Cutting Through the Hype With a Butter Knife

Articles – many articles – are written every time a set comes out, but does anyone ever go back and call people up about their trading articles, hot picks, and so on? Hell if I remember – I don’t recall last week very well. I don’t think they do, though. Not often. Hot picks come out and then no one ever makes a comment about them months later, to see how they panned out. What I’m going to find out is,”Where are they now?”

Once in a while, a new set comes out… A set filled with magical promise, new chase rares, and fabulous cards full of delight, joy, or whatever. Unless that set is Legions, at which point it comes out with a lot of complaining and people flailing their arms over Graveborn Muse.

Which is, by the way, not broken. Like you needed me to tell you that. But seriously! I’ve played with the card! Somehow I can’t find a broken Hill Giant in any deck, let alone Zombies. To continue, each set comes out with various hidden gems and bad cards that everyone says is good when the set comes out. Unless you hang around MTGnews, at which point I think every single card is called good. Even Worldslayer. God, Worldslayer is so bad.

So where are they now? Articles – many articles – are written every time a set comes out, but does anyone ever go back and call people up about their trading articles, hot picks, and so on? Hell if I remember – I don’t recall last week very well. I don’t think they do, though. Not often. Hot picks come out and then no one ever makes a comment about them months later, to see how they panned out.

Except for that time Geordie Tait said Wonder was unplayable. I’ve brought that up at least five times.”So Mister Tait, would you say it’s unplayable in Constructed… Like Wonder?” which is I guess along the same lines as asking someone”So, have you stopped beating your wife?”

As an educational aside, many people have asked me”How are you reading articles ahead of time?” If you don’t know about it, check out that search form at the bottom of StarCityGames.com, the one that lets you search by author or other terms? If you want to access the archive, it’s usually the best way to find old articles, and new ones. Checking a writer’s archive works as well. This is good if you’re expecting a new Krouner or whoever article on the next day. In this case, I’m looking up a Nate Heiss article to look at what his picks for Mirrodin trading were. Was he on the money? Did he get hit by a bus? Let’s see …

Article referenced : http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/expandnews.php?Article=5792

Chrome Mox

Anything with the word Mox in it represents a chance at massive amounts of hype. Mox is a word that represents power in any experienced Magic player’s vocabulary – power and insanely priced cards. So the card is almost guaranteed to see high value just by it’s name and character alone. Akin to a gorgeous supermodel in a room full of Magic players, everyone wants her, but no one knows what to do with her.

Nate Heiss gave the card a glowing review in his article :”The same goes for Gilded Lotus, except this card is actually good. This Mox should be in almost every deck, since it can straight-up replace land.”

So, did it go in almost every deck? No. A quick scan of the latest Standard decks shows that Chrome Mox did show up in some decks, generally Affinity and Zombies, yet it hasn’t really had the full-on penetration that a lot of people expected. In pre-banning Extended, the card did see a great amount of play, of course. There was actually something very sharp written by good ol’ Randy Buehler hereabouts:

“Because of all the broken things that you could do by turn 2, you had to sacrifice resources to do things faster. In other words, if the rest of the format wasn’t broken, then Chrome Mox would be fair.”

Summed up, the card is only bah-roken when it’s found itself in a format in need of repair. In a normal format like post-banning Extended or Standard, it’s not really going to rule the format as King Mox, lord of all mana acceleration. It’s always going to be a good card, of course, but like Mox Diamond before it, it’s probably a pretty balanced card overall.

However in Nate’s defense, the card did do very well value wise. I just sold a set of four for big money, no whammies and to be honest, I didn’t pay that much for them. Everyone really does want four, although their future is a bit of a mystery to me.

Promise of Power

Returning to the Nate Heiss article again, he gave this card a hefty rating at number two card to trade for. He felt the Promise would see more play than Necrologia, which it probably did. But don’t kid yourselves – if you picked up four Promises when the set first came out, I rather doubt you felt too great about your investment. The downfall of Promise of Power sits in a couple categories.

First, Phyrexian Arena is simply a better card. While it’s slower, it’s more likely to resolve against control decks and it’s effect gives you more time to put those cards to use. Drawing a lump of five cards often means you need to discard card or give up a full turn to get at them. The demon making ability hasn’t turned out to be all that relevant, either. It has and will continue to see play, but usually after players have decided they want something on top of their arenas.

Second, the best decks for it to go in – Mono-Black Control and White / Black Control – are simply not at the top of the format. I assume W/BC is well-loved, but the frank admission is that U/WC is a little bit better, simply because while its cards aren’t, in all honesty, any better – its mana is a heck of a lot more stable, with six to eight dual lands instead of a measly Grand Coliseum available in W/BC. Mono-Black control is of course the most over-hyped deck of the season, and didn’t do anywhere near as well as people said it was going to.

