There's something awesome about the first week of a new Standard format, isn't there? It feels like anything is possible—a rogue deck winning out of nowhere, a new combo being discovered, the toppling of a former boogeyman...it's all on the table. I don't have the time to watch the livestream for every SCG Open event, but I never miss the Week 1 coverage.
This might be why Week 1 tends to have an outsized impact on card prices. It's the first real data point we have for the new set and our first chance to see the most exciting new cards in action. People tend to overreact because of this, and it can lead to fairly mediocre cards being bought out. I've long preached caution about buying into the hype of Week 1 results.
This time around, however, I feel a bit different. Hour of Devastation is the least-hyped set in a long time, and Standard prices have remained fairly sluggish across the board.
At some point, that is going to change.
It might not happen until Ixalan is released—a lot of players sit the summer out anyhow—but if this new format is good, Standard's public perception might start to shift as soon as this week. You should make sure that you've got your staples before that happens. Trusting the Week 1 results too much is risky, but it might be worth it.
- 3 Angel of Invention
- 4 Bygone Bishop
- 4 Hanweir Militia Captain
- 4 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
However the new format shakes out, it's clear that W/U Monument will continue to be one of the best decks going forward. It was a Tier 1 choice before Hour of Devastation, and it was the most prevalent Day 2 deck at SCG Cincinnati. It's also pretty affordable right now, especially for how well it continues to perform. It's rare that you have the chance to buy a deck that is both cheap and likely to continue being good, but that's where we are right now with W/U Monument.
Currently, W/U Monument's most expensive maindeck cards are Spell Queller, Selfless Spirit, and Westvale Abbey. I like all three of these cards over the short term—Spell Queller and Selfless Spirit both have a history of being top-end Standard rares, and Westvale Abbey is a key card in Standard Zombies as well.
The hits don't end there. I also wouldn't mind owning a few additional sets of Irrigated Farmland, Prairie Stream, and Port Town right about now. W/U Monument runs all three, and they'll jump a couple of bucks if the deck keeps churning out top-tier finishes. Hanweir Militia Captain and Bygone Bishop are awesome specs, too. How often do four-ofs from Tier 1 Standard decks remain $0.50 bulk rares? Exactly.
Day 2 also had a decent number of Mardu Vehicles and Temur Energy lists.
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 2 Glorybringer
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 4 Veteran Motorist
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- 3 Bristling Hydra
- 2 Champion of Wits
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Whirler Virtuoso
- 2 Rhonas the Indomitable
These three decks made up the Standard metagame's top tier before Hour of Devastation was released, so these results aren't all that surprising—people tend to play what they already know on Week 1. All we can really say at this point is that neither deck is showing any signs of disappearing from the metagame, which means that staples like Tireless Tracker, Walking Ballista, Heart of Kiran, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar shouldn't experience any sudden price drops.
I'm a little less certain about B/G Energy.
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 2 Dreamstealer
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 3 Tireless Tracker
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Only five B/G decks made it to Day 2, which is quite poor for a deck that has been in the format's top tier for a while now. On stream, there was plenty of talk about whether or not B/G had what it took to beat the current iteration of U/R Control, formerly a good matchup. I was wondering if I would have to write a requiem for the deck this week, recommending that you sell all your staples.
Then a B/G Energy deck promptly made it into the Top 8. Womp womp. What does this mean about B/G's future? Again, it's just too early to say. Stephen Dykman's take on B/G Energy was slower than average, though, with no Grim Flayers or Longtusk Cubs. This could lead to Grim Flayer falling in price, but I wouldn't rush to sell. Zan Syed had four copies of Grim Flayer in his Four-Color Emerge deck, which looked really good all weekend before making Top 8.
Personally, I like to fade all of the established archetypes a little bit at the start of a nascent format unless they've gained an exciting toy or two. Players tend to be drawn toward shiny, new strategies, so those are the cards that end up spiking. If anyone looks at the results of SCG Cincinnati and says, "Oh boy, it's time to build Mardu Vehicles!" I'll be shocked.
The other problem with unchanged carryover archetypes is that there's usually nowhere to go but down. Metagame shifts can help these decks out from time to time, but there aren't many financial gains for decks that move from, say, the third-best deck in the format to the second-best deck in the format. I'd rather target something exciting and new, even if it doesn't end up panning out in the long run.
