I've been doing set reviews for about a decade now, and War of the Spark might be the most obviously powerful set I've ever previewed. Oh, sure, War of the Spark won't make the same kind of impact in Eternal play as New Phyrexia (thanks for being absurd, Phyrexian mana!), but this set has five or ten planeswalkers at rare that would have been powerful mythic rares in literally any other set. The financial impact of that decision is already starting to push all the prices in War of the Spark down. We'll get into it a bit later, but a card like Sarkhan the Masterless would usually pre-order at $15 as a mythic. In War of the Spark, it's a $3 rare.
Because of that, a lot of these cards are cheaper than they would be in almost every other set. After all, not every planeswalker can be $10+ if there are over a dozen good ones as well as tons of other powerful cards. This is worth keeping in mind throughout the rest of this set review, and I'll harp on it quite a bit today. That certainly doesn't mean that there aren't cards worth buying right now in War of the Spark – there are! You just have to remember that the context is a little different this time around.
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God - $25
It seems like I should have a lot to say about one of the most obviously powerful cards in War of the Spark, but I really don't. The only reason why Nicol Bolas's static ability isn't completely busted is that he already has three of the most powerful loyalty abilities in Standard, and probably the best +1 of all time. This is an absurd level of power for a five-mana planeswalker, and you don't need me to tell you that.
There are, of course, two problems with Nicol Bolas. The first is his mana cost, which is restrictive enough to prevent this card from seeing play outside of dedicated Grixis decks. The second is Nicol Bolas's price tag, which already has a large portion of its upside factored in.
You'll be hearing this argument a lot in this article, but I can certainly imagine Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God being a $50-$60 card if it were in a lesser set. That reality would also be contingent upon Grixis Control becoming a Tier 1 deck, of course, but that's a lot easier to imagine. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), War of the Spark is so chock-full of value that I can't see Nicol Bolas spending much time above the $25 mark. This is especially true since Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God is in War of the Spark Mythic Edition, which is going to keep the price down for quite some time (more on that a bit later).
So yeah. You can buy in if you want, but you're essentially paying top-of-the-market prices for a card that may or may not be the Tier 1 flagship mythic that we all think Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God is likely to be. I'm a fan, but I was also a fan of Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. The safe move is to stay away for now.
Gideon Blackblade - $20
In terms of seeing high-level competitive play, Gideon Blackblade is one of the surest bets in War of the Spark. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how good he's going to be because his mana cost is so cheap and his abilities are all so obviously solid. A 4/4 indestructible attacker for three mana is a great deal. The fact that you can use his loyalty ability while attacking with him (instead of either/or like with previous Gideons) is also excellent. He's somewhat protected on your turn if your aggro start doesn't pan out, and his minus ability is both powerful and achievable. You don't need to warp your entire deck around Gideon if you want to play with him, either. You just need to combine him with some white creatures that want to attack.
Gideon's long-term price will depend on how powerful War of the Spark ends up being, and I can imagine a world in which he's down in the $10-$12 range for a little while because there are so many other great cards – especially with War of the Spark Mythic Edition in play here as well. Even still, Gideon has a higher floor and a higher ceiling than most cards in the set. If you're planning to play with Gideon at SCG Richmond, you might as well snag your copies at current retail. I expect it to remain in the $20 range for a while.
Finale of Devastation - $15
Anyone who has ever played a ramp deck knows the pain of drawing the wrong half of your deck at the wrong time. Draw too many ramp spells and you'll have nothing to threaten your opponent. Draw too many threats and you won't have any way to cast them.
Finale of Devastation, much like Green Sun's Zenith, helps mitigate this problem. It's probably a little too slow for Modern, but it's a four-of in any sort of ramp deck that shows up in Standard as well as a Commander staple from now until the end of time. It is this last point that excites me the most about Finale of Devastation, since it should keep the card at a relatively high price floor for years to come.
Even still, $15 is just too much to pay for this card right now. It doesn't automatically slot into one of the format's extant top decks and it's just a borderline playable card in Modern. I feel like it has a nice long-term profile and it might have had a shot at maintaining a $15 price tag if it were in a less powerful set, but in War of the Spark we're probably looking at a $5-$7 card.
