Welcome back to my financial set review for War of the Spark! If you missed Part 1, which includes my thoughts on cards like Liliana, Dreadhorde General and Teferi, Time Raveler, you can find it here.
While I don't know every card that's in War of the Spark yet, I do know enough to safely say that this set looks pushed for Constructed play. I'll be honest: I was only expecting four or five of the set's 36 planeswalkers to make the cut for Standard. Now that we've seen the vast majority of them, I wouldn't be shocked if half the set's planeswalkers show up in one deck or another. Beyond that, cards like Feather, the Redeemed and Dreadhorde Butcher could end up being cornerstones for new and powerful archetypes.
It should come as no shock to anyone when I say that the spring and summer sets usually have the lowest impact on Standard. The bigger the overall card pool, the less chance that any given card will change the game. I wonder if Wizards of the Coast knows this, and War of the Spark is deliberately designed to make an outsized impact. Or perhaps this is just the usual new set optimism.
Regardless, it's worth being aware that powerful sets tend to enjoy higher-than-average spikes upon release as well as larger crashes once the market hits equilibrium. The expected value of the cards inside a pack can't sustain a price that's higher than the retail cost of that pack for very long, remember, regardless of how good each individual card may or may not be. This is part of why Standard cards were so cheap back during the Masterpiece era, and it's also why cards tend to be less expensive in sets that have one or two massively expensive mythics. If Teferi, Hero of Dominaria weren't in Dominaria, for example, many of the other cards in that set would be worth more than they are right now.
In the case of War of the Spark, however, we've got a situation where the set will have a higher than average number of expensive rares and uncommons. This is due to all the planeswalkers running around; even the lesser planeswalkers at lower rarities will cost more than non-planeswalkers would, which is going to eat up a decent chunk of the set's value. You can already see this happening on eBay, where complete common and uncommon sets of War of the Spark are selling for about twice as much as usual. Add that to the fact that the set has a high number of promising rares and mythics, and you get the recipe for good cards in War of the Spark being slightly cheaper than they would be had they been released in other sets.
I'm certainly not saying that there won't be any expensive cards in War of the Spark, nor am I saying that there won't be any money to be made by being smart with your pre-orders. I just want to make sure that our expectations are calibrated going in.
To the cards!
First off, let me just state the all the stuff I said about the EV of the singles in a given pack of War of the Spark having to add up to the cost of that pack doesn't really apply to Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge. Since Tezzeret is the Buy-a-Box promo, its value can be more or less disconnected from the rest of the set. If Tezzeret is worth $20, it'll maintain that $20 price tag.
So, is Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge worth $20? In terms of competitive play, I doubt it. Bryan Gottlieb wrote about a potential combo deck that can go infinite with Tezzeret; Sai, Master Thopterist; Karn, the Great Creator; and five(!) other artifacts, but that seems like a pretty complex engine to attempt to assemble in a competitive context. I suppose Tezzeret could end up spawning a rogue deck, or as a backup win condition in some sort of Dimir Control brew, but I don't see this impacting the price very much.
The better question, then, is how much casual value Tezzeret will have over the long haul. So far, Buy-a-Box promos have ended up being worth slightly more than they would be as normal mythics. For example, The Haunt of Hightower would probably be $2-$3 instead of $6 if it were slightly more accessible. But Nexus of Fate is both an outstanding Commander card and a top-tier Constructed playable, and it's still just $20 right now. If Tezzeret is casual-only, it should ultimately sell for at least a little bit less. The fact that Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge is a planeswalker – and a good planeswalker for Commander at that – should keep it in the $10-$15 range. I just don't see it going any higher than $20 right now, so I'm staying away at current retail.
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar - $20
The players I've polled about Ilharg, the Raze-Boar so far seem pretty split. Half of them feel like Ilharg is now the best five-drop creature in Standard. The others feel like this little piggy isn't going to make much of an impact outside of Draft and Commander.
Personally, I feel like Ilharg is going to have a deck. Gruul Aggro is already a thing, and a 6/6 trampler for five with some pretty serious upside is going to slot right in. At the very least, I'd start testing it in the Skarrgan Hellkite slot and consider running at least one or two copies of End-Raze Forerunners as a way to deal an incredible amount of damage very quickly.
Is that enough to justify a $20 price tag? Not really. The set might be good enough that Ilharg is going to end up in the $10-$15 range for a while, but I doubt that this is a multi-deck staple, much less a multi-format staple. I originally wrote this review when Ilharg was initially pre-ordering for $10, and back then I felt like it was a decent buy only if you were actively planning to play it in your Gruul deck. At $20, I'm staying away.
God-Eternal Kefnet - $20
God-Eternal Kefnet seems quite powerful, and it's possible that we're looking at the best new control card in the set. The fact that you can pseudo-miracle a Wrath off the top of your deck, cast the copy, keep the Wrath, and still draw Kefnet again in a couple of turns is awesome. I can also see this show up in some sort of Azorius Tempo brew where you're doubling up on your spot removal and bounce. At just four mana, Kefnet provides a ton of value.
The problem is that Kefnet is far from a sure thing, which is what I want from a $20 card. I don't even think that Kefnet is the most powerful of the three God-Eternals that have been previewed so far, and it's more than twice as expensive. Kefnet doesn't project as more than a one-of in the current iterations of control, so at $20 you're effectively betting that it'll be a four-of staple in a brand-new top-tier deck. There's a chance that happens, but there's a better chance that Kefnet ends up being a $5 mythic two months from now. That's not the sort of gamble I like to take.
God-Eternal Rhonas - $12
Oh, hey, it's competition for Ilharg in the five-drop slot! God-Eternal Rhonas is obviously fantastic if you've got solid battlefield presence in the mid-game and you're looking to overpower your opponent, and its death trigger provides a decent amount of inevitability against control. Other than that, though, I feel like God-Eternal Rhonas is going to be outclassed by cards that are either cheaper, more evasive, or more powerful. If I just want a creature that's going to win me the game no matter what, I'd rather have one that isn't dependent on me having a strong battlefield presence. If I just want a creature that's going to pump my tokens in Selesnya. I'd rather run the more powerful Trostani Discordant.
I'm glad that God-Eternal Rhonas doesn't have trample, because that would make the card far too powerful, but without it, I'm not sure this thing will see play outside a few sideboard situations. I expect it to end up in the $3-$4 range long-term.
God-Eternal Bontu - $12
God-Eternal Bontu seems far stronger than either Kefnet or Rhonas to me. My one fear is that Bontu's fate will mirror Doom Whisperer, another black five-drop that seemed to provide card advantage alongside a major evasive threat before eventually dropping off the competitive map entirely.
Of course, Doom Whisperer is still an $8 card, which isn't a terribly bad downside considering the fact that God-Eternal Bontu has a shot at being the most impactful Constructed mythic in the set. Not only does Bontu have evasion, inevitability, and a decent body, but the fact that you can toss your tokens and lands into the woodchipper as a way to draw four to five cards in the mid-game puts this one over the top for me. It's kind of like Hydroid Krasis in that way, and I can imagine Bontu seeing play in multiple top decks. It's going in Mardu Aristocrats at the very least, where sacrificing creatures is all upside. The combo potential beyond that is off the charts as well. Even if Bontu doesn't pan out, it'll still be in the $5-$10 range. Best-case, Bontu is a format-defining card for the next two years.
Roalesk, Apex Hybrid - $10
Roalesk, Apex Hybrid is one of those midrange cards that's chock full of value in all phases of the game. And it's resilient, too – even if your opponent kills your evasive beater quickly, you get several valuable triggers no matter what. And in War of the Spark Standard, don't sleep on the idea of using the proliferate triggers on a planeswalker in order to shortcut an ultimate.
I'm just not sure where Roalesk, Apex Hybrid is going to fit into the current or future metagame. It requires additional battlefield presence if you want to take advantage of those triggers, and it's not going to beat out Hydroid Krasis in Sultai Midrange. Perhaps Standard will devolve into a midrange battle and there will be some sort of Bant or Simic deck that can use this card alongside Frilled Mystic, but even then I don't think I can imagine Roalesk breaking the $15-$18 mark. More likely, this card will drop down into the $4-$5 range as it fails to find a home in any of the format's currently defined decks. I'm staying away for now.
Karn, the Great Creator - $15
Karn, the Great Creator has a lot of promise in older formats. It seems excellent in Vintage and Legacy and it has potential in Modern as well. Essentially, the more useful a Null Rod would be in your deck, the better Karn is.
It's Karn's lack of playability in Standard that gives me pause at $15. Karn is at rare, remember, so there should be enough copies of Karn to go around for anyone who wants to run it in Vintage, Legacy, and Commander. Fringe playability in Modern shouldn't really move the needle either, though if Karn either becomes a clear Modern staple (very possible!) or finds a home in Standard (less likely), then you'll wish you'd bought in at $15.
