It's time to dive back into Journey into Nyx! Let's review the set review guidelines I set up last week:
- Splashy powerful cards that require entirely new decks to be good are often the biggest traps. People enter Magical Christmas Land when looking at spoilers, and 90% of these cards will drop in price.
- It is very hard for a gold card in Standard to stay at or above $20 for long.
- Broad staples that go in many decks tend to be worth picking up early even at high prices.
- Cards that fit in existing top decks tend to be relatively good buys.
- For me to recommend a card that doesn't fit in one of the format's current top archetypes, I have to really believe that it can shake up the format entirely (or believe that is being massively undervalued for some other reason).
- Most of the time it is not worth buying casual cards early on. They tend to drop before going up in value later.
- All mythic rares are worth investigating in depth, especially cheap ones.
- If a set has a "sleeper" rare, it is usually a card with a cheap converted mana cost (CMC), potential broad appeal, and an awkward or hard to evaluate ability.
With that in mind, let's hit the spoilers and do some analysis. If you want my take on a card that isn't reviewed here, check last week's article for Journey into Nyx stuff that was spoiled during the first week of previews.
Athreos, God of Passage - $30
Athreos is the Journey into Nyx card I am most excited about building around in Standard. Decent stats? A wonderful static ability? A cheap CMC? A color combination that people are already running? Sign me up.
It's true that Athreos is something of a punisher card, which rarely work out, but that doesn't worry me too much. If you play Athreos in an aggressive deck, your opponent is at risk of getting burned or rushed out. If you play Athreos in a control deck, the three damage/return clause suddenly makes board trades favorable and gives you a way to build up insurmountable card advantage. It also helps that Orzhov is a guild with great devotion enablers—Obzedat, Ghost Council; Precinct Captain; Cartel Aristocrat; Brimaz, King of Oreskos; Xathrid Necromancer; and Herald of Torment to name a few. It's also possible that the Mono-Black Aggro decks will want to go into white for Athreos and a few other cards in a light splash.
I believe that Athreos is the Journey into Nyx card most likely to pull off a Bonfire of the Damned or a Voice of Resurgence and hit $50 retail this summer. Players of all stripes will want this, and if it shows up in Modern, which is certainly possible, the price could seriously get out of control.
Even still, I'm not recommending a preorder. Too much could go wrong, and gold mythics that don't see competitive play—even if casual players want them—have a short-term ceiling in the $10-$15 range. Personally I'll be holding this card if I open it at the Prerelease, but I won't be trading for them at the current retail price. I'd rather buy in on Brimaz, which has become a proven staple of the format, is past the hype phase, and may still have room to grow.
If Athreos does become a cornerstone of Standard, expect Supreme Verdict to see less play, hurting Esper and Azorius decks overall. It's also worth noting that most of the cards that play well with Athreos are from Ravnica block, which means that they'll rotate in the autumn and make this deck worse. If you want Athreos for casual use only, I'd wait until October or November to buy in.
Financially Pharika is being outpaced by every other God in the set, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Pharika might seem kind of underwhelming at first, but I have no doubt it will see some play in Standard. G/B Dredge is already kind of a thing, and this card fits that strategy perfectly. At just three mana, decks will find a home for this, even if it isn't as powerful as many of the other Gods. It will shine against decks that rely on a small but powerful army of non-evasive creatures, and it can also counter an opposing reanimation spell in a pinch. The card shines in Commander as well, where you can give opponents Snakes out of nowhere in order to help control the board.
Even still, there is no getting around the fact that Pharika isn't very strong. Unless your graveyard is filling up with creatures, it doesn't really do anything. The decks that want it will probably only need two or three copies, and this isn't the sort of card that drives kitchen table players wild. I expect it to settle in the $5-$6 range, a notch above unplayable Gods like Karametra, God of Harvests.
Prophetic Flamespeaker - $10
Double strike and trample are two very potent abilities when stacked up together. Even without a boost, this card can "draw" you two cards a turn against an empty board. Three toughness is a big deal, and if you have any sort of pump, the Flamespeaker threatens to get out of hand quickly. Prophetic Flamespeaker is also a three-drop, and I never discount mythic rares that cost less than four mana to cast—the road to Value Town is paved with cards that are three CMC or less.
