Insider Trading – In the Wake of Worldwake

Grand Prix: Oakland!

Thursday, February 4th – In today’s edition of Insider Trading, Ben revisits some of his predictions from last week, and sees which non-Worldwake cards are being directly affected in value by Worldwake! What is Ben’s pick for the sleeper card in Worldwake? Read on to find out!

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Insider Trading! In last week’s column, I gave my thoughts on the Financial Value of Worldwake. In this week’s column, I’m going to follow up on a handful of the cards from last week’s review, and then take a look at some of the non-Worldwake cards that I expect will have rapid price fluctuations based on the cards in Worldwake.

I’m going to do this article quick-hits style, so there’s going to be a lot to say, but much of it won’t be interrelated. Let’s start with the card I believe is the currently most-undervalued card in Worldwake.

For the record, I believe that the current sleeper card in the set is Stoneforge Mystic. At the time of last week’s article, Stoneforge Mystic sat at $1.50, and it’s currently sitting at $2.50. Stoneforge Mystic is the Trinket Mage of equipment – a cheap creature with an extremely powerful tutoring effect for a smaller subset of card (in this case, equipment instead of “converted cost 1 or less artifacts”). You might never use the second “put equipment into play for W1” ability; Deathrender, Pariah’s Shield, and Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang are realistically the only equipment that you’d want to cheat into play competitively (other options either aren’t going to see Constructed play, or are only a one-mana saving), but who cares? Here’s what you do get for two mana:

1) The ability to run a toolbox of equipment in your deck – Umezawa’s Jitte, Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Light and Shadow, Lightning Greaves… heck, you can even run a singleton Manriki-Gusari as a way to battle other people’s equipment. Having a cheap creature which lets you pinpoint tutor enables you to run more diverse threats/answers, and draw them with more reliability, while potentially dedicating fewer deck slots to the actual equipment cards.

2) A body to put the equipment onto! While W1 for a 1/2 is in Squire territory, I’d rather draw Stoneforge Mystic late game than Umezawa’s Jitte, because after turn 4, I’ll be thankful to have a body to throw the equipment onto, all things considered.

3) Wizards has shown a commitment to printing equipment in the long term, and we’re about to head into an artifact block (where there is likely to be really good equipment printed). Over the course of time, there are only going to be more options that you can use Stoneforge Mystic to get – and this goes double for Legacy, where this guy is low enough on the curve as to be a potential playable in White-based mid-range and weenie decks. See the U/W Tempo deck that Richard Wayne piloted to a Top 8 Finish at our Dallas Legacy Open and Jeffrey Lin piloted to a Top 4 finish at our Los Angeles Legacy Open.

Speaking of guys who tutor, how much better does Ranger of Eos become with every set release? Relevant new targets for Ranger of Eos in Worldwake include Death’s Shadow, Dragonmaster Outcast, Joraga Warcaller, and Loam Lion (and to a lesser degree, Arbor Elf and Hada Freeblade). Joraga Warcaller alone makes Ranger of Eos much more relevant in a W/G Elves/Garruk Wildspeaker deck. Loam Lion is yet another target in a W/G rush deck (Wild Nacatl and friends) that wants to have a long-game plan that engenders potentially massive card advantage through creatures.

I’m surprised at the lack of play of Ranger of Eos thus far in older formats, because there are so many efficient one-mana targets out there! Just a list of guys who are more than just a 2/3 body for one mana (Kird Ape/Loam Lion/Wild Nacatl/Skyshroud Elite territory): Grim Lavamancer, Phyrexian Dreadnaught, Children of Korlis, Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, Disciple of the Vault, Mogg Fanatic, Elvish Scrapper, Elvish Lyrist, Figure of Destiny, Weathered Wayfarer, Mother of Runes, Goblin Welder, Gorilla Shaman, Granger Guildmage, Shadow Guildmage, Heap Doll, Heritage Druid, Icatian Javelineers, Kris Mage, Magus of the Scroll, Martyr of Ashes, Martyr of Bones, Martyr of Sands, Myr Servitor, Nimble Mongoose, Plagued Rusalka, Putrid Imp, Quirion Ranger, Rootwater Diver, Sandbar Merfolk, Sleeper Agent, Spore Frog, Sylvan Safekeeper, Teardrop Kami, Thoughtpicker Witch, Tinder Wall, Tireless Tribe, Wild Dogs, Wirewood Symbiote.

Remember – Ranger of Eos is only one mana more than Trinket Mage, gets you twice as many targets (three for one), and is eminently splashable. Ranger of Eos is just starting to hit the $10 range, but it’s a card with a lot of long-term potential (or short-term, if you think that there’s an Extended/Legacy deck that can make use of on-the-spot tutoring for any two of the above creatures). While I don’t think that Ranger of Eos is as good as, say, Dark Confidant, I do think that Ranger of Eos is a creature that will hold value after rotation, because of ability to be used in formats other than Standard, and because of the WOTC propensity lately to make one-mana creatures that are better played late game (Death’s Shadow, Dragonmaster Outcast, Joraga Warcaller, Scute Mob type guys).

