Welcome back to my financial set review for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths! If you missed part one, where I covered heavy hitters like Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate and Illuna, Apex of Wishes, you can check that article out right here.
I’ll be continuing my set review today, going over Ikoria‘s presumed marquee mythic as well as some of the best competitive rares I’ve seen in a while. And since I don’t want to make you wait a full week for the concluding chapter, I’ll be publishing the third and final chapter of my Ikoria set review on Friday. You won’t want to miss that one, because I’ll be going deep on some seriously powerful cards.
Last week, it looked like Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths might end up having such a soft financial debut that it would eclipse even Core Set 2020 in terms of cheap pre-order prices. Not so now. Not only did Wizards of the Coast (WotC) hold a lot of the most interesting Constructed cards back from its initial reveal, but several of the best Ikoria cards we looked at last week have increased in price over the past several days. COVID-19 might be delaying our chance to play paper Magic for a while, but it hasn’t seemed to have impacted our collective excitement about this set very much.
So! Which cards from Ikoria are being overrated right now and which are absolute bargains at their current retail price? Let’s get right to it.
Fiend Artisan – $29.99
It doesn’t surprise me that Fiend Artisan has been immediately anointed as Ikoria‘s breakout card. Just look at the thing! At a glance, Fiend Artisan reminds me of Tarmogoyf, Knight of the Reliquary, Birthing Pod, and Deathrite Shaman. I’m already having flash-forwards to Modern Masters 2025, when Fiend Artisan is reprinted as one of the set’s marquee mythics.
Of course, one of the first preview season heuristics I ever adopted was, “Beware new cards that look too much like the powerful cards of yore.” Is it possible that Fiend Artisan is reminiscent of Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary without being nearly as powerful?
Honestly, I still think that Fiend Artisan will be great. The Golgari mythic is going to be a four-of in at least one top-tier Standard deck, and it has legs in both Pioneer and Modern. It’s also going to be a Commander staple. It’s still possible that we’re all overrating Fiend Artisan, but I don’t think so. It’s a two-mana hybrid card that can quickly start growing an army of additional Fiend Artisans as protection. (Ari Lax wrote about this last week!) I don’t think that this card will end being a colossal bust.
Does that mean that Fiend Artisan will be stable in the $30+ range? That depends more on how the rest of the set shapes up than anything else. If a handful of the rares and a planeswalker or two also break out, and the Triomes end up being as good as I think, Fiend Artisan will probably end up kicking around in the $15-$20 range for a while simply because of how Ikoria‘s value will have to be allocated. If the set ends up being extremely top-heavy, however, it’s very possible that Fiend Artisan will remain above the $30 mark for years to come. It’s very hard for me to recommend dropping $30 on a totally new and untested card, but Fiend Artisan is safer than most. Feel free to grab your set now if you want to play with them on Day 1.
Narset of the Ancient Way – $17.99
I can’t wait to play with Narset of the Ancient Way. I’ve always loved Narset as a character, and I really dig spell-centric Jeskai decks. I can already imagine how sweet it’ll feel to minus-two Narset, allowing me to draw a card and zorch an opposing planeswalker in one fell swoop.
My worry is that Narset of the Ancient Way is more similar to Domri, Chaos Bringer than I’d care to admit. Domri saw very little play despite having a comparable suite of abilities, and it ended up being one of the bigger busts in Ravnica Allegiance. Granted, Domri didn’t have a mode where you got to kill a creature or planeswalker, and Domri cared about creatures instead of spells, but there are enough red flags here to make me worry that Narset is a risky buy at $17.99.
The upside, of course, is that Narset will eventually be worth $50 or more. That’s what happens to marquee planeswalkers, and Narset of the Ancient Way possesses that kind of potential. I don’t think that potential is obvious enough to make this card a good buy at current retail, but I’m willing to be proven wrong by a test match or seven. Get on it, VS Live!
Rielle, the Everwise – $7.99
If Faithless Looting were still legal in Modern, Rielle, the Everwise would likely be pre-ordering for at least twice as much. As is, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this card make an impact in more than one competitive format.
I don’t think you need me to tell you just how good Rielle, the Everwise is with Lion’s Eye Diamond, but that’s not a particularly unique quality these days. We’ve just been through that particular kerfuffle with Underworld Breach, and it probably won’t matter enough to cause a value spike due to the lack of overall Legacy demand.
