Overall, Core Set 2019 is great. There's far more value here than in most other recent Core Sets, if not all other recent Core Sets, including a bunch of high-level reprints that are certain to hold onto a lot of their value over the long haul. The new cycle of Elder Dragons is also fantastic, and even the ones that don't end up seeing much competitive play are going to be in demand thanks to casual and Commander players. Core Set 2019 also has at least one great planeswalker, possibly two; a bunch of amazing tribal lords; and a Buy-a-Box exclusive promo that is almost certainly going to be sought-after for years to come.
Unfortunately, this means that some of the singles in Core Set 2019 are a tad overpriced right now. I'm not saying that there isn't money to be made, but the expected value of a booster pack, especially with the promo factored in, is running a tad higher than it probably should be. I wouldn't shy away from pre-ordering entirely, but be aware that prices might be a little more volatile than usual. It wouldn't shock me to see a couple of hyped-up cards drop further than usual if they don't end up seeing any competitive play, especially considering the fact that there are more than a few rares that seem undervalued to me at the moment.
Personally, I'd at least look into the cost of buying a box that comes with the promo. Nexus of Fate is selling for around $30 right now, so factor that into the cost as you shop around. While some shops may raise the price or demand that you pay full MSRP on each booster pack in your box, there are assuredly plenty of deals to be had as well.
Let's move on to the cards, shall we?
Tezzeret, Artifice Master - $29.99
Everybody loves Tezzeret, Artifice Master, and I'm not going to rock that boat. Tezzeret protects himself (albeit with a 1/1, which isn't exactly great right now) and can potentially draw you a bunch of cards in the right deck. This is the sort of card that can spawn an entire new archetype. Heck, it might even see some play in Modern.
My big problem here, obviously, is the price point. $30 is a lot for a card that hasn't proven itself, so you have to look at the risk/reward of buying in early. Best case, Tezzeret ends up being as good as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which is currently $45. Worst case, it's as bad as Jaya Ballard, which is currently $5. Assuming you're going to buy a playset, is it worth risking $100 to try to save $60? That's not my jam, but if you're sold on Tezzeret, I get it. Honestly, I think it's safer to snag these at $30 than any of the rest of the mythics I'm reviewing today at their current price points. Tezzeret costs more, but it's also far less likely to bust out completely.
Sarkhan, Fireblood - $17.99
Sarkhan, Fireblood emphatically refuses to do any of the things I want my planeswalkers to do. It doesn't protect itself, it doesn't really generate much card advantage, it has a way-too-narrow ability, and its starting loyalty isn't exceptionally high. Part of me simply wants to label this thing a bust and move on.
That said, Sarkhan, Fireblood is a three-mana planeswalker. Historically, three-mana planeswalkers have proven to be among the most powerful cards in the game without seeming to do all that much on the surface. Heck, I've even seen people talk about using this in Modern simply for its rummage ability and the occasional miser's win off the ultimate. And if there's a Dragon deck to be made in Standard, which has started to seem like a real possibility, Sarkhan, Fireblood is going to be its flagship card.
My past experience with card evaluation tells me that buying in at $18 is a risky trap, but this is one of those cards that could end up being an underrated gem despite not looking like all that much to begin with. Monitor Sarkhan through the first couple of weeks of legality and buy in if things start looking up for the cheap planeswalker.
Liliana, Untouched by Death - $14.99
On the surface, Liliana, Untouched by Death seems bad because it's only good in a single tribal archetype: Zombies. The good news for Liliana fans is that she's probably quite playable in that deck, so if you want to play this card in Standard (at least until most of the Zombies rotate), you can.
Beyond that…well, I'm struggling to find something to like here. It's very possible that Zombies has something of a pre-rotation comeback that causes Liliana to end up in the $20 range, but this planeswalker isn't even all that great in a dedicated Zombies brew and Guilds of Ravnica would have to have a ton of sweet new Zombies to get me excited about her post-rotation potential. Long-term casual demand might make this a decent long-term spec, but I'll be looking to buy in a heck of a lot closer to $5 than $15.
