The business of trading is a constant race against the proliferation of information. The key to this business is spotting or predicting a trend before the information starts to circulate.
The latest big trend is the growth of Legacy and the rise of Legacy cards. For those who were “in the know” it was clear that Legacy prices were already rising before the SCG buy list announcement (that's why any talk about a bubble is nonsense). This upward trend was compounded by the buy list announcement and that explosion has produced the current state of the market. Those who were ahead of the boom were trading for and buying staples way before this happened.
Because of the nature of this business I'm constantly asking myself “What's next?”
What information can we trap and take advantage of before it becomes a known commodity? From my perspective there are two things that we can capitalize on. The first is the coming Standard rotation and the second is tracking the direction of the Legacy boom. I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we're going to talk about both of these; the bad news is that it won't be today. Today we're going to talk about Standard. Next week we'll talk about Legacy.
Standard of the Future
There are some people who think that it's too early to talk about the Standard rotation; those people are wrong. Now is the perfect time to pick the cards of the future on the cheap. Once the cards start to get some attention then you have to outrun the information to make a profit. A good example of this is Phyrexian Crusader. Before Brian Kibler posted his U/B Infect deck Phyrexian Crusader was trading for about $4. Once he started talking about it on Twitter the race against the spread of information began. After he Top 8ed with it the window started to close rapidly. Now the window is closed and Phyrexian Crusader trades at $6-$7.
The Standard environment that we should be preparing for now is the SOM /M12 format. To construct this format we need to talk about what we know and make some guesses about what we don't know. The guess work makes some of these calls risky but it's the best we can do when trying to get ahead of the trends. The best thing to do is to keep a map of all this information in your head and add the new information as it becomes available. Let's dive in.
The best place to start is by looking at the current Standard environment and doing some “math” for what the future could look like. These are the current players in the Standard metagame.
Caw-Blade [The crowd boos]
Gains: Sword of War and Peace
Loses: Stoneforge Mystic Jace the Mind Sculptor
Question Marks: Squadron Hawk Preordain Mana Leak
Status: I've come from the future with good news. Caw-Blade is no more. The loss of Jace and Stoneforge Mystic make this deck a distant memory. I've been getting a lot of questions about the future of these cards. People have a lot of money tied up in this deck and they're worried about losing it. Here's a summary of my thoughts on the key cards of this deck.
Jace The Mind Sculptor – I said this a few weeks ago: “I've received twelve of these in the last two weeks as part of trades. This tells me that the general consensus is “Ship” which means that the price will start falling; it already has started to go down. I'd ship these now if you want full value.” This trend is continuing and all this crazy talk about banning Jace is not helping the price any. I will say again: you should ship your Jaces now if you don't want to lose value. I see Jace being a $50 card post rotation. This means that if you get the opportunity to buy Jace for $50 or less then you should. When it comes to selling your Jaces you should be able to get $75 each for them. If you can get more than $75 you should jump at the chance. I'll warn you that I've been trying to sell Jace at $75 and I've seen very little interest. People are gun shy right now because no one wants to jump on a sinking ship.
Summary: Ship these at $60 and up. Keep them if you can't ship for at least $60.
Gideon Jura – There's speculation of a Gideon reprint and there are two camps when it comes to this speculation. One camp believes that Gideon will be reprinted in his current form of unadulterated badassery and the other camp believes that he will be printed in a nurtured safe-for-M12-core-set form. No matter what happens Gideon's price will suffer. Assuming that he gets reprinted Gideon will take a hit because of the death of Caw-Blade (there are currently no other decks that run him) and because there'll be more in circulation due to the reprint. I expect his price to model after Baneslayer Angel when it was printed in M11. Gideon will fall into $12-15 realm unless he finds a home in the best deck again. If Gideon rotates and a new M12 version is printed then the price will naturally decline due to rotation and the new M12 Gideon will have the potential to hit the highest price point for mythics because it will essentially be a new card (i.e. Jace Beleren vs. Jace the Mind Sculptor). What this means is that you should sell your Gideons before the release of M12.
Summary: Sell Sell Sell
Stoneforge Mystic – This card will rotate with Jace but like Jace it will still see plenty of play. This will see a lot of play in Extended and Legacy. I assume that a Caw-Blade variant will be viable in next year's Extended season and this is already an archetype staple in Legacy. The current 25-dollar price tag on this card is a bit of an Illusion (like Fathom Seer). You can buy Stoneforge Mystic on eBay for between $16 and $20. What this means is that if you try to sell them now you can expect between $16 and $20 for them. I expect their retail price to fall to between $12 and $15 after rotation which means that it's probably not worth selling them now. I recommend that you hold onto Stoneforge Mystic unless you can get a solid $25 out them in trade or USD.
