Core Set 2020 Financial Set Review, Part 2

Core Set 2020 has turned out to be a strange release without a chase mythic rare. What are the finance implications? Chas Andres has those and much more, plus This Week’s Trends!

There hasn’t been a set like Core Set 2020 in quite some time.

For starters, it’s been over a year since we’ve had a set without a true chase mythic. Usually at least one or two planeswalkers end up pre-ordering for $30-$40 as well as at least one other cheap creature or overpowered spell that starts out in the $20-$30 range. Even if these chase mythics don’t end up panning out (Tezzeret, Artifice Master says hello!), they still end up defining the market for the set as a whole.

For example, Dominaria‘s second- and third-tier rares have always been incredibly cheap relative to their power level. This is because expensive mythics like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria; Mox Amber; History of Benalia; and Karn, Scion of Urza had been soaking up most of the set’s overall value. By contrast, cards in Rivals of Ixalan are far more prone to wild jumps because the set lacks a true high-end mythic rare to help defray the costs of the set’s other cards. If The Immortal Sun and Wayward Swordtooth were in Dominaria, they wouldn’t be selling for $28 and $14 respectively – they’d be worth half that. By contrast, if popular casual card Muldrotha, the Gravetide were in Rivals of Ixalan, it would be at least $10 right now.

Of course, Dominaria and Rivals of Ixalan sit on opposite extremes. Most sets have at least one chase mythic (unlike Rivals), and very few sets have as many chase mythics as Dominaria. Because of this, it’s usually easy to compare prices across sets without having to worry about how top-heavy a given expansion is shaping up to be.

I bring this up because Core Set 2020 isn’t a normal set. Instead, it’s shaping up to be the next Rivals of Ixalan, if not a more extreme example of a bottom-heavy set. The most expensive mythic rares in Core Set 2020 right now are Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer and Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord at $16 each. That’s wild. I can’t remember the last time a set has been previewed without at least one $20 card. I’d wager that it hasn’t happened this decade.

Granted, a big part of this problem is just an overall lack of enthusiasm for Core Set 2020. I talked about this last week, in Part 1 of my set review, and the reveal of the full set has only cemented the set’s status as the forgotten expansion of 2019. People just aren’t that excited about anything in Core Set 2020 right now other than Leyline of the Void. The result? Depressed singles prices now, and a coming shortage of Core Set 2020 staples this fall.

As I said last week, the best time to buy Magic cards is when everyone else is looking the other way. Not only are Core Set 2020‘s cards ripe for gains due to how under-opened this set is going to be, but they’re extra-juicy targets because there’s no $40+ mythic rare putting a ceiling on their gains. It won’t take much for any of these cards to end up doubling or tripling in price, and I suspect that we will see some pretty eye-popping prices come set rotation.

That said, you still have to pick the right cards to invest in. I’ve got the second part of my set review for you today, and the third part will go up on Friday. Sorry for the delay, but Core Set 2020 is oozing with promising specs, and I don’t want to short-change a single card.

Let’s get started!

Mythic Rares

Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer – $16

The biggest hurdle I see for Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer right now is the sheer number of good three-mana planeswalkers there are in Standard right now. Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer is powerful, but she’s not overpowered, and I don’t think she’s an upgrade to either Teferi, Time Raveler or Narset, Parter of Veils. Seeing as Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer will be competing against those two powerhouses for her entire run in Standard, I’m not convinced she’ll be anything more than a fringe player.

That said, Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer might still have the highest upside of any card in Core Set 2020. Three-mana planeswalkers are the engine driving Standard right now, and the power level is certainly there with Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer. Also, like I said in the intro, the serious lack of expensive mythics in this set means that whatever mythic does break out has a real shot of spiking into the $30-$40 range. Heck, if Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer is a $50 mythic by October, I won’t be all that surprised.

And there are top-tier decks where Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer can coexist with her two partners in crime. Check out Kevin Jones’s article from last week, where he explores the card’s possibilities in a variety of shells.

If you’re the kind of person who likes pre-ordering $10-$20 mythics in search of the next Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, then I recommend snagging a set of Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer. This is the card with the most Teferi-esque upside in the entire set. I don’t know if that’s going to happen in a world where we’ve already got multiple Teferis and Narset competing for space in the blue decks, but there’s a real chance that this card is something special.

