While Guilds of Ravnica previews won't begin in earnest until next week, we got our first look at the coming set over the weekend, courtesy of the WotC panel at PAX. And yeah, every new Magic set is a little bit exciting, but c'mon-Ravnica? Shocklands? Borderless planeswalkers? No more Kaladesh or Amonkhet? Can you blame me for being totally pumped to play Magic this fall?
At any rate, there's a lot of Guilds of Ravnica-related financial stuff to cover this week, so let's get started with the biggest piece of news that came out of Saturday's panel:
Woohoo, they're back!
Steam Vents, Sacred Foundry, Watery Grave, Overgrown Tomb, and Temple Garden will be making an appearance in Guilds of Ravnica, with the other five shocklands almost assuredly targeted for the winter expansion. The shocklands are arguably the third-best cycle of lands ever printed ( Revised duals and fetchlands are clearly #1 and #2), and not including them in this set would have led to quite a bit of rumbling and grumbling from the community.
Good on WotC for meeting expectations here. Shocklands are one of those rare cycles where the reprint won't come as a blow for anyone who already owns a bunch-the price is already reasonably low, and it'll make Standard easier to play-while still being an exciting inclusion for newer players who don't have their copies yet.
That said, I can't really say that these lands were in desperate need of a reprint considering their prices haven't gone up all that much since they were last reprinted. Sacred Foundry is $18, Steam Vents is $16, Watery Grave is $15, Overgrown Tomb is $12, and Temple Garden is $10. I bought a few dozen copies of each between $7 and $12 when Return to Ravnica rotated, and I think I made less than $100 in profit on the entire shebang when I sold out last year.
It's certainly possible that shockland prices would have gone a bit crazy had they not been reprinted in Guilds of Ravnica-FOMO buyouts and all that-but it's worth remembering that there are a lot of shocklands out there already. Not only have they each been reprinted in two major sets, but they got a stealthy third printing in the land slot of Dragon's Maze. Return to Ravnica block was also very heavily printed past the date when it stopped being drafted, and as a result you can still find dirt cheap sealed boxes of all three sets. In essence, Guilds of Ravnica will be the fourth(!) major reprinting for this cycle of rares. That's a lot of extant shocklands!
So why are the pre-order prices for these cards still so high, and why does that feel perfectly natural? SCG is pre-selling Sacred Foundry, Steam Vents, and Watery Grave at $12, Overgrown Tomb at $10, and Temple Garden at $8. And this isn't unreasonable-in fact, I would have been shocked (pun intended) if they'd begun any lower.
But shouldn't they really be cheaper than that at this point? Can a cycle of cards that has been printed four times in ten years really sustain $10+ price tags? I mean, the Zendikar fetchlands probably could, but the shocklands are far less important for Eternal play. I'm not saying that the shocklands aren't good-especially alongside those pesky fetchlands-but you can make a reasonable argument that the five enemy-colored duals from Kaladesh are every bit as important for Modern play. There are far fewer copies of those floating around, and several of them are available between $2 and $4 right now.
See, back when Ravnica: City of Guilds came out, mythic rares were still just a twinkle in Mark Rosewater's eye. Every rare in every set was equally difficult to pull, which meant that each set's rare land cycle took up an outsized portion of its overall value.
Couple that to the fact that the shocklands were the first good dual land cycle in a generation-before Ravnica, we were cobbling together manabases with painlands (ugh) and Odyssey's filter lands (double ugh). The shocklands were a revelation, and even the cheapest was selling for around $20, which was just about the ceiling for Standard-legal cards at the time. There was a full year and a half in the history of Magic where you really just wanted to open a shockland whenever you cracked a pack.
Then Modern came along, and shockland prices went nuts. They had been out of print for several years at this point, and the best ones jumped from $10 to, like, $40. There really was a time-fall of 2011, to be exact-where you could have easily traded a single Breeding Pool for a set of Scalding Tarns.
While the shocklands eventually came down from these crazy heights, most of them were still $20+ when Return to Ravnica was announced. This reprint caused the shocks to drop another 30-40%, with most of them settling in between $10-$12 for the duration of their time in Standard.
