It seems to happen faster every year.
There used to be a small break between Magic’s end-of-year lull and the start of spike season, but 2016 is in like a lion. Standard prices have begun to rebound. Modern is off to the races. The ground might still be frozen, but it’s springtime in the world of Magic finance.
I’m going to talk a little Modern at the end of the article, but I’d like to spend most of the week covering the Oath of the Gatewatch cards that have been spoiled since the last part of my set review. Before I get to the card-by-card analysis, though, I want to take a moment and remind you about one of WotC’s 2016 changes that could have a major impact on the prices of cards in Oath of the Gatewatch.
It used to be that pre-ordering cards from the fall set was almost always a trap, but there could be ten or twelve money making opportunities hiding in the pre-order period for each winter and spring set. Those days might be over. Remember: instead of one pack of OGW and two packs of BFZ, we’ll be sitting down with two OGW packs and one BFZ pack when we draft. This should lead to quicker market saturation and an overall increase in market supply. I don’t know if it will be enough to counteract the ‘small set bonus’ that most winter and spring sets enjoy over their lethargic autumn counterparts, but it’s worth monitoring those trends once the new Limited season begins.
At any rate, onto the cards!
Linvala, the Preserver – $9.99
Some people look at Linvala and see Timely Reinforcements, but the more apt comparison (albeit not in overall power level) is Thragtusk. For just one more mana, you get an extra two toughness, flying, and you don’t have to wait for your creature to die in order to get your token. What’s not to love?
Well, Linvala is a poor card if you’re ahead in the damage race or on the board. A 5/5 flier for six is unplayable, a 5/5 flier for six that gains you five life is bad, and a 5/5 flier for six that comes with a free token is fairly weak. If you’re behind in both counts and can trigger both options, though, Linvala is actually pretty great. A Thragtusk by any other name bellows just as loud.
Linvala might be a good sideboard play against aggressive decks, except for the bummer of a fact that siding in six-drops against an aggro opponent is a good way to die with a grip full of uncastable cards. Linvala is also legendary, which means that casting copies on consecutive turns (assuming you’re still behind after the first one) is much less powerful than you’ll want it to be.
So where does that leave us? Well, Linvala is powerful enough when everything goes well that I can’t discount her entirely. If a ramp deck ends up being able to cast a double white creature, this is a backbreaking turn 4 play against the format’s fastest decks. It’s also nice out of the sideboard in a theoretical U/W control deck that wants to shore up its matchup against the faster midrange strategies. Wingmate Roc is better in any sort of deck that likes to attack, though, so Linvala’s time might not come until after another rotation or two. I see this one settling in the $4-$5 range for now with a little bit of long-term upside.
Hissing Quagmire – $3.99
I love that the B/G creature-land has deathtouch, and it will play well in casual Loam-style decks that can keep recurring the Quagmire as it trades off for bigger creatures late in the game. Hissing Quagmire should be very good in Standard as well, where trading a land for a creature late in the game is generally very good. I expect it to make a similar impact as Shambling Vent in terms of being a strong Standard card that is unlikely to make many waves in Modern.
Shambling Vent has managed to stay just above $4 despite tons of BFZ being opened, which means that Hissing Quagmire has a shot at $6-$7 if Oath of the Gatewatch ends up following the old small set economic path. Even if the new Draft rules depress prices, though, Quagmire still has a floor of about $3. $4 seems like a fine pre-order price to me—not worth speculating on, but totally fine if you want to actually play with the card.
General Tazri – $2.99
First, a rules refresher: General Tazri does count as a five-color commander, so feel free to sleeve up that 100-card Ally monstrosity you’ve been waiting to lose games with since the fall of 2011. Foils should hold a slight premium because of Commander, though I can’t imagine too many people are really going to build this deck. Beyond that, I can’t imagine Tazri will see any competitive play unless someone manages to make a Halimar Excavator deck work in Modern and needs a five-mana tutor. Don’t hold your breath. Future bulk mythic.
Jori En, Ruin Diver – $2.99
I adore Jori En. She’s the sort of card I love to build around, and people are going to do whatever they can to make her work in Standard. I’ve even heard rumblings about Jori En making a splash (pun intended) in Modern.
