After all the hype around a potential Goblin Chainwhirler banning in Standard and a Stoneforge Mystic unbanning in Modern, we got...a Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe ban in Legacy. Well, okay then! I'm going to spend the bulk of today's article talking about Legacy, but let's touch base a little on the non-changes to Standard and Modern first.
First, I'm not surprised that WotC left Goblin Chainwhirler alone. Despite the rash of Standard bannings over the past few years, I still believe that axing a card from a current set should be a last resort in Magic's newest format. Not only have decks like B/U Midrange and U/W God-Pharaoh's Gift stepped it up a bit over the past couple of weeks to compete with The Chainwhirler, but paying RRR for a card should be a lot less attractive once Guilds of Ravnica, a multicolored set, comes out. Oh-and literally every other creature in R/B Aggro (other than Rekindling Phoenix) rotates in the fall.
Don't expect a big price bump for Goblin Chainwhirler or any of the R/B or Mono-Red Aggro cards based on this news. Standard is still sinking deeper into its summer lull, and if anything, the non-ban is just going to make people even more likely to shrug their shoulders and ignore Standard until early September. We'll get a few scattered price increases as Core Set 2019 hopefully injects a couple more interesting decks into the metagame, but that would have happened with or without a Chainwhirler ban.
As for Stoneforge Mystic, I thought it was telling that WotC didn't mention the card at all in their B&R announcement. This makes me think that they're not ruling out an unban six months from now, which is when all the big Modern unbannings tend to happen. It'll be interesting to see how much the price falls off between now and early January, when the hype cycle will start up again and we'll almost assuredly see another big spike. If you didn't sell your Mystics last week, hold onto them for another couple of months and try your luck right before the major winter set announcement.
Writing Yourself a New Legacy
The Deathrite Shaman ban is going to turn Legacy on its head. It was probably the most important card in the format. More than Brainstorm. More than Force of Will. More than all the dual lands combined.
If we were talking about Modern, three or four dozen cards would already be spiking, there would be approximately a trillion think-pieces on what "the new Modern" was going to look like, and it would already be too late for speculators to buy in.
Legacy is a very different format, though. Because it's both expensive and not really part of the mainstream competitive scene, most of the grinders down at your local shop probably haven't ever played a single game of Legacy. The format is mostly nourished by a dedicated group of older, established players who bought their dual lands many years ago as well as the 0.1% or so of the player base that lives, sleeps, eats, and breathes Magic.
This difference in demographics changes the finance game considerably.
For example, I've heard a couple of people say that the Deathrite Shaman ban is going to cause Bayou to drop in price. If this were Modern, that would make perfect sense - for example, a Snapcaster Mage ban in that format would absolutely cause Celestial Colonnade to lose value.
But how many Legacy players are actually going to sell their Bayous? Most of them are going to shrug, stick them back in their collection binder, slip out a couple of other duals, and move on. It's possible that the price will drop a little because dealers will have a slightly harder time selling their available stock, but I don't see a full-on panic here. Most of the key cards in Legacy are "buy it for life" sort of deals, and most Legacy players are very long-term thinkers. They understand that they'll probably need Bayou again in the future, even without Deathrite Shaman.
That said, I do wonder how much this ban is going to affect some of the other big ticket reserved list cards. Does The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale drop below (ugh) $3,000 retail if Lands ends up with a significantly smaller share of the metagame? What would Gaea's Cradle do if Elves were suddenly bad? We probably won't find out because none of these decks are likely to be affected much by the loss of either Gitaxian Probe or Deathrite Shaman, but if I'm wrong about that, I'll be curious to see what happens. The Reserved List stuff is all a bit Wild West-ish anyway, though, so it's hard for me to say for certain.
