I tried to decide between two topics for this week:
1 — A look at the increasing value of Legacy staples
2 — A tournament report from the Vintage event in Harrisburg, PA on 1/31
Since I couldn’t decide, I thought I’d just cover both…
Legacy — It’s the new gold!
If you’re looking for recession-proof investing, competitive Legacy cards are the way to go. As many people suggested when Starcitygames.com announced their Legacy $5K events, Legacy staples have had an impressive increase in value over the past twelve months. I was actually startled to see the prices of a few of the cards in my collection when I looked online recently. Some of the cards I had sitting in my trade binder had increased in value by as much as 25 times — hopefully the list below will help you keep track of some of these hot Legacy cards.
Legacy — Hot
Entomb — The value of Entomb is still based on potential more than results at this point, but two different strategies have been used since the card was unbanned in Legacy. The first is a combo deck based on using Entomb to get Protean Hulk into the graveyard, and then a temporary reanimation spell (such as Necromancy or Footsteps of the Goryo) is used to trigger Hulk, setting up a combo kill similar to the old Flash decks. The second is a traditional reanimation deck, which uses targets similar to Vintage Oath decks (such as Iona). This latter deck has posted better results than the Entomb Hulk deck, including a top 16 at a StarCityGames.com Legacy Open. This build is also driving increases in several related cards, such as…
Reanimate — Already having some value due to the casual aspect of reanimator decks, a competitive reanimator deck in Legacy has driven up the value of Reanimate, an Uncommon that is relatively hard to come by in my experience. Exhume has also become one of the more valuable commons.
Loyal Retainer — Retainer was already somewhat valuable, as most P3K cards tend to be, but this one has hit triple-digits due to its ability to help a reanimator deck get Iona into play. Similar increases in Portal cards, such as Strategic Planning, have been surprisingly long-lasting even when the card’s use tapers off in competitive play.
Survival of the Fittest — Another card that works well with Loyal Retainer is Survival of the Fittest, a versatile card that hasn’t seen much play in competitive Legacy lately, but is always on the edge of viability. If it finds a home, expect this one to continue to climb; it’s already headed towards $20 after being readily available for half that amount for a long period of time.
Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale — Tabernacle has had an explosive increase in value over the past six months. Much of this can be traced to the repeated success of Lands decks in Legacy, as well as the success of Trinistax / White Stax. Tabernacle’s value in a non-proxy format like Legacy is incredible — it has become the most valuable card in Legacy, and is worth as much or more than Mishra’s Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad, two of the unrestricted pillars of competitive Vintage.
Wasteland — Speaking of cards played in Aggro Loam, Lands, and Trinistax, Wasteland has seen a considerable increase in value as it is played as a full set of four in all of those decks (in addition to its use in decks like Merfolk, Goblins, and Canadian Threshold).
Exploration — Always a valuable card even when it saw only minimal competitive play, as it is highly popular with casual players and in multiplayer formats, Exploration’s increase in value is tied to the solid performance of the Lands archetype. Similar increases in value are likely for Maze of Ith (which has crept up slowly towards $15) if the deck continues to perform, as it occupies a similar position (popular in casual / EDH play).
Mox Diamond — Mox Diamond has always had value, even when it was used only sparingly in competitive Legacy decks. Recently, decks like Trinistax, Lands, and Aggro Loam have had success in large Legacy tournaments, with all three decks making the finals or winning a Starcitygames.com $5K during the past six months. As a result of this competitive success, the value of Mox Diamond has nearly doubled and I don’t expect the card to cool off any time in the near future.
Tarmogoyf — Some of the increase in the value of Tarmogoyf is related to Extended season, but the card is also ubiquitous in Legacy — in some tournaments its penetration in the field outpaces Force of Will. At some points the price of the card has approached $100, which is amazing considering it was only half that much at its height when it was Standard legal.