Although that never stops Jarrod Bright from writing more articles about it. That man never stops writing about Mono Black!

Smirk. I’ll be getting Hell for this one later.

Shared Fate


Nate Heiss put this doozey in number four. As we all know, this card is bad. So, whatever. Bad pick Nate! I did, however, see this card win a game once. I was watching a rather decent player playing a not quite so decent player. Both friendly, good guys though. Gotta mention that. Anyway, player A has a vastly superior deck – Molder Slug, multiple Isochron Scepters with Raise the Alarm, all the good stuff W/G can offer a man or woman. Player B has a worse deck, and drops Shared Fate.

I’m not actually sure if this card won the game. But I do recall Player A drawing off the other player’s deck and shaking his head a lot. And sighing a ton. Oh, poor Player A. Names changed to protect the innocent by the way.

Anyway, this sucker was once predicted by the great Roy Spires as the next big thing. No card has ever done well with his blessing.

Extraplanar Lens

Certainly an interesting card, Lens is dragged down by two factors much in line with Promise of Power. First and foremost is the fact few decks are mono-colored and need to double their colored mana. There was a Mono-White deck by Roland Bode posted in a Kai article a bit back, and he choose to forgo the Lens over the more resilient Urzatron. With Temple of the False God, the Urzatron, and Cloudpost all available in the current format, decks without mana issues have few needs to really push for Lens’ costly acceleration. It’s also vulnerable to all the artifact hate rolling around town.

This would Roland Bode’s deck :

4 Eternal Dragon

4 Weathered Wayfarer

4 Akroma’s Vengeance

4 Decree of Justice

4 Mindslaver

4 Oblivion Stone

4 Renewed Faith

2 Wing Shards

4 Wrath of God

10 Plains

4 Secluded Steppe

4 Urza’s Mine

4 Urza’s Power Plant

4 Urza’s Tower

Every White control deck needs to run Vengeance and every Black control deck needs to run Oblivion Stone. With friends like that, Extraplanar Lens doesn’t feel too happy. Mono-Red burn decks might see Lens as not all that bad – except that those decks don’t need colored mana, which takes us back to whole Cloudpost / Temples / Urzatron point again.

Is it a bad card? No, not at all. It’s simply undermined by their being better cards in the format for it’s job.

Solemn Simulacrum

The Jens. The guy often mistaken for Soldevi Simulacrum. Yavimaya Elder, part two – This time it’s Ancestral on a boat.

This card, to be fair, did not receive a lot of hype when it came out. While it is definitely better than Jens Thoren’s original version, a lot of people were very resentful towards the card and didn’t feel it was truly worth its mana cost. Bad things were said about it. Unfair comparisons were made. The Simulacrum was looked down upon. He continued to be solemn.

Nate Heiss had the following to say :”Now that it is an artifact, it is actually playable in Constructed, I would try to trade for as many of these as you can – I suspect them to be on a similar quality level as Meddling Mage.”

Pretty glowing terms for a card people described as boring. Was he right? Personally, I would say so. Solemn Simulacrum shows up in versions of U/W control and Slide as well as versions of W/G control, B/G control and so on. It’s not exactly a super-powered card – rather a demure, highly versatile card that can go into almost any control deck and do his job pretty well.

Gold Star to Nate Heiss!

Alright, I’ve spent more than enough time banging on Heiss’ list. I mean frankly, the man isn’t expected to be 100% accurate. Sometimes he’s more than other. If you look at his Onslaught list, 75% of the cards saw play and are worth money. Nate Heiss was responded to by a gent who disagreed with the Heiss’ opinions shortly after his Mirrodin article saw print. That gentleman was Evan Mowry, and his article can be found hereabouts.

Chalice of the Void

I’ve been selling off T1 cards for a while. As it turns out, I mysteriously had seven Survival of the Fittest (among other things), which I sold. I remarked to one Ben Bleiweiss – a wise man when it comes to the value of cards – that I was surprised at how much they made. He told me that you really shouldn’t count out the value of Type One cards. Taking that to heart, I collected Chalices and sold them off eventually.

They didn’t do anywhere near as well I had hoped. Not that Ben was wrong, though. I’m not implying that – I’m implying they really weren’t some top dollar investment for the effort I put into acquiring them. I should have been looking for more Survival of the Fittest.

While this card might very well end up as being, as Evan says, the most valuable card in Mirrodin over the long term, I kind of doubt that. While it’s avoided restriction in Type One, the card has dropped in value within StarCity’s database and it isn’t selling as well as it used to. It sees play in Extended and Type One still, although it’s value in Extended is likely to drop as the format restabilizes towards”old school” Extended.

Old school being last year’s. Because that’s, after all, Old school.