Kethis, the Hidden Hand – $10

Kethis, the Hidden Hand might be a Commander-only card, but it’s probably the best “legendary matters” commander out there right now. I don’t think it’ll be nearly as popular as Yarok, the Desecrated, the most exciting new commander in Core Set 2020, but it’ll have its fans. The big issue here is that it doesn’t really open up any new lines of play. It’s more…if you want to play with a bunch of legendary creatures and spells, you may want to consider Kethis to lead your team.

Unlike many of the other Commander mythics in Core Set 2020, I don’t see a lot of secondary spike buying opportunities here. A lot of the best cards for a Kethis deck have just been printed within the past year or two, especially thanks to the “legendary cards matter” subtheme in Dominaria, and they aren’t ready to spike yet. As for Kethis itself, I doubt this one will stay in the $10 range for long. My guess is that the bottom is somewhere in the $3-$4 range, at least short-term. I’d stay away for now.

Cavalier of Gales – $6

Cavalier of Gales has an interesting answer to the “What if my opponent just murders my big dumb flier?” question. Brainstorming without a way to shuffle your library is always less powerful than you think, especially in formats without much targeted discard, but if your opponent kills Caviler of Gales, you get to put your two bad cards on the bottom of your library. Neat, right? I’d be pretty into this card if it cost less than five mana.

Unfortunately, Cavalier of Gales looks to be a touch underpowered for competitive play. It might show up in the fall if we go back to Theros and the three blue mana symbols in the top right corner end up enabling some good mono-blue card with devotion, but there are loads of better creatures in Standard at the moment. I’m staying away, and I suspect that most of these Cavaliers are destined for bulk mythic status.

Cavalier of Night – $6

… I did say most of the Cavaliers are destined to become bulk mythics. Cavalier of Night is my favorite member of the Cavalier cycle, and it seems like a pretty solid card overall. Five mana is still rough for competitive play, especially when it comes to creatures, but at least the power level is right. As long as you have one other small creature on the battlefield when you drop your Cavalier of Night, you can use this as a piece of removal that brings something back when it dies. That’s about as close to a guaranteed two-for-one as you can get, and a 4/5 with lifelink is nothing to sneeze at in the meantime. In addition, lifelink is one of the best keywords to have on a midrange beater, and I have to imagine that every black-based midrange deck is going to at least consider running Cavalier of Night.

As with most of the promising cards in Core Set 2020, I don’t see an obvious home for Cavalier of Night in the current metagame. In fact, it’s likely that we won’t see this card’s true power level until some point in the fall. It’s also possible that midrange decks will remain out of favor, or that black-based midrange won’t end up making a splash at all over the next year. That said, if you’re going to snag any of the members of this cycle, this is the one I’d target. There’s bulk mythic downside, but $15-$20 upside with Cavalier of Night.


Lotus Field – $15

I have no idea where Lotus Field will end up finding a home, but cards with this much raw power always wind up making an impact somewhere. Maybe it’ll be alongside Blood Sun and Kiora in Standard. Maybe it’ll find a home in Modern Amulet Titan. Maybe there will be some sort of new deck revolving around Crucible of Worlds and Flagstones of Trokair.

While I would prefer not to spend $15 on a non-mythic rare with no track record and no real home, I still don’t feel like Lotus Field is terribly overpriced. In a set like Core Set 2020 with no real chase mythics, it won’t take much for a card like this to sustain a long-term price tag in the $10-$20 range. Plus, as a land without a strict color identity, Lotus Field has a shot at showing up in multiple top decks across multiple formats.

So yeah. I can’t really call Lotus Field underpriced at $15, especially in a set like this, though it might drop into the $7-$8 range if it doesn’t find a home within its first couple months of format legality. I’d still rather invest in cheaper cards that have clear homes already. That said, I definitely believe that Lotus Field will end up at or above $15 again eventually, so feel free to snag your copies now if you want them. I’m staying away for now myself, though.

Brought Back – $5

I don’t know how or when Brought Back will be broken, but I suspect that this is going to be one of the standout cards in Core Set 2020. This effect is simply too powerful to avoid seeing play for long. You can use Brought Back proactively with a bunch of planeswalkers and fetchlands, or you can use it reactively to win a combat phase or respond to a mass removal spell. It’s just so easy to come up with oodles of scenarios where this will put you ahead on both mana and cards, both in Standard and in Modern. I’m so in.

Financially, $5 is a solid price for a gamble like this. There’s $15+ upside here, and the downside is fairly small since Core Set 2020 is such a low-value set. I’ll be grabbing my copies ASAP.

