Buying Standard Before The Rotation

The biggest money shakeup in the Magic market every year is fast approaching! Tons of powerful spells are leaving, making room for excellent buy-ins on future stars! What does Chas recommend embracing…and avoiding?

It’s time to start thinking about post-rotation Standard.

Yeah, I know, we’re still about a month and a half way from actually waving
goodbye to Kaladesh and Amonkhet, but this is absolutely
an “early bird gets the worm” kind of situation. Every year, the Standard
market ends up taking a nosedive late in the summer as people dump their
old decks before rotation. Instead of immediately buying back in, most of
them hold off until fall set preview season begins. Standard prices peak in
October, when the format feels fresh and open. For example, The Scarab God
was worth just $14 last August, $30 when Ixalan was released, and
$50 on Halloween.

But could we have really seen The Scarab God coming last August? Yes!
In the version of this article that I wrote last year
, I talked about the three decks that were the most likely to survive
rotation: Ramunap Red, Temur Energy, and W/U God-Pharaoh’s Gift. Fast
forward to 2018, and Mono-Red is still dominant, Temur Energy had to be
banned out of existence, and W/U God-Pharaoh’s Gift is still a viable tier
2-3 metagame choice.

If you bought into any of these decks at my recommendation, you were
probably happy with the results. I singled out cards like Hazoret the
Fervent, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, The Scarab God, Glorybringer,
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, and Angel of Invention, all of which saw at
least a small price increase at some point in the future. The Scarab God
was the biggest winner by far, but if you’re a Standard player on a budget,
every dollar saved is a dollar that you can spend on improving your deck.

While the Standard metagame might shift a bit between now and
mid-September, there won’t be any more cards released between now and then.
So which decks are most likely to survive? Let’s take a look at the
metagame and see.

Main Cards Lost:

This deck will be virtually nonexistent after rotation. While some new
version of Mono-Red or R/B Aggro might show up, it will need to completely
reinvent itself.

Goblin Chainwhirler and Rekindling Phoenix are the surviving cards of note,
and they will probably see a drop in price. Unless red ends up being just
as dominant after rotation, which is doubtful, demand for these two cards
will drop. Goblin Chainwhirler is especially vulnerable, because asking any
deck to support RRR is a lot. Rekindling Phoenix has proven itself in other
midrange lists, so it’s the more likely card to find a new home right away.

Main Cards Lost:

Mono-Green Aggro isn’t losing either Steel Leaf Champion or Llanowar Elves,
but many of its other key cards are disappearing into the post-rotation
vortex. Rhonas the Indomitable is going to be hard to replace, as are the
good Kaladesh vehicles. Expecting this one to survive is asking a
lot, which means that we could be coming close to peak value for Ghalta,
Primal Hunger.

Main Cards Lost:

Grixis Midrange is losing more cards than you think. Torrential Gearhulk
and The Scarab God are going to be especially hard to replace, and I doubt
we’re going to get another black removal spell as efficient as Fatal Push
anytime soon.

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is going to be the main card pushing people into
Grixis once Guilds of Ravnica arrives, and it’s worth noting that
we’re getting both Izzet and Dimir in the first set. Will they provide
enough reinforcements to keep this deck alive? It’s too early to say. I’d
be higher on Nicol Bolas if it wasn’t already retailing for $50, but you’re
already paying for this card’s best-case scenario. Savvy investors should
be fading this card’s future price, as powerful as it is.

Main Cards Lost:

Ah, we’ve arrived at the first deck on this list that I expect to survive
set rotation. Even though we aren’t getting the Azorius guild until 2019,
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is good enough to keep U/W Control alive more or
less by itself. Control mages will have to find a couple of new
counterspells and card draw effects, but that shouldn’t be too hard.
Torrential Gearhulk is going to be hard to replace, but U/W Control is down
to one or two maindeck copies at this point regardless. In the immortal
words of Jeff Goldblum: life, uh, finds a way.

I wish Teferi, Hero of Dominaria were available at any sort of discount,
but the powerful planeswalker will still set you back a full $45, and its
price hasn’t really dropped all summer long. I certainly can’t recommend
speculating on a card that’s already this expensive, but if you’ve been
holding off on buying a set in hopes that the price would drop in August,
you can forget it. Unless something crazy happens this fall, Teferi will be
one of the 2-3 most expensive cards in Standard after rotation.

Main Cards Lost:

So, um, yeah. Aside from Haze of Pollen, Bant Nexus will survive set
rotation more or less unscathed. I’ve asked a couple of this deck’s pilots
whether the loss of Haze is going to be a deal-breaker, and they seem
pretty split. I’m fairly optimistic, personally, and there’s always a shot
that Guilds of Ravnica will give us a new fog effect.