Finale of Promise - $10
Why is every card in War of the Spark so good?
While I've heard plenty of buzz about Finale of Promise alongside cards like Living End and Ancestral Vision in Modern, the fact that this card seems tailor-made for Arclight Phoenix is the biggest reason for optimism here. Granted, Finale of Promise requires you to jump through a hoop before it does anything, which is always a red flag, but the specific hoop of "have an instant and a sorcery in your graveyard" isn't that hard to pull off. Instants are everywhere, especially in the Arclight Phoenix decks where Finale of Promise is likely to shine the brightest. Chart a Course and Lava Coil are solid sorceries to target in Standard Izzet Phoenix, while Faithless Looting and Serum Visions can play that role in Modern.
It's certainly possible that Finale of Promise doesn't pan out due to how weak it is early on, or in games when you can't achieve velocity with your spells. I doubt it, though. This seems like a multi-format staple to me, and I suspect it'd be a $20 card in a lesser set. As is, $10 seems like a fairly stable figure as long as it sees even a whiff of play in Modern.
Finale of Revelation - $6
At instant speed, Finale of Revelation would likely become one of the cornerstones of the new Standard format. At sorcery speed, however, I'm not convinced it'll see any play at all. It certainly can draw cards at a better rate than Hydroid Krasis, but it doesn't provide any of that crucial battlefield presence. And it can certainly draw more cards than Chemister's Insight, but that leaves you tapped out and vulnerable. At five mana, this is just a sorcery-speed Jace's Ingenuity. Does the fact that it scales up beyond that really make it worth playing? I'm guessing no. Future bulk mythic.
Finale of Glory - $5
I'm not sure Finale of Glory will see much Constructed play. It's not as strong as March of the Multitudes in a dedicated tokens decks, and the aggressive white strategies tend to run cheaper spells. Finale of Glory is obviously absurd if you can ramp to twelve mana, but that's not really something you can count on, especially since the front half of this card plays better in a deck that wants to attack early and often. The fact that this is a token generator with a ton of late-game potential means that Commander players will want a copy, giving it some nice long-term value. In the interim, however, I expect this to be a $2-$3 mythic.
Finale of Eternity - $4
In the right game state, Finale of Eternity is backbreaking. Even before getting to ten mana, paying something like six mana to wipe out a 4/4 and a couple of 3/3s while maintaining your own battlefield state is pretty dang powerful. My worry is that this sort of game won't come around often enough to warrant playing Finale of Eternity over either a typical sweeper or less conditional targeted removal. Creature-light control decks certainly don't want Finale of Eternity, nor will aggro decks. I see it as more of a powerful sideboard option in black-based midrange, which means that it'll see play but probably not become an expensive card. $5 is fair if you need a couple of copies, but I expect it to end up closer to $2 or $3.
Niv-Mizzet Reborn - $4
Niv-Mizzet Reborn is now one of the best five-color Commanders out there, especially for casual players who want to jam a lot of multicolored cards into their deck. Because of this, foils should maintain a 4-5x multiplier instead of the usual 2x. If you're going to speculate on Niv-Mizzet Reborn at all, that's the way you'll want to go. Otherwise, we're talking about a future bulk mythic.
Ugin, the Ineffable - $8
I talked to a bunch of Modern Mono-Green Tron players right after Ugin, the Ineffable was previewed, and I'm still not certain how good this card will be in any of that deck's variants. Several of the players I spoke to are very excited about Ugin, while others are fairly certain that it's trying to solve problems that don't really exist. It's certainly worse than either of the two large colorless planeswalkers that those decks run now, but the fact that it's just six mana means that it might see play as a potential third option, especially for providing velocity in games when assembling Tron is slightly more difficult.
Ugin's utility in Standard will depend on whether there is some sort of Tezzeret-based artifact deck near the top of the metagame. War of the Spark has provided us with quite a few tools, but only time will tell if they end up being enough. Ugin, the Ineffable certainly has the power level to get there, and I love the fact that Ugin can kill pretty much anything, protect itself, and provide you with card advantage. Ugin is colorless, too, which means that it might see play in multiple top decks. As you well know, that can be key to a card's future price.
