The most valuable resource in Magic finance isn't money-it's time.
Have you ever played one of those worker placement board games where one of your early moves end up paying off massive dividends a dozen turns later? One chicken turns into two, which turn into four, which turn into eight, which eventually trigger a secret condition that allows you to upgrade your coop into a plutonium powered research facility. All you have to do is wait long enough and your investment does all the work for you.
There are real-world analogies for this type of game. You know those older folks who tell you that your 401k will be worth, like, a LOT more at retirement age if you start paying in when you're still in your twenties as opposed to waiting until your mid-thirties? Believe it or not, they're actually onto something. (Though by "something" I don't mean "an accurate understanding of the financial realities facing younger generations.") As it turns out, investments tend to grow exponentially over time-the more money you invest, the more it grows, and then the growth can be reinvested, and then THAT growth can be reinvested, and on, and on, and on.
Magic finance is no exception to this rule. In 2002, Underground Sea was $20. In 2012, Scalding Tarn was $12. In 2014, Snapcaster Mage was $18. In 2016, Collective Brutality was $2. You didn't have to be rich to buy these cards and reap a massive profit, you just had to be patient.
Of course, expecting any card in Kaladesh or Amonkhet to have a return on investment similar to Underground Sea or even Snapcaster Mage is almost certainly going to leave you disappointed. Magic's player base has been fairly stagnant since Return to Ravnica, and WotC has gotten better about printing massive quantities of their non-Masters set releases. Because of that, we haven't seen any recent Modern staples jump from $10 to $80 or whatever like in the bad old days. But that doesn't mean that there isn't money to be made in buying cards from rotating sets and adding them to your permanent, long-term collection.
Consider Collected Company. The card was already seeing play in Modern at the time of its rotation, and it was an obvious hold back in the fall of 2016. After dropping from a high of $30 in May of that year, it was down to $15 at the start of September and $10 when it bottomed out in early November of 2016. The card is currently selling for $20 and has been gradually trending up all year long. If Collected Company isn't reprinted, it'll probably start creeping toward $30 in 2019.
Is this an amazing ROI? Not really. But the fact that Collected Company was such an obvious hold at rotation proves my point: if you buy or hold onto most good Magic cards over a long enough timeframe, it will work out well for you. Just let those chickens double, and double, and double again.
With this in mind, I'm going to talk about the most significant cards from all four rotating sets today. While I'm going to give each one a BUY, HOLD, or SELL rating, the truth is that the time to sell most of these cards came and went several months ago. Even the "sell" cards in today's article are reasonable long-term holds-I just think that they're likely to drop a bit further before they bottom out.
In general, you're going to want to focus as much as you can on picking up rotating cards over the next two months. Not only is this going to be the bottom of the market for all of these spells, there's also going to be a serious supply glut as the Standard-only players (of which there are, admittedly, a lot fewer than in previous years) churn through their collection. The best time to trade for these cards? Right after Guilds of Ravnica releases. Players are going to be eager to trade for the latest hotness, and they won't care about cards that don't have an immediate home in Modern or Legacy. Worst case, you end up buying into a few decent casual cards at the bottom of their market. Best case? Kolaghan's Command and Collective Brutality were both near $5 when they rotated out of Standard a couple of years ago.
I suspect there are similarly powerful Eternal cards in Kaladesh and Amonkhet. Let's sniff them out, shall we?
Chandra, Torch of Defiance shows up now and again in a couple of fringe-playable Modern and Legacy decks, but it's not going to end up being a staple unless something significantly changes. The fact that red is the worst color in Commander and this card was printed in a Challenger Deck limits your upside here, too. Feel free to hold onto a copy or two just in case, but I'm a SELL on Chandra at current retail. Wake me up when she's on sale for $5.
Spirebluff Canal - $6.50
Spirebluff Canal already sees more play in Modern than in Standard, anchoring powerful decks like U/R Gifts Storm, Blue Moon, and certain Grixis Control builds. This cycle has proven itself over and over again in Modern, too, with even the cheapest one showing up as a staple in Burn. If Blackcleave Cliffs can be a $50+ format bulwark, there's no way that these enemy-colored variants will end up being a bust at current retail. BUY 'em and forget 'em.
Saheeli Rai - $6
With Saheeli Rai, you're basically betting on some combination of casual demand plus Sam Savage's Saheeli Evolution deck in Modern. Considering the popularity of the U/R color scheme and the potential of some sort of Splinter Twin-esque combo deck developing here at some point, Saheeli feels like a solid HOLD to me, though I'm probably going to wait and try to buy in closer to $3.
Torrential Gearhulk - $5.50
Torrential Gearhulk has actually shown up in a couple ofU/B and U/W Control decks that have won Invitational Qualifiers this summer, but the card is far from an Eternal staple right now. I'd be a hold at current retail if Torrential Gearhulk were a bigger deal in Commander, but the lack of crossover appeal makes it a SELL for me right now. I'll be back in when this thing hits $3.
Blooming Marsh - $5
Just like Spirebluff Canal, Blooming Marsh tends to see more play in Modern than Standard, showing up in decks like Jund, Living End, Elves, and Abzan. The buy-in is a little better here, and I wouldn't fault anyone for snapping up a set or three right about now. BUY.
Nissa, Vital Force - $5
Nissa, Vital Force is the rare card that's on the upward swing as it approaches set rotation. The card was $3 back in the spring, and it has been climbing upwards all summer long. Mono-Green Aggro in Standard has been the biggest part of that, though Nissa has shown up in the occasional Modern and Legacy deck. This one's a HOLD for me simply because planeswalkers rarely drop too much below the $3-$5 range and there is some Eternal potential here, but I'd much rather have either of the two lands we've already talked about in my long-term spec binder.
Inventors' Fair - $4.50
Inventors' Fair has already gained a couple of bucks over the past several months thanks to the Ironworks deck in Modern surging in popularity, but this card has shown up in enough second tier builds to make me believe that it'll have a home in the format one way or another. Oh-and did you know that this is the second most played Commander card in Kaladesh according to EDHREC? Yeah. Inventors' Fair is a BUY.
Panharmonicon - $4
Don't sleep on top tier casual staples! Chromatic Lantern was also a $3-$4 card when Return to Ravnica rotated, and it's a $17 card now. Panharmonicon is unique, powerful, and the most popular Commander card in the set. Unless it's reprinted in a Masters set or casual release, it'll end up at $10+ within a couple of years. BUY.
For reasons we've already discussed, all three of these "lower tier" Kaladesh lands are all BUYS as well. Pick up a couple of sets at current retail.
Aetherflux Reservoir - $2.50
Aetherflux Reservoir was my favorite spec in Kaladesh back when it was just a buck. Did you know that it's the third most popular Commander card in the set? Yeah, people LOVE this thing in the casual world.
Unfortunately, Aetherflux Reservoir saw a resurgence of Standard play, and now it's back up near $3. It should drop back toward $1 as rotation approaches, but don't leave 2018 without a small stack of these. I have Aetherflux Reservoir pegged for the $5-$10 range eventually. BUY.
My Favorite $2 and Under Buys:
These cards either see a great deal of Commander play or have some promise in Modern or Legacy. I'd rather focus my attention on the higher end pick-ups today, but if you're picking through bulk boxes or asking for throw-ins, these are the other cards in the set that I'd like to snag while they're still dirt cheap.
Paradox Engine - $18
Did you know that Paradox Engine is the most expensive card in Aether Revolt by a fairly wide margin? Even though it sees no play in any competitive format? This is unusual for any Magic set, much less one that's still (technically) Standard legal.
Since Paradox Engine already so expensive and it's rotating out a format that it already doesn't see any play in, I see no reason to recommend either a buy or a sell right now. Thus, I'm calling it a HOLD. The price should keep creeping up until it's reprinted, though, so if you want a copy, now's the time to snag it.
Walking Ballista - $12
Twelve dollars doesn't seem like much of a discount for a rotating Standard rare, but Walking Ballista is one of the most obvious rotation pick-ups in quite some time. The Eternal staple sees play in Mono-Green Tron, Amulet Titan, Vengevine, Counters Company, Eldrazi Tron, Harden Scales Affinity, and loads of other decks in both Modern and Legacy. This is a clear BUY. Unless Walking Ballista reprinted immediately, it'll end up in the $20-$25 range for a while.
