Welcome to the third and final part of my Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths financial set review. If you missed the first part, where I covered key cards like Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate and Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt, you can find it here. The second part, where I took a deep dive into future staples like Fiend Artisan and Sea-Dasher Octopus, can be found over here.
Overall, Ikoria‘s power level looks roughly on par with the past several Magic sets. It’s a little more Commander-centric, and it has a somewhat higher level of mechanical complexity than sets like Theros Beyond Death and Throne of Eldraine, but it doesn’t seem to be a large departure from those sets in terms of potential Constructed impact.
We also still appear to be in the phase of Standard set design where Wizards of the Coast (WotC) is willing to take massive risks on cards that would have never made it past the development stage a few years ago. Don’t be shocked if multiple cards from Ikoria are banned in at least one eternal format over the next few months, and companion has a shot at joining Phyrexian mana and the Urza’s Saga free spells in WotC’s R&D hall of shame. That doesn’t mean the set is bad — I’d vastly prefer they take more risks over releasing an underpowered expansion like Rivals of Ixalan — but I do expect Ikoria to be impactful in both positive and frustrating ways.
Financially, Ikoria has a whole lot to like. There’s an excellent set of rare lands, a few planeswalkers with top-tier potential, at least one can’t-miss mythic (Fiend Artisan), a number of Commander cards that ooze long-term value, and a stack of combo cards and companions that may or may not change the entire face of eternal Magic. It might be tempting to skip out on this one because we don’t know when we’ll be playing tabletop Magic face-to-face again, but I suggest remaining engaged. Mark Rosewater has indicated that Ikoria’s paper release might continue to be postponed, and it’s likely that the print run will be low for a Standard set due to soft demand and the potential for a massively shortened limited season. If so, Ikoria cards might end up being especially scarce over the next few years. That would mean higher-than-average singles prices. If you’ve got the money left in your budget for Magic cards, I definitely wouldn’t sleep on Ikoria.
To the remaining cards!
Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy – $24.99
Hmm. We’ve got a Simic-based ramp decks at the very top of the Standard metagame, and along comes a two-mana Simic mythic that’s both a mana accelerant and a win condition. Could Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy be the next Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath?
I highly doubt it. In fact, I don’t actually think Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy will show up much in Standard, at least not this season. The fact that it doesn’t produce any mana itself really hurts, and there aren’t a ton of amazing nonland permanents that produce mana in the format right now. Simic Ramp decks are also doing just fine right now, so it doesn’t make sense to re-work the entire strategy around the two-mana mythic.
On the other hand, Kinnan looks much more powerful in older formats. It doesn’t combo with Urza, Lord High Artificer in Modern, but it does work perfectly well with Arcum’s Astrolabe as well as all the Moxen — including Mox Amber. Kinnan is also likely to find a warm welcome in Commander, where mana-producing creatures and artifacts are omnipresent.
Financially, Kinnan seems a tad overrated to me. For a card in a normal set to end up being worth $20+, it generally needs to see heavy play in Standard. The exceptions tend to be lands or artifacts that see play in a wide variety of Commander decks, like Paradox Engine. $20-$25 seems like the short-term best-case scenario for Kinnan, and that would require a ton of eternal demand, Otherwise, this card should settle in closer to $10-$12 with room to grow once Ikoria is out of print.
General Kudro of Drannith – $7.99
General Kudro of Drannith has some pretty sweet upside. It might not be good enough for Modern Humans, which is going through a bit of a rough spell right now anyway, but General Kudro might be a good enough creature to revitalize the archetype in both Standard and Pioneer. Heck, you don’t even need to have all that many Humans in your deck before General Kudro starts getting really really good. If you want more information on how this might go, check out what Ross Merriam had to say on the card.
I also think people are wildly underrating General Kudro of Drannith in casual formats. Tribal lords and tribal enablers always end up being worth more than anyone thinks, and this one’s a mythic rare for a popular tribe. This is going to be a $10+ card long term, so if you buy in now and it doesn’t pay off in either Standard or Pioneer, just stick it in a box for a while. That’s not a bad “worst outcome” for a sub-$10 mythic.
