Before we get into the guts of today’s article, we need to have ourselves a
quick history lesson.
Let’s talk about Relentless Dead.
The powerful Shadows Over Innistrad mythic was $20-$25 upon
release, making it the second most expensive card in the set after
Archangel Avacyn during Shadows‘ preview season back in the spring
of 2016. Aggressive black decks had been missing a quality two-drop for
quite some time and it looked like they finally had their answer in
But as the new Standard metagame developed, Relentless Dead quickly became
an afterthought. Three months after it was released, the card had dropped
to just $6 and was widely written off as a major bust.
Then preview season began for Eldritch Moon, and suddenly there
were a whole new host of potential decks that looked like they could make
good use out of the recursive two-drop. Relentless Dead began to spike
again, and by the time Eldritch Moon hit shelves, the card was
back up to $15. Relentless Dead’s true believers rejoiced…
…only to find out that their hallelujahs were premature. Relentless Dead
still couldn’t find a top tier home and the mythic spent the next few
months dropping in price again. This time, Relentless Dead bottomed out at
$5 and stayed there for almost the entire winter of 2017.
But the powerful Zombie had the last laugh. Relentless Dead spiked again during preview season for Amonkhet, one full year
after its original release, jumping from $5 back to $12 before the new
graveyard-focused set had even hit shelves. This time, its fans were
rewarded. Relentless Dead found a home at the top of the Standard metagame,
and the card ended up back at $25 again in May of 2017.
fall and rise and fall and rise of Relentless Dead? Both price spikes
happened during preview seasons for other sets.
Cards like Relentless Dead are a big part of the reason why it’s so
important to pay attention to the ebbs and flows of Magic finance. I can
easily imagine one hapless player pre-ordering a set of Relentless Dead for
$100, trading them in for $16 in store credit a few months later when they
didn’t pan out, and then spending another $100 on a second set a year later
when they needed them for a deck. Meanwhile, a savvier player might well
have bought a set for $24 during Relentless Dead’s initial drop, sold into
the second spike at $60, bought in again at $20, and cashed out for a
second time at $100.
One of the most important takeaways from the fall and rise and fall and
rise of Relentless Dead? Both price spikes happened during preview seasons
for other sets. If you had waited around to see if Eldritch Moon
or Amonkhet had actually created a viable tier one home for the
card, you’d have been left out in the cold. Timing is everything, and if
you really want to maximize your profits on cards like this, you’re going
to have to gamble a bit.
The good news is that all these gambles are pretty low-risk. Let’s use
another card from Shadows Over Innistrad as a counter-example.
Olivia, Mobilized for War was nearly as hyped up as Relentless Dead,
pre-ordering for $20 before also dropping down to $6 in the weeks before Eldritch Moon previews began. But while Relentless Dead surged
back up to $15, Olivia remained stagnant. Two months later, its retail
price was still stuck at $6.
There’s always a cost involved in buying into cards like this, of course –
if you pay full retail on a $6 mythic, you probably won’t be able to sell
it for $6 yourself unless the price goes up. But when you’ve isolated a
bunch of cards where the realistic worst-case scenario is stagnation and
the best-case scenario is a nice profit, there’s almost certainly some good
money to be made.
And that’s our goal for today. With Ravnica Allegiance previews
set to begin at the tail end of the holidays, it’s time to take a look at
the Standard cards that are most likely to see hype-related price spikes
during preview season as players begin to think about the decks they want
to build next season.
Can we find the next Relentless Dead? Let’s find out!
What We Already Know About Ravnica Allegiance
This is our third visit to Ravnica. And while things haven’t gotten stale,
per se, they have become fairly predictable.
For example, we already know the five guilds that will be highlighted in Ravnica Allegiance: Azorius, Orzhov, Simic, Gruul, and Rakdos. And
since none of the five guilds that were highlighted in Guilds of Ravnica ended up doing anything significantly off-flavor
from what they were up to in the past, I doubt that we’ll see much
deviation in Ravnica Allegiance, either. This means that we more
or less know that the set will contain:
A suite of cards designed for blue/white control
- A suite of cards designed for red/black aggro
- A suite of cards designed for red/green stompy
- A suite of cards designed for black/white midrange and/or control
A suite of cards designed for green/blue midrange (probably with
Equally important, we know that the set will probably not contain
a bunch of stuff for the five guilds from Guilds of Ravnica as
this would be a pretty major break from design conventions. So while we
might get, say, a red card that could slot right into Izzet Drakes, we’re
almost certainly not getting a single card in the entire set that requires
both blue and red mana to cast.
