Wow, what a week. Not only has War of the Spark finally had its Prerelease, but we’ve just wrapped up the first Modern Mythic Championship. There’s a new mulligan rule, an entire set of alternate-art planeswalkers, and a quarterly earnings report from Hasbro that clearly states just how well Magic Arena is doing. With so much content to cover this week, let’s dive right in!
The London Mulligan Is (Probably) Here to Stay – And You Need to Know What That Means for Your Bottom Line
Wizards of the Coast would not have tested the London Mulligan at such a high-profile event if they weren’t committed to making the change barring major disaster. And I don’t really blame them – while the new mulligan rule is slightly more complex than is desirable in terms of on-boarding new players, it did its intended job pretty well all weekend. There were fewer dead games on stream, which is exactly what we need in Magic’s new esports era.
The metagame breakdown in London tells the story. While the new mulligan rule did push Mono-Green Tron up to the top of the list, the rest of the metagame is more or less where it has been for weeks. There was at least some worry that the change would cause a massive ripple effect throughout Modern, pushing combo decks of all sorts up to the top of the meta, but that didn’t happen. At this point, it seems more likely that WotC will do something to ban/weaken Tron than abandon their new mulligan.
And Tron is absolutely the deck I’m most worried about when it comes to potential bannings. Perhaps the lands themselves are too good with the new mulligan rule, or perhaps there’s a slightly safer ban on tap (Ancient Stirrings?) that’ll just knock the deck down a peg or two, but I wouldn’t expect the deck to escape retribution at some point this year regardless. If you’re heavily invested in Tron, I’d at least start considering a second choice.
The good news is that Tron is actually a pretty cheap deck, so nobody is going to lose much even if it’s an extensive banning. Karn Liberated and Surgical Extraction are the only really expensive cards in Tron at the moment, and Surgical Extraction sees play in almost every other deck in the format. It might be worth getting out of your Karns pretty soon, though, especially since War of the Spark Mythic Edition is going to add another 12,000 copies to the marketplace. And if you’ve got any of the expensive Tron foils kicking around in your trade binder, I’d think about moving on from those, too.
Of course, there is an interesting counterpoint to this take: Reddit user elvish_visionary ran a whole bunch of numbers over the weekend to calculate the win percentages of each deck in each match in London. Their analysis shows that Tron actually underperformed this weekend, and that Ancient Stirrings decks might not have benefited as much from the London Mulligan as conventional wisdom seems to indicate.
I’m not sure these numbers are as predictive as they seem, though. For one thing, the most popular deck in a given event tends to underperform because a lot of the less experienced players tend to adopt it. For another, it’s quite possible that Tron’s win percentage was hurt by the fact that everyone showed up in London prepared to beat it. That said, I just wanted to be clear that my “Tron is likely to suffer from a banning” take might not be backed up by as much hard data as it seems.
Of course, the London Mulligan will have financial implications beyond Tron regardless. For example, it’s a lot easier to play graveyard hate cards like Rest in Peace in your maindeck now that you can simply mulligan them to the bottom of your library in dead matchups (knowing your opponents’ decklists ahead of time, another change that began with this Mythic Championship, helps this card a lot too). Rest in Peace was all over the place in London this weekend, and it would have been my number-one pick for a value increase if it wasn’t just reprinted in Signature Spellbook: Gideon. Even still, I strongly suspect that this card is on its way up in terms of value and format importance.
We also can’t tell the story of Mythic Championship London without devoting a paragraph to Surgical Extraction. It was omnipresent in the metagame all weekend long, a trend that had begun long before the London Mulligan or the decklist information change increased the card’s overall utility. This might change at some point, but right now it’s pretty clear that Surgical Extraction is going to remain the most important card in Modern for the foreseeable future. It’ll eventually get reprinted and drop in price, but I can’t imagine it falls off very much before that. In fact, it’ll likely see another bump in value late next month when Modern Horizons previews begin.
