What an exciting week in the world of Magic.
We finally have the entire Oath of the Gatewatch spoiler, and it’s quite strong. Far from being ruined by the massive early leak, Oath of the Gatewatch is a very deep set filled with top tier playables.I reviewed the first half of the set last week, and you can find that piece here.
From a financial perspective, it’s important to remember that OGW’s depth should keep values depressed across the board. If a set only has two or three good rares, those cards might end up at $15 or $20. Oath has lots of apparent staples, a stack of brand new expeditions, and full art lands, so it’s going to be hard for any one card to break while the set is still in print.
OGW should shake up Standard, and I expect multiple spikes during the first few weeks of its legality. Those spikes will probably be short-lived as more product is opened and prices even out, so sell quick if you’ve got any of whatever the hot card is lying around. If OGW isn’t as good as I think it is, a few of its better rares might settle in at $10+. If it does end up being deep and powerful, however, even the best Standard staples will struggle to stay above $5 or $6.
Because of that, I don’t have any real buying recommendations for you today. Pre-ordering cards rarely works out in the best of times. If you think you see a $2 card that should be $10, trusting your instincts is fine. If you’re salivating over a $5 or $6 card that you really think has a shot at double digits, though, I’d advise you to stay away. This is the wrong set to make those sorts of calls.
The other big news this week is that several Modern staples are going absolutely nuts right now. We’ll get to that at the end of the article, but first let’s finish off our set review with the final third of Oath of the Gatewatch’s mythics and rares:
Matter Reshaper – $7.99
Matter Reshaper is exciting, but allow me to pump the brakes a little. Colorless mana isn’t a freeroll—this card is going to require some work to cast, and it doesn’t go in every deck. A 3/2 for three isn’t bad, but it isn’t knock-your-socks-off spectacular, and the lack of haste places this far from Bloodbraid Elf’s power level. There will be times when Matter Reshaper hits a backbreaking small permanent, but most of the time this will either draw you a card when it dies – which is fine but not great – or it’ll be exiled by something and do nothing besides eat a spell. Don’t forget: Many of the best removal spells in both Modern and Standard skip the graveyard altogether.
There will be a Standard deck that will want this card regardless, and B/x Eldrazi in Modern will at least kick the tires. For $8, though, I’d want something a lot more certain. If you’re willing to spend just $0.40 more, you can snap up multi-format all-star Collected Company. Matter Reshaper is a good card, and it might end up being great at some point, but I’m trading these away at the Prerelease if I can get full price.
Eldrazi Displacer – $5.99
I’m not sure what an Eldrazi Displacer deck looks like, but its power level is undeniable. A 3/3 for three isn’t the worst, and its ability has so much utility. It’s an instant kill with Zulaport Cutthroat and Brood Monitor, it blanks any attacker for three mana, and it combos well with every enters-the-battlefield card ever printed.
The fact that Eldrazi Displacer needs white mana to cast (there are no other white Eldrazi) and colorless mana to activate is a red flag, but I don’t see it as an insurmountable obstacle. This is also no Restoration Angel—you need to invest six mana before Eldrazi Displacer does anything, and you can’t flash it into play. Otherwise…I mean, it’s one of the most powerful cards in the set. It needs to find a home, but once it does, it’ll be a four-of.
Even still, I don’t love buying in at $6. Most of the Standard upside is baked out, the colorless activation cost is harder to satisfy in Commander, and I doubt Eldrazi Displacer is good enough to be more than a fringe player in Modern. I like Eldrazi Displacer a lot, but I’m holding off for now. I think you’ll be able to invest at $2-$3 each before the format adjusts.
Reality Smasher – $4.99
Wait, really? Unlike with Matter Reshaper, the colorless cost on Reality Smasher is a little easier to pay since you’ve got two extra turns to make it happen. A 5/5 body is significant, and haste and trample are no joke. Even better, Reality Smasher is very hard to kill outside of combat—control mages are going to have to start holding more lands in their hand during top-deck fights, because if you rip a removal spell for this without an additional card to discard you’re not going to be able to get rid of it.