What does this mean for the existing Standard metagame? It’s too early to
say for sure, of course, but it’s worth noting that four of the top five
decks right now – Golgari Midrange, Boros Aggro, Selesnya Tokens, and Izzet
Drakes – are two-color decks based on color pairs from Guilds of Ravnica.
Each of these brews will have fresh sources for single-color cards, but
that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to find new top tier playables. For
example, Boros Aggro might not end up with any new white cards from Ravnica Allegiance, since Azorius and Orzhov are both on the
slower side. This could push the red-based aggro decks into black as a
secondary color instead of white depending on how pushed the Rakdos cards
end up being.
Or consider Selesnya Tokens, a streamlined deck that doesn’t really have
room for too many new cards that aren’t playing along with their linear
plan of attack. While it’s possible that Simic might give them a new solid
green two-drop or something, it’s hard to imagine that Selesnya ends up
with a ton of reinforcements out of Ravnica Allegiance.
On the flip side, it’s quite easy to imagine a world in which Azorius
pushes Jeskai Control over the top. It’s the only top Standard deck with a
color pair that’s getting full guild support in the next set, and Azorius
has historically been one of the strongest guilds for competitive play. The
only way that I can imagine this deck not being one of the two or three
most-hyped brews going into the next Standard season is if people decide to
eschew red for Esper or pure Azorius Control.
We’ve only just scratched the surface of this discussion, but let’s move on
to the cards that I want to highlight today. I think this discussion will
be more fruitful once we’ve got some specifics to talk about.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria – $55
Boy oh boy, I sure was hoping that Teferi would drop in price by, like, any
amount so that I could look like a genius for telling you to buy these
before the start of Ravnica Allegiance previews. Unfortunately,
Teferi is still just as expensive now as it was back in early October. Oh
At any rate, Teferi is probably going to climb in price again
(yes, really) once the first absurd Azorius card is previewed. Everyone
will freak out about how they’ve got no way of stopping a deck with four
copies of Teferi and four copies of :insert Azorius chase card
here:. Hopefully, R&D did a good enough job balancing the set that the
deck will end up being merely very good instead of format-warping. But if
any Standard card has a chance of hitting Jace numbers ($70-$100) this
year, it’s Teferi in early January.
Nexus of Fate – $13
Don’t look now, but
Gerard Fabiano took third place at the StarCityGames.Com Season Two
Invitational last weekend with Jeskai Nexus
, a modified version of Jeskai Control that runs four copies of Magic
Finance favorite Nexus of Fate.
Nexus of Fate is never going to hit $100 like I thought it might back
, it has a lot of the qualities that I look for in a Standard sleeper. A
history of being absurdly expensive? Check. A history of doing well in
tournaments? Double check. Synergy with potential upcoming cards (Azorius,
in this case)? Check and check again. I also doubt that Nexus of Fate is
dropping below $13 for any reason-casual demand alone can sustain that
price point. Nexus is one of the highest-upside lowest-downside buys on
Chromium, the Mutable – $1.12
Chromium is the very definition of a long shot. The card has never seen
much competitive play, and it’ll likely only be a one-of or two-of if it
does break out. There’s a very real chance that this card goes wire-to-wire
during its time in Standard without doing much of anything.
On the other hand, Chromium, the Mutable is on sale for one dollar and
twelve cents right now. This is a card that pre-ordered for $15, and it’s
very possible that Azorius will finally allow Esper Control to be a thing.
Worst case, this is one of those iconic mythic Dragons that’ll end up being
a $3-$5 casual card somewhere down the line. I’d grab a few sets now, flip
them fast if they break out, and just throw ’em in the closet for a couple
of years if not.
Speaking of three-color legendary creatures, Muldrotha has seen some
Constructed play before, and it’s certainly powerful enough to become a key
player in a top tier Standard deck. The gamble here is that the addition of
Simic will allow Golgari Midrange to morph slightly into Sultai Midrange,
giving players access to powerful cards like Muldrotha. If that happens,
this $5 mythic could end up at or above $20.
Muldrotha is one of the most exciting cards on this list, and one of the
safest, too – Commander demand is super high for this card (
#1 for Dominaria on EDHREC
), and even if your Standard gamble doesn’t pay off, I strongly suspect
you’ll be able to cash these out for $10+ at some point in the future.
Grand Warlord Radha – $0.50
I feel like there will be better Gruul-colored four-drops once Ravnica Allegiance is fully previewed, but it’s worth remembering
that people were high enough on Radha back in April that this card actually
pre-ordered for, like, $8. The buy-in now is fifty cents, and you can pick
these up out of bulk rare bins all over the world. Cards that generate
extra mana have certainly been broken in the past, and all it’ll take is
one sweet Radha-based Gruul brew (paging Saffron Olive!) for this penny
stock to pay off big.