Paradoxically, I feel like the London Mulligan and the rise of maindeck graveyard hate are good for the long-term future of decks like Izzet Phoenix and Dredge that play out of the ‘yard. There has been a lot of talk about banning a card like Faithless Looting in order to hurt these decks, but that’s less likely in a world where there are more legitimate ways to answer them in Game 1. The graveyard decks came into London with a healthy but not overwhelming share of the metagame, and they all had reasonable Day 2 conversion percentages. Shifts in the metagame might change all this at any point, of course, but right now I’m not worried about these decks either getting banned or falling out of fashion. If you want to buy in, you’re pretty safe to do so.
Why Mythic Championship London Didn’t Cause Any Modern Price Spikes
Almost every Mythic Championship causes at least one card to spike in price, but London was a bit of a perfect storm in terms of the tournament’s results not really affecting the market.
Here are the three reasons why:
1. There weren’t any surprise breakout decks in the event. Oh, sure, there were a few interesting rogue choices, but the top of the metagame was unsurprising. The five most-played decks on Day 1 were the five most-played decks in the current Magic Online metagame, according to the MTG Goldfish stats. We already know which decks are good right now, and London didn’t really change that.
2. We’re about a month away from Modern Horizons (hopefully) shaking up the format in a pretty major way. Usually, a Mythic Championship will cause price increases as people buy into decks that they know will be good metagame choices for the next several months. But with Modern about to go through a major shift, it seems a bit foolhardy not to wait until June.
Plus, everyone is hoping that their favorite rogue strategy is going to get a major boost when Horizons hits. Why settle for a less exciting deck now?
3. Mythic Championships tend to move markets because they pull the focus of the Magic community over to that format for the weekend. That didn’t happen this time around because the Mythic Championship was overshadowed by War of the Spark‘s release weekend. Even on my Twitter feed, which is populated by a lot of pro players, War of the Spark hype tweets seemed to outnumber Mythic Championship tweets. People really love the new set so far, and I can’t blame them.
That said, we can still use the Mythic Championship results to predict how the Modern market might behave over the next couple of weeks.
Mythic Championship Winners
Humans. The fact that Humans was the third-most-popular deck in London (and that three copies made it into the Top 8) might not seem surprising to anyone who has only casually followed Modern for the past couple of years; after all, Humans has been an elite deck for quite some time now. But Humans had actually lost quite a bit of steam as of late, thanks in large part to the rise of Izzet Phoenix. The deck is back, though, and it seems just as good as ever. Expect staples like Horizon Canopy, Noble Hierarch, and Aether Vial to rebound a little in response.
Tron and Dredge. Both decks benefit from the London Mulligan and saw an uptick in popularity as a result. Like I said in the last section, I’m a little bit worried about Tron’s future in the format due to how popular and successful it is now. In the meantime, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if the key staples from these decks continue rising in price.
Hardened Scales and Whir Prison. These two decks had the highest Day 2 conversion percentage of the major decks in London. While some of this might be due to the quality of the pilots and/or their records in the Limited portion of the event, it’s still a feat to see conversion percentages so close to 80% at such a competitive event. Expect to see more people picking these decks up over the next couple of weeks, and a commensurate rise in prices. Don’t forget: Hardened Scales also runs Ancient Stirrings, and it benefits from the London Mulligan just like Tron does.
Mythic Championship Losers
Izzet Phoenix. It’s hard to call the second-most-popular deck in London a “loser,” especially since it also propelled Javier Dominguez into the Top 8, but this deck had been absurdly dominant for a while now and at the moment it seems merely very good. Not only has the format adjusted to Phoenix’s success, but the London Mulligan doesn’t really help this deck very much. Izzet Phoenix is still firmly Tier 1, but it isn’t a tier above the rest of the format anymore. Expect some of its staples to come down in price a little.
Esper Control. As with the Hardened Scales and Whir Prison conversion rates, it’s hard to fully judge this deck because a mere five of its sixteen pilots made Day Two. That said, Esper Control’s 31% conversion rate is pretty miserable, and the u/elvish_visionary deep dive backs up the deck’s poor performance. While I doubt any of these staples are going to tank or anything, it’s worth considering that there might be better ways to attack the format as a control deck.
Regardless, I don’t expect blue-based control cards to see much of a loss of value. In fact, these cards are probably going to spike once Modern Horizons previews begin and the first sweet new control card (Counterspell?) is previewed. I’m holding these for now.
War of the Spark Risers and Fallers So Far
It has been a fascinating couple of days for War of the Spark. Even though we’re still a few days away from the first major post-War Standard event, the cards are already live on Magic Online and Magic Arena. Testing for the new format has already kicked into high gear, and War of the Spark‘s wheat is being separated from its chaff.
So far, however, most of the price movement in War of the Spark are cards that are falling off in price due to the set’s high overall power level. For example, cards like Chandra, Fire Artisan and Vivien, Champion of the Wilds were previewed quite early and pre-sold for $8-$9 because they would have been two of the better cards in an average set. But since War of the Spark has so many hot cards, you can pick up Chandra for $2 and Vivien for $4.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers of this column. As I said at the start of my set review, and again a couple of weeks ago, War of the Spark prices were always going to drop as we adjusted to the financial reality of planeswalkers at lower rarities. I didn’t expect the tumble to happen so quickly, but that’s a good thing because it gives us a nice buy-low window leading into the first week of competitive play.
At any rate, let’s get into some of the actual numbers, starting with the cards that have risen in price since I first reviewed them:
- Liliana, Dreadhorde General – Up $3 from $20 to $23
- Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God – Up $3 from $25 to $28
- Blast Zone – Up $2 from $6 to $8
- Enter the God-Eternals – Up $1 from $1 to $2
- Feather, the Redeemed – Up $1 from $5 to $6
Even though Liliana, Dreadhorde General isn’t the most expensive card in the set right now, I expect that to change before too long. It is, quite simply, the best card in War of the Spark. I’m not alone in thinking that, either – both Bryan and Gerry called it as their #1 pick in the latest episode of The GAM Podcast, which is well worth a listen. And not only is Liliana, Dreadhorde General powerful, it’s actually more versatile than I’d initially thought. I wouldn’t be surprised if it sees play in at least one Dimir (or Grixis) shell and at least one Golgari (or Sultai) shell. A mythic planeswalker in multiple top-tier Standard decks? That’s the recipe for a very expensive card.
I’m not surprised that both Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God and Enter the God-Eternals are trending up as well. Grixis and Dimir are the two new decks that I’ve seen the most buzz about so far, and I expect at least one of them to break out early. Enter the God-Eternals didn’t get much buzz when it was first previewed, but its power level is clear now. It’s heading toward $5.
I haven’t seen a ton of Feather, the Redeemed or Blast Zone decks kicking around so far, but Feather seems to be the current favorite build-around in War of the Spark for Commander players while Blast Zone still intrigues me as a multi-format staple. I doubt Feather keeps gaining in price, but Blast Zone certainly might.
- God-Eternal Kefnet – Down $7 from $20 to $13
- God-Eternal Rhonas – Down $6 from $12 to $6
- Chandra, Fire Artisan – Down $6 from $8 to $2
- Vivien, Champion of the Wilds – Down $5 from $9 to $4
- Jace, Wielder of Mysteries – Down $5 from $9 to $4
- Roalesk, Apex Hybrid – Down $5 from $10 to $5
- Dreadhorde Invasion – Down $5 from $8 to $3
- God-Eternal Bontu – Down $4 from $12 to $8
- Karn, the Great Creator – Down $3 from $15 to $12
- Ral, Storm Conduit – Down $3 from $7 to $4
- Ajani, the Greathearted – Down $3 from $5 to $2
- Domri, Anarch of Bolas – Down $3 from $6 to $3
- Nissa, Who Shakes the World – Down $3 from $6 to $3
- Ilharg, the Raze-Boar – Down $2 from $20 to $18
- Mobilized District – Down $2 from $4 to $2
- Vivien’s Arkbow – Down $2 from $5 to $3
- Single Combat – Down $2 from $3 to $1
- Ravnica at War – Down $2 from $3 to $1
- Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord – Down $2 from $5 to $3
- Tomik, Distinguished Advokist – Down $2 from $4 to $2
It shouldn’t surprise you that most of these cards were previewed early on. By the third week of War of the Spark previews, the prices had more or less adjusted to the set’s high power level. As such, we probably shouldn’t read too much into, say, Karn dropping $3. If he had been previewed a week later, he probably would have begun pre-ordering for $10 instead of $15.
The good news here is that these significantly lowered prices have turned me around on quite a few of these cards. For example, I hated pre-ordering Dreadhorde Invasion at $8 and panned the card in my initial set review. But now the card is just $3 despite the fact that Dreadhorde Invasion has looked better than expected so far. Both of the GAM hosts ranked it as a Top 3 card in War of the Spark, and I’ve started to see it pop up in some of the Grixis and Dimir lists. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up back around $8 again.
I also like the God-Eternals a lot more now that they’re all down from their initial hype prices. I’m still not as high on God-Eternal Kefnet as some, but it’s looked good in some Grixis lists and $13 is a much more reasonable buy-in than $20. I still like God-Eternal Bontu the best, but someone’s still going to have to build a deck for him out of whole cloth. Maybe Wyatt Darby can unlock his potential?
I also feel like at least a few of these $2-$3 planeswalkers are going to amount to something, and the ones that don’t will be solid long-term casual holds. Ajani, the Greathearted; Chandra, Fire Artisan; Domri, Anarch of Bolas; Nissa, Who Shakes the World; and Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord are all powerful cards that might find a niche in the metagame. They’re also all $3 or less. Keep your eyes on them over the next couple of weeks.
Lastly, I wouldn’t be shocked if Tamiyo, Collector of Tales is one of the biggest risers over the next couple of weeks. The card is still just $2.50, and it’s been overperforming in Bant Nexus testing so far. If Tamiyo pushes that deck up to the top of the metagame, we’re looking at a $6-$8 card at least.
The Japanese Alternate-Art Planeswalkers
I was originally just going to talk about War of the Spark‘s Japanese alternate art planeswalkers in my “Trends” section, but I don’t want this discussion to be lost in the shuffle. These are some of the coolest and most distinctive promos ever, and all good Magic financiers need to keep them on their radar.
The Japanese alt-art ‘walkers are going to show up roughly half the time in all Japanese packs of War of the Spark, as well as in roughly 1:4 WPN promo packs during the coming play season. This means that they won’t be as wildly rare as, say, Masterpieces, but they will be very scarce and very sought after, especially in markets where Japanese boxes aren’t easy to get.
While these planeswalkers aren’t for sale on StarCityGames.com yet, they have started popping up enough on the secondary market for me to get a sense of what the multipliers are going to look like. Here’s what I have so far:
Rares and Mythic Rares
- Liliana, Dreadhorde General – 5x
- Tamiyo, Collector of Tales – 2.7x
- Nissa, Who Shakes the World – 2.5x
- Sarkhan the Masterless – 2x
- Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord – 2x
- Ajani, the Greathearted – 1.7x
- Chandra, Fire Artisan – 1.6x
- Ugin, the Ineffable – 1.6x
- Karn, the Great Creator – 1.5x
- Jace, Wielder of Mysteries – 1.5x
- Domri, Anarch of Bolas – 1.5x
- Ral, Storm Conduit – 1.5x
- Gideon Blackblade – 1.4x
- Vivien, Champion of the Wilds – 1.4x
- Teferi, Time Raveler – 1.4x
- Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God – 1.2x
On average, it looks like these have a 1.5x multiplier based on how cool they are. This seems about right to me, though it’s quite possible that this multiplier will end up closer to 2-3x over time. In fact, I suspect you can probably get that in trade for any of these down at your LGS depending on how Commander-centric your shop is.