Dream Halls — Recently available for only a few dollars, Dream Halls has seen play both in Vintage and in Legacy, with the latter really driving up the value of the card, to the neighborhood of $12-15. Dream Halls is another card whose value is still based on potential at this point, but a variety of combo builds utilizing the card have been tested and some are having success. Related to the value of Dream Halls…
Show and Tell — Show and Tell is a combo enabler, and is used in decks that want to cheat cards like Dream Halls and Hive Mind into play as quickly as the first turn of the game. Recently available as a dollar rare, Show and Tell has dramatically increased in value to the neighborhood of $15. As with Dream Halls, the value of this card is still based on potential more than tournament results, but there’s no reason to believe this card will drop in value until strategies utilizing it are definitively ruled out of competitive play. Another card often seen in decks with Show and Tell and Dream Halls is…
Progenitus — R&D has to be proud of the ten-headed Hydra. It stills see play in some Vintage decks, particularly Oath sideboards, but Legacy has helped drive up the value of a Mythic that most people pegged as simply casual fodder. Progenitus is easily put into play if Dream Halls resolves (which also allows you to cast any card once the Halls is in play), and is a back-up win condition in decks with Show and Tell. Speaking of Progenitus…
Natural Order — The other common way to cheat a Progenitus into play quickly is Natural Order. Ben Bleiweiss was way ahead of the curve on this one, correctly pointing out the potential of this card when Progenitus came out. Several different Legacy strategies use Natural Order to cheat creatures like Hellkite Overlord, Empyrial Archangel, and Progenitus into play quickly.
Non-blue dual lands — Blue dual lands, particularly Underground Sea and Tundra, had marked gains in value during 2009. Late in the year, non-blue duals such as Savannah and Taiga, have shown similar gains due to a rise in the popularity and performance of Legacy decks such as Zoo, Bant, and Lands. Duals overall have had impressive increases in value as Legacy has become a much more relevant format to competitive Magic players. Some of the credit for this increase should also go to the popularity of casual formats that allow these lands, notably EDH.
Chain Lightning — The popularity of Zoo had a dramatic impact on Chain Lightning, a card that has steadily increased in value over the years, and is now pushing $15. Chain is a standard in Zoo decks of the format and proves the power of the 3 damage for 1 mana formula. Speaking of the influence of Zoo…
Price of Progress — Price of Progress has crept up in value on the strength of Zoo’s performance, similarly to Chain Lightning, and is becoming a super uncommon. I’m still of the opinion that this card is underplayed at the moment.
Standstill — One of the most valuable uncommon of the modern Magic area shows no signs of slowing down. While Standstill hasn’t been burning up the standings in recent events in the US, it’s still a heavily played draw engine in several Legacy decks.
Force of Will — Force of Will has increased gradually in price as Legacy has become more relevant; to be honest, I’m surprised the card isn’t more expensive than it is as it forms the foundation of a huge number of relevant Legacy decks. Force of Will has been a good long-term investment for years, as it is unlikely to ever be banned or restricted in Legacy or Vintage, and will always be a tremendously important card for both formats.
Stifle — This card dropped considerably in value when the market was flooded with people looking to unload it after it rotated from Extended, but has slowly begun to creep up again due to its use in a variety of Legacy decks. Stifle is definitely a worthwhile card to acquire if you have the chance to do so at low prices.
Undiscovered Paradise — Some of the future value of Undiscovered Paradise is tied to whether or not we see more playable cards that take advantage of Landfall. Regardless, relegated to the casual-only bin for years, Undiscovered Paradise has jumped up dramatically in value due mainly to Eternal Dredge decks, which use it with Bloodghast.
Aether Vial — Most of Vial’s play lately has been in Merfolk decks, but it is one of the standards of tribal Legacy decks, and has been on a similar path as Standstill; it’s shown a consistent, steady increase in value over time.
Crucible of Worlds — Crucible took a value hit when 10th Edition came out, but it has slowly crept back up due to relevance in both Eternal formats and the fact that it was omitted from M10.
