There's a big difference between week one and week two of a new Standard format.
On week one, there's no real way of knowing what is real and what is not. Oh, sure, some cards seem better than others, but it's hard to know how correct you are until you get a chance to play them in a competitive context. So if you examine week one's decklists out of context, you might get tricked into spending far too much money on cards that aren't actually all that good.
Legion Warboss is a great example. Many pros were really high on this Goblin Rabblemaster lookalike, and it was one of my favorite cards in the set during preview season. If Mono-Red Aggro or Boros Aggro were going to be real decks-and I figured at least one of them would be-then it would only stand to reason that Legion Warboss would become a future staple.
And if you look at last week's results as well as the card's price chart, you might be fooled into believing that I was right. Mono-Red Aggro is indeed one of the best decks in the new format, and Legion Warboss showed up as a four-of in several of the top brews. As expected, the card climbed from $6 to $7 based on those figures and it's currently close to sold out at that price.
So Legion Warboss is one of Guilds of Ravnica's big winners, right?
Well, not so fast.
Once you actually start looking at decklists, talking to mono-red players, and watching games, it becomes clear that Mono-Red Aggro is good despite Legion Warboss, not because of it. The version of the deck that finished third at SCG Columbus last weekend only had two in the sideboard, and it's not even clear if those should have made the cut. People ran Legion Warboss last week because they wanted to see if it was good. The answer-at least in the current metagame-appears to be no. The price tells one story, but the week two decklists tell another.
In general, then, week two is the point when we can start to figure out which cards and archetypes are going to be good, and which are not. The top tier decklists aren't close to optimal yet, but it's possible to start building a mental image of what the metagame is going to look like once the kinks are ironed out.
And that, my friends, is our goal today. If we can separate the contenders from the pretenders in Guilds of Ravnica, an entire world of buying and trading opportunities open up to us. For example, Experimental Frenzy is currently just $6, which makes it $1 cheaper than Legion Warboss. This is wild, because Experimental Frenzy is amazing and Legion Warboss is not. But I bet if you asked, "who wants to trade their Experimental Frenzy for my Legion Warboss?" down at your LGS tomorrow, you'd have two or three value-conscious traders take you up on the offer right away. These edges might not seem like much, but growing your collection incrementally like this is one of the best ways to make Standard affordable.
Let's get started by talking about the most exciting deck in the format right now:
Golgari Midrange is going to be a major player in the new Standard format. It might not be putting up big numbers on MTGO yet-it's way down there on MTG Goldfish's Standard Metagame breakdown -but too many good players are too high on this deck for us to ignore it. Golgari Midrange was the most popular deck on What We'd Play last week, and the GAM Podcast folks are pretty high on it as well.
The biggest issue with Golgari Midrange right now? I don't think we're particularly close to an optimal build yet. And there are a lot of expensive cards that are showing up in some Golgari Midrange builds while being left out of other brews entirely. Let's talk about them.
Vraska, Golgari Queen - $13.99
Flip a coin on whether or not Vraska, Golgari Queen will end up being a staple in this deck. Ari Lax seems to favor running several copies , while Emma Handy does not . At the very least, it looks like this version of Vraska is going to come down to a metagame choice as opposed to a slam-dunk four-of, which should keep it closer to $10 than $25-$30. The current buy-in of $14 is totally reasonable if you're planning to run this, but Vraska, Golgari Queen has an uphill battle ahead of it if it's going to end up as one of the most expensive cards in the set.
Vraska, Relic Seeker - $17.99
This version of Vraska is both more expensive and more prevalent in Golgari Midrange than Vraska, Golgari Queen. While I'm still seeing some Golgari Midrange decks eschew Big Vraska for more creatures or reanimation shenanigans, I wouldn't be surprised if the big planeswalkers ends up being pivotal in the final iteration of the deck. Buying this card is still a tad risky at $18, but it could easily end up being a $25-$30 card if the consensus "best decklist" for Golgari breaks in this direction.
Vivien Reid - $15.99
Vivien Reid is a card on the rise. It's really well-positioned in the current metagame, and the fact that it has some play in Golgari Midrange, Selesnya Tokens, Abzan, and Mono-Green Aggro gives it a delicious sort of mutli-archetype upside. While Vivien may end up being just a two-of or even a sideboard card in Golgari Midrange, I'm becoming more and more certain that Vivien Reid will be one of the key cards in the new environment-and that should mean a $20+ price tag for this Core Set 2019 mythic rare.
