nifty synergies with things like Seraph Sanctuary. Her usefulness really depends on what sort of methods there are to gain life. A soul warden on steroids in Theros could certainly push her over the edge. Overall, I think $30 is unwarranted, but even if she sees absolutely no play in Standard, she’ll likely be $6-10. With only transient Standard play, $15-20+ is certainly viable. This card is probably the one on the list I am most unsure of.

 

Bonescythe Sliver

He’s currently $2 on SCG. If you can get these for $1 in trade, I’d get in on it. Double Strike may as well be Alpha Strike. It never even has to do anything relevant in Standard to be worth $3-4 at some point due to it being a Sliver.

 

Burning Earth

Plenty recognize this for the gut-wrench-inducing effect it is against some players. I personally remember playing Turboland, ready to untap and unleash a torrent of spells with my 9 lands in play after finally stabilizing against a red deck. Then he cast Manabarbs, and I basically lost on the spot. This will be capable of similar gastrointestinal torment. It’s only $1 on SCG at the moment, but with only a single copy in stock. I can’t imagine ever having to take less than $1 for this in trade, and it could easily be a several dollar card, as it has a distinct chance of transcending sideboard-grade into being main deckable. This will be great to try and pick up as a throw-in from players that remember Manabarbs being a cheap card, forgetting that there were 11 printings.

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Chandra, Pyromaster

There has already been a fair amount written about Chandra so far by others. Without reading a single word on the card, it’s important to consider the climate into which this card is released. M14 has Chandra’s face plastered all over it. I find it unlikely that Wizards would make her the central theme of a set and then put out another smoldering pile of a planeswalker. My gut feeling is that, like many planeswalkers, she’s better than people are originally giving her credit for. $25 is definitely far too much money to for us to be interested, but there’s certainly a point at which we get in. Gideon, Champion of Justice is $4, and Vraska is $7, so I’d say $5 is roughly her floor. With that in mind, keep an eye out for how she fares in the format, and look closely at anything we learn about future sets that may indicate a greater value in her abilities. There may be a lot more relevancy to “can’t block” in Theros than there is right now. It’s also worth noting that after going all out with her in M14, it’s unlikely they’ll do a complete redesign just a year later, so expect to see the Pyromaster in M15 as well.

 

Elite Arcanist

This card seems like one of the better chances to be a sleeper out of any I’ve seen so far at a mere $1. Several players who are far better than I have gone out of their way to mention how good it seems. In a format where removal is sparsely played, a 1/1 that generates a powerful effect repeatedly is king. It could end up doing nothing, but Dungeon Geists were $1 at one point too, then everyone saw Jon Finkel casting it. I’m not saying this card is Dungeon Geists, but rather we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss it.

Dungeon Geists. Feb 2012 - July 2013.
Dungeon Geists. Feb 2012 – July 2013.

 

Fiendslayer Paladin

$8 seems way too high for this guy, but I like him a lot, and not only because my inner 17 year-old thinks his art is super sweet. He’s not quite protection from Black or Red, but protection from Black and Red removal is still solid. We’ve already had a 2/2 first strike lifelink for WW before, so we’re only paying 1 for the added pseudo-protection. With Doom Blade and Shock in the M14 spoiler, he’s probably going to be safe from a majority of the removal in the format. If in the next few weeks we see Standard shift to all Doom Blades and Pillars and Incinerates, he could be great in 3-drop Hexproof with a pile of mana dorks next to Witchstalker and Geist. It’s also possible that Knight ends up being a relevant creature type in Theros. Watch this guy closely. At worst, you have a playset of sweet-looking Knights.

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Garruk, Caller of Beasts

I haven’t read as much about Garruk as Chandra, but he seems real legit, and it’s easy to imagine scenarios where he’s just busted. A turn one elf with a Farseek sometime in the next two turns means a turn 4 Garruk, who spits out an Armada Wurm. You could have just cast the Armada Wurm, but now you get a Planeswalker that’s threatening a never-ending stream of action next turn and two blockers to make sure he gets there. There’s also the combo-esque element of him where you’re slamming Craterhoof Behemoths into a board full of elves and Elvish Archdruid, or putting Worldspine Wurm into play seven turns early (at FNM). I’d watch him closely, because if he drops below $10 at any point, a single breakout performance at a GP (likely at the hands of Brad Nelson or Brian Kibler) will quickly double his price.