As cool as Jori En is, a lot will have to go right for her to become a pillar of the format. U/R Delver-style cards are prevalent in Modern and Legacy, but Standard is pretty bare outside the odd Wild Slash and Anticipate. Brewers are going to try, and maybe they’ll get there, but Jori En’s power level looks just low enough to keep a new deck from cropping up unless OGW brings us a bunch of cheap Izzet spells. As for Modern…well, the 2/3 body is either irrelevant or an actual downside, so I suspect Jori En will have some problems catching on.
Jori En, Ruin Diver looks like a future $1 card to me, but unlike most of the cards on this list, there’s at least a chance that she’ll end up as a $5-$7 flagship for a brand new archetype. I’m keeping an open mind, but I’m certainly not buying any copies at $3.
Goblin Dark-Dwellers – $2.99
The Goblin Dark-Dwellers seem very good. Five mana is a lot, but a 4/4 body with menace is a very real threat that can dodge all the ‘small’ removal spells. Re-buying any spell that’s three-cmc or less for free is an incredibly good ability that doesn’t need any projection or wishful thinking to understand—that list includes Crackling Doom, Abzan Charm, Jeskai Charm, Kolaghan’s Command, Hordeling Outburst, Atarka’s Command, Dromoka’s Command, and Exquisite Firecraft.
Goblin Dark-Dwellers is at least a consideration in Jeskai Black, it’s a possible four-of in a new sort of Grixis midrange or control deck, and it plays really well with the Flashback stuff likely to come in the next set. Five mana is probably too expensive for Modern, but Goblin Dark-Dwellers has the look of a solid Standard staple for the next few months at least. At $3, pre-ordering has very little downside. This card could end up in the $7-$10 range if it pans out.
Call the Gatewatch – $1.99
You aren’t playing an extremely limited, three-mana, sorcery-speed tutor in any competitive game of Magic, so let’s talk about Call of the Gatewatch from a casual perspective. The card already has a lot of kitchen table buzz, and that might prevent it from hitting true bulk prices—I expect it’ll settle in the $0.75-$1 range.
Tutors like this always go up in price over the long term, though, and I love it as a long-term casual hold. Don’t buy in now, though—wait until the market saturates and the price drops first. If Avengers Assemble (I mean, uh, Call the Gatewatch) hits $0.50 and you’re okay waiting at least two years before cashing out, buy away.
Oath of Jace – $1.99
Oath of Jace isn’t bad if you’re trying to fill your graveyard. It brings you closer to a Dig Through Time and it lets you flip your Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy at hyperspeed. (Of course, that’s just as likely to be a downside as it is to help you out.) If Innistrad brings a ton of Standard-playable Flashback goodies, Oath of Jace might start to see real play.
Unless that pans out…well, Oath of Jace isn’t card advantage, exactly, and filtering on three mana is a tough sell when Painful Truths is still a thing. It might find a home alongside Sphinx’s Tutelage, but the three-mana slot is pretty crowded right now. I expect Oath of Jace will drop toward bulk and will be an interesting spec target once Shadows Over Innistrad spoilers start to roll in.
Vile Redeemer – $1.99
Vile Redeemer is a powerful card. A 3/3 flash creature for 2G is reasonable without any other abilities, and its kicker ability is strong in lots of different situations. Redeemer could slot into Four-Color Rally or some sort of G/B Aristocrats deck quite easily, and it’s not a bad sideboard plan in all sorts of green-based midrange builds. I like combo enablers that are useful as value cards regardless of the situation, and Vile Redeemer fits the bill. Its ceiling isn’t incredibly high—best case, it’s a role-player in a couple of decks—but that’s not a bad gamble at two bucks.
Stone Haven Outfitter – $0.99
Right now, Stone Haven Outfitter is unplayable in Standard. Stormrider Rig is an intriguing combo, and Ghostfire Blade is still out there, but I’m not a big fan of throwing two mediocre cards in the same deck and hoping that the result is one reasonably decent interaction. We need at least one really good piece of equipment (or a Standard-legal Stoneforge Mystic reprint) before we can have a conversation about Stone Haven Outfitter seeing play.
The same is true in Modern. I’m all ready for a teatime chat about Stone Haven Outfitter if Stoneforge Mystic is unbanned, but until then I just don’t see where this card fits in. White equip decks just aren’t a part of the format right now, and that’s not going to change without a major upheaval.