Elvish Reclaimer – $4

Elvish Reclaimer is a fascinating card. I don’t think it’s good enough to see play in Standard, where there just isn’t that much utility in cycling through your lands, but this thing has tons of promise elsewhere. Its static ability is pretty easy to turn on if your deck is full of fetchlands, and paying two mana for a repeatable Crop Rotation might be enough to get there in decks like Legacy Elves, where you can tutor up your Gaea’s Cradle with your one-drop Elf.

Unfortunately, Elvish Reclaimer will likely have to see significant play in either Standard or Modern to be worth a buy-in at $4, and I’m less certain about whether either of those things will happen. If you want to hedge your bets, get foils. Those will go up first if the card sees play in Legacy (likely), and you still get to ride the spike if it catches on in one of the more popular formats as well.

Knight of the Ebon Legion – $4

The biggest problem I have with Knight of the Ebon Legion is that there isn’t a top tier aggressive black deck in the Standard metagame right now. The only decks at the top of the heap that run black are Sultai Midrange and Grixis Control, two decks that aren’t going to look at Knight of the Ebon Legion. It’s quite possible that this card ends up in the $1-$2 range over the short term simply because of the current metagame.

That said, Knight of the Ebon Legion is absolutely powerful enough to see play as a four-of in a top-tier Standard deck. One-drops don’t actually have to do all that much to see play, and the fact that this thing can turn into a legitimate mid-game threat is good enough for me. I wouldn’t be surprised if this card ends up flirting with $10 at some point during its run in Standard – I just don’t know if that’ll happen soon, and I suspect there will be a better window to buy in a bit later.

Marauding Raptor – $3

I don’t know if there will be enough Constructed-playable Dinosaurs in Standard to make Marauding Raptor work once Ixalan rotates, but I suspect this card will see play until then at the very least. A 2/3 for two mana that can attack as a 4/3 while allowing you to cast your four-drop on Turn 3? That’s a powerful creature. The biggest problem that the Dinosaur decks had was a lack of solid early plays, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Gruul decks move in this direction over the next couple of months.

It’s also worth noting that Marauding Raptor goes infinite with Polyraptor, which has doubled in price over the past couple of days. I expect this one to settle down a bit once people realize that Polyraptor is still a seven-drop with Marauding Raptor on the battlefield, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the emerging Dinosaur decks ran a copy or two regardless. That shouldn’t be enough to keep the price in the $8-$10 range, but I doubt it’ll drop back to bulk mythic status, either.

Like most new cards in the $2-$3 range, it’s totally fine to grab Marauding Raptors if you think you’ll need them because the buy-in is so low. That said, even though I suspect that the card will see play, I doubt it’ll spike too much even if the deck is good. People don’t buy into rotating decks in early July – at least not without getting everything at a steep discount. This card might end up in the $4-$5 range, but the only way this card ends up being a great spec is if it ends up being a four-of in the new metagame this fall. We don’t know enough to make that claim yet.

Mystic Forge – $3

Boy oh boy does Mystic Forge have potential. It’s probably not going to be possible to assemble an engine in Standard, but you’d better believe that a whole flurry of Modern mages are already trying to find ways to break this thing in half. Maybe it’ll be an Affinity shell, or a Cheerios shell, or a Whir Prison shell – heck, even Lantern Control might be back on the table.

Regardless, $3 seems like a totally solid gamble for a card with this much potential in eternal Magic. Worst-case, it’s a fantastic casual card that should stay in the $3-$5 range due to Commander demand alone. This is one of the best buys in Core Set 2020 right now.

Vilis, Broker of Blood – $2.50

If you’re trying to build a Reanimator deck in Standard, meet your new best friend. Between Vilis, Broker of Blood and Drakuseth, Maw of Flames, there are a couple of solid creatures to bring back from the dead that are in the format now. This is kind of a long shot, admittedly, but we can dream, right?

In most older formats, Griselbrand is strictly better. The only place where Vilis outclasses his older brother is when you’re casting the spell Reanimate, which combines to draw you a full eight cards without the additional loss of life that Griselbrand forces you to pay if you’re going to draw with him. I don’t think that’s enough to run Vilis over Griselbrand in any of the existing Legacy Reanimator decks, but it might be worth snagging a foil or two if they’re cheap just in case.

Otherwise, you can pretty much ignore Vilis. $2.50 is a reasonable price to pick up a copy or two if you want to mess around with reanimation, but the odds are against this card becoming a financial winner at any point.

Temple of Epiphany / Malady / Mystery / Silence / Triumph – $2 – $2.50

If you play any Standard at all, buy a set of each of these lands at current retail and forget about it. They may not be as good as the shocklands, but they’re still totally playable in Standard. Both Temple of Epiphany and Temple of Malady had spikes into the $10+ range last time they were around, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the most relevant Temples end up at $5+ again this fall.

Honestly, the low pre-order price for these Temples reminds me of when the Glacial Fortress cycle was reprinted in Ixalan after having shown up in multiple Core Sets over the years. Everybody kind of shrugged, and you could pick them up without issue in the $2-$3 range. Then the land cycle ended up being quite playable, and Glacial Fortress is up to $9 now. The same thing could happen here, only fewer packs of Core Set 2020 will be opened than Ixalan.

Get your Temples ASAP.

Nightpack Ambusher – $2

Nightpack Ambusher’s synergy with Frilled Mystic is incredible, and it would be one of my top breakout picks from Core Set 2020 if it weren’t for a three-mana thorn in its side named Teferi, Time Raveler. Bant Flash isn’t a very large part of the metagame right now, and that has more to do with the dominance of Esper than anything else.

I suspect that a time may come when Teferi, Time Raveler isn’t showing up all over the place, and Nightpack Ambusher might get its chance to shine then. For now, I suspect the card will kick around the $1-$2 range and mostly stick to the sidelines.

Repeated Reverberation – $2

Janky combos with Ral Zarek aside, Repeated Reverberation is too expensive for competitive Constructed play. Even the Magical Christmas Land scenarios I’ve seen with Repeated Reverberation aren’t all that inspiring, especially since most of them require two other cards and eight or nine mana.

On the other hand, the fact that Repeated Reverberation can double a loyalty ability is super-interesting. That makes this a distinctive card, which gets my “combulk” senses tingling. My guess is that Repeated Reverberation ends up as a half-dollar rare…until some planeswalker is printed with a loyalty ability that goes infinite or wins the game if it’s doubled, at which point this card will spike to $10+ overnight. Hold off on this one for now but stash a bunch of copies once it hits rock bottom in a few months.

Bishop of Wings – $1.50

I don’t think Bishop of Wings is going to see any play outside of kitchen-table Angel decks. In casual play, it’s a nice little on-flavor blocker to drop on Turn 2 that’ll hold off some early attackers until you can start dropping Angel after Angel. In competitive play, there are almost certainly going to be better early options. Future $1 rare.

Drakuseth, Maw of Flames – $1.50

I miss the days when I could just write something like “This is a big dumb creature, it won’t see any play, future bulk rare” for a vast majority of these Core Set critters. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately for those of us who like opening booster packs), Drakuseth is pretty powerful for a seven-drop. It needs haste, but if you can find a way to grant it (Bond of Revival?), this thing is capable of dealing seventeen damage in a single swing.

Drakuseth reminds me a lot of Balefire Dragon, a card that wasn’t playable in Standard but which did end up being a great long-term casual spec. To that end, I wouldn’t be shocked if Drakuseth ends up in the $4-$5 range at some point, especially if it ends up seeing some fringe play in a Standard Reanimator shell. It’s certainly not at the top of my spec target list, but it’s absolutely something I’m going to keep my eye on.

Agent of Treachery – $1

Much like with Drakuseth, I was just about to write a single snarky sentence about how Agent of Treachery is totally unplayable at seven mana…and then I realized that its permanent-stealing effect doesn’t end when it leaves the battlefield. That’s a big game. Instead of being a bulk rare, Agent of Treachery gets to be a staple in literally every “blink my stuff” Commander deck.

As with most of the Commander cards in Core Set 2020, Agent of Treachery’s short-term upside is limited. You’re not playing this in Standard unless the format slows way down. That said, casual play will make this a solid $2-$3 card long-term at least. I’d snag a copy or two now if you like playing with cards like this.

Glint-Horn Buccaneer – $1

Glint-Horn Buccaneer has some real promise. A 2/4 body is more annoying than it seems, haste is great, and looting abilities are as strong as they’ve ever been. I’m not sure what Standard spells you want to discard to Glint-Horn Buccaneer right now, but jump-start cards and extra lands feel like a good start.

Glint-Horn Buccaneer isn’t going to have much casual demand, so you’re looking at a true bulk rare if it doesn’t pan out. For that reason alone, I’m probably not going to buy in. I don’t blame anyone who does, though – there’s a shot that this card becomes a new Mono-Red or Izzet staple, and there’s $7-$8 upside here.

Masterful Replication – $1

Masterful Replication is too expensive for Constructed play, and it’ll be more of a fringe player in Commander than a future staple. Decks like Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer that can pump out an army of artifact creatures are probably going to want to run this, but it won’t make the cut in most artifact-based strategies. I can see it ending up as a $2-$3 card eventually, but there’s no need to devote too many resources to this one.

This Week’s Trends

It was actually a pretty big news week in Magic, starting with the announcement of Historic, the new eternal format that I was calling “Arena Modern” in my article from several weeks ago.

Unfortunately, the announcement was about as disappointing as it gets. Not only are the folks at Wizards of the Coast not going to re-introduce Amonkhet or Kaladesh blocks to Arena this fall in order to support Historic, but they seem intent on downplaying the new format as much as possible. The announcement seems pretty adamant about considering Historic to be a casual, Arena-only format for now. Bummer!

My hope was that WotC would introduce a heavily supported new format – some new way to play competitively that could fit in the large gap between Standard and the ever-increasing Modern card pool. That does not seem to be their goal at this time. Perhaps it’ll happen in the future, when the Historic card pool is larger, but that’s not coming in 2019. Ah well. I still expect Amonkhet and Kaladesh to join the fray at some point before Historic does become relevant, but you can put those specs back in your long-term box for now.

Of course, there was another interesting format announcement this week that we need to talk about. WotC has officially brought Pauper into the paper realm, complete with a unified list of legal cards. That means no more confusion over weird Magic Online card legalities and loads more sanctioned Pauper tournaments! Hoorah!

The last time I wrote about Pauper was in February of 2018, and that article is worth reading if you’ve got the time. My metagame breakdown is a touch out of date now, but the article should still provide you with a good primer for how to approach Pauper from a finance perspective. Even though Pauper is cheap by design, most of the good decks still have “choke point” cards that are capable of spiking. I’ll dive deeper into Pauper again at some point soon now that the format is about to become a lot more relevant. Just remember that High Tide, Sinkhole, and Hymn to Tourach were just banned, which means that the metagame is in flux right now.

Moving on to Standard, there wasn’t a ton of action in the market this week. Polyraptor spiked a bit due to the infinite combo with Marauding Raptor that we discussed earlier, but the only other Standard cards that moved this week were Finale of Promise and Dreadhorde Arcanist, both of which are seeing more play in Modern. At this point, it’s pretty clear that the Standard market has begun its summer lull, and I wouldn’t be surprised if things are pretty lethargic for the next couple of months unless Core Set 2020 really shakes things up.

The Modern market has a bit more life to it. Yixlid Jailer spiked hard this week, mostly because of how good it is against the Hogaak decks that are running wild in Modern. The card is up to $4 now, but it might keep going – the fact that it was only printed as a promo and in Future Sight means that the available supply is tiny. I expect a Modern banning to neuter the Hogaak decks before long, but Yixlid Jailer has a shot at doubling up again before that happens.

Also up this week: Inkmoth Nexus. The card hasn’t been printed in a while and Infect is making a bit of a comeback in Modern thanks to Teferi and some of the new tech from Modern Horizons. My guess is that it stabilizes in the $40-$50 range, and there’s even more room to grow from there. Here’s hoping you bought your playset back when it was cheap.

Sigarda’s Aid, a former $1 rare from Eldritch Moon, was one of the week’s other big winners. This is a fun two-card combo with Colossus Hammer, a new uncommon from Core Set 2020. This is almost certainly not a competitive combo, and I’d sell into the spike if you’re holding. Regardless, this is a card to fish out of your bulk boxes.

Most of the other Modern spikes this week were Modern Horizons cards like Wrenn and Six, Aria of Flame, and Seasoned Pyromancer. I know I said to wait until July for supply to level out, but most of the cards in this set have already hit their lows and they’ve all started to rebound. While the casual cards might still have further to fall, all competitive cards in Modern Horizons are capable of doubling in price at any point now. Don’t wait any longer to buy in.

Lastly, the foil sheets from the War of the Spark Mythic Edition debacle have finally begun to ship. The only problem? Some of the sheets were damaged upon arrival, and other Mythic Edition buyers didn’t get a foil sheet at all—they got an electric toothbrush instead. Uh-oh!

If either of these two things happened to you, it’s worth reaching out to the WotC product replacement department. They’re aware of these issues and will work with you to get you the foil sheet that you deserve.

Otherwise, now is a great time to buy one of these sheets if you want one. If you have one that you don’t really want, hold onto it for a while. The market is saturated right now, and the prices are about as low as they’re ever going to get.