Ugin's floor is probably in the $5-$6 range, so $8 seems like a decent buy-in if you want to play around with the powerful planeswalker. It's not a slam-dunk spec by any means, but it's one of the few sub-$10 cards in the set with a real chance at ending up being a $20-$25 card at some point in the future. Snag a few copies now if you're a believer.
Blast Zone - $6
I'd be absolutely gobsmacked if Blast Zone doesn't end up being one of War of the Spark's most useful and omnipresent cards. It might not be too powerful in Standard, where decks in three or more colors can't really run this, but it should be enough to cause fits for Mono-Blue Aggro as well as some of the aggressive red and white decks. It'll see play, but it probably won't be format-warping or anything.
In the non-rotating formats, however, Blast Zone will have a chance to truly shine. There are a lot of threats at one and two mana in Modern and Legacy, which Blast Zone will have no problems taking down. The opportunity cost here is just so low; it's a single land, and it doesn't even enter the battlefield tapped!
If Blast Zone were in a worse set, I'd predict a $12 price tag. As is, I think $6-$8 is pretty reasonable, though it might spend a few months around $3-$4 if it doesn't end up doing much in Standard. Either way, this is a card with a very strong long-term future. You're going to want to make sure you snag a playset at some point.
The Elderspell - $5
The Elderspell is a massive flavor win, especially since you can use it in combination with Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God to win the game out of nowhere. In terms of competitive play, however, The Elderspell is going to be hugely metagame-dependent. It's quite good in an environment where planeswalkers are everywhere, but close to unplayable if things shape up more aggressively.
Based on what I've seen so far, I believe The Elderspell will see some sideboard play out of decks like Grixis and Esper Control. My guess is that this card will settle in closer to the $2 range, and you probably shouldn't buy in at current retail.
Narset's Reversal - $3
While Narset's Reversal probably isn't going to replace Remand in most of the decks that run Remand, it's actually better in some contexts. Against hand disruption, for example, Narset's Reversal truly shines. I expect it'll see at least a little bit of play in Modern for that reason.
In Standard, I'm not sure Narset's Reversal makes the cut over Dovin's Veto. Granted, this card is a good counter to Dovin's Veto, and it can see play in decks that run blue but not white (Grixis Control?), but I still feel like this is more of a fringe player than a format staple. As such, I expect we'll see the price stabilize at or around $1-$2, and I'm not going to buy in at current retail.
Sarkhan the Masterless is one of the most powerful planeswalkers in War of the Spark, and I'm not sure where there hasn't been more hype for him yet. Perhaps we've reached planeswalker fatigue? Either way, we're talking about a card that can make a 4/4 Dragon the turn you cast it, remain at four loyalty, and then turn itself into a second 4/4 Dragon the next turn, allowing you to swing in for eight evasive damage across two creatures. That's an excellent rate, and it reminds me of previous Standard powerhouses like Wingmate Roc and Broodmate Dragon. Sarkhan the Masterless is a little more vulnerable than either of those creatures was, but it also has the ability to stick around and generate additional Dragons for you if all goes well.
While I don't know if Sarkhan the Masterless will find the perfect new deck right away, I do expect it to slot right into Gruul Midrange, replacing Skarrgan Hellkite. If that deck overperforms at SCG Richmond, this could be one of the key early gainers out of War of the Spark. Regardless, $3 seems like a steal. Grab Sarkhan now.
Spark Double - $2
Four-mana Clones rarely see competitive Constructed play, and I doubt Spark Double becomes the exception to that rule. I can't imagine there's a creature or planeswalker where the extra counter is a game-changer, though it is nice that your copied critter will almost always outclass the original.
Regardless, this is going to be a pretty solid casual staple for a long time, and I can also imagine it ending up spiking once or twice due to a weird Saffron Olive brew or other rogue strategy catching fire. I'll probably be looking to buy in once it drops below $1 and hold onto it until one of those hype cycles kicks into gear.
Bioessence Hydra - $2
Bioessence Hydra feels like the very definition of a win-more card to me. It's very underwhelming on an empty battlefield, especially for five mana, but it gets big fast if you've got a ton of planeswalkers in your deck that you think you can get to stick around.