Stone Haven Outfitter’s raw power level is fairly high, though, and $1 is a very reasonable buy-in for a card with upside—check the price of Puresteel Paladin for a best-case scenario. If you think that Stone Haven Outfitter is a plant, or you just like powerful equipment-related creatures, grab a set now. Worst case, kitchen table demand should keep Stone Haven Outfitter at or above $1 over the long term.
Eldrazi Obligator – $0.99
If Eldrazi Obligator had flash, or if it could steal planeswalkers like Zealous Conscripts, we’d be talking about a very good Standard card. I’d also love Eldrazi Obligator at two mana, where a 3/1 with haste would be an awesome play in the sweet spot of the aggro curve. That extra mana cost makes it a pretty mediocre turn-3 play, though, and Eldrazi Obligator is merely okay at five providing you’ve got a colorless land to pay the kicker cost. I could certainly see a world where a unique red deck evolved to run four of these, but the chances of that happening feel pretty small. I’m betting on a future bulk rare here.
Deceiver of Form – $0.99
Too much has to go right for Deceiver of Form to work in Constructed. I love Mirrorweave/Grave Titan shenanigans as much as the next guy, but they can’t come attached to seven mana creatures that also require you to manipulate the top card of your library. This is the narrowest of Spike/Timmy hybrid cards, and I can’t imagine too many people will jump through all the hoops needed to make this work. It’s intriguing in a kitchen table deck with mana Elves plus giant Eldrazi, but I don’t see it popping up anywhere else. Future bulk rare.
Endbringer – $0.99
Six-mana utility creatures have to be very good to warrant consideration. Endbringer isn’t evasive, doesn’t deal much damage, and costs quite a bit if you actually want to draw any cards. Future bulk rare.
Eldrazi Mimic – $0.99
Renegade Doppelganger saw some competitive play back during the original Rise of the Eldrazi era, but that had more to do with Vengevine than it did with the giant colorless titans. I’ve seen some rumblings about pairing Eldrazi Mimic with Phyrexian Dreadnaught in Legacy, but if actual Renegade Doppelganger wasn’t good enough to power that deck, I don’t see how the Mimic passes muster.
It’s possible that Eldrazi Mimic will see a little bit of Standard play, but the dedicated ramp decks are probably going to run early ramp spells instead and the midrange decks won’t have enough colorless creatures to trigger this with any sort of regularity. All two-mana rares have some amount of upside, especially if they’re playable in any deck, but I expect Eldrazi Mimic to end up as a bulk rare.
Munda’s Vanguard – $0.49
Munda’s Vanguard is an absolute blowout in Limited, but it’s unplayable in Standard. Bulk rare.
Deepfathom Skulker – $0.49
Nice ability, but six-mana 4/4s need to be a lot better than this before I’d consider them. Deepfathom Skulker is a borderline Commander playable, but it’s probably not good enough to hold any sort of foil premium. Bulk rare.
Remorseless Punishment – $0.49
With a name like Remorseless Punishment, I expected some Cruel Ultimatum-level shenanigans. Not quite. Your opponent will always pick whichever two-thirds of this card is least painful, which is usually going to be five life and an outclassed earlygame creature. I don’t see it. Bulk rare.
Gladeheart Cavalry – $0.49
You need to have six other creatures on the board in order to fully enjoy Gladeheart Cavalry’s ability, and a 6/6 isn’t much of a threat for seven mana. Bulk rare.
A few other cards were spoiled at the end of last week—Oath of Nissa, Stoneforge Masterwork, Wandering Fumarole, and Dread Defiler—but I want to wait and see where their price ends up settling in before I give them a full review. I know that several of you are probably reading this article solely to read my thoughts on Oath of Nissa, though, so let me give you a mini-review based on the information we currently have.
I expect Oath of Nissa to start pre-ordering in the $5 range. I’m pretty sure Cedric will drop-kick me off a bridge if I compare it to Ponder, so I won’t do that. Instead, let me just say that one-mana cantrips don’t have to be all that good to see play. It doesn’t go in every deck—you need to have a critical mass of creatures and lands—but that didn’t stop Collected Company. It gets worse in multiples (the more Oaths you have, the fewer cards you’re running that hit off Oath) and if you try to run this alongside Collected Company, you’re going to want to throw your deck out the window the first time you have to bottom a CoCo. This is going to be true for a lot of things—in most cases, card selection is what digs you to your best spells. Oath of Nissa can’t get a spell at all.