We’re now buying Jace, the Mind Sculptor at $35 ($43.75 in trade) and selling at $59.99. We completely sold through our preorder copies two weeks before the set release, and all indications are that Jace will herald a new age of Blue Control decks into Standard, thanks to several other hits in the set for that color (Calcite Snapper, Halimar Depths, and Treasure Hunt, which I’ll talk about in just a second). Most agree that a Blue/White build is likely the way to go, so there are several previously-underachieving cards that may start seeing attention in Standard – cards like Day of Judgment, and Kiss of the Amesha.

I think we’ve seen enough of Mythics (as a rarity level) since Shards of Alara to see where a tier-one tournament playable Mythic will end up in value. I take that back – we have NOT seen that yet! Not counting the Planeswalkers out of M10 (since they were reprints, and reprints of cards that previously were at the Rare rarity), here’s the ten highest-dollar Mythic cards we’ve seen thus far (pre-Zendikar):

Baneslayer Angel: $60 (Popular with casual players, but not in the majority of tier-1 Standard decks – read Jund!)
Elspeth, Knight-Errant : $40 (Mainly a sideboard card in White decks, and a 1-2 of.)
Vampire Nocturnus: $15 (Four-of in Vampires in Standard, really unplayable in other decks right now)
Lotus Cobra: $15 (Niche card in Constructed, but potentially breakable).
Sarkhan Vol: $12.50 (Mostly based on casual appeal).
Sorin Markov: $12.50 (See Sarkhan Vol).
Nissa Revane: $12.50 (Played in Elves in Standard).
Ajani Vengeant: $12 (one-to-two of, multicolored, heavily suppressed due to release/prerelease foils).
Progenitus: $12 (A great Polymorph/cheat-into-play target. Used in Legacy Dream Halls deck).
Master of the Wild Hunt (Used in the Nissa deck, or as a one-to-two of in some Jund builds).

Take a look at that price list. Some of these cards are popular with both casual and competitive players, and some are either/or. Some are four-ofs, and many are one-to-two ofs. Some are four-ofs in a competitive deck, but only good in one specific deck. Some cards are used in older formats, and some have only popped their heads into Standard.

What we have never seen is a Mythic Rare that is

1)A Four-of
2) Usable in multiple formats
3) Usable in multiple decks that play that color
4) Part of the most-played deck in that format

I believe (and many other people also believe) that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is going to herald in a Blue-dominance to Standard over the next few months, pushing Jund decks aside. What we’re going to end up with is a Mythic Rare that is more played, more popular, and more universally used than any other Mythic Rare printed before it.

Given the price trend on cards like Baneslayer Angel and Elspeth, is it any wonder that Jace is already pushing $60? Now, if Jace ends up faltering, you will see that price fall fast. However, we are running our first $5,000 StarCityGames.com Standard Open post-Worldwake in Richmond on February 27th. If there are two Jace-based Blue decks in the Top 8 of that event, I think we’ll safely say that Jace lived up to the hype (being part of a basically new build of Blue Control). If it takes 3+ slots, I think we’ll see Jace push over $60. If it takes 3+ slots and is in multiple different Blue builds, all bets are off.

If Jace makes Blue/White control the dominant deck in the metagame, and Baneslayer Angel is an integral part of that deck… I don’t want to think about it. You probably don’t want to think about it either. Let’s just say Jace won’t be the most expensive Mythic in Standard for long.

I’m personally a big fan of Bazaar Trader, though unlike with Stoneforge Mystic, I’m not sure Bazaar Trader is actually any good. There seems to be a lot of buzz about him from the Johnny segment of the population (for those who aren’t in on the Jargon – Johnny players are those who like building wacky combo decks). Most of these decks, in Standard, revolve around one-or-more of the following:

1)Instantly-killing your opponent with Immortal Coil (sometimes backed with Bojuka Bog).
2) Giving Bazaar Trader haste with Goblin Chieftain.
3) Attacking with Abyssal Persecutor, and then giving him to your opponent when your opponent is at negative life.
4) Giving your opponent Abyssal Persecutor, and then trying to prevent your opponent from removing the Persecutor from the board the rest of the game.
5) Using Bazaar Trader to turn temporary steal effects permanent (Sarkhan Vol, Act of Treason)

From the Worldwake FAQ:

* You may target yourself with Bazaar Trader’s ability. Normally, this won’t have any visible effect. However, the ability would override an effect with a limited duration that gave you control of a permanent. For example, if you temporarily gained control of a creature with Act of Treason, targeting yourself and that creature with Bazaar Trader’s ability would then cause you to gain control of the creature indefinitely.

Aside from #4, I can see #1, #2, #3 and #5 being put together to make a pretty fun deck. Competitive? Who knows, but is there a better combo kill in Standard right now than Bazaar Trader/Immortal Coil? Maybe a Polymorph deck, but even that’s a little slower. I’m going to continue to keep my eye on Bazaar Trader, and I’ll have an update about him if he continues to sell really well with the casual crowd.

Around this time last year (in fact, almost to the day!), I wrote an article similar to this one exploring the effects of Conflux on older cards. The biggest focus of that article was the interaction of Natural Order and Progenitus. At the time, a lot of people thought that Natural Order really didn’t have the chops to cut it in Legacy (comments to this effect can be found both in the forums of that article, and in a date-sensitive search on other Legacy and Vintage-focused websites). At the time, I immediately raise our buy price to Natural Order to $5 (the previous sell price) and started selling the card for $12.50.

One year later: We’re buying Natural Order for $10 (and this will probably go up) and sold out of the card at $25. It’s a widely-accepted part of the Legacy metagame (which itself is pretty wide), and has seen play in four StarCityGames.com Legacy Top 8s – Matt Nass in Los Angeles, Vincent Pau and Johnathan Mosier in Philadephia, and Jeffrey Cosgrove in St. Louis.

I believe that we’re going to see a similar movement with Scroll Rack in Legacy over the coming months. Scroll Rack has seen a small degree of play in Vintage, but really has been completely absent from competitive Legacy tournaments. Just a quick recap of Scroll Rack:

Scroll Rack
Artifact. Mana Cost = 2
1, T: Choose any number of cards in your hand and set those cards aside. Put an equal number of cards from the top of your library into your hand. Then put the cards set aside in this way on top of your library in any order.

Let’s take a look at the reason why I feel that Scroll Rack (which was a big part of Extended and Standard, back in the days when Tempest was played in Extended and Standard, and Land Tax was sometimes legal):

Treasure Hunt
Sorcery. Mana Cost = 1U
Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a nonland card, then put all cards revealed this way into your hand.

First off, Scroll Rack is a great card to use in Counterbalance decks, if not for the already-existence of Sensei’s Divining Top. Fair enough, but I think that the draw engine of Scroll Rack/Treasure Hunt will push Scroll Rack into at least the Intuition/Accumulated Knowledge level of draw-engine, if not further past Intuition/AK.

Let’s consider that you have a Scroll Rack in play, and four cards in hand, two of which are lands. At the end of an opponent’s turn, you can dig four cards down into your deck, putting the configuration of cards, top-to-bottom, as “Spell – Land – Land – Spell”, while getting to see four new cards. Untap, draw a card (Spell), and then cast Treasure Hunt (drawing Land, Land, Spell). You now have eight cards in hand, and an active Scroll Rack (allowing you to dig eight cards deep into your library, if you wish). I consider this to be an average scenario of having Scroll Rack/Treasure Hunt together. I don’t think I need to tell you how ridiculous it is to set up the ability to see sixteen-cards deep into your deck in Legacy, at such a low cost.

For those who have never played with Scroll Rack before, allow me to talk about some of the other benefits of Scroll Rack (coming from someone who used it a bit when it was Standard/Extended legal):

1) It allows you to dodge discard spells by putting your important cards on the top of your deck;

2) You can use it every single turn; I know that you probably know it’s an artifact, but I want to stress that it’s an artifact with a repeated effect;

3) With the amount of shuffling present in Legacy, you will be able to potentially see new cards every turn (Fetch Lands, dredging, etc).

I think that there’s a lot to like about Scroll Rack when you compare it to Sensei’s Divining Top. The Top is one mana cheaper (advantage Top) and can be used multiple times a turn (advantage Top), but Scroll Rack lets you potentially dig deeper into your deck (advantage Scroll Rack), lets you draw cards immediately without going away (advantage Scroll Rack), allows you to see multiple new cards at once (advantage Scroll Rack) and lets you dodge discard spells for cards already in-hand (though Top can keep a needed card on the top of your library, if it’s already there).

Until Treasure Hunt though, there hasn’t really been a compelling reason to give up multiple activations (and one more mana) to favor Scroll Rack over Sensei’s Divining Top. My feeling is that the ability to consistently set up a minimum three-for-one that lets you chain into a six-to-eight cards dig into your library will push Scroll Rack into the realm of Legacy playables. The fact that it is an artifact (so that multiple archetypes can use it) and that is fits into a pre-existing deck (Countertop) also works in its favor.

I’m not expecting a miracle of God out of Scroll Rack; I am expecting it to perform similarly in nature to Grindstone, Natural Order, and Undiscovered Paradise – other niche-fringe (but important to their archetype) Legacy staples that have seen a dramatic appreciation in value due to the printing of newer cards (Painter’s Servant, Progenitus, and Bloodghast, respectively).

That’s all I have for this week, but here’s a brief look ahead, and a StarCityGames.com first!

You may have noticed that last week and this week’s articles are both Premium articles. While I will be writing weekly for StarCityGames.com, not all of my articles will be Premium! Depending on the topic, some of my articles are slated to be more community-based pieces that I think are more designed to start discussion, rather than to give Insider Information (read: my thoughts about card values). So please, pass the word to your friends that my next two articles on this website will be Free-side articles.

I hope you and your friends join me next week when I take a serious look at the spiraling cost of Magic singles over the past year, and then join me the week afterwards for a second free column that will explore a subject near and dear to my Magic heart. See you in seven!

Ben Bleiweiss