The most valuable resource in Magic finance isn’t money-it’s time.
Have you ever played one of those worker placement board games where one of
your early moves end up paying off massive dividends a dozen turns later?
One chicken turns into two, which turn into four, which turn into eight,
which eventually trigger a secret condition that allows you to upgrade your
coop into a plutonium powered research facility. All you have to do is wait
long enough and your investment does all the work for you.
There are real-world analogies for this type of game. You know those older
folks who tell you that your 401k will be worth, like, a LOT more at
retirement age if you start paying in when you’re still in your twenties as
opposed to waiting until your mid-thirties? Believe it or not, they’re
actually onto something. (Though by “something” I don’t mean “an accurate
understanding of the financial realities facing younger generations.”) As
it turns out, investments tend to grow exponentially over time-the more
money you invest, the more it grows, and then the growth can be reinvested,
and then THAT growth can be reinvested, and on, and on, and on.
Magic finance is no exception to this rule. In 2002, Underground Sea was
$20. In 2012, Scalding Tarn was $12. In 2014, Snapcaster Mage was $18. In
2016, Collective Brutality was $2. You didn’t have to be rich to buy these
cards and reap a massive profit, you just had to be patient.
Of course, expecting any card in Kaladesh or Amonkhet to
have a return on investment similar to Underground Sea or even Snapcaster
Mage is almost certainly going to leave you disappointed. Magic’s player
base has been fairly stagnant since Return to Ravnica, and WotC
has gotten better about printing massive quantities of their non-Masters
set releases. Because of that, we haven’t seen any recent Modern staples
jump from $10 to $80 or whatever like in the bad old days. But that doesn’t
mean that there isn’t money to be made in buying cards from rotating sets
and adding them to your permanent, long-term collection.
Consider Collected Company. The card was already seeing play in Modern at
the time of its rotation, and it was an obvious hold back in the fall of
2016. After dropping from a high of $30 in May of that year, it was down to
$15 at the start of September and $10 when it bottomed out in early
November of 2016. The card is currently selling for $20 and has been
gradually trending up all year long. If Collected Company isn’t reprinted,
it’ll probably start creeping toward $30 in 2019.
Is this an amazing ROI? Not really. But the fact that Collected Company was
such an obvious hold at rotation proves my point: if you buy or hold onto
most good Magic cards over a long enough timeframe, it will work out well
for you. Just let those chickens double, and double, and double again.
With this in mind, I’m going to talk about the most significant cards from
all four rotating sets today. While I’m going to give each one a BUY, HOLD, or SELL
rating, the truth is that the time to sell most of these cards came and
went several months ago. Even the “sell” cards in today’s article are
reasonable long-term holds-I just think that they’re likely to drop a bit
further before they bottom out.
In general, you’re going to want to focus as much as you can on picking up
rotating cards over the next two months. Not only is this going to be the
bottom of the market for all of these spells, there’s also going to be a
serious supply glut as the Standard-only players (of which there are,
admittedly, a lot fewer than in previous years) churn through their
collection. The best time to trade for these cards? Right after Guilds of Ravnica releases. Players are going to be eager to trade
for the latest hotness, and they won’t care about cards that don’t have an
immediate home in Modern or Legacy. Worst case, you end up buying into a
few decent casual cards at the bottom of their market. Best case?
Kolaghan’s Command and Collective Brutality were both near $5 when they
rotated out of Standard a couple of years ago.
I suspect there are similarly powerful Eternal cards in Kaladesh
and Amonkhet. Let’s sniff them out, shall we?
Chandra, Torch of Defiance – $13
Chandra, Torch of Defiance shows up now and again in a couple of
fringe-playable Modern and Legacy decks, but it’s not going to end up being
a staple unless something significantly changes. The fact that red is the
worst color in Commander and this card was printed in a Challenger Deck
limits your upside here, too. Feel free to hold onto a copy or two just in
case, but I’m a SELL on Chandra at current retail. Wake me
up when she’s on sale for $5.
Spirebluff Canal – $6.50
Spirebluff Canal already sees more play in Modern than in Standard,
anchoring powerful decks like U/R Gifts Storm, Blue Moon, and certain
Grixis Control builds. This cycle has proven itself over and over again in
Modern, too, with even the cheapest one showing up as a staple in Burn. If
Blackcleave Cliffs can be a $50+ format bulwark, there’s no way that these
enemy-colored variants will end up being a bust at current retail. BUY ’em and forget ’em.