Winota, Joiner of Forces – $5.99
There is no middle ground with Winota, Joiner of Forces. If you can build a solid deck with a reasonable number of both Humans and non-Humans that can trigger both sides of Winota reliably, than this card is essentially a Bloodbraid Elf with upside. Seriously — if Winota is good, it’ll be among the best cards in Standard.
On the other hand, Winota has bulk mythic downside. It’s going to be very hard to tweak your deck enough to balance this card well, and even if the perfect balance of creature types does exist, there’s no guarantee that your deck will be good enough to handle all the games where you don’t draw Winota or you get your bomb killed on sight. And while there are some Boros players salivating over Winota for Commander, this color combination and play-style is fairly uncommon in that format. Boros commander cards are rarely expensive.
So yeah. Winota has $30 upside and bulk mythic downside, without much room in between. Grab a set if you’re feeling lucky or you want to mess around with Winota in Standard or Pioneer. Just be aware of the risks.
The Triomes – $12.99
I really like the Triomes. The Khans of Tarkir trilands are already quite powerful, and these new rares have both cycling and fetchable land subtypes. The Triomes would have seen a lot of play in Standard even without those bonuses, but now I suspect they’ll end up becoming part of the ecosystem in Pioneer and Modern as well.
Will these lands always be worth $13 each? Probably not. The most-played ones will probably end up being worth somewhere between $10 and $15, but there should be chances to snag most of them in the $5 range as long as you’re willing to be patient. I could be wrong, but if so, I still wouldn’t worry about it too much. Even when the Khans of Tarkir fetchlands were legal in Standard, they rarely spent too much time higher than $17-$18. Non-mythic cards rarely go much higher than that.
Which of these lands is most likely to maintain or even gain value from here? My money’s on Raugrin Triome, the Jeskai land. Not only is Jeskai Fires one of the best decks in Standard right now, but that particular build doesn’t mind lands that enter the battlefield tapped nearly as much as other decks. Also, fixing tends to be harder to come by in Jeskai colors. If you’re going to invest in just one of these lands right now, I’d pick that one.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den – $8.99
Andrew Elenbogen called his shot last week, claiming that Lurrus of the Dream-Den was the best card in Ikoria. I’m not sure I can muster up a refutation to this point. Lurrus of the Dream-Den is the most powerful companion in Ikoria, and its drawback is the easiest to shrug off. If the companions are as good as some people think, then we will see Lurrus of the Dream-Den everywhere as soon as it becomes tournament-legal. Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Pioneer, Standard…everywhere.
I’m not sure how much of that demand will translate to high prices, though. As we’ve discussed with some of the other companions, these cards may become ubiquitous while still only requiring folks to acquire a single copy of each. And since these are rares instead of mythics, there should be plenty of Lurruses to go around. I expect this card to be absurd, but I also feel like $9 is pretty close to its best-case price ceiling. Especially since there are companions that might be just as good selling for $1 right now…
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Eerie Ultimatum – $4.99
Yikes. These new ultimatums certainly put their Shards of Alara cousins to shame, and Eerie Ultimatum might be the best of the bunch. WWBBBGG is an absurd mana cost, but you absolutely get what you pay for. Command the Dreadhorde was a top-tier Constructed playable, and there’s a shot that Eerie Ultimatum will be as well.
At the end of the day, however, I suspect that having access to seven specific kinds of Abzan mana is going to be a bridge too far for most competitive Constructed brews. Ramp decks could consider running this as a win condition, but why not just go with something more flexible like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath or Hydroid Krasis instead?
Ultimately, I suspect that Eerie Ultimatum will struggle to do much outside of fringe decks and Commander, where it will be an instant staple. It might hit $5 eventually due to casual demand, but it should end up kicking around the $2 range for a while first. If you can be patient, I’d wait.