Heroic Intervention - $6
Yikes-can you believe that Heroic Intervention is $6!? Commander players really love cards like this, and it's actually a one-of in the Modern Elves sideboard, too. Since Standard isn't really driving the demand here and the price has already jumped from $1 to $6 thanks to increased casual interest I can't really recommend a buy-that ship has sailed-but the card is certainly a solid HOLD at current retail.
Baral, Chief of Compliance - $5.50
Baral, Chief of Compliance is one of my favorite under-the-radar buys right now. U/R Gifts Storm might not be the most popular deck in Modern right now, but the fact that Baral is a four-of in a second tier Modern build says a lot about the card's eventual upside. Oh-and it's quite popular in Commander as well. It might end up bottoming out around $3-$4, but I feel so good about Baral's long-term profile that I'm calling it a BUY regardless.
Metallic Mimic - $5
Much like Baral, I feel pretty good about Metallic Mimic long-term. Tribal cards always do well in casual circles, and there's a whole generation of kitchen table players for whom this is one of the most important cards ever printed. The fact that this card bottomed out at $3 back in April of 2017 makes me feel like it could drop another couple of bucks before rebounding, but it's a solid HOLD at $5 and I'd be all over it if it were in the $2-$3 range.
Disallow - $5
Disallow is really interesting. On the one hand, it's the exact sort of card that always tanks at rotation: a Standard counterspell that's just not powerful enough for Modern or Legacy. It'll be replaced by whatever counterspell shows up in Guilds of Ravnica, and we'll all move on with our lives.
I'm calling Disallow a SELL right now because the price chart is pointing at the floor, and I wouldn't be shocked if it ends up bottoming out around $1-$2 before rebounding. But if you're a Commander speculator, don't forget to grab a bunch of these once it does finish tanking. Unlike most other counterspells that are just "too expensive," Disallow is probably going to end up in the $5-$8 range at some point due to casual play alone.
Fatal Push - $5
DO NOT sell off your copies of this card at rotation! Fatal Push is not going to drop below $5: see Path to Exile, which is still a $9 card despite the fact that it has been heavily reprinted in supplemental sets. WotC is probably not going to throw this one back into a Standard-legal expansion for a while, and even if they do, the price will go up, not down. So snag a few extra playsets of Fatal Push now, while copies are cheap. BUY!
Rishkar's Expertise - $2.50
Rishkar's Expertise sees more play in Commander than Heroic Intervention, Baral, or even Metallic Mimic. It's one of green's premier high-end draw spells, and it appears ticketed for the $5-$6 range in a couple of years thanks to casual play. BUY a few before that happens.
Whir of Invention - $2.50
Whir of Invention is another spec target that I absolutely love right now. It has shown up in three or four different Modern decks, including Lantern Control, and it's an incredibly popular Commander card. Casual demand should keep the price above $2 regardless, which means that you essentially get a free shot at Whir becoming a bigger part of the Modern metagame at some point. Yeah, I'm going to BUY a playset for just $10.
My Favorite $2 and Under Buys:
Rhonas the Indomitable - $12
I'm shocked that Rhonas is still worth $12, and I doubt that high price will last for much longer. The card has shown up as a singleton in a Modern brew or two, but it's not particularly sought-after for Commander play and I don't see it becoming an Eternal staple. SELL.
Don't get Liliana, Death's Majesty confused with either of the last two Lilianas, both of which are far better Eternal cards. Casual demand should keep this planeswalker in the $5-$6 range, but she's not popular enough in Commander to warrant more than that. SELL.
Gideon of the Trials - $6
Bingo. Gideon of the Trials isn't seeing much play in any of the current versions of Modern Jeskai Control-a deck that has more or less ceded its share of the metagame to U/W Control anyway-but this planeswalker has already proven itself in Modern, and I see no reason why it can't pop up again at some point in the future. Since $6 is pretty close to the floor for a good Planeswalker, the downside here is low. Gideon is a BUY.
