I've been cautiously excited about Throne of Eldraine for about a month now, but that amazing gingerbread person trailer sealed the deal for me.
This set is going to be epic, and I can't wait to start messing around with Wizard's twisted fairy tales.
Of course, I'm just one player. Financially, what matters is how popular Throne of Eldraine ends up being with the community at large.
Popularity has a complex relationship with value when it comes to new Standard sets. If a set is very popular, it'll debut with high price tags (people want these sweet new cards!), but its prices tend to tank later on because so many booster packs end up being cracked. Conversely, unpopular sets usually debut with low price tags (who cares about Core Set 2020 when we're still tangling with Modern Horizons?), but the value of singles increase over time as people realize that they need key staples for their Standard decks. In layperson's terms, you should do a lot more buying during the pre-order period when a set is a snoozer.
So far, it looks like Throne of Eldraine is going to end up being a slightly above-average fall set in terms of popularity, though this might change once the full contents are known. fall sets tend to be the best-selling expansions of a given year regardless, because excitement for Standard peaks right after set rotation. I don't expect that to be any different this time around. Throne of Eldraine prices are likely to rise between now and mid-October, but they'll start to erode after that as supply increases to meet demand. This general pattern is true for most sets of course, but it's especially pronounced with fall expansions.
You'll still need to buy Throne of Eldraine cards if you want to play them in your Standard deck early on, but be aware that you are likely paying even more of a premium than you usually do when pre-ordering cards from winter, spring, and summer sets. This isn't necessarily a bad thing – the point of doing all that trade grinding and speculation during the rest of the year is to be able to treat yourself to a 4-pack of the hottest new fall set planeswalker without feeling too much of a financial pinch, but understand that it's kind of like buying a new car: you might lose a certain amount of value the moment you drive it off the lot. If you really want to be prudent, I suggest focusing on key cards from Core Set 2020, Guilds of Ravnica, and the other sets that are still dirt-cheap right now thanks to the depressed summer market. In fact, I wrote a whole article about what to buy from those sets!
Of course, you and I both know that we're going to buy a stack of Throne of Eldraine cards anyway. They're just cool, and who doesn't want to mess around with Magic's latest and greatest? That's where this set review comes in. Even though a large number of these new cards are going to be dropping in price between now and the holiday season, there's a big difference between spending $20 on a card that might end up being a bulk mythic and spending $20 on a card that's never going to drop below $15. And if you can get more than $5 out of that latter purchase over the 5-6 months before you decide to move on to another deck, I call that a big win.
Also, 4-5 cards in every set end up being wildly undervalued when they're first previewed, no matter how hyped a set is. There's money to be made if we can hit on those, and I can usually sniff out a couple of them every time I review a set. That's why I still do full reviews, even though they've fallen out of popularity a little bit. If I don't go over each and every card in detail, how are we going to find those hidden gems that everyone else has missed?
With all that out of the way, join me on our first foray into Throne of Eldraine. There aren't that many cards available for pre-order yet, but some of the ones that have been revealed are super exciting. As always, we'll begin with the most expensive planeswalker in the set so far:
Garruk, Cursed Huntsman - $30
I'm going to be excited the first time I crack a copy of Garruk, Cursed Huntsman, but that doesn't make me any more eager to drop $30 on an unproven planeswalker. There's only room for so many six-mana 'walkers on Standard's top tier, regardless of quality, and I'm not sure that Garruk is better than Chandra, Awakened Inferno or Liliana, Dreadhorde General.
To that end, let's look back at the recent financial history of high profile six-mana planeswalkers in order to see if Garruk might end up paying off at $30:
Currently $20, Chandra has mostly disappointed, though it did spike to $45 at one point in late July. You're probably disappointed if you paid $30 for Chandra unless you sold at the exact right moment.
Currently $16, and also saw a brief spike right around set release where it hit $35 for a couple of days. Again, buying in at $30 probably wouldn't have worked out for you.
Currently $2, but that's mostly due to set rotation. The card had two separate spikes to $25 during its time in Standard, but that's about it. Buying in at $30 would have been a bad decision no matter what.
This is a small sample size, and it's certainly possible that Garruk is better than all three of those planeswalkers, but to me the card seems more like a Liliana, Dreadhorde General or Vraska, Relic Seeker than Elspeth, Sun's Champion. It has a fairly restrictive casting cost, it's merely okay if you're behind, and you're probably not running it as anything other than a curve topper in a midrange deck. This card isn't going to be a complete bust, and I expect Garruk, Cursed Huntsman to see about as much play as Liliana does (or Vraska did), but that's not enough to get me excited to buy in at $30. Long-term, this looks more like a $15-$20 card to me.