Isolated Chapel & Hinterland Harbor – $5
These two picks are pretty self-explanatory. There are five rare dual lands
in Dominaria, only three of which conform to guilds that were
released in Guilds of Ravnica. It isn’t coincidental that these
are the three most expensive lands in the cycle right now: Clifftop Retreat
and Woodland Cemetery sell for $6 each, while Sulfur Falls leads the pack
Obviously, it’s the upside of that $14 figure that excites me the most.
Granted, Izzet-colored lands have tended to be worth more than either
Orzhov or Simic-colored lands historically, but either Hinterland Harbor or
Isolated Chapel could end up breaking $10 if multiple tier 1 decks end up
relying on either of those two-color pairs after the release of Ravnica Allegiance.
Plus, your risk in buying in is incredibly low. Both lands have been
trending upward over the past few weeks regardless, and even casual Simic
and Orzhov players are going to cause an increase in demand and make both
of these lands far easier to trade.
Glacial Fortress ($7), Dragonskull Summit ($5), & Rootbound Crag
The same principle applies here, though I’m not sure how much of a discount
you’re currently getting. Glacial Fortress already sees a ton of play, for
example. Even still, I can’t see how buying any of these cards now is a bad
thing considering demand for all three is almost certainly going to rise,
even with the impending arrival of Hallowed Fountain, Blood Crypt, and
Rekindling Phoenix – $30
Rekindling Phoenix is one of the riskier picks on this list, but I couldn’t
help writing about one of the cards in Standard with the highest overall
power level. While Rekindling Phoenix doesn’t see a ton of play right now,
it’s the kind of card that seems like the perfect centerpiece for a Gruul
Aggro deck – you know, kind of like the Stormbreath Dragon deck that
dominated Standard for about a year back in the Theros days.
My big issue with Rekindling Phoenix is that it’s currently a tad
overpriced based on the amount of play it sees. That’s why it has been
dropping in price over the past couple of weeks, a trend that I expect to
continue up until Ravnica Allegiance previews begin. While I
wouldn’t be shocked if that trend reverses itself in a pretty major way
once we get some spicy Gruul brews going, there’s also a shot that this one
just keeps dropping.
Legion Warboss – $2.50
Legion Warboss ended up being a disappointment, and I count myself among
those who were fooled into thinking that this little guy was Goblin
Rabblemaster 2.0. So why am I back for another round? Well, there’s a
chance that Legion Warboss will end up playing better as an early drop in
Gruul or a mid-curve drop in Rakdos than it ever did in Boros. I can’t say
more without seeing the make-up of the actual set first, of course, but the
buy-in is low enough right now that I might take the gamble regardless.
Experimental Frenzy – $3
Unlike Legion Warboss, Experimental Frenzy has actually proven itself to be
a key card in multiple good Standard decks. Heck, I’ve even seen some
Legacy Lands players using the card.
Based on the MTG Goldfish price chart
, it’s pretty clear that $3 is the bottom of the market right now, and
there’s some nice upside if it ends up finding a new home in Rakdos Aggro
or a green-based creature-heavy Gruul deck that dips into red for cards
like this. Either way, your risk is pretty low here.
Nullhide Ferox – $3.50
Could Nullhide Ferox be the Relentless Dead of Guilds of Ravnica?
It’s possible. This card also pre-ordered close to $20 but never found a
home. Could it have simply been waiting for Gruul? Historically, Gruul has
been the best color combination for just sort of throwing creatures at your
opponent until they die, which is a thing that Nullhide Ferox is very good
at. Also, Gruul’s keyword ability last time around (bloodrush) is
incredibly synergistic with this card. While bloodrush may or may not come
back, there’s a very good shot that Gruul will get some sort of “use your
creature as a spell” ability that will help mitigate some of this card’s
Pelt Collector – $2
Is Pelt Collector really down to just $2!? That’s nuts. This card spiked to
$15 during Guilds of Ravnica preview season, and the power level
wasn’t really the problem – it was that there just wasn’t a great
green-based aggro deck that could take advantage of this powerful one-drop.
That’s going to change. Pelt Collector is the exact sort of card I want to
test as a four-of in both Gruul and Simic, where it does a pretty
good Experiment One impersonation. This is one of the cards I feel the best
about on this list, and I strongly suggest you snag a playset while they’re
Thorn Lieutenant – $3.50
This is another gamble on the future of green-based aggro. Thorn Lieutenant
has historically proven itself to be a good card when you want to play lots
of forests and attack really quickly without sacrificing your lategame.