I’ll be writing more extensively about Nexus of Fate later on, but let’s
spend a moment discussing Karn, Scion of Urza. The card has more or less
bottomed out at $35, and it has found a home in several Modern and Legacy
decks as well as multiple Standard brews. While it’s not the dominant mess
that I’d assumed it was when I first saw it, it’s so good and so versatile
that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up in a lot of first drafts of
post-Guilds decks. If you’re a Standard player and you don’t have
your set of these yet, amend that soon.

Anyway, since I don’t want to waste your time with too much Captain Obvious
insight, let’s touch on some of the format’s other decks real quick.
Spoiler alert: none of them are going to survive rotation.

This puts us in a really interesting position. Unlike last year, where
three really good decks survived set rotation more or less unscathed, post- Guilds Standard is going to look radically different. My guess is
that some iteration of U/W-based control will survive, and Bant Nexus has a
shot at sticking around, but beyond that? Everything is going to be new.

Looking For Post-Hype Sleepers

In last year’s version of this article, I took a look at all the cards from Kaladesh and Amonkhet that had fallen flat after being
hyped up during preview season. Remember when we were all going nuts for
Yaheeni’s Expertise, Harsh Mentor, and Tezzeret, the Schemer? Yeah.

My hope was that at least some of these cards didn’t crash because they
were bad, but because they just hadn’t found the right supporting cast yet.
Harsh Mentor had begun pre-ordering at $15 back in April of 2017, and it
was down to just $1 by July. If the card had found a home in Ixalan Standard, it would have at least jumped back to $5.

Unfortunately, very few of those specs actually paid off. As Foretold was
the only real winner, and I suppose you could give me partial credit for
Gideon of the Trials and Liliana, Death’s Majesty. The Nissa, Vital Forces
of the world have just never amounted to very much.

Of course, last year’s rotation was unique. Kaladesh was probably
the most format-warping block since the original Mirrodin, while Ixalan ended up being a fairly underpowered set. This lead to a
rather unsatisfying set rotation where the best pre-rotation decks that
didn’t lose anything remained dominant while the cool new tribal strategies
promised by Ixalan‘s marketing ended up falling flat. As a result,
many of Amonkhet‘s underrated cards never really had a chance to

That’s why I think that it might be time to double-down on these post-hype
sleepers. Since the new Standard format is going to be almost entirely
different from the current metagame, many unheralded post-hype cards could
finally get their chance to shine.

What’s a post-hype card? Anything that was overly expensive at some point,
either due to preview season or a couple weeks of high level play, but
which has since come way down in price. Think Growing Rites of Itlimoc,
which began as a $25 card and is now easily available for $7.

Some of these cards are just not very good and will never be any good, but
others may have simply been victims of circumstance. It’s hard for another
red five-drop to compete with Glorybringer, for example, and it’s hard for
a one-drop creature to survive in a world that’s overpopulated with Goblin

Let’s go through post-rotation Standard set-by-set and see if any of these
cards are hidden gems:


Holy mackerel, look at all of these disappointing cards. I almost want to
say that Vraska and Growing Rites are success stories after looking at the
price charts for Regisaur Alpha and Hostage Taker. Woof.

The good news is that there are quite a few intriguing cards here. While
Growing Rites of Itlimoc might never find a home in Standard, its price tag
has actually been on the rise in recent days thanks to the supply drying up
in conjunction with increased casual demand. Legion’s Landing is still
incredibly powerful, it’s just not very well-positioned in the pre-rotation

Most interestingly, we know that Hostage Taker is quite good in the right
deck. Dimir is one of the five guilds in Guilds of Ravnica, too,
so there’s a shot that this one finds a new home in the next iteration of
the format.

As for all these Dinosaurs…well, I guess there’s a reason why we’re still
here on Earth and they are not.

Rivals of Ixalan

As much as I’d like to believe that Kaladesh and Amonkhet
were the only things keeping Merfolk from being competitive in Standard,
that just isn’t true. I love Kumena, but I don’t think its day in the sun
is nigh. Ditto for these disappointing planeswalkers.

Azor, the Lawbringer is a little sweeter, but U/W Control is full up at the
moment, and I don’t see why you’d play Azor when you can just drop a Teferi
onto the battlefield. Blood Sun was only ever expensive because people
remembered how good Blood Moon was.

Dire Fleet Daredevil is my pick of this particular litter. The card isn’t
seeing much play in the current iteration of Modern Humans, but the fact
that the card is good enough to see Eeternal play gives me pause. Two-drops
that see play in Modern tend to be worth holding onto, and Dire Fleet
Daredevil has bottomed out again after hitting $10 earlier this summer. I’m
snagging a set for sure.