Counterbalance — Despite becoming irrelevant in Extended, Counterbalance has continued to increase gradually but steadily in value; of the more recent Uncommons, it has become one of the most valuable. This is a card that’s worth picking up and shouldn’t ever take a value hit.
Legacy — Stable
Blue dual lands — The blue duals spiked in price earlier than the non-blue duals, and seem to have reached a temporary plateau; long-term, as long as Legacy remains popular, these should show a steady increase in value.
Lion’s Eye Diamond — The failure of ANT and LED Dredge to penetrate the top 8 of the Starcity $5Ks (outside of CPhil’s Belcher in Philly) has cooled this card off to some extent, but LED-packing combo decks are still a popular choice in Legacy. Any time these decks do well, this card should climb and will probably gradually reach new price plateaus as time goes on.
City of Traitors — Decks packing City of Traitors aren’t all that popular at the moment — partially because the best decks that run it have become very expensive with the increases in Wasteland, Tabernacle, and Mox Diamond – so City of Traitors has been pretty stable lately. Long-term, I would expect this card to increase in value as Wizards doesn’t print mana acceleration like this anymore.
Intuition — Intuition has been just outside of viable in most current Vintage decks, but the effect is extremely powerful and pairs up well with several other cards on this list. I definitely believe this card is a good investment in the long-term. It is also a very strong card in formats like EDH.
Rishadan Port — The down-turn in Goblins paired with a shift from Goblins with Port to a lower-curve list with Chieftain hasn’t helped the value of this card, but if Lands remains popular, it stands a good chance of increasing over time.
Legacy — Not
Grindstone — Painter’s Servant decks are not popular at the moment, and Grindstone is banned in EDH and was supplanted by Key/Vault in Vintage. The lack of a competitive home for Grindstone has lowered its value.
Phyrexian Dreadnaught — Dreadnought continued to increase in value even after it fell out of favor in Legacy. I don’t see this card increasing much in value in the near-future, although I wouldn’t expect it to lose much value.
Extended — Hot
Some cards that are either popular or viable in Legacy are seeing price increases due to Extended season. I won’t go into detail, but some examples would be:
Many people cash in on Extended season by picking up Extended staples off-season and taking advantage of the price inflation that occurs for three or four months every year during Extended PTQs. However, some cards haven’t had their usual value increase this season, or didn’t increase as I expected them to; others have cooled off as the season has continued. Here are a few examples. Some of these, like Scapeshift, increased at the start of the season, while others, like Hypergenesis, actually peaked and began to cool before the season really even started.
Extended — Not
*Glimpse might start to climb if Elves continues to post results; certain pieces of that deck did go up, such as Cloudstone Curio.
Note that one of the rules that I live by when it comes to buying Magic cards is: always invest in a play-set of Uncommons and Commons for every Magic set released. Nearly every set has an Uncommon that is going to hit $5+ eventually, so this type of purchasing pays for itself.
Harrisburg Vintage — 1/31
I was really excited for this tournament, after putting a “grueling” five days of work into Two Card Monte. The version I played was similar to the one I presented last week, but with a considerably worse sideboard; the anti-Null Rod measures I included weren’t correct, and ultimately cost me. Still, this was a pretty good test run for a brand-new deck, and I had a great time playing it. Playing a new deck that draws a crowd of onlookers always makes for a good time…
Round 1 — Win 2-1 versus Ed with Workshop Aggro (1-0)
No mysteries here — I knew Ed was playing his favorite deck, Shop Aggro.
Game 1 — I have to take two mulligans to start out, while Ed keeps on the play and leads out with a Thorn and then a Welder. I get a Grindstone into play, but before I can find Painter’s Servant, Ed finds a Null Rod. This is hugely problematic, as even if I draw a Red Elemental Blast to go with the Painter, if he keeps the Welder untapped, winning is going to be very difficult. Luckily for me, Ed can’t really find anything else to apply pressure, and starts to swing with the Welder under a few Thorns. During my main phase, I hit a Workshop and have just enough mana to cast Painter’s Servant, name blue, use Red Elemental Blast to destroy Null Rod, and activate Grindstone for the win.
