Battle For Zendikar Finance: Week One

With the first weekend of new Standard in the books, a Pro Tour approaching, and a recent B&R announcement, there’s a lot of money moving around! Chas guides you through the storm!

Good morning, Magic financiers! I’m trying something new this week. Instead of taking several days to craft an in-depth article, I’m writing this on Sunday
afternoon just before the Top 8 of the Open Series in Indianapolis is announced. I know that timeliness is a big factor in Magic finance, and my goal is to
deliver more immediate content to all of you on the most important weekends of the year.

Let me know what you think when you can – if you prefer shorter but more current articles like this one, let me know and I’ll try to do it more often.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

The biggest news of the weekend? Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy has spiked from $50 to $80. This is partially due to a buyout-the cards disappeared too quickly for
it to have been anything but a coordinated effort-and partially due to the fact that almost all the control decks in the new Standard environment are
running four copies of the card. Jace may not be the most objectively powerful planeswalker in the format, but as a two-mana Merfolk Looter with Snapcaster
Mage upside, he’s proven to be both versatile and indispensable. The fact that Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy sees play in Modern and Legacy bodes well for his
long-term prospects as well.

It has been a long time since we’ve had a legitimate $80 card in Standard. Liliana of the Veil during the first few months of Innistrad‘s legality
may have been the last one. The memory of Jace, the Mind Sculptor was fresh back then, and in recent years the most expensive card in the format has tended
to see-saw between $35 and $50. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy can certainly break that trend, though. It’s a mythic rare from an under-opened summer/core set, it’s
a four-of in multiple tier one decks, its mana cost is low enough that I doubt it’ll be outclassed at the two-drop slot, and it’s playable across multiple
Eternal formats. If that isn’t the perfect storm for the creation of a $70-$80 Standard mythic, I don’t know what is. Prepare for several months of whining
as people feel priced out of the format.

Selling into the spike is fine if you’re not playing Jace and you want to lock in your value, but don’t expect his price to drop too much over the next few
weeks. This is the time of year when interest in Standard is the highest, so demand for Jace should stay strong. Right now, I’d give the card a 50% chance
of staying at $70-$80 through October, a 25% chance of dropping back to $50, and a 25% chance of spiking to $100. A lot of that will depend on how the
bigger retailers and speculators react to the spike as well as the results from the upcoming Pro Tour. If there are twelve or more copies of Jace in the
Top 8, which isn’t out of the question, the card will likely spike even further.

If you need a few more copies of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to finish your playset, try to get them soon. If you know about a local store that isn’t quick to
update their prices, drive over today over your lunch break and see if you can grab them at yesterday’s retail price.

Your second best option is to try to buy foils before they disappear. There are still some out there in the $90-$120 range, which will look like a steal a
couple of weeks from now. I’d rather grab a foil Jace for $110 than a non-foil for $80, especially if you’re not the sort of player who likes to quick flip
their cards. Even if the normal version of Jace dips in December when interest in Standard wanes, foil copies are likely to stay high.

At some point, it starts making sense to buy Magic Origins sealed product as well. Worldwake boxes are very expensive thanks to Jace, the
Mind Sculptor, and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is now more expensive (yes, really!) than the best planeswalker of all time.

I’m not quite at the point where I’d start buying and cracking boxes, but I’d like to snag a few for the long term. Magic Origins is filled with
other powerful Modern and casual cards, so it has the look of a set where box speculation will pay off. I do think it makes sense to buy and crack Magic Origins Prerelease packs, regardless-your odds of opening a foil Jace is much higher with these (WotC gooses the packs, I’m pretty sure), so
they’re a must-buy if you can find any at retail.

The Expeditions

Since we didn’t have this information last week, let’s start by taking a look at the expeditions’ current prices:



Battle Lands

Expedition prices have been dropping steadily since the Prerelease, largely as a result of the cards being more common than previously anticipated. While
Prerelease numbers seemed to indicate that expeditions would appear at a ratio of one per every eighty packs, this was either due to small sample size
noise or (more likely) an indication that WotC upped the ratio for the Prerelease boxes in order to make the event more exciting. Much like with Magic Origins, if your local store has any of these packs left over at retail prices, you might want to considering buying them and cracking them.

Once people started opening cases of Battle for Zendikar, we started getting at the real numbers. Our original estimate, remember, was 1/216,
which is the same rate as a foil mythic rare. There are fifteen mythic rares in each large set, though, and there are 25 expeditions. The numbers we’ve
been seeing bear out the idea that expeditions show up approximately 1.6 times as often as a foil mythic rare, which means that there are 25 expeditions
printed and distributed for each 15 foil mythics. That gives us a corrected figure of 1/130 packs. You’ll open one expedition, on average, for every 3.6
boxes of Battle for Zendikar you crack. This makes them about 60% more common than we had previously thought.

Another reason that expedition prices have been dropping is because most Standard players aren’t interested in buying them. Casual mages are likely to hold
on to whatever they open, and some Eternal players are trying to get playsets of their favorites, but the vast majority of competitive grinders want to
turn their expeditions into cash or playable staples. Most of the expeditions I’ve seen opened have been traded away immediately.

Should you buy your expeditions while the market is still saturated, or is it better to wait? I’d advise holding off for now-cases upon cases of these
cards are being cracked, and Eternal demand is low right now as people focus on Standard. I’m selling expeditions if I can get anything close to retail and
focusing on underpriced Standard cards from Origins and Tarkir block as well as sealed Khans of Tarkir and Magic Origins product.

