I was at a bit of a loss for what to write about this week.
Not because the world of Magic Finance has been dull lately – far from it. In fact, I’m not sure there’s ever been a more eventful summer from a Magic finance perspective. All those new sets might be a little exhausting at times, but it sure has kept things interesting during a time of year that’s usually rather sedate.
There’s so much going on across every axis of the Magic community. We’ve got a brand-new Standard format, a major banning in Modern, and a new set and a series of significant bans and unbans in Commander. Focusing on any one format would mean giving short shrift to something else, and that just didn’t feel right.
My solution? I’ll try to cover everything that’s going on right now, one card at a time. We’re going to talk about the breakout decks in Core Set 2020 Standard, the biggest Modern busts in the post-Bridge from Below metagame, and the latest Commander trends – all through the lens of key cards that are spiking, dropping, or on the cusp of some pretty major price movement.
Rising: Cavalier of Thorns – $12
Cavalier of Thorns has been one of the biggest winners out of Core Set 2020 so far, and the green mythic looks like it’s going to play a major role in at least three decks in the new Standard metagame. The first, Temur Elementals, plays off the interaction between Risen Reef and Omnath, Locus of the Roil in order to ramp as fast as possible. The second, Simic Nexus, eschews the Omnath engine in favor of Nexus of Fate. And then there’s Temur Flood, which plays off the interaction between Flood of Tears and Omniscience.
At this point, Cavalier of Thorns looks like the Core Set 2020 mythic with the most promise. If a couple of top decks end up needing three to four copies of this card, it’ll end up as a $20-$25 format staple. That’s a solid profit for a mythic that’s currently just $12, and I’d recommend grabbing a set ASAP if you’re a heavy Standard player.
Rising: Omnath, Locus of the Roil – $16
Omnath looks like the real deal when paired with Risen Reef, and this card will be an easy $20-$25 if Temur Elementals ends up being one of the top decks in the new metagame. I’ve seen it starting to show up in some of the Temur Flood lists too. The card is very good.
My only issue is that Cavalier of Thorns is the better spec, since it’s currently cheaper and more likely to end up in multiple Tier 1 lists. Regardless, I think the metagame is trending toward both cards seeing a lot more play than I had originally anticipated, and I wouldn’t mind owning a set of each at current retail.
Rising: Other Simic Standard Staples
These cards haven’t shown any price movement yet, but I wanted to highlight just how much of the new Standard metagame looks like it’s going to be based around my two favorite colors, blue and green. Between Simic Nexus, Simic Flash, Temur Elementals, Temur Flood, and Sultai Midrange, there are at least five interesting Standard decks right now that lean heavily on Simic cards. Cavalier of Thorns and Omnath might be the hot new kids on the block, but most of these decks rely on old standbys like Hydroid Krasis and Nissa, Who Shakes the World too.
My word of caution here is that mid-to-late summer is the time of year when Standard prices are affected the least by changes in the metagame. Since rotation is coming in just a few months, a lot of folks simply don’t want to invest in a new deck right now. That said, these Simic staples are still going to be good post-rotation, and they can absolutely still thrive in a post-Nexus world. Not only do cards like Tamiyo and Nissa have a decent amount of short-term potential, but they should be solid long-term holds, too.
Rising: Dreadhorde Arcanist – $11
You may have missed Dreadhorde Arcanist’s upward price movement because there was no sudden spike. Instead, the card has gone up by a buck or two every week for the past month or so. Now it’s above $10 and shows no signs of slowing down.
Why is Dreadhorde Arcanist gaining value? Turns out, cards that are good in literally every Magic format tend to do that. Not only is Dreadhorde Arcanist is an excellent Commander card, it sees play in Standard Boros Feather, Legacy Izzet Delver, and Modern decks like Mardu Pyromancer and Mardu Death’s Shadow. Yeah, the demand here is 100% legitimate.
Dreadhorde Arcanist is poised to gain even more ground if the Feather decks become Tier 1 either in the post-Core Set 2020 or the post-rotation metagame. And even if that doesn’t happen, you’re pretty well backstopped by Commander and eternal play. I have very little doubt that Dreadhorde Arcanist will be a $20+ card at some point soon, and I’d snag a set ASAP if I didn’t have one yet.
Falling: Vivien, Arkbow Ranger – $10
Week 1 of Core Set 2020 Standard is in the books, so the cards that didn’t make much of an initial impact have begun to fall. Not only is Vivien, Arkbow Ranger taking a serious tumble right now, but so are Kethis, the Hidden Hand; Lotus Field; Kaalia, Zenith Seeker; and Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer.
Not all these cards are going to be busts, and some of them might even rebound as soon as later this week, but I’m all about moving on from cards like this ASAP. People tend to underestimate just how far cards can drop from their pre-order prices, and I’d rather bail too soon than too late.
