The Cards You Need To Buy And Sell After Week 1 Of War Of The Spark Standard

The results from SCG Richmond are in, and Chas Andres has plenty to say about Standard cards! What should you cash out, where should you buy in, and what else is going in This Week’s Trends?

The biggest problem with spring and summer sets is that they don’t reach their maximum impact until October.

Right now, there are seven sets in Standard: Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, Core Set 2019, Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, and War of the Spark. And with Wizards of the Coast going away from the block model and embracing large, standalone sets, this summer’s Standard format has a larger card pool than nearly any that has come before it. War of the Spark may be powerful, but some of its best cards aren’t even going to get a chance to show their stuff until after the next set rotation.

A few weeks ago, I wondered if War of the Spark‘s seemingly pushed power level was due to WotC wanting these spring and summer sets to make a more immediate impact on the format. I still think that might be part of the plan, but the Standard metagame that was revealed at SCG Richmond over the weekend was not quite the planeswalker-palooza that I’d hoped it would be. Granted, the Week 4-5 metagame often looks quite different from the Week 1 metagame, but with earlier releases on Arena and Magic Online, these early results tend to be more predictive than they used to be. I used to call Week 1 of a new format “overreaction week.” These days, reacting to events like the SCG Richmond results is just smart business.

So, what does the metagame look like right now and what cards do you need to start buying? Let’s take a look.

Decks on the Rise

Simic Nexus

Nexus of Fate has been a frustrating card to play against for almost a year now, and the instant-speed Time Warp is once again at the very top of the Standard format. Financially, this could mean big things for the Core Set 2019 Buy-a-Box promo. The card hasn’t dropped below $20 at any point this year, and it was up above $30 last summer the last time Nexus of Fate was at the very top of the format. If that trend holds, Nexus of Fate will be a $30+ card again soon.

Why is Simic Nexus so good? You can thank a pair of War of the Spark rares: Blast Zone and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales. Right now, they haven’t seen much movement due to this deck’s Week 1 dominance. Blast Zone is sitting at $9, while Tamiyo is at $5. This will change. As some of War of the Spark‘s pretenders begin to fall, expect these two cards to rise. Blast Zone is especially enticing, since it has the potential to be a multi-deck staple in Standard as well as a powerful role-player in Modern. It’s one of those cards that might end up being $10+ approximately forever, and I’m totally down with trading for these at current retail.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that God-Eternal Kefnet has been showing up in the sideboard of many Simic Nexus lists. It’s a very powerful card against decks that can’t deal with it, forcing your opponents to act or die. The current retail price on this card ($20) still seems too high for a mythic that’s essentially just a sideboard two-of in one top deck, so I’m guessing people are still paying a premium for the God-Eternal in hopes that it’ll end up as a three-of or four-of in some other top control brew. That may or may not happen, and I’m a little more bearish than most on this card right now. It’s not going to drop off to sub-$10 any time soon, but $20 seems ambitious to me.

Mono-Red Aggro

Mono-Red Aggro was the big winner in Richmond over the weekend. Even though Simic Nexus was the best-represented deck on Day 2, there wasn’t a single copy of Nexus of Fate in the Top 8. Instead, we saw oodles of Goblin Chainwhirlers and Runaway Steam-Kins. Hmm, sound familiar?

This particular iteration of Mono-Red Aggro has been fairly successful for a while, so I’m not that surprised that it has surged back to the top of the metagame. Not only do decks like this tend to do well in a Week 1 climate, where control players haven’t really tuned their answers, but cards that attack early and often are a great way to deal with a whole pack of planeswalkers on the opposite side of the battlefield.

I wouldn’t expect major gains from Mono-Red Aggro staples like Goblin Chainwhirler ($2), Runaway Steam-Kin ($1.25), Risk Factor ($6), and Experimental Frenzy ($2). They might creep up a couple of bucks, but they’ve been known quantities (and cheap quantities) for so long that most players who would consider playing a deck like Mono-Red Aggro already have them. Older Mono-Red Aggro staples only really start to surge when the deck ends up in a tier by itself at the very top of the metagame, and I don’t feel like that’s where we’re going despite the deck’s strong finish in Richmond.

