It's fitting, I suppose, that Conspiracy is still shrouded in so much confusion and misinformation. Before I get to my financial review, I need to straighten up a couple of misconceptions that I've been asked about over the past couple of weeks. That's right - it's Q&A time!
Q: My local store is charging $200 per box for Conspiracy. Is that a good price?
A: Nope! Conspiracy is not a limited release set, so you should be able to find boxes at retail. As of this writing, Star City still has a bunch of boxes in stock at $120 each.
Q: But my LGS owner told me that the set has been extremely tightly allocated, and they're only getting five boxes in!
A: Conspiracy has proven very popular in pre-orders, so the initial print run will be very tight for some. There might be an opportunity to sell packs or singles into hype when the first print run dries up quickly. This is a print-to-demand set though, so there will be more. Don't panic.
Q: Wait, but I thought this set was like Modern Masters!
A: Conspiracy is nothing like Modern Masters. Stop comparing it to Modern Masters.
Q: But doesn't Conspiracy only have 24 packs per box like Modern Masters? It's one eight-man draft per box, right?
A: Also not true. Conspiracy has the normal 36 packs per box. That's a draft and a half, so if you're buying boxes to draft with at home or hoard for a couple of years, you'll want to buy three of them.
Q: Does Conspiracy have foils, or is it foil-free like Planechase or Commander boxed sets?
A: Conspiracy does have foils, so if you're the kind of player who likes them, prepare to open up your wallet.
A: No. All we know right now is that these lands will be judge foils. They might be unique premium cards, or they could be from the fall set. Conspiracy has no basic lands. Instead, you will get one of thirteen cards with the type 'conspiracy' in the basic land slot.
Q: Whoa, those Conspiracies look like they'll be NUTS in Commander! You can basically play with them all for free! I should go out and buy ten sets of each, right?
A: The Conspiracies won't be legal in ANY constructed format, and that includes Commander. They would be completely unbalanced in Commander. Stop trying to make this a thing. It isn't going to be a thing.
Q: But conspiracies use the COMMAND zone! Clearly, they were made with Commander in mind!
A: Emblems also use the command zone, smart-o. It's a convenient place to have things exist outside of the game that aren't in exile. These cards were made with draft in mind, not Commander. Most of them aren't any good in singleton formats, and some of them do absolutely nothing outside of draft.
Q: Fine. Well, at least I can play Dack Fayden in Modern, right?
A: Seriously, do you not remember this from the Commander boxed set? The cards from this set (other than the thirteen conspiracies) are only legal in Commander, Legacy, and Vintage. Make sure you don't forget that when you pre-order singles.
Q: Wait, so then why is Dack selling for $60? Isn't that, you know, completely insane?
A: First of all, Dack is down to $50 on Star City, so people are finally catching on. Also, there hasn't been a set quite like this released before, so no one really knows how much the cards should be selling for yet. Until people start opening product, expect prices to start in the crazy-go-nuts range and go up from there.
Now that we're on the same page, let's tackle Conspiracy on a card-by-card basis. I'm going to start with a look at the most exiting cards in the set, at least for me.
There are thirteen conspiracies in the set: five at common, six at uncommon, and two at rare. Conspiracies will appear at the rate of one per pack in the land slot, so it will be possible to get both a regular rare and a rare conspiracy in your pack if you're lucky.
Conspiracies start the game in the Command zone, giving you 'free' access to effects outside of your deck. This makes for an interesting draft mechanic, but these cards have close to zero application in any sort of Constructed play. They do not make sense as meaningful additions to any casual Constructed format that currently exists.
Because of that, I suspect that most of these conspiracies will be valueless the moment your draft is over. The commons and uncommons will be everywhere, and I wouldn't be surprised if the rares both end up at bulk prices within a couple of weeks. They might have a little bit of long term value just by virtue of being curiosities, but actual demand for them is going to be very low.
So who is actually going to want copies of the conspiracies? Cubers! Because the set is tailored toward drafting, many of these cards are perfect for cubes - even powered, competitive ones. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a vast gap between normal and foil prices on Conspiracy singles considering the demand will be exclusively coming from the most foil-happy demographic in the game. You might see both Worldknit and Backup Plan end up as $0.50 rares that have $20-$25 foils.
In terms of Cube play, here's how I'd rank the conspiracies from worst to best:
Most cubes are singleton, making this a worthless inclusion unless you're running, like, seven Gravecrawlers. Feel free to avoid this one, even in foil.
It's Cube, so Muzzio's Preparations is only going to help one creature in your deck. Most Cube builders will likely leave this one out, but take note: cubes that decide to go conspiracy-heavy could run all twelve from this point on. Because of that, this foil is probably going to start out in the $2-$3 range.