But there haven't been a lot of new $10-$12 lands in the years sinceReturn to Ravnica rotated out of the format. Khans of Tarkir was the big exception, of course, with even the cheapest fetchlands staying around the $10 mark, but the Khans fetchlands are far more relevant in Modern and were only being printed for the second time.
But let's go deeper. What other rare land cycles have we seen between Return to Ravnica and today, and how much were those cards worth during their run in Standard?
Theros gave us the temple cycle, which were generally worth between $2 and $5 during their time in Standard. The exception were a few of the small-set inclusions like Temple of Malady, which did spend a decent amount of time in the $10-$15 range. I suspect that this is because Journey Into Nyx sold poorly in addition to the fact that it was drafted far less than Theros.
Battle for Zendikar gave us the Battle lands, which all pre-sold around $10 before tumbling down to that $2-$5 range after the set was in print for a few months. We also got the enemy-colored creature-lands in that block, which also ended up being worth somewhere between $2 and $5.
Then came the Shadows Over Innistrad land cycle, which I had almost completely forgotten about. Game Trail and friends were worth-you guessed it-between $2 and $5.
After that came the Kaladesh cycle, which finished off the set of ten that first saw print in Scars of Mirrodin. These lands are terrific, and their prices have somewhat reflected this. Spirebluff Canal has been consistently selling between $8 and $10, and Botanical Sanctum spent a couple of months in the $10+ range, but other than that, this cycle has been more or less kicking around in the $3-$5 range for the past couple of years. I'll be going into these lands in greater depth next week, but spoiler alert: they're among my favorite rotational spec targets right now.
Amonkhet 's cycling lands were nowhere near as popular. Fetid Pools spent some time in the $10 range when The Scarab God was running roughshod over the format, but it has generally been closer to $6 while the other four were stuck in the $2 and $5 range.
Ixalan brought back the allied checklands, which were originally printed in Magic 2010. Would you believe that these suckers have also been stuck in the $2-$5 range?.
Then came Dominaria, which finished up the checkland cycle and gave us a second printing of the enemy-colored lands that last showed up in Innistrad. Most of them pre-ordered in the $6-$7 range, but they're now selling between-yup-$2 and $5.
I bring all of this up today because it's really, really important to figure out whether or not the Guilds of Ravnica shocklands are going to stay in the $10-$12 range or drop down to $3 like so many of the other rare lands that have been printed recently. If they're really going to end up in the $2-$5 range, then you should be selling all your spare shocklands ASAP and you should do everything in your power to avoid pre-ordering any additional copies that you might need for your Standard decks.
However, if the shocklands are going to stay in the $10+ range, this will pretty severely limit the upside of every other card in the set. Don't forget: Return to Ravnica's other rares were incredibly cheap because the shocklands (and Sphinx's Revelation) sucked up all the value. A similar thing happened with Khans of Tarkir, where multi-deck format staples and key Standard cards were far cheaper than they would have been had the fetchlands not been in the set.
My initial take is to simply split the difference. There are two opposing forces at work here: one says that shocklands should drop a lot because they've been reprinted a whole bunch, they're not as important to Eternal play as the fetchlands, and Standard economics simply don't lead to expensive lands very often these days. The other force is relying heavily on price memory and the fact that, well, shocklands are good. Newer Modern players and Commander players want these cards, and they're willing to pay a premium to get them.
My guess, then, is that the shocklands will end up settling in closer to $6 than $12, but I highly doubt they ever make it down to $3. Pre-ordering them is probably not the best use of your money, but the flipside is that you're getting a set of eternally-playable cards that you can also run in your Standard decks for the next couple of years. If you can hold off on buying these, you should. If not, well, there are worse things to own in life than a playset of shocklands, right?
Borderless Masterpiece Theatre
There seems to be a lot of confusion on social media about what Guilds of Ravnica: Mythic Edition actually is, so let's start there.
First off, Guilds of Ravnica: Mythic Edition comes with eight Draft sets of Guilds of Ravnica. Instead of the 36 packs you'd normally get in a booster box, you get just 24 boosters-same as a Masters set box. StarCityGames is currently selling booster boxes of Guilds for $95, which comes to $2.63/pack. So 24 booster packs has an approximate value of $63.