In terms of War of the Spark, this deck has two big additions. The first is Tibalt, Rakish Instigator, which looked like a clutch sideboard option all weekend long. These aren’t going to surge in value or anything, but don’t throw these into your bulk. The card is real, and it’ll trade well going forward.

Second, and more importantly, we have Chandra, Fire Artisan. While Chandra wasn’t deployed in most of the Mono-Red Aggro decks we saw in Richmond, there were four maindeck copies in the deck that Will Pulliam piloted to victory in the Top 8. And they weren’t dead weight in that list, either; Chandra looked great on the battlefield and was a big part of Will’s weekend strategy.

Financially, Chandra, Fire Artisan isn’t on most people’s radar yet. Since most of the Mono-Red Aggro decks in Richmond didn’t use the planeswalker, it didn’t have that big Day 1 on camera that tends to lead to price spikes. In fact, if you didn’t watch the Top 8, you might not have noticed the card’s impact at all. That means you can still snag these for $4 retail, which is a bargain. All Standard Mono-Red Aggro players are going to need a set of these, and a spike into the $8-$10 range certainly seems possible. Grab yours now.

Esper Control

There was a decent amount of Grixis hype leading up to the weekend, but only one Grixis Control deck made Day 2 in Richmond. Instead, Esper remained the shard to beat for both midrange and control.

Surprise, surprise, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is the still main reason why Esper is so dominant. These Esper Control brews still run four copies of Standard’s best planeswalker, and I wouldn’t expect to get a discount on Teferi anytime soon. It will start to lose value this summer as Dominaria approaches set rotation and people sell their extra copies, but that probably won’t start to occur until July or so. For now, Teferi remains in a category by itself, and it’s a safe hold.

Speaking of Teferi, these Esper decks also take advantage of Teferi, Time Raveler. When the card was previewed, I was a little worried that the format wouldn’t have room for two excellent Teferis. I was dead wrong. Teferi, Time Raveler actually showed up more often than Teferi, Hero of Dominaria over the weekend, and it’s probably the most impactful Standard card in War of the Spark so far. More on Teferi a bit later, but needless to say it’s a solid buy at current retail.

As for the rest of this deck, cards like Kaya’s Wrath, Absorb, and Search for Azcanta are solid holds as well. Thief of Sanity is also looking like an incredibly powerful option out of the sideboard right now. None of these cards are new or surprising, of course, but it’s worth reminding ourselves about which established cards are likely to retain strong demand over the next couple of weeks.

Esper Midrange

It seems tempting to lump Esper Midrange in with Esper Control, but these decklists don’t actually have a lot in common. The midrange decks are far more creature-centric, running threats like Hero of Precinct One over answers like Kaya’s Wrath.

Teferi, Time Raveler looks even better in Esper Midrange than it does in Esper Control. It’s hard for a non-mythic rare to hang around in the $20 range, especially in a set as good as War of the Spark, but Teferi, Time Raveler has what it takes.

Thief of Sanity shows up in this deck as well, this time in the maindeck. The card is currently sold out at $6, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it spends some time above $10. Not only is it a key card in both Esper decks, but any sort of Grixis or Dimir deck is probably going to be jamming a set of these as well. The card is really well set up in the metagame right now, and I think it’ll have an excellent couple of months coming up.

I’d also like to highlight Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord as another new addition to Esper Midrange. The card is already $5, so there isn’t a ton of room to grow here unless it ends up seeing play in another top deck (why have you forsaken me again, Mardu Aristocrats?), but it’s worth keeping an eye on as the metagame develops.

Bant Midrange

Only three Bant Midrange decks made it to Day 2 in Richmond, but two of them made it into the Top 8 and the deck has really impressed me so far. This is also the “freshest” of the five archetypes that are on the rise right now, which means that it might attract the highest number of new customers – and price spikes.