My gut reaction is that Karn will show up in at least one very good Modern deck, causing the price to end up in the $20-$25 range for a while before slowly dropping as the overall supply of War of the Spark cards continues to increase. Then, in a year or two, the price will spike again. It's possible that Karn will bust entirely, but I doubt it. This is a truly excellent card, and it should remain valuable for years to come.
Chandra, Fire Artisan is a deceptively powerful planeswalker. Assuming you cast her and immediately tick her up, your opponent must either ignore her (allowing you to ultimate in a couple of turns) or devote resources to dealing her at least five damage. And in that process, they're either going to lose a planeswalker of their own or take a Lava Axe to the face thanks to Chandra's static ability. Oh, and then there are those extra cards that Chandra draws, an ability that made Chandra, Pyromaster an all-star back in 2013.
My biggest beef with Chandra, Fire Artisan is that she's yet another four-mana red card. Not only does she compete with all the Phoenixes, but she competes with Experimental Frenzy as well. Granted, those two cards play pretty well together, but you can only run so many four-drops.
Honestly, I don't think that's going to be a big deal. Chandra Fire Artisan isn't the type of card that requires a specific deck in order to be good, as she's powerful in almost every context. If she were a mythic rare or this set were packed with fewer goodies, I'd be predicting a stable price in the $20+ range. As a rare, $10-$15 seems likely to me.
Ral, Storm Conduit - $7
It might be the Vintage Cube addict in me, but Ral, Storm Conduit's static ability seems incredibly powerful. Having an additional win condition in a deck that can churn out a bunch of copies of whatever seems really solid, and there's even a combo with Ral in Standard where you can deal infinite damage with Ral and two copies of Expansion. Spicy!
I've heard some people saying that Ral is "the next Saheeli," but I don't see it. The infinite combo with Ral, Storm Conduit requires three cards instead of the two-card combo that Saheeli used, and that's a massive difference. I still suspect that the combo will see play in Temur Reclamation, a deck that already runs four copies of Expansion, and that alone should keep Ral in the $5-$7 range. This combo-riffic planeswalker should be fairly popular in Commander, too.
If you're going to pre-order this card, I'd suggest taking a look at foils. There's a shot that Ral, Storm Conduit will find its way into one of the older formats thanks to its static ability, and it would immediately be a top-tier commander if planeswalkers are ever allowed to be commanders in that format. It's probably going to be more of a role-player in Standard, though, which should keep the non-foil under $10.
I never thought I'd see a three-mana planeswalker pre-ordering for just $6, but here we are. Thanks, War of the Spark!
I've seen some folks comparing Domri to Rhythm of the Wild, but the planeswalker is better. It pumps you tokens, pumps everything that you cast before dropping Domri, ramps your mana (a little), and gives you access to removal. You're not running Domri without a suite of beefy creatures, so Domri's -2 will be live a good amount of the time. Domri doesn't give your creatures haste like Rhythm does, but its overall utility still feels stronger to me.
The big problem with Domri is that Gruul decks don't really have a lot of room for noncreatures, and most of those slots rightfully go to removal spells. Even still, I have to imagine that this card will see play in Gruul Aggro – the sideboard if nothing else – and $5 seems pretty close to this card's floor. There's not a ton of financial upside due to how narrow the card is, but it's a pretty safe buy at current retail.
Nissa, Who Shakes the World seems like a totally solid card in Commander, but I'm not sold on her in Standard. Her static ability gains a lot less utility once you've already got five mana, and most of the Sultai lists don't play enough Forests to use her as a Hydroid Krasis enabler. Her abilities provide you with a certain amount of inevitability if you can get Nissa to stick, but they're not going to do much in the interim – making a 3/3 every turn is solid, but it's not going to tip the scales on Turn 5 and beyond.
There's a counterpoint to this, however. A pure Simic deck might be able to use Nissa alongside Breeding Pool as a way to cast a major threat on Turn 5 while still holding up countermagic since Nissa can untap the Pool, which would then tap for UG. That deck could also run far more Forests than Sultai Midrange does, which could help power out a big ol' Hydroid Krasis. In this case, I could envision Nissa ending up in the $10-$12 range for a while. Otherwise, $4-$5 seems more likely.
