Welcome to part one of my financial set review for Commander 2018! Join me this morning as I take a deep financial dive into Nature's Vengeance and Adaptive Enchantment, two of the four new pre-constructed Commander decks that will be released to the world on August 10th. I'll be back later in the week with the other two decks, Exquisite Invention and Subjective Reality, as well as my analysis of this week's overall financial trends.
My apologies for the wait, but I guarantee you that it'll be worth it. I have so much to say about these cool new decks, and I didn't want to short-change a single card.
At any rate, speculating on cards from pre-constructed decks like Commander 2018 requires a different approach than we use to speculate on cards in normal Magic sets. That doesn't mean that there isn't plenty of money to be made, but it's worth paying attention to the specific elements that might cause one sweet Commander 2018 card to spike while another ends languishing in the bulk bin for the next couple of years.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the cards from Commander 2017 that have increased in value since their release day:
- Disrupt Decorum - $1 to $2.50
- Hammer of Nazahn - $2.50 to $9
- Herald's Horn - $2 to $16
- Kess, Dissident Mage - $5 to $9
- Kindred Discovery - $3 to $9
- Kindred Dominance - $3 to $6
- Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist - $4 to $13
- Path of Ancestry - $3 to $6
- Teferi's Protection - $5 to $30
- Traverse the Outlands - $1.50 to $8
None of this should come as much of a surprise to anyone who read my Commander 2017 financial set review. I did a pretty good job of nailing most of the set's breakout cards last year without sending you down too many bad paths. In fact, it might have been my most successful set review ever. Seriously- go check it out.
When I wrote my review last summer, I included four goals for analyzing and evaluating cards in a Commander set. Let's take a look at them one at a time and see if we need to modify them based on what we've learned over the past year:
- Try to find the breakout build-around. There might not be an Atraxa in Commander 2017, but if there is, we need to know about it ASAP.
Atraxa, Praetor's Voice was by far the most popular build-around card in Commander 2016. It went from $10 to $20 during its first year of being in print, and it's up to $30 now. Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist was probably the closest we got in Commander 2017, a set that didn't really have a breakout build-around on the scale of Atraxa. Even still, we should be looking for this type of card in Commander 2018.
- Pay special attention to artifacts. If a card is good in half of all the Commander decks that exist, demand is going to start outstripping supply really quickly.
This is what caused Hammer of Nazahn and Herald's Horn, the two best artifacts in Commander 2017, to be two of the set's biggest financial gainers. The same thing happened with Crystalline Crawler and Conqueror's Flail the year before. It'll probably happen again this time around, too.
I'd like to modify this rule for 2018 to include non-artifact cards that are likely to be multi-deck staples. Traverse the Outlands and Teferi's Protection are examples of this type of card; they might not be colorless, but they're both splashable and flexible.
- Look for cards that are proactively good in the most popular Commander archetypes. Anything having to do with counters is a slam-dunk.
This rule clearly applies to tribal cards as well, which is why the Kindred spells did so well last year. And yeah, any cards that play with tokens and counters should always be on your radar.
- Ignore narrow support cards. Arahbo, Roar of the World is only good in a deck with a bunch of Cats, and anyone who wants to build a Cat deck is just going to buy the entire box set. So who are you planning to sell your spec copies to?
This rule absolutely held true with Commander 2017. Arahbo, Roar of the World dropped from $6 to $1.50-bulk mythic range-for exactly the reason I just stated. Expect it to hold true for many of the coolest (but narrowest) cards in Commander 2018 as well.
With all that meta-analysis out of the way, let's get to the decks!
Non-Bulk Rare Reprints:
- Avenger of Zendikar - $2.99
- Sol Ring - $2.99
- Decimate - $1.99
- Sakura-Tribe Elder - $1.75
- Command Tower - $1.49
- Myriad Landscape - $1.49
Yuck. There's nothing wrong with Avenger of Zendikar, but this deck is chockablock with bulk rares beyond that big green boy. While none of the Commander 2018 decks have any truly exciting reprints-something that we should keep in mind, because it means that there's more value to go around for the new cards-Nature's Vengeance does not have a very exciting crop of returning staples.
New Cards in Nature's Vengeance:
Lord Windgrace - $11.99
It's worth noting straight off the bat that the online Commander community seems pretty low on this entire crop of new planeswalkers. That isn't to say that they're all bad, or that they're all going to end up being unpopular, but it's worth noting that people's initial reaction to the lot is that they're all a tad underpowered.
With that said, Lord Windgrace is perfectly fine. The people who want to build a Jund "lands matter" deck can go nuts with card advantage here, though I don't know how different this is going to be from the existing Gitrog Monster decks. Maybe it'll encourage more people to go in that direction, which should mean good things for The Gitrog Monster's price tag-I'd want to slot him right into a Lord Windgrace deck, after all.
