PAX Prime is two weeks away. If Wizards of the Coast keeps with tradition, they will use the PAX Magic Party to debut many of the most exciting cards in
the fall set. Last year, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Thoughtseize, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx were all revealed there.
Once the preview season begins, your window to buy Theros block staples at a discount will close. Demand will creep up as Magic players start dreaming up
new deck ideas with the freshly spoiled cards. And because no one is drafting Theros block anymore, very few new copies of Theros block staples will be
opened. Some of these cards will jump in price over the next couple of weeks as the new Standard format comes into focus, similar to the price increase
that Nightveil Specter and Pack Rat experienced last fall. Others may take months or years to rise in value as casual demand slowly begins to outpace
supply. Regardless, this month will almost assuredly be the price floor for Theros block until next summer’s set rotation. For players and speculators
alike, ’tis the season to buy.
Standard aside, I used to wait two full years until set rotation before making any long-term casual or eternal spec purchases. This is still a decent rule
of thumb, and for many Theros cards it will be prudent to wait until next summer. Taking a look at Return to Ravnica block, Obzedat, Ghost Council is half
the price that he was last August, as are many other causal favorites. If you can wait another year before buying in on the pricier cards–especially if
they’re currently being played in Standard–you will be rewarded with significantly cheaper prices. Ashiok and Kiora will almost assuredly drop in price,
for example, as will Stormbreath Dragon, Elspeth, Hero’s Downfall, and Polukranos.
In some cases though, it makes sense to buy in the summer prior to rotation. Sub-$1 rares are worth buying now because they have nowhere to go but up.
Worst case, your fifty cent purchase is still worth fifty cents in the summer of 2015. Best case, you hit on a Standard staple and can flip a card for
double or triple what you paid. Most eternal cards are worth grabbing early too. Abrupt Decay was much cheaper last summer than it is today, and the
shocklands are slightly more expensive across the board than they were in August of 2013. The same is true for a select group of casual cards. Consuming
Aberration, for example, has tripled since last summer. Avacyn, Angel of Hope did nothing but rise in price over its last year of Standard legality despite
seeing zero play in the format.
Why did these cards rise in price while other Commander singles dropped? The 60-card-casual community of kitchen table mages. If a card is good in both
Commander and 60-card kitchen table formats – mill cards and splashy mythics are a great example of this – the price jump may occur long before Standard
It’s also important to factor in the additional year of ownership and enjoyment each card provides if you buy them a year early. Is it worth paying an
extra dollar or so to have Nylea, God of the Hunt for your Commander right now instead of in August of 2015? For most people, the answer is going to be
yes. When you factor in the odds of a possible Standard breakout, buying in early looks even better.
Look, I get that Theros cards are kind of boring at this point. You’ve drafted the block for a year now. You’ve seen the same thirty cards dominate
Standard for months on end. The gods are old hat. Bestow is a bust. It’s hard to imagine any of these cards doing anything fresh, unique, or interesting.
Demand is soft, hype has never been lower, and a new set is about to change the world of Magic in new and exciting ways.
That’s exactly why this is the perfect time to buy.
Theros Block – Eternal Spec Targets
I’ve divided my favorite Theros block specs into three categories: cards that are worth picking up due to eternal playability, cards that might make a
splash in Standard next season, and cards that are solid long term casual specs. There will be some overlap, and I’ll mention it when necessary.
I’m going to start with the eternal specs because these are the cards most likely to pay off in a major way. You may have to wait a couple of years, but as
long as Modern remains popular – and I strongly suspect that it will – these cards all have a very good shot at doubling or tripling in price.
Thoughtseize – $18
Eighteen dollars is higher than Thoughtseize was a few months ago, but it’s not dropping from here. Let’s not forget that there was real talk of
Thoughtseize pushing past $100 before it was announced as a reprint in Theros last summer. Thoughtseize will continue to define Standard for the next year,
and after that it will continue to be one of the most important cards in Modern and a solid role-player in Legacy. I wouldn’t be shocked if Thoughtseize
pushes past $25 this season, and I doubt it will drop whatsoever at set rotation next year. Get your copies now if you haven’t done so already.