Assassin's Trophy - $24.99
Even though I'm high on Golgari Midrange, I'm low on Assassin's Trophy.
Oh, sure, it's probably correct to play some number of Trophies in your Golgari Midrange deck, and that number might sometimes be four, but it's pretty clear that the card just doesn't have a lot of great targets a lot of the time in Standard. There are just so many other cards in the format that can deal with problematic permanents without also giving your opponent a free land. And while I still expect Assassin's Trophy to show up in Modern, I haven't seen any evidence of a major Jund resurgence yet. At $25, I think this card is incredibly overpriced right now. I feel like you'll be able to snag copies for less than $10 before the end of 2018.
Jadelight Ranger - $9.99
I've been telling you to buy Jadelight Ranger for months now, so here's hoping you've got a set or two kicking around at this point. While there are still a few Golgari Midrange lists kicking around that don't run a full four copies of this card, I feel like the majority of my favorite lists are coalescing around a full four main-deck copies. Threads are popping up on Reddit with titles like, "Foil Jadelight Ranger is lower than nonfoil?," which tells me that players are buying their playsets very quickly right now with little regard for value. I feel like $10 is going to be this card's floor for the next couple of months.
Find - $2.50
Find has been flying under the radar for weeks now, but that's going to change soon. While role-players like Find are rarely among the most expensive cards in the set, Find seems to be over-performing wherever it shows up and it's more of a staple in these lists than you might realize. I can easily see this card settling in around $3-$4 with the possibility of a spike into the high single digits if Golgari Midrange wins a Pro Tour.
I'm not sure which Teferi, Hero of Dominaria deck will end up being the optimal play, but I am dead certain that one of them will become tier one. This was close to a foregone conclusion coming into the new format, and nothing I've seen over the past couple of weeks has made me doubt that prediction.
Even though I generally liked what I saw out of Esper last weekend, it's starting to look like Jeskai Control is the way forward here. Todd Anderson indicated that it would have been his choice this weekend if he were playing in a major Standard event , and Gerry Thompson wrote about it last week as well. He likes Jeskai over Esper because Deafening Clarion is one mana less to cast than Ritual of Soot, which fixes some of the deck's mana issues. I tend to agree.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria - $54.99
The key card. You need four of these, and there's no substitute for what they provide. I can't imagine the price dropping below $50 at any point soon, and it's not like we're all about to start cracking a ton of extra Dominaria packs.
The fact that this deck requires four copies of Teferi should keep its other staples slightly cheaper, but control decks tend to be the most expensive brews in any format. This means that all the Jeskai staples have some room to run regardless.
Search for Azcanta - $24.99
Search for Azcanta is in the same boat as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Both cards are absurdly powerful, have been expensive for ages, and aren't likely to see either a major price increase or a major price decrease at any point in the near future. Feel free to trade for these-or trade them away-at current retail, depending on your need.
Settle the Wreckage - $8.99
Yet another control staple that isn't going anywhere. You can read the Teferi and Search for Azcanta blurbs and copy/paste for this card at a lower price point.
Deafening Clarion - $1.99
Deafening Clarion is legit. It's the most important sweeper in the format right now, and it's especially good against popular decks like Selesnya Tokens and Mono-Red Aggro. While the best sweepers tend to be fairly metagame dependent, and it's likely that Deafening Clarion will wax and wane in popularity depending on how the format evolves, I still feel like this card is going to be a four-of between the main deck and the sideboard in most of these Teferi-centric brews. There's $5-$8 upside here if you're patient enough.
Expansion - $1.49
We are all too low on Guilds of Ravnica's cycle of rare split cards during preview season. I liked them more than most, but they've exceeded even my reasonably lofty expectations. Expansion seems too clunky and expensive at first blush, but Gerry and Todd are both fairly high on the card and it seems to be one of the best reasons to put Teferi in a Jeskai shell right now. It has similar upside to Deafening Clarion, and I feel like the price will at least hit $3-$4 once more people catch on.
