Welcome back guys (and gals)! There's a lot to talk about this week. We have new planeswalkers in M12, and I've got a news update on Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Let's start with our favorite but currently unemployed planeswalker, Jace TMS.
Jace Holds Strong
Once upon a time, I was an unknown quantity at the trade tables. I lived for those moments like the Jace banning because it yielded infinite profit. A shark has three best friends: the ignorant (this is his best friend), the unprepared, and the fearful. Back in the day, a banning like this would have sent droves of confused Magic players to tournaments with no information, no compass, and no clue about what the future would hold. Sure, there were a handful of players who knew what was up, but before I joined your side, there was no community voice saying stuff like:
“What should you do with your Jaces?” The answer is simple: don't sell them or trade them. They will go up. Stick them in your Commander decks until the time is right or loan them to a friend for Legacy until they go up. If you don't have Jaces, then yes, now is the time to buy them. If you try hard enough, you may even be able to get them for $50.
The point here (besides stroking my ego) is to compare how things used to work with how they work now. Before the MTG financial renaissance, a lot of players would have shipped their Jaces out of fear that that they would drop below $50. This would have forced a more severe price drop, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Vendors would have bought them at $20 until they were overstocked and then sold them cheaper to move some of the stock until Extended PTQ season when the price would spike again because of the high demand.
I'm happy to say that the Magic community is more educated now. There was only a small panic attack after the Jace banning. Vendors were not able to buy the amount of Jaces that they will need to meet demand. This is evident in the shift in the buy price. Last week, the buy price for Jace was $20; this week Star City Games is buying them for $30 each. It's only a matter of time before there is a buy-price fight, which will drive the buy price up along with the sale price. Keep this in mind and watch the buy prices when dealing with Jace in the coming weeks. If you want to buy Jaces low, you should act soon.
Jace, Garruk, and Chandra Take New Forms
All right, I know that everyone's sick of talking about Jace. Let's switch gears and talk about the new kids on the block. We can start by looking at the questions that we should ask to test a planeswalker's playability and its potential value. These questions aren't the “end all, be all.” Like everything in life, there are exceptions, but they will give us a good idea of the card's potential.
1) Does it cost four or less to cast? The exception here is Gideon Jura. He makes aggro decks impotent, and he protects all of your other planeswalkers; this kept him in the upper rung of playability and pricing.
2) Can it protect itself? Anyone who's dropped a Jace, the Mind Sculptor onto an empty board knows that the bounce ability just buries any chance that an opponent has of catching up. It's the protection ability that ensures that your mana investment doesn't go to waste. Koth of the Hammer is the exception here. He's a good planeswalker with a respectable price tag, and it doesn't have the ability to protect himself. He can however pseudo-protect himself by ramping you into an Inferno Titan or untapping a Mountain to leave open burn mana.
3) Will it see play in Legacy? This is the question that I added to the mix to help me gauge how high a planeswalker's price can go. So far, there are only three planeswalkers that have seen regular play in Legacy: Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Other planeswalkers like Ajani Vengeant, Garruk Wildspeaker, and Jace Beleren have all seen fringe play. Typically when a planeswalker sees play in Legacy, its price becomes more stable and lasting; Elspeth 1.0 is still a $15 card.
Jace, Memory Adept $34.99
People have really been whining about this card. Of course, he's not as good as Jace, the Mind Sculptor! It's going to be a while before we see a planeswalker with that level of power. Now that Jace TMS is gone, the ceiling for planeswalker power in Standard falls to Gideon Jura; Koth and Tezzeret are very powerful in certain decks, but they don't possess the raw power that Gideon does. Their applications are narrow. This is where Jace, Memory Adept falls. If Innistrad is a graveyard-based set like the rumors suggest, then I can see Jace, Memory Adept being a role player in a graveyard-based strategy in Standard. Where does he stand Pre-Innistrad? Let's run the questions on him.
1) Does it cost four or less? Nope.
2) Can it protect itself? No.
3) Will this see play in Legacy? Fat chance. The decks that want it, like Dredge, can't reasonably cast it.