 

Imposing Sovereign

A 2-mana 2-power creature is always close to castable in certain Standards. A 2-power 2-drop that puts your opponent’s ability to block behind by an entire turn is definitely playing ball.  While very similar to Blind Obedience, I’m guessing that 2-power attacker will be worth more damage than extort in most games. Reading Twitter, I get the impression this card may be slipping through some cracks at the moment. It’s preordering sold out at $3 while I write this, and it seems like it could quite easily be a $5-$8 card depending on how prominent it becomes. I’d watch this very closely, because this is the exact type of card you can get people to under-value in a trade when it starts to sneak up.

Speaking of which, I find it odd that Wizards would print this on the heels of Blind Obedience. It leads me to believe that the “no blocking” mechanic may be particularly relevant in Theros. It’s not limited to just these two cards, either. Blind Obedience and Imposing Sovereign are similar in a sideways manner to Chandra’s +1. Not blocking is shaping up to be available in several flavors at the moment. Sam Stoddard mentioned that the synergy in M14 with the fall set is a lot more subtle than Farseek and Arbor Elf were. Maybe it’s something, maybe it’s not.

 

Into the Wilds

God, I wish.

 

Kalonian Hydra

Zvi Mowshowitz was talking about this card, and when Zvi goes out of his way to discuss particular cards, I pay close attention. It has a lot of hype right now, and is sold out at $30. This number is inflated without any results, so unless it comes thundering out of the gates, expect a pretty rapid crash. As a Mythic though, it will always have the possibility of tripling in price after spiking an event. It certainly is the most competitive Hydra printed so far. It suffers from the MTGS-maligned problem of doing nothing except eating doom blade before your attack phase, but when it attacks, boy does it ever. Don’t forget that this hydra is BFFs with Corpsejack Menace, taking advantage of the replacement effect twice by the time he’s in the red zone, meaning he’s a whopping 24/24 trampler. As far as “do nothing” creatures go, he does nothing until he’s sideways and killing your opponent. Like several other powerful cards without an immediate home, this has the possibility to pull a roller-coaster. Skyrocket pre-release, crash post-release, then spike an event and skyrocket again.

 

Liliana’s Reaver

Cards of this type have historically been too weak to see play by any but the most mindless zombie aficionado, whether because they cost too much or don’t do enough when you finally get them to connect. Reaver has an outside shot at bringing honor to his genealogy though. It gives you another attacker next turn, and makes it tougher for your opponent to fight back by stripping resources. Remember when I was talking about how many ways there were to make blocking less reliable in this format? You’ve also got the semi-hyped Lifebane Zombie to remove any restorative angelic figures that may swoop in unexpectedly ahead of time. This is card I’ll definitely be trying to get as a throw-in during trades. If it goes nowhere, it won’t have cost me much, and if it does, I’ll look like a genius.

Edit: I wrote this bit about Liliana’s Reaver before I realized it was an intro pack rare. I’m leaving my initial reaction to him intact so that you can see the thought process. Let this be a lesson that it’s important to be aware of additional product Wizards is putting out and the impact that product will have on card prices. All in all, that piece of information sets his ceiling a little lower than I anticipated; perhaps around $4-5. Still, there’s room to profit on him as good throw-in fodder.

 

Mutavault

$15 for this card is close to the cheapest it has ever been. Mutavault been a player in Legacy for years. It hasn’t done too much in Modern yet, but that’s to the surprise of many. That format is rather combo-heavy at the moment, but if Wizards decides to push things back towards battling again, it could quickly become a big player. I can definitely see it seeing play in a basic-heavy list alongside Burning Earth. Helping it’s case is that almost any deck that wants one Mutavault wants four. I don’t see a time this card was ever less than $10, so I’d be willing to get in on any copies I could get at that price or lower. Even if it doesn’t immediately rebound, it will in time.

 

Ogre Battledriver

If you untap with Ogre Battledriver, your opponent is in a world of hurt. Can you imagine casting Increasing Devotion with this in play? Hah. It also works pretty well with Young Pyromancer, another card lots of red mages have been chatting about. The biggest hurdle to overcome here is that he’s an intro pack rare, which will set a pretty low ceiling on him. Even so, $3-5 isn’t impossible. If you’re paying almost nothing for him in a trade, I’d go for it.

 

Path of Bravery

I don’t really care for Path of Bravery, but players better than I think it’s worth discussing. I bring it up because at the moment it’s only $2 on SCG. Any lower and it’s a fairly low-risk target.