Saheeli Rai – $6
With Saheeli Rai, you’re basically betting on some combination of casual
demand plus Sam Savage’s
Saheeli Evolution deck
in Modern. Considering the popularity of the U/R color scheme and the
potential of some sort of Splinter Twin-esque combo deck developing here at
some point, Saheeli feels like a solid HOLD to me, though
I’m probably going to wait and try to buy in closer to $3.
Torrential Gearhulk – $5.50
Torrential Gearhulk has actually shown up in a couple ofU/B and U/W Control decks
that have won Invitational Qualifiers this summer, but the card is far from
an Eternal staple right now. I’d be a hold at current retail if Torrential
Gearhulk were a bigger deal in Commander, but the lack of crossover appeal
makes it a SELL for me right now. I’ll be back in when
this thing hits $3.
Blooming Marsh – $5
Just like Spirebluff Canal, Blooming Marsh tends to see more play in Modern
than Standard, showing up in decks like Jund, Living End, Elves, and Abzan.
The buy-in is a little better here, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for
snapping up a set or three right about now. BUY.
Nissa, Vital Force – $5
Nissa, Vital Force is the rare card that’s on the upward swing as it
approaches set rotation. The card was $3 back in the spring, and it has
been climbing upwards all summer long. Mono-Green Aggro in Standard has
been the biggest part of that, though Nissa has shown up in the occasional
Modern and Legacy deck. This one’s a HOLD for me simply
because planeswalkers rarely drop too much below the $3-$5 range and there
is some Eternal potential here, but I’d much rather have either of the two
lands we’ve already talked about in my long-term spec binder.
Inventors’ Fair – $4.50
Inventors’ Fair has already gained a couple of bucks over the past several
months thanks to the Ironworks deck in Modern surging in popularity, but
this card has shown up in enough second tier builds to make me believe that
it’ll have a home in the format one way or another. Oh-and did you know
that this is the second most played Commander card in Kaladesh
according to EDHREC? Yeah. Inventors’ Fair is a BUY.
Panharmonicon – $4
Don’t sleep on top tier casual staples! Chromatic Lantern was also a $3-$4
card when Return to Ravnica rotated, and it’s a $17 card now.
Panharmonicon is unique, powerful, and the most popular Commander card in
the set. Unless it’s reprinted in a Masters set or casual release, it’ll
end up at $10+ within a couple of years. BUY.
Botanical Sanctum, Concealed Courtyard, & Inspiring Vantage – $2.50
For reasons we’ve already discussed, all three of these “lower tier” Kaladesh lands are all BUYS as well. Pick up a
couple of sets at current retail.
Aetherflux Reservoir – $2.50
Aetherflux Reservoir was my favorite spec in Kaladesh back when it
was just a buck. Did you know that it’s the third most popular Commander
card in the set? Yeah, people LOVE this thing in the casual world.
Unfortunately, Aetherflux Reservoir saw a resurgence of Standard play, and
now it’s back up near $3. It should drop back toward $1 as rotation
approaches, but don’t leave 2018 without a small stack of these. I have
Aetherflux Reservoir pegged for the $5-$10 range eventually. BUY.
My Favorite $2 and Under Buys:
These cards either see a great deal of Commander play or have some promise
in Modern or Legacy. I’d rather focus my attention on the higher end
pick-ups today, but if you’re picking through bulk boxes or asking for
throw-ins, these are the other cards in the set that I’d like to snag while
they’re still dirt cheap.
Paradox Engine – $18
Did you know that Paradox Engine is the most expensive card in Aether Revolt by a fairly wide margin? Even though it sees no play
in any competitive format? This is unusual for any Magic set, much less one
that’s still (technically) Standard legal.
Since Paradox Engine already so expensive and it’s rotating out a format
that it already doesn’t see any play in, I see no reason to recommend
either a buy or a sell right now. Thus, I’m calling it a HOLD. The price should keep creeping up until it’s
reprinted, though, so if you want a copy, now’s the time to snag it.
Walking Ballista – $12
Twelve dollars doesn’t seem like much of a discount for a rotating Standard
rare, but Walking Ballista is one of the most obvious rotation pick-ups in
quite some time. The Eternal staple sees play in Mono-Green Tron, Amulet
Titan, Vengevine, Counters Company, Eldrazi Tron, Harden Scales Affinity,
and loads of other decks in both Modern and Legacy. This is a clear BUY. Unless Walking Ballista reprinted immediately, it’ll
end up in the $20-$25 range for a while.
