Everyone approaches deckbuilding a little bit differently.
Some people build holistically, starting with a unique concept and tweaking it all season long. Others find a play style that they like—Mono-Red Aggro, say, or blue-based control—and find a way to make it work every season. Some carefully consider their local metagame and try to find a new way to break it every single week.
Most people don't have that kind of time, money, or dedication, though. They want to build a deck once and take it to FNM every week until it either rotates or is hated out of the metagame. Because they're only building one competitive deck per format, they want to be certain that it can win. So why not simply copy one of the decks that made Top 8 at the latest Pro Tour?
Of course, pros don't build decks to last for the duration of a season—they're just hoping to win one particular event. Because of that, cards designed to fight one particular facet of one weekend's metagame end up as part of the format because so many lower level players simply copy those decklists card-for-card without thinking about what each spell is for. Furthermore, a player with an okay record in Standard and a sterling record in the Draft portion of the PT might make the Top 8 while a player with a flawless run in Standard but poor drafts will be left on the sidelines. This sometimes leaves the best Standard decks out of the Top 8 entirely.
From a financial perspective, though, all we really care about are increases in demand. Good or not, people are going to be copying the Top 8 decks from Pro Tour Gatecrash for months to come. It is worth taking a deeper look at the cards in these decks in the hopes of picking out some gems. We'll also take a look at which cards didn't show up last weekend in the hopes of properly calibrating our trade binders.
In general, we are at a bad time of year for investing in Standard. Most of the Innistrad block cards are at or near their all-time highs. There's more room for Ravnica block cards to grow, but it isn't worth investing in anything for next year right now—that's what the summer lull is for. Even though Standard as a whole will still rise a bit between now and rotation, the trick isn't to start buying cards right now, it's to figure out which cards are stable enough to trade for and which are being left alone in binders. That way, you won't be left holding a bag of fading staples during Standard's strongest time of the year.
1st Place – The Aristocrats
- 4 Boros Reckoner
- 4 Cartel Aristocrat
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Doomed Traveler
- 4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
- 3 Knight of Infamy
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 2 Silverblade Paladin
- 2 Skirsdag High Priest
- 2 Zealous Conscripts
Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way early: Boros Reckoner is the real deal. The card is phenomenal, and it has proven its mettle in several different types of decks as both a flagship and a role player. If you have a set of these that you're using, feel free to hold on to them—they'll likely be good for the next year or more.
That said, $30 is probably the ceiling for this card. In fact, it is not all that likely to maintain that value for long despite seeing continuous play. Even though set redemptions will be down this year, millions of Gatecrash cards have yet to enter the marketplace. Fresh off winning a Pro Tour, Boros Reckoner is at the absolute height of its demand. What happens to a card when demand is steady and supply increases? The price goes down.
If Boros Reckoner maintains a $30 price tag over the next few months, it would be unprecedented. Thragtusk never stayed at $30 for long. Snapcaster Mage came down to $25, and then it dropped to $20. Cavern of Souls has been bouncing around the $30 mark, but it's an Eternally playable land in a set that was lightly drafted for just a couple of months.
Can Boros Reckoner stay in the $20-$25 range? That seems far more likely to me. Long term, though, I see more of a $15-$20 price tag on this guy as long as he stays in the spotlight.
Champion of the Parish also saw a bump this week, going from $5 to $8 thanks to The Aristocrats winning the Pro Tour. It is worth noting that this card is in one of the Gatecrash event decks, making that even more of a must-buy. I can see Champion of the Parish peaking near $10 in the next two months as Innistrad hits its seasonal high, and if you can trade for these closer to the price memory point of $5, you're in fine shape.
Aren't you glad this was a promotional card? It has likely been the most played rare in Standard this season, and the price has just now reached a high of $18. If not for the release foil, this would be in the $30 range just like Boros Reckoner. Of course, that giveaway was a long time ago now, and Standard season has just gotten started. This card could hit $20+ before dropping off again over the summer.
Falkenrath Aristocrat jumped from $15 to $20 thanks to the Pro Tour as well. It's a mythic rare from Dark Ascension, meaning that in a month or so there will be far fewer copies of this out there than Boros Reckoners. I'm surprised that the Aristocrat hasn't yet made a splash in Modern, but for now it appears like this card will hold value pre-rotation only. It could peak at $25-$30 before cratering over the summer.
