The Financial Repercussions Of Pro Tour Kaladesh

Wow. What a Pro Tour! If you were expecting one archetype to dominate and raise prices out of control, your fear was all for nothing! The market is all over the place as a result of the format’s apparent diversity, and Chas is going to cover it all just for you!

Pro Tour Kaladesh is in the books, and my worry that this would end up being Pro Tour Smuggler’s Copter proved a tad premature. Instead, I’m pretty sure that the biggest winner of the weekend is anyone who was rooting for a balanced and exciting Standard format. Unlike many previous Pro Tours, no obvious deck emerged from the weekend with a target on its back. And for the first time in a while, we have a Standard format where aggro, control, and combo are all viable.

What does an open format mean for the future of Standard finance? Well, it’s a very good thing for those of us who want the format to remain cheap and accessible. Crazy-high prices only tend to stick around when every deck has to run the same small subset of cards, and format diversity does a great job of combatting $50 planeswalkers and such.

Prices normally drop in the wake of a Pro Tour, and I expect Kaladesh to show us a slightly flatter version of the same trend. Instead of four to five expensive mythics and a few good rares maintaining most of their value while everything else heads toward zero, a greater than average number of cards in Kaladesh should stay financially relevant. This means that the expensive cards may fall a bit farther than average, though. Don’t forget that that Masterpieces are still a thing, and the average value of the singles in a pack cannot exceed the value of a sealed pack for very long before the prices begin to drop.

But which Standard cards have staying power, and which are headed toward the bulk bin? The best way to figure this out is to take a look at all of the archetypes represented at the Pro Tour and examine which financially relevant cards make them tick. Based on the Top 8 decks, the 24-27 point Standard decklists, and the Day 1 metagame breakdown, these are the archetypes I want to discuss:

Aetherworks (Temur, Bant, and Red/Green)

Aetherworks Marvel was the first card to spike in price heading into the weekend—unsurprising, considering it was the most-played deck in Honolulu. Marvel is currently sold out at $20, and that price might hold for a little while as local players flock to this new and exciting deck. While Aetherworks Marvel decks occasionally crapped out on stream, they were fairly unstoppable whenever they were able to land a very early Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Emrakul, the Promised End.

This is not a deck that will likely be embraced by players who have a hard time being varianced out of tournaments, but the fact that combo is actually viable in Standard at the moment means that this deck will have a significant following at FNMs and PPTQs around the world.

It’s worth noting that the version of Temur Aetherworks that Matt Nass piloted into the Top 8 requires four copies of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger ($13) and Emrakul, the Promised End ($23) in addition to three copies of Kozilek’s Return ($13). None of these mythics have seen much price movement yet, but that should change once people actually start building their decsk instead of just buying the newest cards on spec.

Interestingly, Yuuya Watanabe and Adam Ragsdale had 22-point Standard finishes with Bant Aetherworks decks while Ryosuke Urase did the same with a simpler R/G version. Yuuya’s brew had three copies of Tamiyo, Field Researcher ($13) and Descend upon the Sinful ($2), while Adam’s ran Nissa’s Renewal ($0.60) and Drowner of Hope ($0.50). Ryosuke eschewed blue and white entirely, opting instead for Chandra, Torch of Defiance ($30) and World Breaker ($4) alongside Kozilek’s Return.

I expect the Temur version to remain the most popular build for now, but that may change as the format evolves. If Descend upon the Sinful ends up being more useful than Kozilek’s Return (less aggro and more midrange, say), the Bant version could gain in popularity. I really like Descend as a $2 spec buy that could pay off a few weeks down the road, and I’d consider snagging a few personal Tamiyos if you’re planning to play Aetherworks all season long.

B/G Delirium

B/G Delirium didn’t end up making the Top 8, but it did end up having several high finishes in the Standard portion of the event. The deck is fairly similar to the pre-rotation version, with Liliana, the Last Hope ($50); Grim Flayer ($20); Traverse the Ulvenwald ($4); Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet ($25); and Ishkanah, Grafwidow ($10) all in the maindeck. Some versions went heavier on the new cards, though, and both Verdurous Gearhulk ($20) and Noxious Gearhulk ($9) made an appearance in some lists. Others had up to a full complement of Smuggler’s Copters ($20).

Because this deck was more or less a known commodity heading into the tournament and it didn’t really have a breakout performance, I don’t expect many of these prices will change all that much aside from the normal post-PT price drop. Verdurous Gearhulk was never going to sustain a $20 price tag unless it had a crazy weekend, but it should stay somewhat in demand thanks to B/G Delirium’s success—think $6-$8 long-term. Grim Flayer and Liliana, the Last Hope are both solid cards without too many other obvious homes right now, so you can safely sell your copies if you aren’t using them. Liliana in particular is a great card, but I cannot see her sticking at $50 after the dust settles.