Right now I'm deferring to the pros on this one. I've read dozens of articles with sweet post-rotation decks, and very few of them have bothered to talk about the Flamespeaker at all. For example, G/R Monsters is going to run heavier green for Courser of Kruphix, which means that this card is going to have to almost exclusively fit in a Mono-Red or R/W Aggro shell. Are those decks going to want a one-power three-drop? Even one that has this kind of upside?
I could certainly see Flamespeaker breaking out at a Pro Tour and jumping in value, but even if that happens, I think the lack of hype and interest will cause the price to drop lower than $10 first. This may be one of the best buys in the set when it drops to $5, but I'm a seller right now.
Deicide - $4
Just how narrow is this card really?
Going through the top decks from the last couple of Standard tournaments, it's kind of interesting how many enchantments see play these days. Aside from the Gods, there's Underworld Dreams, Courser of Kruphix, Spear of Heliod, Bident of Thassa, and Detention Sphere. Not only does Journey into Nyx bring us three or four new playable Gods, but we get Banishing Light as yet another Oblivion Ring. I don't think Deicide comes in against all of those decks, but it's not the worst maindeck two-of right now as it is. And if the new Gods make as big an impact as some people think, this card is going to be in demand.
My initial reaction was to dismiss this card. Narrow hate tends to be overrated, as are Cranial Extractions. I was going to compare this to Renounce the Guilds, a $0.75 two-mana white hate card from last spring's set. Deicide is much better though—it's less narrow (can deal with all enchantments), doesn't have a drawback, and will occasionally act as a two-for-one while taking out your opponent's best permanent.
Deicide's value depends entirely on how God driven the new metagame is. If Gods are everywhere and Atheros is the best card in the format or something, this is a $7-$8 card. If not, $3-$4 seems about right. Trading for these at $4 is low risk, and I'll be targeting them at the Prerelease.
Master of the Feast - $4
For years black had four-drop flying Demons in every other set that tantalized people during the preorder period before cratering straight toward the bulk bin once the set was actually released. Desecration Demon finally broke that mold, though you can argue it's because that card's "drawback" is still a very solid form of card advantage and board control.
That said, Master of the Feast is kind of exciting. It's a three-drop that helps devotion, meaning it can slot into a good deck that already exists. Is it really better than Herald of Torment though? That card is much more versatile, lacks as substantial a drawback, and has the same CMC.
Ultimately, I don't know. But a 5/5 flyer for three with a drawback that doesn't improve your opponent's board will see play, and if the metagame is right, it'll be very good. I can't recommend a buy—this card is very risky with a bulk rare floor that is easy to imagine—but at $4, people are going to want to build around this, so it should be stable for a while.
Aegis of the Gods - $3
I don't think Aegis of the Gods will see much play in Standard. The decks that you want this against can deal with it easily on the way to burning you in the face. It does have some Eternal applications as a much easier to cast True Believer, though that card isn't currently being played in either format. I expect this rare to stay above bulk—probably in the $1-$2 range—and see some play in the sideboard of Modern and Standard decks. That means that it might spike at some point years down the line. For now though I'm happy to trade these away.
Dictate of Erebos - $3
Most of the other Dictates are expensive versions of decent casual cards. While the flash doesn't matter as much on this as it does on, say, Dictate of Heliod, the tradeoff is that 3BB is roughly about as easy to cast as the 1BBB on Grave Pact. I wouldn't call this a total upgrade—Grave Pact would still be better in today's Standard I think—but this card is far from unplayable.
Meanwhile, Grave Pact has been printed in Stronghold, Eighth Edition, Ninth Edition, Tenth Edition, Planechase 2009, and Commander 2011. That's six separate printings. It's still $12. Unlike some of the other Dictates where the original versions are quite a bit better or have been outclassed, Dictate of Erebos likely has a slot in every single Commander deck that already runs Grave Pact. And that doesn't even scratch possible Standard implications!
I am perfectly willing to trade for these at $3 all day long. Depending on how well the set sells, this is easily a $10 card long term.
