You may not know it, but my favorite format is Legacy. It's the first format that I learned to play, and I've always enjoyed the depth of Legacy. I love the fact that no matter what's happening on the board there's always hope that you can pull one out. One of my favorite Legacy games was against my buddy Eugene.
Before I became the Yoda of value trading, I used to play a lot of Magic (at least four times a week). I'd become the best player at my local shop (that's not saying much, since the shop was located in Vermont), and my winning streak was something like twelve weeks in a row. It was my last tournament at that store (because I was moving to Ohio), and Eugene was itching to send me to Ohio with an ass kicking.
I was running a Brainstorm / Force of Will deck, and Eugene was playing mono-black with Nantuko Shades and discard spells. He played this every week, and for this tournament, I expected him to change decks to throw me off my game. He didn't change decks, and as fate would have it, Eugene and I met in the finals. The match went to game three, and after some hits from a Nantuko Shade, I was stabilizing at five life. I sent the Shade farming with my Swords to Plowshares, and I was sitting on a Force of Will, a blue card, and a Lightning Bolt to his empty board. I was sure that I had the game locked up.
He drew his card and cracked a smile. I searched my brain for what topdeck could save him. I couldn't think of anything. At this point, there were only two cards in his hand. He tapped both his Cabal Coffers and added sixteen mana to his pool.
“Demigod of Revenge.” He said in his best I-just-won-the-game voice.
What?! This is Legacy; what kind of card is that! I thought this to myself in my moment of dumbfoundedness.
Eugene invaded my moment by asking, “Any responses, Medina?”
“After the Demigod trigger resolves, I'll Force the Demigod.”
He sat up in his chair and said, “Okay, Demigod of Revenge.”
“Another one!” I was a little tilted. (And by little I mean full-blown.)
“Demigod trigger on the stack. Responses?” He asked.
He knew he had me. After a twelve-week winning streak, I lost the last Legacy tournament to double Demigod of Revenge. This is what Legacy is about! It's about seeing something new and playing with the cards you love.
That's what Felix Lapan did with his Pattern of Rebirth in the GP Providence grinders. That's right. Even before the GP started, innovation was in the air. I want to talk about Felix's deck for two reasons.
1) It gives us a good basis to talk about “systems.
2) There are a lot of people interested in building this deck.
- 1 Academy Rector
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Body Double
- 1 Carrion Feeder
- 1 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Mogg Fanatic
- 2 Protean Hulk
- 1 Reveillark
- 1 Starved Rusalka
- 1 Tinder Wall
- 1 Viscera Seer
- 1 Wall of Roots
- 1 Wild Cantor
- 1 Xantid Swarm
- 1 Progenitus
- 2 Dryad Arbor
The card to watch here is Pattern of Rebirth. This card has the most to gain from the success of this deck because it's widely unplayed at the moment. To understand the price trend for a card like Pattern of Rebirth, you have to understand the card flow behind the scenes.
The Flow of Card Sales
When the demand for a card is low, then dealers don't buy the card. It's not on their buy list (nor should it be) because there's no outlet for it. This leads to dealers having low stock of an unpopular card whose stock sits until a) it gets bought out slowly by casual players or b) a deck like this breaks out; then players and speculators quickly buy the stock out. This triggers the stores to put the breakout card on the buy list in order to meet the sudden demand. In this case, Pattern of Rebirth has been added to the StarCityGames.com buy list at $1. The price spike depends on the level of demand and the rate that a store is able to restock. In this case, it seems like the demand is small. StarCityGames.com is sold out of foils and NM copies but still has SP ones in stock. If the demand were large, then there would be none in stock, and the buy price would be higher than one dollar.
This is good information, but it doesn't answer the fundamental question that you as the reader would want to know. “Should I pick up Pattern of Rebirth?”
The answer for now is “No.”
The reason why is because there are still copies out there that can be bought for cheap, and there's a large number of them in the hands of speculators. What's going to happen next is that the deck will go into the brew machine. People are going to start running it on Magic Online (if the cards are available) and at the SCG Legacy Opens. Its viability will be tested, and it will either prove itself as a contender or fall by the wayside (to be resurrected someday and win a GP). If the deck doesn't prove itself after a month or two, then the speculators will start selling their copies to dealers to recoup some of their money. When the dealers restock, the card will be removed from the buy list.