B/R Aggro

B/R Aggro is a new and exciting brew, and the deck had some very high Standard finishes despite not making it into the Top 8. Key rares include Bomat Courier ($2), Pia Nalaar ($2), Scrapheap Scrounger ($3), Fleetwheel Cruiser ($3.50), and Key to the City ($1) alongside Smuggler’s Copter.

Because this deck is so cheap (no mythics required!) and did so well at the PT, it will likely have a higher than average number of people who want to buy in for FNM. This deck should help keep the price of Smuggler’s Copter fairly high, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of these other cards end up seeing some upward movement as well. I’ve got my eye on Pia Nalaar, who is also played in R/W Vehicles and R/W Humans. At $2, she seems incredibly underpriced to me right now.

R/G Energy

R/G Energy is an even cheaper deck to build than B/R Aggro. Other than the required lands, the only rares you really need are Bristling Hydra ($2) and Electrostatic Pummeler ($5), though some brews ran things like Scrapheap Scrounger, Verdurous Gearhulk, or Lathnu Hellion as well.

It’s worth noting that Shaun McLaren’s version of R/G Energy had the highest finish at the Pro Tour, and it ran two maindeck copies of Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Chandra only showed up occasionally on camera this weekend, and she underperformed most of the times we saw her. Even if people embrace her in decks like this one, I doubt she’ll end up settling anywhere over $15-$18.

Chandra aside, R/G Energy should inspire plenty of FNM grinders on a budget. I don’t expect either Bristling Hydra or Electrostatic Pummeler to drop in price anytime soon, either—if a deck only has two or three total rares in it, they tend to hold their value quite well. If you’re planning to play this deck, I’d grab your copies of the key cards now.

Vehicles (White/Red, Mardu, Four Color)

We knew about W/R Vehicles coming into the PT, but Ben Hull managed to pilot his version straight into the Top 8 while Lee Shi Tian made it with his Mardu version. In addition to Smuggler’s Copter and Pia Nalaar, Hull’s version of the deck runs Gideon, Ally of Zendikar ($25); Toolcraft Exemplar ($3); Selfless Spirit ($7); Depala, Pilot Exemplar ($2.50); and Declaration in Stone ($8) alongside two copies of Fleetwheel Cruiser and a singleton Skysovereign, Consul Flagship ($11). Tian’s version is similar, but with Unlicensed Disintegration instead of Declaration in Stone and Scrapheap Scrounger ($3) off the black splash.

Gideon Ally of Zendikar appears poised for some pretty major gains coming out of the Pro Tour. In addition to the Vehicles decks, he appeared in R/W Tokens, Jeskai Control, and U/W Flash—all of which made it into the Top 8. In fact, there were nineteen (!) copies of Gideon in the Top 8, the most of any rare or mythic. It’s true that Gideon was in a large fall set, but $25 feels low to me. I expect Gideon will be breaking $30 and continuing to rise by this point next week.

Selfless Spirit is another card on the rise. Not only was it played in W/R Vehicles, but it showed up in a few other decks that performed quite well over the weekend. It’s one of those subtly great cards that multiple archetypes can all use well, which makes me think that it could have a future as a $10+ utility creature in the vein of, say, Den Protector.

I’m a little more bearish on Toolcraft Exemplar and Depala, Pilot Exemplar. They’re both very good in this deck, but if they were going to have a major spike it likely would have happened by now. At this point, they’re probably only going to be $5+ cards if Vehicles ends up taking over the metagame down the road.

R/W Tokens

R/W Tokens is similar to the vehicles deck, but it doesn’t run Depala and it limits its Vehicle slots to just the four expected copies of Smuggler’s Copter. Instead, it tries to go fast and wide with Servo Exhibition and Reckless Bushwhacker alongside Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

If Toolcraft Exemplar does spike, it’s likely because this deck ends up at the top of the metagame alongside R/W Vehicles. As-is, I expect this deck will mostly be played as a variant alternative to Vehicles depending on which deck seems stronger in the metagame at any given time. If you’re a current Vehicles player, then, you might want to consider grabbing some of these cards just in case.

Black/Red Madness

This was a slight variant on a deck we’ve seen showing up on The SCG Tour, with financially relevant cards like Scrapheap Scrounger, Cryptbreaker ($1.50), Prized Amalgam ($6), Voldaren Pariah ($1.50), and—naturally—Smuggler’s Copter.