Getting a free 1/1 defender is quite good against some decks, where it will trade for a real card. Most of the time it'll be pretty irrelevant, though. $2-$3 foil.
This card is always going to be playable, but in a singleton format, it isn't ever going to be spectacular. I doubt it'll make the cut in most cubes. $2-$3 foil.
There will be times when someone will use this with some huge finisher, and it will end the game out of nowhere. Most of the time, it's going to help an aggressive deck get just a touch faster. That's fine, and people will play it, but very few people are going to be excited to run this. $2-$3 foil.
Secrets of Paradise
If you get your Rukh Egg of Paradise or whatever at the right stage of the game, this card will be very good. Most creatures are going to either tap for mana or want to do something else when they're in play though, making this conspiracy slightly worse than you might think. $2-$3 foil.
This is going to draw you a card for free during most matches, making it a fairly high pick in cube draft. The issue is that it doesn't do anything spectacularly cool or unique, so I'm not sure it'll make the cut in most cubes considering how limited space tends to be. It's an uncommon, though, so the foil should be more in the $3-$5 range.
Two Paths to Exile? Two Lightning Bolts? Two Cruel Ultimatums? This is awesome in every deck, and the blowout potential is huge. It's so swingy though, so I'd imagine many of the more competitive cubes will keep it out to prevent it from leading to 'cheap' wins that feel bad. Even still, this is the first Conspiracy we've seen that is actually exciting to dream on. $4-$6 foil.
Worldknit is lower on this list than I expected it to be because you need to see it early if you're going to build around it. If you see the card early in the first pick, you can slam it and just draft the best card from then on. That's absurd in a format with a high overall card quality like cube.
By pack 3 though, the downside of having to play everything is going to offset your mana advantage by enough that you probably won't want to Worldknit. Even still, many cubers are going to want to give people the option to do something amazing, and this card certainly provides that, and it'll be a $15-$20 foil.
Haven't you always wanted to splash that Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker for free in your mono-green cube deck? This card has the potential to make for some incredibly nifty plays, and I suspect it will be an auto-include for Johnny cubers everywhere. $5-$7 foil.
This card is solid if you've got a very fast red deck or you're attempting to run a combo or two. Most of the time I've cubed though, I've had enough of a problem cutting down to just forty cards I want to play. This card is going to help out disciplined players in more competitive Cube formats, but casual players out to have fun are going to mostly ignore this. $5-$7 foil.
Playing first is a huge advantage for aggressive decks, especially the sort of fast red and white builds that are available in most Cube formats. In those decks, Power Play is a windmill slam. $5-$7 foil.
This card is absurd. It is probably too good for many cubes, and there are very few things I would pick over it in a powered cube where having a good hand is the difference between comboing off and stalling out. It should be a $20-$25 foil.
Eleven or twelve of these could make a reasonable addition to most cubes. The card quality in Cube is very high, so having access to even a mediocre ability outside of your deck is incredibly good. I suspect that most cubes who run these will limit them to the top five or six, though - those are the cards that make both the biggest and most interesting impact. Those are the cards I would target heavily in foil.
Other New Cards
Dack Fayden - $50
This card is not worth $50.
It wouldn't be worth $50 if it were legal in Modern.
It wouldn't be worth $50 if it were legal in Standard.
Do not buy this card yet.
Don't get me wrong, I love Dack Fayden, and I think that the card is incredibly sweet, but it's going to be limited to Cube, Commander, and possibly some fringe play in Vintage and Legacy. I can buy almost two full playsets of Ashioks for the same price as this card, which is nuts. The only justification for this price would be if Conspiracy is either short-printed or isn't widely opened, but I don't expect either to occur. Wait a few months, and you should be able to buy several Dacks for the price of one right now.
Council's Judgment - $20
For those of you wondering why the heck Council's Judgment is $20 instead of like $4, it's because it doesn't target. That means that this card can exile things with shroud and protection. WotC said that they would address True-Name Nemesis in Legacy, and Council's Judgment is part of that answer. The fact that it costs 1WW is a little problematic, but I'd imagine many decks will find room for a couple of these in their sideboards.
Council's Judgment is also a powerful casual card. Even though one player can screw it up with his or her vote, most of the time it'll go off and destroy as many permanents as there are players in the game.
Short term, $20 still feels too high for this. Council's Judgment is not legal in Modern or Standard, and it's not good enough to shake Legacy to its core. I think these will be available in the $7-$8 range at some point soon, and I like it as a sold long term spec.