I don’t know if B/x Eldrazi in Modern will want this, but I think it will be seriously considered by most of that deck’s pilots. As for Standard, I have a hard time seeing a world where this isn’t one of the premier midrange threats in the format. $5 is a reasonable pre-order price, and it has a chance to hit $10 at some point. I’m not speculating on these, but if you think you’re going to want to use the card, buying in now is fine.
Thought-Knot Seer – $4.99
Oh, hey, it’s the Eldrazi Vendilion Clique!
Comparing spoiled cards to clearly better historical counterparts can be a great way to talk yourself into believing in some really mediocre spells, but it’s at least worth laying these two out side by side. Vendilion Clique is cheaper by one mana, and it’s easier to cast unless your deck has Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin in it. A 3/1 flier is about on par with a 4/4, so that’s a wash. The ability of Vendilion Clique is better—you can target yourself if your hand is a dud—but the delayed draw on Thought-Knot Seer isn’t nothing. There will be times when this will miss, your opponent will draw a removal spell, and then they’ll immediately get to two-for-one you, but that will be the exception that proves the rule.
Thought-Knot Seer will at least be a sideboard card in the Modern B/x Eldrazi deck, and it has a shot at being a maindeck four-of. It will almost certainly be a four-of in whatever devoid deck ends up rampaging over Standard. It might be worse than Vendilion Clique, but any comparisons to one of the best cards in Modern means that Thought-Knot Seer has the look of a clear Standard staple. $5 is a fine pre-order price, and it has a shot at hitting $7-$10. Much like with Reality Smasher I’m not speculating on these, but grabbing them if you want to play the deck is fine.
Oath of Nissa – $4.99
I mostly covered Oath of Nissa last week, and I don’t have a lot more to say about the card today. It’s going to be a staple in at least one very good deck, which justifies a $3-$5 price tag straight away. It’s a general purpose one-drop, which means that if it’s a little better than it looks it’ll start to see play in multiple top decks. The fact that you can’t have any real density of non-creature spells limits its upside significantly, especially in Eternal formats, but I could see Oath of Nissa maintaining a $5-$8 price tag for much of its time in Standard. That’s not factoring in any downside, of course, which is why I can’t really recommend it as a buy at $5. I wouldn’t bet against the card, though, and if I open any at the Prerelease I’ll be keeping them.
Inverter of Truth – $3.99
First, let’s analyze Inverter of Truth as a creature on the top end of a B/R aggro deck. A 6/6 flier for four is quite a beating, and if it sticks you should be able to win the game in short order. Assuming your graveyard is full of cheap burn, removal, and a few small aggressive creatures, it should allow you to draw nothing but gas for the next five or six turns. And if you live beyond that without killing them…well, you’re not winning a twelve-turn game against a control player anyway. You aren’t going to like games when you have two of these in your opening hand—they stack very poorly—so I can’t see Inverter sticking as a four-of in a deck like this. Even still, it’s a very viable card in a deck like that, were one to manifest itself. That’ll probably have to wait until after Atarka Red rotates, though.
What about using Inverter of Truth as a combo piece? I don’t think Inverter of Truth is strong enough to warrant jumping through too many hoops simply because of its combat abilities, but I could see a casual deck that wanted to run this, Laboratory Maniac, and a couple of delve cards as its win-con. I doubt that interaction be good enough for Modern, but Laboratory Maniac is a $1.50 card with $8 upside if a couple of people luck their way into a high finish with a deck like this.
It’s also worth remembering that Inverter of Truth might be a plant for Shadows Over Innistrad, a block likely to focus on graveyard synergies. A U/B control deck that rips through its library might want to run this as a pseudo Elixir of Immortality.
Inverter of Truth’s overall power level is high, but without an immediate home I see it dropping toward bulk mythic status. Like many cards in this set, though, it’s got some really sexy mid-term and long-term sleeper potential.