Ionize - $4.99
Nobody is sleeping on Ionize anymore. My only real question coming out of preview season was whether or not the 1UR casting cost would be a problem, and that won't be an issue as long as Jeskai remains the shell of choice for Teferi players. This card should remain a $5-$6 staple for as long as these decks remain popular.
Azor's Gateway - $4.99
Now here's a fascinating card. While neither to Todd Anderson nor the Gerry Thompson version of Jeskai Control run Azor's Gateway, Shaheen Soorani has been running four copies in his preferred version of the deck and has nothing but good things to say about the card.
While I'm still a tad skeptical that Azor's Gateway will become a top tier constructed playable, the buy-in here is too tantalizing to refuse. At just $5 for a mythic from the criminally under-opened Rivals of Ixalan, you're buying this card close to the very bottom of its market and you should be able to cash out for close to what you paid due to casual demand even if the card never amounts to anything. But if Azor's Gateway does pay out, you're looking at a potential $20+ winner.
And it's not like Azor's Gateway is a random inclusion in Soorani's deck. He's playing it because of its synergy with Explosion, which is a card that I absolutely believe in. This is a legitimate combo; if there's one card you should pick up right after reading this article, it's Azor's Gateway.
Every format has a fast deck, and Mono-Red is likely going to remain the aggro deck of choice for Standard going forward. While it's possible that Boros will outclass it at some point, that'll require a massive R/W injection from one of the next couple of sets. Right now, there's simply no good reason to move beyond the 22-Mountain manabase.
Rekindling Phoenix - $29.99
Rekindling Phoenix might not be the most important card in Mono-Red Aggro, but it's certainly the most expensive card in the deck. Much like Teferi and Search for Azcanta, this card has a lengthy pedigree of success, and is already priced near the top of the market. Rekindling Phoenix isn't likely to climb any higher, but it's not going to drop, either-not as long as this deck remains good.
Goblin Chainwhirler - $5.99
Goblin Chainwhirler used to be good. It's still good, but it used to be good, too.
Despite the strength of Chainwhirler, the card has actually never been higher than $10. Dominaria has too many high end mythics, and the Goblin isn't terribly useful outside of exactly this deck due to its prohibitive casting cost. It might hit $10 again, I suppose, but kicking around the $5 mark for the foreseeable future seems like a more likely outcome.
Runaway Steam-Kin - $7.99
Over the past two weeks, Runaway Steam-Kin has proven itself as one of the top cards in Guilds of Ravnica. If you're building any sort of aggressive red deck, you're starting with four of these. This card is probably destined to remain in the $5-$8 range unless it breaks out in Modern, but I can't imagine it falls too far below that. It's safe to trade for these at current retail.
Risk Factor - $10.99
Why is Risk Factor so much more expensive than Runaway Steam-Kin? Steam-Kin is always going to be a four-of, but Risk Factor isn't necessarily great in massive quantities. Don't get me wrong, this card is sweet-in fact, it's probably good enough for Modern-but it's already priced to the very top of its market. You can buy in at $11 if you want, but I expect it'll settle in closer to $5 or $6.
Experimental Frenzy - $5.99
Experimental Frenzy is another card that I was skeptical about early on, but I'm totally sold on it now. You might not always want four of these, but any sort of Mono-Red or even some sort of Izzet Spells deck is going to run at least two or three copies of Experimental Frenzy, not to mention the shenanigans it might get up to in a Gruul shell. It's one of those cards that'll keep popping up in cool places for the next couple of years, which makes it a safe hold at $6.
Selesnya Tokens feels like one of those decks that is going to kick around near the bottom of the top tier or the top of the second tier of the Standard metagame for months upon months, never dominating too much nor falling entirely out of contention. It's a fair deck that will occasionally get to do something incredibly unfair at the cost of being weak to sweepers.
I'm not sure the folks who change up their decks every week based on the latest jots and tittles in the metagame are ever going to pick up Selesnya Tokens, but it feels like the sort of deck you'll run into a ton down at your local FNM.
History of Benalia - $29.99
Boy howdy, did History of Benalia sure shoot up in price! Truth be told, I almost titled this category "History of Benalia decks" since this is one of the key cards that makes Selesnya Tokens good. The reason that this card is $30 instead of $20 is because it shows up in almost every other deck that runs white mana, from Boros Angels to Abzan Knights.