This dovetails nicely into the next problem with Legacy speculation, which is that Legacy playability doesn't affect the value of heavily-printed cards all that much. For example, B/R Reanimator runs four copies of Chancellor of the Annex, a card that was only printed once, in New Phyrexia. If there was a four-of from New Phyrexia that saw play in a top Modern deck, it would be at least $20-$30. In Legacy, it's just $5-$7. Not only is the Legacy player base small enough that there's not really a supply crunch for Chancellor of the Annex, but the manabase for Reanimator is going to run you at least a grand. This doesn't leave you with much of a market for your extra copies of Chancellor of the Annex.
It's also worth remembering that the Legacy metagame evolves a lot slower than Standard or Modern. There are far fewer paper tournaments, and due to the cost of switching decks as well as a culture based around consistency, many players will simply bring "their deck" instead of hyper-tuning their choice to the latest quirks in the metagame. There are also fewer reasons for pro players to spend their time iterating on Legacy since it's not really on the path to the Pro Tour anymore. This means that the new Probe and Shaman-free metagame is going to take weeks or months to develop instead of days, giving us all more time to maneuver with our specs.
Now that we've taken a big picture look at Legacy, let's take a look at the specifics of the changing metagame and see if we can come up with a couple of likely risers and fallers based on last Monday's announcement.
Rising: Death and Taxes
Most of the Legacy folks I've talked to seem to be in agreement that Death and Taxes is one of the biggest winners in a post-Shaman world. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Wasteland, and Rishadan Port are just a whole lot better without that pesky Elf hanging around.
The other good thing about Death and Taxes? It runs a grand total of zero cards on the Reserved List. You don't even need any dual lands! The fact that this is one of Legacy's cheapest, easiest decks to buy into should give it an additional bump in value beyond the fact that it's a lot better now that Deathrite Shaman is gone. Everyone who decides to make the leap into Legacy at this point is likely going to at least consider Death and Taxes.
Without a major Reserved List value hog, the key expensive cards here are Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Karakas, Stoneforge Mystic, Containment Priest, Aether Vial, Recruiter of the Guard, and a bunch of singletons, like Umezawa's Jitte. Wasteland and Rishadan Port are among the biggest winners of the Deathrite Shaman ban regardless, so they're nice buys right now even if Death and Taxes doesn't end up being the best home for them. Make sure you grab a personal playset of each if you ever want to consider getting into Legacy.
I also like Containment Priest and Recruiter of the Guard quite a bit. They're already spiking on Magic Online where the available supply is lower, but those gains should at least somewhat trickle down to paper Magic as well.
It's also possible that this deck will eventually be the right home for Brightling, a card that's looking quite good in Legacy testing despite the price having lagged a bit since it wasn't on MTGO until just a few days ago. This lack of online data kept the price lower that it would have been otherwise, but the secret is out because foils are already sold out at $50, and I saw some scattered noise about a Brightling buy-out on the MTG finance subreddit late last week. I'd like to snag at least a couple of these for my long-term Legacy collection while Battlebond is still in print, but don't forget that it's still a current set card, albeit a mythic rare from a casual expansion. Don't expect a Leovold-style price unless it sees as much play as Leovold did, which is unlikely.
Falling: Grixis Delver & Four-Color Leovold
There aren't a ton of cards in Grixis Delver that are overly expensive other than Force of Will and the manabase, none of which I expect to drop in price. True-Name Nemesis might have gotten a little worse, but that one was just reprinted so I don't expect the price to drop any further. Plus, I expect to see a rise in Stoneforge Mystic decks that should help compensate.
Four-Color Leovold also has an expensive manabase alongside Snapcaster Mage, Liliana, the Last Hope, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Kolaghan's Command, all of which derive almost all of their value from Modern, not Legacy. Those prices should remain stable as well. Leovold himself might end up being the biggest financial loser from this deck, though it'll see enough play in Vintage as well as the surviving Legacy decks to remain at least in the $25-$30 range.