Falling: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria – $50
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria has had one of the most robust and dominant runs of any card in any Standard format, ever. It’s rare for a card to be $50+ almost wire-to-wire, never really falling out of favor, but Teferi has done the job. Once Teferi actually does start dropping in price, it’s going to seem rather odd.
The fact that Teferi sees play in Modern should keep its price tag from dipping below $10, but I still suspect that you’ll be able to buy in for $20 or so in early September. Teferi hasn’t actually started dropping in price yet, but the signs are imminent. If you’ve got a set of Teferis that you think you’ll be playing in Modern for years to come, feel free to hold and just save yourself the headache. Otherwise, I suggest moving on from these at some point in the next couple of weeks.
Rising: Wrenn and Six – $80
Modern Horizons has a new marquee card, and it’s one of the best planeswalkers ever printed. Wrenn and Six has been popping up all over Modern and Legacy for weeks now, but things really kicked into high gear last week. It began with a report that Wrenn and Six was practically sold out on the European market, and it got even more wild once folks learned that the card was up to 100 tickets(!) on Magic Online. Nobody wanted to miss out on the next major Modern staple, so Wrenn and Six jumped from $60 up to $80 and that price appears to be sticking for now.
While some people definitely bought into Wrenn and Six because of FOMO, that wasn’t the only reason why its price jumped. Wrenn and Six sees quite a bit of play right now, and it’s clear at this point that the entirety of Modern Horizons was being undervalued. Even though this is a print-to-demand set, the market for sealed boxes seems to have been rather low due to the high buy-in cost and the set’s proximity to both War of the Spark and Core Set 2020. It just doesn’t make sense for a lot of small shops to open a bunch of $180 boxes and hope, especially since they won’t get full playsets of the in-demand cards without cracking a bunch of them, which means that the available supply of these cards is likely to remain pretty low.
At some point, Modern Horizons prices might get so high that it starts to make sense for a lot of folks to simply buy and crack boxes themselves. In fact, buying boxes at retail right now and either cracking or holding them long-term seems fine to me. But even if cards like Wrenn and Six are a tad overpriced right now, it isn’t by much, and there is enough legitimate demand to sustain this card in the $70-$100 range. If you’re looking to buy in for your own personal collection, I wouldn’t sweat the expense. Even if Wrenn and Six drops a little as it settles down over the next few weeks, it won’t be much and it won’t be for long.
Rising: Hexdrinker – $20
Spoiler alert: Hexdrinker is currently sold out at $20 on Star City Games, and it won’t be that low when you read this article on Monday. Even the most-maligned mythic rare in Modern Horizons is on the move in a pretty big way.
Hexdrinker actually sees play in several Modern decks, but this spike is almost entirely due to the resurgence of Jund, a deck that has been given new life thanks to Modern Horizons cards like Hexdrinker, Wrenn and Six, and Seasoned Pyromancer. Now that Hogaak is more or less out of the way, Jund’s metagame share is likely to keep rising. And that means more demand – and a higher price – for Hexdrinker. Short-term, this card is likely to end up in the $30 range. Long-term, it’ll depend on the future of Jund. The deck tends to be fairly modular and it falls in and out of favor, so I’m less certain that Hexdrinker will remain an expensive staple than I am about Wrenn and Six.
I’ve heard some people discussing Hexdrinker’s price increase as “just another FOMO spike,” but just like Wrenn and Six, it’s a lot more complex than that. Hexdrinker is seeing play in a resurgent and popular deck, and its price tag reflects actual demand for the card.
Rising: Other Jund Staples
Unlike most of the other cards on this list, these staples haven’t actually started to rise yet. It’s coming, though. Jund is one of the most popular decks in Magic whenever it’s even a little viable, and its cards tend to spike higher than overall performance might otherwise dictate. What can I say? Jund is a super-fun deck to play and a lot of folks seem to agree.
It’s possible that the Jund resurgence will end up being fool’s gold – remember when the Bloodbraid Elf unbanning was going to make the deck Tier 1 again? – but I suspect things are actually different this time. And if Jund is actually good again, you should snag whatever staples you think you’ll need ASAP.
Rising: Cavern of Souls – $80
Humans is kind of the anti-Jund, in that people keep giving it up for dead only for the deck to come back stronger than ever. Even in a metagame dominated by Bridgevine, a deck that Humans had a lot of trouble beating, the deck still somehow managed to be in Modern’s top tier.
With Bridge from Below gone, Humans will likely take its proper place as one of the format’s top two or three decks. Cavern of Souls hasn’t started to gain much value yet, and it’s quite likely that most of these top-tier Humans staples aren’t due for a big spike or anything, but I wanted to put a card from Humans somewhere on this list in order to reflect the deck’s rising position in the metagame. At the very least, Humans staples should be in high trade demand for the foreseeable future.