Heroic Intervention – $6
Yikes-can you believe that Heroic Intervention is $6!? Commander players
really love cards like this, and it’s actually a one-of in the Modern Elves
sideboard, too. Since Standard isn’t really driving the demand here and the
price has already jumped from $1 to $6 thanks to increased casual interest
I can’t really recommend a buy-that ship has sailed-but the card is
certainly a solid HOLD at current retail.
Baral, Chief of Compliance – $5.50
Baral, Chief of Compliance is one of my favorite under-the-radar buys right
now. U/R Gifts Storm might not be the most popular deck in Modern right
now, but the fact that Baral is a four-of in a second tier Modern build
says a lot about the card’s eventual upside. Oh-and it’s quite popular in
Commander as well. It might end up bottoming out around $3-$4, but I feel
so good about Baral’s long-term profile that I’m calling it a BUY regardless.
Metallic Mimic – $5
Much like Baral, I feel pretty good about Metallic Mimic long-term. Tribal
cards always do well in casual circles, and there’s a whole generation of
kitchen table players for whom this is one of the most important cards ever
printed. The fact that this card bottomed out at $3 back in April of 2017
makes me feel like it could drop another couple of bucks before rebounding,
but it’s a solid HOLD at $5 and I’d be all over it if it
were in the $2-$3 range.
Disallow – $5
Disallow is really interesting. On the one hand, it’s the exact sort of
card that always tanks at rotation: a Standard counterspell that’s just not
powerful enough for Modern or Legacy. It’ll be replaced by whatever
counterspell shows up in Guilds of Ravnica, and we’ll all move on
with our lives.
On the other hand, Disallow is THE most-played Aether Revolt card
in Commander according to EDHREC. Yes, even more than Paradox Engine.
I’m calling Disallow a SELL right now because the price
chart is pointing at the floor, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends up
bottoming out around $1-$2 before rebounding. But if you’re a Commander
speculator, don’t forget to grab a bunch of these once it does finish
tanking. Unlike most other counterspells that are just “too expensive,”
Disallow is probably going to end up in the $5-$8 range at some point due
to casual play alone.
Fatal Push – $5
DO NOT sell off your copies of this card at rotation! Fatal Push is not
going to drop below $5: see Path to Exile, which is still a $9 card despite
the fact that it has been heavily reprinted in supplemental sets. WotC is
probably not going to throw this one back into a Standard-legal expansion
for a while, and even if they do, the price will go up, not down. So snag a
few extra playsets of Fatal Push now, while copies are cheap. BUY!
Rishkar’s Expertise – $2.50
Rishkar’s Expertise sees more play in Commander than Heroic Intervention,
Baral, or even Metallic Mimic. It’s one of green’s premier high-end draw
spells, and it appears ticketed for the $5-$6 range in a couple of years
thanks to casual play. BUY a few before that happens.
Whir of Invention – $2.50
Whir of Invention is another spec target that I absolutely love right now.
It has shown up in three or four different Modern decks, including Lantern
Control, and it’s an incredibly popular Commander card. Casual demand
should keep the price above $2 regardless, which means that you essentially
get a free shot at Whir becoming a bigger part of the Modern metagame at
some point. Yeah, I’m going to BUY a playset for just $10.
My Favorite $2 and Under Buys:
Rhonas the Indomitable – $12
I’m shocked that Rhonas is still worth $12, and I doubt that high price
will last for much longer. The card has shown up as a singleton in a Modern
brew or two, but it’s not particularly sought-after for Commander play and
I don’t see it becoming an Eternal staple. SELL.
Don’t get Liliana, Death’s Majesty confused with either of the last two
Lilianas, both of which are far better Eternal cards. Casual demand should
keep this planeswalker in the $5-$6 range, but she’s not popular enough in
Commander to warrant more than that. SELL.
Gideon of the Trials – $6
Bingo. Gideon of the Trials isn’t seeing much play in any of the current
versions of Modern Jeskai Control-a deck that has more or less ceded its
share of the metagame to U/W Control anyway-but this planeswalker has
already proven itself in Modern, and I see no reason why it can’t pop up
again at some point in the future. Since $6 is pretty close to the floor
for a good Planeswalker, the downside here is low. Gideon is a BUY.