To that end, I’m more concerned about whether or not Rielle will find a home in Standard. And that will depend entirely on how the metagame develops and how many good support cards we get for some sort of Izzet Tempo brew. $8 isn’t bad for a mythic with potential across all competitive formats, though success is far from certain and I’m always a lot more skeptical of cards that don’t have an immediate top-tier home.
If you’re a Rielle believer, at least when it comes to Standard, I’d snap up a few sets of The Royal Scions right now. That card is just $3.99, and it’ll almost certainly be a staple in any sort of Standard Izzet brew. The potential there is pretty massive, and that card has moved up near the top of my speculation radar.
The Ozolith – $12.99
Writing about The Ozolith has been somewhat difficult because the price keeps going up. I love this card very much, but my financial advice has changed as the price continues to rise. I was recommending this card to everyone when it was in the $5-$7 range, but The Ozolith is at $13 now and it might be $15+ by the time you read this review. Is that sort of price tag sustainable for a non-mythic rare?
Let’s start with Commander, where The Ozolith is going to be a format staple for approximately forever. It reminds me of Panharmonicion — currently $9 — in terms of its likely future ubiquity. Cards that play with counters are among the most expensive Commander staples, and The Ozolith is a staple in nearly all of those decks, regardless of color identity. Casual play alone should keep this one at or above $5, with a long-term price tag in the $10+ range.
The Ozolith will have to make a competitive splash if it’s going to remain above $10, which I’m a little less certain about. It’s possible that The Ozolith will be enough to rejuvenate Arcbound Ravager decks in Modern, even without access to Mox Opal, but that feels like a long shot to me. Beyond that…well, The Ozolith just looks like the kind of card that will eventually end up as part of an unstoppable combo. I don’t know if The Ozolith will stick around in the $13 range, and that’s more than I personally want to spend for a nonland rare, but the floor and ceiling are both incredibly high here. If you want to snap these up right now, I certainly don’t blame you.
Song of Creation – $6.99
It’s wild to me that WotC has started printing cards like Song of Creation and basically just saying, “This might be broken somewhere, we don’t really know, deal with it.” Gerry Thompson wrote about Song of Creation last week, pointing out that the card’s drawback is mitigated by some of Standard’s best cards, like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Brazen Borrower. It’s very possible that Song of Creation is about to become the flagship card in Standard’s next best deck.
I’m hesitant to buy in at $7, though. For one thing, Song of Creation has an incredibly low floor in addition to its incredibly high ceiling. The Ozolith’s price tag is backstopped by ravenous Commander demand, but Song of Creation has the downside of a $1 rare. It’s also worth remembering that Song of Creation is a highly niche card — not only does it require access to Temur mana, but you kind of have to build around it. Best case, this is the next Fires of Invention, and that card has only rarely spiked as high as $7. There’s just no upside here.
Sea-Dasher Octopus – $5.99
I’ve been waiting for WotC to reveal the mutate creatures that are both powerful and cheap to play, and Sea-Dasher Octopus fits that bill. As Emma Handy wrote last week, Sea-Dasher Octopus is kind of like a Stealer of Secrets // Ophidian Eye split card. The last time we’ve had anything like this was Ninja of the Deep Hours, a Standard staple in its day that still sees play in formats like Pauper and Cube Draft.
Don’t think cards like this have legs in today’s Standard? Well, Curious Obsession was a top-tier playable as recently as last year. Mark my words: Sea-Dasher Octopus is going to become a Standard staple as well.
How much will Sea-Dasher Octopus end up being worth? That depends on how the metagame develops. Right now, Standard is full of ramp, combo, and control decks. There are a few aggro and tempo decks, but not many of them run blue. It’s possible that Sea-Dasher Octopus will change that, but in the current metagame I’d guess this card stabilizes closer to $3 than $6. It’s quite good, however, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends up blowing past $10 at some point, even if briefly. It’s a solid buy at current retail, and you should definitely grab a set if you like to play these sorts of decks.