My first thought with this was to break it with Cyclonic Rift, but overload spells don't target like that so my dreams of powering Rift out on turn 3 or 4 ended fairly abruptly. The best cards I've seen so far that do actually work are Gridlock, Launch the Fleet, Flames of the Firebrand, Turn // Burn, Curse of the Swine, Lightning Strike, Frost Breath, and Far // Away. Not all of these spells are decent without the Thaumaturge around, but enough of them are to make this a really intriguing play.
Ultimately, if you think that Keranos, God of Storms is real, aren't you going to jam four of these into that deck and build around it? What about possible applications in Mono-Blue Devotion or blue with a white splash for Launch the Fleet? This card might fall on its face, but the raw power level here is huge. If you play blue in Standard, snag a set now. It could hit $5-$7 if it sees a lot of play. If not, well, I'm always high on cards that are one previously unbroken spell away from dominating a format. In the right deck why not play this card in Modern too?
Banishing Light - $1.50
Oblivion Ring used to occasionally hit $3-$4 before it was reprinted enough times. This should trade at $2-$3 easily as well even though enchantment hate is more prevalent now and Detention Sphere exists. Expect this to kick along at $2 until Return to Ravnica rotates, at which point it will rise a little further.
Brain Maggot - $1
These cards have historically been fairly playable—Mesmeric Fiend and Tidehollow Sculler were both players in Standard. This uncommon will be $2-$3 if it ends up in a good deck or two, which seems very possible.
Harness by Force - $1
At sorcery speed this isn't playable in Constructed regardless of whether you're paying three, six, or nine. I don't think the added versatility is enough to push it over the edge. Future bulk rare.
Dictate of Heliod - $1
This is a huge Limited blowout, but I doubt we'll see it at Constructed tables. Casual players will want it, but don't forget that Collective Blessing is just a $0.50 card right now. This should drop to bulk before stabilizing at $2 or so in a couple of years, so the $1 price tag isn't too bad. Target foils though because this is a good card in Cube.
Dictate of Karametra - $1
This will see some play in Commander, but it slots in well behind cards that only ramp yourself (or are at least somewhat conditional) like Mana Reflection, Vernal Bloom, Mirari's Wake, and Caged Sun. I doubt Dictate of Karametra makes it onto the radar of most serious Commander brewers at all honestly. It doesn't have any real Constructed application either, so expect it to be available as a bulk rare soon enough.
Don't forget that Agent of the Fates is still in the format! With four of those, four Kings, and a bunch of cheap targeting spells, you can wipe your opponent's board out incredibly quickly. That card is much better on its own though, and I don't expect this deck to be any good so this card is probably going to be $0.50 before long.
Why wasn't this card both mythic and legendary? Is a guy who holds up the entire universe not mythic enough for you, Wizards? I have a hard time believing that this feels less mythic than, say, Prophetic Flamespeaker. Were they worried about Commander? Limited balance? Goryo's Vengeance? Somehow getting two Bearers of the Heavens in play at once? Well, in that world this would actually be a really interesting combo piece for Eternal play. In our world unfortunately this guy is nothing more than a bulk rare. Oh, and feel free to insert your own Atlas Shrugged joke here.
Polymorphous Rush - $1
This card keeps tripping me up because I keep expecting it to play like Polymorph or Mass Polymorph. Instead, it's more like a very limited Mirrorweave. At any rate, if you could hit opponents' things with this, we might have something, but as is it's way too situational to be any good. Bulk rare.
Pheres-Band Warchief - $1
Even if Centaurs were good, this wouldn't be a very good lord. Bulk rare.
Twinflame - $1
This is a hard card to evaluate. It's probably bad—most cards like this are—but the fact that it only costs two mana and can potentially provide a large amount of card advantage is intriguing. Magic's modern era often revolves around creatures with good comes into play abilities, and Twinflame plays very well with cards like that. Even just getting two hasted copies of your best two creatures can be a nice finishing blow in an aggressive red deck. Though this is likely a bulk rare, it's just $1 right now. I'm willing to pick up a few copies and roll the dice.