Ruinous Ultimatum – $3.99
I want to be careful not to just dismiss the competitive potential for these Ultimatums based on mana cost — I’m pretty sure that’s what I did for Casualties of War, and I was wrong to do so—but it’s going to be really hard to reliably cast a spell for RRWWWBB. In fact, Ruinous Ultimatum is likely going to be the hardest of the ultimatums to get going, since it has neither green nor blue, the two colors that are in most of the ramp deck right now. It’s possible that the format will end up becoming enough of a grind for Ruinous Ultimate to shine regardless — a one-sided Planar Cleansing is incredibly good — but I’m not going to bet on it. Future $1 rare.
Emergent Ultimatum – $2.99
I want to spend some time with Emergent Ultimatum, because it’s the member of the cycle that’s easiest to cast. You can get pretty close to BBGGGUU with enough early-game Growth Spirals and Uros, so if Emergent Ultimatum is good enough, it might end up being the new curve-topper for ramp decks in Standard. A Tooth and Nail variant for 2020, perhaps.
I’m not sure how good this will end up actually being, though. Standard already has a fair number of solid ramp deck win conditions that scale instead of being all-or-nothing. This card is also pretty hard to combo with, and it requires you to run a critical mass of other giant creatures in your deck to fetch. There’s a shot that this card is just absurd and it ends up being worth $5-$7 for a time, but I’m going to bet that it gets lost in the shuffle instead.
Genesis Ultimatum – $2.99
Genesis Ultimatum is Magical Christmas Land personified. Best case, it wins the game on the spot. Worst case…well, ramp decks have a lot of lands and enablers. I’ve seen Hydroid Krasis whiff pretty hard on draw-fives over the past year-and-a-half.
Honestly, my biggest problem with Genesis Ultimatum is all the competition it has right now. Between Hydroid Krasis and Uro, I’m not sure these ramp decks need another seven-mana win condition, especially one that’s so random. I wouldn’t be shocked if it shows up as a two-of now and again, but that’s not going to create much additional monetary value. $3 seems pretty close to this card’s short-term ceiling for me.
Whirlwind of Thought – $2.99
Between Fires of Invention and Wilderness Reclamation, there are already a couple of four-mana enchantments in Standard that people are willing to tap out for because resolving them often leads to a quick victory. At first glance, Whirlwind of Thought isn’t quite as good as those, but that could change with enough top-tier enablers. Worst case, Whirlwind is definitely going in the “don’t you forget about me” pile.
Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Whirlwind of Thought fails to make an impact now before showing up in force at some point next year. Right now, it’s going to suffer a lot from the fact that people are packing removal for Fires of Invention. If that changes, and sticking a Whirlwind becomes more reliable, then you might see this card enable a new archetype. $3 is a fair price for a card with this much upside regardless, but my guess is that it’ll end up kicking around the $1 mark for a few months in the meantime.
Bonders’ Enclave – $2.49
People are sleeping on Bonders’ Enclave. Worst case, this land is playable in Modern Eldrazi Tron as well as a large variety of powerful Commander decks. Best case, it’s one of the most powerful cards in Ikoria even if it’s never really recognized as such.
Seriously — the drawback of an untapped colorless land isn’t that bad, and Castle Locthwain has shown us just how good it can be to have a land that lets you draw cards for three mana. I find it hard to believe that Bonders’ Enclave doesn’t see at least as much play as something like Blast Zone, which is currently selling for $3.99. With Bonders’ Enclave, the potential for competitive demand is real, and casual demand across the board is all but certain. I’m snagging a few sets on spec.
Extinction Event – $1.99
I don’t love Extinction Event. Most conditional mass removal is at least reasonably consistent — if you’re destroying all creatures above or below a certain CMC, for example, it’s relatively easy to predict what that effect might look like in any given matchup. Not so here. You can even build around this card and still get blown out based on which particular creatures your opponent casts in any given game. That’s too much randomness for me to believe that Extinction Event will end up being more than a corner-case sideboard card. Future bulk rare.