The problem with going too deep into Dominaria speculation is that
Karn, Scion of Urza, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria don’t seem likely to
drop in price any time soon. Neither of the Ixalan sets contain
any truly expensive mythic rares, which means that there’s still a lot of
potential value to go around. If too many of Dominaria’s cards
spike, players and stores will simply open boxes until the prices start to
drop. Also, Dominaria was a far more popular set than either Ixalan expansion, which means that there are more Mox Ambers
floating around than Timestream Navigators.

That doesn’t mean that you should avoid individual post-hype cards fromDominaria, though. The fact that they’re cheaper (on average) than Ixalan’s post-hype cards means that it’s a more affordable buy-in
for anyone who wants to take a shot at one of these cards breaking out.

Mox Amber is obviously the biggest prize here. The card still has the word
“Mox” in its name, which means that it’ll end up well over $20 if anyone
ever figures out what to do with it. Unfortunately, a crazy powerful
artifact set is just about to rotate out, so I’m not holding my breath.

But there are some good cards here. Damping Sphere is far from a
disappointment – it’s just an uncommon from a heavily-opened set that was
wildly overpriced when it was first previewed. Unless it’s reprinted into
oblivion, it’s a fantastic long-term buy. Verix Bladewing has been creeping
up in recent days thanks to Sarkhan, Fireblood, and the fact that it no
longer must compete with Glorybringer could cause it to see quite a bit
more play after rotation. Lastly, Shalai, Voice of Plenty seems tailor-made
to work with whatever WotC decides to cook up for Selesnya in Guilds of Ravnica. It’s almost preordained that Shalai will double
or triple in price once Guilds previews begin and we get our first
sweet-looking Selesnya card, right? I’m in for at least a couple of
playsets at current retail.

I also want to talk about History of Benalia. The card is still worth too
much to truly be a post-hype sleeper, but it’s down to about half of where
it was at its peak back in May. White aggro isn’t a thing right now because
of all the red decks, but that’s going to change. Expect this card to end
up being $20 again at some point.

Core Set 2019

I’m not going to spend too much time with Core Set 2019 because
prices haven’t settled down enough to create any true post-hype cards.
Tezzeret, Artifice Master is certainly heading in that direction, though,
and it’s the sort of card that could easily find a home after rotation. I
also like Thorn Lieutenant and Graveyard Marshal quite a bit, though I’ve
talked about both cards at length in previous articles.

I also like Resplendent Angel and Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants more than
their current prices. White is only being used as a support color in
control decks right now, which means that Core Set 2019‘s midrange
cards haven’t had a chance to shine yet. That’ll change at some point
before Core Set 2019 rotates out of the format.

Revisiting Nexus of Fate

Before we wrap up today, it’s important that we spend a little more time
talking about Nexus of Fate.
I covered the card extensively last week
, debating whether it might end up being the next $100 card in Standard.
While Nexus of Fate didn’t jump quite that high, it’s currently sitting at
a cool $45 despite seeing play in just a single Standard deck-and not one
that’s a guarantee to survive rotation.

Since then, Mark Rosewater (via


) has informed the world that there are more copies of Nexus of Fate in the
world than any other Core Set 2019 mythic rare. This is more than
a little counterintuitive, but it appears to be true nonetheless.
Considering that Nexus’ current price tag is based on a level of scarcity
that doesn’t appear to actually exist, it’s time to re-evaluate the card’s

On the one hand, this new information throws a pretty big monkey wrench
into my theory that this card can hit $100 based on scarcity alone. I (and
the rest of the community) had been badly misinterpreting overall print run
numbers – which makes sense, I suppose, because we haven’t had any actual
figures to work with since Ice Age or so. If there are more copies
of Nexus of Fate in the marketplace than, say, Bone Dragon, there’s no way
it hits $100 unless it ends up as a ubiquitous multi-deck staple, which it

This explains why WotC was willing to make these promos Standard legal in
the first place, by the way. If they aren’t actually all that scarce,
there’s no reason to worry all that much about the supply drying up.

But wait, Nexus of Fate is still a $45 card, and the available supply of
these things still feels really low. How can this be true if WotC’s
assertion is correct?

Part of the problem was probably due to people like myself (sorry!!) and
Saffron Olive talking up the card’s assumed scarcity. Nobody wanted to miss
out on their playset of a card with such an enticing potential future, so
more people bought these more than an equally powerful but less-hyped card
like Sarkhan, Fireblood.

