Resurrecting Innistrad Block

This week Magic finance guru Chas Andres tells you about the Innistrad block cards you should be looking to pick up right now if you’re serious about playing Modern or Legacy.

Four years ago a man in Oslo, Norway spent $27 on bitcoins as part of a paper he was writing about online encryption. They were worth about half a cent each at the time. Today those same coins are worth a total of $886,000. With one impulse purchase his entire life changed for the better.

Clearly I’m in the wrong business.

Nothing you do in Magic finance is going to make you $886,000 over the next four years, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to buy cards now and have a reasonable shot at cashing out for double your money at some point in 2014 or 2015. Magic finance is all about making sure you’re ahead of the curve, and sometimes that means putting your money into yesterday’s news while everyone else is freaking out over the latest and greatest. Over the long run these are the bets that tend to deliver the highest reward coupled with the lowest risk.

Right now Innistrad block as a whole is at its lowest point ever. Unless there’s a major crash in Magic as a whole, the key cards from these sets have nowhere to go but up. With Theros flying off the shelves and Modern season still months away, you’ve got a prime opportunity to buy in.

Most years the two or three weeks right around Halloween marks the bottom of the market for rotating sets. In 2013, however, the StarCityGames.com Back to School Sale was big and significant enough to cause things to bottom out back in September. The prices are still quite good, and Modern Season being delayed until summer should help create a nice long buying window as well.

Even if you can’t afford to buy extra cards right now, it’s worth noting that these next few months mark your last chance to trade for many rotating staples from players who don’t need them anymore. Now that no more Innistrad cards are being printed, every single trade involving a Snapcaster Mage or a Restoration Angel means that these cards are leaving the binders of Standard-only players and entering the collections of casual and Eternal mages. You don’t need me to tell you that it’s far easier to trade for a card from someone who can’t see a use for it than from someone who likes having it around for building Modern decks. It seems like a good time to take a look at Innistrad block set by set and remind yourself which cards you need to acquire by the end of the winter, doesn’t it?


Liliana of the Veil – $50

As the dust clears from last year’s Standard, we are left with Liliana of the Veil as the most important and valuable card in Innistrad block. She’s crucial to Jund and Junk in Modern, and she’s even a staple in Legacy BUG decks. Finance-wise she’s up there with Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, Vendillion Clique, and the other tier 1 Eternal staples. I could certainly see a world where she hits $70-$80 this spring. In fact, I think that’s more likely than not.

The biggest fear about investing in planeswalkers of course is that they are easily reprintable. If Wizards wants Liliana of the Veil powering Standard again next season, she’ll show up in M15. If they don’t, they could still put her in a Duel Deck just like they did with Jace, Architect of Thought. Either of those things would likely cause Liliana’s price to stabilize closer to $30 than $80.

If you think you’ll need Lilianas and don’t fear a reprint though, this is your last chance to buy in at $50. She’s not going to see less competitive play anytime soon, and the power she provides can’t be replaced with any other card that currently exists. If you don’t have copies of this card and are an avid Modern player, make Liliana your first priority. 

Snapcaster Mage – $20

Snapcaster Mage has been hovering close to $20 since it was first spoiled. It spent some time at $30 in October 2011 before supply rose to meet demand. There was a time this summer where you could get them in the $15 range, but by and large it was a $20 card for the duration of its time in Standard.

Interestingly enough, Snapcaster doesn’t appear to be a game-breaking card in either Modern or Legacy. It’s a four-of in the U/W/R deck that won an IQ back in September and shows up in Delver and RUG Control, but it plays "fair" when a lot of decks are trying for "completely and utterly broken." That will keep this guy a step behind cards like Bob and Goyf.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Cryptic Command is more or less "fair," and it certainly sees a good amount of play. Snapcaster is only going to get better too as more instants and sorceries are dreamed up and printed. In many ways Snapcaster is the perfect Magic card: versatile, powerful, and always a good draw without ever feeling ruinously overpowered. I expect Snappy to continue doing a good underrated job in Modern, Legacy, and Commander for years to come.

What does that mean for its price? One possible trajectory for Snapcaster is that of the Zendikar fetchlands. Those were $10-$12 while they were Standard legal, and now some of them are close to $50. Snapcaster is certainly capable of reaching those highs, and I expect if he doesn’t see print again he’ll be at least $30 or $35 in a few years as long as the game keeps growing the way it has been. He’s not a great spec opportunity at $20 simply due to how much capital you’ll tie up, but if you don’t have a set for yourself, you will want to start targeting them in trade.