Otherwise, I don't feel like Lord Windgrace screams, "play me!" the way, say, Atraxa does. Long-term, I expect the card to end up in the $5-$7 range, which is where most unique, moderately popular, casual-only planeswalkers end up
Gyrus, Waker of Corpses - $3.99
There are a weirdly high number of restrictions on Gyrus, Walker of Corpses, and they make me worried that this card will end up being frustrating far more than it'll end up being cool. The fact that you need to spend Jund mana to play Gyrus will prevent it from being used in most reanimation decks, and I'm not sure that most those decks are going to want Gyrus anyway considering the fact that it only pulls from your graveyard and exiles your best utility creatures after a single use. Oh-and you have to wait a turn to attack with Gyrus before it does anything. I'm not sold on this one being more than just a bulk mythic.
Thantis, the Warweaver - $3.99
Thantis, the Warweaver is neat, I suppose, but its ability is antithetical to the axis that most Commander players like to plot and play on. As thankful as I'd be if most Commander games were half as long as they usually are, most of the expensive cards in the format are about discouraging attacks, not encouraging them. Thantis is likely to end up as a bulk mythic.
Fury Storm - $2.99
Fork effects have proven to be pretty effective in Commander, and four mana isn't too much of a tax to pay for one that can scale as well as Fury Storm can. You're probably getting at least two copies out of Fury Storm regardless, which might make it my new favorite Fork in the entire format.
I'm a little wary about going too deep here since red is the weakest color in Commander, and red Commander staples tend to be worth less because demand is so much lower. On the other hand, this is one of the strongest cards in Commander 2018's weakest deck. All that value must go somewhere, which might cause Fury Storm to end up in the $6-$7 range.
Windgrace's Judgment - $2.49
Flexible removal and card advantage? Yes, please! Windgrace's Judgment is obviously not worth your time unless you're playing in 4+ player matches on a regular basis, but isn't that what Commander was made for? I feel like every multiplayer deck that runs green and black will at least consider throwing this in, which means that demand should easily outstrip supply. Expect Windgrace's Judgment to be a $5+ card at some point.
Bloodtracker - $1.99
Bloodtracker seems like a solid pickup as well. Vampire and Wizard are both incredibly relevant creature types, and the card is a fairly powerful card draw spell in its own right. Things get even nuttier once you combine Bloodtracker with any sort of +1/+1 counter shenanigans, and we all know how much Commander players love doing that. There isn't a ton of upside here, but Bloodtracker should be at least a $4 card eventually.
Turntimber Sower - $1.99
Turntimber Sower seems fairly priced at $2. It fits in far fewer decks than Bloodtracker does, though I can easily imagine that it'll become a fast favorite for anyone building a land shenanigans deck like Borborygmos Enraged or The Gitrog Monster. This is a solid pick-up if you need a copy for your own personal collection, but there are better spec targets.
Xantcha, Sleeper Agent - $1.99
Xantcha, Sleeper Agent is one of the coolest and most unique cards in the whole set. I'm not sure how good it is with Lord Windgrace, but I can imagine that there's a home for Xantcha in loads of angry Rakdos decks as well as any sorts of "politics matter" brews that run both red and black. Xantcha is narrow enough that I don't see a ton of upside here, but cards that are this cool don't end up as long-term bulk rares. This one should rise in price, but you might be waiting a while.
Reality Scramble - $1.49
Reality Scramble is being completely underrated right now. Retrace is way better than you think it is, and the fact that this is a Polymorph that can work on any type of permanent means that the door is wide open for crazy shenanigans. Only have one planeswalker in your deck? As your commander, say? Reality Scramble it for a second activation every turn. Heck, you can even run this in Legacy in some kind of Omni-Tell shell. I know it looks like a crappy red chaos card, but Reality Scramble is so much more than that. I'm grabbing several copies for $1.50.
Emissary of Grudges - $0.99
Emissary of Grudges is one of those cards that's really cool in theory, but it's always going to end up on the cutting room floor for a card that's more on-theme for whatever I'm trying to do at the moment. Future bulk rare.
Nesting Dragon - $0.99
Whoa, Nesting Dragon is amazing! I get that you aren't going to have a ton of lands left in your hand by the time you play this, but any deck that likes to sacrifice either creatures or tokens is going to at least consider Nesting Dragon. It's solid in any sort of tribal Dragon strategy as well as any kind of deck that's looking to get a ton of lands onto the battlefield quickly. At just $1, there should be plenty of upside.
Crash of Rhino Beetles - $0.99
Crash of Rhino Beetles is very big. Unfortunately, so are lots of other creatures. I'd rather play with the next card down, because it actually does something beyond being arbitrarily large.