First off, I was getting a little worried about Hydroid Krasis, considering the fact that Sultai Midrange has fallen off in popularity so much recently and was close to a no-show in Richmond. The powerful Krasis is a four-of in this deck, though, which means that it can easily maintain its current $20 price tag. In fact, Hydroid Krasis might start to rise again as we get further away from Ravnica Allegiance being the current Draft set. I don’t see how this card escapes seeing play in at least one top-tier deck at any point over the next year or so, and it’s a solid trade target at current retail.

Second, here’s Teferi, Time Raveler again! Teferi is a key card in three of these decks, and it’s a great way to beat the fourth. If Teferi were a mythic, we’d be looking at a $40+ price tag. At rare, $20+ seems likely over the short-term. I wouldn’t be shocked if this is the most expensive card in War of the Spark by the start of next weekend.

Bant Midrange also looks like a good home for God-Eternal Oketra. While I don’t see a ton of room to run at $10, that price tag should hold as long as Bant Midrange remains popular. At this point, Oketra seems like a better bet that God-Eternal Rhonas ($8) or God-Eternal Bontu ($8), neither of whom showed up to play this weekend.

This deck also runs a full four copies of Viven, Champion of the Wilds, which is still just $4. Since it’s a planeswalker in a good deck, I wouldn’t be shocked if Vivien ends up closer to $7-$8 at some point. That would require Bant Midrange actually being one of the format’s best decks – remember, there were only three copies on Day 2 – but if you’re a believer in this strategy, Vivien is a decent bet.

Lastly, it’s worth highlighting some older cards that might see a bump in price due to Bant Midrange hype. Growth-Chamber Guardian ($3), Incubation Druid ($3.50), Deputy of Detention ($3.50), Knight of Autumn ($4), and Shalai, Voice of Plenty ($4) are all key cards in this archetype as well. It may also be time for Lyra Dawnbringer ($12) to fly her way back into relevance, as she was a sideboard presence in multiple decks all weekend long. While none of these cards seem poised for a huge surge in value, they all have the potential to double if Bant Midrange takes off. At the very least, they’re solid buys at current retail for anyone who wants to build this deck and solid trade targets if you’re looking to get out of Standard staples that aren’t doing so well right now.

Speaking of those…

Decks on the Decline

Sultai Midrange

Sultai Midrange was still the second-most-played deck in Standard (according to the MTG Goldfish figures) heading into the weekend, but it was firmly a second- or even third-tier choice in Richmond based on the Day 2 Metagame results. This is pretty significant, considering the fact that Hydroid Krasis ($20) and Vivien Reid ($20) are still two of the most expensive cards in the format. The good news here is that both cards see play in Bant Midrange, which did quite well. If that deck falls off too, though, it might be worth bailing on some of these cards.

Mono-Blue Aggro

Mono-Blue Aggro is so close to being a great way to attack the current format, but it’s basically DOA as long as Blast Zone continues to see a ton of play. Most of these cards are, like, $2-$3 at the highest, but you can expect cards like Tempest Djinn and Siren Stormtamer to fall back down toward the bulk range again.

Temur Reclamation

There were no Temur Reclamation decks on Day 2 in Richmond. My hope was that Ral, Storm Conduit and Explosion would re-ignite this archetype, but that simply hasn’t happened yet. As with Sultai Midrange I’d expect this deck to eventually find a way to attack the current metagame, but its staples are going to be falling in price until/unless that happens.

Izzet Drakes

There weren’t really any Drakes in Richmond. Not the brew with Arclight Phoenix, and not the brew without it either. Many key Izzet cards like Niv-Mizzet, Parun and Banefire have already dropped off quite a bit, but the rest of them should follow. Arclight Phoenix is still fairly safe, thanks to all the play it sees in Modern, but I’m fading Izzet in the current Standard metagame.