Feather, the Redeemed seems like an incredibly strong card. A 3/4 flier for RWW is fairly pushed to begin with, and it doesn't take much to gain some pretty significant card advantage from her static ability. Even better, the pump spells you'd want to play with Feather also combo well with cards like Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin (more in him a little later) and Dreadhorde Arcanist. This could easily be the cornerstone of a brand-new Boros deck, and I'd expect Feather to end up in the $8 range short-term with a chance for more.
There have also been two secondary spikes due to Feather's unique ability: Aurelia's Fury and Sunforger. While I don't think that this combo will be good enough for Modern, it's certainly going to be the inspiration for many a Commander deck over the next couple of months. Casual demand is real, and I wouldn't expect either card to end up under $5 again at any time soon.
Mobilized District - $4
Another rare land in War of the Spark, and another card I absolutely love. Creature-lands are always among the best cards in a given set, and we should ignore colorless creature-lands at our own risk.
Mobilized District isn't quite as powerful as Mutavault – it's got a little Stalking Stones DNA mixed in there – and I'm not sure if three-color decks like Esper Control can afford to stretch their man-base far enough to run this. At least two or three decks will lean on Mobilized District, though, which should keep the price in the $5 range at least. It's a solid snag at $4, and one of those cards that every competitive player is going to need a playset of at some point.
At first glance, Tomik, Distinguished Advokist seems pushed. A 2/3 flier for WW is pretty solid already, and it has a suite of abilities seemingly tailor-made for Legacy. What's not to love?
Well, I'm still not sure that Tomik actually has a home anywhere. Even though Azorius Aggro seems like a good home for the card in Standard, I don't know if it actually makes the cut over something like Adanto Vanguard. And does a deck like Legacy Death and Taxes actually care very much about the things that Tomik helps fight against? Perhaps, but even in that case there will be plenty of these to go around. There aren't very many active Legacy players, and there will be a lot of copies of this card printed.
I guess Tomik will be a nice sleeper if WotC went bananas and decided to put something like Wasteland in Modern Horizons, but I doubt that'll happen. Instead, I expect this one to end up down in the $1 range before long.
Massacre Girl - $3
Massacre Girl is a solid sideboard card against any sort of go-wide strategy, and I wouldn't be shocked if she's a curve topper in Aristocrats as well. She's too expensive to be more than a two-of or three-of here and there, though, so I expect her price to remain in the $2-$3 range. You can buy these if you want to use them, but Massacre Girl won't make you rich.
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin - $2.50
As president of the Goblin Rabblemaster and Legion Warboss fan club, I realize that I'm predisposed to overvalue Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin. I know it. And yet…are we sure that Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin isn't absolutely incredible? Yeah, you're going to get blown out if your opponent has Shock, but Krenko attacks as a 2/3, makes two tokens, and then threatens to make three more tokens the next turn. And that's if you don't have a pump spell, which threatens to make five tokens right away.
Granted, Krenko's downside is pretty bad, and there will be games when you're just casting a 1/2 for three and feeling very sad about it. But if Dreadhorde Arcanist is going to pre-sell for $8, why is Krenko just $2.50? Krenko seems like the better card, though the fact that both cards play so well with pump spells (and Feather!) makes me retroactively a lot more bullish on the Arcanist as well. Betting on either of these cards is betting on a new archetype, but Krenko still has an outside shot at ending up in the $7-$8 range for a while if it pays off.
Mizzium Tank - $2.50
Mizzium Tank is solid. As long as you've got a noncreature spell to cast, it becomes a self-driving car and you get to swing in with a 4/3 trampler that dodges sorcery-speed creature removal. I don't know if the fast red or Izzet decks want this – those decks need a bunch of cheap spells to function, and there are other payoff cards that might be better – but I can certainly see a world where Mizzium Tank is a four-of in a pretty decent deck.
And if that realistic best-case scenario comes to pass, this card would be worth…about $3. So yeah, you can buy in if you want to mess around with Mizzium Tank, but don't expect to make any money here. More likely, it'll see some fringe play and stabilize around $1-$2.
Parhelion II - $2
Parhelion II is an eight-mana vehicle. Eight mana. And you still need to crew it. Awesome flavor, but future bulk rare.
Solar Blaze - $2
Solar Blaze has a shot at seeing a decent amount of play depending on how the metagame evolves. There are enough red and white creatures that survive this for me to imagine a Boros Angels-type deck that can turn Solar Blaze into a one-sided sweeper. Whether that happens or not depends on whether this card has a high hit rate against the other good creatures in the format, though, and we won't know that for a couple of weeks at least. Financially, I'm not really a fan. There's certainly a shot that Solar Blaze breaks out, but even that would only put it in the $5-$6 range. That's not a good enough potential return for me to be all that interested.