Geist of Saint Traft – $18

While Geist hasn’t seen much play in Modern as of late, he shows up all the time in Legacy and is a staple in the U/W/R Stoneblade and Delver decks. Legacy playability alone won’t drive Geist too much higher than $20 though because there are a whole lot of other cards those decks need—Tundras and Volcanic Islands for example—that are far harder to get. For Geist to see much of a rise, he’d have to start seeing significant play in Modern. That might happen if Wizards decides to clamp down a bit on the combo decks or ban something in Jund, and Geist has enough of a price history that I wouldn’t be shocked if this hits $35 at some point. It would require a metagame shift first though. Keep an eye on the banned and restricted list updates as well as the Modern Daily Events.

Garruk Relentless – $7

This is the only flip-card planeswalker ever printed. As these cards become cool artifacts of the past, much like all the Eldrazi Titans, they’re going to be extra desirable to the casual crowd. I don’t see flip cards being reprinted any time soon, even in a Duel Deck (they’re confusing at first glance and hard to print), so I expect this card will be a very safe long term hold. Even better, Garruk sees occasional play as a one-of or two-of in several Modern and Legacy decks. What’s not to love?

Olivia Voldaren – $6

Olivia still sees play, mostly as a one-of or two-of in some Modern Jund builds. She’s also a popular casual card in a well-supported tribe. I could see her hitting $10-$12 again based on casual interest alone.

Enemy-Colored Check Lands ($3 – $5)

While novice speculators might be eager to jump on these considering the jumps that fetch lands and filter lands took after rotation, allow me to pump the brakes a little. These lands are more like the Scars of Mirrodin fastlands than anything, and those were a huge target for speculators a couple years back considering their tumble from $12-$15 down to $2-$3. That turned out to be a mistake, and those lands have never done much of anything financially despite seeing scattered Modern play.

I like these lands a little better than the fast lands though, mostly because they play better in Commander and have a far better chance of being reprinted in a core set at some point over the next couple years. I don’t recommend picking up any on spec, but I’d still pick up a personal set at some point soon.

Past in Flames – $2

This card is a $2 mythic rare that sees play in both Modern and Legacy—what’s not to love? A couple of intriguing Modern Storm decks—one based on Young Pyromancer and the other based on Twiddle—finished well in Daily Events online in the last month, both featuring this spell. At $2 there’s almost no way you can go wrong with this spec, and I love foils at $6 as well. This card only gets better the more good spells are printed seeing as all you need to combo with it are cards in the graveyard. This is one of the lowest risk/highest reward specs on the list, and I recommend picking up a few sets if you can afford it.

Dark Ascension

Huntmaster of the Fells – $8

Unfortunately, it would take a lot for this to become a heavily played card in Modern. The four-drop spot is wildly competitive, this guy requires both green and red mana to cast, and Wizards keeps raising the bar on what these mid-level value critters can do. It is seeing some play in some Jund lists right now though, so you can’t dismiss it entirely. It also has some innate value due to it being a mythic Werewolf, though it’s quite poor in Commander. I’d sock a copy or two away just in case, but the upside is kind of low here. So much for the "best" card in Dark Ascension!

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad – $6

Unlike Koth and Venser, whose values never really recovered from their Duel Deck, I expect Sorin to grow from the $6 he’s currently worth. For one, he’s a vastly better casual card. It’s true that you can only run him in a deck featuring Orzhov colors, but he’s about as close to an auto-include as there is in a deck that can play him. He’s also a more iconic character, which actually does count for something. This guy would be at $10 if it weren’t for the Duel Deck, and I expect we’ll see him back in that range before too long. He can’t go much lower at any rate, making him a very safe spec.   

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed – $4

Commander is all about resilience, and dark Mikaeus is about as good a spell as you can play in mono-black. This mythic should hold casual appeal for years and should keep creeping up in price. This is a nice underrated spec target in the vein of Nirkana Revenant, which is currently retailing for $15.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben – $4

This sees all sorts of play in Legacy and has since it was printed. Basically, if any sort of hate bears, Maverick, or Death and Taxes brew is good, this will be at least a three-of. It also sees a good amount of splash play in Goblins as well as Modern Kiki Pod.

Don’t forget that Thalia was one of those "it’s good in Eternal, we can’t lose!" cards that was $6-$8 for quite a while in Standard even though it never saw much play in that format. What’s changed now? It’s still good in Eternal, right? So why did the price go down? I love it at $4.