Game 2- We both mulligan this game, which otherwise begins pretty well for me. Ed has a ton of lock pieces that slow me down, but I get Painter and Grindstone into play — but have to pass before I can activate. Ed draws… and rips Null Rod off the top. He kills me before I’m able to get rid of it.
Game 3 — I have to mulligan again this game, and Ed has a crazy aggressive draw with what seems like a million Solemn Simulacrums, a Welder, and Triskelion. I have a Helm of Obedience in play, and rip a Leyline of the Void off the top and can cast it, but again have to pass the turn. Ed draws hoping to rip Null Rod again, but whiffs, and with what he has in play, can only get me to 1 life. Nat Moes points out that Ed could’ve Welded out Triskelion in response to the Leyline of the Void and shot me with the tokens, and then Welded it back in for exactly lethal damage. Dodged a bullet.
Round 2 — Win 2-0 versus Mike with Dredge (2-0)
I tried to identify the Dredge players in the room after round one, but I missed one — my opponent for this round.
Game 1 —I start out with a Serum Powder as my opener doesn’t have any mana, and the next seven are very good, and include a Leyline of the Void, which I play turn 0. This did not excite my Dredge-wielding opponent, and he scooped after two turns.
Game 2 — This was an interesting game. My initial seven doesn’t have Leyline, or any type of win condition, but it does have a Welder, a Tormod’s Crypt, and four other artifacts. Great in theory, this hand is hugely vulnerable to both Pithing Needle and Chalice of the Void. I thought about it for a while, but ultimately shipped it back… and then kept going, all the way to four. The four ends up being Pithing Needle, Leyline of the Void, City of Brass, and Ancient Tomb. Not too shabby! I play the turn-zero Leyline, and Mike immediately uses Chain of Vapor to bounce it back to my hand. I draw Helm of Obedience (ding!) and lead with City of Brass into Pithing Needle on Bazaar. Mike plays another land and puts a few Narcomoebas into play the hard way; in between, he tries to Emerald Charm a Pithing Needle (which is technically legal but obviously not what he meant to do; I let him take it back). I wait until he taps out to play another creature and then play the Leyline of the Void and activate the Helm for the win.
Round 3 — Win 2-1 versus Steve with Tezzeret (3-0)
I also know exactly what Steve’s playing, as he is on my team and we discussed his Tezz build prior to the tournament; he knows what I’m playing as well, having helped me develop the deck in the week leading up to the tournament.
Game 1 — Steve’s on the play, and we both keep our opening hand. I go for the quick win, but Steve’s got the Force of Will. He then sticks a Dark Confidant, and then a Tinker into an Inkwell Leviathan which I’m unable to race in the face of the card advantage from Confidant.
Game 2 — I’m on the play this game, and my hand is very good. I resolve a Dark Confidant and a Goblin Welder, and the combination of extra cards and the resilience of Goblin Welder let me build into a Painter plus Grindstone for the win.
Game 3 — Steve keeps on the play, and I mulligan into an awesome six-card hand of Leyline of the Void, Helm of Obedience, Grindstone, Painter’s Servant, Mox Pearl, and Mishra’s Workshop. I play a turn-zero Leyline. Steve plays a Polluted Delta and breaks it to play a Ponder, and then passes the turn. I draw an Ancient Tomb, which is one of the best cards I could’ve drawn here as it makes Painter / Grindstone live on turn two. Nice deck, right? I play the Mox Pearl and Workshop into the Helm, and Steve doesn’t have a Force of Will. He draws and leaves a mana up to represent Chain of Vapor, but I go for it anyway and he doesn’t have the Chain.