Arcades, the Strategist - $9.99
This is a pretty lousy build-around for Standard, where you don't want to end up with a bunch of cards that don't do anything without Arcades on the battlefield. I could imagine it showing up as a two-of or three-of in a slightly controlling Bant deck were one to emerge organically regardless, but Arcades wouldn't be the reason for the season, so to speak. If Guilds of Ravnica gives us some sort of Wall of Omens effect, we can re-evaluate its Constructed viability.
Arcades the Strategist is far more interesting in Commander, however. Reserved List "staple" Wall of Kelp jumped from bulk to about $10 this week based on Arcades interest, which is a tad silly until you realize how well the two cards actually synergize. I doubt there will actually be enough Arcades demand to sustain a $10 price tag for the Homelands card, but $5+ seems reasonable and I wouldn't be surprised if other "Wall tribal" cards start to tick up over the next few days, similar to how all the coin flip cards spiked after Battlebond was released.
As for Arcades's price, I'm guessing it'll settle in around $6, though foils should command at least at 3x premium.
Apex of Power - $4.99
You don't need me to tell you why this card is bad, do you? I suppose there's an off-chance that Apex of Power ends up seeing play as a combo piece with some kind of "cast a spell for free" effect, but no fair deck is going to ramp up to ten mana for a shot at some random spells off the top of your deck. Apex of Power doesn't even seem all that great in Commander, to be honest. It might end up staying above $5 if a combo deck emerges, but I'm betting on this one hitting the bulk mythic range pretty soon.
Graveyard Marshal - $3.99
Oh, man. This was the two-drop that Zombies has needed for actual years, stretching back to Shadows over Innistrad. If Zombie Tribal ends up being a thing over the next couple of months, Graveyard Marshal is going to end up being a major reason why.
Beyond Zombies, I think Graveyard Marshal is simply just a good card in any sort of black-based deck. The BB casting cost is a bit restrictive, but I can envision a world in which this card shows up in multiple good Standard decks. $4 seems like a good price for a card that will almost certainly see a bunch of Standard play.
Leonin Warleader - $3.99
I know that comparisons can often get you into trouble, but Leonin Warleader sure looks like it can do a solid Hero of Bladehold impression. That card was quite powerful in its day, and I wouldn't be surprised of Leonin Warleader also finds a home or two. I am concerned that the card has a lot of competition in the four-drop slot, and I don't like that it's so vulnerable to spot removal, but solid mid-range token generators tend to do well regardless. $4 is fair for this one.
Cleansing Nova - $2.99
I don't know how much play Cleansing Nova will see, but I do know that it will almost certainly find a home or three in the new metagame. Five mana is a lot for a sweeper, but the extra utility gained by the modal nature of this spell is more than worth it. Expect Cleansing Nova's price to really ramp up one Fumigate rotates, especially if the fall set doesn't contain a replacement. I'm going to grab a set of these for myself at $3 – it's one of the safest bets in the set.
Remorseful Cleric - $2.99
I'm not sure that Remorseful Cleric is good enough for Modern. Todd Stevens wrote about it last week, and I agree with him: it's probably not going to make the maindeck cut even in U/W Spirits, and you'd rather have something like Rest in Peace in your sideboard.
In Standard…we'll see. I don't think there will be a dedicated Spirit deck out there, so you're basically running this as a Welkin Tern with upside. Considering all the resurgent talk about Zombies and God-Pharaoh's Gift, it's certainly possible that Remorseful Cleric will end up in the $5-$6 range for a while, but I'd rather buy almost any of the other cards on this $3-$4 tier right now, including…
Supreme Phantom - $2.99
Yeah, I like Supreme Phantom a lot. Two-mana lords are incredible, and I've seen plenty of people discussing this as a four-of in Modern. Beyond that, Supreme Phantom is powerful enough to help enable a future Standard deck depending on how many Spirits are in Guilds of Ravnica as well as the sets after that. Oh—and casual demand should help keep the price in the $2+ range regardless. Grabbing these at $3 seems great to me.
Runic Armasaur – $2.99
The hits keep coming. I love Runic Armasaur! Five toughness is exactly what you want in this format, and getting that for just three mana is huge. Obviously the utility of this card will depend on how often the metagame dictates that you'll get to draw free cards, but the upside here is a card that is better than Courser of Kruphix. Heck, it might even see play in Modern.