This is the sort of card that rarely goes up in the wake of a deck breaking out. A bump from $0.50 to $1.00 did happen thanks to this deck, but if you're building this deck what's going to be harder to get, two of these or four Falkenrath Aristocrats? It's worth pulling these out of your bulk boxes and slipping them into your binder, but that doesn't make it a good spec opportunity. Stay away.
It's worth noting that The Aristocrats runs two of these in the sideboard. After dipping to $20, StarCityGames.com raised the price of this card back to $25, and it doesn't appear to be dropping right now. I still think this card is being underplayed, but if it is relegated to sideboard duty, expect it to start dropping at some point soon.
Wait—why did this card get a bump when Skirsdag High Priest didn't? First, it has value in more than one deck—it got maindeck play in the 2nd place list. It's also an effective card in Commander, so it never quite hit the bulk rare level that Skirsdag High Priest did. The Boros Reckoner / Blasphemous Act combo is going to be something that casual players and Standard brewers are going to want to build around, too, no matter what the shell is. Because of that, this card jumped from $1.50 to $3, and it could even hit $4-$5 at some point.
2nd Place – U/W/R Flash
First, let's talk similarities. This deck also runs a playset of Boros Reckoners main. It also has two Blasphemous Acts, but they're in the maindeck this time. It runs three Restoration Angels instead of the one that The Aristocrats plays. It's also worth noting that this deck makes use of a three-card loop with Boros Reckoner—if you can give it lifelink and indestructible, you can target him with the damage again and again in order to make your life total infinitely huge.
This is still a $4 uncommon. Much like Boros Reckoner, I see this price coming down as supply increases and demand plateaus. There are also a million of these in the Boros event deck. It's a powerful card, but you should trade your copies away when you can.
Want a good spec opportunity coming out of the Pro Tour? This is it. Azorius Charm was a four-of in this deck and several others, and it's selling for just $0.75. While it isn't as objectively insane as Boros Charm, it's still a wonderful card that has the potential to triple in price once Return to Ravnica disappears a little further into our past. Target these now.
A few months ago, I was invited to guest on the Brainstorm Brewery MTG finance podcast. It was a great time, and I recommend listening to the show when you can. One of the things that almost got me laughed out of the room was when I said that Augur of Bolas was better positioned in the metagame than Geist of Saint Traft. I may have been wrong at the time, but it certainly seems to be the case now.
At just $1, Augur of Bolas is a great stealth pickup for the next few months. Keep track of how many times this unassuming card shows up in Top 8s, and remember that M13 was a lightly drafted set. Compared to Boros Charm at $4, this is a straight up bargain.
Return to Ravnica's breakout mythic continues to roll on. It was actually down to $18 for a while before the event, but it was bumped back to its high of $25, which is probably where it should be at the moment. Like Geist of Saint Traft, this card should be playable for the next year or so in high-level decks. Don't be afraid to pick them up now in the $20-$25 range—this mythic has the potential to go even higher.
Month after month, this card keeps doing work. Other than a brief drop to $16 over the summer, it's been a solid $20-$30 since it was first spoiled. I don't see any room for growth, but I don't expect it to fall off much until rotation, either.
3rd Place – Esper Control
This is now our third straight deck with Restoration Angel—how cool is that? We've also got another full set of Azorius Charms and Sphinx's Revelations alongside yet more Snapcaster Mages and Augurs of Bolas.
I heard rumblings of a "run on the dealers' tables" at the Pro Tour once people saw that Planar Cleansing had made it into a maindeck. I personally bought a few copies at $0.50 each, knowing that I had almost nothing to lose. Worst case, I have a few extra $0.50 cards that have casual demand. Well, the Pro Tour finish bumped the card to $1, but I don't think it can grow all that much from here. Feel free to get out now if you bought in like I did.
This is the actual Wrath you want. It jumped from $4 to $5 thanks to the Pro Tour, but I could see it as a $10 card next season. U/W has dominated for several Standard cycles now, and that doesn't seem to be ending any time soon. Supreme Verdict is powerful enough for Legacy play, too, making it one of those cards I am happy to trade for at retail all day long.
