The hype behind Return to Ravnica is outstanding.
A few months ago I went on Twitter and stated that I strongly believed Return to Ravnica would go down as the best-selling Magic set of all time. I stand by that prediction and I'd make a cash bet to back those words up were such a thing legal and available. This thing is gonna be huge folks so strap in.
There are a few financial trends that generally come to pass when a set is very successful. The first is that preorder prices tend to start high and trend even higher as anticipation raises demand. The second is that the prices stay high longer than expected after the set's release—generally for six weeks to two months instead of the usual month that prices stay hot. The third is that eventually the prices come down lower than they normally would simply because the card supply is far greater than normal.
I realize that I'm beating a dead horse but here's your quarterly reminder: preordering cards is generally a poor financial decision. Unless you've identified a bulk rare of a sub-$4 mythic that you think will be a sleeper hit the smart money is on 95% of cards in a given set going down in price over the first six months of Standard legality.
For example here's a card that I think is stupidly overvalued:
Okay so it's kind of a scalable Blightning that's not so good on the low end and a lot better if you have a bunch of mana to sink into it. This isn't a bad card by any stretch but I don't see it fitting into any existing decks and we simply don't know yet if the Standard metagame is going to be conducive to a card like this. Patrick Chapin seems to like it which bodes well but this card will only justify its current $15 price tag if everything breaks exactly right for it.
I think I know the real reason why this card has jumped so high:
Remember when Elspeth Tirel and Koth of the Hammer presold for $50? That was a direct response to Jace the Mind Sculptor's ludicrous price tag. With so many people trying to avoid missing 'the next Jace' people paid way too much for a couple of cards that had a superficial resemblance to the card they missed the boat on. I'm pretty sure if Rakdos's Return wasn't a mythic red X spell in a post-Bonfire world we wouldn't have seen such an insane climb in value.
Another cycle of cards people are a little too hot on:
While a couple of these might hit $12-$15 on a great day the rest of them should settle comfortably in the $8-$10 range. Remember that there weren't mythic rares last time these were printed—the shocks are more analogous to the Zendikar fetchlands except that there are already thousands of them kicking around. I wouldn't be shocked if these stay in the ~$15 range for a little while because many people will be really excited to nab their sets immediately but they should come down a bit after that. If you can wait to pick them up do so.
I'll get into the cards I like more when I do my set review but so far Chromatic Lantern is easily my favorite card in the set. It's a Cube and Commander staple that is probably good enough for Constructed formats as well—a brand new Coalition Relic. Casual demand for this card is going to be heavy and I love it as a long-term pickup.
At any rate the public's love of Ravnica should keep the inflationary hype window open longer than average. This makes trading for Ravnica cards at the prerelease a better-than-average proposition as I believe you'll have a good chance to move those cards for value.
Of course if you really want to play things right you'll immediately trade your brand new Return to Ravnica goodies for a much more lucrative commodity: Innistrad cards.
From a hype perspective Innistrad cards are about to become yesterday's news. People will be fawning over shocklands and new Jaces and forget all about the fact that there is a whole second block of Standard legal cards that will be required to build decks over the next year or so. While you've probably missed the boat on some of Innistrad block's risers there's still a chance to pick up a bunch of great cards at deflationary prices.
Here are some of the cards I expect will make an impact over the next few months:
Liliana of the Veil - $22.00 and climbing slowly.
The Black Lotus Project chart for Liliana shows a slight uptick over the last month and I expect that trend to continue. She is still probably the best Standard planeswalker and I wouldn't be shocked if her discard ability plays well with a yet-to-be-spoiled Golgari card. Even if that doesn't happen we're only a few months away from Orzhov and Dimir as well.
Garruk Relentless - $12.00 and stable.
I've been beating the Garruk Relentless drum for months now. He performed exceptionally well in Block Constructed and has been undervalued all summer. There's a spot for him in Standard and I see a possible $5-$8 climb in his future if everything works out.
Sulfur Falls - $8.00 and climbing fast.
Let's take a moment and talk about this entire cycle of lands.
Over the past month they've doubled in price mostly because people have started to realize just how good they are in conjunction with the Ravnica shocklands. We're also about to lose the Scars block fastlands and fixing tends to be more important in heavy multicolored formats.
That said the reason that some of the fastlands were in the $20 range last winter was because they were the best pieces of fixing in a set that was already year old. This time around these cards are going to be overshadowed by the Ravnica shocklands and casual players will have an easier time getting cards from the cycle that is far more powerful. Because of that I don't think these cards will have the price jump that their predecessors did.
That said I fully expect each of them to spend at least a week or two in the double digits. Izzet is one of the guilds in Return to Ravnica and I expect this card to be in the $10-$12 range for much of the fall. The 'out of favor' lands will probably stay in the $8 range while the hotter lands may jump up to $15 on a good day. I would have no problem trading for these at $8 right now if I needed them for my personal collection but I wouldn't pay that price in cash as an investment—the ship has sailed to speculate on these.
Woodland Cemetery - $7.00 and climbing fast.
Golgari is the other enemy-colored guild in the first set which is why I think that these two Innistrad lands have the highest immediate upside. Isolated Chapel still has the highest price tag but I expect that to change…and least for a few months.