Rounds 4 & 5 — ID (3-0-2)
My round five opponent is playing Dark Times, the mono-black deck Max Brown used to win the January 3rd Blue Bell. Based on tie-breakers and the Swiss standings, he has the potential to draw out of top 8, but ultimately decides to draw regardless. We then play a match for fun, which I lose. The first game, I have a first-turn Memory Jar along with a turn-zero Leyline, but Tony has the singleton Pithing Needle on the Memory Jar. The second game, I have the second-turn win set up, but he has a Dark Ritual with Null Rod and Thoughtseize for the Chain of Vapor that’s in my hand. We then discuss the list, which is almost the same as Max’s but has an additional Darkblast.
Quarterfinals — Lose 1-2 versus Tony with Dark Times (1-2)
Game 1 — Tony wins the die roll, which is unfortunate as I would have otherwise won the game on the first turn (turn-zero Leyline, into Mishra’s Workshop, Mana Vault, and Helm of Obedience). Instead, I eat a Thoughtseize followed up by a tutor into Null Rod. The game goes to Tony’s favor quickly, and he uses a Demonic Consultation to set up a win condition… but there’s a problem. The Consult reveals two Pithing Needles, and I know Max’s original list only has one Needle in the main. I ask Tony to verify that both Needles are supposed to be in the deck and he believes they are, but I ask for a deck-check. Unfortunately Tony had de-sideboarded incorrectly after our test games. On the one hand, I feel bad about this, but on the other hand, a second Needle could have been highly relevant; the judge awards him with a game loss.
Game 2 — Tony really works my deck over this game, hitting me with a Sadistic Sacrament to remove all my Grindstones from the game, and then stacking up three Null Rods in a row. Eventually he finds Hexmage and Dark Depths for the win.
Game 3 — I have to take two mulligans this game while Tony goes to six. I get a Helm of Obedience into play, but lack a Leyline; Tony shreds my hand with discard spells but doesn’t have any action himself. He eventually hits a Hexmage and tutors for a Dark Depths. I draw for the turn, needing either Leyline for the win or Chain of Vapor for Marit Lage to stay alive… and draw Chain of Vapor. This doesn’t make Tony very happy. He draws another Hexmage and attacks, and I respond by activating Helm for two. My thought at the time was that if I hit another Hexmage I can block and clear the board, and if I hit a Dark Confidant I can start out-drawing Tony. I flip a Swamp and then a Diabolic Edict, and take two. I untap and draw a blank, and pass the turn back. Tony draws another Dark Depths. I draw another blank, and lose. The next card was Leyline of the Void.
I didn’t realize it until I was driving home, but I punted this game. There was no reason to activate that Helm for two, as I was still at 15 life. More than anything I just want to draw Leyline (which I have the mana to cast) so I can win the game using Helm, or otherwise some kind of tutor to find the Leyline. Had I not activated Helm for two, I would’ve drawn Leyline before Tony found his Dark Depths, and won the game. Obviously the fact that I helped Tony find his second Dark Depths was just bad luck, but I still blame this game on myself.
So, how did Two Card Monte do its first time out? Well, I did win a few games due to errors by my opponents, but that’s one of the advantages to playing an unusual or new deck. I also cost myself a spot in the top four due to a misplay.
There were two main problems with the list I played at this tournament. First, there was no “robot” for Tinker in the main, which is definitely a mistake; in hindsight I think Inkwell is inferior to Sundering Titan in a deck full of Welders. Secondly, I had cards like Krosan Grip in my sideboard to combat Null Rod; Grip is one of my favorite cards in Vintage as it is so powerful against a variety of strategies. However, it isn’t right for this deck at all, because many Null Rod-packing decks also have mana denial strategies that make Grip too difficult to cast.
Regardless, I would play Two Card Monte again. I’m hoping that last week’s primer gets the deck into the hands of people who can further refine and develop it…
Bonus — Dark Times Update
For those that are keeping score, Dark Times knocked me out of two top 8s in January. It’s a very powerful deck. If I were going to play it, I’d probably run something like this: