Magic Origins Set Review

In his last article before a brief hiatus to go get married, Chas Andres takes an in-depth look at what we know about Magic Origins so far and what can be expected of its rares and mythics.

Welcome to the end of an era.

If you count Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, and Revised as separate sets, there have been eighteen ‘core sets’ in the history of Magic. Their releases have spanned twenty-two years. When Alpha was released, Bill Clinton was less than a year into his presidency. Google was still five years away from being founded. Magic Origins has a lot to live up to.

Origins is end of an era for me, too. I’m getting married later this week, and after a short honeymoon I’ll be packing up my Los Angeles apartment and moving across the country to Wilmington, North Carolina. By the end of August, I’ll be deep into my new life at UNC as a graduate student in creative writing and TA in film theory.

Because of how busy my life is going to be over the next few weeks, I’m taking a brief hiatus from my column here on StarCityGames. I simply won’t be able to keep up with the latest in Magic finance while lying on a beach in Costa Rica or bombing down the highway with two neurotic cats in the backseat. Don’t worry, though — Magic Origins might be the last of the core sets, but this won’t be the last you hear from me. I’ll be back in early August, just in time to talk about which cards to buy during set rotation.

In the meantime, here’s my review of the Magic Origins cards that have been officially spoiled so far. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to get to the full set before I leave town, but I wanted to get as deep into the new set as I could before I ran out of time. As it is, I’ve got a cross-country flight to catch in just a couple of hours. There are a lot of sweet cards to talk about before I go, though, so let’s get started!

Mythic Rares

Day’s Undoing – $25

Whenever I analyze a sub-$3 card in a set review, I’m primarily looking for upside. Is there a world in which this card sees play in one or more top decks? Is it good enough to spawn a new archetype? Is there something here that everyone else is missing? These are the cards you want to target in your search for the next big thing.

When I look at a $25 card, though, I’m searching for the floor. Is there a tier-one deck that would play this card right now? Is it close enough to an existing card that we can say with confidence that it will find at least one top-tier home? The sort of variance that makes a $1 card so attractive is the same thing that makes me wary when the price tag is already high.

Day’s Undoing fails my ‘high floor’ test spectacularly. The card might be so good that it gets banned in Modern this fall, but it might also be unplayable across all formats. I’m not going to pay $100 for a set of these to find out.

That said, there are a couple of places where Day’s Undoing might find a home. Combo or control decks could play it alongside Quicken in Modern, which would negate the drawback. It could also be used as a midgame tool for Burn or aggro to reload their hand with cheap spells while keeping their opponent on their back foot. It’s not a very effective combo piece, though, and cards that have a symmetrical effect while benefiting your opponent first tend to be quite poor. The mana cost of Day’s Undoing might be low enough to render all of these drawbacks moot, but I’m not holding my breath. If no one breaks Day’s Undoing, it’ll be a $3 card by mid-September. That’s not a gamble I’m willing to take.

Kytheon, Hero of Akros – $25

Unlike Day’s Undoing, Kytheon has a very high floor. 2/1s for one are borderline playable even without any upside, so Kytheon, Hero of Akros doesn’t have to be very good before multiple aggro decks want to run at least two or three copies. His legendary status might affect his playability a little, but that didn’t keep Brimaz, King of Oreskos from being one of the most expensive cards in Standard.

Kytheon’s planeswalker form isn’t great, but getting a 4/4 indestructible that can either protect a key creature for a turn or soak up some damage if you’re behind is perfectly fine. There isn’t really a time during the game when Gideon, Battle-Forged is useless — pretty good for a one-mana card.

It’s safer to spend your $25 on a more established card, but Kytheon, Hero of Akros is a reasonable card to pre-order. Worst case, it settles in the $10-$12 range. Best case, it’s the $35-$40 flagship card of the set.

Liliana, Heretical Healer – $25

Liliana, Heretical Healer is a powerful card in a vacuum, but you need everything to go right for that to happen. A 2/3 lifelinker for three mana is kind of awkward, especially when you can’t just jam her into combat and hope she survives. Getting a death trigger isn’t that hard, but your opponent isn’t just going to give you one unless you’re already close to winning or your opponent knows that Liliana flipping isn’t going to matter all that much. I imagine people will try to build around Liliana with Collected Company or Exploit, but she’s not the greatest in a deck that isn’t built around her strengths.

Liliana, Defiant Necromancer isn’t the most powerful planeswalker in the world, either. Having everyone discard a card is a powerful part of the Liliana of the Veil package, but that card is much easier to build around. You don’t have as much control over when Liliana, Heretical Healer is going to flip, so you just kind of have to hope that you’re getting the effect you want when you want it. The lack of an Edict- or some other removal-type option hurts here, too. Returning a creature from your graveyard is fine, but you have to do a lot of work just to get a zombie and another small thing back.

That said, Liliana does demand attention from your opponent no matter what. She’s also going to be a three-for-one some larger percentage of the time. That’s not bad for a three-mana card, and I suspect we’ll see her in Standard. I just don’t think she’ll be played in large enough numbers to warrant a $25 price tag. $10-$15 seems more likely to me.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer – $20

Much like Kytheon, Nissa, Vastwood Seer has a pretty high floor. A 2/2 for three that nets you a Forest is already playable, so it wouldn’t take much to vault Nissa into staple status. While Nissa might be the hardest Origins planeswalker to flip during the early game, she’s also the only one that doesn’t require you to do literally anything other than play an otherwise-normal game of Magic to transform her. If you make it to your seventh land, she’s going to flip (or die in response to the trigger).

Nissa, Sage Animist is pretty good, too. Her +1 ability is one of the easiest card-draw activations that green has ever had, and her -2 ability is great if you just need another threat on the board. I’d imagine that Nissa will be a Borderland Ranger most of the time she’s played, but the fact that she can win the late-game by herself is enough to make her a Standard staple.

Nissa’s downside is $10-$12, and her upside is $40+. She’s a longshot to reach those heights, but if she does end up seeing play as a three-of in all the base green decks next year, she’ll hit $50 at least once. I’m not pre-ordering Nissa because I never pre-order $20 cards, but her upside is enticing and the chances of her being a complete bust are fairly small.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy – $20

I’ve heard people call Jace, Telepath Unbound the worst planeswalker this side of Tibalt. I disagree with that assessment, but it’s true that his plus-one is basically worthless and his ultimate might as well not exist. So when we talk about Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, what we’re really talking about is a 0/2 Merfolk Looter for 1U that transforms into a Snapcaster Mage the turn after you play it if you’ve got five cards in your graveyard and it survives the trigger. You’ll get to Snapcaster something else a couple turns later if all goes well, but that’s not going to happen very often.

Much like Kytheon and Nissa, Jace is close to playable on his own. Two-mana Looters are fine, and it doesn’t take much work to get a Snapcaster activation out of the deal. He’ll activate much faster in Eternal formats, but Legacy and Modern already have access to the actual (much better) Snapcaster Mage. Jace is also less likely to survive until he flips in a format where Lightning Bolt is a thing.

My gut reaction is that Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is a turn or two too slow to be a powerhouse. I do think he’ll see some play, but it will likely be as a two-of in whatever blue-based control deck emerges over the next few months. That (plus casual demand for all the new planeswalkers) should keep Jace above $10, but he’s not a great pre-order choice at $20. I like him more than Liliana and Chandra but less than Kytheon and Nissa.

Archangel of Tithes – $20

Archangel of Tithes is one of the hardest cards in Origins to evaluate. 3/5 is a reasonable body for four mana, and she dodges Languish to boot. On the control side, she forces aggro decks to either deal with her or choose between attacking and developing their board. On the aggro side, she’s brutal as the leader of a token or manifest army. The fact that she is so effective at doing both of those things as you need her to makes me believe that she’ll find a home in our current midrange world.

On the other hand, the three white mana symbols in her casting cost really hurt. Heck, she’d probably see more play if she cost 1WRB. I’m sure that there will be a white-based aggro deck that’ll run at least three of these and at least three copies of Kytheon, but I’m not sure where else it fits. Abzan? G/W? Modern Death and Taxes? If it ends up in two or three of those decks in addition to WW, it’ll be a $30-$40 card. If not, $8-$10. I’m not pre-ordering, but I do think that Archangel of Tithes has a reasonable shot at being one of the marquee cards of the set.

Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh – $12

Poor Chandra. Every other original planeswalker has had a chance to shine, but Ms. Nalaar always seems to get the short end of the stick. Pingers are nice and all, but I can’t see a red deck wanting to pay three mana for a 2/2 pinger that doesn’t have haste and can’t hit creatures. Even worse, Chandra is the hardest of the new planeswalkers to activate — you have to wait a turn, and then you have to cast two red spells in the same turn (most of the time). Chandra, Roaring Flame is pretty good, but I don’t think you’ll be seeing her in play in too many Constructed events. Unfortunately, Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh has the look of a future $3-$5 mythic.

Woodland Bellower – $10

Woodland Bellower is very playable in Standard. It fetches Deathmist Raptor, Savage Knuckleblade, Hornet Nest, Fleecemane Lion, Warden of the First Tree, Reclamation Sage, and any number of ramp creatures. Some of those cards will rotate soon, but Battle for Zendikar should bring more goodies for us. It’s unclear whether this will be good enough to slot into existing GW Devotion decks, but the fact that it fetches Raptors and plays very, very well with the ramp cards we’re all expecting to get in the fall leads me to believe that it will find at least one Tier One home. Most of the cards you’d want to run in a Woodland Bellower deck work well with Collected Company, and this complements that card well. That’s exactly where you want to be in green right now.

$10 is a fairly high buy-in, though. Casual and fringe demand alone should keep it at $4-$6, but I don’t love speculating on cards that start with double-digit price tags. I won’t be trading this away if I open it at the prerelease, but I’m not going to buy a set either. Most likely, it ends up settling in around $10 regardless.

Avaricious Dragon – $10

Avaricious Dragon will see some Standard play, but I’m not sure how much. Thunderbreak Regent is the better inclusion most of the time, though Avaricious Dragon is exactly what you want once you’re out of cards and you just want to make sure that you draw a threat or two every turn.

I see Avaricious Dragon as a two-of in some aggro and Jeskai Midrange decks, often acting as Thunderbreak Regents number five and six. That’s the profile of a $5-$6 mythic, not a $10 one. I’m staying away at current retail.

Starfield of Nyx – $10

Starfield of Nyx has the look of a card that was in the Theros design file but was removed late in the game because it was warping the Future Future League too much. By putting Starfield of Nyx in Magic Origins, WotC ensured that it will only interact with Theros Block for a few months before the Gods and Eidolon of Blossoms rotate out of Standard forever. If it does end up being broken in Standard, it’ll only be able to wreak havoc for a few months.

Will games of Standard go long enough for Starfield of Nyx’s raw power to shine, though? You have to find a way to get your Gods in the graveyard before it does anything, and Starfield of Nyx doesn’t do anything the turn you play it. There’s no God- or Eidolon of Blossoms-based control deck out there right now, so it’ll have to be built from scratch, too. And even if the deck ends up being awesome, it’ll only be around for a few months. How many people are going to spend a bunch of money for a deck that’s about to rotate?

$10 might be cheap for a pre-order mythic, but it’s still too much for me to recommend such a high-variance card. Starfield of Nyx might spike to $20 or $25 for a few weeks if a deck materializes around it, but chances are it’ll end up a $2.50 casual card. I’ll be slotting a foil copy into my God-based Enduring Ideal Commander deck, but I doubt I’ll ever cast the spell in a sanctioned game of Magic.

Alhammarret’s Archive – $10

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about Alhammarret’s Archive in the same breath as Solemn Simulacrum, Akroma’s Memorial, and Consecrated Sphinx. While I do have some Commander decks that want the Archive, I don’t think that the card is anywhere close to that level. Five mana is a lot, even in Commander, and Alhammarret’s Archive doesn’t actually do anything unless you build around it. You still have to cast a lifegain spell in order to gain life, and you still have to cast a card draw spell in order to draw cards.

Alhammarret’s Archive might make it to $10 at some point, but I think it’ll come close to bulk mythic status first. An intriguing pick-up at some point, certainly, but a poor card to pre-order.