But Guilds of Ravnica: Mythic Edition costs $250.
What does that extra $187 get you? Well, eight of the booster packs in Guilds of Ravnica: Mythic Edition come with sweet borderless Masterpiece planeswalkers. It is unclear if these replace the rare slot or (more likely) show up in the foil slot. It's also currently unclear if there's a shot at getting a foil like in the Signature Spellbook series (or maybe they're all foil? Who knows!), but based on the current info we have, my guess is that all eight planeswalkers are non-foil.
We do know for sure that you are guaranteed to get all eight planeswalkers in your Mythic Edition box, you cannot get more than those eight, and this is the only place where you can get them-these Masterpieces will not be distributed in regular booster packs.
So, are these eight promotional cards worth $23 each? Let's find out.
Elspeth, Knight-Errant currently sells for $15. The cheapest set foil is currently $40. The new art is incredible, and I have no trouble believing that this card will be easy to sell or trade for at least $23.
Liliana, the Last Hope is an even better inclusion. Normal copies of Liliana sell for $40, and foils are currently sold out at $100. This planeswalker has proven itself in both Modern and Legacy. Getting a promotional copy for $23 is a great deal.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is another excellent inclusion. Normal copies of this premier 'walker are currently selling for $55, with foils sold out at $100. I'd buy roughly a thousand of these at $23 each if I had the cash lying around.
Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast isn't quite as good as the first three planewalkers, but it's far from a bad choice. Regular copies of this Commander staple sell for $13, and the foil is worth $60. It's not hard to imagine a world where the promo is worth at least $30, if not more.
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is another winner. Normal copies sell for exactly $23, while foils are sold out at $100. Not only is this card a casual favorite, it sees play in Modern from time to time. Getting a cool promo for the same price as a normal copy of the card is also a great deal.
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is easily the worst of the cards we've looked at so far, but it's really not that bad when you think more about it. Sure, normal versions of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker are worth just $6 with foils selling for $30, but Nicol Bolas is the sort of iconic character that casual players assign a premium to. Consider the fact that theFrom the Vault: Dragons version of Nicol Bolas (the Legends card) is worth $60 just because it's cool. I can't imagine the borderless version of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker will ever sell for less than $20.
And then we get to Ral, Izzet Viceroy and an as-of-yet unrevealed eighth card, which is almost certainly going to be another one of the new planeswalkers in Guilds of Ravnica.
I can't really continue writing about this series without taking the time to review Ral, Izzet Viceroy, so let's detour for a moment:
A Quick Word on Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Ral, Izzet Viceroy - $19.99
At first glance, Ral seems...fine. Five mana puts Ral in direct competition with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and whatever other expensive control cards Guilds of Ravnica gives us, which means that it must be really good if it's going to see play. Ral's +1 ability is certainly a great start, and its ultimate is very powerful (and somewhat attainable!).
But Ral's -3 is far narrower than Teferi's removal ability. You had better be playing a bunch of cheap instants and sorceries in your Ral deck or else the card simply doesn't do anything.
Of course, "combos with cheap spells" isn't too big a hoop to jump through. Many of the best decks across all formats run scads of cheap spells, and Ral seems tailor made to enable jump-start, the new Izzet keyword ability. So, while I feel like Ral is likely to remain in Teferi's shadow for the duration of its time in Standard, that doesn't mean that it won't find a home or that it'll wind up being a bust. I just don't think that it has the potential to be a multi-deck staple like Teferi or even Karn. It has a better shot of ending up at $12 than it does at pushing $60.
And this, ultimately, is the gamble that you're making when you purchase Guilds of Ravnica: Mythic Edition. We don't know how good Ral, Izzet Viceroy is going to be, nor do we know the identity of the other card yet.
If both (or even one) of these planeswalkers hit, the set is likely to be a great deal. If not…well, let's assign a future value of $10 each to Ral and the mystery card. Adding those to the value of the packs and the current retail price of each of the other six Planeswalkers-and I'm using the non-foil prices, mind you-you get $235.