Madness did fine at the Pro Tour, but it neither made Top 8 nor did it seem to inspire any sort of price movement. All of these cards are holding steady and might break out if the B/R Madness becomes more popular as the metagame evolves. As is, I don’t expect any of these cards to see major gains or losses over the next few weeks.

U/W Midrange and U/W Flash

While the Pro Tour didn’t have a single dominant deck, it is worth noting that all four players who finished with 27 points (9-1, the best possible Standard record) played some variant of U/W. Even though Joey Manner was the only U/W player to make Top 8 and this deck is made up of cards and interactions we’ve known about for quite some time, I expect this to be one of the major pillars of the metagame going forward.

What do these U/W decks all have in common? Well, we’ve already talked about Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; Smuggler’s Copter; and Selfless Spirit, but it’s worth noting that this deck manages to take full advantage of each. Beyond that, most variants run some number of Spell Queller ($7) and Archangel Avacyn ($19). Some also run Declaration in Stone; Rattlechains ($2); Gisela, the Broken Blade ($12); and Thalia, Heretic Cathar ($5).

Again, I like Selfless Spirit and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar as cards with potential to keep gaining value. Beyond that, I wouldn’t be surprised of Archangel Avacyn maintains her value or even sees a small spike as players lean into one of these strong U/W variants.

Dynavolt Tower Decks

While Pierre Dagen made Top 8 with a U/R version of his Dynavolt Tower deck, there were actually a few variations on this theme kicking around the top tables. Christopher Lossett did well with a Grixis version (the black was for Unlicensed Disintegration, a very popular removal spell all weekend long) and Arnaud Baglin had three copies of Dynavolt Tower in his Jeskai Control list.

Sold out at $25, Torrential Gearhulk is fast on its way to being the most expensive mythic rare in Kaladesh. While I expect it to settle in closer to $15-$20 a month from now, the card proved itself on the top tables all weekend long. As we’ll see in the next few decks we’ll take a look at, Torrential Gearhulk is powerful enough to warrant building around in a number of interesting ways. It won’t be going away anytime soon.

Dynavolt Tower itself is more of a financial trap. It’s currently sold out at $3, and that’s a fairly reasonable expectation for where its price will end up in a week or two. It might spike as high as $5-$6 in the short term, but that’s because this was an easy card for speculators to go deep on once it started making a run at the top tables. Expect a major glut of these to hit the market as soon as today.

At this point, it’s also worth talking a little bit about Aether Hub. It’s an uncommon, yes, but I can’t remember the last large-set uncommon to hit $4 while still legal in Standard. Aether Hub may fall off a tad just due to how many packs have yet to be opened, but it saw play in almost every good deck over the weekend. I expect it will remain more expensive than all but the best rares in the set for quite some time to come, and I wouldn’t feel bad about buying them at current retail if you have to.

Metalwork Colossus Decks

While none of the Metalwork Colossus decks made Top 8, they were compelling enough viewing on camera that the Colossus itself is currently $5—more than most of the rares in the set, including some (Pia Nalaar) that saw loads more play.

Much like with Dynavolt Tower, I expect that speculators had something to do with this spike and I expect the marketplace to be full of Metalwork Colossuses fairly quickly. Don’t spend $5 on these unless you desperately want to play this deck right away—they’ll be $2 again in a week or so.

If you think this deck is underrated and you’re looking for spec targets, I’d take a look at Cultivator’s Caravan ($2), which was a four-of in both of the top-finishing Colossus decklists. If Metalwork Colossus really is worth $5, then so is the far more versatile Caravan.

Jeskai and Grixis Control

Taxonomy is difficult, and I understand if you’re not happy with me lumping these two decks in together. There is certainly a lot of variety among the different flavors of Jeskai and Grixis Control we saw over the weekend. For our purposes, though, I think it’s worth considering them as the Torrential Gearhulk decks that aren’t relying on Dynavolt Tower for a more combo-centric win.

As I said earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised if Torrential Gearhulk keeps most of its value. I can’t say which of these Torrential Gearhulk decks will end up being the best, but the Pro Tour weekend certainly proved that the card has a place among the current Standard format’s elite staples.

Beyond that, these decks ran cards as diverse as Dovin Baan ($10); Archangel Avacyn; Fumigate ($3); Radiant Flames ($1); Summary Dismissal ($1.50); Jace, Unraveler of Secrets ($6); Thing in the Ice ($8); Painful Truths ($0.80); and Nahiri, the Harbinger ($25). Of these, Radiant Flames seems the most ubiquitous and intriguing for the price—I’m in for a few sets on spec, and I could easily see it hit $5-$6.

