Here we are again, at the verge of another set release. Over the last few sets I've been trying to find my groove for these set reviews. It's always awkward for me because Star City Games has the best minds in the game writing official set reviews for each set. Ben Bleiweiss has been doing this for years, and he puts out a solid review from a financial perspective. Patrick Chapin always draws up a prophetic analysis of how the set will impact the current formats. This leaves me wondering what I can bring to the table to help you increase the value of your collection.
I'm going to try something different for this set. Instead of doing an exhaustive card-by-card set review, I'm only going to talk about the top ten most relevant cards from a financial perspective. Doing it this way means that I get to skip listing a bunch of cards as bulk or giving obvious reviews of cards like: “Nevermore is like a Meddling Mage, but it's an enchantment so you can't kill it with creature removal.” When I say “relevant,” I mean cards that will both rise and drop in value; price drops are just as relevant to the financially minded as price spikes.
Unlike my previous set reviews I'm not going to use the “Engage / Do not Engage” classifications. Even though using this classification is awesome and fitting for cards that are already in circulation, it's not great for cards that are just hitting the market. When a set is first released, there's a high demand and a low supply of cards because the set has yet to be drafted or purchased. This situation causes the card prices to be inflated, which means that nearly every card will fall in price. We are going to try to unearth some gems today (cards that I think will rise in value), but let's get started with a card that I expect to drop in value.
10. Skaab Ruinator $22.49 (Down) – This little guy caused quite the stir on Twitter last week. The question was, “Is Skaab Ruinator in the Top 5 best cards of the set?” I don't think that he is, but he definitely belongs in the financially relevant section because the direction of his price is a polarizing topic. My buddies Patrick Chapin and Brian David-Marshall have a lot of faith in the 1UU fattie.
Their vote of confidence made me reevaluate my stance on the card; after all, when people like Chapin and BDM say that a card is one of the best, you have to take notice! I tried to mentally put this card on the same level with Liliana and Snapcaster Mage, but I just couldn't do it. The best-case scenario for this guy is that he sees play as a 2-3 of in the best version of the Birthing Pod deck, and that Birthing Pod is not only the best strategy but heavily dominant. I don't see that happening.
Think about the cards in Caw-Blade after the Jace and Stoneforge bannings. The two big mythic rares in the deck were Sword of Feast and Famine $29.99 (which is played in multiple formats) and Gideon Jura $15.99 (which was around $20 before it got reprinted). Currently, Sword of Feast and Famine is only $7.50 more than Skaab Ruinator; that doesn't seem right to me. Ruinator started at $10 then went to $20, then $25, and when it stopped selling, Star City Games backed it down to $22.50. That tells me that the demand is low, and once there is more supply, the price will drop. I expect it to land in the $8 range.
9. Geist of Saint Traft $14.99 (Up) – I've seen this card being put into “blade” variants as well as Puresteel Paladin decks. Part of what is appealing about this card is that you can use it in control and aggro decks. It's a good card, and it's selling pretty well at $12-$15 on eBay, but I have my reservations about saying that this card is going to go up in value because the overall value of Standard mythic rares is shifting. Let's look at the played mythic rares of the rotating Standard format:
The most expensive Mythic Rare is the Sword of Feast and Famine at $30. We don't live in the days of Jace, the Mind Sculptor where we have to buy four $100 planeswalkers to play Standard anymore. Since the ceiling is much lower, I need to consider carefully what will happen to new mythic rares entering the card pool. That being said, I expect Geist to jump to $20 before settling between $12 and $15.
Affected Cards – Angelic Destiny (Up)
8. Garruk Relentless $39.99 (Down) – Garruk is already selling at between $20 and $25 on eBay. This means that we can expect the price to fall on Star City Games; it's already come down on other online retailers. I expect the downward trend to continue until he sees some play in Standard, where he'll stabilize at about $18. We don't have a Standard metagame yet, but it's hard to believe that Garruk doesn't find a home in somewhere in the future meta. I could see him in a G/B Rock style deck that emphasizes control and creates pressure with planeswalkers. If we apply the typical rules for judging a planeswalker, then Garruk passes. He only costs four mana, and he can protect himself; typically that's all it takes for a walker to see play.
P.S. He had five abilities!
7. Tree of Redemption $3.99 (Up) – Whenever I see a cheap mythic, I always take notice. People have been writing this off as a cute trick, but with I think this will replace Obstinate Baloth in Birthing Pod decks. You can pick these up on eBay for less than $2, and that's about where Obstinate Baloth lived for his time in Standard. The difference is that this is a mythic rare. I expect this to take on a similar pricing pattern as Gaea's Revenge. That was a sideboard mythic that was for a specific matchup, and it hit $10 at one point. I think $10 is pretty optimistic for this card, but I could see it hitting $7 pretty easily.
6. Heartless Summoning $4.99 (Up) – This is like Lotus Cobra because It gives big mana decks an insane mana advantage. I could see this getting play in a BUG deck. It gives you a turn-four Titan, or if you have two out, it gives you two turn-four Titans. Yeah, I know that if you play Grave Titan then you lose your advantage, but what about Frost Titan? Acidic Slime? Consecrated Sphinx? All for two mana each! This card is very powerful, and I think that we're only scratching the surface. It also could enable a combo engine at some point in the future (maybe it already does). I could see this being up there with Birthing Pod in the $12 dollar range.
5. Laboratory Maniac $2.49 (Up) – When this guy was spoiled, Leveler saw a jump in price, and there was some excitement about the combo. It seems like now there's not a lot of excitement over the combo, and people have classified it as “bad.” I'm not so easily deterred from the idea. This card says “You win the game" on it, and it cost three mana. At the very least, there is a casual demand that is pressuring the market right now. If this combo is found to have competitive value, then we can expect the price of Maniac to double. In time I could see it hitting the Painter's Servant price range of $7.99. Keep an eye on this card.