Sword of Feast and Famine – The rotation of Stoneforge makes the price of this a wild card. Patrick Chapin built a Jund deck that had no Stoneforge but it was sporting two Swords of Feast and Famine. The deck isn't tearing up the tournament scene but what this means is that Patrick Chapin thinks that it's perfectly reasonable to run a couple of Swords without Stoneforge Mystic. I could see this trend carry into the next block which means that Sword could still maintain its current price tag. It's also possible that a new equipment tutor (like Steelshaper's Gift) will be printed and that kind of support will reflect in the price of the Swords. My current mode of operation is to move the Swords as soon as I get them. I don't like having my money tied up in wild cards and I can't help but think that the rotation of Stoneforge Mystic (and death of Caw-Blade) will knock this down to a $15 -$18 card.
Loses: Valakut the Molten Pinnacle; I could keep listing stuff but I think it's safe to say that Valukut is dead in the future.
Question Marks: Primeval Titan
Status: What's a Valakut deck without Valakut? It's a crappy Titan ramp deck. The thing that makes Valakut good is the inevitability of uncounterable damage from playing Mountains. The deck can play all ramp spells and very little threats because of the small footprint of the Valakut combo. Without Valakut this deck doesn't exist. Let's talk about the fate of some of these cards.
Lotus Cobra – This card will go down in price due to its rotation out of Standard. I still expect it to be a player in Extended (Mythic Conscription could be a real deck next season) and it's seeing fringe play in Legacy. For the record I think Lotus Cobra's potential in Legacy is highly underestimated. I expect to see more Lotus Cobra in Legacy in the future. If it starts to see consistent Legacy play then all bets are off on the price. Lotus Cobra won't drop below $10 after the rotation so I don't see the sense in selling / trading them away now at $14. I recommend holding on to Cobras; it's the kind of card that can spike hard if it's in the “best” Extended deck for a season.
Primeval Titan – This card will drop like a rock after it rotates out of Standard. It's currently $30 and falling fast. There's some talk about the Titans being reprinted in M12 but I don't subscribe to this thinking. Cards like the Praetor and Chancellor cycle from New Phyrexia as well as Massacre Wurm and Consecrated Sphinx all make me think that we'll be seeing a Titanless M12. Even if Titans were reprinted Primeval Titan would lose value because of the reprint and then lose value because there are no Valakut or Eldrazi lands in Standard. I expect Primeval Titan to fall to $12–$15 after the rotation. He'll see play in Extended but if the current Standard metagame is any indication of what Extended will look like I expect to see Primeval Titan decks to be suppressed by Caw-Blade decks. My recommendation is to sell your Primeval Titans as soon as possible. I've been selling mine at $25 to keep up with the falling price and there is little interest even at $25.
Green Sun's Zenith – This card is going to increase in value. It's the linchpin of some Bant decks in Legacy and grows in potential with every green creature that's
printed. The price recently dropped on these from $9.99 to $5.99 I documented the change here) only to pop back up to $7.99 this week. I'm very happy that the price dropped because that means that I can pick these up for cheaper. I expect this to break $12 after Zendikar block rotates. Pick these up in droves—yeah droves!
Summary: Droves man! In droves!
Loses: Jace the Mind Sculptor Oracle of Mul Daya Lotus Cobra
Question Marks: Lightning Bolt Preordain Mana Leak
Status: This is another Jace deck that bites it with the rotation of Zendikar. We've already talked about the cards that make this deck good but one card that's been adopted by the RUG deck and has a lot of potential is Precursor Golem.
Precursor Golem – Originally damned by the “dies to Lightning Bolt” argument Precursor Golem has risen from the depths of “Limited bomb” and earned the label “Constructed playable.” The best part is that Precursor Golem is seeing play in a world of Lightning Bolts! If you consider the possibility that Lightning Bolt may not even be in M12 then that makes the Golem even more attractive. This card has a lot to gain and very little to lose. He singlehandedly enables metalcraft in a block where it matters and he brings nine power of dudes for five mana. I recommend that you pick these up because they're dirt-cheap right now and have the potential to be a $5 rare.
Summary: Pick these up
Gains: Fresh Meat? Spawning Shell?
Question Marks: Fauna Shaman Squadron Hawk
Status: This deck doesn't exist without Vengevine and I don't know if we get Fauna Shaman back in the core set. What we do know is that we'll still have Lead the Stampede which is a great tool for aggro decks.