While History of Benalia might settle in anywhere from $20 to $40 depending on how the format's top tier shakes out, this card is absolutely for real. The only reason you could buy it for less than $15 over the summer was because white (outside of Teferi decks) just wasn't a very good color for most of 2018. That isn't true anymore, and History of Benalia is back.
Legion's Landing - $7.99
I loved Legion's Landing coming into the new Standard format for the same reason I was all over History of Benalia. Both cards are incredibly powerful, and they were artificially cheap because aggro and mid-range white decks didn't really exist over the summer. Legion's Landing would be at $10 and heading toward $15 if Boros Aggro had panned out instead of Mono-Red Aggro, but this card probably isn't breaking $8 as long as it only sees play in a single deck. There's still some upside here, but I think it's more likely that we're already at the top of the market.
Shalai, Voice of Plenty - $6.99
Shalai is in a similar position to Legion's Landing, only it already has a second home in Boros Angels. Shalai is rarely a four-of in Selesnya Tokens, though, so its upside might be a tad more limited on this end. $5-$7 seems about right for this card-it's a solid role-player-but its price is even more likely to be maxed out than Legion's Landing is.
March of the Multitudes - $16.99
March of the Multitudes is the other key mythic here, but its price is more or less capped at $20 since it's only going to show up in this deck. I suppose it could climb as high as $26-$28 if Selesnya Tokens ends up being the clear best deck in the format, but that's unlikely. Instead, I suspect it'll settle in closer to $12-$15.
Venerated Loxodon - $2.49
Venerated Loxodon is much better than I gave it credit for at first, and it has absolutely earned its place as a four-of in this deck. The real question is whether or not it'll find a home elsewhere. That seems unlikely to me, which mean that it's probably not going above $4-$5, absolute best case. This is a totally fine and safe card to trade for-just don't expect it to earn you a massive payday.
Emmara, Soul of the Accord - $1.49
Why is Emmara so cheap despite being a four-of in this deck? I think it's because Emmara seems kind of underpowered most of the time, even in its signature deck. Selesnya Tokens players may look to ditch the Elf when a better three-drop comes along, but who knows if that'll ever happen? In the meantime, this is a solid throw-in to target in trade. People are going to need them, even if they're kind of sub-par.
Trostani Discordant - $3.99
Trostani is a mythic, and mythics do have upside, but I haven't seen too many Selesnya Tokens lists that run more than two copies of Trostani, if that. She'll end up in the high single digits if she starts seeing a bit more play in this deck, and buying a Constructed-playable mythic rare for $4 is rarely going to hurt you, but don't expect this card to ever end up in the same range as March of the Multitudes.
Lyra Dawnbringer Decks
You could title this section Boros Angels, I suppose, but I'm still not convinced that that deck is the right shell for Lyra Dawnbringer. You probably want to put Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice in most of your Lyra Dawnbringer decks regardless, but I feel like Lyra is the real draw here and it's possible that she'll end up settling down in a Jeskai, Azorius, or Abzan shell once all is said and done.
Lyra Dawnbringer - $27.99
As I said in the last paragraph, Lyra looks great right now. She's mostly seeing play in Boros Angels right now, but I'm a little skeptical about that deck's long-term chances. The GAM folks said it best this week: it's a busted deck when its draws are sequenced correctly, but it's incredibly unforgiving to bad draws. Either way, I expect Lyra to have a top tier home and maintain a price tag in the $25-$30 range.
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice - $17.99
Aurelia is powerful, but her positioning in the format is already starting to look a little awkward. If you're a believer in Boros Angels, then Aurelia is reasonably priced at $18. If you're not, then we're looking at a powerful card that's stuck in a sub-par archetype because the deck that she's supposed to be good in (Boros Aggro) is outclassed by Mono-Red Aggro on the aggro curve of the metagame. I can certainly see a world where Aurelia kicks around between $15-$25 for months, but I can also imagine a case where she ends up dropping to, like, $4. Tread carefully.
Resplendent Angel - $15.99
I'm even more skeptical of Resplendent Angel. Again, this is a perfectly reasonable price if Boros Angels is a legitimate tier one strategy-in fact, it might even be underpriced by $3-$4-but there are plenty of ways for Lyra to succeed without bringing Resplendent Angel along for the ride. I'm still fairly unimpressed by this card most of the time, and there are plenty of other cards on the rise that I'd target before looking anywhere near this one.