Demonic Pact – $8

Demonic Pact is one of the coolest Magic cards ever printed. Great art, amazing flavor, and it’ll lead to some really tense game states. I’ve already seen some people try to fit it into Abzan alongside their copies of Dromoka’s Command, and I really hope that works out for them.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll see Demonic Pact show up very much in Standard. It doesn’t do anything right away, and you’re hosed if you can’t find an answer before it forces you to lose the game. Even though this is a five-for-one, I can’t see too many decks wanting to take the plunge. Future bulk mythic.


Languish – $7.50

Looking for an expensive rare that actually makes sense to pre-order? Languish is your jam. There’s no way that Languish doesn’t become a format staple, and I suspect that the difference between four and five toughness will loom large in Standard over the next year.

Dragonlord Silumgar, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and Seige Rhino all live through Languish, making them all well-positioned cards going forward. Dragonlord Ojutai, Thunderbreak Reagent, and Stormbreath Dragon are all sad. Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector die to this as well, but death is at best kind of like a speedbump to that deck.

Languish is also yet another reminder that Damnation isn’t going to be reprinted anytime soon. I do think that we’ll see Damnation as a judge foil or in a Modern Masters set at some point, but its price could hit $70 or $80 before then. If you need a copy for Modern, get it ASAP.

I had Languish as a strong buy when it debuted at $5, but $7.50 is still a reasonable price to pay for this card. Core set rares tend to be more valuable since less packs are opened, so I could see this staying in the $10 range for quite a while. I’m not pre-ordering any copies on spec, but it’s fine to pay retail if you’re planning to play black-based control.

Honored Hierarch – $6

If you play Honored Hierarch on turn one and your opponent can’t block it, you’re very far ahead. A 2/2 with vigilance that can tap for any color of mana? Sign me up!

On the other hand, Honored Hierarch is a strictly worse Tukatongue Thallid the rest of the time. If you draw your Elvish Mystic on turn four, it’ll still do something. Honored Hierarch won’t do anything unless you can get in an opportunistic attack. I don’t like those odds.

While I may sound negative here, I don’t think that Honored Hierarch is completely unplayable. Cheap cards with that kind of potential power almost always see some amount of play. That said, looking at this card like any other mana-generating elf is a mistake. Honored Hierarch only works in an aggro deck with a very fast curve. If your opponent isn’t constantly being pressured into making difficult blocking decisions, you should not be running Honored Hierarch in your deck.

Will green be aggressive enough for Honored Hierarch to see much play? I’m not sure. I’d rather run Rattleclaw Mystic in most decks, and Honored Hierarch is a future bulk rare if it doesn’t pan out. At $6, I’m staying far away.

Relic Seeker – $6

Stoneforge Mystic this is not. Equipment-based decks in Commander will want a Relic Seeker for Stoneforge redundancy, but Legacy has the real thing already. It’s possible that some Modern decks might want to try this as a way to tutor up a Sword of Fire and Ice or a Batterskull, but playing a 2/2 for two that does nothing unless it connects in combat is really, really bad. Most of the best Constructed cards are pretty good all the time and really good some of the time. When you start dealing with cards that are really good some of the time and horrible the rest of the time, the potential to go bust gets quite high. That’s why I don’t like either this card or Honored Hierarch very much.

As far as Standard goes, what are you hoping to tutor up? Spidersilk Net? Hero’s Blade? Ghostfire Blade? Godsend? Dragon Throne of Tarkir? I don’t think you want any of those cards in your deck regardless. Future $1-$2 rare.

Dark Petition – $4

Dark Petition would be slightly better than Grim Tutor in Legacy except for how much damage you take by revealing this off of Ad Nauseam. In Standard, I’m not sure that Dark Petition will replace Sidisi, Undead Vizier. While Dark Petition has more combo potential, Sidisi’s objective power level is just a tad higher. Of course, if the right combination of two- and three-mana black spells are printed, Dark Petition could find a nice home in some sort of toolbox-based control deck.

Thanks to casual demand, the floor for Dark Petition is somewhere in the $1-$2 range. That makes it a fairly low-risk spec. While I doubt it’ll be a significant player in any competitive format, the buy-in is low and tutors are always desirable to someone. There are worse cards to gamble on, but I’m not going to do it at $4.

