Core Set 2020 Financial Set Review, Part 3

Chas Andres concludes his Core Set 2020 Financial Set Review! What should you buy and hold? And how should players react to potential bannings on Monday? Plus, This Week’s Trends!

Welcome to the third and final part of my Core Set 2020 financial set review! If you missed Part 1, you can find it here. After that, be sure to check out Part 2, which is over here.

There hasn’t been much movement in the Core Set 2020 market during the pre-order period, though Leyline of the Void has continued to creep back up in price. When Leyline of the Void was first revealed as Core Set 2020‘s marquee reprint, it was available for pre-order at $10. Now it’s all the way back up to $20. This price might drop again if a few other expensive cards emerge from the Core Set 2020 scrum, but it’s expensive right now because there’s literally no other card in the set that’s selling for more than $16. All that value has to end up somewhere.

By the time you read this article, Core Set 2020 will have been live on Magic Online and Magic Arena for at least 48 hours. Metagame innovation moves quickly these days, and it’s quite possible that Core Set 2020‘s best cards will have made themselves known by now. If so, you should think about buying in ASAP. Between the usual summer slump, the holiday weekend, and the lack of hype surrounding this set, there should be more time than usual to react to Core Set 2020‘s initial impact. And as I said last week, it shouldn’t take much play to cause a Core Set 2020 card to spike. Since demand is so flat and overall set value is so low, any card that starts seeing play has the potential to really take off.

Even if the market doesn’t move over the next couple of weeks, I still recommend picking up what you can from Core Set 2020 over the next month or so. This is going to be Standard’s lowest-supply set come next season, and folks are going to need cards like Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer; Legion’s End; and Brought Back for their post-rotation brews. You aren’t going to want to pay post-spike prices for whichever cards in this set do break out, believe me.

On that note, are you ready for the third and final chunk of my card-by-card reviews? I sure am!

Mythic Rares

Vivien, Arkbow Ranger – $12

Most people are going to compare Vivien, Arkbow Ranger to Core Set 2019‘s Vivien Reid, and they’re going to be disappointed. That card’s versatility was just about unsurpassed for a green planeswalker, and this version of Vivien is a lot narrower. Heck, even just the additional green mana symbol in the upper right corner of Vivien, Arkbow Ranger cuts into the card’s overall playability.

That doesn’t mean that Vivien, Arkbow Ranger is unplayable, though. Vivien provides the exact sort of two-for-one that a midrange green deck is looking for, providing you can cast it with any sort of regularity on a battlefield with at least one big creature. I expect Vivien to spend a lot of time hitting the battlefield, using her -3 as a removal spell, and then sitting around putting annoying counters on things until it’s dealt with. That’s not half bad!

Unfortunately, Vivien is competing with a lot of other planeswalkers right now. For example, I’m not even sure if Vivien is better than Domri, Anarch of Bolas, who is just a $2 card despite seeing regular play in Gruul Midrange. Vivien has more financial upside since she’s a mythic rare in a worse set, but she’s got a lot of the same problems that Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer is dealing with right now in terms of competing against other top-quality ‘walkers at the same mana cost.

In a vacuum, Vivien seems decent. In our current planeswalker-saturated metagame, I don’t know if decent is good enough. The fact that Vivien is a mythic planeswalker in a core set means that she’s probably not dropping below $5-$6, and there’s $25 upside here if she does pay off. That said, there are far better gambles in this set, including the aforementioned Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer.

I’m staying away for now.

Omnath, Locus of the Roil – $8

Omnath, Locus of the Roil seems like a pretty solid “lands matter” commander for Temur mages, and it’s a pretty good inclusion for anyone who wants to brew an Elementals deck. The problem is that I don’t see Omnath breaking out beyond that. If I’m building a deck around lands, I’m choosing Lord Windgrace almost every time. If I’m building around Elementals, I’m sticking with Horde of Notions. As with Kethis, Omnath doesn’t really open up too many additional lines of play, which is what you want in a good Commander spec.

I’m sure some people will play with Omnath as their general regardless, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to move the needle on too many cards. Foil copies of Horde of Notions are likely to tick up a bit and Roil Elemental suddenly has a nice new home. I also bet this’ll cause the price of foil copies of Omnath, Locus of Rage to increase a bit since the two cards play well together.