Keranos mostly sees play out of the sideboard of Splinter Twin decks in Modern, but it shows up in enough U/R and U/W/R Control builds to make me believe
it’ll have a long and versatile future in the format. Mythic rares that see play in multiple Modern decks are a decent long-term gamble, and Keranos has
enough casual appeal to keep his price fairly high even if it becomes a Modern bust. I wouldn’t go too deep with these, but Keranos could easily hit
$10-$15 due to Modern interest alone. It also has the potential to go higher if it finds a home in Standard this year.
It’s possible that Eidolon of the Great Revel has already peaked, but I doubt it. The card shows up an awful lot in Modern, many times as a four-of. If
Mono-Red is fast out of the gates this fall, Eidolon could even hit $10 at some point in the very near future. Even if Standard goes in a different
direction, Modern playability should keep the card in the $5-$8 range at least over the long term. Before you go too crazy and buy out the internet though,
remember that burn-specific cards rarely stay at $10 or higher because the deck generally appeals to budget players. Even still, I’ll trade for these at
retail all day long.
Master of Waves – $5
Merfolk has made a resurgence in Modern lately, and Master of Waves is part of the reason why. Master is basically just a one deck card, but the fact that
it’s a mythic rare means that the supply is lower than many other cards on this list. In addition, Master of Waves could see a reasonable amount of
Standard play this fall if Mono-Blue gets a few new pieces in Khans. I’m not going to buy these at $5 – interest is just too narrow – but it’s a fine trade
target. And if it ever drops to $2-$3, I’m pulling out my credit card and buying a basketful.
Nykthos doesn’t see a ton of Eternal play…yet. Some Enchantress decks run Nykthos in Legacy, and it shows up in a few Mono-Green and Mono-Black decks in
Modern. Powerful and unique lands are almost always a good buy though, and Nykthos is quite good in the decks that can abuse it. Nykthos sees play in
Standard and Commander as well, meaning that its upside is still pretty big. Even though $5 isn’t much of a seasonal discount – Nykthos has hovered around
this price point for months now – I wouldn’t be shocked if it just keeps rising in value from here. When in doubt, invest in real estate.
Anger of the Gods – $2
Anger of the Gods has probably shown up in more games of Modern than all the other non-Thoughtseize cards on this list combined, though it is usually just
tech out of the sideboard. Even still, it’s an underrated workhorse with a ton of room to grow in price. If Standard proves fairly aggro-happy in the short
term, this card could jump to $5-$6 even before Modern demand is factored in. At $2, it’s as close as you’ll get to a can’t-miss buy.
Ashen Rider – $2
Ashen Rider is a Commander staple that also sees a reasonable amount of play in Legacy Reanimator and Sneak and Show decks. It even comes in out of the
sideboard in Burn against Show and Tell, which is amazing. Ashen Rider isn’t a star anywhere, but it’s a mythic rare role player with a ton of financial
upside at near-bulk mythic prices. I’m stockpiling these at retail.
Swan Song – $1
I hated Swan Song when it pre-ordered at $6, but I love it as a long term $1 spec. It sees a good amount of play in both Modern and Legacy, showing up in
all manner of decks – Twin, Scapeshift, High Tide, Elves, Tron, Sneak and Show, and more. The foil is likely underpriced at $10, and I’d be shocked if this
card isn’t at least $2-$3 next summer. Grab a bunch for your long-term spec box.
Theros Block – Standard Spec Targets
It’s impossible to predict what Standard is going to look like in the fall, but I’m going to do my best to identify some undervalued cards anyway. Most of
these are already staples, but they’re cheaper than they should be because it’s the summer and fewer people are paying attention or playing Standard Magic.
Others are objectively powerful cards that haven’t found a home yet.