Oko, Thief of Crowns - $20
I may not be all that high on most six-mana planeswalkers, but I love a good three-mana planeswalker. As we've learned time and time again, the best three-mana planeswalkers tend to define their respective formats. Teferi, Time Raveler , Narset, Parter of Veils , and honorary three-mana planeswalker Nissa, Who Shakes the World, are only the latest examples of this long-standing trend.
The first thing that jumps out at me about Oko is the fact that you can get him to six loyalty the turn you play him. That's a lot of loyalty for any planeswalker, much less a three-mana one. If you drop Oko early enough, it should be possible to just keep ramping his loyalty until there's pretty much nothing that your opponent can do about it.
Oko's other abilities range from okay to fine, but that might be enough. It's worth pointing out that his +1 doesn't end at end of turn, so you can either turn one of your Food tokens into a 3/3 forever or you can neuter an opposing creature for good. Oko's -5 is also a great way to snag Risen Reef in the Bant Ramp mirror match in case that deck survives rotation.
If Oko only finds a home in Bant Ramp (or another, similar deck), I suspect it'll end up stabilizing around $15. This is the most likely scenario for the card, since three-mana planeswalkers are rarely complete busts, and this is one of the safest buys in the set right now. Turning $20 into $15 isn't the greatest return on investment, but it might be worth it if you're feeling lucky.
Besides, three-mana mythic planeswalkers have more financial upside than literally any other kind of card. I see no reason why Oko can't end up at $50 if everything breaks right; after all, that's what Liliana of the Veil sold for back when she was Standard-legal, and it's less than what Teferi, Time Raveler would be selling for right now if he were mythic. Oko also shares a color identity with Hydroid Krasis, one of the most powerful cards in the format. If Oko ends up becoming the cornerstone of several decks – which is certainly possible – you're looking at one of the 2-3 most valuable cards in Standard.
Personally, I'm sticking by my prognostication of Oko as a $15 card by late November. It'll be good, but not omnipresent. I just wanted to spend some time talking about the upside, because only a handful of cards in a given set have this kind of potential. If you're an Oko believer, $20 is a totally reasonable price to pay in order to see if your prediction comes true. I'm very intrigued at current retail.
Rankle, Master of Pranks - $15
I've been wrong on hyped-up mythic black flying creatures before, but Rankle, Master of Pranks is my favorite card in Throne of Eldraine so far. Haste is the most underrated keyword in the game, and it can turn a mediocre card into a great one by itself. I also feel like people are sleeping on just how versatile Rankle is. Seriously, the turn you play this thing, as long as Rankle connects, you can use anywhere from zero to all three of its abilities. That's amazing!
I've been pretty unwavering in my belief that the biggest financial traps are cards that look too much like other, more powerful cards from the past , but I can't help but see Rankle as Liliana of the Veil by way of Bloodbraid Elf. That's far too reductive, of course, but I sure wouldn't be surprised if we're looking back at Rankle in a few months and wondering why its greatness wasn't obvious to everybody at first glance.
There's significant risk here at $15 – creatures don't have nearly the backstop that planeswalkers do and Rankle is far more likely to end up at $2 than Oko is – but I'm a fan of gambling on this one. You can all call me out for doubling-down on black four-drops if I'm wrong but Rankle has the look of a true format staple to me. The upside here is that Rankle ends up being the most powerful card in the entire format.
Gilded Goose - $8
Historically, cards like Gilded Goose have ranged from good to very good. I think you'd prefer to run Llanowar Elves in most circumstances, but Gilded Goose is probably better against red decks as well as in conjunction with Oko, Thief of Crowns or any other card that makes food. It also doesn't take much for a one-drop to see play. Thraben Inspector was well underrated before becoming one of the pillars of its Standard format, and Gilded Goose is comparable in a couple of key respects.
My concern here is simply that there's no financial upside at $8. If Gilded Goose is good, it'll spike to $15 before slowly dropping back off toward the $5-$8 range. If not, it's a bulk rare. Oko is a much safer buy, even though its more than twice as expensive. I don't hate paying retail for Gilded Goose if you think you want to use them on Week 1, but there's not enough upside to make me excited about speculating on Gilded Goose right now.
There's no way of knowing how good The Circle of Loyalty is until we see how good the Knights in Throne of Eldraine are, but I wouldn't be shocked if this card jumps from $8 to $15 during the pre-order period. If some wildly good Knight, like a two-drop to go with Knight of the Ebon Legion is previewed soon, this thing could even hit $20-$25. If you buy in now, you might be pretty happy by the end of the month.