 

Primeval Bounty

I only mention this card because as I was flipping through the spoiler, saw the art, recognized the card, and in my head guessed $.50. Then I saw it was A) a Mythic, and B) sold out at $8. What? Let it crash to $1 before you pick it up for EDH.

 

Sanguine Bond

Just pointing this out because two weeks ago I told you how to avoid getting hit by reprints, and this card was most assuredly reprintable.

 

Savage Summoning

This is not a $6 card. This is not even a $1 card. Certain players really, really hate counterspells. Don’t be suckered into trading for it.

 

Scourge of Valkas

Look for cheap foils. He will be popular for dragon-centric EDH decks.

A quick note about all five planeswalkers – there is going to be an all-black promo of each at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. In traditional Wizards fashion with limited-run product, the box of five will retail for the ludicrously low price of $65. It’s going to be available at SDCC, then there’ll be what I’m assuming will be an incredibly small supply available on the Hasbro website following the event. These things are going to be bonkers expensive. First of all, they’re going to be real scarce. Probably Book Jace scarce, who by the way is currently about $180. Second of all, they’re not just a simple alt-art promo; they’ll be the only Magic cards in existence to be printed with this design. On top of all this, not only is it an incredibly unique style, they also happen to be all black, which will certainly appeal to the angsty teen that is still alive and well in the heart of many anime-watching Magic nerds. I fully expect sealed packages to be $500 within about a year, and I see it entirely possible they’ll be $700 or more down the road. The only thing that will prevent these from hitting astronomic prices is that we already know three are virtually uncastable outside of Standard, and I don’t have high eternal hopes for the new Garruk or Chandra either.

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Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze is playing out this weekend in San Diego. While it’s true the Block format the Pro Tour features this time around isn’t widely played, it can provide a sneak peek into which cards may be good in Standard once the Innistrad block rotates out in a few months. Therefore, even though there might be a dominant deck, the cards found within the deck may not drastically rise since few people play the Block format. However, it will still definitely be worth keeping track of the popular cards, as they may be the key building blocks for Standard in a few months’ time, and may foreshadow which strategies will do well, and which cards may raise in price.

Speaking of looking ahead to future Standard, I would sell all the Standard-legal Reanimator pieces right now, such as Angel of Serenity. Why? Because Scavenging Ooze is going to be reprinted in M14. This legacy staple has a very high power level, and will see high levels of play regardless of how prevalent Reanimator decks appear in the metagame. In legacy, some have said they prefer to play this card instead of Tarmogoyf, because it can get as big as Tarmogoyf – if not bigger – relatively easily, and they like the utility of graveyard hate attached to a major threat. The effectiveness of Scavenging Ooze at removing cards from the graveyard, combined with providing a relatively quick clock, will definitely put a crimp in the plans of what Reanimator decks are trying to do.

Plasm Capture as of May 19, 2013
Plasm Capture as of May 19, 2013

One strong interaction in Standard that hasn’t yet seen widespread play is Plasm Capture into Aetherling (or the more commonly used Sphinx’s Revelation). Aetherling is a stupendous creature; it is virtually impossible to kill, and because of its built in evasion and pump, it ends games very quickly once it has been cast. It does cost a bit of mana to play, but once it enters the battlefield, it has a significant impact on the game. With Plasm Capture being available, it enables the deck to counter a spell on turn four, and then next turn cast Aetherling and leave mana up to flicker Aetherling if needed to make it impervious to any removal spells. With Plasm Capture and Aetherling both only costing around $4, they both have room to grow if this synergy gains traction.

Have fun watching the Pro Tour this weekend. I’m very excited to see which decks and cards will do well.

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Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

Advent of the Wurm
Advent of the Wurm. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Grand Prix Portland is coming up this weekend, which brings Modern cards to the forefront of peoples’ minds again. However, this is an out-of-season format, so if there’s an unexpected deck or card that does well and jumps up in price, I would unload any copies you’ve obtained quickly. People will soon realize that the Modern PTQ season is still over half a year away. That realization will cause the cards’ price to swiftly drop again until the Modern PTQ season approaches, so make sure you have an outlet where you can rapidly sell any card you speculate on for this tournament.

