The Real Deal - In With The Old, In With The New
Welcome to The Real Deal, my new weekly column here at StarCityGames.com. Many of you have followed my writing for nearly a decade now, but for those who are newer to the game and community, welcome! My name is Ben Bleiweiss, and I'm the General Manager at StarCityGames.com. Over the years, I've been a Pro Player (Top 24 was my highest finish, 8 total Pro Tours attended), a traveling reporter (for The Sideboard, Pro Tour, and Grand Prix coverage), a writer (two weekly columns on MagicTheGathering.com), and a judge (level 2 DCI judge).
Since I play (competitively and casually), buy, sell, write about, judge, and market Magic: The Gathering, I have a pretty unique perspective on the game as a whole. I've been involved of every facet of the game short of design, and this column will bring my point of view about various topics in the world of Magic to light. Some weeks you'll get opinion pieces about various topics in the game, and other weeks you'll get a frank discussion about market trends, Magic trivia, and gossip from around the game. To start things off, I'm going to jump straight into the world of Planar Chaos.
Over the past two years, I've taken over the “Cards to trade for at the Prerelease” article at StarCityGames.com. Since then, I've been pretty accurate in my predictions about which cards will hold value, which are underhyped, and which are overblown. These articles are premium articles, because they literally hold value. When I write these articles, I double them as my own plan on how to price and acquire the cards in the own set. I hold absolutely nothing back, and am completely willing to talk about cards that I feel are coming into the market overpriced or underpriced.
This week, I'm going to take a look at the Standard-legal cards that will benefit (or lose) from the release of Planar Chaos, and pick ones that will likely see a rise in interest and / or price. If you've already read my premium article from today, this will be a continuation of my thoughts about the effect of Planar Chaos on the aftermarket. If you haven't read my premium article, The Real Deal will stand alone just fine.
Go over to www.MTGSalvation.com to see a full spoiler for Planar Chaos. All information is based on their spoilers, and the full set has already been spoiled there. Any inaccuracy in card text is due to their spoiler list, and all glory for having an advance full spoiler is to their credit as well.
Mono-Black Control: Between Damnation, Extirpate, Magus of the Coffers, Enslave, Imp's Mischief and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Mono-Black control (Or B/X control) is poised to make a big splash in Standard. There have already been some Tier 2 Standard decks that ran Gauntlet of Might in MBC, but these could very well move up to Tier 1 thanks to all the new tools the deck can run. This means that some previously-played-but-recently-ignored tools of Mono-Black Control will come into the limelight. In particular Consume Spirit might be good to pick up. Go for the Mirrodin version (which is a common) rather than the Ninth Edition version (which is Uncommon) if you're just looking for something to play with.
Greater Good: Post-Kamigawa block, sans Dragon Spirits, Greater Good has begun a long, slow decline. Now that Green has a slew of (good) haste creatures that will only stay around for a turn (in particular, Timbermare and Groundbreaker), Greater Good might start seeing play again.
Nekrataal: See Consume Spirit, above. If you're looking for a sideboard creature-kill card, Nekrataal will probably fight it out with Seize the Soul — and if you're playing U/B with Mystical Teachings, Seize the Soul will probably be the better choice. In other Black decks, Nekrataal will be just what you need, especially given how strong Green is going to be over the coming months.
Paladin En-Vec: This card has risen to ridiculously high values, given that it rose in price based on Wildfire to begin with. Black can easily kill a creature through non-targeted methods (Cruel Edict, Hit / Run, Damnation), and more Paladins will be brought into circulation with Tenth Edition. I don't see this remaining a $10ish card forever, so I'd probably trade them off while their value is high.
Slay: Ninth Edition isn't particularly exciting, but Slay will see play given, again, how strong Green is going to be. Groundbreaker, Mire Boa, Magus of the Library, and Timbermare are among just a few of the creatures that you'll see popping up frequently in Standard once Planar Chaos becomes legal.
Soul Warden: Now that Green has it's own Soul Warden, will there really be a reason to play this? Project X (the French Soul Warden/Saffi Eriksdotter/Crypt Champion deck) already wanted to play more Green and less White (for Chord of Calling), and the presence of a Green Soul Warden makes the need for a White Soul Warden moot.
Thought Courier: The more playable Black and Red madness cards that get introduced during this block, the more valuable Thought Courier becomes. Will it compare favorably with Magus of the Bazaar? Testing will tell, but my thoughts are that Madness decks would rather run Thought Courier, whereas Dredge decks would rather run Magus of the Bazaar.
Birds of Paradise: Wizards gave Green three major card-drawing spells (Harmonize, Keen Sense, and Magus of the Library) along with a ton of tools. A lot of decks were already Green/X, but I expect this trend to shift even more radically in Green's favor. Birds of Paradise are the perfect all-mana accelerant, and I believe that Birds (which are out of favor now to Llanowar Elves and such) will come back into favor as the one-mana creature accelerant of choice.
Chord of Calling: Again, Project X might be more viable now that it can shift its manabase and creature base. Chord of Calling already was on the periphery of Glare of Subdual decks, so a shift towards Green creature-based strategies (end of turn Timbermare as a Falter / main phase Timbermare as a Lava Axe) would make Chord of Calling more viable.