I'm not saying that Runic Armasaur is guaranteed to pay off, of course, but this is one of the few cards that has the sort of upside where your $3 investment might turn into an easy $20. It's my favorite gamble in Core Set 2019 right now.
Isolate - $2.49
Isolate is one of the most interesting cards in Core Set 2019. It's clearly not going to see play in Standard or Commander, and I doubt it'll see much play in Modern, but what about Legacy and Vintage? Being able to hit Aether Vial and Pithing Needle in addition to the one-drop creatures isn't nothing, but I'm also not sure that it's better than the other extant answers. I doubt Isolate is good enough, but if you're going to invest, grab foils. They're currently just $5, and there's $50+ upside if this actually becomes a Vintage staple.
Sai, Master Thopterist - $2.49
I have no idea where Sai, Master Thopterist will shine, but there's so much value here that I can't help but feel compelled to believe in this card. In a world where Whirler Virtuoso is a top-tier playable, Sai, Master Thopterist has to at least be able to find a home somewhere, right? I'm probably not going to buy in personally because the downside is too easy to imagine, but I wouldn't be shocked if Sai ends up being a solid Constructed playable.
Chaos Wand - $1.99
Chaos Wand might be my favorite card in the set. It's not a good card at all, though, not even in Commander. I guess it might be reasonable out of the sideboard in a control mirror, but paying seven mana before you can cast, like, a Doom Blade or something is not exactly my idea of a constructed staple. Future bulk rare.
Demanding Dragon - $1.99
I don't like five-drops, and I really don't like punisher cards. Demanding Dragon is the sort of card that looks a whole lot better on paper than it will likely play out in action, especially with all the competition it has near the top of the curve. I suppose it's possible that this will be the first punisher card in ages to surprise me, but I'm not holding my breath. Future bulk rare.
Dismissive Pyromancer - $1.99
I like Dismissive Pyromancer in a vacuum, but I'm not quite sure where it fits in the metagame. There are better options in both Modern and Commander, and most of the good red cards in Standard at least pretend like they're good at attacking. I wouldn't dismiss the Pyromancer entirely, but I feel like we're probably looking at a future bulk rare.
Goblin Trashmaster - $1.99
Goblin Trashmaster seems good enough for Modern, right? Not that Goblins are great in that format, but a Goblin Lord that's good enough to maindeck while giving you access to a bunch of artifact hate? I'm in. This card seems like it'll have a long, solid future in casual and Commander play, too.
And let's not forget that red is the most powerful color in Standard right now, mostly thanks to a card with "Goblin" in its name. Oh, and everybody is fawning over a powerful new planeswalker that encourages you to play with a bunch of artifacts in your deck. Yeah, I'm snagging a couple of Trashmasters for $2.
Transmogrifying Wand - $1.99
I love the flavor of Transmogrifying Wand, but it just isn't pushed enough to be very good. If you could use it at instant speed, I'd be in. If it were a little cheaper to play or activate, I'd be in. If it turned opposing creatures into smaller threats, I'd be in. As-is, this looks like a future bulk rare to me.
Detection Tower - $1.49
Let's hope that hexproof doesn't become a big enough issue in Standard that people feel the need to run Detection Tower. As long as we can safely avoid that potential future, this is a reasonable card in Commander that'll probably settle in around $1 with foils in the $6-$8 range.
Dragon's Hoard – $1.49
Wait, is Dragon's Hoard actually…good? That second ability where you get to add a mana of any color doesn't require you to play any Dragons at all, remember—it's just a straight-up mana rock. And while Chromatic Lantern wasn't exactly a Standard all-star in its day, you only have to add a couple of Dragons for this thing to start getting exciting. Every casual Dragon tribal deck for the next decade is going to want a copy of this regardless, so $1.50 isn't exactly a painful buy-in.
If you really think that Dragon's Hoard is good enough for Standard, however, the card you want to be buying right now is Verix Bladewing. It'll be a four-of in any Dragon Tribal deck, it's a mythic rare, and you can snag them for $1.50. The upside there is pretty tantalizing, and I think I'm going to go in on a small stack of them.
