Insider Trading – The Financial Value of Shards of Alara

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Friday, September 26th – Want to know which cards will be hot at your prerelease this weekend? Which cards should you pick up now while they are undervalued, and which should you trade away while they are overhyped? Is this the greatest set ever printed for cubes and Type 4 (answer: Yes!) If you want to be informed at your prerelease, you must read Ben’s analysis of the Financial Value of Shards of Alara!

Hello everyone, and welcome to my take on the Financial Value of Shards of Alara. My name is Ben Bleiweiss, and I am the General Manager of Acquisitions and Inventory at StarCityGames.com. This means that I am responsible for putting the prices (both buy and sell) on all of the cards on this here website. This includes the Shards of Alara cards, which are going up for presale on our website simultaneously with this article going live!

When a set is first released, we have a standard pricing structure for cards — the base price of Commons begins at $0.25, Uncommons at $0.50, and Rares at $1. Foil cards go for twice as much — Commons at $0.50, Uncommons at $1, and Rares at $2. As with my last few financial values articles, I’m going to going to list where I believe these cards will start, and then give my thoughts about whether the card will go up, down, or remain where it is in value. I’ll also note where I believe Foil versions of a common or uncommon will have extraordinary value beyond the normal version of that card (See: Oblivion Ring, Ponder, Naturalize)

As usual, the spoiler information for this article was taken from our friends at MTGsalvation.com. They finished their spoiler earlier in the week, so it should be fairly accurate. All the credit for the card texts goes to them, as does any blame of the texts are wrong. That’s enough disclaiming – here’s the key for explaining the cards below!

(+) I believe this card will go up in price.
(=) I believe this card will stay around this price.
(-) I believe this card is being overvalued and will end up going down in price.

As noted in my analysis of Mythics, the existence of Mythic Rares is not ruinous to Magic. We are starting the top Mythics in the set at $25 (Sarkhan Vol, hitting the price range of Garruk), and the bottom Mythics at $2 (multiple Mythics).


Ajani Vengeant: $10 (-) Ajani’s abilities are all decent, but it hurts that Ajani starts at just three loyalty counters. This means that you need to lock down a permanent (and it has to be tapped already to really matter) before you can Lightning Helix twice. It also means that, without using the Lightning Helix ability, you need five turns minimum in order to Armageddon an opponent. Compare this to Chandra (which can kill larger creatures, more creatures, and can hit her ultimate more quickly) and Ajani looks like a pale comparison.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant: $8 (+) On the other hand, Elspeth is currently being undervalued. I’d compare Elsepeth to Bitterblossom – two turns later, but you get a 1/1 each turn without having to eat a point of life. The second ability is huge – Angelic Blessing as a +1 ability makes any creature you have an instant clock. While it takes just as long for Elspeth to hit her ultimate as Ajani, there are two abilities getting you there, and a higher instant threshold for pain (5 Loyalty the turn you play Elspeth, plus an instant ground blocker).

Empyrial Archangel: $5 (-): Great for Cubes, unwieldy to cast in reality. Should see some depreciation, since it can be easily taken care of by Wrath of God and other non-targeting board sweepers.

Godsire: $2.50 (-) The same as above. It’s huge, but it costs too much to realistically cast, and there are lots of big creatures in this set.

Hellkite Overlord: $7.50 (+) Compares favorably to Akroma, Angel of Wrath… and it has already become the favored creature in Vintage Oath. This will be the reanimation creature of choice across all formats, and the only reason it is valued this low right now is because the From the Vaults: Dragon versions hit the marketplace in advance of the Shards release. I expect this to climb as people get to play with it en masse.

Kresh the Bloodbraided: $2.50 (-) Here’s an interesting exercise: a lot of the cards in this set have double or triple-colored mana in their costs. Would they be playable if they were a single color? For instance, if Kresh were BBB2, RRR2 or GGG2, would he be played in any decks? The answer is no – he’s 3/3 and needs things to die in order to get bigger. In Limited, great! In Constructed, not so much, especially since he will die along with everything else to Firespout. Right now, four is the Magic toughness in Standard, not three.