Huh. That's not all that far off from WotC's price of $250 for the set. All it would take is for one of the two new planeswalkers to hit, and you'd basically be paying non-promo retail for privilege of getting to own promo copies of the eight planeswalkers. That's not a bad deal at all! In fact, it's quite likely to end up being a good deal.
If Mythic Edition is limited like the SDCC Planeswalker Set, then it's going to increase in value the minute it ends up in your shopping cart. If it's limited in the sense that it'll linger on the shop for months, it might take years-if ever-for your investment to pay off.
And who knows what WotC will do? If they really want to drive demand for future iterations of the Mythic Edition, they might want to really limit production of the first one so that the secondary market price goes through the roof and allows creates a fury of demand for the next one. Or maybe they've printed a ton of these and it's just about grabbing as much cash as possible as quickly as possible.
My gut reaction is that this set will end up being a totally reasonable buy at MSRP and it will be easy enough to turn a profit on the promos in the future if you want to. That's far from a sure outcome, though, and you can safely ignore this product if you don't have the spare cash or you simply don't want to muck about with promos.
Finally, I know that some folks are upset because WotC decided to call these promos Masterpieces instead of something else. And, naturally, this has led to a lot of "why aren't they in packs!??" talk. In reality, I suspect that "Masterpiece" is simply the name that WotC is now using for all of their high-end promos, and this is more like the SDCC set or a new iteration of From the Vault where WotC can pocket all the money directly instead of sharing it with those greedy, greedy local game stores.
Ultimately, this promotion shouldn't affect the existing prices of these eight planeswalkers, nor does it preclude WotC from doing more Masterpieces the "regular" way, though I still think that series is more or less dead. It's totally fair to be upset about the apparent end of "free" Masterpieces, but this set of promos is the wrong place to direct your ire.
The Guild Kits are another slightly confusing product that has been teased on a stream but not officially announced yet. They're 60-card casual preconstructed theme decks based around each of the guilds and featuring cards from all three Ravnica blocks. They're going to retail for $20, and each deck will contain several old-school reprints that are not Standard legal.
While we don't have full decklists yet, we do know a few of the reprints. For example, the Selesnya deck will have Glare of Subdual ($0.49), Loxodon Hierarch ($0.59), and Tolsimir Wolfblood ($2.49). The Dimir deck has Nightveil Specter ($0.59). The Izzet deck has Char ($0.59), Electrolyze ($0.49), and Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ($0.49).
The Boros deck is the best one previewed so far. You get Boros Reckoner, ($1.25), Legion Loyalist ($11.99), and Aurelia, the Warleader ($6.99). These latter two cards will not hold their value, and you should sell your copies ASAP. These Guild Kits are not limited edition products and should be regularly available at MSRP.
And then there's the Golgari deck, which contains Deathrite Shaman ($4.99), Lotleth Troll ($0.59), Savra, Queen of the Golgari ($2.99), and Abrupt Decay ($4.49). Hey, this one's pretty good too! Obviously there aren't too many places where you can play Deathrite Shaman anymore, but it's nice to see WotC throwing some decent mid-level reprints into $20 pre-cons instead of the usual barrage of Shivan Dragon and Djinn of Wishes.
At any rate, it's worth keeping track of these decks going forward. While none of them are likely to contain Dark Confidant or Doubling Season, all mid-level rares and mythics from any Ravnica-related product are suspect holds at best until the full lists are revealed.
The Other New Previewed Cards
Underrealm Lich - $4.99
I'm excited about Underrealm Lich as a graveyard enabler in Commander, but it's far too slow for Standard. 4/3 creatures that don't do anything when they enter the battlefield are just not good enough for any sort of competitive format unless the circumstances are absolutely perfect. I'll withhold my final judgment until I see the other Golgari goodies that may or may not show up over the next few weeks, but my first thought is that this is going to be a bulk mythic.
