Core Set 2019 Financial Review: Part 1

Core Set 2019 has high end reprints, purposeful sideboard Modern hate, and of course, standout Standard newcomers! So what’s worth what? And how much will they be worth this time next year?

The last time we had a summer core set was way back in July of 2015, when Magic Origins unleashed Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy onto an unsuspecting
world. While the ebbs and flows of Magic finance haven’t changed very much
since then (give or take a couple of $800 dual lands), it’s likely that we
could all use a refresher course in what makes core set finance a special
and unique sort of animal.

The first thing to know about core sets is that they tend to sell worse
than most other Magic sets. Some players skip them because they’re just a
little too generic, while others simply don’t play as much Magic during the
height of summer. The Draft formats are rarely all that memorable, either,
and they just don’t feel like they’re as big a deal as, say, Ixalan or Dominaria.

This relative lack of popularity generally means that core set staples tend
to trend a little bit higher than the best cards from the fall or winter
sets. It also means that long-term casual specs tend to rebound faster than
comparable cards from normal expansions. Just don’t expect this trend to be
too extreme: Magic 2015’s cards rebounded from their rotational
lows at a quicker rate than comparable cards from Journey to Nyx,
for example, but both sets contain the same number of $5+ cards today.

It’s also worth remembering that core sets tend to be defined by a couple
of high end “reprint anchors”-the sort of gee-wiz inclusions that are
designed to entice established players into buying a box of a set that they
might otherwise skip. Magic 2015 had Chord of Calling and Urborg,
Tomb of Yawgmoth. Magic Origins had Goblin Piledriver (a bigger
deal at the time), the enemy-colored painlands, and Knight of the White
Orchid. Core Set 2019 has Scapeshift, Omniscience, and Crucible of
Worlds: far better pulls than I would have expected going into preview

In the past, these cards have tended to drop by roughly 50% of their
pre-order price by mid-August before eventually rebounding back to their
pre-order price after a year or two. While the sample size is far too small
for me to say that this is absolutely what will happen to the reprint
anchors in Core Set 2019, I’ll likely be holding off on buying for

Because core sets are a little simpler than most other sets, they tend to
be a little easier to evaluate as well. Core Set 2019 will
probably not have as many “this could be $1 or it could be $30” cards as Dominaria did, which makes it a worse set for bulk or near-bulk
speculation. Don’t spend too much time overthinking things: the best cards
in Core Set 2019 are likely to be obvious utility
role-players-cards like Magic OriginsLanguish, which was a
format-defining sweeper in its day. The best specs in this set are likely
to be the sort of cards that could go from $4 to $8, or $5 to $15, or $20
to $50-not $1 to $20.

Core sets often contain either hints or plants designed to bridge the gap
between different blocks. It can be hard to figure this stuff out in
advance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Core Set 2019‘s tri-color
Dragons get a little easier to play thanks to the move back towards
“multicolored matters” with Guilds of Ravnica. And while
Scapeshift and Crucible of Worlds are much-needed Modern reprints, the fact
that they’re both “lands matter” cards might not be a coincidence. Could
Scapeshift really see play in Standard next season? It’s possible!

Anyway, I think it’s time to look at the cards themselves. I’ve got the
first half of Core Set 2019 for you today, and I’ll cover the rest
next week along with my thoughts on the set as a whole.

The Reprints

Crucible of Worlds – $49.99

Wow. Short of Mox Opal or Liliana of the Veil, it’s hard to imagine a
bigger bombshell than a Crucible of Worlds reprint. This card has been so
expensive for so long that I can barely remember a time when this thing was
just $10-$15. MTG Goldfish tells me that Crucible of Worlds has been at
least $25 since 2011.

It’s worth noting here that scarcity plays a bigger part than demand does
in Crucible’s price. This thing was only printed twice, in Fifth Dawn and Tenth Edition, two old and poor-selling
sets. While I expect casual and Commander demand to rise once the price
starts to come down, I can’t imagine that it maintains a price tag anywhere
near $50. The “halve the pre-order price” rule is as good a heuristic as
any here, and I suspect that this one will end up stabilizing around $25 by
the middle of August.