Key War of the Spark Cards That I’m Selling

  • Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God ($30): I still feel like there’s room in this metagame for some sort of Grixis midrange or control deck, but I haven’t seen it yet. Sell now and buy back in later if things change.
  • Liliana, Dreadhorde General ($30): I still love Liliana’s potential, and it has shown up here and there as a one-of or two-of, but it isn’t currently seeing enough play to justify its price tag. I still feel like this might be one of the most impactful Constructed cards in the set, but sometimes you just have to look at the scoreboard and shrug.
  • Ilharg, the Raze-Boar ($16): Ilharg has shown up in Modern from time to time, but its $16 price tag hasn’t been justified yet.
  • Finale of Devastation ($13): Ditto to Ilharg. There’s some Modern potential here still, but nothing worth justifying a price tag above $10.

Recapping the War of the Spark Mythic Edition Fiasco

I don’t want to say that War of the Spark Mythic Edition was WotC’s Fyre Festival because I really do think that they had good intentions, but boy oh boy was it a logistical nightmare.

At first, it seemed like everything was fine. War of the Spark Mythic Edition went on sale on Hasbro’s eBay store at 3:00pm EDT, and it sold out by 3:05. This was expected for a set that was limited to just 12,000 copies, but buying in seemed totally do-able for anyone who (like me) made a point to hang out on eBay and refresh their browser leading up to the release of the set.

And then—chaos. The vast majority of those 12,000 orders were immediately cancelled due to “failure of payment.” While I still don’t know exactly what led to some orders getting processed while others were cancelled, it appears as though it had something to do with eBay forgetting to collect state sales tax on most of these initial orders, coupled with (perhaps) an issue with PayPal. Just like that, my order (along with the orders from about 90% of my Twitter friends) were deemed null and void.

But there was still hope! At about 3:21pm, the sold-out listing began accepting payments again. This time, my order went through, eBay took my money, I got a confirmation email, and I rejoiced in the belief that my Mythic Edition was finally on the way.

At the time, my assumption was that eBay had re-listed the 10,000 or so box sets from the cancelled orders, and anyone who got to the second wave early enough would get their Mythic Editions. But the sales counter just kept rising. It blew past 12,000, past 20,000, past 30,000, past 40,000. People on social media began freaking out. Did WotC lie about that print run of just 12,000 Mythic Editions? Would there be infinite Jaces and Ugins to go around? Might it have been a bad idea to drop $500 on a pair of these sets, only to have the market completely flooded?

To make matters even more confusing, eBay finally ended the initial listing…and then re-listed the Mythic Edition in order to sell another 6,000 copies. By this point, we were all well and truly baffled. At the time, my hypothesis was that eBay had been cancelling large orders that were well over the two-per-household limit, striking down orders from bots, and had a large number of non-payment cancellations. I didn’t know how all of these things had gotten us from 12,000 to 45,000, but I still figured that the vast majority of us would get the Mythic Editions that we paid for.

Things started to get a little weird at this point. A popular Magic finance YouTuber with a history of making unfounded claims put out a video claiming that he had (bogus) inside information from WotC about the set being “print to order,” causing many of his fans to panic-sell their Mythic Edition on eBay for far less than it would end up being worth. To make matters worse, a lot of these folks ended up with their orders being cancelled later on, causing them to either lose a lot of money on fulfillment or risk their eBay account being suspended. Pro tip: with limited edition products like Mythic Edition where there were already logistical issues and with cards ordered right before a major price spike, selling your copies before you’ve received a shipping confirmation is incredibly risky. I don’t recommend it unless you’re prepared to buy copies at a loss in order to fulfill shipments if your initial source falls through.

Because we were all wrong about what went down with Mythic Edition. As it turns out, they just messed everything up and oversold the product by a factor of five. Payment cancellations started flowing in the next day, along with cryptic tweets from WotC about whose orders would be cancelled and whose would not be. I refreshed my PayPal balance several dozen times on Thursday evening, hoping against hope that my order would be honored, but it was ultimately cancelled. As it turns out, the vast majority of those 45,000 orders were legitimate collectors and players who assumed they were getting their Mythic Editions in the mail. Almost 80% of us ended up disappointed. I follow a lot of the most dedicated Magic players and collectors on my Twitter feed, and the general mood of the community on Thursday night was “livid.”