One card that I believe is primed to rise in price due to Grand Prix Portland is Beck // Call. Elves is the brand new deck that is made possible by Beck // Call; a Glimpse of Nature clone. Glimpse of Nature is banned from the Modern format for being too powerful, and is currently at $25. Beck // Call has the same effect as Glimpse of Nature for a miniscule one additional blue mana, and is a bargain at a meager $2. With both the Fetchlands and Shocklands available in the Modern format, the additional color requirement is not much of an issue. The additional mana cost is a little annoying, but Modern is not a super-fast format right now, since Storm and Eggs got banned, and the Elves deck is good at generating extra mana. In addition, Beck // Call can be more powerful than Glimpse of Nature in certain situations: Glimpse of Nature demands a creature spell to be played to satisfy the prerequisite to draw a card, whereas Beck // Call merely needs a creature to enter the battlefield. This difference can become relevant if you want to fetch a Dryad Arbor into play mid-combo, where it will draw you an additional card if you’ve played Beck // Call, whereas with Glimpse of Nature it will have accomplished nothing.

Switching gears over to Standard, I think that token and populate cards have a great opportunity to rise in price. Advent of the Wurm is a terrific card that has already seen some success at last weekend’s SCG Open. With the addition of Advent of the Wurm to the token arsenal, a dedicated token deck might be ready to become a contender; there might finally be enough under-costed token creators to make a potent token themed deck. Token creators such as Call of the Conclave, the angel from an attacking Geist of Saint Traft, and Advent of the Wurm are all prime populate targets.

Because of the abundance of quality token creatures, I would keep my eye on Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Scion of Vitu-Ghazi, and perhaps on Growing Ranks as well. Trostani was $15 at one point, and only dropped down to its current price of $5 because there weren’t enough quality targets to populate. With Advent of the Wurm added to that cache, Trostani could easily double in price.

Scion of Vitu-Ghazi is an army all in one card; at worst it’s essentially a Cloudgoat Ranger, which saw lots of play when Lorwyn was in Standard. However, most of the time it will be able to create an additional copy of the best creature on your battlefield, in addition to bringing its 4/4 body and bird token into play. At a measly $1, there is very little risk in trading for this card.

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Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

All the cards from Dragon’s Maze have finally been spoiled. The new cards from Dragon’s Maze have enabled several two-card-combos that have significant potential in both the Standard and Modern formats. These cards may not fit into ready-made decks, but they are just waiting for a prospective deckbuilder to find the right fit for them to rise in value.

Beginning with Standard, we now have the Whispering Madness plus Notion Thief combo. When these two cards are played together, they add up to your opponent discarding their hand while you draw an abundance of cards. I think you can usually manage to win after achieving that. Right now Whispering Madness is at the low price of $0.68, so the entry cost to get in on this card is very low.

Whispering Madness as of April 23, 2013.
Whispering Madness as of April 23, 2013.

While it is debatable how tournament worthy this combo is, casual appeal alone should drive this card up to a few dollars at least. Other options besides Whispering Madness that also combine with Notion Thief are Reforge the Soul, if you want to dip into red, and Otherworld Atlas for double the card draw with no downside. These support cards that combo with Notion Thief are all under a dollar right now, so there is very little risk in speculating in these cards. Even if the price doesn’t go up, they should trade very well because of this combo, so you can just flip them into something else you want. If you want to use this combo in Modern, any symmetrical draw effect such as Howling Mine works well.

The next combo is best utilized in Modern, where we can take advantage of Intruder Alarm plus Beck and Call. When Beck was first spoiled, the price of Cloudstone Curio immediately shot up to $10.00. Intruder Alarm has the potential to follow that same rise, as it is not immediately apparent which combo piece the Modern Elves deck wants to use in conjunction with Beck. Intruder Alarm works better at creating massive amounts of mana, while Cloudstone Curio is better at drawing extra cards after Beck has been played. Whichever card (or maybe it will be both) ends up getting played in the Elves deck, I expect it will maintain a high value, as Elves was among the most powerful decks in Modern before Glimpse of Nature became banned.

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The last combo I’ll write about for today is Death’s Shadow plus Varolz, the Scar-Striped, to be used in Modern. With Varolz in play, any Death’s Shadows that are in the graveyard can be scavenged back to grant a permanent +13/+13 to a creature.

Death's Shadow as of April 23, 2013.
Death’s Shadow as of April 23, 2013.

One good aspect of Death’s Shadow is that you have control over whether you want to play it immediately to see it die for its scavenge counters, or to hold onto it to use as a big creature later on, depending on your situation. I could easily see these cards fitting into a Vengevine deck, along with all the other usual suspects.

One last note for now: Staff of Domination was just unbanned in EDH, so don’t forget to adjust your price accordingly when trading! The foil price, especially, has gone up.

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