The new Jace rates very low according to our questions. If he doesn't find a home in Standard, I don't expect him to keep that price tag for long. If he does find a home in Standard (it would probably be in a mill, Turbo Fog, or graveyard strategy), then his current price seems about right, give or take $5.
Garruk, Primal Hunter $29.99
This card is good. We know that because he makes a creature with his plus ability. The big problem that I have with this card is that he costs three green mana. That limits his playability to a mono-green deck. One of his abilities allows you to draw cards, which is a great ability, but the problem is that you're drawing green cards. Have you ever counted solely on green cards to win a game of Magic? It can be done, but it's miserable. Let's ask the important questions.
1) Does it cost four or less? No, though some would contend that five is really four, since it's green. I'll buy that.
2) Can it protect itself? Yes.
3) Will this see play in Legacy? No, blue is way too good in Legacy, and the Elf deck doesn't need this card to solve any of its issues.
There are people who want to put this in a Lotus Cobra deck like RUG or BUG; this seems fine, but it's not going to be a four-of. If this card only sees play as a one- or two-of in a Lotus Cobra deck, then $30 is too much for it. For it to be $30, it has to either be a three- to four-of in the best Standard deck or see a significant amount of Legacy play. It's not likely to see any Legacy play, but it could be in the best Standard deck. Now that mono-green has access to Dismember, it's definitely possible that a mono-green deck (or green with a white or red splash) could become the best deck. If that happens, then Garruk, Primal Hunter could go up to between $35–$40.
I wouldn't pre-buy this card now because all we have are possibilities, and it fails two of the three questions. The standard operating procedure for cards like this is to wait and see, or as Robocop would say, Do Not Engage.
Chandra, the Firebrand $29.99
Now this is a planeswalker that I can get behind! I hear people talking about trying to fit the new Chandra in a Koth deck, but this is a control planeswalker if I've ever seen one. The first ability will prove useful, but the second ability is insane! My first thought was to play this in a Grixis Control deck in Extended. How awesome would it feel to copy a Cruel Ultimatum? In Standard, you can cast Chandra on turn five with one mana up and copy a Dismember to kill two creatures.
Copying spells is a really powerful ability. Think about this card in the context of land destruction; on turn 5 you can kill two of their lands. You can also copy crazy things like Genesis Wave of Geosurge (turn 5 Emrakul?).
Don't even get me started on the proliferate factor. If you copy a Tezzeret's Gambit, then you draw four cards and lose no loyalty counters; Volt Charge is another sick option. Obviously I'm pretty excited about this card, but how does it stack up to the other questions?
1) Does it cost four or less? Yes
2) Can it protect itself? Kinda
3) Will this see play in Legacy? It has potential.
One of the main reasons that this could see Legacy play is because it only costs one red. It's the first truly splashable planeswalker (I'm not going to count Karn Liberated). It gets better as new and more awesome instants and sorceries are printed. I can go on and on about this one, but instead I'll just say this: I've been battling with the temptation to pre-order four of these at $30 all day. Pick these up. I expect them to see Tier 1 Standard play.
Before I get out of here for the week. Here are some cards that I think will be going up in the future.
Karn Liberated $14.99 – As the decks of Jaceless Standard are forming, U/B decks are starting to run Karn Liberated as a one-of. I expect to see more of Karn as Standard starts to unfold. There is no reason for this to be cheaper than Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker; he should at least be $20.
Phyrexian Metamorph $5.99 – This card was a promo, but it's popping up everywhere! It was in a Top 8 Merfolk list in Legacy recently. This card could easily hit $10 toward the end of its life in Standard. The perceived value on these is still low, but pretty soon people are going to start valuing them higher.
Hero of Bladehold / Oxid Ridge $5.99 – Hero of Bladehold has a new lease on life since the banning, and Hero of Oxid Ridge is already seeing play in Vampires. At the current price, both of these are worth picking up.
That's all I have for this week. You guys rock, have an awesome 4th of July!