It’s likely that some of these predictions will make me look great while others will seem pretty silly in a couple of weeks. Read on, form your own
analysis, and only buy the cards that you feel the most confident about going forward.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion – $25
Can a $25 card be undervalued? It’s certainly possible. As soon as Return to Ravnica rotates, Elspeth will be the defining card of the entire Standard
format. It was utterly dominant at the block Pro Tour, and has proven itself in Standard time and time again. It is possible that Khans will be powerful
enough to overshadow Elspeth, but if it isn’t, she could easily break $40 at some point this year. I’m not confident enough to pull out my checkbook, but
I’m happy to trade for these at retail.
Kiora, the Crashing Wave – $15
Kiora sees play in Standard and could trend upwards in the fall. The wedges of Khans should be a boon to Kiora, where she’ll fit comfortably into both BUG
and RUG strategies. The fact that she’s beloved in casual circles helps limit her downside too. I’m always hesitant to speculate on planeswalkers because
of the duel decks, but I’d like to have at least a couple copies of Kiora heading into rotation.
Mana Confluence – $12
We’re about to head into a Standard environment dominated by three color spells. Mana Confluence is the best land in the format at tapping for three
different colors. I wouldn’t be shocked if Mana Confluence experiences a huge boost at some point soon. It has already started rising online and it could
easily hit $20 in paper based solely on one cool-looking three color spoiler card.
Sylvan Caryatid – $8
At $8 each, it’s unlikely that your margins will ever be good enough to flip these for a cash profit. But in trade, I’m happy to gobble these up at $8 all
day long. Green is shaping up to be fantastic post-rotation, Sylvan Caryatid is already one of the most powerful cards in the entire block, and I expect
that amazing mana fixing will be at a premium once we enter the three-color world of Khans. Sylvan Caryatid is one of the safest short-term holds right
now, and I expect it to be a format cornerstone going forward.
Courser of Kruphix is another decent pick-up, but it costs $4 more than the Caryatid and is easily available in a box set. This makes the Courser’s upside
much smaller, and I can’t recommend buying in right now unless you need it for a specific deck.
Xenagos, The Reveler – $8
Xenagos, The Reveler has already seen a lot of Standard play over the past year. Like most of the best specs, he has nothing left to prove. In order for
the price to rise, he just needs to keep winding up in reasonable decks as the supply shrinks relative to demand. Unless Xenagos is confirmed in a duel
deck at some point this fall, he’s a very safe trade target at $8 with upside at least double that. There’s been a lot of buzz on this guy lately, and I
wouldn’t be shocked if he’s already $10 or $12 by the time this article goes up.
Hero’s Downfall – $6
Hero’s Downfall is another card that has had its price blunted by seeing print in a box set. Very few of those are still being opened, though and Hero’s
Downfall was well over $10 last autumn before the market was saturated. While Mono-Black Devotion may leave us due to set rotation, heavy black decks will
exist in the new format, and this will see a lot of play right alongside Thoughtseize. I wouldn’t be shocked if it makes another run toward $15 before all
is said and done.
Much like Xenagos, Polukranos has nothing left to prove. It has seen steady play since the moment it was printed, and the only reason it isn’t worth twice
as much is the fact that it was promo card in a duel deck. Polukranos plays very well with Nissa though, and I don’t doubt that it will see a bunch of play
this fall. If Green comes to dominate the new Standard as I expect it will, Polukranos could easily hit $12-$15. If not, $6 is still at the low end of
where I expect it to end up.
I have no data backing up this call–it’s just a gut feeling. Iroas is objectively powerful, and I’m surprised that it hasn’t seen any Standard play
whatsoever. At $6, it would easily quintuple in price if it became a three-of or four-of staple in a very good Boros deck. If not, it still has a bunch of
casual value. This logic holds true for any of the currently-underplayed gods, and I expect at least one or two of them will become very relevant in
Standard before the year is out.