Perhaps there's room for a card like Bioessence Hydra in a world where planeswalkers operate more like utility enchantments, which could be the fate of the format post-War of the Spark, but even then I'm not sure that a creature without a solid enters-the-battlefield ability, death trigger, or resilience to removal spells is going to see any play. Trample is nice, but otherwise Bioessence Hydra is just...big. I don't think that's enough. Future bulk rare.
I don't think Tamiyo, Collector of Tales is going to be one of the major Constructed powerhouses that comes out of War of the Spark, but I have to believe that she's going to be one of the most popular cards in the set among casual Jennies/Johnnies and other brewers looking to put a complex engine together in Standard. In a fast and reactive game, you're basically just looking at a four-mana Regrowth. If you can find a way to play the game on your own terms, however, Tamiyo's super-high starting loyalty will make her a total pain to deal with and you'll be able to use her as card selection and targeted draw multiple times.
Financially, I can see a world where Tamiyo breaks $10 and ends up being a three-of or four-of in a really powerful Bant, Temur, or Simic deck. I don't think she fits into the current Sultai Midrange lists, so we'd be looking at something like Bant or Temur Reclamation. Her static ability is also solid against Mardu Aristocrats and Grixis Control, so she'll see more play if those decks rise to prominence as well. If this is where you think the format is heading, it's worth snagging a few copies now for just $2. Worst case, the new Standard meta is too aggressive and you're looking at a $1-$2 casual card. Best case, you've hit on one of the set's breakout rares.
Casualties of War - $2
I can't think of too many six-mana sorceries with mana costs this restrictive that I'd expect to see play, but Casualties of War is pretty absurd. How much play it sees will depend a lot on how many artifacts and enchantments end up kicking around the metagame, and I can easily imagine this as a one-of or two-of in Golgari based decks, either maindeck or sideboard. It's also going to be a very popular card in Commander going forward. There's a shot that Casualties of War ends up at $4-$5 for a while if everything breaks right, but my guess is that it'll end up in the bulk rare range with occasional spikes toward $2-$3.
Soul Diviner - $1.50
My gut reaction is that Soul Diviner isn't good enough for high-level competitive play. A 2/3 for UB just isn't all that powerful and tapping it to draw cards isn't a high enough upside to run a bunch of random permanents with counters on them. That said, if there's a deck that runs a bunch of utility 'walkers, Blast Zone, and maybe a few other permanents with counters anyway, and that deck is based in blue and black, I can imagine Soul Diviner seeing play.
That's a lot of maybes for very little financial upside, though, because this card would only be $3-$4 in a scenario like that anyway. Very cool design, but I'm expecting it to be a future bulk rare.
Deliver Unto Evil - $1
I don't love Deliver Unto Evil, though I do love the art. The problem here is two-fold. First, if you're untapping with Nicol Bolas on the battlefield, you probably don't need a ton of additional help. Second, Nicol Bolas decks are already going to be running blue, and there are several better card draw options in blue right now. It's possible that a black deck somewhere is going to want an unconditional Regrowth, which this card can be, but I still expect it to be a future bulk rare.
Commence the Endgame - $1
Commence the Endgame is an outstanding mirror-breaker in control. It's not very versatile, and it doesn't do much if your hand is already fairly empty, but it is an uncounterable draw spell attached to a 5/5 or a 6/6 in the grindiest matchups. I expect it to see some sideboard play, which should keep it in the $1-$2 range.
The fact that Enter the God-Eternals can't be cast without a target probably relegates it to sideboard duty, but there's a lot of value to be had here. "Deal four damage, gain four life, get a 4/4 and either mill some Zombies into my 'yard or mill away your God-Eternal" seems like a solid deal to me, and I can't imagine that Enter the God-Eternals won't see play as long as God-Eternal Kefnet or God-Eternal Bontu ends up being part of the metagame. With the overall power level of War of the Spark as high as it is, though, my guess is that we're looking at a $1-$3 utility player. Feel free to snag these if you want to use them, but their financial upside is limited.
Silent Submersible - $1
Remember when Smuggler's Copter was pre-ordering for $2 and we didn't realize just how amazing it was? It was silly then, and it's even sillier now that we can see a "fixed" version in Silent Submersible. The lack of evasion alone makes this card more or less unplayable, but crew 2 is a very real cost, as is the UU that's required to put this thing onto the battlefield in the first place. Future bulk rare.