The big problem here wasn’t that Mythic Edition sold out fast – if I’d simply missed out on it on Wednesday afternoon, I’d have been bummed for an hour or two and then moved on with my day. The problem was that many of us felt like it was ripped out of our hands twice on consecutive days. I placed two “successful” orders for Mythic Edition – one right when it went on sale, and once right when the listing was live again for the second time – and my order was cancelled both times. Missing out on a cool product because you got beat out is one thing, but feeling like it was taken away from you is another.

The way that WotC and eBay botched the refund/cancellation process was incredibly frustrating as well. I won’t even get my money back until late next week (enjoy the loan, WotC!), and some international buyers still haven’t received notice about the refund on their import/shipping costs. WotC also announced that they would be honoring the Mythic Edition purchases of the first 12,000 confirmed buyers, but I’ve talked to enough people at this point to feel confident that nothing of the sort actually happened. As near as I can tell, the ~2,000 folks who actually got their orders confirmed in the first wave all got their boxes, and it was a lottery for all the sales that came after that. People who ordered their Mythic Editions twenty minutes after I did got their orders confirmed, but mine was cancelled. There was literally nothing else I could have done.

The “good” news is that there will be some compensation for those of us who are currently loaning our money to WotC. (If your order was cancelled in the first batch of 12,000 where the payment didn’t go through, I don’t think you’ll be getting anything.) First, we’re going to get a $20 eBay coupon. Second, we’re going to be getting something special in the mail from WotC. We likely won’t know what that is until it shows up, but I wouldn’t expect anything too great. I doubt WotC has 30,000 Ultimate Box Toppers kicking around, and I don’t think they’re going back to press for this. But who knows? WotC knows they’ve ticked off thousands of their most dedicated customers. Maybe they’ll give us something good.

So, what lessons can we learn from this disaster? Well, on WotC’s end, this might be the end of Mythic Editions as we know them. At the very least, I doubt they’ll be sold in this particular method again. Assuming they don’t want to print these sets to order (many buyers would be scared away by an open-ended print run that doesn’t guarantee future value), the fairest way to handle these sorts of releases in the future is to do some sort of lottery. They could also distribute these sets via local game stores like they did with the From the Vault series, though there were issues with that method as well. After all, how many of us had stores that actually sold their From the Vaults for $35 MSRP?

I’ve heard some calls to bring back the Masterpiece Series as a replacement for Mythic Edition, but there are issues with that as well. That series cut way into the price of Standard, lowering prices by 30-40% across the board. This seems good in a vacuum, but a lot of local store owners (who make a lot of their profit on singles) didn’t like the way the economy worked during the Masterpiece era. To that end, neither did a lot of players due to the increase in price variance. It sure was frustrating to open a Masterpiece-free box that was worth like $25 total while some chump next to you bought a single pack and pulled a $300 Masterpiece.

No matter what happens in the future, though, War of the Spark Mythic Edition is going to remain incredibly expensive going forward. Currently, a confirmed Mythic Edition pre-order is selling for about $900 on eBay. (How good does that $20 coupon sound now?) If your order was confirmed, I’d consider selling into the current hype. A lot of collectors are incredibly upset that their orders were cancelled at the moment, and many of them are buying copies on the secondary market no matter the cost.

Looking to buy yourself a copy of Mythic Edition? As usual with these sets, the price is going to bottom out about four to five days after everybody’s shipments arrive from WotC. A lot of people bought these to flip, and a couple thousand will be hitting the marketplace all within the same week-long window. If you’re going to buy, that’s the time. On the flip side, that’s the exact worse time to sell if you do have a copy coming your way. Either sell it now as a pre-order or wait a couple of months for the price to go back up.

This Week’s Trends

We’ve talked a lot about Standard in this article already, so let’s start of this section by taking a look at the ways that War of the Spark is making its impact felt in Modern.