U/W will survive the rotation of Sphinx’s Revelation. It will need to find a new way to draw piles of cards though. Could Ephara be the answer? The U/W god
hasn’t made huge waves in Standard yet, but it has seen some play in very good decks. At $3, there is very little downside. Worst case, it’s a god, so it
will have some casual trade value regardless.
Khans of Tarkir will have very good mana fixing. If it isn’t fetchlands, it’ll be something else powerful and eye-popping. With the shocklands rotating and
a wedge theme, another cycle of powerful lands feels inevitable. Even still, I love the six cheapest temples as solid spec targets. These cards have always
been underrated relative to the amount of play they see, and I expect all ten temples to be large parts of Standard this fall no matter what Khans brings
Up to this point, the price of these temples has been determined more by supply than demand. The temples from the sets that were opened less command the
bigger premium. While I doubt this gulf will disappear entirely, I expect the prices in the fall to be more demand driven with the best new color
combinations commanding the highest prices. Since we don’t know what decks will make up the new format yet, it makes sense to buy in on the temples that
will currently cost you the least.
Fleecemane Lion – $2
Fleecemane Lion is seeing a ton of play right now. If this were early April instead of mid-August, the card would have jumped to $6 already. Many of the
best Selesnya spells are rotating, unfortunately, so it’s very likely that Fleecemane Lion won’t see as much play in a couple of months as it does right
now. Even still, there is a great deal of financial upside here. If the card sees play in even one of the new top decks, it could double in price to $4-$5.
That’s worth a flier at the current retail price of $2.
Soldier of the Pantheon – $1.50
Soldier of the Pantheon has already seen a strong uptick in tournament play. Even though we’re losing the block he was born to hate – Return to Ravnica –
there’s a very real chance that Standard will still be dominated by multicolored cards in the fall thanks to Khans of Tarkir. I wouldn’t be shocked if this
guy ends up in the $4-$5 range at some point soon, so picking these up for $6 per set seems good to me.
Launch the Fleet – $1.50
I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t love this call. Launch the Fleet is clunky, obvious, and only works in one sort of deck. It’s already up to $1.50
without having actually seen much competitive play. This is a top sleeper pick for many players that I really respect though, and many of my best financial
decisions have come from going against my gut and listening to people I trust. I can’t recommend this card personally, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at
least talk about it here.
Arbor Colossus – $0.50
I know that Arbor Colossus seems like it should be a bad card, but it really isn’t. It actually sees a decent amount of play in Standard, and I expect that
to continue. At bulk prices, you literally cannot go wrong here. Grab a set just in case.
Theros Block – Casual and Commander Spec Targets
Unlike my Modern and Standard recommendations, I don’t have a lot to say about these individual casual spec targets. Most of them will be at least a little
bit cheaper at rotation next season, and it isn’t really worth chasing after the next Avacyn, Angel of Hope or Consuming Aberration right now if you’re
solely a speculator.
If you love playing Commander, however, this list might help inform your next round of purchases. I like making a big buy every August with one copy of
every cheap Commander card from the previous block that I don’t already own. That way, I can lock in a decent price, and I don’t have to worry about the
card exploding in price due to a weird Standard combo or something.
Heliod, God of the Sun – $4
– Any god that sells for the price of a booster pack has to be a decent buy, right?
Mogis, God of Slaughter – $4
Phenax, God of Deception – $4
– Ditto times a hundred. Phenax is an amazing casual mill card, and it’ll be double this price before you know what happened. One of the safest calls on
Kruphix, God of Horizons – $3.50
– Kruphix was designed specifically for Commander, and it’s awesome there. Nowhere for this card to go but up.
Karametra, God of Harvests – $3
– Expensive ramp cards aren’t great in competitive play, but this is another Commander stalwart.
Whip of Erebos – $2 –
Whip is an amazing casual card with an outside shot at Standard relevance. It could drop to $0.50 next summer, of course, but it could easily hit $5-$6 in
the meantime. Picking a copy or two up as a $2 hedge seems perfectly fine.