4th Place – Saito Naya
- 4 Boros Reckoner
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Flinthoof Boar
- 4 Gyre Sage
- 4 Hellrider
- 4 Loxodon Smiter
- 1 Thragtusk
- 3 Thundermaw Hellkite
Finally, a respite from the omnipresence of Restoration Angel. This deck is certain to stay popular—it is different from the grindy blue-based decks that dominate this list, and people love playing beatdown decks that also provide value.
The only real thing this deck has in common with the 1st through 3rd place finishers? It is also a midrange deck featuring a playset of Boros Reckoners. Yep, that card is absolutely bonkers.
After spending the better part of three months at $25, Thragtusk finally dropped to $15. Apparently, enough event decks featuring this card forced the issue. For a few months, though, it felt more common to play against a deck that ran Thragtusk than one that didn't. This is one card that didn't spike thanks to the Pro Tour, even though it actually put up some great numbers. Does it have one more run in it? I won't bet against it over the next few months.
Not only is did this card perform well this weekend in Standard, but I've started to see it in Eternal lists as well. Foils crept up to the $6 range and sold out, and you should keep an eye out for them in trade binders. In a year or so, this card will likely be second only to Boros Charm in terms of uncommon foil prices in Gatecrash.
This card crept up to $1.50—over Augur of Bolas, I might add—thanks to pre-event interest in Saito's deck. Make sure you pull them out of your M13 draft leavings and put them in your binder where they belong.
Gyre Sage was probably the biggest mover of the weekend. She jumped from $2 last week when the deck leaked to over $5 on the weekend—sales were pushing $6 while SCG was sold out. SCG has them back in stock at $5 now, and that's a fair and stable price for this creature. Unlike most hype-driven prices, I don't expect Gyre Sage to drop off now that Saito's deck has proven itself beyond doubt.
SCG bumped these to $18 before the Pro Tour, and I see no reason why they'd drop them back after the card did this well. That said, if you can get $18 in trade for these, you should. That is scraping the absolute ceiling for this card, and I can't see it climbing any higher. It's good, but it's certainly not ubiquitous right now.
Efficient, unexciting creatures like this tend to hang out in the $3-$5 range even when they see decently heavy play, so I don't see much upside potential here from the current price of $4. It's a solid card, though, and it's worth watching out for in case it begins to appear in other winning lists.
This was one of the cards in Return to Ravnica that I expected to break out after looking at the initial spoiler. Instead, it fell to $2 and looked to be an irrelevant sweeper in the era of Supreme Verdict and Bonfire of the Damned. Even though this was the only Top 8 deck that ran four copies, some of the other brews did have a few of these in their winning 75. This card is sitting at $3 right now, and I like it as a nice longer-term pickup.
It's fascinating to me that this planeswalker hasn't budged from $25. Clearly I was wrong about him in my Gatecrash review—I felt that he wasn't aggressive enough for Gruul and figured he'd only survive in slower decks. Whoops. At any rate, a year or two ago, any sight of a planeswalker near a Top 8 would lead to a spike in the $50 range—see Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, Liliana of the Veil, and so many more. Back then, I'd have to warn you not to go near the card for at least a couple months or risk losing the bulk of your investment.
Instead, I actually like Domri as a stable trade target. As a planeswalker, Domri Rade still has room to grow, and he's proven himself to the point where we can be reasonably certain he'll hit $25 or more again at some point during his Standard legality regardless of how popular this specific deck gets. Now is a fine time to move in.
This card hasn't totally disappeared from the top tables—he found his way into a few of these decks—but considering how much he sees play right now, $40 is a big stretch. His value is mostly due to price memory at this point, and I expect it will drop. Even though Standard as a whole is going to trend upward in the near future, Thundermaw Hellkite is a sell.
5th Place – Jund
Other than another four copies of Thragtusk, this deck doesn't have much overlap with any of the lists we've looked at so far. Even though this deck is based in green and red, it actually has very little in common with Saito's Gruul-based Naya deck. I rather like the diversity of this format—it's a welcome change from Delver of Secrets mirror matches.