Slitherwisp – $2.99
I don’t know if any of you have this problem with Slitherwisp, but every time I look at it, I think it has some kind of evasion. It’s something about the color combination and the art, I guess. Every time I look next to “flash” on its text box, I keep wanting “flying” to be there, too. Ah well.
Even without evasion, Slitherwisp has potential. The card draw engine is the important thing here, and the addition of Cunning Nightbonder as well as Slitherwisp makes me think that Dimir, Sultai, or even Grixis Flash could be a possibility in the new metagame. The mana’s admittedly never going to be all that great, but we might get there on power level alone.
I don’t see Slitherwisp making an impact outside of a dedicated flash deck, so I’m a little skeptical about buying in at $3. It’s a fine price tag if you want to brew with Slitherwisp, but it’s a bit more narrow than I like my non-mythic spec buys to be. If I’m purely finance-focused, I’d rather grab a few sets of something like Dream Eater from Guilds of Ravnica, a $1 mythic rare that could spike if any of these flash decks take off. There’s a lot more potential for making money there than in buying Slitherwisp at $3.
Jegantha, the Wellspring – $2.99
Jegantha isn’t the most powerful companion, but it might be the one we end up seeing the most of over the next several years. Unlike the others, which require some pretty heavy deckbuilding restrictions, there are several decks that exist right now that can just slot Jegantha in as a free 5/5 for five. I’d imagine others will make a couple of easy swaps in order to gain access to an eighth card “in hand” at the beginning of the game.
Because of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jegantha ends up being the most expensive companion at some point. At the very least, I feel like every Magic player is going to need at least one of these kicking around in their collection just in case, right? $3 seems like a pretty solid deal for a card like that, and I’m definitely going to buy a few. I’d also suggest grabbing foils at current retail, since folks are likely to want a cool version of a card that they only need to own a single copy of.
Kaheera, the Orphanguard – $2.99
Kaheera, the Orphanguard seems like another companion that every Magic player might want to have on hand. It’s not as easy to fulfill the requirements for Kaheera as it is for Jegantha, but I can still think of a few decks that can run it outright.
Even if you forgo the companion ability outright, Kaheera is a pretty solid tribal lord. Elementals, Cats, Dinosaurs, and Beasts are all reasonably popular second- or third-tier casual tribes. That means there will be plenty of Commander interest in Kaheera for years to come. Much like with Jegantha, I’d snag a few now at $3 just in case. These cards are better than they look.
Obosh, the Preypiercer – $2.99
Yeah, all of the companions are pretty good, aren’t they? I don’t think Obosh is going to see as much random splash play as either Kaheera or Jegantha, but its effect is powerful enough to inspire a new sort of red burn deck or Izzet brew in Standard, Pioneer, or both.
I don’t think there will be enough demand to spike Obosh’s price much beyond $3, but it’s possible that we’re all just wildly underestimating these cards in general — always the risk when WotC flips the script so completely, as they did with Phyrexian mana many years ago and as they’re doing with companion now. I’m going to focus on a few of the other companions over Obosh, but if you want to buy in at $3, it certainly won’t hurt.
Drannith Magistrate – $2.49
I’ve been known to overrate hatebear-style creatures in the past, but Drannith Magistrate is absolutely going to be a multi-format sideboard staple. It shuts down so much, from Adventures and escape to Snapcaster Mage and even the command zone. Drannith Magistrate is going to see play in Standard and Modern at least, and I can only imagine it’ll sneak into Pioneer and Commander as well. At some point in the future this will be a $5+ card, and you’ll wish you bought in earlier.
Shark Typhoon – $2.49
Oh mercy. If you’ve never played with Decree of Justice, you’re going to love Shark Typhoon. I mean, you’ll also love Shark Typhoon if you have played with Decree of Justice, but you won’t be nearly as surprised about how powerful cards like this can be.
Think about it this way: Shark Typhoon’s first “mode” is akin to an uncounterable flying X/X creature with flash for X1U that draws a card when you cast it. Its second mode is a six-mana enchantment that wins the game as long as you think you’re going to cast more spells today. Not only is this both powerful and versatile enough to see play in pretty much any iteration of Standard that I can remember, but it seems perfectly suited to take down Teferi, Time Raveler in the current metagame. Don’t believe me? Check out what Shaheen Soorani wrote about the card last week.