Lich’s Mirror: $5 (=) This will raise the value of Channel somewhat, since you can cast Channel, funnel 5 mana, play Lich’s Mirror, and then add fifteen more mana to your mana pool. Channel will still be active, and you will have a new hand of seven cards. Are there other ways to abuse a new hand of seven cards with no permanents outside of Vintage? I’m not so sure, but this seems like it could be a great sideboard card against Mind’s Desire or combo decks that shoot their wad all in one turn.

Mayael the Anima: $2 (-) Fails the Kresh test. Would be a bulk rare, if it were rare. Bulk Mythic?

Prince of Thralls: $2 (-) Another bulk Mythic.

Rafiq of the Many: $7 (+) On its own, Rafiq is a 4/4 double-striker for four mana. This is a long way from Ridgetop Raptor, which was at the top of the double-strike chain at 2/1 for four starting at Legions. I’ve seen a lot of interest in Rafiq from both casual and competitive deckbuilders. With another creature, Rafiq starts getting nuts – suddenly you drop him turn 4, and if you previously had a 2/2 creature, it’s now a 3/3 double-striker. That’s a quick clock. The only drawback to Rafiq is the three-butt (Firespout range), but I think that’ll be overcome because of the explosive damage potential Rafiq gives you access to.

Sarkhan Vol: $25(-) Currently the top dog of the pile, but Sarkhan is no Fires of Yavimaya. The sad truth is that Sarkhan has no way to protect himself – he is all offense, and is pretty useless on an empty board. Is +1/+1 and haste better than +1/+1 counters and vigilance? Will Threaten matter that much if Sarkhan falls off of the board the next turn? Sarkhan is good, but he’s not as good as he’s currently being hyped to be, and I expect his value to fall some, probably to the $15 range.

Sedris, the Traitor King: $2.50 (-) Another guy that fails the Kresh test – wouldn’t play him at BBB3, RRR3 or UUU3 in mono-colored decks. Don’t be fooled by the gold!

Sharuum the Hegemon: $2.50 (+) On the other hand, Sharuum is currently being undervalued. Compare Sharuum to Oona – while Oona can plow out multiple creatures a turn (usually), Sharuum has the same body at the same cost (5/5 flyer for six), plus the ability to get you back a free artifact. There are lots of artifacts worth getting in Black/Blue/White, especially since you now have an entire guild filled with artifact creatures and artifact artifacts (Scourglass anyone?). In Extended, this falls pretty close to the Urzatron colors, so this is a way to get back Oblivion Stone or Mindslaver, plus have a kill condition on the board – not to mention Sundering Titan. Currently undervalued.

Sphinx Sovereign: $2.50 (-) If Darksteel Colossus didn’t exist, this might be the best creature to Tinker out in Vintage – a 6/6 flyer that gains three life the turn you Tinker it, and then swings for nine in the air the next turn. However, Darksteel Colossus is indestructible, hits for 11, and tramples. So close, yet so far away.

Tezzeret the Seeker: $17.50 (+) This, and not Sarkhan, is the best Planeswalker in the set. The ultimate is game over in many decks (attack with my 5/5 moxes/artifact lands), and the other two abilities are prime as well (untap two artifacts = untap two mana sources for the decks that will play Tezzeret, and the tutor ability is comboriffic in Vintage, and affinityrific in other formats). Will be played a lot in multiple formats, and that will keep the value of Tezzeret high.


Ad Nauseam: $5 (-) Good, but not ridiculously good. It’s hard to play this in control, because you’re likely to flip a high-cost effect early (Wrath of God, large finisher), which will probably net you fewer cards than you’d think on average. In an aggressive, weenie-based deck – probably better, but five mana is a lot to ask for a card that won’t outright kill your opponent. This is tasty because it’s an instant, but compare this to Moonlight Bargain. The lands cost less, but chances are the other spells you keep cost more – and nobody played Moonlight Bargain. Do you think you’ll draw more than five cards with Ad Nauseam?

Archdemon of Unx: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Battlegrace Angel: $2.50 (+) The first real replacement for Exalted Angel in Standard since Exalted Angel. This is a 5/5 flying lifelink creature for five, and that’s good enough for the curve right now. Will be played more than the starting price indicates.

Brilliant Ultimatum: $1 (=) All five of the Ultimatums will be popular with casual players, but only the best will draw tournament attention due to the high mana cost, and strict (seven) color requirements. Because of the strict color requirements, you have to play a deck built around these cards, and they aren’t an auto include in, say, any deck that wants to run Blue, Black or White.

Broodmate Dragon: $2 (+) How many of you remember when Onslaught/Legions Block Constructed was around, and team YMG (headed by Darwin Kastle) were able to do well at the Block Constructed Pro Tour with a Dragon deck? Block Constructed will likely be a format next year, and the large mana-costs in a lot of the creatures in this set mean that the same strategy (and likely, a whole subset of fatties) will be playable in Block. This is essentially an 8/8 flyer for six mana, which is high on the charts, power-wise. That it splits into two separate 4/4 creatures is probably better, because now it takes two removal spells to take it out, instead of just one.

Caldera Hellion: $1 (=) Bulk Rare, especially since it kills itself without any other creatures in play.

Clarion Ultimatum: $1 (=) Pretty much the same as Brilliant Ultimatum.

Covenant of Minds: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Cradle of Vitality: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Crucible of Fire: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Cruel Ultimatum: $2.50 (+) This is a potential eight-for-one (Opponent loses a creature (-1), opponent discards three cards (-3), you draw three cards (+3), you return a creature to hand from your graveyard (+1)), and that does not count the ten-life point swing you gain when you cast Cruel Ultimatum. The effect on this card is so huge, that it’s likely worth it to build a deck based around trying to cast Cruel Ultimatum on turn seven(ish) – the card advantage and change in board position is so pronounced, that it can turn a losing game into a winning one, or a winning one into an absolute blowout just by being cast.

Cunning Lethemancer: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Death Baron: $2.50 (+) This sort of effect usually settles in the $3-$4 range after a set is released (Incandescent Soulstoke, Timber Protector), and Zombies/Skeletons are a popular creature type. I think this will end up in the same $3-$4 range as well.

Ethersworn Canonist: $6 (-) Usually the Arcane Laboratory effect is at three mana, and is uncommon (even Rule of Law was reprinted as an Uncommon in 10th), so it’s hard to judge the true value of Ethersworn Canonist. Is it better than Rule of Law (since it comes down a turn earlier, and can swing — a.k.a. Magus of the Moon), or it is worse since artifacts get around the restriction (Affinity, Workshop decks in Vintage), and it is more vulnerable as a creature than as an enchantment? I tend to think that this is mainly a sideboard card that will go down some in price, but will end up in the $3-$4 range, but I could be wrong, since this is the most aggressively a playable card of this type has been costed.

Feral Hydra: $1.50 (=) A “strictly” better Ivy Elemental, which has eternally been in the $1.50-$2 range since release.

Flameblast Dragon: $2 (+) Currently undervalued. A great finisher for Red, combining Blaze/Fireball with a large flyer. Will be popular with casual players, and will see some Constructed play.

Gather Specimens: $2 (+) Desertion on crack. This can grab armies of token creatures, but can’t outright counter a spell. Still, I see this being very, very popular with casual players, and a one-to-two of in tournament decks that run primarily Blue.

Goblin Assault: $3 (-) Is this Bitterblossom for Goblins? It’s worse for four reasons. One: It isn’t tribally a Goblin like Bitterblossom was for Faeries. Two: It costs one more than Bitterblossom. Three: The tokens don’t have any evasion ability. Four: It forces ALL of your goblins to attack, so you can’t use the tokens for defense. If you want a better comparison to Bitterblossom, check out Elspeth in the Mythics section. Extended Goblins will find this too slow, and Standard Goblins won’t like having to send all their creatures to the death every turn.