Anointed Procession - $6
Anointed Procession is the best casual card in Amonkhet, and it's number one with a bullet on the set's EDHREC page. Unlike Paradox Engine, which hasn't even begun to think about dropping in price due to set rotation, Anointed Procession is actually a few dollars cheaper than it was back in the spring. Take advantage of this lull and BUY a few copies. Unless Anointed Procession is reprinted, this is going to be a $12-$15 rare in about two years.
As Foretold - $5.50
Much like with Gideon of the Trials, we've already seen what As Foretold can do in Modern. Heck, As Foretold has even shown up in Legacy from time to time. The card is also pretty solid in Commander, giving in a $3-$4 floor due to casual demand. I'm calling it a HOLD right now because I think it'll drop another $1-$2 before bottoming out, but it's a card that I wouldn't mind owning a few sets of for my long-term spec box.
Hazoret the Fervent - $5
Hazoret does see some play as a singleton in Modern and Legacy sideboards, but big dumb creatures have a hard time making the jump to eternal staplehood, and angry mono-red creatures like this haven't found much of a home in Commander. Hazoret will be one of my favorite targets if some sort of Frontier-esque format ever catches on, but for now I'm a SELL on this former Standard staple.
Four dollars is on the cheaper end of the market for a planeswalker that has only been printed once. I don't expect Nissa to show up in Modern, and she's not that great in Commander, but it's not like her price can go much lower. HOLD.
While Vizier of the Menagerie never panned out as a Standard staple, it's still a very solid Commander card that should hold its value well over the coming years. Take advantage of rotation to sock a couple of these away, because it'll eventually be a $7-$10 card. BUY.
Amonkhet 's cycle (get it?) of dual lands aren't nearly as good as the ones in Kaladesh. They do see a smattering of Modern play, and they aren't half-bad in Commander, but they're far more likely to bounce around on the cheaper end of the spectrum for several years than make a push toward the $10-$15 range.
I'm calling these lands a HOLD because they can't really go much lower and I suspect they'll be reprinted in a Standard-legal set again at some point. I just don't think they have the upside of, say, Anointed Procession.
My Favorite $2 and Under Buys:
The Scarab God - $14
Believe it or not, but even The Locust God is actually more popular than The Scarab God in Commander. Part of this might be due to the card's price tag, but I still feel like this former Standard staple is only $14 right now because everybody remembers that it used to be $50. Once that price memory erodes enough, The Scarab God should end up in the $6-$7 range. SELL.
Razaketh, the Foulblooded - $8.50
Can you imagine a world in which Razaketh, the Foulblooded is worth more than The Scarab God? Well, that's where we're heading. Razaketh has jumped from $4 to almost $9 over the past few months due to casual and Commander demand while The Scarab God continues to drop and drop. This is a very popular kitchen table card, and I expect it to settle in closer to $15 than $5. BUY.
This version of Nicol Bolas has been in the $6-$8 range for months and months. I can't imagine it drops any further, though it's probably never going to see any Eternal play and it's not much of a casual darling, either. I'm calling it a HOLD since I don't love the upside here, though buying is totally fine if you think that Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh has a higher ceiling than I do.
The Locust God - $6
This is the price range where The Scarab God is going to end up, which is why I like The Locust God more as a spec right now. The upside isn't overwhelming here, but at $6 it's a soft BUY that will eventually end up in the $10-$12 range.
Torment of Hailfire - $6
Much like Razaketh, Torment of Hailfire is a very popular Commander card that has actually been increasing in price over the past couple of months. As with the Demon, I don't think we've reached this card's long-term ceiling. Short of a reprint, Torment of Hailfire should end up in the $8-$10 range at some point in the mid-term future. BUY, but don't go too crazy.
Crested Sunmare - $6
This is a weird one. Crested Sunmare is neither going to see any Eternal play nor is it a popular Commander card, yet it has held its value exceptionally well as rotation approaches due to…what? Kitchen table casual players, who need four copies of this bad boy for their lifegain deck? This seems like the most likely reason. I'm calling Crested Sunmare a HOLD because the price chart doesn't really make sense, but it's clear that people like this card.
Neheb, the Eternal - $6
Neheb, the Eternal is yet another random Hour of Devastation card that has roughly doubled over the past year due to Commander demand. This thing is actually more popular in the format than either of the set's two gods, though it's nowhere near as sought-after as either Torment of Hailfire or Razaketh, the Foulblooded. I'm calling it a HOLD since I like many of the other specs in the set more, but it's a solid casual card that should continue to tick up in price over the next couple of years.
Ramunap Excavator - $4.50
We've arrived at my favorite BUY of the set. Ramunap Excavator hasn't emerged as a major Eternal staple, but it has shown up in Legacy decks like Lands and Elves as well as Modern lists like Bant Midrange and some of the Collected Company variants. There's a reasonable chance that at some future date, Ramunap Excavator will emerge as a serious player in the format.
And if that wasn't enough, Ramunap Excavator is EDHREC's pick for the most popular Commander card in the set. It's one of those sweet green early-drop creatures that shows up all the time and is a must-buy for anyone who even thinks about messing with lands or the graveyard. At less than $5, Ramunap Excavator is a stone-cold bargain. There's real upside here.
Mirage Mirror - $3.50
I know I've talked a lot about Commander today, but that's only because the game's most popular casual format is going to be a major factor in driving the price of these cards going forward. Mirage Mirror is no exception. This is a very popular card in the 100-card format, and the fact that its colorless gives it a ton of financial upside. I'm a BUY, and I'd expect this to end up in the $5-$7 range at some point soon.
A month ago, I wouldn't have even mentioned Nimble Obstructionist in this article. We now know about the rise of the U/R Wizards deck in Modern, though, which runs four copies of this crazy Bird Wizard. That deck isn't exactly lighting the world on fire, but you aren't exactly paying a fortune for this card right now, either. $3 for a card that has somewhat proven itself in Modern is a fine deal, and I'm going to BUY a set of Nimble Obstructionists at some point this month just in case.
Scavenger Grounds - $3
Scavenger Grounds is my second favorite spec target in Hour of Devastation. It's reasonably popular in Commander, but the fact that it gives colorless and mono-color decks a cheap piece of graveyard removal in Eternal formats is where Scavenger Grounds really shines. Cards like this rarely end up being massive money-makers, but it's just so safe. This card will eventually jump from $3 to $8, and I'd rather have a stack of Scavenger Grounds than not. BUY.
My Favorite $2 and Under Buys:
This Week's Trends
The Standard market hasn't started to sizzle yet, but that will change over the next week or two. This is your last chance to grab whatever you need before the rush, and cards like Search for Azcanta (up about $2) and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria (up about $1.50) are already starting to tick up a bit. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that these two cards are going to see post-rotation play regardless, and I'm certainly not going to argue the opposite.
We've had some Guilds of Ravnica movement as well. Legion Warboss (whom I love) jumped a buck this week, while Underrealm Lich (which I'm still iffy about) climbed from $5 to $8. It's worth noting that Underrealm Lich certainly has seemed to inspire some folks, and it might end up being great, but it's still far too risky a buy for me, even at $5-cards like this simply don't turn into Standard staples all that often, and multicolored Commander cards from large fall sets take years and years to show any meaningful gains. I like Gerry and Bryan's take on the card from this week's episode of The GAM Podcast , and they're not particularly high on it either.
What's going on in Modern? Almost nothing. We're in the calm before the Guilds of Ravnica storm, so the market has been especially quiet. Horizon Canopy and Jace, the Mind Sculptor both surged in price on MTGO this week, though, which might ripple into paper at some point soon. If you've been holding off on buying either card, now seems like a good time to pull that trigger.
We had confirmation this week that the Planeswalker Masterpieces will be foil, and from the short video on Twitter , they appear to have the old From the Vault foiling. Ugh! It's certainly possible that this is a new foiling process, or something more akin to the other Masterpieces, but it has certainly made me (and a lot of others) less excited about buying the product. I still expect it to sell out fast on the WotC website, and it's likely going to be a solid long-term buy-and-hold at MSRP, but a bad foiling process would limit its upside and makes me less eager to shell out $250 for something that'll probably sit in my closet for a couple of years collecting dust. Buy it if you want it, but I wouldn't sit around refreshing the Hasbro Toy Shop just for the quick flip.