Huntmaster of the Fells has been climbing since the summer, from a low of $18 back when Return to Ravnica came out to a high of $35 today. Even though the card has started to see a little bit of Modern play, rotation is still going to drop it considerably. There's no real room to grow from $35 in the short term, either, so at this point Huntmaster is a sell even though it is quite good. I'll probably be telling you to pick them up again next December for $6-$8, though, so get super excited for that!
I really did expect this card to surge again after the release of Gatecrash. It had a brief spike to $40 but has otherwise stabilized in the $30 range. This Pro Tour didn't move the needle, either.
For the most part, the people who wanted to buy in on Bonfire did so early, and everyone else kind of made due with the myriad of reasonable replacement effects available. This card could jump again if Jund takes over the format over the next few weeks, but otherwise I think the time to sell is now.
There's not much more I can say about Olivia. She's been a fairly stable $15-$20 when she sees play, which is happening again now. The fact that she's a non-planeswalker from a heavily opened set like Innistrad will keep her ceiling from being much higher than $20, making her a fine pre-rotation spring sell candidate at some point in the next few months.
Did you know that Liliana jumped $10 over the past week or so? She went from $25 to $35 during the month of February. Liliana is outstanding in both Standard and Modern, and demand has jumped considerably due to the fact that she sees play in both formats.
Not only do many people still value Liliana lower than $35—she bounced between $20 and $30 for a year—but I could actually see her spiking above $40 before the season is out. She makes for a decent trade target provided you are going for a quick flip or you're willing to take the hit upon rotation.
After spiking to $20 last month, Garruk, Primal Hunter is back down to a much more reasonable price of $15. Because of his prohibitive mana cost, Garruk's ceiling will never be all that high, but he could still tick up to $20 again before the end of the spring. Even still, the chances of a reprint in M14 make me feel like now is the time to get out.
After bottoming out at $5, Rakdos's Return ticked up to $6 after doing pretty well this weekend. The card still only seems to be good as a two- or three-of in a Jund shell, but $6 is low for a midrange mythic rare. People always seem willing to trade this card, too, making it a nice sneaky spec target. Worst case, I like Rakdos's Return as a card to go after this summer when prices fall even more and no one is thinking about next season.
If Standard really does become centered on Boros Reckoner, Abrupt Decay may become the best spot removal spell in the format. It's already excellent in Eternal formats, of course, and its current price tag of $7 is only up a dollar from the card's $6 floor. I love Abrupt Decay as both a long- and short-term pickup, and I am targeting it aggressively in trade.
6th Place – Wolf Run Bant
Melissa DeTora's awesome Bant deck brings us back into the realm of blue/white based midrange, offering up another playset each of Restoration Angel, Azorius Charm, and Sphinx's Revelation alongside 4x Thragtusk and 3x Augur of Bolas.
This seems like a good time to talk about a card that was featured in the sideboard of four of the Top 8 decks. Rest in Peace's price is extremely stable—it's never gone lower than $3 or higher than $4—even though it never sees maindeck play.
That said, Rest in Peace might be the best piece of graveyard hate ever printed. Unless a promotional version of this is released or they start printing it in core sets, expect this price to slowly tick up a dollar or two a year every year unless something better comes along. If you're looking for a stable card to bank some of your investment in over the long haul, this is a good choice. At the very least, get a playset now and hold onto them.
7th Place – U/W/R Flash
The creature base for this deck looks like a greatest hits collection from the other U/W/ decks in the Top 8: Snapcaster Mage, Boros Reckoner, Restoration Angel, and Augur of Bolas. We've also got another playset of Azorius Charm and three more Sphinx's Revelation here. Other than a single copy of Counterflux—a $1 low-upside rare from Return to Ravnica—I don't see anything else new here to talk about.
8th Place – Jund
Did you know this versatile removal spell was down to $3? Heck, I'm pretty sure that Terminate—a common!—has retailed for $3 at one point or another. Even though Dreadbore only showed up in one Top 8 deck, it has a ton of potential to grow. It probably won't jump this spring, but next season I expect this card will be worth quite a bit more than just $3.
Underworld Connections saw play in the sideboard of both Jund decks. It's a $0.50 rare and I don't think it has much room to grow, but it's a decent throw-in target that you might later be able to use to even out trades. At the very least, it's worth knowing that it sees a little bit of play and isn't total garbage.