Deathrite Shaman did a great job keeping most of the unfair graveyard strategies in check, and decks like Dredge should flourish without the pesky little Elf around. It's true that there are better graveyard hate cards around now than there were before Deathrite Shaman was printed, and it's possible that the addition of more dedicated graveyard hate to sideboards in lieu of the Elf will actually end up hurting Dredge. I don't buy it, though. I expect all graveyard decks to get better now that they no longer have to face nearly as much maindeck hate.
Financially, Dredge is basically a pile of $5 cards plus $1,000 worth of Lion's Eye Diamonds. If the deck really does become a major pillar of the metagame, Dredge will become a pile of $5 plus $2-3,000 worth of Lion's Eye Diamonds. You can safely ignore the other cards on this list for now, but you should absolutely hold your nose and snag those Diamonds ASAP if you want to play this deck at any point over the next couple of years.
Aluren isn't a major part of the Legacy metagame, but it gets worse without access to Deathrite Shaman. Aluren is the sort of narrow Reserved List card that might actually drop in price due to the changes in the metagame-you know, if any of these cards are ever going to actually drop in price. Imperial Recruiter might fall off a bit as well, though the latest reprint sort of killed that card's value regardless. At the very least, don't expect a major rebound there any time soon.
If Dredge is threatening to become a tier one strategy again, Reanimator is threatening to become one of the best two or three decks in the format. Reanimator has been the best deck in Legacy before, and Deathrite Shaman was a major hard counter to its power. With that gone, Reanimator seems likely to experience a surge in popularity.
Other than the manabase, the expensive cards in Reanimator are Entomb, Reanimate, Lotus Petal, Thoughtseize, and Collective Brutality. Subtracting the Modern-legal cards and the recent reprints, I'd bet that Reanimate and Lotus Petal will end up as two of the biggest financial winners, and I'd look to pick them up ASAP.
Unmask could be a sleeper hit as well since it was only reprinted in From the Vault: Lore and it's a four-of in the current B/R Reanimator list. Of course, the new metagame might be more favorable to U/B Reanimator than the current B/R variant. That version doesn't play Unmask, but it does run both Reanimate and Lotus Petal, so you're all good there.
Falling: Food Chain
Can I call a deck "falling" if it makes up less than one percent of the metagame? The people who are still playing Food Chain might just be dedicated enough to the cause that they're not going to move on no matter what, but the deck is going to be harder to play now. Food Chain is a $50+ card despite not being on the Reserved List, and that price is going to drop. I'm selling my extra copies ASAP.
Likely Stable: Elves
Yes, Elves loses Deathrite Shaman, but it's also the Deathrite Shaman deck that's best equipped to deal with that loss. I've heard Noble Hierarch bandied about as a potential replacement, so demand for those might increase a little bit over the long haul. I don't think we're going to see cards like Heritage Druid, Glimpse of Nature, or Gaea's Cradle drop in price, though.
Likely Stable: Storm
Storm lost one of its best enablers in Gitaxian Probe, which is a big blow to everyone who loves watching those sweet turn one and turn two kills. On the other hand, Storm is going to have to deal with far fewer opposing Cabal Therapies now. I'm going to call this a wash.
Also, raise your hand if you think that even a single Legacy Storm player is going to switch to some sort of fair deck like Death and Taxes just because they lost a card. Storm is going to be just fine-it always is.
Likely Stable: Lands
I've heard some people call Lands a big winner, but I tend to agree with Sam Black when he says that Lands was well-positioned against the "fair" decks that Deathrite Shaman forced into the format and it might not be quite as good against Legacy's new top tier. On the other hand, Lands is a mana denial deck, and that's going to be a far stronger strategy going forward.
At the end of the day, I expect Lands to remain good enough that the people who already own The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale are going to keep playing it, but it's probably not going to be so good that anyone else is going to feel forced to buy in to the format's most expensive deck. From a speculation perspective, you can continue to ignore this deck for now.
Miracles is already one of Legacy's best decks despite having lost Sensei's Divining Top, but it should improve now that Deathrite Shaman is gone. In fact, it might end up being the best deck in the format again.