Hell’s Thunder: $4 (-) This is a Fog Elemental, except it has haste, and you can use it twice. This reminds me more of Scorching Missile than Ball Lightning, though the flashback cost is certainly a lot more reasonable on Hell’s Thunder. I think that if Faeries weren’t around, this would be a great card for the mono-Red deck; but with Faeries around, it drops down to ‘respectable.’

Immortal Coil: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Invincible Hymn: $1 (=) Bulk Rare (But man, would this be fun in Battle of Wits!)

Kederekt Leviathan: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Keeper of Progenitus: $1 (+) This compares favorably to Vernal Bloom, and is decently comparable to Heartbeat of Spring, in a format that doesn’t currently have Heartbeat of Spring. It should rise a little in value, if just because of casual interest.

Knight of the White Orchard: $5 (-) Great on the draw, not as great on the play – but aren’t there a huge glut of two-drops in Standard and Extended right now? There are better choices if you’re the aggressive deck, and probably better choices if you are the defensive deck (Knight of Meadowgrain, for one). This doesn’t fit into the Kithkin deck, and it doesn’t guarantee mana acceleration if your opponent is matching you one-for-one. I see this as more of a $2.50-$3 card than a $5 card, since it’s basically a conditional Wood Elves.

Knight-Captain of Eos: $1 (=) Might rise slightly above bulk rate if big, huge fatties are a big Block deck, but probably not beyond the $1.50-$2 range. Likely will stay as a bulk rare, though.

Manaplasm: $2.50 (+) People were all over this card when they thought it cost two mana. As a three mana guy, still exciting because it is both splashable, and because it will just keep getting big each turn. Turn 3: 1/1. Turn 4: 5/5. Turn 6: 6/6. Works well with defensive tricks, countermagic, free spells (Force of Will, Blazing Shoal), and affinity (Myr Enforcer = 8/8).

Master of Etherium: $10 (+) If this weren’t included in the Esper deck, this would easily be a $15 card out of the gates. This is my pick for the best card of the set, if only it’s ever played in affinity. I’ve talked about this card in other articles, but let me repeat – it’s the nuts in that deck. Master of Etherium is on the power level of Arcbound Ravager. This is not hyperbole. If you plan on playing affinity in Extended, pick these up now.

Memory Erosion: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Mindlock Orb: $1 (=) Good sideboard, but narrow. Might see play in Extended, but probably a little too expensive for what it does.

Minion Reflector: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Mycolyth: $2 (+) Will be very popular in casual token-generation decks, and might be just big enough to break through in Standard (sacrifice one creature to get a 6/6 that makes two 1/1’s a turn). Worth picking up now, because it has tournament potential, and if it does get played, will only go up in price.

Ooze Garden: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Predator Dragon: $1.50 (+) All of the big Dragons in this set are currently being undervalued, if for no other reason than for Block play. Block play notwithstanding, this guy can turn a ground stalemate into an absolute blowout in one swing. The problem is that you have three six-drop dragons all cluttering the same spot (Broodmate Dragon, Flameblast Dragon, Predator Dragon), and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The good thing is that all three are playable. The bad thing is that they all are the same slot. This is a good dragon to play with in Extended Dragonstorm, though, since you can get Bogardan Hellkites, hit your opponent for fifteen direct damage, and then get Predator Dragon to finish them off with ten points of haste, if need be.

Punish Ignorance: $2 (+) Absorb and Undermine are both worth a lot more than this card, presently. The six-point life swing attached to a counterspell is quite good. Pick these up, because your local Blue mage will be playing these shortly.

Quietus Spike: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Ranger of Eos: $2.50 (+) Pure card advantage, and I’d say comparable to Solemn Simulacrum – you get a two-for-one, and in this case, you pick the two. In Extended, will the two be Martyr of Sands? White (and allied colors) have a lot of utility creatures, so chances are you’ll find two creatures of note to get with Ranger of Eos. Currently undervalued, and I see this guy hitting the $4-$5 range quickly upon release.

Realm Razer: $1.50 (+) Will probably hit the $2-$2.50 range, because it duplicate Boom/Bust, except you also get a 4/2 body. Yes, it can go away – but decks will be mana-hungry in Standard, and even if they kill Realm Razor (which will half the time be on their own turn), you get to Mana Short your opponent for a turn at the least.

