Welcome to the final morning of my three-day blitz through a crazy week in Magic finance. If you missed it, I covered the unveiling of Magic: The Gathering Arena on Monday and I talked Iconic Masters on Tuesday. Today, it's time for the second part of my Ixalan set review, including some incredibly powerful and exciting mythics and rares.
Huatli, Warrior Poet - $19.99
We've come a long way since the days of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I don't think that Huatli, Warrior Poet is bad, but it's a great example of Wizards of the Coast's current planeswalker design philosophy. They're allowed to be powerful, but only in narrow and specific circumstances.
In this case, Huatli is a midrange card. It's not very good unless you've got a big creature around, though lifegain tends to be underrated when it's attached to otherwise versatile cards. Huatli's ultimate is probably being underrated too: Falter is one of those cards that's hard to justify having in your deck, but it'll straight-up win you the game about 20% of the time. Again, Huatli pairs well with a reasonably large army and a clogged mid-game battlefield state.
Even though I believe that Huatli is better than most people think, I wouldn't pre-order this card at $20. This isn't a multi-deck staple, nor is it a four-of anywhere. Best case, Huatli, Warrior Poet is a $15-$18 card that shows up in, say, Naya Dinosaurs and whatever Mardu Vehicles ends up evolving into. Worst case, it's a $5 mythic.
Vraska, Relic Seeker - $19.99
It's hard for a six-mana planeswalker to become a format staple, but Vraska, Relic Seeker might have what it takes. Between her high loyalty and strong ultimate, she can come pretty close to winning the game just two turns after you cast her. That -3 is no slouch, either, and I love control cards that can act as removal when you're behind or a must-answer threat when you're ahead. I can imagine a world in which Vraska, Relic Seeker ends up in a couple of different control builds and ends up being the marquee mythic in Ixalan.
That said, previous preview seasons are littered with $20 planeswalkers that were a mistake to pre-order. Much like with Huatli, Warrior Poet, the upside is small and the downside is significant. But if you're going to pre-order an expensive planeswalker, this is the one to buy. I'll be shocked if Vraska doesn't find a home somewhere.
Vona, Butcher of Magan - $4.99
Vona is the kind of card that's almost impossible to evaluate in a vacuum. In a Standard format where you can reasonably expect to get a couple of attacks in with Vona, or in a deck with enough lifegain, this card can take over the game. If the pieces aren't there, or if the format doesn't match up, this card is unplayable.
From a finance perspective, I never like cards like this. Best case, Vona, Butcher of Magan is a three-of in a single deck. You only win if that deck ends up being the best in the format at some point—a risk I'm not willing to take. Most likely, this is a future bulk mythic.
Overflowing Insight - $2.99
Maybe the format will swing so far toward control that Overflowing Insight turns into a valuable mirror-breaker out of the sideboard. I doubt it, though, and I can't imagine too many other uses for this card, especially since it's a sorcery. It's not even good in Commander. Bulk mythic.
Wakening Sun's Avatar - $2.99
Wakening Sun's Avatar seems like a solid two-of in any sort of Naya Dinosaurs build. It might see play in another Standard ramp deck too, though the triple white in its casting cost makes it a particularly narrow play. I'm not sold on this card becoming a format staple, but it's a $3 mythic that should at least have some casual demand. I'm absolutely pre-ordering a few copies if I'm building Dinosaurs, but the risk is too great to go deep on speculation.
Growing Rites of Itlimoc - $9.99
I absolutely love Growing Rites of Itlimoc, though I'm not sure if it's actually good. The first side of the card encourages a tokens strategy, but the second side only pays off if you've got somewhere to put all that mana. Modern Elves might want this—it can certainly power out a quick Craterhoof Behemoth—but in Standard, you're playing this as a bad Lead the Stampede with the potential for some late-game utility. I don't think it'll see nearly as much play as some people think.
That said, Growing Rites of Itlimoc is absurdly good in Commander. I can't think of a green deck I own that won't seriously consider running this card, and it's a must-play in every casual tokens deck I've ever built. Casual play should keep the price floor pretty high—I doubt Growing Rites drops below $4—which means that there's some real upside here if it does take off in Standard or Modern. If you're a believer, grab your set now. I just don't think it'll get there.
Regisaur Alpha - $7.99
Regisaur Alpha seems like it's going to be a Standard staple. Seven power for five mana is already pretty good, but Regisaur Alpha lets you split it over two bodies, one of which gets trample and haste. Worst case, this is a four-of in a casual deck that never quite makes it to the top of the metagame. Best case, it's a four-of in the best deck in the format while also seeing play in several other aggro and midrange builds. I don't love that it has to compete with Glorybringer in the five-drop slot, but I don't think that'll hurt it too much. I doubt this card spends too much time below $5, and I wouldn't be shocked if there are occasional spikes toward $15.
Search for Azcanta - $3.99
My worry about Search for Azcanta is that it doesn't do anything the turn you cast it. Every turn after that, however, is really awesome. Getting to scry every upkeep is fairly powerful on its own, but Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin is actually absurd. I would be surprised if Search for Azcanta doesn't show up as a two-of in a couple of Modern decks. It also seems like it should at least be considered in any deck that also runs Torrential Gearhulk. This is a legendary enchantment that you don't want to run more than a few of in any deck, so it'll probably stay in the $4-$5 range. It's a great card, though, and you shouldn't feel bad about pre-ordering a few if you want them.