14th Place – B/R Control
Most of the other decks at the top tables were very similar to those we've already covered. If this wasn't the midrangiest Pro Tour of all time, it certainly came close. Conley Woods' B/R Control deck is worth talking about, though—it did well enough to draw attention to itself, and the FNM crowd absolutely loves alternative deck choices like this. Expect to see it pop up at a table near you before long.
Mutilate actually seems very well positioned in the format right now—killing things with -X/-X is great tech against The Aristocrats. Griselbrand is one of the most powerful things you can be doing, too. Crypt Ghast has tons of casual love and is a card I am happy to pick up in trade at $3. Oh, and don't forget about Gloom Surgeon—the $0.50 bulk rare from Avacyn Restored should end up in your binder for use as a trade sweetener now that it's started to see some play. While I wouldn't recommend speculating on cards from this deck, it's worth knowing that the brew exists and that people will want to build it.
All of the Lands
Astute readers might have noticed that I haven't mentioned any of the format's lands yet: the shocklands, Innistrad lands, M10 lands, or Cavern of Souls. This is because there's not really much to say about them from a finance perspective—they wax and wane in price and popularity along with the format. You should always try to trade other Standard cards for them because it's always easier to move lands than any other type of permanent. Just be careful—the Innistrad lands will crash in May and June, so get out before then. Cavern of souls may dip as well, but I doubt it will fall too far—it's important in both Legacy and Modern.
Notably Absent Cards
I'm not saying that all of these cards were entirely missing, only that none of them showed up as the centerpieces of winning decks. Obzedat, Geist of Saint Traft, Sorin, Aurelia, Deathrite Shaman, Angel of Serenity, and several others did good work out of sideboards or as one-ofs.
That said, other than Deathrite Shaman, which is an Eternal staple, you should be trying to trade all of these cards away right now.
As value consolidates in the cards that are seeing a ton of play, the cards that aren't will continue to drop. The above cards from Innistrad block may never recover in price—rotation is coming, and people sell out of Standard earlier and earlier every year. The above cards from Gatecrash are still holding on to some residual value from the preorder period and should be moved immediately for the cards that have already proven themselves.
I'm not saying that none of these cards will ever be good—I still believe in Obzedat, for example—but it's telling that a Bant deck made Top 8 and Prime Speaker Zegana was nowhere to be seen. When in doubt, always believe in results over hype.
This Week's (Non-Standard) Trends
- Don't forget that Modern season ends in a couple of weeks. If you want to sell any Modern cards before next February, now is your best chance. Some of these staples—Tarmogoyf, Thoughtseize, Kiki-Jiki, etc.—have already started to drop by some metrics.
- Carrie Oliver and Travis Woo have unlocked a deck in Modern based on Amulet of Vigor, bouncelands, and Summer Bloom that can ramp very, very quickly. I still have a couple sets of Amulets left over from last time I speculated on the card, and I'm glad I have a few of them around. Summoner's Pact is also in the deck, though, and that is likely the card with more upside.
- From the Vault: Twenty has been announced as the latest boxed set in the series. There's really no action to take on this other than trying to preorder one if you live near one of the five or so stores in the world that sells them at MSRP. Some people have speculated that the "teased" piece of artwork is Mother of Runes, Force of Will, or Control Magic. It's not worth worrying about yet, but I do expect we'll get at least one marquee card out of the set.
- Shallow Grave has started to see a little bit of play in Legacy Reanimator and has sold out everywhere because of it. As of right now, it's out of stock everywhere except one store that has it for $8.50. It might be a good time to try to sell into hype, but it is a playable card with a tiny supply. I'm going to hold off selling until I have a better idea of where it will land.
- Hall of the Bandit Lord and Marrow-Gnawer both exploded in price last Thursday/Friday. Hall went from $2 retail to $9. Marrow-Gnawer went from $8 to $18. I'm going to cover these single-card bubbles in greater detail very soon, possibly next week. For now, feel free to sell if you have these cards. Otherwise, I suggest staying away from purchasing them unless you can get them for close to the old retail price—they'll probably settle somewhere in between.
Until next time –