That said, The Circle of Loyalty is not the kind of card that ends up being very expensive most of the time. It can really only fit into one deck, and that deck doesn't have enough pieces yet. $10-$15 is your realistic long-term, best-case scenario, and you're looking at a bulk mythic if the Knights don't end up panning out.
It's also worth noting that existing Knights like Knight of the Ebon Legion are starting to tick up thanks to interest in a possible Standard Knights deck, while older Knights like Knight Exemplar and Haakon, Stromgald Scourge are gaining value thanks to Commander hype. These price increases will probably continue for the next couple of weeks, so be on the lookout for deals.
Lovestruck Beast - $3
The flavor is spot-on with Lovestruck Beast, but is a 5/5 with a fairly significant drawback a good deal for 2G in the year 2019? It depends on how the metagame evolves, but I doubt it. This is very solid against Mono-Red Aggro, and it'll see some play if a deck like Selesnya Tokens ends up being good after rotation, but that's about it. The realistic best-case scenario is just $5-$6 regardless, and this card is quite likely to end up being a total bust instead. I'm staying away, as I usually do with cards that don't do much beyond "IT BIG."
Piper of the Swarm - $2.50
If you don't think that Rats can be all that good in constructed, you probably didn't play much Magic back when Pack Rat was running rampant. Piper of the Swarm is no Pack Rat though. Menace isn't all that useful on a 1/1 and I don't see a ton of competitive ways to pump these suckers up. Piper's second activated ability is intriguing, and I do like how good this card is on a stalled battlefield (something that all those Rats can help create!) but my guess is that it ends up just a tad too slow all around. This looks like a future bulk rare to me
Midnight Clock - $2
Midnight Clock is a clear Commander plant, where you can tick this down three or four times before your next turn comes back around. I'm absolutely running this in a couple of my casual decks, and it's going to have some really solid long-term casual value, but Midnight Clock is probably going to end up selling for a buck once Throne of Eldraine reaches maximum supply in December or so.
An Initial Dive Into The Brawl Decks
You may have missed this announcement in the tsunami of news that washed over us this week, but there are going to be a quartet of 60-card preconstructed Brawl decks hitting shelves later this month in conjunction with the Throne of Eldraine release.
Since the new cards from this product aren't up for sale on Star City Games® yet, I won't be doing a full financial set review of these decks until later on. I did want to touch on the expected value of the reprints now, though, because some of these decks contain really interesting (and expensive) cards.
Hallowed Fountain - $12
Incubation Druid - $4
Temple of Mystery - $4
Command Tower - $2
Risen Reef - $1.50
Not a bad start! The fact that all four of these decks come with a shockland makes the purchase price a much less bitter pill to swallow because you're regaining $10+ in value right away. Incubation Druid's future price is going to be metagame dependent, but you're never going to be sad to have Temple of Mystery around. This pile of cards is always going to be worth at least $10-$12.
Stomping Ground - $13
Temple of Malady - $2.50
Command Tower - $2
Dreadhorde Invasion - $1.50
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin - $1.25
Savage Hunter is pretty much the same story, but with a couple of lower-end fliers instead of Incubation Druid. Regardless, the Stomping Ground alone should be stable at $10+, and the other cards are a nice little bonus.
Godless Shrine - $15
Midnight Reaper - $3
Icon of Ancestry - $3
Temple of Triumph - $2.50
Command Tower - $2
Now we're really getting somewhere. Godless Shrine is great, obviously, and Knight of the Ebon Legion is on its way up thanks to all the Knights in Throne of Eldraine. Midnight Reaper is a solid Standard-playable Knight, too. If that hyped new Standard deck ends up being competitive,expect the Knights' Charge deck to disappear from shelves real fast.
Watery Grave - $15
Smothering Tithe - $10
Temple of Silence - $2.50
Sephara, Sky's Blade - $2
Kaya's Wrath - $2
Command Tower - $2
Amazing. Not only do you get a Watery Grave in the Faerie Schemes deck, but you get $10 Commander staple Smothering Tithe. Both cards are going to maintain their $10+ price tags for a long time to come, so you're essentially getting $20 back when you buy this deck. I expect Faerie Schemes to be the clear "chase deck" of the lot, so get ready to either pay a premium for this one or hit up your LGS early.