One with the Machine - $1.49
I get why some people are excited about One with the Machine, but the downside here is just brutal. I can't imagine it sees more than fringe play. Future bulk rare.
Thorn Lieutenant - $1.49
Are we sure that Thorn Lieutenant is that much worse than Sylvan Advocate, a card that was a solid $8-$10 for a while during one of the biggest bear markets in Standard history? I get that this thing isn't super-exciting, and it matches up really poorly against Goblin Chainwhirler, but unassuming two-drops that are annoying at all stages of the game can often end up as Standard staples. Assuming Chainwhirler isn't banned right away, I'll be looking to stash these for next to nothing and hope that it'll find a home in one of the next couple of metagames.
Valiant Knight - $1.49
Whoa, Valiant Knight is a pretty sweet lord. Double strike is just going to win the game on the spot unless you deal with it, and curving History of Benalia into Valiant Knight is just going to be game over a lot of the time. Casual demand alone should keep this card in the $1-$2 range, so there's not really any downside in grabbing some of these just in case Knights become a thing in Standard at some point.
Fraying Omnipotence - $0.99
In Standard, Fraying Omnipotence basically reads "Pay five mana: destroy everything except the stuff that's actually going to kill you." Future bulk rare.
Hungering Hydra - $0.99
It doesn't matter how arbitrarily large you make these Hydras. They have to have more going for them than "big" to see any Constructed play. Future bulk rare.
Lena, Selfless Champion - $0.99
Wow, I love that flavor text! I'm probably going to grab some foils of Lena, Selfless Champion because she's a terrific card in Commander. Non-foils should stay in the bulk rare range, though – six-mana win-mores don't tend to do all that well in Standard or Modern.
Liliana's Contract - $0.99
I'm not sure that black-based control wants a five-mana sorcery as their big draw spell, but the rate on extra cards is good enough here that people will at least consider playing Liliana's Contract. The second line of text is more interesting, as Standard has a bunch of pretty decent Demons right now—not to mention any potential Arcane Adaptation shenanigans. I don't think that this is a competitive strategy, but Liliana's Contract looks like a future Saffron Olive all-star in between long periods of bulkdom. If you're going to invest, grab foils.
Sarkhan's Unsealing - $0.99
I love the concept of Sarkhan's Unsealing and I'll certainly consider it in my G/R Commander decks, but it seems like the quintessential "win more" card in Standard. If you're playing a ton of big beefy creatures, you should be doing just fine.
Sigiled Sword of Valeron - $0.99
Six mana to cast plus equip is a lot. The payoff would have to be amazing for me to consider this. Sigiled Sword of Valeron is no Loxodon Warhammer, though, and I'd rather spend my card and six mana on another couple of threats or really good answers. Future bulk rare.
Spit Flame - $0.99
Spit Flame might end up being a $2-$3 card if a Dragon deck starts doing reasonably well in Standard. It's a bulk rare otherwise, though. Grab a few if one of the next sets ends up being especially Dragon-centric, but I'm staying away for now.
Suncleanser - $0.99
What the heck even is this card? Is it simply energy hate that's a year and a half too late, or does it have another purpose somewhere? Even if Wizards of the Coast prints a really scary creature with counters on it, wouldn't you rather just run a maindeck removal spell instead of a sideboard 1/4 that neuters it instead of destroying it? I think I'll just declare it a future bulk rare and back away slowly.
Banefire - $0.75
Some of you are probably too young to remember this, but Banefire was a chase rare back when Conflux came out and was one of the set's bigger disappointments. It hasn't been Standard-legal since then despite a couple of other printings in sets like Modern Masters 2015.
The upside is pretty low here, since there are several printings of Banefire at this point and I can't imagine it sees play as a four-of anywhere, but this is a Standard-playable card for just $0.75. Grab a set if you think you're going to need them—it'll likely find a home somewhere this time around, just not as a powerhouse staple or anything.