Sacellum Godspeaker: $1 (+) Three mana for the potential to add 5-6 mana to your mana pool. This may end up being the best mana accelerant in Block play, due to the fatty deck. There are better choices in Standard (the criminally underplayed Bloom Tender comes to mind), but I wouldn’t write this off for both casual and Block play by any means.

Salvage Titan: $2.50 (-) A neat trick, but will anyone ever really pay the full six mana to get this guy into play? This is the Delraich of this set (a $1.50-$2 casual card) that has the advantage of being able to recur itself – albeit to your hand.

Scourglass: $2 (+) Because this does not hit artifacts, people are undervaluing how good it can be. This is Wrath of God that sits on the board turn after turn, and is hard to remove since it is an artifact. Control decks are going to love running Scourglass, and I expect it to see a lot of Standard play. Pick these up while their value is low – I see them in the $4-$5 range quickly.

Sedraxis Specter: $1.50 (=) It’s hard to judge specters these days – they have casual appeal, but does anyone play them competitively? Even Hypnotic Specter, once banned for being too powerful in Extended, is no longer seen anywhere near a tournament table. This isn’t a reason to have Black/Blue/Red on turn 3, and it’s less powerful as the game goes on. The unearth ability is more interesting (B1, deal 3, opponent discards a card), so I’d see this more as a direct damage spell from your graveyard, than as a 3/2 flyer that you get into play naturally.

Sharding Sphinx: $1 (=) Bulk Rare.

Sigil of Distinction: $1 (=) Cool design, Bulk Rare.

Skill Borrower: $1.50 (=) This’ll be fun for casual players, and it might have applications in Urzatron decks (since you have a lot of artifacts that you can use, such as Mindslaver). Will there be enough artifacts in Standard to abuse this guy? Probably not, but let’s see what the next set brings.

Skullmulcher: $1 (+) Will be popular with casual players, and also might have a place in Standard, if creature stalls become common. Probably won’t get too high in value ($1.50-$2), but is likely better than a strict bulk rare.

Spearbreaker Behemoth: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Stoic Angel: $7 (-) Players are going gaga over Stoic Angel, and I can see it – slows down Faeries, slows down mono-Red aggro, hits for three a turn in the air. Is this better than Lightning Angel? Is it twice as good? My Ben-senses tell me no, this is not worth twice as much as Lightning Angel. I see this as a solid $4-$5 card, but it’s currently valued just a tad too high.

Tar Fiend: $1 (+) Maybe I’m valuing the Devour guys a little too high, but the traditional loss of card advantage on this guy (losing creatures) is made up by a forced discard on your opponent. Have a bunch of 1/1 tokens made by Elspeth or Bitterblossom? This guy will be an 8/8 or a 10/10, and Mind Twist your opponent at the same time. Plus it’s an elemental, so it works well with decks that want Elementals, or decks that run Reveillark.

Titanic Ultimatum: $1.50 (+) If Overrun is a $1-$1.50 Uncommon (selling out at that price), this is a $2.50-$3 rare. Should be huge with casual players, and might find a place into Constructed for that creature-on-creature mirror match.

Vein Drinker: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Vicious Shadows: $1 (=) Bulk Rare

Violent Ultimatum: $1.50 (+) Triple Vindicate – even if this hits three lands, that’s a huge setback for an opponent. This is a card that you might want to build a deck around, because it also can turn a losing position into a winning one, or a neutral/winning position into an absolute blowout. Seven mana effects need to be splashy, and this one is big enough to really matter.

Where Ancients Tread: $1 (=) Bulk Rare


Arcane Sanctum/Crumbling Necropolis/Jungle Shrine/Savage Lands/Seaside Citadel: ($0.75) (=): These would all be $1-$1.50 cards easily if the Vivid lands did not exist. Since the Vivid lands do exist, their value will be somewhat suppressed.

Bant Charm ($0.75) (+): Swords to Plowshares, Oxidize, or Flash Counter – there will be very few instances when Bant Charm is not useful, and there are other W/U/G cards worth playing in this set. Splashing a color is easy (especially now that Magus of the Moon is gone), so expect most of the Charms to see play.

Esper Charm ($0.75) (+): Instant-speed discard is powerful, and two-card discard at instant speed is nigh-unheard of. If you don’t have a target for Esper Charm, you can just cycle it for two cards, making it a great choice for Blue decks.

Jund Charm ($0.75) (=): Tormod’s Crypt, Pyroclasm, or (sort-of) Elven Rite. You’re already playing Red/Green to get Firespout, so this card isn’t too far of a reach if you want more of this effect.

Qasali Ambusher ($1): Makes me wish Temple Garden was in Standard, for that turn 2 (on the draw) 2/3 blocker. Will see Extended and Standard play, because free creatures are good, and the trigger to get it into play is easily met.

Rhox War Monk ($1) (+): Compares favorably to Descendent of Kiyomaro, and passes the “Does this survive Firespout?” test. A huge body in Standard, and big enough to break through in Extended, as well.

Sigiled Paladin ($1) (=) See, for an aggressive White Weenie deck, I’d choose this over Knight of the White Orchid in an instant. Makes your one-drop that much bigger, and swings for three on turn 3. Probably worse than Knight of Meadowgrain, but still playable in a White Weenie deck, especially for breaking creature stalemates.

Sprouting Thinax ($1) (+): Kinsbaile Borderguard, except without the need to have other creatures. This will give Wrath of God (and other board sweepers) fits, and is another reason (along with Reveillark and Unearth) why Hallowed Burial should be valued higher right now. This is great for the aggro-on-aggro match, and for the aggro-on-control match. Not as good against combo.

Tidehollow Sculler ($0.75) (+): This is a great discard spell, and solves a problem that Mesmeric Fiend always had – it has enough of a body to attack with. I see this as a reason to want to play Black/White, because it is a fabulous two-drop for both aggressive and control decks.

Woolly Thoctar ($1.50) (+): The Watchwolf of this block, and should hit the $2-$2.50 range, just like Watchwolf did when it was big in Standard. This is also the exactly right colors for Zoo in Extended, so expect it to bleed into that format as well.

Commons (Foil)

For the commons section, I usually list which commons are going to command a premium for their foil version. Instead of listing each card individually as a foil version, I’ll just say it up front – all cards in this section will be worth $1-$1.50 for their foil version, unless otherwise noted!

Akrasan Squire
Bant Panorama/Esper Panorama/Grixis Panorama/Jund Panorama/Naya Panorama
Branching Bolt
Cancel (Foil = $2.50, and this is going to be the most popular version of Cancel due to the awesome artwork!)
Cathartic Adept
Courier’s Capsule ($2-$3, because it might catch on in Vintage)
Deft Duelist
Dispeller’s Capsule
Dragon Fodder
Druid of the Anima
Elvish Visionary ($2, will be popular in casual and competitive play)
Etherium Sculptor ($2)
Executioner’s Capsule
Gift of the Gargantuan
Hindering Light ($2-$2.50 Will see play in Standard, and compares well to Rebuff the Wicked)
Magma Spray
Naturalize ($2ish)
Obelisk of Bant/Obelisk of Esper/Obelisk of Grixis/Obelisk of Jund/Obelisk of Naya
Oblivion Ring ($0.50 for the regular version, $3-$4 for the foil)
Relic of Progenitus ($0.50 for the regular version, $4-$5 for the foil. Compares very well against Tormod’s Crypt)
Rip-Clan Crasher
Soul’s Fire
Steward of Valeron
Tidehollow Strix
Wild Nacatl ($0.50 for the regular version, $4-$5 for the foil. The new Kird Ape, but better.)

Shards of Alara is a set that really has me excited – it has cards that will bleed interest between tournament and casual players, and there are a lot of exciting and powerful cards in the set. As usual, have fun at the Prerelease, and good luck finding some deals while you’re there! See you guys (and gals) early next week!