Scapeshift – $24.99

StarCityGames knows that Scapeshift is going to drop hard. Its pre-reprint
price tag wasn’t all that far off from Crucible of Worlds before this news,
but the card is starting at $25, not $50. Not only is the demand for
Scapeshift likely to remain smaller than the demand for Crucible since it’s
not as good a casual card, but this one is even more of a low-supply
situation: the card had only been printed once, in Morningtide,
and it was beyond due for a comeback.

Because SCG has already priced Scapeshift down pretty aggressively, I doubt
it’ll lose a full half of its value from here. It is a mythic rare, after
all, so $15 feels right to me.

Omniscience – $17.99

I’ll admit, I had to change this article a bit after I thought I was
finished with this section because I didn’t think we would get a third high quality reprint in Core Set 2019. WotC really
is pulling out all the stops for this set, and I suspect that the number of
good reprints will keep the value of the newer cards a little lower than
normal simply because there’s only so low that cards like Crucible of
Worlds and Omniscence can fall.

Anyhow, Omniscence was an $8-$9 card back when it was printed the first
time. It spiked to $30 because it saw play in Legacy as well as in casual
decks, but this new printing should negate all of that increased Legacy
demand. It may not drop as far as $8 this time, but $10 seems like a
reasonable target to me.

Death Baron – $7.99

I wasn’t suspecting SCG to be this aggressive on Death Baron, either-this
card was over $20 last week. $8 seems fair as a pre-order for this casual
all-star, though I do expect it to drop even further once Core Set 2019 hits shelves. I pegged its eventual price at $5 last
week, and I stand by that prediction.

It’s worth nothing here that all four of these cards will almost certainly
end up being good long-term buys. Time after time, these core set reprints
drop considerably after the set is released and time after time, they surge
again after six months or a year. I wouldn’t buy in now, but there will be
a nice long window at some point soon. Just be patient.

Magistrate’s Scepter – 1.99

Did you even know that this was like a $6-$7 card since it’s a random Time
Walk effect? If so, congratulations-you’re either an expert on the temporal
arts or someone who’s really good at picking bulk. Regardless, there will
be more than enough copies to go around now. Future $1 rare.

Mentor of the Meek – $0.99

Mentor of the Meek has been reprinted several times already and the price
continues to fluctuate between $0.50 and $1. The Core Set 2019
reprint isn’t going to change that. Future bulk rare.

The New Stuff

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager – $29.99

Is this the most Constructed-playable iteration of Nicol Bolas yet? My gut
tells me yes. Assuming that you can get around the tough Grixis casting
cost requirements, this is a two-for-one almost every time you play it
regardless of what happens next. A 4/4 flier for four with a solid ability
is nice on the face of things, but the fact that you can turn this into a
giant unstoppable killing machine in the late game pushes Nicol Bolas, the
Ravager over the edge. I adore cards that allow me to have an amazing late
game without having to put six or seven mana cards in my deck at all, and
Nicol Bolas is exactly that.

Is $30 the right price for this card, though? Since it requires a dedicated
Grixis manabase, I can’t imagine it becoming a multi-deck staple like Karn,
Scion of Urza or even Chandra, Torch of Defiance. For Nicol Bolas to be
worth a pre-order at $30 it would have to be pretty stable in the $30-$40
range, which would only happen if Grixis instantly became the best deck in
Standard. I’m not saying that’s impossible, but it’s not a gamble I’m
personally willing to take. This card might jump a bit over the short-term
as people realize how good it is (if it’s as good as I think it is, of
course), but I suspect it’ll be under $30 by mid-August regardless.

Resplendent Angel – $17.99

My biggest problem with Resplendent Angel is that I don’t know where it
fits in Standard right now. It’s amazing with Lyra Dawnbringer and Shalai,
Voice of Plenty, but is that enough for Standard’s top tier? I’m not sure.
A 3/3 flier for three is on-curve, though, and Resplendent Angel is great
if you can turn on either of its abilities even once. Much like Nicol
Bolas, it’s a card that can come down early, pose a substantial mid-game
threat, and then help close out the game late.