Financially, Shark Typhoon is likely to end up kicking around in the $3-$5 range with a slight chance at more. I’m definitely snagging my set at the $2.49 mark.
Zirda, the Dawnwaker – $1.99
Zirda, the Dawnwaker is one of the best companion cards, and it’s likely to make waves in Commander as well as in eternal formats. Making sure that every permanent in your deck has an activated ability isn’t as hard as it looks, especially in spell-dominant formats, and Zirda goes infinite with quite a few combo pieces in Legacy and Vintage. If it escapes banning in Commander, it is likely to end up being one of the best Boros commanders in the whole game.
I don’t know if Zirda will find a home in Standard, but that could really send its price tag soaring. It’s rare that a card with this much potential pre-orders for just $2, and I’m going to grab my copies now just in case.
Quartzwood Crasher – $1.49
Quartzwood Crasher opens up some pretty exciting design space for trample, but I’m never going to bet too hard on any large creature without a strong enters-the-battlefield ability. This is more of a Commander card than anything, but I don’t think the demand there will be strong enough to keep it above the bulk rare range.
Yidaro, Wandering Monster – $1.49
Yidaro, Wandering Monster should see at least a little bit of Standard play. The fact that you can cycle Yidaro away in the early-game instead of having to get stuck with it in your hand makes this card a lot better than it looks, especially since you’re still giving yourself a shot at drawing the Dinosaur Turtle late in the game when you can cast it. That alone might not be enough to get me on board, but don’t forget that we’ve already seen a couple of cards — Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast chief among them — that want you to be playing with a couple of giant red monsters in your deck. Yidaro is likely to be one of them, and it’s a solid buy at $1.49 with a shot at $3-$4. It could go higher if the card we’re going to look at next also ends up being a top-tier playable.
Unpredictable Cyclone – $1.49
I would probably dismiss Unpredictable Cyclone if the card didn’t have cycling itself, but the flexibility makes this a pretty great payoff card in any sort of cycling deck. Izzet seems like it might be set up to make the Cyclone work, and decks like this have been Tier 1 before. I don’t see why that couldn’t happen again, especially since Ikoria looks to be providing us with enough high-level cycling cards to make this plan viable in a competitive sphere. I wouldn’t be surprised if Unpredictable Cyclone was pretty stable in the $2-$5 range for a while, much like pre-Challenger Deck Fires of Invention.
Cubwarden – $0.99
Cubwarden’s ability seems quite powerful, but I’m not loving how many of these mutate cards are kicking around in the three- to five-mana range. These sorts of awkward midrange creatures rarely work out these days, and I’m not sure Cubwarden will make much of an impact outside Limited play. Future bulk rare.
Frondland Felidar – $0.99
Frondland Felidar is another midrange creature that probably won’t find a home in any competitive Constructed environments. This ability is tailor-made for Limited, but these sort of defensive tappers rarely work out in a world where you have to deal with cards like Fires of Invention and Casualties of War. Future bulk rare.
Lavabrink Venturer – $0.99
Lavabrink Venturer is a dollar rare with potential. A 3/3 for three mana is pretty mediocre, I admit, and it seems likely that this card was simply designed as a safety valve against the “even or odd” deck requirement companions. It has potential beyond that, though. If most of the removal spells in the format and a good number of the best creatures end up having either even or odd converted mana costs, then Lavabrink Venturer could end up doing a pretty solid True-Name Nemesis impression. Remember: that card also had just three power, and it could end games in an awful hurry.
My best guess is that Lavabrink Venturer never has protection from enough to justify more than the occasional sideboard slot, so I’m not pre-ordering this one myself. That said, it has $15+ format staple potential, which isn’t a thing I can say about any other dollar rare in the set right now. It’s worth at least paying attention to this card in the early going. If a lot of folks start getting excited about it, grab a set or three.
Offspring’s Revenge – $0.99
Offspring’s Revenge is a weird card. It’s clunky, hard to cast, doesn’t do anything right away, and is missing the best self-mill color (blue) in its color identity. It reminds me of God-Pharaoh’s Gift in some ways, but the fact that you only get the creatures back as 1/1s makes the appeal of Offspring’s Revenge a bit more limited. My guess is that this card ends up being a bulk rare, but like most “combulk” there’s always the chance that Offspring’s Revenge will spawn some sort of wild, metagame-breaking deck. Keep your eyes on it, but I’m not holding my breath.