If this ends up having been the biggest reason for the card’s rise, then
we’ll probably see the price to tail off over the coming days as speculator
copies re-enter the marketplace. Of course, Bant Nexus is looking pretty
solid on MTGO right now, so it’s possible that many of these early
investors will simply keep their playsets and start playing Standard.

Beyond that, it seems likely that there are fewer available copies of Nexus
of Fate relative to the other mythics in Core Set 2019 based on
how it was distributed. I’m sure there’s a very strong correlation between
players who buy their boxes online and players who are most likely to sell
their extra cards online. Players who buy their boxes down at the LGS tend
to be a little more casual and less value-conscious, which means that many
Nexus of Fates are likely sitting in Commander and casual decks around the

It’s also likely that plenty of stores simply haven’t gone through their
supply of promos yet. If you charge $3.99 MSRP per pack for a booster box,
that comes to $143.64 plus tax. You can buy that same box here on
StarCityGames for just $89.99. Now, most stores sell their boxes at a
slight discount-generally in the $90-$120 range-but there are quite a few
that stick to MSRP. And until Nexus of Fate hits $54, it doesn’t make sense
to snap up those overpriced boxes.

It’s also possible that the print run numbers for the other Core Set 2019 mythic rares will keep going up while the number of
copies of Nexus of Fate stays the same. WotC hasn’t told us
whether their figures account for things like second print runs, MTGO
redemptions, etc.

For all these reasons, I don’t think it’s totally fair to blame the Nexus
of Fate price entirely on speculators, doomsayers, FOMO buyers, and the
Twitterverse. Not only were we missing a key piece of information, but I
still firmly believe that there are far fewer readily available copies of
Nexus of Fate than any other mythic rare in Core Set 2019. There’s
a reason why this card is $45, and it’s not just hype or hot air.

That said, it would be irresponsible of me not to reevaluate my opinion of
Nexus of Fate since I now know there are more copies of the card out there
than I had previously thought. With this new information, $100 seems will
out of reach. In fact, I expect the card’s price to drop from here, likely
ending up in the $25-$30 range. If you bought into Nexus of Fate before the
spike, now’s the time to sell.

This Week’s Trends

  • It looks like Sai, Master Thopterist is up a bit this week thanks
    to the Mono-Blue Paradoxical Outcome deck finding more success at
    the Pro Tour and on MTGO. If you’re going to invest in anything in
    this deck, it should be Mox Amber. Unfortunately, it’s not likely
    to be anything more than a pre-rotation oddity, so I’m staying

  • Nimble Obstructionist is more interesting. After doing literally
    nothing in Standard for two years, the card is up to $5 after
    finding a home in

    Jeff Hoogland’s build of Modern U/R Wizards

    . While you can finally pull these out of your bulk, Nimble
    Obstructionist isn’t the card I’d target first if I were looking to
    invest in this deck. Vendilion Clique is a scarce and powerful card
    that’s needed a new home for quite a while now, and Wandering
    Fumarole is a creature-land in a premium color pair that’s still
    under $2 retail. Both cards make for intriguing short-term plays
    and excellent long-term targets.
  • Speaking of Modern, R/B Vengevine staples are continuing to do well
    in the wake of the Pro Tour. Leyline of the Void, Bridge from
    Below, and Vengevine all had excellent weeks yet again, though
    they’ve started to drop a little from their mid-week highs. Like I
    said last week, I’m selling all these cards into the hype even
    though I believe in R/B Vengevine’s future.
  • The biggest casual spike of the week was Insidious Dreams, which
    people are combining with Entreat the Dead and the other miracles
    in Commander. It’s a fantastic addition to Aminatou, the
    Fateshifter decks as well as a staple in Yuriko, the Tiger’s
    Shadow. While Insidious Dreams isn’t likely to maintain the $20+
    price tag that it’s currently selling at, $15 doesn’t seem
    unreasonable to me at all.

  • Wound Reflection was also up pretty big last week, likely because
    of its interaction with Yuriko as well. This was already a $12-$15
    card in low supply, but its pushing $25 now and might even spike
    closer to $30. Meanwhile, Greater Auramancy, Copy Enchantment, and
    Greater Auramancy are continuing to climb thanks to the new
    enchantment deck while Realms Uncharted is increasing in price due
    to the new “lands matter” pre-con.
  • Lastly, there was a question in WotC’s latest customer survey that
    asked what people would think of a brand new set that was designed
    for Modern instead of Standard. Let’s hope people respond in the
    affirmative, because this would be awesome. I’ve been saying for
    years that yearly Modern Masters set would be amazing if
    they were half reprints and half new Modern-legal cards. I’ll write
    more on this if it comes to pass, but I’m excited that they’re at
    least considering moving in this direction.