The other way that this could go is that the deck might win an SCG Open, which will prompt the players on the circuit to try the deck; this will drive the demand and the buy price on the card. Speculators will sell their copies and flood the market. If the deck becomes “the best deck” (I doubt that it will due to the level of skill that it takes to pilot), then the demand will soak up the flood and drive the price up even further. If it's not the best deck, then the flood will saturate the market, and price correction will occur.
Something to consider about these breakout decks is that they often require staples that have already made a name for themselves in Legacy. For example, in this deck, you see cards like Ancient Tomb, Natural Order, and Sylvan Library. This deck's performance is not going to drive these prices higher, but I always consider staples that are in multiple decks over other staples because they have more relevance to more players.
A card like Natural Order is played in Elves, NO Progenitus decks, and now in this Protean Hulk deck. How many Natural Orders do I have in my trade binder? None. Every time that I get one, someone trades me an arm and a leg for it. The same goes for cards like Ancient Tomb and Sylvan Library.
You should consider this for cards that you are trading for. There are a lot of factors that go into defining a card's desirability, but a simple exercise that you can do is assign points to cards, based on the where the cards see play. For each format in which it's played, give the card two points, then one point for each deck that plays it (no deck points if it's only in the sideboard). Let's do this exercise with two cards, Standstill and Stoneforge Mystic.
Sees play in Legacy +2 Points
Sees play in Merfolk +1 Point
Sees play in Landstill +1 Point
4 Points Total
Sees play in Standard +2 Points
Sees play in Caw-Blade +1 Point
Sees play in Legacy +2 Points
Sees play in U/W +1 Point
Sees play in Junk +1 Point
Sees play in Bant +1 Point
Sees play in B/W +1 Point
9 Points Total
We could be sticklers about this stuff, but the point of the exercise is to define a card's desirability. Based on this exercise, you can see that a Stoneforge Mystic is about two times more desirable than a Standstill. Keep in mind that this does not factor things like supply into the mix; there are more Stoneforges available (especially after the Event Decks) to meet the current need. When trading for cards, you need to calculate all of these factors.
Before we wrap up for the day, I want to introduce this topic of systems. When analyzing tournament results, I always look for what I call systems; it's basically a combination of cards that are typically played together. In this deck, I see two systems that I want to talk about, besides the obvious engine that the deck is based on, with Protean Hulk, Reveillark, and Body Double. The first is Cabal Therapy plus Gitaxian Probe.
Cabal Therapy + Gitaxian Probe: This one is subtle, but it's very powerful. I've seen this in other combo decks, and I expect it to see more play in Legacy as decks that can take advantage of it start to pop up. You may also see cards like Meddling Mage added to the mix. This means that Cabal Therapy (which is already a hot card) will be in higher demand. This also means that foil Gitaxian Probes will also be in demand. Keep an eye out for this system in other decks.
Green Sun's Zenith + Dryad Arbor: This system includes much more than just Green Sun's Zenith and Dryad Arbor, but the Dryad Arbor is what gives this system depth. It allows you to use Green Sun's Zenith as a creature toolbox and a ramp spell. Green Sun's Zenith also allows you to navigate around cards like Spell Snare and Mental Misstep, which are both very prevalent in the format.
Dryad Arbor is sold out on StarCityGames.com at $2, and when I value the card at $2 to $2.50 at the trade tables, my trade partner never blinks an eye. You should try to pick up as many as possible; between the interactions with Natural Order and Green Sun's Zenith, this card is sure to steadily climb.
Green Sun's Zenith is becoming a strong strategy in Legacy, and I expect it to be in Standard next season as well. This is what I would call an Elite Rare, and even though it's in an Event Deck, I still think the ceiling on this card is $10.
Next week, I want to look at the different systems in the Top 8 decks of GP Providence and talk about what hidden gems can be found. I'll leave you with three hot pickups for the week, and I'll talk to you next Monday.
Batterskull: Okay, so wherever Stoneforge Mystic is viable, so is this card! This card is dominating Legacy and Standard, and I can see it increasing in value. StarCityGames.com is currently sold out at $25.
Spellskite: This is seeing play in Legacy Goblin Welder decks. I think the applications for this card are not fully realized yet, and it's here to stick around in multiple formats for a while.
Dark Confidant: This guy sees as much play as Tarmogoyf, if not more. Its foil is $100, and somehow he's still only worth $20? This is sold out on SCG at $20 and sold out on CFB at $30. This is going to be a $40+ card; trade for them at $20 while you still can.
Thanks for reading!