Sylvan Advocate – $3.99
I get the excitement surrounding Sylvan Advocate, but where are you playing this card? It’s not good enough in any format where Tarmogoyf is legal, and it doesn’t slot in to any of the existing decks in Standard. Is it powerful enough to spawn a new archetype? Perhaps. It’s absurd with all the creature-lands running around—just try dealing with Lumbering Falls now!—and it’s not a bad Collected Company target late in the game. These are all powerful interactions, but none of them excite me enough to recommend pre-ordering Sylvan Advocate at $4. Hold off until you see how things develop.
Wandering Fumarole – $3.99
U/R is the best color combination in Modern, and Wandering Fumarole is good enough to at least warrant consideration there. Its price will mostly be linked to Standard, though, and we’ll have to see how U/R and U/R/x decks end up in the new metagame to get a sense of whether this land will end up closer to $3 or closer to $8. A playable Modern land at $4 is never going to be an awful buy, though, so getting in on these now is totally fine. It’s also worth noting that Wandering Fumarole can make an infinitely big Ceaseless Searblades—not a good enough combo for Modern, perhaps, but it’ll do on the kitchen table. Pull foil copies of that Lorwyn uncommon out of your bulk.
Bearer of Silence – $2.99
Context is crucial, and Bearer of Silence won’t be replacing Wasteland Strangler in Modern. Four mana Gatekeepers of Malakir don’t cut it in Eternal formats, especially when they don’t play all that well with Eye of Ugin or Eldrazi Temple. Bearer of Silence is certainly good enough to be a four-of in a Standard Eldrazi deck, though, which means that $3 is fair market value—it might hit $5 at some point, but it could also drop to $1-$2 if the deck doesn’t pan out or this card falls out of favor.
Oath of Gideon – $1.99
There are two places where this card might find a home—Standard tokens (Esper or Jeskai) or Standard super friends. Oath of Gideon is pretty underpowered as a simple token maker, but a B/W or Esper build could take advantage of Sorin, Solemn Visitor—a card that works well as a token producer without Oath of Gideon but which becomes a ‘deal with me this turn or die’ threat once you’ve got an Oath in play. It also allows Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to enter the battlefield, go ultimate, and survive. In super friends, Oath of Gideon is even better, making Sarkhan, Unbroken into a very immediate threat while providing a couple of early blockers.
$2 is fine for a card that is underpowered on the surface, but Oath of Gideon might end up being the glue in a couple of exciting new brews. I’m not buying in, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
Dimensional Infiltrator – $1.99
I’d like to see a world where Wasteland Strangler and friends were a little more viable in Standard, but Dimensional Infiltrator isn’t the enabler you’re looking for. Even though this is a two-mana creature chock full of versatility, it doesn’t actually do all that much. Taking off an early turn for the sake of processing is just too slow. Future bulk rare.
Mina and Denn, Wildborn – $1.49
Outside of a Xenagos-themed Commander deck, I can’t think what sort of build would actually want to play Mina and Denn, Wildborn. Their mana cost is restrictive, a 4/4 for four isn’t that good these days, and you’ll need to find another way to draw those lands—Oracle of Mul Daya, this is not. Unless there’s a R/G midrange Landfall deck—very unlikely now that the full contents of Battle for Zendikar block are known—Mina and Denn, Wildborn is a future bulk rare.
Sifter of Skulls – $0.99
Sifter of Skulls is reasonable, but I think the Standard devoid deck will have better options at four mana, and the Modern deck definitely does. This card is better in some sort of Zulaport Cutthroat/Aristocrats shell, and I could see it hit $2-$3 if a deck like that materializes. Otherwise, it’s heading straight toward bulkhood.
Zendikar Resurgent – $0.99
Mana Reflection is a $20 card, but that one has been out of print for years. If Commander still exists ten years from now, Zendikar Resurgent isn’t reprinted, and WotC doesn’t run out too many other cards like this that are objectively better, this one might get there, too. That’s a lot of what-ifs, though, and this one is going to be omnipresent in bulk boxes for the next couple of years. Grab these in foil and snag cheap copies as throw-ins if you like long-term casual speculation, but the short-term outlook for this card is as a bulk rare.