Doom Whisperer Decks
Doom Whisperer and Lyra Dawnbringer are both in similar situations. The past two weeks have proven to me that Doom Whisperer is a very good card, but I'm still not sure where it'll end up. Grixis Control? Dimir Control? Sultai Midrange? It was showing up in Golgari for a bit last week, but the Vraska/Vivien Reid plan seems to be gaining popularity there.
Doom Whisperer - $27.99
I'm a little worried that Doom Whisperer will be locked out of the format during its first couple of iterations before eventually finding a home, which could cause the price to drop quite a bit before its eventual rebound. The card is very good, though, so I expect it'll be anchoring at least one top tier deck during its time in Standard.
$30-$35 is probably the absolute top of the market for a card in a set with so many other amazing staples, so current retail isn't much of a discount. That said, Doom Whisperer is good enough that I doubt you'll be sad if you end up with a set of these kicking around in your collection.
Vraska's Contempt - $19.99
This card seems to show up wherever Doom Whisperer makes an appearance, and Vraska's Contempt is still the best removal spell in the format. Much like the other Ixalan cards we've looked at in this article, Vraska's Contempt is both pretty close to the top of its market and unlikely to drop in price anytime soon.
Dream Eater - $7.99
I've been seeing Dream Eater pop up more and more in the Grixis and Dimir Control builds doing well on MTGO, but it's rarely more than a 2-of in those decks. I guess it might end up being some sort of powerful and expensive control finisher at some point, but it seems more likely that it'll end up as a $4-$5 role-player like Trostani.
Ritual of Soot - $1.99
Ritual of Soot is the best black sweeper right now. While Deafening Clarion is likely to see more play in the near-term, Ritual of Soot is the sort of answer that could gain in popularity over time depending on how things shake out. At just $2 each, it's worth having a set of these in your collection if you play black. It's unlikely to end up being a $10+ staple or anything, but I could see it kicking around the $5 range for a while.
Llanowar Elves Decks
So yeah, technically, some builds of Golgari Midrange are also Llanowar Elf decks. But in this section, I'm talking more about the Steel Leaf Champion/Vine Mare sort of brew that stomps and stomps until your opponent is dead. While this deck has historically been Mono-Green, its future might end up being closer to this Gruul Aggro build that Cedric highlighted on Friday:
- 4 Druid of the Cowl
- 2 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Kraul Harpooner
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Steel Leaf Champion
- 2 Vine Mare
- 4 Wayward Swordtooth
- 2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Treasure Map - $2.99
Treasure Map is already starting to make a leap on MTGO, and I've seen it show up in decks as varied as Mono-Red Aggro, Grixis Dragons, and Sultai Control. It seems foregone that Treasure Map will end up being a 3-of or 4-of in at least one tier one deck, right? I'd be shocked if this card didn't end up in the $6-$7 range for at least a couple of weeks this year.
Steel Leaf Champion - $4.99
The problem with betting on Steel Leaf Champion is that Dominaria's value is already so tied up in expensive cards like Teferi, Karn, and History of Benalia. I can't imagine this one dropping in price for as long as the Llanowar Elf decks are good, but your upside is very limited as well.
Wayward Swordtooth - $6.99
This is one of those weird cards that's been expensive for months despite seeing almost no competitive play. I guess it's really popular in Commander? I haven't seen it used much outside of this very specific Gruul Aggro deck, so I hesitate to say that it has proven anything in the new format yet, but it could easily end up at $10+ if there's competitive demand here, too.
Ghalta, Primal Hunger - $9.99
There isn't much in Rivals of Ixalan, so Ghalta should remain at $10 going forward. I don't feel like this deck is going to be any more or less popular than it was pre-rotation, which makes this card more of a safe hold than a sexy spec target.
Carnage Tyrant - $24.99
Ditto for Carnage Tyrant. This big beefy Dinosaur might not be a bigger part of the metagame than it was over the summer, but more people are playing Standard now, so the price could start to slowly tick up from here. $30-$35 is certainly possible, and the fact that Carnage Tyrant has basically never been below $20 gives it relatively little downside. Much like the other Ixalan staples, Carnage Tyrant is a very safe trade target.
