Pro Tour 25th Anniversary is in the books, and it was quite the event. Seeing Legacy on the game's biggest stage was incredible, and the Silver Showcase was…well, it may not have been the best way to introduce Hearthstone players to our favorite game, but I enjoyed the heck out of watching it.
I'll be touching on all three major formats in my financial wrap-up today, but I wanted to start by taking a couple of pages to talk about Nexus of Fate. It was far from the most dominant card of the weekend-heck, it only showed up in a single deck played by just six competitors-but the financial implications of a buy-a-box promo card showing up at the Pro Tour at all, much less looking great on camera all weekend, are incredibly wide-reaching.
Quite simply, there has never been a relevant Standard-legal card with a lower supply relative to the rest of the card pool than Nexus of Fate.
Oh, sure, there are more copies of Nexus of Fate now than there were, say, Juzam Djinns back during the Arabian Nights days, but the player base was also a heck of a lot smaller back then. And until Firesong and Sunspeaker came along earlier this year, all of Magic's promos were either reprints or cards that weren't legal to play in Standard.
The fact that WotC was willing to make their buy-a-box promos Standard-legal was an incredibly dangerous proposition from the start. While I appreciate their decision to help boost LGS sales, they could have given these cards a DCI expansion symbol, made them legal in Legacy, and casual demand would have been more than enough to drive people down to their LGS to buy a box regardless. Heck, they could have even made the cards even more powerful had they done that.
From the start, there were only two outcomes for these promos: either the buy-a-box cards wouldn't be good enough for competitive play, at which point there was no real upside to making them legal in Standard in the first place, or they would end up being good enough for competitive play and things would start getting nutty.
It only took two sets for things to start getting nutty.
The Case for Nexus of Fate, $100 Standard Card
The best mythic rares in any given set tend to end up somewhere between $25 and $60. Prices generally only hit the high end of that range if they're required to play multiple tier one decks or if it's early enough in the set's lifespan that the available supply of cards is still very low. If things get too buck wild, big dealers will simply start cracking cases upon cases of the set to fill orders.
That's why only true multi-format staple mythics will stay at or above that $60 mark for long. Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Tarmogoyf, etc. Even Liliana of the Veil spent plenty of time in the $20-$30 range during her run in Standard, and we all know what that card is capable of.
But there are no more copies of Nexus of Fate to open. All of the copies that will (presumably) exist during the card's entire run in Standard are already out there. Plenty of them have been jammed into Commander decks, never to return. The rest are kicking around the marketplace, being bought and sold all over the world. There is no "just open a couple of cases" safety valve for vendors to open if the price starts getting too high. You cannot buy this card at retail anymore. Nexus of Fate has been discontinued.
It's also still legal to play in Standard for another fourteen months.
We're used to crazy financial buyout shenanigans happening to useless old Reserved List cards, but Standard has been more or less exempt from these frustrations. There are too many extant copies of every Standard-legal card to make buyouts worthwhile, and more are opened every day. You would need hundreds of thousands of dollars to even attempt a buyout of Karn, Scion of Urza, and it probably wouldn't move the needle for more than a couple of days-not early enough time to flip your copies at a profit.
Nexus of Fate is different. While it's probably a bit too expensive and ubiquitous for a single cabal to buy it out entirely, it's incredibly susceptible to the sort of "FOMO" buyout that's been plaguing Legacy in recent months. If enough people decide that they need a set of these ASAP, they will all disappear from the internet in a matter of hours and the price will skyrocket.
This isn't just theory, by the way. This is more or less what happened on Magic Online late last week, when there were basically no copies of Nexus of Fate available for anyone to buy at any price. The card jumped from 30 tickets to 60 tickets, and even getting one at 60 was nearly impossible. The MTGO team had to massively goose the card's treasure chest drop rate, which stabilized the market and caused the card to settle back down in the 30 ticket range.
It's certainly worth noting here that there are way more paper copies of Nexus of Fate than digital ones-there was no buy-a-box promo on MTGO, so players simply had to get very lucky in opening their treasure chests if they wanted one. On the other hand, there's no way for WotC to do any sort of paper equivalent of goosing the treasure chest drop rate in the world of paper Magic. Even if they wanted to give out more copies of the card, it would probably take at least a couple of months to print and distribute them.
The fact that Nexus of Fate has now been proven to be a tournament-caliber card changes everything. While Bant Nexus didn't make the Top 4 in Minneapolis, you could make a reasonable argument that it would have done so had the Pro Tour not been a team format. The deck's top two pilots had an incredible weekend of Standard, and I see no reason to believe that Nexus of Fate won't be a real player in the current metagame.