So far, it looks like the War of the Spark card that’s making the biggest impact on the format might be…Neoform? Yes, really. There’s a new Neoform Combo deck that’s taking Modern by storm, and it’s the only deck in Modern right now that can kill regularly on Turn 2 or 3. In fact, it’s so explosive that I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets hit with a banning at some point soon. After all, WotC is pretty clear on their stance about decks that can end the game with regularity on the first couple of turns of the game.

This might not happen, of course – the deck is less than a week old and it’s fairly fragile, so the metagame might simply adjust to it. I also don’t think this deck has nearly as much game without the London Mulligan, and it’s still possible that we’ll be returning to Vancouver at some point. Regardless, if you’re a fan of this deck, you should be rooting for it to lose a little steam due to either a mulligan change or increased metagame hate. Otherwise, it will suffer a banning.

Financially, this deck has caused a number of pretty serious price spikes so far. Allosaurus Rider went from $2 to being sold out at $12. Chancellor of the Tangle went from bulk to being sold out at $5. Autochthon Wurm is sold out at $2 and is heading toward $10. Summoner’s Pact is up from $10 to $15. Eldritch Evolution doubled from $3 to $6. Pact of Negation is up a buck or two as well.

Will these spikes continue? That depends a lot on the near-term future of Neoform Combo. If the deck continues to put up good numbers without looking like it’s obviously going to be banned, we could see most of the above cards double in price again. In addition, key Neoform cards like Griselbrand, Nourishing Shoal, and Gemstone Mine haven’t spiked yet. The more press this deck gets, the more likely that is to change. Just be careful about going in too deep—if this deck continues to look like it can kill on Turns 2-3 with impunity, it won’t be long for this world. Selling into the hype over the next couple of weeks is likely to end up being the safest play.

Amazingly enough, Neobrand wasn’t the only sweet new Modern deck to debut this week. Conley Woods took to Twitter with a 5-0 deck that he calls Pitch Blue, and it looks a little something like this:

Unlike Neobrand, this deck hasn’t proven itself yet, even on a small scale. Brewers like Conley Woods have a very large audience, however, and many of the deck’s key staples have already been snapped up on the secondary market. Commandeer jumped from $8 up to about $30, while Day’s Undoing is getting pretty hard to find for under $20.

The other cards haven’t seen much movement as of the writing of this article, but it’s likely that several more will have spiked by the time you read this. Lore Broker is a bulk uncommon that’s only been in one set, Ravnica: City of Guilds, and I bet we’ll see some movement there. Disrupting Shoal could tick up a little. And if this deck is actually legit, Vendilion Clique should see an increase in price as well.

Of the two decks, Neobrand seems like the better bet right now – after all, it’s putting up big results on MTGO, while Pitch Blue is still in the earlier stages of testing. The deck could end up being a legitimate contender, but I’m not sure I’d bet on it – not when you can get $30+ for your copies of Commandeer by selling them into the hype, at least.

That said, it’s pretty clear to me at this point that Narset, Parter of Veils is a real card in Eternal Magic; not only does it show up in this Modern deck, but in Legacy Esper Control as well. I’d start thinking about picking up some foils now, while they’re still fairly cheap. Long term, it’s going to be a super desirable card.

There’s one more piece of Modern innovation that I’d like to talk about this week: the interaction between Karn, the Great Creator and Mycosynth Lattice. While there hasn’t really been enough time for this combo to show its potential in Modern, there has been a lot of price movement on these two cards in paper as well as in MTGO. People believe in this combo, and they’re putting their money where their mouths are. Expect both cards to keep rising in price over the next couple of weeks.

Over in Commander, things are a little bit slower this week. There were “only” two big Feather, the Redeemed spikes this week: Veilstone Amulet and Magnetic Theft. The Feather hype is real – she’s by far the most-played new Commander in War of the Spark – but all the best targets were bought out weeks ago, and these two cards are fairly low-priority targets for most Feather players. They aren’t dropping back to bulk again, but selling into the hype is the smart money here as usual.