Skycat Sovereign – $0.99
There was a time when Pride of the Clouds was a legitimate top-tier Standard staple. Seriously — if you were playing competitive Magic back in the Dissension days, you likely got at least a small ping of nostalgia when you first saw Skycat Sovereign.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Skycat Sovereign will do all that much in the current Standard environment. It might show up in some sort of Azorius Skies deck, which could spike the price to $2-$3 at some point, but this is not going to be the control finisher that Pride of the Clouds used to be. You can probably ignore Skycat Sovereign unless you want a personal playset.
This Week’s Trends
It has been a little over a month since I began social distancing, so I thought it would be a good time to check in on how the overall Magic market has been affected by COVID-19. This isn’t easy to figure out, admittedly, but there are a few sites that have indexes for staples in various formats, similar to the NASDAQ or Dow Jones for stocks. Based on those indexes, here’s what Magic prices have done from March 11th through April 11th:
- Standard – Down 13.5%
- Pioneer – Down 15%
- Modern – Down 15%
- Legacy – Up 2%
These numbers don’t tell the full story, of course. Sales numbers are way down, at least for me, and those Legacy numbers could have been buoyed by a couple of big Alpha or Beta sales. But if you’re wondering what the impact of social distancing has been to the overall value of your singles, it appears as if the market has taken a 15% hit so far.
Does that mean that prices will drop another 15% next month if things aren’t back to normal? I doubt it. Prices are still trending downward, but a lot of that big drop happened early on, and things have begun to stabilize over the past two weeks. There’s no telling what will happen if we all have to stay inside through the summer, of course, but my guess is that April’s market drop will be closer to 5% than 15%, and plenty of cards will see a price increase as well. Here’s hoping, anyway!
Speaking of things being shut down, Steve Sunu and Blake Rasmussen announced on Weekly MTG that COVID-19 shut down the Commander 2020 card printers before they had fully finished the set’s initial print run. This shouldn’t matter much long-term — the printers will likely open up again early this summer — but it will probably cause supply shortages early on. I wouldn’t be surprised if Commander 2020 decks and singles both have quick spikes because of these issues, and I’d strongly suggest that you either preorder what you want from this set ASAP or accept that you may have to wait until the fall for prices to stabilize.
Lastly, we’ve actually got some honest-to-goodness price spikes today for the first time in a couple of weeks. You can thank Commander 2020 for all of them, and I suspect that Commander will continue to make up the majority of price spikes over the next few months as society slowly returns to normal.
First up, we’ve got Pemmin’s Aura. This powerful blue enchantment got bought out the moment Zaxara, the Exemplary was previewed because the cards combine to create an infinite mana engine. This was absolutely the sort of buyout where a small handful of speculators are sitting on hundreds of copies of Pemmin’s Aura right now, but that doesn’t mean the price will crash. This combo is legit and Commander players are going to want this card.
Speaking of Zaxara, the powerful Hydra has also caused Unbound Flourishing to spike this week. The green mythic is currently sold out at $10, and should be re-stocked closer to $12 or $15. This card was always going to spike, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends up being one of the most expensive cards in all of Modern Horizons at some point over the next few years. If you can still find these for $10 over the next couple of days, I’d grab a few copies just in case.
Both Decree of Silence and Decree of Annihilation are up big this week thanks to Commander 2020‘s focus on cycling. We just got a handful of new cycling payoff cards, and the available supply of these Scourge staples is quite low (Decree of Pain and Decree of Justice haven’t spiked because the available supply is much higher due to heavy reprinting). My guess is that Decree of Silence won’t maintain the $20+ it’s selling for right now — SCG is sold out at $7.99, for what it’s worth — but I do expect it’ll remain over $10. I also wouldn’t mind grabbing a few copies of the Decree of Justice Judge foil, which is just $12.99 on SCG.
Speaking of old, low-supply Commander cards, Tempest‘s Bounty Hunter cracked $10 last week thanks to Chevill, Bane of Monsters. There are now a total of three cards in Magic that use bounty counters, and you can combine Bounty Hunter with Chevill to amazing effect.