At $18, I’m on the fence. While Resplendent Angel has “best card in the
set” upside, I don’t see a world where that happens without Lyra’s help.
And since Lyra is both cheaper and more proven right now, why not just grab
a couple of those if you’re going to invest along these lines? It’s the
safer play and the upside is just as real.

Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants – $15.99

I know that this is a boring thing to say in a set review, but Ajani,
Adversary of Tyrants is a good card for a very specific niche and it’s
priced fairly. All its abilities are solid in white aggro, where it plays
wonderfully with both Walking Ballista and History of Benalia. Ajani is
almost certainly going to be a two-of or three-of in at least one good
deck, but I can’t imagine it does much beyond that. If you think that
you’ll need these, $16 is fair. This card will probably settle in around
$12 if white aggro fails to regain a solid share of the metagame and
$17-$18 if it does.

It’s also worth noting that Walking Ballista might tick up a bit in
response, though the card is so close to rotation that it could just keep
slowly dropping even if it starts to see more competitive play again.
History of Benalia is probably the better buy if you’d rather focus on
proven post-hype pick-ups.

Vivien Reid – $14.99

I know that I said to keep a lookout for generically good cards in core
sets like Core Set 2019, but Vivien Reid might just be a little too generic. I feel like I’ll be paying five mana for a single
Disenchant far too often here, and I’m not sure that the promise of card
selection will be enough to push Vivien over the edge into playability. I
can imagine a metagame where Vivien had a chance to shine, but the most
likely scenario here is that she becomes another $7-$8 five-mana
planeswalker in a long, long line of them.

Chromium, the Mutable – $11.99

The thing that I like most about Chromium, the Mutable is that it does one
thing very well. If you want a slippery and uncounterable Esper
Control finisher, Chromium is your Dragon. Seven mana is a lot, but flash
does a lot to help ameliorate that problem.

Since I’m not really worried about whether Chromium is good enough, my
financial questions must do more with how the metagame is likely to
develop. Esper Control is probably the third most-popular deck in the
format right now, but is Chromium likely to be more of a mirror-breaker in
the sideboard, or a versatile maindeck threat? My guess is that Chromium is
a little worse than average at the moment, since it has to compete with
Torrential Gearhulk (still the better card, I think) at the top end and
running any sort of seven-drop in a field dominated by red aggro seems a
little suspect. It’s possible that Chromium won’t really shine until after
rotation, at which point who knows how good Esper control will be?

That said, there’s some real upside here. Good mythic control finishers can
be worth $25, $30, even $35 in the right environment. Chromium isn’t likely
to fall below $6-$7 regardless, so a $12 buy-in piques my interest. I’ll
still probably hold out until we get a bit closer to rotation, but if
you’ve already got Esper Control put together, you should probably snag a
couple of these now just in case.

Vaevictis Asmati, the Dire – $7.99

I guess there’s a shot that some sort of Jund Midrange deck will want to
make use of Vaevictis Asmati, the Dire? A card that can force a sacrifice
of any permanent can’t be dismissed out of hand, but I don’t really like
anything else about this one. The casting cost is rough, there’s no
enters-the-battlefield ability, the attack trigger is not a may ability,
and it has an inherent amount of randomness involved that makes me wary
about using it in any sort of competitive context. There’s a glimmer of
upside here, but I’m banking on this being a future bulk rare.

Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner – $6.99

Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner seems quite a bit worse than Carnage Tyrant,
which is already not seeing much play right now because green is so bad at
the moment. Heck, I even like Azor, the Lawbringer more than this, and that
one’s just $1.75 right now. It’s possible that Palladia-Mors will gain
relevance this fall since the first new Ravnica set will include both
Selesnya and Boros, but it’s been a while since “big dumb Dragon that
doesn’t do anything other than hit” has been good.

Bone Dragon – $5.99

The first time I saw this card, I neglected to see the part where you must
pay mana as well as exile seven other cards from your graveyard to put this
onto the battlefield and started having happy thoughts about Manaless
Dredge. That’s not what this card is at all, though, and the unfortunate
reality is that Bone Dragon is simply too underpowered to be anything more
than a Limited bomb. A 5/4 flier for five mana is relentlessly mediocre,
and jumping through hoops to get it back onto the battlefield sometimes is
just not going to cut it. Future bulk mythic.

Alpine Moon – $4.99

So much for core sets being full of cards that are easy to evaluate!

On the one hand, I’m not sure that Alpine Moon is any good at all. I know
that there are some seriously evil lands in Legacy and Modern (Dark Depths,
Wasteland, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Celestial Colonnade, Eldrazi
Temple and, of course, Tron), but you’re losing card advantage while also
giving your opponent a free rainbow land. One that they can use to cast
Nature’s Claim, for example. Oh, and it costs you a sideboard slot to run
at all.

On the other hand, this is a one-mana spell that shuts down many of the
most powerful cards in Magic’s most powerful formats. Comparing this to
Blood Moon isn’t fair, because Blood Moon is a three-mana card. Being able
to interact for just a single mana is a huge deal, and there’s a shot that
this becomes the most important new card in the entirety of Core Set 2019.

This is not a spec for the faint of heart. If Alpine Moon isn’t good, it’s
a bulk rare. If it is good, we might be looking at a $20 Modern staple. I
tend to be conservative with my preview season speculations, so I’m staying
away. If you’re more of a risk-taker, however…

Elvish Clancaller – $3.99

Elvish Clancaller is interesting enough that we must spend a moment talking
about its playability in both Standard and Modern.

The biggest problem with Clancaller in Standard is Goblin Chainwhirler. A
one-toughness creature must be beyond amazing for me to consider playing it
right now, and Elvish Clancaller just seems okay. There aren’t enough Elves
in the format to counteract that issue, though Guilds of Ravnica
could change the calculus on that front. If the fall set brings us a bunch
of sweet new Elves and Goblin Chainwhirler ends up either banned or forced
into the fringes of the format, then we can talk.

In Modern, Elvish Clancaller seems like a fringe inclusion. I’ve talked to
a couple of Elves players and they’ve indicated to me that they’re going to
test it, but they’re not certain if it’ll be good enough. If it is, the
price will likely remain in the $4-$5 range. If not, there’s a very real
shot that this will drop toward $1-$2 and become a very intriguing late
summer speculation target based on future Standard and casual demand.

Infernal Reckoning – $3.99

I have no idea how effective Infernal Reckoning will actually prove as a
tournament level hate card, but the fact that I haven’t heard much chatter
about it tells me that it’s probably not good enough to make an immediate
impact. If it drops off toward bulk, I’ll probably pick up a bunch in order
to hedge against future Modern or even Legacy formats where this becomes a
useful piece of sideboard tech.

Lathliss, Dragon Queen – $3.99

Lathliss, Dragon Queen isn’t good enough for competitive play, but it’s a
new must-play in every Dragon-themed Commander deck ever made. Foils should
start fairly high and will remain solid long-term holds. Heck, I wouldn’t
be surprised if Lathliss (along with the other cool Dragons in this set)
cause a couple of minor Dragon-related Commander spikes similar to what
happened with Dragons of Tarkir came out.

Dark-Dweller Oracle – $2.99

I have slight PTSD from the name of this card and the reality that I have
about 60 copies of Goblin Dark-Dwellers sitting in a box somewhere. Oh
well. Dark-Dweller Oracle might have some game in a casual format where the
sac outlet is a good thing, but this is far too random and below the power
curve for Standard. Future bulk rare.

Amulet of Safekeeping – $2.99

This is one of the weirdest cards I’ve seen in years. It makes no sense on
an intuitive level. My guess is that Amulet of Safekeeping is R&D’s
attempt to try and answer the question of how to ensure that Modern players
can sideboard against multiple strategies at once so that your progression
though a large Modern tournament is less matchup dependent. That’s a noble
goal, even if it does lead to Clunkasaurus Rexes like this.

Anyway, Amulet of Safekeeping is probably good enough to see at least
marginal Modern and even Legacy sideboard play. $3 is a totally fine buy-in
for even a fringe Eternal card. Buy a set of these, sock them away, and
pull them out whenever you need them. It doesn’t have a ton of financial
upside, but it’s likely to be at least marginally useful for a very long

Incidentally, expect the printing of this card to lead to a lot of
“unban Splinter Twin!” chatter this winter. That card is $5 right now, and
I expect it’ll get close to $10 by early January simply due to people
buying into the possibility of an unban. The profit won’t be outstanding,
but it’s free money if you want it.

Demon of Catastrophes – $2.99

I don’t hate Demon of Catastrophes, but I hate the fact that it must
compete with Hazoret the Fervent, Rekindling Phoenix, and Chandra, Torch of
Defiance at the four-drop slot in R/B Aggro. Also. Do you really want a
four-drop with BB when you’re trying to get Goblin Chainwhirler out there
as soon as possible? I suppose a future metagame could develop where this
card ends up seeing play in a deck like that, but control brews aren’t
going to like how conditional this is and the aggro/midrange decks are
skewing red. I feel like Demon of Catastrophes will be lost in the shuffle,
at least for now.

Patient Rebuilding – $2.99

I’m not patient enough for Patient Rebuilding. A five-mana do-nothing that
might draw you a card sometimes? Pass. I might run this in my mill
Commander deck simply because there aren’t a ton of cards out there that
can mill as well as draw, but the days of “draw-go” control are over, and
this is neither good enough for competitive play nor unique enough for
widespread casual demand. Future bulk rare.

Isareth the Awakener – $2.99

I was ready to dismiss Isareth until I re-read the word “deathtouch,” one
of my favorite underrated abilities. A 3/3 deathtouch for three is a
totally reasonable on-curve play for a midrange deck, and Isareth the
Awakener’s reanimation ability pushes it over the top for me. I don’t know
if Isareth the Awakener will find a home in the metagame or not, but the
power level is there. At $3, this is a totally fine gamble.

Mistcaller – $2.49

Are we sure that Core Set 2019 isn’t just Sideboard Tech: The Set?
This thing is great against everything from Aether Vial and Collected
Company to Reanimate and Show and Tell-all for a single mana. That seems
great to me, though my Legacy pals tell me that it’s probably not going to
see play in a format where Flusterstorm and Containment Priest exist as
better options.

Much like with Amulet of Safekeeping, I don’t see a ton of downside to just
grabbing a set of these for $10 total if you play a lot of Eternal Magic.
Even if it doesn’t see a ton of immediate play, it’s a solid hedge against
strategies that have proven very good in the past. Best case, this becomes
a key sideboard card and spikes to like $10 at some point.

Desecrated Tomb – $1.99

Sweet, sweet, combulk! Grab these once they drop to bulk, and then wait for
Saffron Olive to make some sort of infinite Bat engine using a stack of
random Innistrad commons. You’ll have about a week to out these at
$5-$6 each before the hype dies back down.

Gigantosaurus – $1.99

This card is the best excuse I’ve had in ages to link you to

my favorite video from the early YouTube era

. It just about sums up my feeling about the card as well. I suppose
there’s an off-chance that Mono-Green Aggro wants this, but that would
involve Mono-Green Aggro becoming an actual deck again first. Future bulk

Ajani’s Last Stand – $1.99

Pro players tend to not like reactive and conditional cards like this. I
don’t blame them. It might see some sideboard play if a certain sort of
discard strategy gains a lot of popularity, but I don’t see that as a
particularly likely outcome. Future bulk rare.

Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma – $1.99


::checks text::

Aw dunk.