Vengevine – Vengevine is still viable in Legacy and Extended. I think you should keep an eye on this card. Elspeth Knight-Errant sees minor play in Extended and Legacy as at most a two-of in some decks and it's a $15 card despite being printed in a $20 duel deck. Vengevine is a four-of in the decks that run him. My recommendation is to pick these up at below $20 when they rotate out of Standard and then wait for them to increase in value.
Summary: Pick them up at sub-$20 then hold.
Fauna Shaman – I could see this being a $10 card if it doesn't get reprinted. I've seen viable Legacy builds with the card and it does something very powerful. Vengevine decks in Extended will need Fauna Shaman and there's a possibility that Necrotic Ooze will make a comeback. I recommend that you pick these up; I put this card on the same pricing trend as Knight of the Reliquary and Noble Hierarch.
Summary: Pick these up
Gains: Sword of War and Peace
Loses: Stoneforge Mystic all the landfall dudes Goblin Guide
Question Marks: Squadron Hawk Lightning Bolt
Status: This deck could possibly morph into a battle cry deck. The loss of Stoneforge Mystic and the landfall element changes the make-up of this deck considerably. I can still see a Signal Pest / Hero of Oxid Ridge deck with burn in the future but it probably won't be as strong or as fast.
Goblin Guide – This card is what I consider an Elite Rare. Its price dropped a little when the Event deck (which had two Goblin Guides in it) was released but the price is back on the rise again. Patrick Sullivan doesn't mind casting Goblin Guide in Legacy and that makes me think that it's here to stay as a burn staple. I can see this trending upward after an initial drop once it rotates out of Standard. I recommend picking these up if you can get them for $6 or below.
Summary: Pick these up at $6 or lower
Hero of Oxid Ridge – I've been a huge fan of this card since day one. The combination of haste and battle cry is really good and its secondary ability is icing on the cake. It's very possible that Kuldotha Red makes a return with Hero of Oxid Ridge at the top of the curve. Even if that doesn't happen this card plus
Signal Pest is a powerful combination. We saw a hint of such a deck in Lewis Laskin's crazy RUG brew. Pick these up now. I can see it being a $15-$20 dollar mythic.
Summary: Get them now. Hold them.
Mirran Crusader – This guy is the real deal. If we do lose Lightning Bolt in M12 then Mirran Crusader gets even better. This card has seen play in Standard and Legacy; it's been in U/W and U/R in Standard and in Junk and W/B in Legacy. His ability to block or swing through a Tarmogoyf is awesome and he holds a Sword of Fire and Ice like no other. I can see this card trending upward; my modest estimate is that he will break $8. The buy-a-box promo does affect his price a little.
Summary: Pick these up at $7 or less.
We've talked a lot about what won't be making the cross over into the world of Scars of Mirrodin/M12 but what kind of decks will we see? I'll list some decks that I expect to see in the future. Keep in mind that I'm looking two sets ahead into the future so all of this information could be totally nullified by cards that have yet to be printed. I expect to see:
U/W Control Variant with Venser – This is already popping up at different tournaments. Venser was also huge in Block Constructed. It makes sense that he would be awesome once Zendikar rotates.
Recommended Pick-Ups: Venser the Sojourner Elspeth Tirel
Kuldotha Red / Battle Cry – This deck broke out at the SCG Indianapolis Open earlier this year. The deck does an excellent job of punishing opponents early and it preys on an underprepared metagame.
Recommended Pick-Ups: Mox Opal Hero of Oxid Ridge
U/B Infect – Brian Kibler proved that this deck is viable even in today's metagame. There's still another set with infect coming and Jace is rotating. These two facts give Infect a real shot at tier one.
Recommended Pick-Ups: Skithiryx the Blight Dragon Inkmoth Nexus Phyrexian Crusader (Seriously listen to me on this one)
Mono-Black Control – I wanted to add this to the list because there has been some pretty exciting spoilers but I don't want to talk about them yet.
Recommended Pick-Ups: Screamwhip Black Sun's Zenith.
Tezzeret Control - Once Jace rotates Tezzeret really has an opportunity to shine. It's hard for me to imagine that a Tezzeret deck doesn't exist in the heart of an artifact block.
Recommended Pick-Ups: Tezzeret Agent of Bolas Thopter Assembly
Mono Red – This is always a metagame consideration. It's often regarded as the poor man's deck but it has the potential to catch a metagame off guard.
Recommended Pick-Ups: Koth of the Hammer
That's all I have for you this week I hope this look into the future has given you some stuff to consider at the trade tables. Have a rockin' week.