Nullhide Ferox - $8.99
Financially, Nullhide Ferox has been a forgotten mythic so far. It's certainly not a format-warping staple, but it does have a place in the metagame-and, in fact, it has been showing up as a 3-of or 4-of in most of the stompy green decks. While it's more likely to hit $5 than $20 at this point, don't dismiss it entirely.
Karn, Scion of Urza - $32.99
While Karn hasn't shown up in many of these decklists, I'm not convinced he'll be a bust in the new format. I know that Gerry and Bryan are decently high on Karn , and the powerful planeswalker is showing up more as the week rolls on. This one could really go either way, as could Karn's price. He's a riskier hold at $33 than you might think, but my gut tells me that he'll find a home sooner rather than later.
Sarkhan, Fireblood - $14.99
I still don't know if the Sarkhan deck is real or not. The Demanding Dragon bug on MTGO skewed a lot of the results, and I haven't seen enough from week two to make a call yet. It's worth noting that the price on MTGO ticked up, dropped, and then started slowly ticking back up again. I think that indicates tepid excitement? Let's go with tepid excitement here.
Knight of Autumn - $6.99
Most of the Selesnya decks aren't running Knight of Autumn, but there are some Abzan decks that do. The card also has a decent amount of play in Modern, as expected. It might drop down to $3-$4 for a while if it doesn't end up being a bigger part of the new Standard format, but I still love this card's long-term profile.
What Isn't Being Played
I'm not saying it's over for these cards, but I'm not high on any of them right now. With Jeskai Control looking better than Grixis, for example, I'm not sure that Nicol Bolas, the Ravager will remain one of the pillars of the format. And if Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants isn't going to show up in any of the powerful white tokens decks running around the format right now, then its day in the sun is never going to happen. I'm trading all of these cards away at current retail if possible.
Overall Thoughts on the Format
I have to imagine that WotC is thrilled with Standard right now. Guilds of Ravnica did exactly what we all wanted it to do, re-shaping the format around the guilds and giving players a bunch of fun different angles to play around with. And, as a result, Standard demand-and prices-are higher than they've been in years.
As a result, Ixalan, Dominaria, and Core Set 2019 cards are in especially high demand right now. All those people who skipped Standard last year and are back in now? They need copies of Teferi, Vivien Reid, Search for Azcanta, and History of Benalia. These cards are likely to remain expensive for as long as the format continues to be good.
Guilds of Ravnica is a great set, and there appear to be very few misses in it. While it's totally fine to trade for all the cards I mentioned above, just remember that Standard tends to be at its peak in mid-October and cards from the fall set always, always, ALWAYS drop in price as winter sets in. Unlike Dominaria and Ixalan, Magic players all around the world are still cracking Guilds at an incredible rate right now. So not only is the market high, but the fall set is especially so.
So while trading your Guilds of Ravnica misses for Guilds of Ravnica hits is a smart thing to do right now, trading all your extra Standard stuff for Modern staples is an even better move. You'll thank me in February when Modern prices are going through the roof and Guilds of Ravnica has settled down a bit.
This Week's Trends
If you're an astute observer of the market, you'll notice that I omitted a key Standard gainer from my analysis this week: Star of Extinction went from being a bulk mythic to about $10 before settling down in the $5-$6 range. This appears to be a targeted buyout based on the card's interaction with Truefire Captain, which is stupid. This card will be $2 again soon.
Necrotic Ooze is a little more interesting. Ben Friedman wrote about its potential in Modern this week , which caused the card to spike from $2 to about $10 due to its combo potential with Doom Whisperer. I want to see this deck in action before buying in, but Necrotic Ooze was only printed once, and it has truly been on the verge of respectability for a very, very long time. Truth be told, it doesn't have to be great to maintain an $8-$10 price tag-it just has to be exciting, which it is. If the deck is actually good, then Necrotic Ooze is heading toward $20+.
If you're a believer in this deck and you don't want to buy the Ooze at its post-spike price, consider Eldritch Evolution. It's a small set combo piece that works well with the Ooze, and casual demand has kept it at $3 for a while. This is the sort of card that will break out eventually and quadruple in price, so you might as well grab a couple of sets now. There's almost zero risk here, but there's a ton of upside.