Role Reversal - $1.50
Role Reversal is a Limited card if ever there was one. It's probably better in Commander than it looks, but this is the sort of card that always gets cut from my hundred at the last minute because there are always better options in a format that deep. Future bulk rare.
Living Twister - $1.50
Living Twister offers a pretty interesting set of stats and abilities for just three mana. This card would have been an absolute house back in the Arc-Slogger days, and it's certainly powerful enough to see competitive play now. Unfortunately, I don't see where it'll find a home outside of Commander. Gruul likes to smash, while Living Twister likes to sit back and take advantage of a glut of lands in the late-game. It might see play here and there – do the Gates decks want this? – but I doubt it'll break $2.
Cards like Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi are almost always bad, but this one might actually be good. It's essentially a 9/9 creature with flash and haste for five mana, which seems quite playable to me. Also, I'm pretty sure you can use it to turn Inkmoth Nexus into a 10/10 in Modern. That's a bit of a long shot, admittedly, but how often do you get the shot to pre-order a potential multi-format card for just $1? I'm gonna snag a set or two.
This Week's Trends
While we haven't seen too many Standard cards spike this week due to War of the Spark previews – kind of surprising, actually – Kaya, Orzhov Usurper is in the process of surging toward $20 on the back of its play in Modern. The powerful planeswalker was more or less dismissed early on due to how narrow it is, but more and more people are waking up to just how strong Kaya is out of the sideboard in all sorts of good Modern decks. I don't expect that to change anytime soon, and this new $20+ price tag is here to stay.
Speaking of Standard cards that spiked due to play outside of Standard, Smothering Tithe jumped all the way to $11 this week and shows no sign of dropping in price. We talked about this card last week, but just as a reminder, Smothering Tithe is one of the best cards in Commander. When Ravnica Allegiance was previewed, I didn't think that Commander play alone would be enough to keep this card stable in the $10+ range, but I was wrong. At this point, I don't think Smothering Tithe is going anywhere.
One Standard card that is going up in price due to Standard demand: Death Baron. Zombie Tribal could become a competitive deck now that we've got Liliana, Dreadhorde General, and Death Baron is an all-time great casual card regardless. It's likely that Death Baron will have spiked out of spec range by the time you read this, but you should consider snagging a couple of playsets if that hasn't happened yet. Worst case, it's a solid long-term hold. Best case, you can quick-flip into a hot new Standard deck.
Over in Modern, there are quite a few cards spiking in price due to War of the Spark previews. Sunforger, Aurelia's Fury, Monastery Mentor, and Coldsnap uncommon Balduvian Rage are all spiking due to Feather, the Redeemed, and I'm selling into the hype. I don't think this deck has any legs in Modern, though Commander demand should prevent them from dropping all the way back to their previous levels.
Mirrodin rare Leveler also spiked this week due to the combo it has with Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, but I don't see this one lasting. Even though this thing is technically an $8 card right now, I'm seeing copies fail to sell at $3. I'm getting out of this one ASAP.
I like Doubling Season and Contagion Engine a lot more. Both cards are up this week as Commander players look to load up for their new SuperFriends decks, which are going to be the next big thing in that format. Don't be surprised if other SuperFriends staples like Captain Sisay and Ramos, Dragon Engine (one of the best SuperFriends commanders) are next to spike.
In terms of cards that will drop off in price, take a look at Arcbound Ravager. It'll be the MCQ promo for this cycle, which will pump a bunch of additional copies into the marketplace. Arcbound Ravager is a $45 card primarily because it has been a long time since the last reprint, and not too many people are actually playing Affinity right now. It's also not an especially powerful casual card. Since everyone is eligible to play in the MCQ, I expect the card to dip into the $20-$25 range. Sell your Ravagers now if you can get anything close to current retail.
Last, the next two Judge promos were announced today: Mox Opal and Mirri's Guile. Unlike with Arcbound Ravager, I find it unlikely that this is going to cause either card to drop in price very much, though Mox Opal could see a small (and temporary) downtick in price. The supply of Judge foils is rarely large enough to move markets, so feel free to snag your Opals over the next couple of months if you can get a solid deal on them from someone who wants to upgrade their playset.