Grafdigger’s Cage – $1

Considering how closely the flavor of this card is tied to Innistrad, I can’t see them printing it again soon outside some sort of box set or limited release product. I know people are gun-shy about speculating this considering how badly it flopped on release—it started preselling over $10 before collapsing entirely—but right now it is by far the most heavily played card in Dark Ascension. Take a look at how much play it’s seeing out of sideboards right now—it’s the real deal in Modern. Buy yourself a playset at worst, and it’s pretty close to a can’t-miss spec as well. Would anyone be shocked if this jumped from $1 to $5 over the next couple of years?

Avacyn Restored

Avacyn, Angel of Hope – $15

It’s hard to find a more beloved casual card than Avacyn. As I said in my Commander article a few weeks back, she basically resides at the nexus of beloved casual tropes. In multiplayer, she’s even good when you don’t have any support for her—while playing EDH a few weeks back, I stole her out of the Kaalia deck with Bribery, and she was the key to winning the game for me. Avacyn is a bit expensive for a spec, but she’ll easily hit $25-$30 unless she’s reprinted.

Griselbrand – $15

This monster is a four-of in two different tier 1 Legacy decks, Reanimator and Sneak and Show. If it weren’t banned in Commander, it’d already be at $30 and rising. Of course, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is a $30 card despite also being banned in Commander, seeing roughly the same amount of play as Griselbrand in Eternal and being a Prerelease card. Yeah, I’d say this dude is undervalued right now. Buy in.

Cavern of Souls – $12

At this point Cavern of Souls is all upside. It’s a four-of in all casual tribal decks, it sees a decent amount of Legacy and Modern play, and it’s in a set that has proven to have resilient and robust prices. If it’s reprinted in Standard, the only thing that’ll happen is a price increase thanks to even more demand. You can’t lose—pick up your set ASAP.

Bonfire of the Damned – $8

I bring this card up only as an example of something that seems like it should be a good spec but actually isn’t. Heck, the card was over $50 at one point—why isn’t it a steal at $8 now?

This is the kind of card that is really only good in Standard. There are better sweepers in casual magic, and it’s just too expensive and situational to be good in Modern and Legacy. It’s not even in a good color for manipulating the library with Divining Top shenanigans. You’d basically be buying in hoping for a reprint, but I don’t think we’ll see the miracles come back any time soon.

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage – $8

There’s some room to grow here. Tamiyo is awesome in casual play and doesn’t have a Duel Deck doppelganger floating around, nor is she likely to anytime soon. Even if she doesn’t see any Constructed play, I could see her hitting $15 without too much trouble. She’s a must-have for the Commander crew at any rate.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight – $6

Gisela is Avacyn’s best friend on the kitchen table, and if you’ve ever had the two of them out at the same time during a game of Commander, you’ll know why. This is an absurdly powerful creature, and she’ll easily hit $10-$12 at some point thanks to her tribal affinity and how quickly she can close out a game.  

Restoration Angel – $6

Here again we have the tension between a card that tries to play fair—not what you want in Modern or Legacy—and a card that keeps getting better as Magic’s grand menagerie of creatures keeps improving. Worst case Restoration Angel is a Kiki Pod staple that also shows up in some Modern U/W and U/W/R control decks—not too shabby. If the format slows down at all or U/W gets enough of the right pieces, this’ll be right back up at $15 again. She’s got one of the lowest floors on this entire life, making her a very safe spec.

Craterhoof Behemoth – $5

This is a no-joke finisher in Legacy Elves, the most underrated card in Cube, and a no-show in Modern so far. Casual players love it though, and I can see it hitting the $7-$10 range that Avenger of Zendikar hit between rotating out of Standard and being reprinted in Commander 2013. Not a great spec, but it should move up a bit.

Entreat the Angels – $5

The fact that this is a miracle, makes Angels, and sees play in Legacy makes this an intriguing mythic over the long haul. Based on everything that this set has done so far, I can certainly see all the Avacyn Restored cards having a similar arc to Rise of the Eldrazi rares and mythics over the next few years. If that ends up being the case, cards like this will end up in the $15-$20 range.

Vexing Devil – $5

I don’t know why people liked this card in the first place, I don’t get why it was $8 for two straight years despite being bad in every single format, and I’m still baffled by why it’s $5 now. People seem to love it I guess, so who knows? Maybe it’ll go up to ten million dollars by December.