Fall of the Titans – $0.99
Fall of the Titans is cool from a flavor perspective, but I’m not sure it’s powerful enough for Constructed. Its damage is doubled, not divided, though, so it is going to be an easy two-for-one most games. On five mana, for example, you can play a two mana creature and then surge this for 2R to take out two creatures. It’s incredibly underpowered if you can’t pay the surge cost, though, and it’s pretty lousy as anything less than a five-drop. I’d say there’s a reasonable chance it sees some play, but it probably won’t be a format staple. $1 is about right, though there is a small chance that Fall of the Titans will end up being much better than that. It’s certainly one of the most intriguing dollar rares in the set.
Oath of Chandra – $0.99
If Oath of Chandra could hit players in addition to creatures, it would be superb. As is, it’s probably fourth or fifth among Standard’s existing cheap red removal spells. Its second clause isn’t going to matter much, even in super friends-style decks, and I doubt they’re going to want to run red anyway. Bulk rare.
Overwhelming Denial – $0.99
Counterspells are at their best when you’re using them to keep your opponent off their best threats, something you’ll probably only be able to do with this card at four mana—a rate worse than Cancel. Overwhelming Denial is at its best in combo or tempo decks, but I doubt I’d run it over any of the existing options in Modern, and it’s been a while since a deck that would want this card has existed in Standard. I wouldn’t dismiss Overwhelming Denial out of hand—anything that has the potential to be straight-up Counterspell is worth a second, third, and fourth look—but this is going to be strictly worse Cancel in far too many situations. Future bulk rare.
Stoneforge Masterwork – $0.99
A purely kitchen table card, I doubt I’d be able to find room for this in either Standard or in a Voltron-style Commander deck. Unless you’re playing a Kemba deck (dubbed ‘Catfinity’ by my friend Marc) this is a bulk rare in waiting.
Captain’s Claws – $0.99
A token deck might want one or two of these, but I just don’t see it. Bulk rare.
Drana’s Chosen – $0.49
Drana’s Chosen seems like the sort of card I’ll open all the time in Draft. No Constructed value, no real casual value, and merely okay in Limited. Bulk rare.
Hedron Alignment – $0.49
Hedron Alignment is a bulk rare if I’ve ever seen one, but that won’t stop the world’s Johnnies from building crazy decks attempting to take advantage of the alternate win condition. I doubt they’ll ever be competitive, but I’m going to buy a foil playset of these for about $8 total and hold onto it regardless. Worst case, it’ll be easy to trade away. Best case, this sort of ‘combulk’ always does well at some point.
Uncommons of Note
· Stormchaser Mage – $1.99
· Warping Wail – $1.99
· Reflector Mage – $1.49
· Spatial Contortion – $0.99
· Immolating Glare – $0.49
Yet another reason why Oath of the Gatewatch is so deep. There’s never any reason to pre-order premium uncommons—you’ll probably get enough of them just drafting the set and picking through chaff left behind at your LGS—but it’s worth noting that you should stick these cards into your binder, not your stack of Draft bulk. All of them should see at least moderate play, and small sets can support multiple $2-$3 uncommons if they’re really that good. If you want to spec on foils, I’d look at Warping Wail and Stormchaser Mage first since they’re the most likely to make a splash in Modern. Bonds of Mortality is also a great buy in foil since it’ll be a Commander staple forever.
This Week’s Trends
Let’s talk about the biggest Modern spikes first. The four cards with the most helium last week were Grove of the Burnwillows, Inquisition of Kozilek, Scapeshift, and Spellskite. Spellskite and Inquisition went up in price because they’re ubiquitous in Modern—Spellskite is the most played creature in the format, and Inquisition of Kozilek is among the five most-played spells. Grove of the Burnwillows and Scapeshift are low supply rares in popular decks, so their time was coming sooner or later.
While some of these spikes might have been partially driven by financiers looking to make a quick buck, demand for these cards is very real. Modern is more popular than ever, and you simply need these cards if you’re going to play competitively. Inquisition of Kozilek jumping from $15 to ~$30 was also overdue based on supply—people just wanted to wait and see if it was going to be reprinted in Oath of the Gatewatch before laying out so much cash.