Again, though, the bar is pretty low for a one-mana cantrip. At $5, Oath of Nissa is priced like a solid role-player in a good deck. If you’re buying at that price, you’re expecting it to be a cornerstone of multiple tier one decks or you think it has legs in Modern. Neither of those things would surprise me, and Oath of Nissa has quite a bit of upside. It’s no Ponder, though. It’s not even Preordain or Serum Visions, because those cards never miss. So—how lucky do you feel?
This Week’s Trends
I promised we’d talk Modern, so let’s go.
All five Zendikar fetchlands are finally on the move, and everyone finally seems resigned to the fact that they aren’t going to be reprinted in the next couple of months. Scalding Tarn leads the charge, as always, but the other four have been bought out as well. As always, I recommend selling into the spike here—these lands will be high throughout Modern season, but the best time to ditch your extra copies is usually right at the start of a hype cycle.
Gaddock Teeg was bought out last week, and after a brief spike to $60 it seems to be settling in around $35-$40. This buyout wasn’t really driven by anything on the tournament circuit, but the card is scarce enough that the new, high price seems to be sticking. Casual players love Gaddock Teeg and it does see some play in Modern and Legacy, so it will probably end up in the $30 range. Sell into the hype if you can get current retail.
Glen Elendra Archmage also went crazy for no real reason last week, though the supply is higher thanks to the Modern Masters reprint. Again, I suspect it’ll maintain a price higher than its pre-spike figure, but the supply is high enough that I don’t expect it’ll actually stay above $20 long term. Sell ’em if you’ve got ’em.
Stoneforge Mystic’s price has doubled thanks to Modern unban hype. The safe thing to do is sell now to lock in your gains, but the price will double again if the card is actually unbanned and it will take several weeks to drop again if it isn’t. I’m holding my copies for now.
If you really think Stoneforge is coming off the Modern B&R list but you missed the speculation boat, what about taking a look at Sword of Fire and Ice? There’s no way WotC will ban that card alongside a Stoneforge unban (Batterskull might get the axe, but it’ll surge if Stoneforge is unbanned and it gets to live on) and every Stoneforge deck will need at least a copy or two of SoFI. No way Stoneforge is unbanned without the best sword in Modern also seeing a significant price bump.
Based on the MOCS result and Tom Ross’ latest article, it looks like Modern Infect is moving toward G/B instead of U/G. Phyrexian Crusader is a big reason why. The card is in the early stages of a spike as of this writing, and I could easily see it settling in over $10. Go check the Scars of Mirrodin block binder at your LGS and see if you can uncover some gold. If you can find copies of these under $5 right now, grab them.
Modern Eldrazi appears to be the real deal, and Eye of Ugin has been the major benefactor so far. The card was just reprinted in MM15, so I’m not sure it will stay over $20, but we might never see a return to the $5-$7 range where the card sat just last week. I’d also be on the lookout for foil copies of Wasteland Strangler, Blight Herder, Oblivion Sower, and especially Eldrazi Temple, which has seen a major spike to $4-5 itself. Lingering Souls also might be on the verge of another run back to the $2-$3 range.
I imagine #SCGCIN buoyed prices even more, but I don’t have those results yet. What I do know is that the event drew over a thousand players, and Modern appears poised for major growth yet again in 2016.
Standard cards have stopped dropping in price, but most of them haven’t started gaining value yet—for the most part, that jump will wait until after OGW releases. Monastery Mentor and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger are both on the rise, though this likely has to do with Eternal play as much as Standard speculation.
If you want to get ahead of the hype train, take a look at where things seem to be heading. Oath of the Gatewatch is pushing planeswalker team-up shenanigans, so casual planeswalker enablers like The Chain Veil and older casual ‘walkers might be next to make a run. In Modern, cards that have only been printed once (or once plus the original Modern Masters set) are making waves. Which card is next? Goblin Guide? Sword of Fire and Ice? Pact of Negation? More to come next week, when we take a look at the results from #SCGCHAR and finish our OGW set review.