Prophet of Kruphix – $2 –
Prophet fell to $2 thanks to the box set, but it isn’t going to drop any further.
Sage of Hours – $2 –
Remember when this card came out and
I said I was going to pick up a ton of them once the price dropped enough
? This is that time.
Champion of Stray Souls – $1.50
– Any bulk mythic that sees a reasonable amount of play in Commander is worth a long-term flier.
Medomai the Ageless – $1.50
– Same here.
Dictate of Erebos – $1
– Dictate of Erebos is outstanding in Commander and is a top black casual staple. It will be at least $5 at some point, barring reprint, and is one of the
least risky pickups on here.
Hall of Triumph – $0.75
-One day you’ll look at a price guide, and this will be four or five bucks. You’ll scratch your head a bit and wonder why you didn’t buy any back when it
was basically a bulk rare. Then you’ll go back to eating your futuristic space burrito.
Abhorrent Overlord – $0.50
– This guy makes a boatload of tokens, so it’ll be a $2 casual rare over the long term.
Bident of Thassa – $0.50
– It sees fringe Standard play and is very solid in casual decks. At fifty cents, why not?
Gift of Immortality – $0.50
– A very unique card that future generations of Johnnies will try to abuse.
Felhide Spiritbinder – $0.50
– Not quite Kiki-Jiki but still quite unique and very good in Commander.
Fate Unraveler – $0.50
– As long as people make Nekusar decks in Commander, this will be a format staple. This card has a profile of a $2-$3 rare long term.
Perplexing Chimera – $0.50
– It’s perplexing that this card doesn’t get more respect in casual circles. It’s one of the better blue creatures ever printed for Commander play.
Battlefield Thaumaturge – $0.50
– The sixty-card casual community loves this, and there’s still an outside shot it will make waves in Standard or Modern at some point. A nice fifty cent
Dictate of Heliod – $0.50
– A must-play in token-based Commander decks.
Skybind – $0.50
– Could morph’s return make this a real card somewhere? Probably not, but it’s a fine bulk rare gamble.
This Week’s Trends
As I stated above, Xenagos, God of Revels has been the subject of a lot of buzz in the finance community lately. I wouldn’t be shocked if it makes a jump
sooner rather than later.
The full From the Vault: Annihilation list has been revealed, and it’s exactly what we thought it
would be based on the early leaked copy. I wrote about that list
a few different times, and my opinion hasn’t changed. It’s too late to
sell your P3K copies of Rolling Earthquake or Burning of Xinye at a premium, so you’re going to have to ride it out at this point. The set is fine to grab
at retail and has some nice cube staples, but there’s nothing too overwhelming.
We’ve got a few new images from Khans of Tarkir, courtesy of the WotC Twitter feed. Here’s the first:
Thousand Winds is probably going to be limited to Limited, but it does make me believe that they aren’t going to shy away from big, splashy morph
abilities. Anything that blinks or slides a creature could be worth considering going forward-even in Modern.
Here’s the other one:
Mardu Heart-Piercer isn’t Flametongue Kavu, but it’s certainly in the same neighborhood. Creatures with solid enters-the-battlefield abilities are
generally among the most powerful Constructed cards in today’s Standard, so I expect Raid to be an ability that shows up in Constructed play this fall.
Keep an eye out for future cards with this keyword.
Someone decided to buy the internet out of Great Whale. It’s a fun card on the reserved list, but I can’t imagine too many people ponying up for this at
any price over a couple of bucks. Check your bulk boxes I guess?
Did you know that Galerider Sliver spiked? Good luck finding a copy under $5 anywhere. Check your local shop and see if they have any left in the $1-$3
range – it’s a very solid long-term buy.
Overall, I’m seeing signs everywhere that the market will be busting out of bear-mode over the next few weeks. Strap in and get ready, because this fall is
going to be both crazy and awesome.