Lest you think I'm contradicting myself, the exception to this rule is a deck like W/U Monument. It was created much more recently than B/G Energy and Mardu Vehicles, and players who haven't been following standard over the past few weeks might have missed it entirely. Combine that with early dominance in a new format and you might find yourself with a surprise winner.
Speaking of surprise winners, I was so ready to spend a large portion of this article gushing about U/R Control and Grixis Control. These two decks were well-represented on Day 2 of The SCG Tour® and I feel like everyone was excited about these decks going into the event. The cards that have gained the most value over the past couple of days reflect this: Kozilek's Return; Chandra, Torch of Defiance; and Wandering Fumarole have been surging in price on MTGO. Paper magic is a bit of a lagging index, so those prices may start increasing over the next couple of days.
Or maybe not. Grixis Control and U/R Control were both shut out of the Top 8 in Cincinnati, which made me worry a little about the deck's short-term future. Things are less dire than they seem, though: a Four-Color Control deck won the whole thing, and it was basically a U/R deck with a couple of interesting splashes.
It's unclear to me whether these U/R-based control decks fell short on Day 2 because we just haven't found the right builds yet or if we're trying to force a cool archetype into existence just because we really want it to be good. If it's the first reason, these U/R and Grixis staples should keep rising in price. If it's the second, they're fool's gold.
Personally, I'm a believer. I'm still looking to pick up U/R and Grixis staples in trade, and I think that a few different U/R-based decks will establish themselves over the coming weeks.
As much as I want Grixis Control to be awesome, I don't want to sell Cincinnati's actual Top 8 short. In terms of diversity, it might have been the best Top 8 of any event this year. Alongside two W/U Monument lists, we had Temur Energy, Four-Color Control, Four-Color Emerge, Mono-Black Zombies, B/G Energy, and Mono-Red Aggro. That's awesome! We had monocolored decks and four-color decks, aggro, mid-range, and control. That's why I'm so bullish on Standard right now: if it keeps even two-thirds of this diversity, people will begin flocking to the format.
In Four-Color Emerge, Champion of Wits performed admirably all weekend. Not only is it good enough to become a staple in Emerge strategies, it's good enough to make the whole deck perform better. If it starts showing up in other graveyard-based decks, or even as a simple value creature, look out. If you're going to speculate on just one card from this weekend, Champion of Wits is my pick.
This deck had a few other juicy spec targets as well. Elder Deep-Fiend looks to be relevant again, and I wouldn't be shocked if it sees another spike at some point soon. Prized Amalgam continues to be massively underrated, too. A Standard staple that sees a bunch of Eternal play for just $2? I'm all in. I also love Kozilek's Return right now. Not only did it look good in Emerge decks, it showed up in U/R and Grixis-style control decks all weekend. Hour of Devastation has (rightly) been getting all the hype, but Kozilek's Return has already proven itself to be a very powerful card in the right format.
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 2 Eldrazi Obligator
- 4 Falkenrath Gorger
- 2 Glorybringer
- 2 Reality Smasher
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 3 Thought-Knot Seer
- 1 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Jonathan Job's Mono-Red Aggro deck isn't just a bunch of two-drop creatures and burn spells. Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher are both there, and the deck can go much bigger than most Mono-Red decks of the past. Thought-Knot Seer has been surging online, though I'm not sure if the paper price will follow—Mono-Red tends to be much more popular on MTGO.
I like Chandra, Torch of defiance a lot more. Not only is it a three-of in Mono-Red Aggro, it showed up in a lot of red-based midrange and control decks all weekend. The card has a ton of raw power, and it has a "most expensive card in Standard" sort of price ceiling if the metagame trends in that direction. I'm aggressively trading for these at current retail.
If you're going to target cards from the SCG Cincinnati Top 8 lists, though, just make sure that you try to get a sense of how well they performed. Bontu's Last Reckoning was in a couple of sideboards, but it underperformed every time it was sideboarded in (which was rarely). I'm bearish on that card going forward.
We also didn't see much or any of buzzy cards like Crested Sunmare, The Locust God, The Scarab God, or Ramunap Excavator. This doesn't mean that these cards won't end up being major players in Standard—heck, they might all show up in force next week. I'm trading these away, but I'll buy back in ASAP if they start to make waves.
This is how I like to treat Week 1 results in general. Even though I'm high on buying into Standard right now, try to focus on the cards that have begun to prove themselves on the battlefield. Week 1 results might not contain all the answers, but one data point is so much better than nothing.