If you want to buy expeditions, I’d advise waiting until December. Prices should bottom out about a month before the next set is released, and there’s
generally a seasonal lull just before the new year. You should see the price charts hit a saturation point and stabilize for a few weeks, which is your cue
to buy in. Don’t wait much longer than that, though-at a certain point, speculators will probably decide to force the issue and start buying out the better
or underpriced expeditions. These cards will have massive long-term value, so you don’t want to be locked out entirely. If you’re the sort of player who
doesn’t like buying and selling cards on a month-to-month basis, keeping the expeditions that you open for the long haul is fine.

Fat Packs

Here’s the question blowing up my Twitter feed right now: Is it worth buying Battle for Zendikar fat packs at retail?

Let’s do the math. Depending on the sales tax laws in your state, fat packs are going to run you between $42 and $46. I’m going to assume a price of $45
for the sake of this article, but feel free to adjust if you can get them cheaper.

The Battle for Zendikar land packs are selling for about $18, but that doesn’t include shipping and fees. Let’s call it $15. Even if you don’t
want to deal with eBay, you should be able to get that in trade. Call the die another $2 in value, and you’re left with nine packs for $28 for a rate of
$3.11 per pack. That’s the same as paying $112 for a booster box, which isn’t a very good deal.

Fat packs are certainly cheaper than buying booster boxes at per-pack MSRP. You can probably buy one for $45, shove it in your closet, and sell it for
$60-$70 at some point in the future, too. The idea that BFZ fat packs are a complete freeroll is a myth, though. The basic lands will keep dropping as
people keep cracking packs, and you have to do a good amount of work to actually turn a profit here. I bought a fat pack so I could draft this weekend, but
I’m not running around town trying to buy out all the big box stores. It’s just not worth it.

#SCGINDY Results

A quick reminder: you shouldn’t overreact to week one results. Most of the best players are testing for the Pro Tour, and very few people are making their
tech public right now. In the past, the week one version of Standard has looked markedly different to how the format ended up just two weeks later.

These events aren’t meaningless, though. I don’t like writing off cards based on week one. Just because we haven’t seen much from Ob Nixilis Reignited, for
example, doesn’t mean he won’t be a major player at the Pro Tour.

I think we can learn a great deal about what is doing well, though. If a new card makes an immediate splash on week one, chances are it’ll be one of the
format’s players.

My biggest takeaway from #SCGINDY? The mana fixing is significantly better now than it was a few weeks ago. The Battle lands play really well with the
format’s fetchlands, and it’s not hard to play four or even five color decks. Even the three color decks like Abzan have better mana now, and very few
people were playing the Khans of Tarkir tri-lands in favor of lands that enter the battlefield untapped. The Battle lands will probably drop in
price as more and more packs are opened, but they should remain among the most expensive rares in the set. Every Standard player will want a playset of

This wide-mana format also bodes well for cards like Bring to Light, which was one of the weekend’s breakout cards. We saw multiple successful Bring to
Light decks in Indy, and the spell is quite good regardless if your deck is full of silver bullets or if you’re just using it as a five mana value spell to
up your Siege Rhino count. I was wrong about this card in my set review because I figured it would show up in one tier one deck at most. At this point,
it’s possible that Bring to Light could show up in two or even three good Standard decks. That might not be enough to sustain an $8 price tag, but its
floor is much closer to $5 now that I thought it was. If I open a copy this weekend, I’m holding it.

Abzan is still the color combination of choice, though it looks like the Abzan brew of choice is a bit faster than it was before BFZ. The Abzan control
decks lost Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix, so many of the Abzan Control mages shifted into an aggro plan or went much bigger with an Abzan-focused
five color control deck. I imagine we’ll see things shift more into focus after the Pro Tour, but don’t expect Siege Rhino and Anafenza, the Foremost to
drop in price any time soon. Wingmate Roc is beginning to creep up in price as well. If Warden of the First Tree weren’t in the new event deck, I’d like
that one as well.

R/G Landfall was also popular over the weekend, and Atarka’s Command spiked to $15 as the deck put up results on camera. I doubt it’ll keep that price up,
but Atarka’s Command could easily stick around $10-$12 in the Kolaghan’s Command/Den Protector range. I’m selling into the spike, but I do think that the
card is legit. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is also proving itself, but I don’t think it can sustain a price tag near $40. Gideon is the best card in the set,
but it is still overvalued.

Want a deep spec target? Exert Influence is a bulk rare, but it was a very good sideboard card in Five-Color Control. It’s a five mana Control Magic, but
it can’t be disenchanted and it can steal a Siege Rhino. I could easily see a world where that card ends up at $1-$2, and foils at bulk rares are a
reasonable buy.


Let’s end this article by talking a little about Legacy. The B&R announcement happened last week, and there were a
few changes to the format. First, Dig Through Time was banned in Legacy (and restricted in Vintage), which puts a pretty significant ceiling on the card’s
long-term price. Foils should hold some value to Cubers, Commander players, and Vintage players who will play it as a one-of, but I no longer think it’ll
be a priority buy once Khans of Tarkir rotates out of Standard. Selling your copies now is fine.

In related news, Black Vise was unbanned in Legacy. The news caused the card’s price to jump from near bulk to about $4, but I don’t expect it to go any
higher. Black Vise is unlikely to see Legacy play outside of fringy sideboard situations, so there’s no need for you to put it on your financial radar. It
is worth taking out of your bulk and seeing if you can get $4 in trade for it, though – every dollar counts!

Also on the rise: an obscure Legends enchantment called Field of Dreams. This was an $8 card last week, and it’s up near $75-$80 now. This was a
buyout due to a group of speculators who think the card might see play if anyone develops a Legacy version of Modern’s Lantern Control deck. I haven’t seen
anyone actually make that deck work, though, so Field of Dreams should start slowly dropping off thanks to lack of demand. If you can move your copy into
the spike, you should.