Beyond that, I don’t think Omnath is going to make more than a ripple in the marketplace. This $8 price tag probably won’t stick, either – this is a second-tier casual mythic, and it’ll be $5 or less at some point.

Cavalier of Thorns – $6

On the face of it, Cavalier of Thorns is my least-favorite member of the Cavalier cycle. Reach is the least relevant keyword on any of these creatures and ramping from five lands to six isn’t all that great unless you’ve got a deck full of late-game threats. You generally want effects like this on Turn 2 or 3, not on your big beefy five-drop. Getting to put a card on the top of your library on the back end is fine I guess, but are you really playing Cavalier of Thorns over Carnage Tyrant, Nullhide Ferox, or even Biogenic Ooze?

My gut tells me no, but Bryan Gottlieb wrote a really compelling article in defense of Cavalier of Thorns. If there’s one thing we agree on wholeheartedly, it’s that midrange creatures are among the hardest cards to evaluate during set reviews because their playability is so metagame-dependent. Cavalier of Thorns is also the only mythic rare in Core Set 2020 that’s actually increased in value since it was first previewed, ticking up from $5 to $6. Considering the buy-in is still so low, it might be worth snapping up a set of these just in case.

Cavalier of Dawn – $4

Even though Cavalier of Dawn is the cheapest member of this cycle right now, it’s actually my second-favorite of the Cavaliers. People underestimate unconditional removal and giving your opponent a 3/3 Golem in return isn’t all that bad. In addition, Cavalier of Dawn has one of the stronger death triggers in the cycle, especially while History of Benalia is still playable in Standard. Granted, that card hasn’t been lighting the world on fire recently, but at least that’s a combo you can dream on. You can’t ask for much more than that with a mythic rare that’s pre-selling for just $4.

It’s still more likely than not that Cavalier of Dawn will end up being a bulk mythic, but there’s a shot that this card ends up in the $10-$15 range for a bit. I’m at least going to keep my eyes on it for a couple of weeks just in case.


Rotting Regisaur – $6

Rotting Regisaur is oozing with power, but it’s going to need to spawn a new Standard archetype in order to see play. Big dumb creatures without trample aren’t good enough for Modern, even if they’re undercosted, and casual mages don’t like cards with drawbacks – they’ll just pay an extra mana or two and avoid having to discarding a card every turn. So with Rotting Regisaur, it’s Standard or bust.

Right now, I’m thinking bust. That might change if someone develops a Rakdos shell that can turn the discard into upside, but we’re still trying to thread this particular needle with a single Standard deck that doesn’t exist yet. I’d be interested if the buy-in was $2 or $3, and I still wouldn’t be surprised if Rotting Regisaur does break out. But there are other cards with more potential in Core Set 2020 and many of them are a lot cheaper right now.

Steel Overseer – $5

Steel Overseer has been a Modern staple since the day it was first printed, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. Even if Affinity falls out of favor for a while, Steel Overseer will find a home somewhere. It’s a little less likely to make an impact in Standard, but the possibility does exist. It only saw a tiny bit of play in Standard last time it was legal, but casual demand still kept it from dropping below $4 at any point.

It’s possible that Steel Overseer will bottom out at $3 or $4, but $5 is still pretty close to the bottom for this powerful creature. The card has been $20 a couple of times in the past, and it’ll break $10 again at some point in the future (probably in early 2021). Grab a set of these while they’re still cheap. You won’t regret it.

Grafdigger’s Cage – $5

Even though Grafdigger’s Cage is the same price as Steel Overseer, I think it has a little further to drop before bottoming out. For one thing, Grafdigger’s Cage has already been reprinted once, which means that this is the third time we’re seeing it in a major set. For another, Grafdigger’s Cage’s price was lower the last time it was Standard-legal, probably because there’s a lot less casual demand for effects like this than for something like Steel Overseer. Plus, in our current iteration of Standard, I’d probably rather run Leyline of the Void most of the time if I wanted to fight against graveyard nonsense.

That said, Grafdigger’s Cage sees a ton of play in Modern. If this card does end up in the $2-$3 range like I suspect it might, you’re going to want to stock up. This card was on its way back up to the $10+ range when it was added to Core Set 2020, and it may eventually get back there.

Embodiment of Agonies – $4

Mechanically, Embodiment of Agonies might be the closest we’ve come to having Tarmogoyf back in Standard since the days of Future Sight. It’s possible that I’m totally underrating this card, just like I underrated Tarmogoyf the first time I saw it, and it’ll end up being the most impactful card in Core Set 2020.

That said, I’m going to stick with my gut and say that I don’t think Embodiment of Agonies is going to find a home. Spawn of Mayhem still seems like the better “big dumb flier that looks cheaper than it should” card, and that one doesn’t see any play at all right now. I’m going to pass on Embodiment of Agonies at current retail – the bulk rare bust rate is just too high for a $4 card.

Shifting Ceratops – $4

Shifting Ceratops is going to see quite a bit of competitive play. I’m not a fan of color protection since it leads to non-interactive play patterns, but sometimes I just have to hold my nose and admit that good cards are good. Protection from blue is exactly where you want to be in this format, a 5/4 for 2GG isn’t bad, and the fact that you can give Shifting Ceratops haste to speed up your clock is a bigger game than it looks at first glance. At the very least, this is a sideboard three-of or four-of for almost every green deck, and it might even be good enough to maindeck depending on how the metagame evolves.

Financially, $4 seems like the floor for Shifting Ceratops, and this could end up being an $8-$10 card at some point. This probably isn’t enough upside make speculation worth it, but you should grab your playset now if you’re a competitive Standard player.

Tale’s End – $3

Tale’s End might show up in Standard at some point, though the prevalence of Teferi, Time Raveler hurts its chances of becoming a ubiquitous format staple. All counterspells are on notice for the foreseeable future, and I’m not sure when, or if, that will change.

I don’t think Tale’s End is going to show up in Modern, either. Cards like Trickbind and Squelch are already in that format, and they don’t show up all that often. It’s hard for a new counterspell to break through in Modern, and Tale’s End doesn’t seem pushed for eternal play.

Like all cheap removal spells, card draw, ramp, and countermagic, however, there’s always a chance that Tale’s End becomes a multi-deck Standard staple and we’re looking at a $12-$15 card in a couple of months. That’s a decent gamble for $3. I’m just not going to get involved myself. With Teferi kicking around at all that top tables, I’d rather put my money elsewhere.

Icon of Ancestry – $2.50

Icon of Ancestry is eventually going to be a $5+ card. Obelisk of Urd is currently $6, Door of Destinies is $8, Coat of Arms is $10, Kindred Discovery is $20…the list goes on. Cards like this are always in high demand due to Commander, and this is one of the safest long-term buys in the entire set.

Ideally, Icon of Ancestry will drop below $2 and it’ll essentially become free money for anyone who is willing to buy in and wait a couple of years. I suppose there’s a slight chance it’ll find a home in Standard or Modern beforehand, spiking the price early and spoiling our fun, but I doubt it. Wait a bit on this one, but don’t wait too long. It’s a clear winner.

Drawn from Dreams – $2

Drawn from Dreams looks underpowered when you put it next to Dig Through Time, but WotC obviously wasn’t going to repeat that mistake again. The real question here is whether sorcery speed is just a straight-up deal-breaker or not. The fact that you can cast Drawn from Dreams as an instant sometimes with Teferi should help, but I’m not sure it’s playable outside of an Azorius or Esper shell for exactly that reason.

In all likelihood, Drawn from Dreams will either end up as a staple or not depending on what the fall set has for us in terms of instant speed card draw. If we get a solid Chemister’s Insight replacement this fall, Drawn from Dreams will probably end up being a bust. If not, this card could end up stepping in and contributing. Drawn from Dreams is also better in a more combo-centric metagame, where getting the right cards from the top of your library becomes a lot better.

Regardless, $2 is a fair gamble for a rare that might end up becoming a Standard staple. There’s a real shot this drops down to bulk, but there’s also a chance that Drawn from Dreams becomes a $10+ staple by mid-October. I’m going to snag a few copies just in case.

Thunderkin Awakener – $2

I don’t think Thunderkin Awakener has a home in either the current Standard or the current Modern metagame, despite excitement about its interaction with Ball Lightning and Lightning Skelemental. I’m sure people will try to make the deck work in both formats, but I doubt it’ll be good enough to leave the fringes of playability.

That said, Thunderkin Awakener is the sort of card that’s always going to be just one combo piece away from relevance. Keep your eyes on it if it hits bulk, and snag some for your long-term collection.

Sephara, Sky’s Blade – $2

Sephara, Sky’s Blade is a Modern-playable card.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’ll immediately show up and start dominating the format, but there’s no way that the Orzhov Tokens decks aren’t going to at least seriously consider battling with Sephara. The fact that you can tap just-summoned fliers to play this is terrific, as is the fact that it can be used to protect your battlefield from targeted removal.

As for Standard…we’ll see. A lot is going to depend on how the white-based aggro decks evolve in the next metagame. You don’t need a deck full of fliers to play Sephara, but you still do need a healthy dose of them. I’m not sure where they’re coming from in the current iteration of the format.

At any rate, Modern-playable cards are always worth snapping up when they’re cheap. Sephara may never go anywhere, but the upside is real at just $2. Grab a set of these, set them aside, and forget about them until they have their day in the sun.

Voracious Hydra – $2

All the Hydras look like big dumb casual creatures to me at first, but Voracious Hydra might actually be good. For one, it has trample – the best keyword for a card like this to have. For another, it’s got a level of versatility that most big dumb creatures don’t. Against an empty battlefield or a series of planeswalkers, you can double its size. Against an aggro or midrange deck, you can use its fight ability to either spend the Hydra as a removal spell or go for the two-for-one.

That said, I’m still not sure how well Voracious Hydra actually scales. With five mana open, you’re either playing this as a 6/7 with trample or a 3/4 that can kill any three-toughness creature and live to tell the tale. Is that good enough? Probably not in a metagame where Hydroid Krasis outclasses it in almost every way, but maybe they can coexist in some sort of Simic or Bant Ramp deck?

At any rate, this is yet another Core Set 2020 card that we shouldn’t be totally sleeping on. Voracious Hydra is powerful enough to see Constructed play – the only question is whether it shows up in the current metagame or not. If so, this is a $5-$6 card. If not, it’s a bulk rare.

Bag of Holding – $1

I’m not sure if there’s a Standard deck out there that wants to run Bag of Holding, but it’s the kind of unique and powerful artifact that I’m going to keep my eye on. Even though it doesn’t seem like it’ll have an immediate home, I’ve already seen a lot of casual mages buzzing about it on my Twitter feed, which tends to be a good sign for future value.

There are a lot of interesting things you can do with Bag of Holding, too. It’s a powerful sideboard card in a discard-heavy metagame, and it fits in well with splashy Commander cards that require you to use discarding as an additional cost. I don’t think there’s a ton of upside here unless it does end up seeing significant competitive play, but it could easily end up being a $4-$5 card long-term with additional upside not entirely out of the question.

Gargos, Vicious Watcher – $1

Is it possible that Gargos, Vicious Watcher is the rare Big Stupid Monster that’s actually playable in Standard? Six mana isn’t all that much, 8/7 is rather large, and the fact that you will almost certainly get to take out one of their creatures if they try to use spot removal on you is actually rather powerful.

Unfortunately, the answer is almost certainly no. Creatures like this rarely make an impact, at least not without actual shroud or hexproof in addition to trample. If Carnage Tyrant isn’t good in Standard, Gargos, Vicious Watcher won’t be, either, and I probably want Cavalier of Thorns over this one, too. Gargos is a future bulk rare, though it’s closer to playable than most cards of its ilk.

Shared Summons – $1

Shared Summons is a five-mana instant that just says “win the game” on it in some Commander decks. There are plenty of two-card creature combos that’ll do it: Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Pestermite; Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Triskelion; Deadeye Navigator and Peregrine Drake…the list goes on. Shared Summons might only be half of Tooth and Nail, but it costs several mana less – and at instant speed. Also, Tooth and Nail is a $25 Magic card, and Shared Summons is currently selling for bulk rare prices.

Shared Summons is the perfect dollar spec. There’s an outside shot it ends up being a key piece of some future competitive combo deck, and you’re backstopped by just how good it is in Commander. This is one of those cards that’ll be selling for $5-$10 in a couple of years, and I’m going to pick up a stack of them while they’re dirt cheap.

This Week’s Trends

Even though the Standard market continues to be sluggish, Dreadhorde Arcanist continues to gain ground, surging another couple of bucks this week as it takes off in Legacy, Modern, and even Vintage. Even though War of the Spark is a high-value set that has been heavily opened, there is room for Dreadhorde Arcanist to be a $10+ card for years to come. I’d snag myself a set ASAP.

Speaking of eternal spikes, there was quite a bit of movement again this week. Seasoned Pyromancer, Ranger-Captain of Eos, and Plague Engineer were the latest Modern Horizons cards to spike, and they won’t be the last. This set is still a potential goldmine, and we’re getting close to the point where it makes sense to buy and stash a bunch of boxes. Even though it’s print-to-order, the fact that Modern Horizons is priced closer to a Masters set is keeping the available supply of singles pretty low. At a certain point this winter it’ll actually leave print, and prices will really go nuts.

Also up this week: Monastery Mentor, which is suddenly hard to find for less than $50 and is sold out at $40 on Star City Games. This might be due in part to the fact that Azorius Control won Grand Prix Dallas last weekend, though Austin Bursavich’s deck only runs one copy of the card. Regardless, Monastery Mentor sees play in formats as far back as Vintage and it’s now been quite a while since Fate Reforged was the current set. The card can absolutely sustain a $40+ price tag until it’s reprinted again.

Of course, the real Modern question is whether there will be a banning on July 8th. Even though Bridgevine didn’t dominate the Top 8 in Dallas, the deck was far and away the most popular on both Day 1 and Day 2. It was pretty clear heading into the tournament that the metagame was good and warped thanks to Hogaak and friends, and the results out of Dallas confirmed it. WotC should do something, and I think they will.

Personally, I think Bridge from Below is the most likely card to see a banning next week, a sentiment that Tom Ross seems to agree with. Faithless Looting is the next-most-likely card to go, though that would shift Modern in some pretty drastic ways. I don’t think they’ll ban either Altar of Dementia or Hogaak themselves, since both cards are available in the latest set and WotC can solve the problem without touching either of their newest cards, but one way or another I expect we’ll see a very different Modern world by this time next week.

Financially, your best move is to try and get rid of your Bridgevine pieces now. If you can get a decent buylist price on cards like Gravecrawler, Vengevine, Bloodghast, Hogaak, Altar of Dementia, or Leyline of the Void, you should probably take advantage of that.

I probably don’t have the guts to buylist away all my staples from decks that rely on Faithless Looting in anticipation of a ban, but that decision might look short-sighted by Monday afternoon. If you do want to play things conservatively, the cards that are most likely to drop with a Looting ban (besides the Bridgevine staples I mentioned earlier) are Thing in the Ice, Arclight Phoenix, Manamorphose, Life from the Loam, and Seasoned Pyromancer. At the very least, you should get ready to ditch these cards ASAP if Faithless Looting is banned.

While we should be cautious about speculating on anything in Modern until we see what happens with the bannings on Monday, I do have to say that Justin Porchas’s Grixis Urza deck from the Grand Prix Dallas Top 8 really caught my eye:

Whir of Invention has already started to spike a little based on these results, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Goblin Engineer is next. All manner of Modern Horizons cards are spiking right now, so why is it still less than $5? Also, Urza, Lord High Artificer is legit. $45 might seem like a lot, but this card is going to be $60+ at some point. If you like playing these sorts of decks, you should get in soon.

Lastly, the Arabian Nights card Desert saw a pretty major spike this week thanks to its potential utility in Pauper. There aren’t too many paper copies of Desert kicking around, and the From the Vault: Realms iteration seems to have been the biggest benefactor of the spike. Regardless, Desert doesn’t actually see much play in Pauper, so I’d sell my copies into the spike if possible.