Sigarda, Host of Herons – $5

Sigarda is a midrange five-drop creature that has a very prohibitive casting cost. That said, its abilities shine more in Modern than in Standard, and she does show up from time to time. I’d throw one or two aside, but don’t break the bank speculating on these.

Temporal Mastery – $4

I’m mostly putting this card on here as an excuse to show off this deck that I found. Seriously, look at this thing and tell me it isn’t one of the greatest brews of all time:

Any deck with four copies of Walk the Aeons and a Laboratory Maniac win condition is A-OK in my book.

At any rate, Temporal Mastery is still riding on the "just barely unplayable" line of being stupidly broken. I’ve got a set socked aside so I won’t feel like a total dolt when Wizards accidentally prints something that breaks this wide open, but I’m not holding my breath either.

Terminus – $3

This card isn’t seen as much play in Legacy as it was last year, but a one mana wrath that can be activated at instant speed on occasion is nothing to sneeze at. I like this at $3.  


This is the base set that rotated when Innistrad did, so it’s worth considering these cards in the very same light. I’ll be ignoring any spells that were reprinted in M14 since those are still in Standard.

Thundermaw Hellkite – $10

Some people are running this to moderate success as a one-of in Modern Jund and RUG. It’s an awesome creature to be sure, but its strengths don’t translate well to Eternal play—even the mighty Baneslayer Angel has only been a fringe player in the format. I have to imagine part of this $10 price tag is still price memory, and I’d only be interested in trading for these around $5. If it drops that far, you should try and stick a couple copies aside though.

Omniscience – $7

This is a four-of in an amazing Legacy deck. It’s also an absurdly powerful casual card that’s outright broken whenever it hits play. Fear of a reprint and inertia is the only thing keeping this spell under $20, and over the long term I would much rather have this spell in my long-term box than Thundermaw Hellkite.

Sublime Archangel – $6

This is a casual Angel that’s been massively underprinted compared to most of its counterparts. I could see it hitting an easy $10-$12 even though I doubt it will ever see Constructed play again.

Garruk, Primal Hunter – $6

This is still the most explosive Garruk, and I could easily see him coming back to Standard soon. If so, you’ll wish you had a few of these stocked away. It’s also excellent in Casual play.

Primordial Hydra – $6

This card has traded and sold extremely well in the $6 range for years—it was also a hit in M12. If it doesn’t see a reprint in M15, I’d expect it to slowly start to creep up thanks to casual demand.

Thragtusk – $5

As tempting as this guy seems at just $5, five-drop creatures simply don’t translate well to Modern or Legacy. I’d put one aside in your collection as a possible Birthing Pod target and it isn’t awful in Commander, but other than that I think Thragtusk’s days are done. I can’t see Wizards sticking this back in Standard again either.

Allied-Colored Check Lands – $2

Even though these have been reprinted a whopping four times each, they still hit $5 on occasion when they’re Standard legal. They also show up in Modern mana bases from time to time. If you don’t have your set of these, buy them now. They’re not getting any cheaper.

Quick Hits

Here are a few lower-end Innistrad block cards I’m targeting in trade. While I’m not going nuts over any of these, I’ll gladly pick them up, stick them in a box, and forget about them for a year or two. None of these cards is likely to amount to a whole lot, but they’re all about as low as they can be right now. What’s not to like?

Balefire Dragon – $3 – This is one of the better Commander Dragons and slowly creeping up in price.

Gravecrawler – $3 – While this card isn’t seeing any competitive play right now, it’s a strong enabler that could make waves in the future.

Blood Artist – $3 – Casual players love building around this card. Should hold its value, though I don’t see much room to grow.

Army of the Damned – $2 – Great causal token generator that was primed for a jump before a re-print in Commander 2013. I still like it, but the growth window is more like two or three years out.

Mikaeus, the Lunarch – $2 – Nice token-enabling mythic. Would already be higher if it wasn’t in a From the Vault set.

Gavony Township – $2 – Casual nonbasics always seem to do well long term. This is one of the best.

Parallel Lives – $2 – This card went as high as $5 due to casual/Commander speculation. Now it’s down to $2 because . . . it rotated out of Standard? How does that make sense? Look for this to rebound and settle closer to $4-$5 long term.

Predator Ooze – $2 – Could Mono-Green Devotion be a thing in Modern? This is an intriguing spec if so.

Bruna, Light of Alabaster – $2 – We’ve still got two more sets in Theros block for format-warping Auras to be printed in. Maybe this’ll catch on in casual play at some point.