And even if I'm wrong, what happens if Nexus of Fate ends up in some sort of U/R Combo brew once Guilds of Ravnica is released? What if it's in a tier one deck next spring, when the available supply of Nexus of Fate promos has dwindled even farther? The fact that everybody knows how scarce this card is only exacerbates the situation, because even the slightest whiff of playability is going to cause people to start throwing sets of these in their digital shopping carts and hitting the "buy" button as fast as they can.
I know it seems odd to put Nexus of Fate on the same financial tier as former format powerhouses like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Tarmogoyf, but there are just so few copies of this card out there. It won't take much for someone or something to tip Nexus of Fate over the edge, and I feel like there's a very good chance that this thing will hit at least $60 at some point over the next year with a shot at triple digits. In fact, had the card made Top 4 this weekend, it would likely be $60 already. For all I know, it was bought out last night and it's there already.
The Case Against Nexus of Fate, $100 Standard Card
These are the three things that prevent me from going all-in on Nexus of Fate right now:
- We're currently in the lame duckiest of lame duck Standard formats. Not only are we only about a month and a half away from set rotation, but the Pro Tour proved that red-based aggro decks still rule the roost. Almost half the field brought some variant of R/B or Mono-Red Aggro to Minneapolis, and that's simply not different enough from the Pro Tour Dominaria metagame to entice a whole bunch of new blood to Standard right now. Even if Bant Nexus or another Nexus of Fate deck takes off, there just aren't a lot of players looking to buy in at the moment.
- Bant Nexus isn't going to survive rotation. It loses one of its fogs when Amonkhet rotates, and that's probably the ballgame. So if we're not expecting a ton of buyers immediately after the Pro Tour, then we're probably banking on Nexus of Fate to still be relevant (or that it will become more relevant) once Guilds of Ravnica is released. That's far from a sure thing. It's possible that we'll have completely forgotten about Nexus of Fate by this time next year.
- It's far easier for WotC to ban Nexus of Fate than any other Standard card. Since it isn't being opened in packs, they can just sort of say, "our bad, we never should have made buy-a-box promos legal in Standard in the first place, from here on out they'll just be Legacy- and Vintage-legal like Battlebond and Conspiracy cards." They wouldn't even have to wait until the card broke the format to do this, they could simply announce it as a policy change at any point. This would drop the price of the card back down to $10.
To Nexus or Not?
It completely depends on how risk-adverse you are. There's a very real chance that people continue to ignore the current Standard format and that Nexus of Fate doesn't amount to anything later in the year. You could also get completely blown out by a policy change banning. At $35 a pop, the going rate for Nexus as of this writing, the downside here is fairly brutal.
On the other hand, there hasn't been a Standard-legal card with as much upside as Nexus of Fate in years. It won't take much play for this thing to shoot up the charts, and even a hint of post-Guilds viability could have this thing in the $60-$70 range. If everything breaks in your favor, this is the sort of spec that can buy you a new Modern deck all by itself.
So. How lucky to you feel?
R/B Vengevine: The Real Breakout Deck of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Let's leave Nexus of Fate behind for a moment and talk about the most financially-relevant deck of the weekend. A week ago, R/B Vengevine was essentially unknown. Now it's a tier one (or at least tier two) deck in Modern. That is a very big deal.
You have already missed the first round of price spikes. Vengevine went from $25 to $85 this weekend, and Bridge from Below surged from $10 to $40. I'm sad that all of this happened in between articles, because I wish I'd been able to tip you off ahead of time . As it was, I barely had time to figure out what was going on before both of these cards were bought out everywhere. In 2018, these things happen in hours, not days.
If you have either if these cards and you're not planning to play R/B Vengevine, I'd sell ASAP. It's not that the deck isn't good-R/B Vengevine is quite good-but selling into the initial hype with these sorts of things is almost always correct. Even if R/B Vengevine doesn't end up suffering from the fact that it's no longer a secret, take advantage of the deck's shiny newness and current community focus.
In the meantime, it's worth thinking about other cards from this deck that might not have spiked yet. Gravecrawler appears to be lagging a bit behind the other two, but it'll probably be sold out by the time you're reading this. Hangarback Walker is my favorite buy after that, but the fact that it's more recent (and was printed in that weird Standard pre-con) should keep it from going too far past $10. Don't sleep on foil copies of Stitcher's Supplier, either, and we could see slight upticks for sideboard staples like Thoughtseize, Collective Brutality, Leyline of the Void, and Surgical Extraction.