Again, both Gruul and Simic might end up fitting into this category. I feel
like Pelt Collector is both better and more likely to pay off, but that
doesn’t mean that Thorn Lieutenant is a bad buy by any stretch.
Dawn of Hope – $0.79
I have very little idea what the Orzhov will look like this time around,
but gaining life has been fairly trivial for them in the past, and this
sort of grindy, card-and-token generation machine feels pretty on-brand for
the Syndicate. I don’t think there’s a ton of upside here, but these are
worth snagging from the bulk rare box just in case they end up hitting
$4-$5 at some point.
Angrath, the Flame-Chained – $8.99
Believe it or not, Angrath has been on the rise for the past couple of
months. It bottomed out around $5 back in May, and it’s up to $9 now
despite seeing almost no Standard play.
So what happens if the Rakdos decks want to use Angrath as a curve-topper?
Cards with a similar power level see play all the time, so that wouldn’t be
too much of a shock. I’m thinking $25 wouldn’t be a reach, like what
happened to Vraska, Relic-Seeker when Guilds of Ravnica was
released. And worst-case, we know there’s some casual upside here.
Elenda, the Dusk Rose – $8.99
Again, I think Orzhov is the hardest of the five upcoming guilds to really
get a bead on. That said, Elenda is a powerful four-drop mythic in Orzhov
colors, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up having some interesting
synergies with the Orzhov cards to come. Plus, as with Angrath, casual
demand has kept Elenda’s price floor fairly high over the past couple of
months. I can’t imagine that demand is going to go down with a whole suite
of new Orzhov-colored toys to play with.
Karn, Scion of Urza – $24.99
Let’s end this list with a card that appears to have finally bottomed out.
After peaking at $70 back in mid-May, Karn has been slowly dropping in
price all summer and fall before finally hitting what appears to be rock
bottom here in the middle of winter. Seriously,
if you look at Karn’s price chart
, you can see its value finally start to level off and stabilize.
The case for Karn going forward is two-fold. First, the powerful
planeswalker has more than proven that it has what it takes to be one of
the two or three lynchpins of a Standard format. Heck, no other card in
Standard can claim to have hit the $70 mark. Second, the addition of five
more guilds’ worth of multicolored cards (and five more shocklands) could
lead to a proliferation of three and four-color decks. You know what’s good
in mana-hungry multi-colored decks? Colorless cards that don’t care whether
you’ve drawn your third color by turn 3 or 4. This might not be enough to
get me interested in Karn at $50, but at just $25, and with a price chart
telling me that this thing isn’t dropping lower any time soon? I’m in for a
This Week’s Trends
We’re fully into the holiday doldrums now, but
as I predicted a few weeks ago
, Standard prices haven’t dropped nearly as much as they usually do
during this part of the year. Not only is this one of the best
Standard formats ever, but the increased attention on Arena seems
to be keeping the Standard market operating at a slightly more
robust pace than usual. Normally, mid-December is a time where even
the best Standard cards are taking a hit. But this year, format
staples like Arclight Phoenix, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and
Vivien Reid are actually making small week-to-week gains. This is
quite unusual, and it’s nice to see!
That isn’t to say that the entire Standard index is on the rise. Cards that
aren’t currently seeing a ton of play – think Doom Whisperer, Lyra
Dawnbringer, and Rekindling Phoenix – are continuing to drop as we head
toward the new year. Some of these cards will rebound during Ravnica Allegiance preview season (hey, we spent an entire article
talking about this!), but others will continue to fade as they remain out
of favor in the metagame. As always, be smart with your money.
Over in Modern, it looks like some of the best cards in Ultimate Masters are already rebounding. Whoa, that was
fast! Cavern of Souls, Noble Hierarch, and Snapcaster Mage are on
the upswing once again, and I still think that buying boxes is the
way to go here. The Ultimate Masters box toppers have also
held their value quite well, and if we’ve truly hit the bottom of
the market here, we’ve done so with the boxes still being +EV.
That wasn’t all for Modern this week, though. The Zendikar
fetchlands are also on the rise, as are Thing in the Ice (still!) and
Surgical Extraction. If you were expecting last week’s Esports announcement
to cause a panic in the Modern market, think again.
Speaking of the Esports announcement, the MTGO market has
stabilized and begun to rebound after last weekend’s panic. While I
still wouldn’t throw a ton of money at a client that may be
obsolete in a couple of years, I stand by what I said last week:
MTGO is good to go for at least another year and the market this
spring will be higher than the market is right now. Buying in today
is completely reasonable as long as you keep paying attention to
the greater trends in the marketplace.