Stromkirk Noble - $2.00 and stable.
If the hyper-aggressive Rakdos decks are real they're probably going to need a one-drop. I still like this card more than the overrated Vexing Devil—he's not Goblin Guide by any stretch but the price will jump to $5 overnight if it starts to see any real play. This is kind of a stealth play but it's worth considering.
Falkenrath Aristocrat - $10.00 and climbing fast.
This card has done nothing but rise in price all summer. As a small set mythic I don't think it's come close to its ceiling yet either. If those Rakdos decks are as good as people seem to think isn't the Aristocrat going to be a major part of that? And wouldn't this older small set mythic then become far pricier than its current large set counterparts? This card could hit $15-$20 easily especially early on in the new metagame when aggro decks tend to dominate.
Drogskol Reaver - $2.00 and climbing slowly.
The Titans are about to rotate and all of the fatties from Scars block are going to leave with them. Wurmcoil Engine Elesh Norn Grand Cenobite…they're yesterday's news. Drogskol Reaver might not be pretty but it's certainly powerful and happens to fit nicely in a slow Azorius deck. Could we be looking at the next Consecrated Sphinx?
Geralf's Messenger - $8.00 and climbing fast.
Can a triple black card survive in a guild-dominated world? I'm not sure but the Messenger has proven resilient so far. All I can say is that this is the single card I've been asked for the most at FNM over the past several weeks. Zombies will likely start the new Standard as the dominant deck so plan accordingly and sell your set of these if it stops putting up results in the new format.
Thalia Guardian of Thraben - $5.00 and climbing slowly.
Had you realized this card was back up to $5? She had kind of slipped off my radar but I'm putting her right back on. One of the more versatile 'hate bears' Thalia is great in a slower or a more uncertain metagame. Look for her to shine early in the new Standard.
Lingering Souls - $2.50 and stable/falling slowly.
Lingering Souls has fallen out of favor recently but that won't last long—Orzhov is coming in a few short months and Lingering Souls will spike in popularity then. Further you can still find these in trade for $1 to $1.50 a lot of the time making them a cheap and potentially lucrative pickup.
Hellrider - $1.50 and falling.
If aggressive Rakdos decks need additional four-drops I still think this guy might see his day in the sun. At $1.50 each I'm going to make sure I have a couple of playsets stashed just in case.
Bonfire of the Damned - $50.00 and stable/climbing slowly.
For months now people have been asking me if we had reached the ceiling on this card. Finally mercifully I think we finally have. Bonfire of the Damned is amazing but enough decks can win without it that I don't see it going above $50. If you have any spare copies lying around feel free to sell or trade them next weekend.
Of course I don't see this card tanking anytime soon. Rakdos's Return is no replacement though Mizzium Mortars isn't bad in a pinch. No card is quite like Bonfire though so players who really want to compete will need to get them somehow. That alone should keep this card at $35+ throughout the entire year. If someone at your store wants to panic trade their set because of some random spoiler feel free to pick them up.
Sigarda Host of Herons - $6.00 and stable/falling slowly.
This is a great card to pick up right now. Go on—do it. This article will be here when you get back.
Back? Perfect. You did good.
Selesnya remember is one of the guilds that we're going to get straight off in Return to Ravnica. The only thing that's held this card back so far has been its color commitment a problem that is now going to have four Temple Gardens to help fix. I don't know why the hype hasn't seemed to reach this card yet but I believe it'll happen once we finally get an awesome Selesnya rare spoiled. This card could be $10-$15 easily by Christmas perhaps higher. This is the sleeper hit that no one is talking about—yet.
Temporal Mastery - $10.00 and stable.
Don't let the fact that this card preordered for an absurd $40 deter you from buying in now. This card is more Time Warp than Time Reversal and it has seen play in every major format so far. If you have the cash or the trade capital pick up a set now and forget about them. A time will come a few extra turns from now when you'll thank me.
Tibalt the Fiend-Blooded - $3.50 and stable/falling slowly.
Yeah okay this guy is probably just the actual worst. Pro players think he's silly. Casual players think he's stupid. His hair isn't even that great.
Still…$3.50 for a large third set mythic rare planeswalker?! That's absurd! All it takes is one cool Izzet or Rakdos card and this starts seeing play right? Either way the risk is tiny and the upside is huge even if the chance of a payoff isn't all that great. I'm (kind of) a believer.
Griselbrand - $15.00 and falling quickly.
I don't honestly know where the floor on this guy is. I think we'll probably see him retailing for $10 at some point in the fall—perhaps even $8 if Legacy moves on from him a bit more.
I do know however that he will probably be impactful in casual play and Eternal formats for years to come. Iona Shield of Emeria is also a $15.00 card and she's not as good or as iconic as Griselbrand. She's also a mythic from a large and popular set while Griselbrand is from one of the lowest printed sets in recent memory. A time will come when this guy will be $20 again so if you're in it for the long haul you might want to trade for your copies this year. Think Ulamog and Emrakul with this guy.
Blood Artist - $2.00 and rising slowly.
I'm only bringing this little guy up because so few people seem to realize he holds value. I've seen these cluttering up bulk boxes still and that shouldn't happen. Dig yours out from your random draft deck chaff piles and add them to your trade binder.
Until next time–