Krenko, Mob Boss – $2 – This is sold out on SCG and is one of those cards that 60-card casual players adore. Don’t be shocked if it hits $4-$5, and you can still pick these up in bulk boxes.

Master of the Pearl Trident – $2 – Mono-Blue Devotion in Modern! Mono-Blue Devotion in Legacy! Let’s go!

Vault of the Archangel – $1.50 – See Township, Gavony.

Rhox Faithmender – $1.50 – This is one of those casual/Commander abilities that people go nuts for. I could see this hitting $5.

Exquisite Blood – $1.50 – Considering Sanguine Bond’s time in the $8-$10 range, I’m still a believer.

Moonveil Dragon – $1.50 – Yeah, Firebreathing sucks, but it’s quite a bit better when it pumps your whole team at once. This is a $1.50 mythic Dragon that can finish Commander games really fast. If it’s a Kaalia staple, it has room to grow still.

Havengul Lich – $1.50 – Oof, remember when this was like $30? There’s got to be some sort of cool combo it might do some day at least in casual play, right?

The Increasing Cycle – $0.50 – $1 – All of these spells are winners in Commander that could rise in price significantly at some point. I especially like the blue and black ones.

Intangible Virtue – $1 – These sorts of "subset enablers" only get better when more of the thing they boost get printed. Tokens aren’t going away any time soon, so I’d imagine Intangible Virtue will remain a casual staple for quite some time. It might even see some Modern play at some point.

Invisible Stalker – $1 – Casual players are nuts for cards that enable sweet things to happen. This is one of the best creatures to throw a Sword or an Aura on, and I’d expect it to hit $2-$3 easily.

Delver of Secrets – $1 – Don’t get too cute, but make sure you have a playset of these socked away. Foils are still cheaper than they should be too.

Lingering Souls – $1 – Wizards seems intent on reprinting this card enough to completely saturate the market. I’m okay with this—more Lingering Souls for everyone!—but don’t expect this to ever be a $15 uncommon like Remand.

Bloodgift Demon – $0.75 – This is a perfect Commander card for any deck rocking black. Pick up foils aggressively.

Champion of Lambholt – $0.75 – I keep waiting for Commander players to realize how great this card is in green-based decks that like to attack. One day . . .

Cathars’ Crusade – $0.50 – This is similar to Champion of Lambholt in that it’s an underrated enabler for Commander decks with lots of creatures. Play with this card once and you’ll be totally hooked.

Ghost Quarter – $0.50 – A decent card in Modern. Worth making sure you have a playset of these.

Unburial Rites – $0.50 – It’s worth picking up foils. It’s a fringe player in Modern and a great Commander card.

Faithless Looting – $0.50 – This will continue to see Modern play. Make sure you have a set somewhere—you don’t want to pay real money for them when you need them.

Deadeye Navigator – $0.50 – This card combos with literally everything in Commander, and it’s only getting better. Foils never fail to generate interest in my binder.

Harvester of Souls – $0.50 – Am I seriously the only person who runs this in all of my black Commander decks? I can’t be, right?

Diregraf Captain – $0.50 – One day you’ll look up and this will be a $3 card. I promise.

My Eternal Portfolio – Innistrad Block

Wrapping up, this is my Legacy and Modern "essentials" list for Innistrad block. If you are serious about playing either those formats, I suggest cribbing off this list and making sure to secure the following cards over the next few months. Trading is always more successful when you’ve got a solid goal after all.

If you’re a Commander player and you missed out on Innistrad block, consider investing in complete sets. They’re quite cheap right now, and you basically get all of the $2-and-under cards for free as long as you’re willing to "pay" for the better spells.

Spec Portfolio – Week #11

After doing detailed analysis of this for ten straight weeks, I will be scaling my involvement in this back a little going forward. Most of the cards I have right now are longer-term holds, and it’s counterproductive to talk about them on a week-to-week basis. Instead, this will be a good chance to see what happens to cards when you don’t sell them aggressively enough—do the gains even out the losses over time, or should you simply declare things a sunk cost, sell out, and move on?

This week the portfolio didn’t have any significant movement. The mono-black stuff did well over the weekend, as did Advent of the Wurm, so I’m hopeful those cards will go up a little bit more. Otherwise, I’m sitting on a bunch of casual stuff that might not rise in value for quite a while. Time to settle in for the winter—it’s going to be a long one.

Until next time –

– Chas Andres