Voracious Greatshark – $1.99
Voracious Greatshark is somewhat clunky, but Mystic Snake and Frilled Mystic have proven that this sort of card is more powerful than it looks. Voracious Greatshark is a heck of a lot more narrow than either of those, but it definitely slots into Simic Flash alongside Frilled Mystic and might end up being a solid sideboard card in a few other decks as well. I can’t see Voracious Greatshark spiking above $5-$6, best case, but it’s going to be a solid playable for years in Commander as well as in Standard. Buying in a $2 seems good to me.
Titans’ Nest – $1.99
I don’t know exactly how to break Titans’ Nest, but it certainly looks possible. Filling your graveyard isn’t super-hard, especially in older formats, so this thing is capable of generating massive amounts of mana during the mid-game. The fact that it doesn’t work with X-spells is somewhat limiting, but you can still use this to cast some seriously massive creatures and spells.
As for the price, Titans’ Nest is a potential Modern-playable card for just $2. It might end up being a bust, but I’m going to grab a set just in case. The potential is quite high here, and the buy-in is cheap enough to make me pretty interested.
Mythos of Brokkos – $1.49
Mythos of Brokkos is probably too slow for competitive Constructed. That could change if we get a two-card combo that plays out of the graveyard in Standard, but I don’t see it right now. I like Mythos of Brokkos in Commander, but it’s limited to Sultai decks and there should be plenty of copies to go around. Future bulk rare.
Mythos of Snapdax – $1.49
Tragic Arrogance ended up being quite a bit better than anyone thought it was going to be, but that may have had more to do with the quirky Magic Origins metagame. Also, 3WW is a lot easier to pull off than BRWW, which is the exact cost you have to pay for Mythos of Snapdax if you want the card to actually pull its weight. I wouldn’t be shocked if it sees fringe play in Standard, but this is going to be a $1 rare at best.
Mythos of Vadrok – $1.49
Mythos of Vadrok will probably see a little bit of Standard play, but it’s narrower than Storm’s Wrath, and that card is just $0.59 right now. Feel free to snap up a few copies if you need them — $1.49 won’t break the bank — but there’s not much upside here. Future bulk rare.
Mythos of Nethroi – $1.49
Finally — a member of the Mythos cycle I like!
Mythos of Nethroi is still a solid card even if you don’t currently have access to exactly Abzan mana, and it’s quite good if you do. I wouldn’t play this card outside of a dedicated Abzan deck, but it’s probably going to be a four-of in any Abzan brew that shows up in Standard for the next several years. Heck, it might even be good enough for Pioneer or even Modern. This card is narrow enough that I doubt it’ll ever be super-valuable, but it’s a very solid playable that’s currently being slightly underpriced. Grabbing a set at $1.49 seems solid to me.
Mythos of Illuna – $0.99
Wait, why is Mythos of Illuna the cheapest member of the cycle? This might secretly be the best of the bunch. Clones are usually pretty mediocre, but they also rarely say “target permanent.” Even Clever Impersonator, a better-than-average clone, specified “nonland permanent.” Not so with Mythos of Illuna, which can copy anything.
And if you have exactly UURG, Mythos of Illuna becomes targeted removal in a wedge that rarely has any. That’s some pretty solid versatility. As with Mythos of Nethroi, demand is likely going to remain narrow enough to keep the price tag fairly low, but this is a good Commander card with legs in Standard as well. For $0.99, I’m in.
Inspired Ultimatum – $1.49
As with Mythos of Illuna and the Mythos cycle, I’m not sure why Inspired Ultimatum is the cheapest member of the new ultimatum cycle. There’s no randomness here — just five life, five cards, and five damage. That’s good. That’s really good. It’s not scalable like Sphinx’s Revelation was, nor is it an instant, but we’ve already got a big mana Jeskai deck in the format. Are we so sure that Inspired Ultimatum won’t find a home somewhere?