Cashing Out on Ironworks
Last week, Emma Handy wrote a compelling article about why Krark-Clan Ironworks should be banned in Modern. She's right on all counts, and the deck's on-camera shenanigans at the Pro Tour over the weekend only bolstered her argument. If Second Sunrise is banned in Modern, Krark-Clan Ironworks should be as well. Don't forget that WotC has a different bar for decks like this than something like Humans, which might be more ubiquitous but which will almost certainly be left untouched.
Don't wait around and hold onto these cards through a banning. Krark-Clan Ironworks would be a $4 card if it were banned in Modern, but it's selling for a cool $25 right now. Unless you're planning to use this card at some point soon, sell your copies ASAP.
Luckily, there aren't too many other must-sells in this deck. Mox Opal and Engineered Explosives will both drop a bit if Ironworks is banned, but I don't expect either of these cards to get the ban hammer themselves, and they both see play all over the format. Chromatic Star is also a staple in Tron, so that one's not going anywhere. I guess Grove of the Burnwillows might fall off, but that one didn't really spike much during Ironworks' latest run of dominance regardless.
And, of course, don't buy into this deck right now. I know you were excited by what you saw on camera over the weekend, but it's the sort of degenerate strategy that WotC does not like to let thrive in Modern. Even if it survives the next B&R Announcement, Ironworks' days are numbered.
Death's Shadow is back for yet another go-round at the top of a metagame, this time in the hands of Josh Utter-Leyton's Pro Tour 25th Anniversary Legacy deck. Death's Shadow has been kicking around the Legacy metagame in the weeks since the Deathrite Shaman banning, but this iteration of the deck seems likely to take it into the format's top tier.
Financially, it's worth noting that this deck is completely free of Reserved List cards other than a whopping two copies of Underground Sea. Replace one of them with a Watery Grave and another with a Darkslick Shores or something and you've got yourself 98% of a tier one Legacy list without having to dip into the Reserved List at all. If you've been looking to get into the format, I highly recommend taking this path.
While Legacy doesn't tend to move the finance needle very much, there are a few interesting pick-ups here. Death's Shadow is still under $10 thanks to its reprint in Modern Masters 2017, but I fully expect it to hit $20 again before its next reprint. It's a great "throw it in a box for a year" spec with an incredibly low risk profile.
Wasteland is also likely to keep ticking up. The card is far more powerful in a post-Deathrite world, and it's gone from $25 to $35 in just a couple of months. This is one of those cards where you can blink and it'll be $50 again. Get your set now if you've been putting it off.
Lastly, Utter-Leyton came up with the cool idea of adding Throne of Geth to the sideboard of this deck as a way to fight off opposing Chalice of the Void issues. Right now, copies of this card are just $0.50 and foils are just $5. Since Throne of Geth only saw one printing and it was back in Scars of Mirrodin, I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up at $3 with foils around $20-$25.
This Week's Trends
- For the third straight week, a couple of enchantment-related cards spiked thanks to Commander 2018. This time, it was Greater Auramancy and Starfield of Nyx. Next up? Take a look at Idyllic Tutor, which ticked up a couple of bucks over the weekend and looks poised for more.
- Speaking of Commander 2018, early financial winners include Aminatou, the Fateshifter, Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle, Ravenous Slime, Treasure Nabber, and Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow. I was very high on the last three cards in my set review , and I've come around on Aminatou-I've seen enough Legacy buzz that I'm sufficiently intrigued. Arixmethes' jump from $2 to $8 surprised me, but the community has clearly spoken on this one. The card is sweet, and I doubt it's dropping from here.
- For evidence of how not to execute a buyout, check out this screen cap of an eBay auction for 1,622 copies of Gaea's Liege from Revised. At $14,500, that's a whopping $9 per copy for this lousy bulk rare. The good news is that this seller has since dropped the price to just $8,000, which is still far too much for Gaea's Liege.
- Lastly, Mark Rosewater confirmed yet again on his blog that WotC has no current plans to revise or repeal the Reserved List. As I said earlier in the year, if this was going to happen anytime soon, it would have happened in conjunction with Masters 25 or some other part of their 25th Anniversary Celebration. Mark's re-confirmation was likely a response to a poorly-written fake Reserved List repeal that was going around Facebook last week. It was shared way too many times on my wall, and nothing about it stood up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. Just like with political news, it's important to be scrupulous about checking the sources of your Magic: the Gathering posts to ensure that you're not contributing to an ecosystem of misinformation.