Falling: Bridge from Below – $7
This is pretty obvious, but cards that get banned in their marquee format tend to drop in price. Bridge from Below still sees some play in Vintage and Legacy, but this is probably going to be a $4-$5 card for the next couple of years. If you can get any more than that in trade for yours, you should move on from them ASAP.
Be careful about ditching your other Bridgevine staples too soon, though, as Vengevine could come back in a brand-new shell. Bloodghast is immediately playable in Modern Dredge, which is one of the best decks in the format yet again. That deck is likely to run at least a copy or two of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis as well. Altar of Dementia is likely to show up again in another wild combo shell. Gravecrawler is always popping up in combo decks here and there.
So yeah. Even though Bridge from Below is gone, this flavor of graveyard deck is likely to remain popular for a long time to come. If you know someone getting rid of their previous Bridgevine staples at a steep discount, you should try to snap them up before someone figures out a way to do something else absurd with them.
Rising: Painter’s Servant – $45
The Commander Banned List announcement may have flown under your radar last week since it was overshadowed by Bridge from Below getting the axe in Modern, but it may have been just as financially impactful. Painter’s Servant has been banned in Commander for a very long time, but the Commander Rules Committee finally decided to set it free. The result? A 300% spike from $15 to $45. The Kaladesh Invention copy also tripled in price, jumping from $50 to $140.
Even though a large number of these Servants were undoubtedly snapped up by speculators, this price spike is about as legit as it gets. There simply aren’t that many copies of Painter’s Servant out there – it was only printed twice: once in the old and relatively poor-selling Shadowmoor, and once as a Masterpiece. Commander has a larger player base than any other Magic format, and we already know what Painter’s Servant can do. It might end up closer to $30 than $45 at some point, but it’s not going to be $15 again without a wide-scale reprint.
Grindstone is the obvious combo piece here, which is why that card spiked from $10 to about $35 (it’s currently sold out at $26 on Star City Games), while the Masterpiece jumped from $50 to $120. This is an even older single-printing plus Masterpiece card than Painter’s Servant, and its spike is just as legit – just don’t spend silly money on this thinking it’s a Reserved List card, because it’s not.
Otherwise, Painter’s Servant works quite well with the Sword of X and Y cycle; Animar, Soul of Elements; Teysa, Orzhov Scion; Jaya Ballard, Task Mage; and Oona, Queen of the Fae. I don’t think this unbanning will be enough to cause any of those cards to spike, but you should probably snag them now just in case if you’ve been in the market for a personal copy and have been holding off.
Rising: Storage Matrix – $3.50
Storage Matrix may have a current (sold out) book value of $3.50, but the actual price is closer to $10 right now. That’s down from $20, where the card peaked late last week before slowly starting to drop off.
The reason for the spike is simple: Urza, Lord High Artificer makes Storage Matrix a big problem for everyone at the table other than the person with Urza on the battlefield. All the other cards that play well with Urza have spiked in recent weeks, so it was finally time for Storage Matrix to get its day in the sun.
This Urza / Storage Matrix synergy is sweet, but it’s more a Commander play than a Modern one. Also, a lot of these copies were snapped up by speculators, who are currently dumping them back onto the market. While I don’t expect Storage Matrix to end up back in bulk range, a long-term price closer to $5 than $10 seems likely to me.
Falling: Paradox Engine – $13
Early last week, Paradox Engine was easily the most expensive card in Aether Revolt, and it was getting hard to find copies for less than $50. It’s $13 now and falling, entirely because it was just banned in Commander. The Masterpiece also dropped hard, crashing from $300 down to just $100.
This card was banished for the same sin as Prophet of Kruphix: it’s a slow, grindy engine that allows one person to take 30-minute turns while the rest of the Commander table is forced to take a bathroom break. It’s not going to be allowed back in the format anytime soon, if ever.
Paradox Engine’s price might rebound at some point since it does see fringe play in Modern and even Vintage, but I’d hold off on buying in until it hits rock bottom. It’s rare that a card drops from $50 to sub-$10, but Commander demand was the reason why Paradox Engine was a big deal at all. I expect this one to bottom out in the $5-$7 range, and that’s when I’d consider snagging a set for long-term spec purposes.
Falling: Iona, Shield of Emeria – $12
Iona, Shield of Emeria was also banned in Commander last week. Not only was Iona a lot cheaper than Paradox Engine to begin with, but it saw a lot less play in Commander and a lot more play in Legacy. Iona’s price has come down a bit post-ban, but still I wouldn’t expect it to drop below $10. This ban was a lot less impactful, and I wouldn’t worry too much about it if you’ve got a couple of Ionas kicking around in your collection.