Whiptongue Hydra - $0.99
I don't know why more people aren't on the Whiptongue Hydra bandwagon yet. My "big green dumb stuff" decks rarely run any fliers, and this thing is going to be close to a one-sided wrath in a lot of the games it shows up in. It's also a really nice critter to have in any sort of creature-based toolbox deck. This seems more like a $2-$3 card than a bulk rare.
New "Uncommons" in Nature's Vengeance:
Forge of Heroes - $0.49
Since Forge of Heroes is a common, it'll show up in all four of the Commander 2018 decks. It's quite good in any build where you have a planeswalker as your commander, but I don't think it's a must-play across the format, especially in decks that run three or more colors. $0.50 seems reasonable to me.
Loyal Subordinate - $0.49
Loyal Subordinate is going to be good in decks like Rakdos, Lord of Riots and Sygg, River Cutthroat, but I doubt it'll find widespread appeal beyond those strategies. It's a fine buy at $0.50 if you need a copy, but there's no real upside here.
Loyal Guardian - $0.49
Loyal Guardian is a steal at just fifty cents. While paying five mana for a 4/4 is rough, this card's Lieutenant ability makes it the perfect addition to any sort of "go wide" tokens strategy. This is the number-one thing that leads to Commander value spikes, so feel good about buying in on this one. Remember: "uncommon" in this case just means that the card will be included in two of the pre-cons instead of one. Considering one of last year's uncommons is a $16 card now, Loyal Guardian has some room to grow.
Loyal Apprentice - $0.49
Loyal Apprentice is pretty awesome as well. Any red-based tokens deck will want this. For that matter, so will all the "artifacts matter" decks as well as anything looking for either an artifact or a creature to sacrifice. I can see this one ending up in the $2-$3 range at least.
Current Retail Value of Significant Cards in Nature's Vengeance: $51.75
Overrated: Lord Windgrace, Gyrus, Waker of Corpses, Thantis, the Warweaver.
Non-Bulk Rare Reprints:
- Enchantress's Presence - $5.99
- Bear Umbra - $4.99
- Sol Ring - $2.99
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster - $1.99
- Hydra Omnivore - $1.99
- Martial Coup - $1.99
- Command Tower - $1.49
So yeah. As we learned when we looked at Nature's Vengeance, the Commander 2018 decks aren't giving us a ton of expensive reprints. This kind of makes sense-WotC knows that what we're really after are the cool new cards, and they can save their reprint equity for future core sets and Masters releases.
That said, Enchantress's Presence and Bear Umbra are both solid inclusions that should hold their value fairly well. Both cards were quite a bit more expensive a few days ago, and I doubt we'll see either one drop too far below the $5 mark.
New Cards in Adaptive Enchantment:
Estrid, the Masked - $9.99
Estrid, the Masked seems to have the Arahbo problem: she's awesome as an "Auras matter" commander, but there should be plenty of copies of Adaptive Enchantment to go around for everybody who wants to actually brew that one up. This is not an Atraxa situation where everybody has a slightly different idea of what they want to do with it. Expect Estrid to end up in the same $5-$7 range as the other new planeswalkers.
As for Estrid-related spec targets, foil copies of Utopia Sprawl seem like a solid target. Greater Auramancy could tick up a little bit more as well. Most of the good "enchantment matters" cards have been spiking for weeks in anticipation of these decks, though: Opalescence broke $30, and Serra's Sanctum is approaching $200. I doubt there's too much more room for any of these cards to grow, at least over the short term.
Kestia, the Cultivator - $5.99
Kestia, the Cultivator is awesome. The art is incredible, and her design is even better. I suspect she'll end up being used as the "Bant enchantment" commander almost as often (if not more so) than Estrid, the Masked.
But that does not mean that Kestia will remain expensive. As with Estrid, you might as well buy the entire deck that Kestia comes in since all the other cards in Adaptive Enchantment play really well with her. Because of this, she's likely to end up settling closer to $1.50 or $2 than her current $5 price tag.
Tuvasa, the Sunlit - $4.99
You can pretty much copy my Kestia, the Cultivator paragraph and paste it here for Tuvasa, the Sunlit. Tuvasa is likely going to be the better "Bant enchantment commander" choice for anyone who wants to focus on non-Aura enchantments, but those folks are probably still going to just buy the deck so that they have access to all the tools inside. Future bulk mythic.
Myth Unbound - $4.99
Myth Unbound is probably not nearly as good as it looks, but it's the sort of card that's going to inspire a lot of people to try it out in literally every deck that runs green. Myth Unbound is especially intriguing in decks like Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, where re-playing your commander over and over again is incredibly beneficial.