Vedalken Archmage

“Holy crap. Almost all artifact-based decks in any format will run multiples of him.”

I don’t think so Evan. Why is Vedalken Archmage not doing so well? Well, on the most part, few Affinity decks really want to tap four mana to play yet another card drawing spell. Especially when for one more mana, they can just draw seven off Rush of Knowledge or whatever, and that’s not even seeing all that much play. Beyond that, cards like the Archmage have never been all too great until they get some redundancy. Enchantress is good in Extended because you can run more than four – twelve, if you really needed them, but usually not quite that many. Since you can’t reliable have the Archmage on the table – or an Archmage-like effect – you can’t really build your deck around him.

Other decks, such as Affinity, just don’t find the Archmage all that appealing. It isn’t exactly a direct fit for the current archetype and while it might be worth sideboard slots, overall it’s probably one mana too expensive and one symbol too intensive.

Is the Vedalken Archmage showing up in other formats? I don’t remember seeing him in Extended so far and I admit, I know nothing about Type One beyond the fact I enjoy selling T1 players my Survivals.

Isochron Scepter

While Solemn Simulacrum was given a lackluster reception when it was previewed, Isochron Scepter was given a standing ovation the minute anyone even heard of it. Evan Mowry gave it a stellar rating over all – High trade value”until the end of the time” he claimed. So, of course, we all looked at it and tried to break it.

Hoboy, it hasn’t really gone anywhere special. Now, it does show up in T1 – Or at least, so I’m told. In Extended it’s currently seeing play in Psychatog, though it’s heavily debated between men of the Tog as to whether it’s worthwhile or not. I assume it is, of course. Adrian Sullivan qualified with a deck centered around the Scepter. In Standard the card has shown up here and there, but hasn’t really had the dramatic impact a lot of people were stating it was going to.

First, the card can be quite ridiculous, but there is a limit on its power in Standard. I think a lot of people simply misjudged how”good” it was going to be with the instants in Standard. There is simply nothing all that broken that you can imprint on the Scepter.

Second – the value of uncommons can get quite high, most notably with Invasion’s Fact or Fiction, Planeshift’s Flametongue Kavu, and Odyssey’s Diabolic Tutor. Circular Logic, Chainer’s Edict, and Wonder are probably still up there as well. However, the frank admission is that – for the most part – an Uncommon has to be ridiculously good to maintain a really high value over a long period. Scepter is currently worth fine money these days (I do sell them, and they do sell well), but it may not maintain it’s value over the whole block or into Extended. It doesn’t have the raw, format defining power of FTK or FoF.

Like Diabolic Tutor, I expect the card’s value to drop over time and end up at a more reasonable price. Things in extended usually don’t stay quite as ridiculous. Even FTK and FoF have dropped off over time.

However this will all go out the window if something extremely powerful under a Scepter is printed in the next block and a half. But most likely it will retain high value for a few more months and then settle into the reasonable value of a high uncommon – which is $3 about these parts.

Troll Ascetic

This is another one of those cards that everyone looks at and sees uses for, but can’t really pin down a deck where it belongs. It has all the right numbers – three power for three mana, a pair of useful, relevant abilities, and more. Though it isn’t one of those flashy cards that attracts attention like say, a Mox, it is one of those consistent cards that players end up liking. It’s not a Spiritmonger, it’s a Ravenous Baloth.

Evan claims that the Troll Ascetic will see play in Block, Standard, Extended and”maybe even Type One.” The card is very solid against control decks – people who have tested it in Extended claim it’s outright excellent against Tog, a persistent, nigh unkillable threat that just keeps taking pieces out of their life total. In Standard he sees play in B/G Cemetery (which I’ve already linked to). He’s also seeing play in W/G control decks, and some versions of R/G Land Destruction. That gives him a pretty known role in the current Standard metagame and given the strength of Green in Block, it seems pretty likely the Troll will show up there as well. So, I would say that Evan’s points about him seeing play in Standard and Block are likely quite true.

As for Extended, the Troll may not, right now, be quite Extended-worthy. It’s been suggested he should go into Rock, which helps improve the (from what I’m told, I’ve not gotten that much testing time) Tog and RDW match-ups. But Tog isn’t really a big problem for Rock and while RDW isn’t the easiest match-up, there’s probably better cards to put in the deck for that purpose. However, since Tog is likely to become even more dominant over the next two seasons, it’s likely that picking up four trolls at the very least is a bit of a no-brainer.

Oblivion Stone

One of the most hyped cards in the set, likely right behind Chrome Mox in raw”Oh My God” factor, Oblivion Stone never lived up to all the promises people were making about it. Evan made some comment about”do you see any other cost-effective mass removal in the format?” which is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read. Eight mana to disk is cost-effective?