Muzzio, Visionary Architect - $10
I dislike Muzzio for one specific reason: I still haven't learned how to spell 'architect' without the aid of spell-check. You'd think that two full years of writing about Jace would have done it, but I still get it wrong almost every time. Oh well.
That aside, Muzzio is quite good in Commander and should become best friends with Sharuum and Tezzeret before too long. $10 seems to be the going price for the better casual mythic generals in this set, and I expect that to drop a bit as the market saturates. At some point, I think you'll be able to pick up Muzzio and Marchesa for $5 each. Like most of the powerful casual cards in this set, Muzzio is a fantastic long term hold when it hits its low in a couple of months.
Marchesa, the Black Rose - $10
Marchesa is a really fun build-around-me commander that gives Grixis players another avenue to explore for when they're tired of killing people with Nekusar. She's fairly vulnerable as long as you get her out early or the 'king' of the table has strong defenses, but in the right situation, it's going to be very hard to stop her and her army. The fact that you can't shove her into every deck should mean a large gulf between the foil version and the normal version of this card. If you want the former, buying a copy right away is fine. If you're willing to settle for the non-foil, wait until this drops to $5.
Grenzo, Dungeon Warden - $6
Grenzo is another fantastic long term hold, though I don't know how many Commander decks he'll be optimal in. You really want to play him in a Jund deck that ramps a little with green, because Rakdos tends to run pretty spell-heavy in Commander. If you either build around him or get him into play though, he can certainly spit creatures onto the battlefield both well and fast. Like the other new generals in this set, I expect the price to drop off in the short term - probably to the $3 range - before rebounding once the set leaves print. Pick up your copies in a couple of months.
Scourge of the Throne - $5
Scourge of the Throne is being underrated right now. Red is the worst Commander color, but this is still one of the better giant dragons available. Scourge is nuts in a single player game, and even in multiplayer, you're going to be able to proc this more often than not. It's also absolutely bonkers in Kaalia, where you can go off and kill someone out of nowhere. Scourge of the Throne probably won't drop off much even as the other, more expensive mythic rares lose value, so it's okay to buy yours now. Long term, I expect this to end up closer to $10 than $5.
Dack's Duplicate - $5
If this was mono-blue, it might be able to keep most of its value, but in Izzet colors it's just too narrow to stick around the $5 mark. This is one of the best clones available in Commander though, so it'll be a staple in decks that can abuse it. I think it'll drop toward $2-$3, but it's still a very solid casual card.
Coercive Portal - $4
This is my pick for the most underrated card in the set. Early in the game, durdling behind the portal is fine. In a two-player game, you'll always be able to draw a card, making it a slightly worse but significantly cheaper Staff of Nin. It's true that you can't really develop your board much while this is in play, but sitting back and drawing cards and then letting the table nuke the first player who tries to go off happens in, like, 80% of the multiplayer Commander games I've been in. Competitive players will never use a card like this that they don't have much control over, but it's incredibly solid in Commander. It's also a mythic, and it can go in any deck. A strong buy at $4 with lots of upside.
Selvala, Explorer Returned - $4
Selvala is an awesome creature in group hug decks. A 2/4 body for 1GW is fine already, it's going to tap for at least one mana most of the time, and it's going to draw everyone cards - including you. Put this on your long term watch list.
Magister of Worth - $4
I don't love cards that have two opposite effects because it's the punisher mechanic at its worst. Magister of Worth, much like Coercive Portal, is about as close to an exception as I'm willing to make. Casual Orzhov decks should be able to take advantage of either decision, and even if the table decides to wipe the board when you don't want it to, you get a pretty cool angel out of the deal. Ultimately, I expect that's what will happen most of the time; this will be a more expensive Day of Judgment that comes with a finisher attached. Not bad! I would like this card a lot as a spec if it wasn't the release promo, but I suspect that the additional supply will drop this down in the $2-$3 range pretty quickly.
Brago, King Eternal - $4
The best part of this guy is his name. WU players love to brag, and you can run the sick brags all day long if you can actually get this 2/4 to connect. This guy gets exponentially better the more players are at the table, because you'll have a much better chance of finding someone undefended or willing to take the hit in order to help themselves politically. I don't think this guy is as strong as many of the other rare gold creatures in this set, but he'll have a place in every single Azorius or Bant flicker deck in Commander. Because of that, I expect the price to stay fairly stable in this range.
Plea for Power - $3
It's Time Walk! No - it's an Ancestral Recall! It actually costs one mana more than both of them stapled together, speaking to how absurd the power level of those cards actually is.