It should come as no surprise that Liliana, Dreadhorde General is the big winner here. Yoshitaka Amano knocked this one out of the park, and there’s a heck of a lot of overlap between Magic players and longtime fans of his art. This is going to be the marquee card from this set, and I’d expect the non-foil to end up over the $100 mark long-term with the foil over $500.
Why do Tamiyo and Nissa command above-average multipliers? In Tamiyo’s case, I suspect it’s because she’s from Kamigawa, a Japanese-inspired plane, and having a Japanese copy of her card is extra cool. The awesome way her scrolls radiate into the text box helps, too. As for Nissa, she’s done in a very iconic style that is appealing to lots of anime fans.
- Narset, Parter of Veils – 4.5x
- Ashiok, Dream Render – 4.5x
- Saheeli, Sublime Artificer – 3.5x
- Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter – 3x
- Teyo, the Shieldmage – 2.5x
- The Wanderer – 2.5x
- Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor – 2.5x
- Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage – 2.5x
- Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted – 2.5x
- Tibalt, Rakish Instigator – 2.5x
- Arlinn, Voice of the Pack – 2.5x
- Angrath, Captain of Chaos – 2.5x
- Kaya, Bane of the Dead – 2.5x
- Nahiri, Storm of Stone – 2.5x
- Vraska, Swarm’s Eminence – 2.5x
- Jaya, Venerated Firemage – 2x
- Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner – 2x
- Samut, Tyrant Smasher – 2x
- Dovin, Hand of Control – 1.5x
- Huatli, the Sun’s Heart – 1.5x
As you can see, the multiplier is a little higher for these cheaper cards so far. Again, I think you’ll be able to get even more in trade down at your LGS, which makes opening Japanese boxes an extra solid plan, especially early on. Narset and Ashiok are the biggest winners here, in part because they have fairly large fan bases and in part because their cards look absolutely amazing.
Overall, I feel like you can probably wait a little longer to pick up the Japanese alternate-art planeswalkers that you want. After all, War of the Spark is not a limited release, which means that you’ll be able to buy Japanese boxes for quite some time. Don’t wait too long, though, and don’t expect the best-looking cards like Liliana, Dreadhorde General to come down in price too much. Demand is pretty much always going to outstrip supply on these cards, and it’s possible that Liliana will only go up in price from here.
This Week’s Trends
We’ve already talked at length about Modern and Standard, so let’s skip right to Commander. Balefire Liege is the latest card to succumb to the Feather hype, jumping from $11 up to about $20. This is a pretty amazing card in a Feather deck and the available supply is pretty low, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it maintains most or all of these gains going forward.
Also up this week: Hive Mind, which has been ticking up for about a month now. Once it jumped from $5 to $10, speculators bought out the remaining copies and pushed it up toward $20. It’s a unique combo card, so I’d expect it to remain in the $15-$20 range until it’s eventually reprinted.
One interesting Modern card we haven’t talked about yet? Fury of the Horde. The card is a four-of in Frank Karsten’s London Narset Combo deck that Saffron Olive featured on his site last week. It takes advantage of the card’s combo with Narset, Enlightened Master and the new London Mulligan rule in order to combo off swiftly. Even if this deck never takes off, and I don’t think it will, Fury of the Horde is a Coldsnap rare. Cards from that era can maintain $10+ price tags as long as they see even a slight modicum of play. You should still probably sell your copies into the current spike, but I feel like the tail-off is going to be long and slow.
Lastly, just a quick reminder that War of the Spark Mythic Edition will be on sale on Hasbro’s eBay Store at 3pm Eastern time this Wednesday. I anticipate that it will sell out in under fifteen minutes, and I also suspect that its secondary market value will be in the $400-$500 range. If you buy your two allotted copies for $250 each plus shipping, you should be able to net an easy $200-$300 in profit even after you pay eBay fees or whatever. That’s a free Tier 1 Standard deck. If you’ve got $500 to spare, this is a no-brainer.