Mystic Archaeologist - $0.49
I like Mystic Archeologist more than most of the cards on the $1 and $1.50 tiers. It's a Wizard, which might be relevant at some point; it's a two-drop; and late in the game it'll draw you a bunch of cards at instant speed. I don't see myself running this in a ton of different decks, but I like it more than several more expensive cards above it on this list. You could do worse with a $0.50 lottery ticket.
Djinn of Wishes - $0.49
Djinn of Wishes was a bulk rare in Magic 2010 and Magic 2012. It'll be a bulk rare in Core Set 2019.
Phylactery Lich - $0.49
Phylactery Lich was a bulk rare in Magic 2011 and Magic 2013. It'll be a bulk rare in Core Set 2019.
Windreader Sphinx - $0.49
Windreader Sphinx was a bulk rare in Magic 2014, and it'll be a bulk rare in Core Set 2019.
Pelakka Wurm - $0.49
Pelakka Wurm has been an uncommon(!) in three recent sets, and it was up-shifted to rare because it's one of the most obnoxious uncommons to play against in Limited. It'll be the bulkiest of bulk rares, though, and I'll be sad every time I open it.
This Week's Trends
- The Standard market has been quiet in the weeks leading up to the release date of Core Set 2019. I'm guessing that we'll start to see a little bit of movement once we hit the first weekend of the new format, but those gains will likely be both minor and short-lived as most players hold out until set rotation in the fall to buy back in. One card that I'm keeping an eye on: Search for Azcanta, which has begun to tick up a little bit over the past couple of days.
The Standard market might also move a bit if Goblin Chainwhirler gets hit with the banhammer on Monday morning. The announcement will be published concurrently with this article, so you'll almost certainly know about that before reading this. I'd bet against a ban, personally, but I also wouldn't be completely shocked if it occurred. Regardless, I still don't like speculating on Standard right now. Wait until the end of July.
- Over in Modern, Stoneforge Mystic is the talk of the town. With more and more players calling for it to be removed from the Banned List, the card tripled in price last week due to anticipation hype. Batterskull and some of the protection Swords saw small, secondary price bumps as well.
Since you'll know Stoneforge Mystic's ultimate fate before you read this, it doesn't do me much good to speculate on the likelihood of a unban. [Copy Editor's Note: The only changes in the Banned and Restricted announcement were the bannings of Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe in Legacy.] If it doesn't happen now, just remember that Wizards of the Coast has historically liked to wait until the January B&R announcement to make these kinds of big, bold moves. If I had any Mystics now, I'd be selling them before the announcement regardless.
- The other Modern Card that jumped this week? Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Now that Scapeshift is going to be a lot cheaper due to it being reprinted, some of the other cards in that deck are rising in price to compensate. I wouldn't be surprised if Prismatic Omen starts ticking up a bit next.
- Over in the world of casual Magic, The Chain Veil is finally up over the $10 mark. This is one of the long-term casual specs I flogged the hardest a couple of years back, when they were easily available for about $1, so hopefully some of you still have a boxful of these kicking around somewhere. People are betting that the next Commander product will be planeswalker-centric, and we're only a few weeks away from finding out for sure. I'm torn on whether or not to cash out on The Chain Veil now in order to hedge against a reprint or just keep riding this one up toward $15-$20. I'll probably end up selling half my stash and hoarding the rest.
- As I said earlier, some older creatures with defender are spiking due to Arcades the Strategist. Wall of Kelp was first to go, then Shield Sphere. Beyond that, foil copies of things like Overgrown Battlement and Stalwart Shield-Bearers are all but gone. Expect these spikes to continue through the first couple of weeks of Core Set 2019's run before the Commander 2018 previews begin in earnest and people forget about building their sweet new Wall deck.
- Last, it's worth noting that the US Supreme Court's recent ruling on allowing states to collect sales tax for online purchases made out of state may soon make it harder and more expensive to buy and sell cards online. My guess is that the major marketplaces and backend storefront tools will find a way to implement this stuff in order to make it less painful for buyers and sellers to figure out, but it's worth noting that this sort of thing will affect your margins at some point – ditto for the new retaliatory tariffs being placed on "playing cards" that will make international sales more difficult and expensive. None of this is enough to make me change my buying and selling habits for now, but it's important to keep in mind.