Let's be honest: the flavor here involves you pleading for the council to allow you to take an extra turn. Most of the time, they're going to banish you into the library to read some books. Once in a while, though, they might let you go again so that you can help take down a bigger enemy, which is pretty awesome. In terms of playability, though, you can't count on that. So how much is drawing three cards actually worth?
Honestly, it's not that great a deal. Foresee costs the same amount, and that card is fairly comparable in power level at Scry four and draw two. This one mostly wins on the back of how cool it looks and how great it'll play when people do let you travel back in time. It's not a blue staple, but I'll certainly be trying it out in a few decks. $3 is probably right on the money for that.
Reign of the Pit - $2
This is exactly what a certain kind of black-based deck wants in a card. Sacrificing a creature yourself is often not a drawback, and this helps enable all sorts of Fleshbag Marauder/Grave Pact/Kresh shenanigans. Reign of the Pit is probably too narrow to go up in price while Conspiracy is still in print, but this is one I'll be keeping an eye on long-term.
Realm Seekers - $2
This is a neat Commander card. The fact that it costs six isn't great, but it's going to be absolutely massive a lot of the time - especially in multiplayer games. It also searches up any land, allowing you to tutor up things like Maze of Ith and Thespian's Stage to turtle up in your mono-green deck. I like it as a long term buy, and I doubt it'll drop below $2. These are fine to pick up now.
Drakestown Forgotten - $2
This is a pretty neat cycle, but I doubt any of them will see serious Commander play. There are an awful lot of Mortivores out there, and the ability to give something -1/-1 at the cost of three mana and a counter isn't enough to push this one over the top. It'll be a fringe player in Commander and a bulk rare.
Paliano, the High City - $1
This is worthless in every format except Cube, so it'll be dropping to bulk prices very soon - it's already down from $2 at the start of the pre-order period. Much like the Conspiracies though, the foils might stay fairly high. This is going to tap for at least two useful colors most of the time, and it's unreal in five color decks if your cube supports that. I wouldn't be shocked if the normal version sells for $0.50 and the foil ends up at $10-$15.
Academy Elite - $1
Casual blue decks will generally have better options for midrange value creatures. This is a just a little too uncertain and expensive. Future bulk rare.
Aether Searcher - $1
This is a cool idea, but development didn't cost it aggressively enough for Cube play. It's a future bulk rare.
Deal Broker - $1
This guy, on the other hand, might be my favorite card in the set. Cubing, trading, AND looting? Where do I sign up? My mouth is already watering with possibilities. I assume everyone else in the world is slightly less excited about this guy than I am, but I still think he'll make it into a bunch of cubes. Expect the foil to settle in the $5 range. The normal version will be a bulk rare.
Lore Seeker - $1
Everything I wrote about Deal Broker applies here as well. It's a bulk rare, but cubers will want it and they'll pay a reasonable premium for the foil. Expect it to settle around $5.
There are a few cards being reprinted here that will make an impact on the market. It's worth talking about each of the rares and notable uncommons, at least briefly. Note that some of these cards haven't been made available for pre-order yet, so many of these prices still reflect the original printing of the card.
Exploration - $20 - I expect this card to settle in the $8-$10 range. It's only playable in one deck - Lands in Legacy - and it isn't great in Commander unless you have other ways to deal with the card disadvantage or you're comboing off. It's worth noting that this will be the first foil copy of the card ever printed, so Legacy players will be trading for those aggressively.
Misdirection - $15 - This card has seen a resurgence lately in Legacy, and it would have been on my list of good specs if it hadn't been reprinted. The Masques version is still $35, so I'm pretty confident this copy can stay in the $15 range over the long haul. The Masques foil is $150, so I wouldn't be shocked if this one stays at $40-$50.
Reflecting Pool - $15 - If only this were coming back to Standard! Reflecting Pool is a neat card in Commander, but it's pretty bad in Modern and Legacy. I wouldn't be surprised if the price drops toward $8-$10 - casual demand will keep it from tanking - but there aren't enough constructed applications right now to keep this card at $15.
Altar of Dementia- $10 - This card has never been re-printed before, so I wouldn't be surprised if the price comes down considerably - possibly into the $4-$5 range. It will also be the first foil printing, though, so expect that to command a larger than normal premium.
Basandra, Battle Seraph - $7 - This angel's price is fairly high thanks to the relative rarity of Commander 2011 cards, but actual demand is sort of weak. Basandra is fairly narrow and doesn't trade well. Expect the price to stabilize closer to $3 than $8.
