Hello everyone, and welcome to my daily article series outlining the Financial Value of Battle for Zendikar! I’m Ben Bleiweiss – and I’ve been
writing financial articles during the set release for eleven years now ( this was my very first one)!
Wizards of the Coast announced a change in the block structure some months ago, and I’m going to change up the format of these articles to go along with
It’s difficult to be completely accurate when it comes to predicting the future value of newly-spoiled Magic cards. Until the entire set is spoiled, the
perceived power level of any one given card (or group of cards) can rise or fall. The effect that cards have on older formats (Modern, Legacy, and God help
us, Vintage) usually won’t be seen for at least a couple of weeks after release.
In addition, the hype around cards drives up the value of cards before they are physically in people’s hands. It’s demonstrable that a large percentage
(50%+) of cards drop in value during the weeks after release. A smaller percentage (10%-15%) go up in value as people find they had underestimated the
utility of a given card – just look at Hangarback Walker from Magic Origins. It started at just a couple of dollars, and now it’s hard to find for
under the $15-$20 range.
Right around the time of Return to Ravnica, we instituted a change in philosophy for pricing our preorder cards. Most of the market was trying to
maximize the price that they could get during the preorder period; we decided to go in the other direction and try to minimize the price drops that cards
have after release. In other words, our pricing currently tries to remove as much hype as possible in order to get the pricing right the first time around.
There will still be price drops, but they aren’t as precipitous as they were previously.
With that in mind, I’m going to focus more on the immediate pricing (what we have the card at now) and where I think it’ll be about a month from now
(post-release). I’ll also be putting more of a focus on explanation of why I think a card will go up/down, rather than aiming to get an exact price.
So let’s take a look at the cards that’ve been spoiled so far!
The precedent for Full-Art lands goes all the way back to Unglued, followed by Unhinged, Zendikar, a set of Judge Reward
Full-Art lands from Terese Nielsen, and now Battle for Zendikar. There’s a straight line between price and supply on these, so I expect all 25 of
the BFZ Full-Art lands will stay in the $0.50-$1 range (depending on popularity of image) for at least a year; this is how long the Zendikar lands
took to start breaking out of this price range, and they were in shorter supply than the Battle for Zendikar lands will be. In addition, we don’t
know if these same lands will be in the other set of this block (Oath of the Gatewatch), so there’s a good chance we’ll see a huge second influx
of these same lands come January/February of 2016.
Dual Land Cycle
Each of these lands started at between $8 and $10. Given that these can be gotten with fetchlands for Modern, I don’t expect them to drop too much in value
due to multi-format playability. The rest of this cycle (enemy-colored) are coming in Oath of the Gatewatch, and those will hold more value than
these because Oath will be printed in less of a quantity than Battle.
Previous price history on various cycles of lands bear out the price range for these duals:
Return to Ravnica/Gatecrash
Duals: $8-$15 each while Standard-legal.
Temples from Theros: $4-$12 each while Standard-legal (before they plummeted the past two months as rotation approached).
Fetchlands from Tarkir block: $8-$20 each while Standard-legal.
You’ll notice both fetchlands and shocklands maintained their value over time despite being strict reprints. This is because both are playable in older
formats (fetchlands in all formats, shocklands in Modern). If we’re to expect the Tango lands to see play in Modern, I’d expect them to be about the same
price range as shocklands in the longer-term (post-reprint).
So the Ally mechanic is back, and this time it looks like Allies power up all of your other creatures and not just other Allies. This makes them a lot more
generally useful for deckbuilding since you can splash cost-effective non-Ally creatures and still have them get the benefit of some of the Allies that you
play. For instance:
Alpha-strike to switch up all the math on your opponent.
Still gets bigger from non-Ally creatures, can get nuts with additional Allies.
The batch of Allies spoiled so far seem much better for general deckbuilding than the ones from the original Zendikar block, so I think there’s a good
chance we’ll be able to see a playable Ally deck in at least Standard, possibly in Modern (Jwari Shapeshifter and Harabaz Druid are starting to shoot up in
price based on this premise).
Oh yeah, and then there’s this guy. New Gideon is really, really good. I’ve seen talk about Gideon seeing play in both Legacy (replacing Elspeth,
Knight-Errant) and Modern. Four mana for a 5/5 indestructible creature that can also make 2/2 creatures is great. You can use him as a permanent Crusade
immediately upon hitting the board, which is a third mode that is often not immediately available to planeswalkers.
In short, Gideon has three immediately-playable abilities (Crusade, 5/5 unkillable creature, 2/2 token generator) for only four mana and four starting
Loyalty. Did I mention that Gideon is also an Ally and also makes Ally tokens? Currently Gideon is preselling at $25, but that’s too low; a quick look at
the Magic Origins planeswalkers shows that Liliana is at $25, Nissa is at $35, and Jace is at $40. I’d put Gideon comparable to Nissa if I had to
choose one, and I expect Gideon to settle in the $30-$35 range post-release.
If you want to know more about how great Gideon will be, I’d go read Patrick Chapin’s article ASAP.