If you have any extra copies of these cards, selling into the spike is your best bet as always. People who aren’t playing these cards will attempt to get their copies on the market, and the price will level off over the next two or three weeks. Holding them is fine too, though—Modern cards should stay hot for the next couple of months at least, and there isn’t a Modern Masters set due out until 2017.
Wasteland Strangler and Relic of Progenitus have also seen major price increases thanks to the emergence of the B/x Eldrazi deck in Modern. I like the deck, and both cards are powerful, but these have a much higher supply than, say, Eye of Ugin. Don’t expect too much further upward movement as the market continues to adjust.
The Zendikar fetchlands also continue to steadily rise—their prices seem more affected by actual demand than any sort of financier-based spike. Karn Liberated, Glimmervoid, Crucible of Worlds, Voice of Resurgence, Eye of Ugin, Blackcleave Cliffs, Oboro, Palace in the Clouds, Night of Souls’ Betrayal, Eldrazi Temple, Phyrexian Crusader, and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth are also continuing to trend upward thanks to Modern demand and a couple of well-timed buyouts.
What under-discussed Modern cards might be next? I haven’t seen a blip on the Noble Hierarch radar yet, but since some cards from Modern Masters 2015 have started to spike, I wouldn’t be surprised if that one hits at some point this season. Scavenging Ooze is mired in the single digits despite a strong price history and a place as one of the top ten creatures in Modern. Snapcaster Mage will almost assuredly break $100—at least for a couple of hours—this year, regardless of the promo. Serum Visions is going to rebound from its promo-related drop. Remand is going to start heading up again, as is Mox Opal and many of the other MM15 staples that still see a ton of play. I’ve been on the Goblin Guide train for a while now, and I won’t be getting off anytime soon.
Delay is sold out everywhere, and this time it has nothing to do with the fact that the French language version is translated as ‘Retard’ (which, sadly, has historically created some demand). The card interacts very well with Eldrazi Processors, and there is speculation that Delay will end up in some version of B/x Eldrazi in Modern. If you have any copies hiding in your collection, now is the time to dig them out. They should settle in around $5 with a lot more upside if they end up becoming a part of that deck.
Mana Drain is a new judge promo! It looks like this is going to be the same sort of high level mailing as the judge foil Force of Will, which means that they won’t be in the normal rewards packet. The supply won’t be meaningfully affected, so if you’ve been in the market for a Mana Drain for a while and can get one at a discount from a judge looking to upgrade, it’s a great time to buy. Otherwise, I expect the price to settle in the $500 (cash) to $800 (retail) range, similar to Force of Will. It’s a rarer card, but there’s less of an opportunity to show it off and most players are only going to want one copy instead of four.
Sword of the Meek has started to trend upward, most likely because people think it will be unbanned in Modern. I doubt it. Sell into the spike if you can.
Standard prices haven’t moved yet and probably won’t until after the OGW Prerelease, but don’t forget that all of these powerful new Eldrazi are going to need colorless mana sources. Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, Sanctum of Ugin, and the painlands are much more powerful now. From Beyond might even start to see some competitive play. In Modern, check out the filterlands from Shadowmoor block. Even my old pal Thespian’s Stage might make a splash at some point!
Not to be overshadowed by Modern, there have been some major casual price increases over the past few weeks. Greater Auramancy; Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger; Tooth and Nail; Reiterate; Kira, Great Glass-Spinner; Exquisite Blood; Urabrask the Hidden; Awakening Zone; and Past in Flames are all on the move.
What cards are next? Well, finding the next casual breakout card can be among the most difficult things in Magic finance. Mythics and rares that have only been printed once are your best bets, and cards from the first Modern Masters set have started to move as well. When in doubt, look up the card on multiple websites. If there’s a large supply, it probably isn’t ready to move. If you can only find a few dozen copies, it might be ready to break out. Hmm…seems like a topic for a future article!
Regardless, market confidence has returned to Magic in a big way. For the foreseeable future, it sure does look like anything can happen. I can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring us next week!