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Rivals of Ixalan is almost here, and I have to admit that I'm starting to get excited. I get why you might be hesitant to believe that Rivals is going to affect the Standard metagame very much-I had high hopes that Ixalan was going to shake up Standard back in September, and it didn't really happen. Why should the second set in this block be any different?
Remember, though, that all four tribes are fully powered up now. Tribal sets are inherently parasitic, and strategies that weren't quite there in September should be ready to break through once Rivals hits shelves. And if that's still not enough, I expect that WotC will start to take actions (via banning) to power down the energy decks. Regardless, I feel like some of these new cards will end up hogging the Standard spotlight at some point in 2018.
From a financial evaluation perspective, one of Rivals' biggest quirks is how conditional so many of its cards are. Most of the tribal cards are only good if you've got a critical mass of Merfolk or Vampires or whatever, the cards with ascend vary greatly depending on how easy it is for you to get the city's blessing, and there are a bunch of other rares that require you to jump through a couple of different hoops in order to earn yourself a Tolarian Academy or something.
As a general rule, I tend to dislike speculating on conditional cards. Players tend to underrate their downsides and overrate their payoffs, especially in situations (like with tribal lords) where a card only has one shot to break out. That doesn't mean that there aren't Merfolk or flip cards I like in Rivals, but cautious speculators should avoid going too deep on these. A handful of them will break out, but culling the hits from the misses ahead of time is more difficult than usual.
As always with these financial set reviews, I'm on the lookout for cards that have the best shot at breaking out. Historically, these tend to be the most powerful and versatile cards in the set. If a card has a shot to be a four-of in a tier one deck, great. If it has a shot to be a four-of in multiple tier one decks, even better. If it looks like it might see some play in Modern, that's the dream.