Removed from that context, I actually really like Goreclaw, Terror of Qal
Sisma. Mana cost reduction is no joke and getting this thing onto the
battlefield can lead to some seriously absurd lines of play. The Scarab God
for three mana? Don’t mind if I do!

At the very worst, Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma is a very good card in
Commander. At best, it’s going to revitalize some sort of R/G or Sultai
Aggro deck. Oh-and people are already buying out Myr Superion on Magic
Online, so expect at least minor gains there in paper even though it’s a
very silly combo. I’m not sure that Goreclaw is going to be great, but it’s
my favorite gamble on the $2 tier right now.

Metamorphic Alteration – $1.99

I’ve seen almost no chatter about Metamorphic Alteration, and maybe my
initial reaction to the card (that it’s unplayable garbage) is the right

That said, I think we might all be sleeping on a pretty versatile spell.
Obviously it’s not really worth spending two mana and a card to turn your
worst creature into the best creature on the battlefield, but what about a
spell that can either do that or turn your opponent’s
best creature into the worst creature on the battlefield? Sure, maybe it’s
better to just run an actual removal spell most of the time, but I’m at
least going to monitor this one going forward.

Vivien’s Invocation – $1.49

Vivien’s Invocation is certainly no Tooth and Nail. It’s too expensive and
too inconsistent to be even a marginal choice for any competitive format. I
might run a copy in one of my Commander decks, though, and the art makes it
look like the foil could generate a slight premium simply because it looks
cool. The normal printing will remain a bulk rare, though.

Open the Graves – $0.99

I’ll probably throw one of these in my Zombie Commander deck, but the value
isn’t all the great even in a casual format unless the creature type of the
tokens matters for you. This a non-starter in competitive play, obviously.
Bulk rare.

Prodigious Growth – $0.99

It only takes one “in response…” before neophyte Magic players learn why
cards like this aren’t very good. We all must learn this lesson the hard
way, though. Bulk rare.

This Week’s Trends

  • There wasn’t much movement in either Standard or Modern this week.
    Crested Sunmare is up a bit thanks to all the new Horses in Core Set 2019, but the card is so close to rotation that I
    don’t expect it to stick. Karn Liberated is doing well after Tron
    put on a virtuoso performance at Grand Prix Las Vegas. Jace, the
    Mind Sculptor continues to drop as it fails to make a major impact
    in Modern. Karn, Scion of Urza has been falling as well since it
    seems to be merely a very good card instead of a silly broken
    mistake like so many people (including myself) assumed it was early
    in the format.
    • While some Standard cards will start to spike a bit now that Core Set 2019 is becoming a known quantity, I wouldn’t
      chase the market too much right now. We’re too close to set
      rotation, and most players are going to hold off until Guilds of Ravnica. Standard’s yearly lull is about a month
      off, and I’ll be advising you on how to buy in once we hit late
      July or early August.
    • I’m sure some of you saw

      the r/mtgfinance post

      where a cryptocurrency investor dropped $100,000 into dual lands at
      Grand Prix Las Vegas last weekend. As I’ve stated before, I think
      this is one of the major reasons why we’ve started to see so many
      absurd reserved list spikes over the past year or so. There’s a
      large crossover between the cryptocurrency world and Magic’s player
      base, especially the sort of players who might believe that owning
      a ton of Reserved List cards might make a certain amount of
      financial sense. (And if not, who cares? These folks are good at
      shrugging off their losses and moving on).

    Let this be a lesson for those of you who believe that the reserved list
    spikes are entirely based on a bubble in the mtgfinance world. If it were a
    bubble, we wouldn’t be seeing so many people buying these cards for
    themselves – it would just be investors buying and selling and buying again
    in an effort to keep searching out the greater fool. Some of that is
    happening, certainly, and I’m not arguing that we won’t see a bunch of
    Reserved List cards fall off in price at some point due to a market panic
    or whatever. But there are plenty of collectors with a stack of cash who
    simply want to own these cards and have the means to do so now. Ignore them
    at your own risk.