Back to Basics is an interesting spec target; it's a two-of that can easily sustain a $100+ price tag if it ends up being a part of Miracles going forward, though its possible that the deck will end up running a different piece of hate depending on how the metagame evolves. It's also possible that Flusterstorm will finally begin to rebound, but like I said at the start, I'm still a bit gun-shy when it comes to recent reprints and Legacy speculation.
Rising: Temur Delver
With Grixis and Sultai on the way out thanks to the loss of Deathrite Shaman, it might be time for Temur to once again reign as the best three-color combination for the format's top Delver deck.
Nimble Mongoose would be a great spec target if it weren't recently reprinted at common. Foils seem like a solid buy, though. Stifle is interesting as well. It breaks my rules about recent reprints, but it's going to be a much bigger part of the Legacy metagame going forward and it has a pretty excellent pedigree. At the current retail price of just $4, it's a worthy gamble, but the judge and Invocation foils are where the real money is likely to be. I wouldn't be surprised if these two doubled up over the next couple of weeks.
Volcanic Island is another interesting play, and the card could match or surpass Underground Sea in price if Temur decks end up seeing more play. Dual land speculation is a crazy game these days, though, so I don't blame anyone for staying away from this one.
In addition to Death and Taxes, other Stoneforge Mystic based decks are likely to see a resurgence in popularity. I'd be telling you to go out and buy Mystics if, you know, the price hadn't just tripled due to all of those Modern speculators. Whoops!
We've talked about a lot of the Stoneforge staples already today, but I wouldn't be surprised if both Council's Judgment and Umezawa's Jitte end up seeing a little boost. They show up in nearly all of these Stoneforge Mystic shells, including Death and Taxes. Umezawa's Jitte is especially hard to reprint since it's banned in Modern and they put it in a From the Vault product fairly recently.
Let's finish up with a deck that hasn't been good in Legacy for a very long time. I have no idea if Goblins has a prayer of surging back into Legacy relevance, but the fact that Deathrite Shaman will no longer be around to eat Goblin Lackey is huge. I'm already seeing the Lackey spike on MTGO, and that's probably your best bet for paper speculation as well. If that one sells through, check out Chrome Mox, which is a three-of in the current "best" Legacy Goblins list. This is far from a cheap deck, but if you've got Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial for Modern already, the actual Goblins themselves are quite affordable.
This Week's Trends
- The early returns for Core Set 2019 are out! Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and Resplendent Angel are the Day Zero winners, with Arcades, the Strategist, Sarkhan, Fireblood, Vivien Reid, Crucible of Worlds, Scapeshift, and Omniscience all slowly dropping from their pre-order prices. I wouldn't read too much into this yet, and we'll all have a lot more information to play with next week, but that's how things are looking as of late Friday night.
- In the world of high end buyouts, Collectors' Edition cards are getting hot again. The biggest ticket items like Black Lotus and the Moxen are surging in value as Cubers and Vintage players look to pick up the next best thing to real power. These cards are incredibly scarce despite the fact that they're not tournament legal, and it's a good way of seeing how the market for Reserved List stuff isn't necessarily dictated by competitive playability.
- The San Diego Comic-Con Planeswalker set was announced this week, and they feature gorgeous Terese Nielsen art. While last year's set was a bit of a bust, these 'walkers are a lot nicer looking and the MSRP for the full set is just $99 instead of last year's disappointing $180. Don't forget that some number of these will be available on the Hasbro site at some point after Comic-Con, too.
It'll be interesting to see how limited the run is this time around. Last summer, you could pretty easily buy them at retail for months after the comic-con run. This time, I expect the ones on the Hasbro site to sell out fast, and I wouldn't be surprised if the secondary market value is at least $200. WotC might print a ton of them though, so we'll have to wait and see. For now, I'd recommend snagging a set or two at MSRP if you can, but I'd avoid paying a premium until we have a better sense of how limited they're likely to be.