4. Past in Flames $9.99 (Up) – When Wizards of the Coast banned Rite of Flame and my two favorite library manipulation spells (Ponder and Preordain) in Modern, I was a sad panda. Then they redeemed themselves and printed this card. The printing of this card gives their decision to ban Ponder, Preordain, and Rite of Flame more validity. Can you imagine Past in Flames in the same format as Ponder, Preordain, and Rite of Flame? Wait a second, isn't that the case in Legacy!? This card is really powerful, and I expect it to see play in The Epic Storm deck in Legacy. People are also talking about this card in High Tide and in Vintage. At $9.99 they seem appropriately priced for the level of play that I expect. However, if they end up being decent in Standard, then I can see this being a $15-$25 card.
Affected Cards – Lion's Eye Diamond
3. Stromkirk Noble $2.49 (Up) – I think this is one of the most underrated cards in the set. With the departure of Goblin Guide, red decks are going to need a one-drop. Grim Lavamancer would have been that guy if fetches had not rotated. Stromkirk Noble is pretty aggressive, and his pseudo evasion should not be overlooked. He's also a Vampire, so if that tribe makes a comeback, it's going to include four of these guys. My recommendation is to pick these guys up hardcore; it won't be long before they hit the $4-$5 range.
2. Liliana of the Veil $34.99 (Down) – This card is probably the toughest card in the set to evaluate. It doesn't look too powerful on paper, but it's deceptively powerful. At its worst, it's an edict, and at its best it's enabling a graveyard-based combo or locking your opponent (who is topdecking) out of the game. Its mana cost is low enough for it to see play in all formats, but I don't expect to see much of Liliana in Legacy or Vintage. I expect to see her a lot in Standard and some in Modern. Despite her goodness, planeswalker preorder prices are always inflated, and when you take into account that the highest mythic in Standard is $30, then we can't expect her to stay at her current price. I expect Liliana to follow the price pattern of Tezzeret. It might hit $40, but it will start descending into the $20 range.
1. Snapcaster Mage $29.99 (Up) – This is the chase rare of the set, and people have high hopes for this card. To understand this card, we need to understand the pricing of rares these days. I wrote an article a while back that described a certain kind of rare; I called it an Elite Rare. This is a fancy way of saying that the card will see play in multiple formats and keep its value. The Elite Rares concept was birthed after mythic rares started being printed. Before Stoneforge Mystic, the ceiling on Elite Rares was about $18 - $22. This was thanks to Noble Hierarch and Maelstrom Pulse. When Caw-Blade started dominating in Standard and Legacy, the price of Stoneforge Mystic skyrocketed. It eventually hit $30 and forged the new ceiling for Elite Rares. Now enters Snapcaster Mage; it's already hit the $30 mark, and it hasn't even been released yet.
The question is, “What's it going to do now?” Will it rise in value, drop, or stay the same? I expect it to at least stay above $15 for its life in Standard, but it will probably stay above $20. I have limited experience with the card, but after seeing it in action, I would put in a class that's only shared by four other cards: Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Stoneforge Mystic, and Vendilion Clique. This means that someday, I expect his price to be above $50. I have people who've offered me $40 apiece on these if I can hand deliver them to Indy for the SCG Open this weekend, so maybe $50 is not far away.
There are two land cycles in this set. The first is the M10 Enemy Duals, and the second is a cycle of lands that do stuff.
Gavony Township $1.99
Kessig Wolf Run $2.49
Moorland Haunt $3.49
Nephalia Drownyard $1.99
Stensia Bloodhall $1.25
This land cycle is undervalued at the moment. One of these cards is a $5+ card, and until the Standard meta shapes up, I can't tell you which one. My bet would be Stensia Bloodhall or Nephalia Drownyard.
Clifftop Retreat (UR) $5.99
Hinterland Harbor (UG) $6.99
Isolated Chapel (WB) $5.99
Sulfur Falls (UR) $6.99
Woodland Cemetery (GB) $7.99
I could see the enemy duals hitting $10 before States. These will be heavily played in Standard and will supplement the Ravnica duals in Modern. Pick the ones that you're going to play with up now.
Behind the Scenes
Before I get out of here, I'm going to leave you with the list of Innistrad cards that interested me while writing the top ten. Maybe you can glean some information from the list. At the very least, keep an eye on the cards that are on this list. These are all cards that I think have some potential or application that could affect their price. I'll also leave my notes so you can see my thoughts.
Garruk Relentless | Garruk, the Veil-Cursed $39.99
Geist of Saint Traft $14.99 – 6 Power for Three Mana
Liliana of the Veil $34.99
Past in Flames $9.99 – TES
Skaab Ruinator $22.49
Tree of Redemption $3.99
Rares With Potential
Bloodline Keeper | Lord of Lineage $3.99
Cackling Counterpart $2.99
Champion of the Parish $2.49
Daybreak Ranger | Nightfall $1.99
Heartless Summoning $4.99 - BUG
Laboratory Maniac $2.49 – Sensei's Diving Top to win that turn
Mentor of the Meek $4.99 – Awesome card, in the intro pack.
Sever the Bloodline $1.25
Snapcaster Mage $29.99
Undead Alchemist $1.25
Diregraf Ghoul .99
Fiend Hunter .99 – Up
Ghost Quarter $1.99 – Up
Invisible Stalker .99 – Up
Memory's Journey .49
Unburial Rites .99 – Up?
While writing these types of reviews, I always look at the intro packs to see what rares might suffer a price hit for increased circulation. Below is the intro pack with the rares that are in them.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy your release tournament this weekend!