Anointed Procession – $6
Anointed Procession is the best casual card in Amonkhet, and it’s
number one with a bullet on the set’s EDHREC page. Unlike Paradox Engine,
which hasn’t even begun to think about dropping in price due to set
rotation, Anointed Procession is actually a few dollars cheaper than it was
back in the spring. Take advantage of this lull and BUY a
few copies. Unless Anointed Procession is reprinted, this is going to be a
$12-$15 rare in about two years.
As Foretold – $5.50
Much like with Gideon of the Trials, we’ve already seen what As Foretold
can do in Modern. Heck, As Foretold has even shown up in Legacy from time
to time. The card is also pretty solid in Commander, giving in a $3-$4
floor due to casual demand. I’m calling it a HOLD right
now because I think it’ll drop another $1-$2 before bottoming out, but it’s
a card that I wouldn’t mind owning a few sets of for my long-term spec box.
Hazoret the Fervent – $5
Hazoret does see some play as a singleton in Modern and Legacy sideboards,
but big dumb creatures have a hard time making the jump to eternal
staplehood, and angry mono-red creatures like this haven’t found much of a
home in Commander. Hazoret will be one of my favorite targets if some sort
of Frontier-esque format ever catches on, but for now I’m a SELL on this former Standard staple.
Nissa, Steward of Elements – $4
Four dollars is on the cheaper end of the market for a planeswalker that
has only been printed once. I don’t expect Nissa to show up in Modern, and
she’s not that great in Commander, but it’s not like her price can go much
While Vizier of the Menagerie never panned out as a Standard staple, it’s
still a very solid Commander card that should hold its value well over the
coming years. Take advantage of rotation to sock a couple of these away,
because it’ll eventually be a $7-$10 card. BUY.
Fetid Pools, Canyon Slough, Scattered Groves, Irrigated Farmland,
Sheltered Thicket – $1.25 – $4
‘s cycle (get it?) of dual lands aren’t nearly as good as the ones in Kaladesh. They do see a smattering of Modern play, and they aren’t
half-bad in Commander, but they’re far more likely to bounce around on the
cheaper end of the spectrum for several years than make a push toward the
I’m calling these lands a HOLD because they can’t really
go much lower and I suspect they’ll be reprinted in a Standard-legal set
again at some point. I just don’t think they have the upside of, say,
My Favorite $2 and Under Buys:
Hour of Devastation
The Scarab God – $14
Believe it or not, but even The Locust God is actually more popular than
The Scarab God in Commander. Part of this might be due to the card’s price
tag, but I still feel like this former Standard staple is only $14 right
now because everybody remembers that it used to be $50. Once that price
memory erodes enough, The Scarab God should end up in the $6-$7 range. SELL.
Razaketh, the Foulblooded – $8.50
Can you imagine a world in which Razaketh, the Foulblooded is worth more
than The Scarab God? Well, that’s where we’re heading. Razaketh has jumped
from $4 to almost $9 over the past few months due to casual and Commander
demand while The Scarab God continues to drop and drop. This is a very
popular kitchen table card, and I expect it to settle in closer to $15 than
This version of Nicol Bolas has been in the $6-$8 range for months and
months. I can’t imagine it drops any further, though it’s probably never
going to see any Eternal play and it’s not much of a casual darling,
either. I’m calling it a HOLD since I don’t love the
upside here, though buying is totally fine if you think that Nicol Bolas,
God-Pharaoh has a higher ceiling than I do.
The Locust God – $6
This is the price range where The Scarab God is going to end up, which is
why I like The Locust God more as a spec right now. The upside isn’t
overwhelming here, but at $6 it’s a soft BUY that will
eventually end up in the $10-$12 range.
Torment of Hailfire – $6
Much like Razaketh, Torment of Hailfire is a very popular Commander card
that has actually been increasing in price over the past couple of months.
As with the Demon, I don’t think we’ve reached this card’s long-term
ceiling. Short of a reprint, Torment of Hailfire should end up in the
$8-$10 range at some point in the mid-term future. BUY,
but don’t go too crazy.
Crested Sunmare – $6
This is a weird one. Crested Sunmare is neither going to see any Eternal
play nor is it a popular Commander card, yet it has held its value
exceptionally well as rotation approaches due to…what? Kitchen table casual
players, who need four copies of this bad boy for their lifegain deck? This
seems like the most likely reason. I’m calling Crested Sunmare a HOLD because the price chart doesn’t really make sense,
but it’s clear that people like this card.