Legion Warboss - $4.99
Oh geez. Have we all forgotten about Goblin Rabblemaster so soon? Legion Warboss is less explosive in certain situations, but the fact that it doesn't force all your Goblins to attack every turn while permanently buffing all your tiny dudes means that it's actually a better card than Goblin Rabblemaster a lot of the time.
Legion Warboss will see significant Standard play, and it's the sort of card that looks especially good early on in a format when things are a little loose and chaotic. While this card might end up in the $5 range long term, I can easily see a world where Legion Warboss spikes to $10 or even to $20 in the intervening days. Grab a set if you play red in Standard. You'll need them, and the current retail price is very good.
Emmara, Soul of the Accord - $2.99
The jury is out on Emmara until we get a better sense of what Selesnya is bringing to the table in Guilds of Ravnica. The card certainly seems playable in a G/W Tokens build, but I doubt it has a home outside of that specific deck. As such, $3 is totally reasonable for anyone who wants to fiddle around with an Emmara brew. I just don't see a world in which this card is ever worth more than $6-$7, and even that would require everything to break exactly in Emmara's favor.
Quasiduplicate - $0.99
Cards like Quasiduplicate tend to be bad in Constructed formats. Unless I'm massively underrating jump-start, I can't see this as being anything more than a future bulk rare.
This Week's Trends
- WotC announced a couple of other new products last week that are also worth a look. First, there's a new set of five preconstructed decks called Magic Game Night that are designed as kind of a multiplayer starter kit. Each comes with a Game Night exclusive mythic rare, but none of the cards look like they're going to be all that good, even in Commander. A few of them might end up in the $5 range simply due to scarcity, but you don't have to chase this product on shelves or even worry about it at all. Even the reprints seem deliberately designed not to upset the market.
- Second, this year's holiday gift box (now called the Gift Pack) is going to come with five new Standard-legal Gift Pack exclusive cards. These are a little better than the Game Night cards, but they're all sort of bland and underpowered. I don't expect any of them to be breakout financial hits.
- Over in Standard, the only card that's really on the rise right now is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Everybody seems certain that Standard's premier planeswalker will find a good post-rotation home, and I tend to agree. In fact, the minute a good control card is previewed, the price is going to jump another $5-$10. I'll be shocked if Teferi isn't still the most expensive Standard card in mid-October.
- In Modern, Hardened Scales was the biggest winner of the week. You bought these a couple of weeks ago when I told you to, right? Lauri Pispa piloted Hardened Scales Affinity to victory at Grand Prix Prague last week, and it's clear that the deck is just as legit as I thought it would be. Expect the card's new price tag to stick for a while.
- Grinding Station also surged this week, though its new price tag is a lot more speculative. There's a cool new Thopter/Sword combo deck kicking around in Modern on MTGO, and some speculator (or group of them) decided to move in on one of the deck's financial choke points. Sword of the Meek is a card with an incredibly small print run too, and that card hasn't moved at all yet. If you're interested in speculating on this deck-and keep in mind, the jury is still very much out in terms of how good it is-Sword is your best bet right now.
- Gilt-Leaf Palace was another of the week's biggest winners, surging in price yet again thanks to the popularity of Modern Elves and the land's small print run. At this point, I don't see the card dropping below $25 until it's reprinted. I feel like it's well past time for this card to pop back up again, but who knows if WotC agrees with me on that.
- Hangarback Walker was our last major Modern gainer of the week, jumping up to $13 after having spent most of the summer below $5. The card is a staple in R/B Vengevine and Hardened Scales Affinity, the two hottest decks in the format, which tells me that the increase was no fluke. I'd like Hangarback Walker's upside more if this card hadn't been reprinted in a pre-con, but it still seems pegged for $20 at some point unless the metagame changes or the card is reprinted.
- Horizon Canopy is the last card I want to talk about today. The expensive land makes an appearance in the top three decks from Grand Prix Prague, which is pretty astonishing. Despite the fact that it was recently reprinted in Iconic Masters and it's already retailing for $70, I expect Horizon Canopy to start climbing in value over the next couple of days. It's already up over $10 on MTGO, and I wouldn't be shocked if it's the next $100 Modern staple in paper. Get your copies ASAP if you can still find them in the $60-$70 range.