While I believe that Myth Unbound is overrated, that doesn't necessarily mean it's not a reasonable buy at $5. At least over the short-term, I think demand will far outstrip supply and we could see this one end up at $10 or even $15. On the other hand, the card is going to actually have to be good to sustain that level of growth for more than a couple of weeks. The risk of this one ending up as a bulk rare is just too great for me to recommend buying in.
Estrid's Invocation - $2.99
Geez, Estrid's Invocation is a good card. Copy Enchantment is $12-$15, and Estrid's Invocation is almost strictly better (you can't copy your opponent's enchantments, but the auto-bounce is terrific). Granted, Copy Enchantment hasn't been reprinted in a while, but that just tells you what sort of upside we're looking at here. The fact that this card is called Estrid's Invocation makes it hard to reprint, too. At just $3, this might be the biggest no-brainer spec target in the whole set.
Genesis Storm - $2.49
Eh, I'm not a fan of Genesis Storm. It's an awful card to have in your opening hand, and it's only going to be worth the six mana if you've cast your commander three or four times already. I like the Commander Storm cards that are good early and good late. In green, there are loads of lategame cards I'd play over this one. Future bulk rare.
Empyrial Storm - $1.99
I have the same problem with Empyrial Storm. If I'm paying 4WW, I need more than a couple of 4/4 Angel tokens. This card is probably a little better than Genesis Storm since a 4/4 flier is probably a little better than the average non-land permanent in Commander deck, and I feel like there will be some tokens strategies that want this regardless, but I'm underwhelmed.
Heavenly Blademaster - $1.99
My biggest worry about Heavenly Blademaster is the fact that I pegged Balan, Wandering Knight as a decent spec target for "equipment Voltron" decks last year, and the now-bulk Knight was one of my only poor picks. Heavenly Blademaster reminds me a lot of Balan, only I think this card is quite a bit better. It's bigger, it flies, and it works with auras as well as equipment. I can certainly see this one maintaining a moderate level of demand for quite some time.
Ever-Watching Threshold - $1.99
I didn't like Ever-Watching Threshold at first. The more I think about it, however, the more enamored I am.
It's true that Ever-Watching Threshold isn't ever going to stop a major attack like Propaganda, and it's not going to draw you a billion cards like Rhystic Study, but it's a fine early game deterrent: during that "hmm, who do I attack next?" phase, you're either getting skipped or you're getting a card. That's not bad.
And the card is solid in the lategame, too. It's not going to help against any sort of "whoops, I win!" attack, but if you're simply getting beat down, this is going to give you three or four extra chances to draw an answer.
Most importantly, everyone who likes "pillow fort" cards is going to need a copy of this. $5 seems like a completely reasonable place for Ever-Watching Threshold to end up.
Ravenous Slime - $1.99
Ravenous Slime is absolutely sensational. Forget the fact that this sucker is going to get really big really fast and focus on the fact that Ravenous Slime both shuts off opposing death triggers and keeps creatures out of their graveyards. It's not quite a replacement for Scavenging Ooze, but it works incredibly well alongside that other green staple. Why this card is just $2 baffles me. I'm in for a couple of playsets.
Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle - $1.99
I absolutely adore Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle. It's the exact kind of weird cool card that WotC should be making for these decks. It's not powerful enough to be worth more than $1 long-term, but I'm so glad that it exists.
Octopus Umbra - $0.99
It's a sea creature two-fer! Build-your-own-Lorthos is my personal favorite card in all of Commander 2018. This isn't the sort of card that's going to end up being worth more than a buck at any point, but I love it just the same.
Nylea's Colossus - $0.99
If you've got a Xenagos, God of Revels or Uril, the Miststalker deck, you've got to be feeling pretty good about Nylea's Colossus. Otherwise, this thing is a little too slow and expensive. Future bulk rare.
New Uncommons in Nature's Vengeance:
Loyal Unicorn - $0.49
If you're playing a white-based aggro deck with a Commander that likes to attack, you're going to want to at least take a look at Loyal Unicorn. The downside is non-existent at just $0.50, and I can see this one ending up in the $2-$3 range at some point.
Loyal Drake - $0.49
Loyal Guardian - $0.49
Forge of Heroes - $0.49
Current Retail Value of Significant Cards in Adaptive Enchantment: $67
It's worth noting that the singles in Adaptive Enchantment are currently worth about $15 more than Nature's Vengeance. At the moment, that extra value is almost entirely due to the better reprints in this deck. Beyond that, however, Adaptive Enchantment also looks like more fun to play straight out of the box. If you've got a choice between buying one of these two over the other, I'd take this one.
Underrated: Estrid's Invocation, Ravenous Slime.
That's all for now! I'll see you in a couple of days for the second part of my Commander 2018 set review, where I cover Exquisite Invention and Subjective Reality. Are either of those decks better than Adaptive Enchantment, and are they also full of interesting spec targets? Come back soon and see for yourself.