I’ve been a lot less impressed by the Eldrazi so far, but the original three mythic Eldrazi (Ulamog, Kozilek, and Emrakul) left a high bar to clear. It’s
just weird seeing Eldrazi that are 1/1 or 3/3 in the rare slots, because the initial thought is that all Eldrazi creatures should be giant monsters. I took
a look at Rise of the Eldrazi just to be sure, and there were plenty of smaller Eldrazi in the set (Broodwarden, Dread Drone, etc), but
all of the rare/mythic ones were huge:
So far in this set, we have Barrage Tyrant (5/3 for five), Blight Herder (4/5 for five), and Brood Butcher (3/3 for five). Let’s ignore those for now. I’ll
discuss those (very, very briefly) in the Bulk section at the end of this article. For now, let’s concentrate on the three Eldrazi that are huge monsters:
Makes a 10/10 on cast, not on resolution, so countered Desolation Twin still makes a 10/10. Still – 10/10 for ten mana is a lot to ask given that this
creature has no evasion or effect on the board except for putting lethal damage into play with one spell. Compare to…
Another 10/10 for ten. Also has a trigger on cast (so if countered, you still get to exile two permanents). Indestructible, basically kills the opponent in
three swings with the exile ability even if they have chump blockers.
Given a choice between the two, I’d almost always rather have Ulamog. It works better with reanimation spells (even though you don’t get to exile
permanents, you still get a 10/10 indestructible milling machine), clears the board on cast, and can kill through chump blockers.
That also leaves us with Oblivion Sower, which we saw as a preview card a couple of months ago from the latest duel deck. As noted by many people, you can
return any lands exiled by the targeted opponent, not just those from among the four directly exiled by Oblivion Sower. This makes Oblivion Sower more
powerful than it looks due to Ingest, and makes Oblivion Sower a card that could reasonably be a 4-5 land ramp spell in a deck that has a way to exile
cards (or specifically, lands).
Dailymtg.com spoiled Lumbering Falls today, so it appears that Battle for Zendikar will have a cycle of enemy-colored manlands! I took a look back
at Worldwake‘s price history to get a feel on initial pricing:
Celestial Colonnade: Started at $6, dropped as low as $4 by next set release.
Creeping Tar Pit: Started at $5, dropped as low as $3 by next set release.
Lavaclaw Reaches: Started at $5, dropped as low as $3 by the next set release.
Raging Ravine: Started at $5, went up to as high as $7 by next set release.
Stirring Wildwood: Started at $6, dropped as low as $4 by the next set release.
Now the problem here is that people are going to look at the current price history of manlands (Raging Ravine at $10, Celestial Colonnade & Creeping
Tar Pit at around $20), and not have a sense of perspective of how much cheaper these cards were at first release.
Therefore, I’m going to start Lumbering Falls (and likely the other manlands, unless one is just a complete home run) at $5 each. My guess is that this
will be below market since people are going to compare prices to the current prices of Worldwake manlands, and not their price seven years ago
(when supply was a lot shorter on Worldwake than it will be on Battle for Zendikar). This might be a little low for this particular land
(since it’s essentially unkillable by spells), but I’m betting on price history over hype.
Other Spoiled Cards of Note
An extremely strong combo enabler. Even at two colors (all green and blue mana), being able to both tutor for and cast spells is nuts – for instance,
Living End decks in Modern can use this in addition to Demonic Dread/Violent Outburst to tutor up their Living End. This gets virtually any combo piece in
a spell-based combo deck (and lets you cast it), and it also lets you cast five-color commanders in a Commander deck, assuming you have five colors of mana
available to cast it with to begin with.
Dark Petition is a playable Standard card right now, and this is better in almost all cases than Dark Petition in a deck that runs three+ colors. Should be
a staple in control decks (four or five colors) since it can also tutor out things like Wrath effects or finishers. $2 might be too low on this to start,
but I’m starting this in a vacuum without knowing how easy it’ll be to get access to four+ colors of mana in a BFZ-led Standard.
I have no clue how silly ramp will get in this format, so who knows if going from six to nine mana will matter? (Though look at the Eldrazi!) What I do
know is that adding in a gain-seven life effect to this spell ensures that you probably won’t get killed by your opponent’s creatures while you’re ramping
up. This might have some potential, though it’ll probably not go higher in price than the $1 it’s stuck in right now (but it probably won’t go lower,
Large, generic fatty with two decent abilities (putting a 5/5 on the battlefield and passively Lightning Bolting your opponent or their creatures), but
still just a 5/5 for seven mana. I have a feeling that if you’re playing ramp, there are going to be other creatures that are more effective than Omnath.
Should drop in price from the current $6 to more in the $3-$4 range right after release.
The replacement for Anger of the Gods in Standard, though less powerful (doesn’t exile) and harder to cast (need to be playing three colors to get full
effect, versus Mono-Red or Red-base). Should still see play as the mini-board sweeper of choice, but it reminds me more of Firespout where you could
occasionally get caught with one mana off and end up losing because of it.
Earlygame, get a sorcery-speed Hero’s Downfall (Started at $5, went up to $12-$15 a month after release). Lategame, kill their creature and end up with a
4/4 creature of your own. The Awaken ability does not make up for the change in casting speed, but this is still a solid removal card for
And last of all, here are the poor bulk rares – cards that’ll likely never get above $0.50-$1. Not much to say about these, other than they are what they
Join me tomorrow when I discuss the cards that were spoiled overnight, by 11am tomorrow, and everything in-between. I’ll also give my thoughts on the
Zendikar Expeditions in tomorrow’s edition of The Financial Value of Battle for Zendikar!