Hypnotic Siren - $1
Hey, remember that time when Judge's Familiar won the Pro Tour? Devotion is a real thing, and solid and flexible blue one-drops have to be taken seriously. It remains to be seen how good that deck is now though, and I don't think it gets to seven mana that often. If it becomes the one-drop of choice in Mono-Blue Devotion, expect a price bump toward the $2-$3 range. If not or if that deck is dead for good, this is a bulk rare. I'd buy a set now if you're currently playing the deck. Otherwise I wouldn't bother.
Skybind - $0.75
There are so many easier ways to Momentary Blink something even in casual play. This only goes in a couple of very specific Commander and kitchen table decks. Bulk rare.
Gnarled Scarhide - $0.50
2/1s for B are almost always playable, and this is one of the better ones. Decks that want this don't like blocking anyhow, and it can pump a creature and then start beating later in the game and also doubles as a mini Falter in the endgame. I'm picking up a set at $0.50 each as well as a foil for Cube.
Daring Thief - $0.50
This is a fun Johnny engine that won't be all that competitive, causing the price to stay at or around bulk level. It's very cool and will be a lot of fun to play in wacky casual decks though.
Nyx-Fleece Ram - $0.50
This card has great flavor and is a very solid sideboard card against aggressive decks. Feel free to snag them at $0.50 each if you think you'll need them.
Revel of the Fallen God - $0.50
We all like tokens, but no one is going to pay this absurd mana cost to get them. Bulk rare.
That's it! Overall, Journey into Nyx feels like the strongest small set in a very long time. It doesn't pack the same wallop as Theros or Return to Ravnica, but I like it more than any of the other sets in the past couple of blocks. There are some multi-format staples, Standard flagships, and a ton of cards that will have long-term casual value. Even if my breakout picks (like Battlefield Thaumaturge) end up being busts, Mana Confluence and the two Temples are slam-dunk staples, and the Gods will be in demand for years to come. Limited play looks like it'll be a lot of fun too.
If you're heading to the Prerelease this weekend (and you should), here's my trading cheat sheet. Cards on the top are ones that I think are either very safe targets or are undervalued. Cards on the bottom are ones that I think will drop over the next month or two.
Trade For These At The Prerelease
- All of the good uncommons
- Battlefield Thaumaturge
- Dictate of Erebos
- Mana Confluence
- Temple of Epiphany
- Temple of Malady
Hold These If You Open Them
Trade These Away
- Aegis of the Gods
- Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
- Dictate of Kruphix
- Eidolon of the Great Revel
- Iroas, God of Victory
- Keranos, God of Storms
- Kruphix, God of Horizons
- Pharika, God of Affliction
- Prophetic Flamespeaker
- Sage of Hours
Note that I've moved Eidolon of the Great Revel down a tier from last week's analysis. I don't think it'll show up much in Standard, so you'll have a chance to buy in lower than $5 down the road a few months.
This Week's Trends
- Mimic Vat is finally making a move, mostly thanks to speculators. This card has been on my radar for years, and I strongly suspect it will stabilize closer to $6 than to $2. If you want one for a Commander deck, now is the time.
- If you want to open a specific God at the Prerelease, pick the box color where the God you want has a chance to be hiding in your guild pack. According to Reddit user DrLemniscate, Athreos, God of Passage is in the white pack; Keranos, God of Storms is in the blue pack; Pharika, God of Affliction is in the black pack; Iroas, God of Victory is in the red pack; and Kruphix, God of Horizons is in the green pack.
- There was a Sneak Attack buyout this week. The new price is somewhere between $60 and $80. Adjust accordingly because I don't think it'll be coming down soon at any point.
- Random casual card price of the week: Sliver Legion, out of stock at $40!
- I still firmly believe that the fetch land spike's ripple up to dual lands will cause Power Nine prices to rise next. People always ask me what they should buy as a long-term hold, and this is what I tell them.
- Hold on to your sealed Modern Masters boxes for another couple of months. They're close to $400 now, but I think they'll hit $500 in season.
- I know I'm a broken record here, but seriously: shock lands. They'll be $20 each before you know it.