Swords to Plowshares - $6 - There has been a lot of hype about this - especially the foil - but it isn't hard to get these right now and it never really has been. The price probably won't budge much, and there are already foil copies of this available for just $10 thanks to one of the From the Vaults sets. People seem to dislike that foiling process, so these might be worth a little bit more, but don't expect $40-$50 STP foils here.
Squirrel Nest - $5 - The new version of this will probably be available for $1-$1.50 at some point. It's a pretty good long term hold, especially because the new art and flavor text is amazing. Feel free to pick these up once they drop off in a couple of weeks, as they'll make lovely long term holds.
Reya Dawnbringer - $5 - It's nice to see this card back. It was a $1 card for years thanks to the 10th Edition promo, which was everywhere, and I expect the Conspiracy version to drop the price a buck or two.
Dimir Doppelganger - $4 - Much like Reya, this card's scarcity is the biggest factor in its price. Expect it to end up around $1.50-$2.
Rout - $4 - This is $1 less than the Invasion copy and it's nice to see more of these made available - it's a great cube and Commander card. It's worth noting that the original foil sells for $40, and this one looks like it'll be even nicer. Expect it to hold a fairly solid premium.
Decimate - $4 - Decimate is something of a forgotten gem for Commander, and it's great as long as you've got something to target with each trigger on your opponent's side of the battlefield. It'll probably level off in the $2 range, but demand should be reasonably strong.
Pristine Angel - $4 - Hey, we covered this card in The Modern Series! This card's value mostly comes from never being reprinted, so I wouldn't be shocked if Conspiracy knocks the price down toward the $1-$2 range.
Spiritmonger - $3.50 - Back when I started playing Magic, Spiritmonger was a mythical beast that only one of my friends actually owned. When it came into play, it destroyed everyone and felt roughly impossible to beat. That's…not really true anymore. This card should end up around $1, sadly. There's no good use for my old friend Spiritmonger in our current era of Magic.
Brainstorm - $3 - The fact that this card is being reprinted is great. Brainstorm is a $3-$4 common even though it was reprinted time and time again during the early days of Magic, and I'm grateful that a new generation of players will have access to cheap copies of this. Note that foils are astonishingly pricey - $100 for the FNM version, and $250 for the Masques copy. Until now, those were the only two versions available in foil, which has caused the prices to keep rising for years. I'm not sure how low this one will get, but unless Brainstorm comes back again soon, I'd expect foils of these to start heading toward the stratosphere as soon as the set leaves print. I know I'll be trying to trade for them aggressively over the next few months. As for the regular version, I'd expect it to be readily available in the $1 range.
Fact or Fiction - $3 - This card is fine in Cube and Commander, but it has been reprinted so many times now. This will probably drop back into the sub-$2 range and it might never recover.
Terastodon - $1 - It has always been easy enough to find these for $1. That won't change now.
Heartless Hidetsugu - $1 - Bulk rare.
Magus of the Mirror - $0.50 - Bulk rare.
Wakestone Gargoyle - $0.50 - Bulk rare.
That's all the cards from Conspiracy that we know about so far. The full spoiler will be published on the same day this article goes live, so there are probably a few key cards I was unable to address here. I'll be covering them next week in addition to whatever new topic I decide to cover.
Overall, I think that this set will be very popular. Because of that, I expect most of these cards to drop in value for as long as the set remains in print. If the set has a much shorter print run than we've all been guessing though, prices could spike fairly quickly.
The biggest spec opportunity here are sealed boxes. If the set is fun to draft, people will want these years after they leave print. If you're the kind of person who is okay spending $120 on a box that can be sold for $200 in a year or two, Conspiracy is a very strong bet.
This Week's Trends
-People are still reacting to results from Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. Courser of Kuphrix and Elspeth, Sun's Champion are still rising in price. My pick is still Thoughtseize, which can't possibly go any lower. Buy your playset now.
-The temples from Journey into Nyx are soaring in price. The temples from the other sets are rising, too. This is your last chance to buy in cheap before the fall.
-What is dropping in value? Practically everything else in Standard. Rotation is approaching, so RTR block is down big as a whole. So are the Theros cards that aren't being heavily played. The bottom hasn't arrived yet, so hold off buying most of these things until August.
-Most Modern cards have either leveled out or started to drop a little. This doesn't indicate a bubble, but merely the notion that these all spiked a little too fast and a little too soon. That shouldn't surprise anyone who follows prices closely. There's no need to panic, and I still expect many of these cards to tick back up a little this summer.
-Chains of Mephistopheles is now one of the five most expensive cards in Legacy. It's good in the sideboard of Jund and Loam Pox decks, so I doubt it can go any lower. It's on the reserved list, too, so the sky is the limit. No need to sell into hype here.