Neheb, the Eternal – $6
Neheb, the Eternal is yet another random Hour of Devastation card
that has roughly doubled over the past year due to Commander demand. This
thing is actually more popular in the format than either of the set’s two
gods, though it’s nowhere near as sought-after as either Torment of
Hailfire or Razaketh, the Foulblooded. I’m calling it a HOLD since I like many of the other specs in the set more,
but it’s a solid casual card that should continue to tick up in price over
the next couple of years.
Ramunap Excavator – $4.50
We’ve arrived at my favorite BUY of the set. Ramunap
Excavator hasn’t emerged as a major Eternal staple, but it has shown up in
Legacy decks like Lands and Elves as well as Modern lists like Bant
Midrange and some of the Collected Company variants. There’s a reasonable
chance that at some future date, Ramunap Excavator will emerge as a serious
player in the format.
And if that wasn’t enough, Ramunap Excavator is EDHREC’s pick for the most
popular Commander card in the set. It’s one of those sweet green early-drop
creatures that shows up all the time and is a must-buy for anyone who even
thinks about messing with lands or the graveyard. At less than $5, Ramunap
Excavator is a stone-cold bargain. There’s real upside here.
Mirage Mirror – $3.50
I know I’ve talked a lot about Commander today, but that’s only because the
game’s most popular casual format is going to be a major factor in driving
the price of these cards going forward. Mirage Mirror is no exception. This
is a very popular card in the 100-card format, and the fact that its
colorless gives it a ton of financial upside. I’m a BUY,
and I’d expect this to end up in the $5-$7 range at some point soon.
A month ago, I wouldn’t have even mentioned Nimble Obstructionist in this
article. We now know about the rise of the U/R Wizards deck in Modern,
though, which runs four copies of this crazy Bird Wizard. That deck isn’t
exactly lighting the world on fire, but you aren’t exactly paying a fortune
for this card right now, either. $3 for a card that has somewhat proven
itself in Modern is a fine deal, and I’m going to BUY a
set of Nimble Obstructionists at some point this month just in case.
Scavenger Grounds – $3
Scavenger Grounds is my second favorite spec target in Hour of Devastation. It’s reasonably popular in Commander, but the
fact that it gives colorless and mono-color decks a cheap piece of
graveyard removal in Eternal formats is where Scavenger Grounds really
shines. Cards like this rarely end up being massive money-makers, but it’s
just so safe. This card will eventually jump from $3 to $8, and I’d rather
have a stack of Scavenger Grounds than not. BUY.
My Favorite $2 and Under Buys:
This Week’s Trends
The Standard market hasn’t started to sizzle yet, but that will change over
the next week or two. This is your last chance to grab whatever you need
before the rush, and cards like Search for Azcanta (up about $2) and
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria (up about $1.50) are already starting to tick up
a bit. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that these two cards are going
to see post-rotation play regardless, and I’m certainly not going to argue
We’ve had some Guilds of Ravnica movement as well. Legion Warboss
(whom I love) jumped a buck this week, while Underrealm Lich (which I’m
still iffy about) climbed from $5 to $8. It’s worth noting that Underrealm
Lich certainly has seemed to inspire some folks, and it might end up being
great, but it’s still far too risky a buy for me, even at $5-cards like
this simply don’t turn into Standard staples all that often, and
multicolored Commander cards from large fall sets take years and years to
show any meaningful gains. I like Gerry and Bryan’s take on the card
from this week’s episode of The GAM Podcast
, and they’re not particularly high on it either.
What’s going on in Modern? Almost nothing. We’re in the calm before the Guilds of Ravnica storm, so the market has been especially quiet.
Horizon Canopy and Jace, the Mind Sculptor both surged in price on MTGO
this week, though, which might ripple into paper at some point soon. If
you’ve been holding off on buying either card, now seems like a good time
to pull that trigger.
We had confirmation this week that the Planeswalker Masterpieces will be
foil, and from the
short video on Twitter
, they appear to have the old From the Vault foiling. Ugh! It’s
certainly possible that this is a new foiling process, or something more
akin to the other Masterpieces, but it has certainly made me (and a lot of
others) less excited about buying the product. I still expect it to sell
out fast on the WotC website, and it’s likely going to be a solid long-term
buy-and-hold at MSRP, but a bad foiling process would limit its upside and
makes me less eager to shell out $250 for something that’ll probably sit in
my closet for a couple of years collecting dust. Buy it if you want it, but
I wouldn’t sit around refreshing the Hasbro Toy Shop just for the quick