Exquisite Firecraft – $4

Exquisite Firecraft might see some play once Stoke the Flames rotates, but this card isn’t anywhere close to that level. Sorcery speed hurts a lot, as does the fact that this doesn’t kill Siege Rhino or Tasigur. I suspect I’ll be suggesting that people pick this up in about a month when the price is hovering around $1 and Stoke is about to rotate. Until then, stay away.

Managorger Hydra – $3

Casual demand alone should keep this at $2-$3, so you’re not really losing out if you want to buy a copy before the set release. Managorger Hydra compares pretty favorably to Forgotten Ancient – worse upfront stats and you can’t transfer the counters, but adding Trample is a really big deal. I doubt Managorger Hydra will see much competitive play, but it should be a kitchen table and Commander staple for years. I’m holding copies at $3 and I’ll be buying if they drop anywhere below $3.

Pia and Kiran Nalaar – $3

Pia and Kiran Nalaar is (are?) an Intro Pack rare, so the financial upside is limited here. That said, I’d be surprised if this card doesn’t see play. Four power for four mana is fine, but when you divide it among three bodies (two of which fly) and tack on a relevant ability, you’ve got a pretty spicy card. Pia and Kiran aren’t as powerful as Siege-Gang Commander, but I still expect to see them pop up in both Standard and Commander. $3 is a fair pre-order price, and it’s fine to buy a few personal copies if you’re a red mage.

Kytheon’s Irregulars – $3

It’s hard for a four-drop creature that may not immediately impact the board to make it in Standard. Ojutai Exemplars was both beefier and more flexible, and that card is now a $2-ish mythic. Kytheon’s Irregulars is a reasonable threat with a built-in Falter of sorts, though, so there’s certainly a theoretical Standard environment where this card is very strong.

That said, I’d rather run Tasigur and Siege Rhino in my midrange deck, especially with Languish running around. If the fall set is all about ramping into giant titans, though, the Irregulars could do some work. This is likely a future bulk rare, but I’ll be watching it closely.

Mizzium Meddler – $2

Spellskite is the obvious comparison here, and I’d imagine most Modern decks will run that card over Mizzium Meddler. The fact that Mizzium Meddler can steal a Splinter Twin at instant speed is nice, though, and it could be a viable sideboard card in Eternal formats. It’s a great card in Commander, too, where blink is prevalent and targeted spells are everywhere.

Will Mizzium Meddler make the cut in Standard? Well, best case you’re trading one-for-one and you get a 1/4 out of the deal. That’s not awful, but you’d probably need to play this in a deck where you’re also holding up other disruption at instant speed. My guess is that it’ll see some sideboard play against aggro decks where blanking a burn spell while also giving yourself an additional blocker is game-changing. The $2 price tag on this seems very reasonable, and pre-ordering a set at current retail is fine.

Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen – $2

Dwynen has reasonable stats, and she’ll see play in casual and Commander, but it would take quite a few Standard-legal Elves for her to show up in competitive tournaments. That may happen in Battle for Zendikar, but I’m not holding my breath. Dwynen is an Into Pack rare too, so she could fall to bulk rare prices pretty quickly. I’m staying away.

Jace’s Sanctum – $2

I’ve heard some rumblings about Jace’s Sanctum in Modern, but I can’t see it being effective outside of extremely fringe decks. Four mana is a lot in that format, and pure control decks don’t really exist. The potential is certainly there for this to be an effective piece of a Standard control/combo shell, but it certainly doesn’t slot into any current decks. I’m flagging this one as a card to revisit once Battle for Zendikar spoilers start coming in.

Otherwise, it’s probably worth picking up a couple of Jace’s Sanctum foils if they start in the $4-$5 range. This card is going to be a Commander staple for years, and foil copies should hold a long term premium.

Hixus, Prison Warden – $1

Hixus is one of the most interesting cards in Magic Origins, but I doubt he’ll be powerful enough to see play in Standard. A 4/4 for five isn’t a great deal, and you have to take a least one hit from whatever you want to try and exile. I’m pretty sure the trick to winning Standard doesn’t involve taking a bunch of damage and then hoping your opponent can’t kill a 4/4. Future bulk rare.