Thaumatic Compass - $3.49
Maze of Ith is a very good effect, and it's not like Thaumatic Compass is sitting around and doing nothing before you find the Spires of Orazca. I really hope that Standard is slow enough for this card to be playable, but I'm skeptical about any card that doesn't do much when you're struggling to stabilize against an aggro or a midrange deck. The good news is that Commander players are going to love Thaumatic Compass, so it's got a reasonable price floor thanks to casual demand. Not a great spec target at current retail, but it's fine to snag a set if you want to brew.
Primal Amulet - $2.99
There's a small chance that Primal Amulet makes a splash in Standard despite seeming slightly underpowered, much the same way that Jace's Sanctum showed up in that Mono-Blue Prison deck a while back. I suspect this'll end up in the $1 to $1.50 range instead, though, and I'll be looking to pick it up as long-term combulk.
Arguel's Blood Fast - $2.99
I've seen some people saying that Arguel's Blood Fast will show up in Modern Death's Shadow, but I doubt most of those folks have actually played the deck. There isn't any room in those 75-card lists, they don't want to talk a turn off to play this, and the payoff isn't particularly high. If Arguel's Blood Fast sees Modern play, it won't be much.
In Standard, I have no doubt that Arguel's Blood Fast will show up here and there. It's a powerful effect, especially in a grindy control-on-control match. The fact that this is such a blank against so many decks should keep it relegated to sideboards, though, which means that the price tag will likely stay in the $1-$3 range. There's no reason to pre-order at current retail.
Rampaging Ferocidon - $2.99
At just $3, Rampaging Ferocidon seems like one of the most underrated rares in the set. A 3/3 with menace for three mana isn't embarrassing, and the other two abilities are fantastic. Red decks are always looking for ways to prevent incidental lifegain, and there might even be a deck kicking around the new format that relies on lifegain in order to function. The third ability is incredible if you're ahead in a creature-based matchup, and I wouldn't be surprised if Ramunap Red and Dinosaurs both want to run this card. Rampaging Ferocidon might even have game in Modern, where it can act as a proactive way to deal with any future Splinter Twin-style shenanigans that might crop up at some point. I'm pre-ordering a set of these for me ASAP.
Conqueror's Galleon - $0.99
Conqueror's Foothold on the flip side is an interesting land, but I don't see why anyone would jump through nine different hoops in order to get one onto the battlefield. Crew 4 is the biggest hurdle here, especially since we've already got so many better vehicles from Kaladesh still kicking around in the format. Future bulk rare.
Thoughts on Ixalan So Far
I was underwhelmed by the first batch of Ixalan previews, but I'm a lot more heartened by this batch. Vraska, Relic Seeker and Carnage Tyrant seem like the best mythics so far, though I still wouldn't be surprised if Jace, Cunning Castaway ends up being better than people think. I've also heard a lot more positivity surrounding Rowdy Crew than I'd expected—at this point, I'm buying a set of those just in case.
As for the rares, Regisaur Alpha, Growing Rites of Itlimoc, Rampaging Ferocidon, Search for Azcanta, Ripjaw Raptor, and Shaper's Sanctuary highlight a pretty robust bunch. Dinosaurs looks like it might be playable straight out of the gate, and there are enough interesting things going on in blue to give me hope for a couple of control decks too. Last, the overall set composition seems to favor answers rather than unstoppable threats, which bodes well for the health of Standard. If you haven't played in a while, it might be time to jump back in.
This Week's Trends
A subtle rules change that comes into effect during Ixalan means that Blood Moon is slightly less effective when played against shocklands, painlands, and enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands. I don't think it'll mean that Blood Moon will see less play in Modern, but it's something to watch going forward. That same rules change also means that you can maybe kinda sorta build a combo deck around Blood Moon and Dark Depths in Legacy now, which is a bit more interesting. Both cards are too expensive to recommend speculating on them without seeing a decklist, but I'll be monitoring the situation closely.
The Standard market is pretty quiet on the eve of rotation. The only card to make decent gains this week was The Scarab God, which continues to settle in as a staple in Four-Color Energy. Walking Ballista; Chandra, Torch of Defiance; and most of the Amonkhet multicolor lands are also ticking up slightly as people look forward to the new Standard format.
One card to watch: Collective Brutality, which doesn't seem to be dropping at all right now despite the fact that it's rotating soon. It sees so much play in Modern that I wouldn't be surprised if most players choose not to sell their playsets. There still might be a small buying window later in the fall, but don't expect the price to drop too much below where it's at right now.
There weren't many gains in Modern this week, either. Scapeshift is up a bit as TitanShift continues to perform well, but most of the action has been people cashing out of their Iconic Masters staples ahead of the market glut. These cards usually bottom out a week or two after release, so I've been selling my Mishra's Baubles and Ancestral Visions at the current (highly discounted) rate. I don't think we've quite hit bottom yet, though we're getting close.
The Reserved List/Old School buyouts have mostly stopped at this point, which is a welcome respite from the chaos of the past couple of months. Eureka spiked a bit, but that card's supply is so low that it could have just been a half-dozen copies prompting the shift. I doubt we've seen the last of these weird old cards exploding in price, but for now it would seem that the eyes of the Magic community are focused on Ixalan and Iconic Masters.