Even though I'm not going to analyze the new cards until I get a sense of what they'll end up selling for, I did want to mention Arcane Signet, a brand-new Commander-centric mana rock that's going to be included in each and every one of these decks. This card is a common in name only – it won't be in Throne of Eldraine proper, so the supply is going to be incredibly low. I have to believe that this card isn't dropping below $5 even if these Brawl decks are everywhere, and it'll likely end up higher than that if it doesn't get a wider release somewhere. Don't forget to factor in this guaranteed value when you make your purchasing decisions, too.
To that end, I've heard whispers that these Brawl decks will be pretty severely under-allocated, at least for now. Brawl isn't a very popular format yet, so it's likely that WotC under-printed these sets to avoid being stuck with thousands of extras kicking around in a warehouse forever. (That's also why I suspect they stuffed them full of guaranteed value.) Because of that, I suggest snagging these decks early on if you can, and I wouldn't mind paying full retail for the set of them, considering how much long-term value they each have. Just don't pay too stiff a premium – if demand is significant, Wizards will almost certainly do a couple of additional print runs.
This Weeks Trends
Unsurprisingly, the Modern index was full of movement this week as the fallout from the biggest B&R update of all time continues to reverberate throughout the format. Sword of Light and Shadow was the biggest gainer by far, jumping more than $20 as more people began slotting them into their Stoneforge Mystic packages. Sword of Fire and Ice also continues to make strong gains, while Sword of War and Peace has just begun to start ticking upward. Meanwhile, Sword of Feast and Famine has been holding strong to last week's gains. All four key members of this cycle appear well-positioned going forward, and I'm fine paying current retail if I'm planning to play Stoneforge Mystic this year.
Also trending upward this week: Ice-Fang Coatl, which has been showing up more and more in Modern. You still need a pretty snowy deck to make this Snake work, but brews like Five-Color Niv-Mizzet, Bant Soulherder, and Bring to Light Scapeshift are doing exactly that. Ice-Fang Coatl is a $9 card right now, and I wouldn't be shocked if it ends up at $15-$18 eventually. All these Modern Horizons staples are still oozing with upside.
Over in the world of Commander, we've got a couple new spikes thanks to the Commander 2019 decks. Godsire had already spiked thanks to its
interaction with the "big tokens matter" theme in the Naya deck, but it jumped another $10 this week as demand continues to increase. Also up is Worldgorger Dragon, which combos really well with Anje Falkenrath. As with most Commander spikes, the demand is high, but you should still sell into the hype if you can. The supply of both cards is very low right now, and you'll be able to get a pretty nice price for them.
I also wanted to draw your attention to Vilis, Broker of Blood. This Core Set 2020 rare has become the key Commander staple in the set,
and it's up to $5 now with its foil continuing to skyrocket in price. It's too late to get in before the spike now, of course, but I feel like a lot of folks haven't quite realized just what a casual bomb this card is. Snag them in trade if you can, even at current retail. The non-foil is climbing toward $10, and the foil is heading toward $30-$40.
Moving on to our last (but not least!) story of the week, Wizards shocked the world on Wednesday when they announced the names of the next four sets through the end of Q4 2020. In addition to Core Set 2021 and Ikoria, which is an all-new plane, we are returning to Theros this winter and Zendikar next fall.
Theros Beyond Death is coming soonest, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the old Theros gods spike a little in response. Most of them aren't that great, but they'll be necessary for on-theme Commander decks. It's also quite likely that a bunch of newer players who weren't around for the original Theros block will be discovering these cards for the first time and will want in. These aren't high value specs necessarily, but they're cheap-ish cards that should sell and trade well in the coming months.
As for Zendikar Rising, I suspect we're now in for roughly twelve months of shouting about whether the enemy fetchlands will be back in Standard or not. Put me on team no. The fetchlands were far too good the last time they were in Standard, and they would basically prevent Wizards from printing any other fetchable dual lands – or even any other halfway decent dual lands – in any of the sets bookending Zendikar Rising. Even if they manage that, there's the matter of how much shuffling they entail, slowing down every match. With the renewed focus on Esports, I can't imagine they want the tabletop game to become essentially unwatchable for two full years, no matter how many packs it might sell.
Also, reprinting the fetchlands goes against Wizard's current reprint philosophy. Modern Horizons and the Commander 2019 decks have made it pretty clear that they want to sell products on the strength of new cards, not reprints. That might change at some point, but if Zendikar Rising was developed with the same philosophy in mind, there's no chance that we'll see Scalding Tarn and friends.
Regardless, we've got almost a full year before Zendikar Rising previews begin. If you want to sell your fetchlands, do it in May or June, not now. You'll need them before next September, right? I see no reason to panic here.