Alhammarret, High Arbiter – $1

Seven mana? Intro Pack rare? No Hexproof? Yeah, I don’t think Alhammarret is making the jump to Constructed play anytime soon. Meddling Mages aren’t great in Commander, either, especially when they can’t actually name an opposing Commander – though at least this one scales for multiplayer. That won’t be enough to keep Alhammarret from being a bulk rare.

Displacement Wave – $1

Displacement Wave would’ve been a format staple at instant speed. As a sorcery, it feels pretty marginal. It might see some play as a slightly more versatile way to kill tokens and flipped Origins planeswalkers, but that’s probably not enough to keep it above bulk rare status.

Flameshadow Conjuring – $1

Flameshadow Conjuring is pretty good in Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker Commander decks, but the fact that you have to pay five mana before anything happens is rough in Standard and Modern. The card doesn’t allow you to go infinite like Kiki-Jiki, and it doesn’t let you sneak things into play like Sneak Attack. Instead, it’s sort of a fair combination of the two. Future bulk rare, but it has the sort of ‘combulk’ potential I’m always looking for. I might recommend it as a fifty-cent pickup at some point.

Tainted Remedy – $1

Did you know that Tainted Remedy was my preview card? It’s true! Go check out my column on DailyMTG when you’re done here — there’s lots of great stuff over there already.

Anyhow, I actually think that Tainted Remedy is being seriously underrated right now. Rain of Gore is worth $4.50, and that card requires two colors of mana and doesn’t affect lifelink. Not only is Tainted Remedy an all-star in Commander, but it shuts down Batterskull and Wurmcoil Engine in Modern. It’s also pretty good against Courser of Kruphix, Siege Rhino, and Mastery of the Unseen in Standard. Casual play alone is enough to get this card above a buck, and the chances of it seeing both Standard and Eternal play out of sideboards makes it an intriguing spec buy. I’m in for a set.

Kothophed, Soul Hoarder – $1

Kothophed’s flavor is awesome, but I can’t see him making an impact outside of Limited and Commander. I’d suggest buying foils, but Kothophed is going to be one of the five Intro Pack rares. Ah well. Future bulk rare.

Chandra’s Ignition – $1

I don’t have high hopes for a five-mana burn spell that requires you to control a large creature, but Chandra’s Ignition might actually be good enough to see play. If we do end up with Eldrazi titans this fall, Chandra’s Ignition will be able to deal ten, twelve, or even even fifteen damage to your opponent in a single shot. Even right now, I’m not convinced that decks running Dragonlord Atarka don’t want to make space for a couple copies of this card.

Worst case, Chandra’s Ignition is a fantastic card in Commander. It can deal massive amounts of damage in one shot, clearing the board while also lopping off a chunk of each opponent’s life total. At $1, it’s a fine spec flier.

This Week’s Trends

  • All five Khans of Tarkir fetchlands, Collected Company, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang are surging in price. If you want to play with any of these cards this fall, get them now. I doubt any of them will begin to drop in price until November or December.
  • Chord of Calling and Eidolon of the Great Revel are continuing to defy normal set rotation economics and have been climbing in price as well. Again, I doubt we’ll see these cards go down in price anytime soon. Buy in now if you still need your set. Meanwhile, everything else in Theros Block continues to drop in price. That trend should last for another three or four weeks at least.
  • Curious about what a specific Modern card is doing right now? It’s simple: everything from MM15 is either static or dropping, and everything else is continuing to climb. The massive buyouts have started to lessen at least — everything good in Lantern Control or Griselbrand/Nourishing Shoal has already spiked, so now it’s mostly random things like Wanderwine Hub and Oboro, Palace in the Clouds — Merfolk did well last weekend. Quicken also had a brief surge thanks to Day’s Undoing.
  • Did you know that Sulfur Falls was up over $10 again? Crazy, right? That’s clearly the best of the cycle in Modern, but I’d keep an eye out on the other Innistrad lands as well just in case. Same with the Scars of Mirrodin fastlands that haven’t spiked yet.

That about wraps it up. Have a great summer and I’ll see you all in a month or so!