I’m wary of Thing in the Ice, but I’m also intrigued by it. It was mostly limited to Shota Yasooka’s deck, and while he did make Top 8, I tend to find that people who aren’t Shota have trouble replicating his results—he’s one of those players who finds a lot of success sticking to what he knows well and brewing by himself. At $8, I’m staying away, but I could certainly see a world where this card ends up at $10-$15 again.

What Was Absent

Most of Standard’s high-priced staples showed up at the Pro Tour, but there were a few that appeared to have missed their flight to Honolulu.

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar was a total no-show, and Nissa, Vital Force was mostly limited to a handful of sideboards. After weeks of salivating about potential Kaladesh combos with Eldrazi Displacer, the loss of the painlands proved a bridge too far for that combo piece. Relentless Dead and Sorin, Grim Nemesis were MIA, as were Cataclysmic Gearhulk, Combustible Gearhulk, Metallurgic Summonings, Saheeli Rai, and Panharmonicon. All of these cards should be immediate sells at their current retail price—even if you want to keep some of them around for Casual or Eternal play, you should be able to buy back in later for significantly less.

This Week’s Trends

You might have noticed that Metallurgic Summonings and Panharmonicon spiked like mad in the days leading up to the Pro Tour.

This is because of Saffron Olive, the current rogue brewmeister of choice in the Magic community. The decks he makes always attack the format from some unexpected angle, and they often end up being at least somewhat competitive (and, at times, much more than that).

While I don’t expect either of these two cards have a lot of financial staying power after no-showing the Pro Tour, flipping them prior to the PT would have likely been a more lucrative spec than anything else that happened last weekend. At this point, anyone who practices short-term Magic finance should be paying close attention to Saffron Olive and taking note of when he publishes his videos. His fans are legion, and demand for the cards he plays is very real.

Otherwise, there hasn’t been a lot of movement in the non-Standard formats—unsurprising for a Pro Tour week. Brushland continues to rise a bit, and Platinum Emperion continues to prove immune to predicted drops in price. It’s not a bad week to target Eternal cards in trade, especially if you’ve got some hot Standard staples you’re looking to trade away. Standard cards are at something of a high-water mark, but Eternal cards can always go up in price.

Comments from Last Week

I’ve looked at the Masterpieces on YouTube, and I’ve seen two different versions: Masterpieces where everything is foil (art and border) and Masterpieces where only the border is foil. What’s happening here? Are some of them misprints?

– Kevin Johnstone

This was a great question, Kevin, and the answer proved quite difficult to verify.

First of all, it does appear as though there is some noticeable variance in the foil layer of cards in the Masterpiece series. There are no masterpieces where part of the card is un-foiled, but there are some where the foil layer on top of the artwork and text box appear more matte. On others, that foil layer appears noticeably shinier. This is what people are noticing and commenting on.

Some of my readers told me that they heard WotC deliberately created this variable look by employing a “rippling” foil sheet that has some shinier sections, but this rumor proved a red herring. I asked Trick Jarrett about it on Twitter, and he said the “difference is akin to color variations between cards, more noticeable with Inventions.”

So no, there is no deliberately variable foil sheet, nor is there a run of “misprint” Masterpieces. It appears to just be a quirk of the printer, and some will naturally appear a bit more matte while others will be shinier. At least, that’s the official word direct from the fine folks at Wizards.

Are you sure Smuggler’s Copter isn’t going to lose value no matter what? Either the card is countered and loses value, or it’ll be at serious risk of a ban for being a four-of in every deck. It was hard to sell Eye of Ugin during Eldrazi Winter because of this.

– Bjorn Schultz

I do expect Smuggler’s Copter to lose value, Bjorn, but I think people are too quick to assume that it’s going to end up as a $4-$5 card like Siege Rhino just because it’s a rare in a large fall set. Siege Rhino seemed ubiquitous, but it did require you to play white, black, and green in your deck. Smuggler’s Copter is a colorless two-drop, and (sacrilege!) may be a little closer to Umezawa’s Jitte in terms of potential Standard impact.

Back during Kamigawa block, control decks often ran their own copies of Jitte because (thanks to the “legend rule” at the time) playing your own Jitte was one of the best ways to counter an opposing Jitte. It’s slightly different now, obviously, but one of the best counters to Smuggler’s Copter is simply playing a Copter of your own.

As for the ban worries, I understand those fears based on The SCG Tour’s Week 1 results. If we had ended up with a full 32 Smugglers Copters in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Kaladesh, we could talk about the likelihood of a ban. Instead, Copter seemed to fairly enable all of the format’s best aggro decks. Don’t worry about a ban—just worry about the card dropping in price because (at least for now) the format’s top-tier control and combo decks can win a fair number of games through an opposing Smuggler’s Copter.