Command the Dreadhorde has an incredibly powerful effect, but the loss of life is going to be too much outside of a dedicated lifegain deck. I feel like you're going to have to combine this with too many sub-par cards for it to be worth it in all but the most casual contexts. Future bulk rare.
This Week's Trends
You already know what's headlining the trends section this week, right? It can only be War of the Spark Mythic Edition, featuring Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon along with two of the better 'walkers from War of the Spark as well as a couple of other solid pulls in Nahiri, the Harbinger and Tezzeret the Seeker.
Should you buy it when it goes on sale for $250? Well, right now, Guilds of Ravnica Mythic Edition sells for about $600 on eBay, while the comparatively lackluster Ravnica Allegiance Mythic Edition sells for about $300. Based on this, buying War of the Spark Mythic Edition feels like one of the biggest no-brainers of all time. I mean, that Guilds of Ravnica Mythic Edition price tag is the absolute worst-case, right? People were bummed about the lack of top-tier inclusions in that set as well as how much larger the available supply was, and you can still get your money back for that one at literally any time. I mean, heck, it's a set with Jace and Ugin in it. If you're in the US, log onto eBay on Wednesday, May 1st at 3pm Eastern Time and buy both of the copies that WotC lets you purchase. It's free money, and you'll thank me later.
Will War of the Spark Mythic Edition cause either Ugin or Jace to drop in price? Probably not. 12,000 additional copies hitting the market seems like a pretty large influx of available supply, but it's really not, and previous mythic editions didn't really cause any significant price drops. It'll probably stop Jace from continuing to climb in value, and it might hurt the value of the Standard planeswalkers like Gideon and Nicol Bolas a little, but I wouldn't expect any major adjustments here.
Also announced by WotC this week: Signature Spellbook: Gideon. This one will be in big box stores, and it contains some pretty interesting cards:
- Rest in Peace - $13
- Path to Exile - $11
- Worship - $10
- Martyr's Bond - $9
- Gideon Jura - $2.50
- Shielded By Faith - $2
- True Conviction - $2
- Blackblade Reforged - $0.60
Considering the fact that Signature Spellbook: Gideon will be readily available for about $20, it's unlikely that there will be four cards in it close to the $10 mark by this point next month. Personally, I'd expect Rest in Peace and Path to Exile to maintain price tags in that area, while Worship and Martyr's Bond to have their price cut in half at least. Whenever sets like these come out, the cards with the most demand tend to hold their value best. In this case, that's the two most common Modern staples.
Moving on to the week's movers and shakers, most of the Magic community has been laser-focused on War of the Spark. Because of that, there haven't been too many major spikes in either Standard or Modern. I do want to highlight the fact that the three big casual and Eternal reprints in Core Set 2019 – Scapeshift, Crucible of Worlds, and Death Baron – are all still on the move. These three cards were always going to rebound at some point after the set stopped being opened, and that movement has gotten more intense over the past couple of weeks. This is your last chance to snag these three cards as long-term specs – the train is about to leave the station.
I expect the Modern market to be fairly quiet between now and the start of Modern Horizons previews, though we don't actually have to wait all that long. In the meantime, most of the biggest spikes this week have been due to Commander demand. Celestial Kirin spiked from bulk up to almost $20 this week (that price won't last) because it can blow up all the lands on the battlefield combined with Ugin's Conjurant. Sen Triplets is up thanks to low supply and, I assume, Commander interactions with some of the new cards in War of the Spark – that one's likely to stick. Balefire Liege (okay) and Crimson Wisps (what?) spiked thanks to Feather, the Redeemed. Both of those are coming back down, with Crimson Wisps likely to be forgotten entirely in a couple of days.
Lastly, Scrying Sheets gained about $8 this week thanks to rumors that snow permanents and snow lands will be returning in Modern Horizons. I've heard those rumors myself, and from some fairly reliable sources, but this is still a risky spec, since you're not picking up Scrying Sheets for less than $20 at this point and it might itself be reprinted. At this point, though, I'd probably hold off for a few weeks and hope that the snow theme (if it is actually in Modern Horizons) is previewed before any potential Scrying Sheets reprint.