Sure, Inspired Ultimatum has its share of problems. Seven mana is a lot, and the lack of green really hurts. But the power level is pretty dang high, and this seems like a solid gamble at just $1.49. If you’re planning to build any kind of Jeskai deck, I’d grab a few.
Hunted Nightmare – $0.99
The big question: where does Hunted Nightmare fall on the “undercosted black creature with downside” spectrum? It’s clearly a step below the excellent Rotting Regisaur, but how does it stack up against a disappointing mythic like Spawn of Mayhem? That’s hard to say. It’s easier to cast, certainly, but the downside is also a lot worse. Hunted Nightmare is just straight-up unplayable against a lot of tempo and midrange decks, but it might have some serious game against control and certain aggro brews.
Ultimately, this leads me to believe that Hunted Nightmare is a sideboard card for Standard with the potential to become a maindeck staple depending on how the metagame adjusts. That’s a solid amount of playability for a $0.99 rare and I suspect it’ll end up in the $2-$3 range.
Yorion, Sky Nomad – $0.99
Yorion, Sky Nomad is going to make a pretty big splash in Modern. Don’t believe me? Check out what Sam Black wrote about the card a few days ago. I agree with Sam’s take — Yorion card is incredible in Modern right now, and if you can’t see why this ability is so powerful, it’s likely because you aren’t familiar enough with the current metagame. This isn’t a Jace, the Mind Sculptor format right now. It’s an Ice-Fang Coatl and Arcum’s Astrolabe format. In those sorts of decks, the cost of getting a free Yorion in your hand every game is well worth the price.
So yeah, Yorion is under-priced. It’s not hugely under-priced since most players will only need to own a single copy, but $1 is absurdly cheap for a card that’s going to be causing fits on Modern tables for the next several years if it isn’t banned. Yorion should be $4 at least, and I’d grab your copies ASAP.
This Week’s Trends
The Magic community is nothing if not a perpetual outrage machine, and this week’s “scandal” was all about Secret Lair: Ultimate Edition. After setting the table for a price point somewhere in the $170-$200 range, pre-orders for this set ended up closer to $300-$400. (As of this writing, StarCityGames is sold out at $349.99).
So what happened here? It’s simple: Secret Lair: Ultimate Edition is an extremely limited product like the old From the Vault series or a Comic-Con Exclusive. Each game store only got a few copies, so most store owners decided to sell their copies for the going market rate instead of selling them for $180 and allowing the first person to hit the “buy” button on their online storefront to turn around and double their money on eBay.
I have no earthly idea why so many players are mad at the stores here. Not only would the stores have sold out in a nanosecond if they’d sold these for $180, but that extra money wouldn’t be going into the pockets of the retailers who are struggling the most to stay afloat right now. Shouting “support your game store!” one day while complaining about this a day later makes no sense to me, and don’t get me started on the accusations of “price gouging,” which is a real thing that applies to necessary goods and services — not Magic cards.
So what went wrong here? Nothing, other than the fact that WotC has committed to keeping fetchlands expensive. That’s it. If they wanted to print a bunch of these, the price would come down. But they don’t want to do it, so fetchlands are going to stay expensive for the time being. My guess is that WotC wants these cards to remain expensive so they can keep using them to sell fancy box sets and other premium products, which would be impossible for them to do if fetchlands were worth $10 each instead of $50+. Being upset about this is absolutely valid, but taking your ire out at the stores that are trying to survive a pandemic is both silly and short-sighted.
Speaking of fetchlands, it looks like they’re trending up in Modern right now. Misty Rainforest gained more than $5 this week, and both Marsh Flats and Scalding Tarn are right behind. Why? It’s because of the Secret Lair. Some people were hoping to snag copies of the set, got skunked, and decided to buy regular fetchlands instead. Other people did some research, thought about going for the full set of foils, and then realized that regular Zendikar fetchlands are actually relatively affordable right now. I don’t know if this trend will continue, but I’d expect them to all at least gain a couple of bucks over the next few weeks.