Is the Stone any good? Definitely. The card’s downfall sits in people not quite realizing all it’s uses right off the bat – it’s good in Slide’s board, it’s good against Decree tokens and it’s good in B/G Cemetery. The card could likely be easily compared to a slower, somewhat more obtuse version of Pernicious Deed.

Is Stone as good as people said it was? No. It wasn’t enough to save Mono-Black control from all it’s problems, and the frank reality that most White control decks would rather have four Akroma’s Vengeance instead. The card’s power level has a lot in common with Extraplanar Lens and Promise of Power – it’s good, but it’s second best. I would probably say Evan was wrong and Nate was right here – this isn’t a card you want to have been trading for, since it’s value has been sinking …

… like a stone :p

Molder Slug

“It’s a rare, it hoses all the artifact decks that will start to show up, and it’s cost effective. A very good block and T2 card. Same as Solemn Simulacrum.” – Evan again

This is definitely going to be a valuable Block card, if its power in Mirrodin Limited is any indication. The power of cards in Limited is a difficult way to discern value, but it’s a good way of getting an idea of what cards are going to be ridiculous in the Block format. In Standard it is already seeing a fair amount of play in the already well known”Moldy Hermit” decks that were initially showcased here.

Since the Slug’s value is beginning to rise, I would definitely call this one, one of the success stories of the predictions. I picked up mine before they started to really get pricey, grabbing three through trading off a couple Mirrodin foils. In retrospect I’m glad I grabbed them when I did.

Now you might be wondering, what’s the lesson here? How do we know which cards to trade for and which ones not to? Well, here’s a couple thoughts :

#1 : It’s a risk if it’s got a lot of hype running around it

Cards that have a lot of hype being generated about them are usually increased in value by the natural tendencies of the market. Don’t fool yourself – initial value of cards is never dependent on the actual power of a card, only on it’s perceived value within the market. And to be honest, most of the people trading for cards are – in a word – awful.

The average Magic player is not capable of discerning what’s good and what’s not, so they will rant and rave about a card without really knowing. This results in over-hyped, over-valued cards like Oblivion Stone, Promise of Power and to an extent, Chalice of the Void. Though I got quite lucky on my Oblivion Stones ($10 each off this here site), I took a hit on the Chalices I picked up, trading cards that ended up more valuable for them.

Simply put, if the value starts high, you’re probably not going to win out on them. Not everything is going to continue to go up in value like Chrome Mox.

#2 : Put it in a deck. Don’t build a deck around it.

This is a very strange rule but it’s generally very good one to keep in mind. Here’s something very bright a man known as dbuel wrote a few days back on a card rumored to be in Darksteel :

“People look at a card like that and they see uses. That’s precisely backward. What people should be doing is looking at decks and seeing needs.”

This is where Vedalken Archmage, Shared Fate, and lots of other cards fall down. A card’s value is usually dependent on being put into a winning deck – sure, there’s always going to be stuff like Morphling (which is valuable even though it doesn’t see play in Extended and is a one per-deck), Serra Avatar, and Akroma, Angel of Wrath that is valuable simply because casual players like them. But on the most part, a card needs to go into a deck. It can be the greatest card ever, but unless there’s a need for it that it satisfies effectively, it’s not worth anything.

When looking at cards from new sets, focus on trying to find places for those cards. Solemn Simulacrum goes into just about anything control-wise and has derived its value from that. Well, and being an invitational card. Either way, the safe bets are the ones you know are actually going to be good.

Obviously, this is the safe way to go. You’ll never win big trading for cards that everyone is sure of and never improve, or that everyone is sure of and stay the same value. But you’ll also never get burned badly.

#3: Make sure it’s actually better than something in the format.

This one is really important to keep in mind, but it’s something most of us do. Extraplanar Lens is a fine card – so is Promise of Power and so on. But those cards just aren’t better than cards that do much the same thing. Troll Ascetic and Slith Firewalker turned out to be”good” because there’s a need for those cards, and those two do their jobs best. If you’re not sure if something is better or not, trying playing it. Run the card in a deck you’re testing. Compare it with familiar or available options. If you can’t even find a deck you’ve got to go back to rule two and think it over again.

 I’m not trying to come down on Nate or Evan here, either. Everyone makes mistakes or misses things that we all think are obvious in hindsight– recent Extended has proven that cards can be around for years upon years and not hit heavy Constructed play until someone finally noticed it does something incredible or mixes with other cards in a way no one ever considered before. There’s something to be said for considering things and how they flow, as well, though.

Just to be spicy I will probably write a”What to trade for!” article for Darksteel, but mostly to see if I’m any better at guessing. If not, I hope Nate Heiss deals me a retort, a bit down the line : )

Iain Telfer

Taeme everywhere he wants you to know who he is.