Dimir Cutpurse / Shadowmage Infiltrator: Thanks to Damnation, U/B control will be a Tier 1 deck come Planar Chaos. In the past, Ophidian and Psychatog have filled roles as the three-drop of choice, either as the finisher or for card advantage. On one hand, both of these creatures have been hyped-up and then basically been dismal failures in competitive play. On the other hand, Shadowmage Infiltrator has shown some potential in U/B control decks in the past, whereas Dimir Cutpurse has seen some degree of play in, of all formats, Vintage. It would probably be worth picking these up before U/B takes off (which it will, with or without either of these three-drops), because their value is at a low right now.
Dimir House Guard: B/W decks were already running Dimir House Guard to fetch silver bullets (Faith's Fetters, Wrath of God, Cranial Extraction) in a pre-Time Spiral metagame. Take out the White and add in the Blue, and suddenly you're getting Mystical Teachings, Damnation, Tendrils of Corruption, and / or other four-drops of note in these decks.
Firemane Angel: For better or for worse, Extirpate will affect decks that rely on graveyard resources to win the game, even more so than Tormod's Crypt. It's a lot easier to play around the Crypt (hold back resources, or destroy the Crypt when you want it destroyed) than it is to deal with an uncounterable mini-Cranial Extraction. Firemane Angel will be one of the casualties of the emergence of Black as a control force, and mid-range U/W/R decks will likely get pushed out of the metagame in favor of U/B (or B/U) mid-range decks.
Ribbons of Night: It looked as if Ribbons of Night was going to find a place in Standard, but basically disappeared overnight without a trace. This is another card that will benefit directly from the great control cards Black got in Planar Chaos.
Watery Grave: This shock land will fall in line with the other Blue shock lands in this block, which is to say it will fall into the $17-$20 range quickly (from the $12ish range). Pick up a playset sooner than later — they'll be good in Extended once they rotate out of Standard (and my personal belief, with no inside information, is that the shock lands will eventually be rotated into the base set, as soon as Tenth Edition, but no later than Eleventh edition).
Ghostway: The new White mechanic (such as it is) in Planar Chaos is the ability to play creatures as instants, and have them return other creatures (or themselves) to your hand. In a world where you can be hit by Wrath of God from either side (or both sides in B/W), Ghostway could well become the sideboard card de-jour against board-sweeping control decks. Certainly, there are three ways to battle through a plethora of Wraths — play creatures one at a time (but Black and White both can spot remove pretty well right now, between Cruel Edict, Faith's Fetters, Condemn, and other viable spells), play haste creatures (the new Green strategy), or find ways to dodge removal as it happens. Ghostway is the best card available to aggressive decks from the third category.
Repeal: If only because it combos so well with Pongify.
Seize the Soul: The French U/B control deck that already exists runs this as a tutor target. With various U/B control decks rising to the forefront in the coming months, this hyper-effective creature removal spell will be aces against Green mages, who will be the second most dominant breed in the land.
Muse Vessel: If control decks are going to start creeping up (including Green as a control color, or a control base), the already-played Muse Vessel will begin to see more widespread acceptance. Plus, Black/Blue can't deal well with the card, other than bouncing it repeatedly, or countering it in the face of other threats.
Seal of Doom: Now that Black's the control color over White, this may be the standard Black removal spell that gets started, since it kills five out of the six colors (counting Artifacts)
Allosaurus Rider: Jamie Wakefield already sang the praises of Allosaurus Rider in his article this week, but it becomes even stronger on the back of the new Green Curiosity. Attacking with a 3/3 draw-a-card creature on turn 2 seems like something that most decks will be hard to overcome. Yes, this requires four Green cards (two of which can be anything). But the ability to get in 7-12 damage before a Wrath, and then finish the game off with multiple hasty fatties, is a risk worth taking.
Haakon, Stromgald Scourge: How good are Solar Flare and Solar Pox when they no longer need to run non-Black cards? What about if they can get rid of Wrath / run eight Wraths / recur their creatures post-Wrath? Both Solar decks have disappeared in recent weeks, but Damnation does change so much, and it shifts the colors that you need to play / splash in a deck, making older favorites a little more viable.
Gauntlet of Power: Mono-Black control will love this card, in many instances. It also has combo applications in Extended, at some point in time (even if it's post-current block rotation in 2008). Now is probably the time to pick these up, while they are low in price.
Mystic Enforcer: While Protection from Black isn't the total hotness (see Paladin en-Vec above), it's a lot more threatening when attached to a 6/6 flyer, rather than a 2/2 first striker. Pro Black will have relevance (though not total relevance) in the new Standard, and this would fill a metagame slot otherwise occupied by the likes of Loxodon Hierarch.
Mystical Teachings: Already the backbone of the French U/B deck (Dralnu du Louvre), Mystical Teachings will get even more insane in the new Standard, with the ability to fetch mini-Echoes, Dismal Failure, Imp's Mischief, Seize the Soul, or any other number of silver bullets in U/B control.
Phyrexian Totem: After all the Wraths are said and done, wouldn't you like to swing in with a five-power creature? When direct damage and blocking doesn't matter, Phyrexian Totem has all advantages and no drawbacks. Yes, he's still bad against Red. However, if the metagame shifts towards Wrathable Green decks (haste creatures or no), and Black-based control decks (B/U, B/W), the ability to swing through an empty board post-removal or pre-sorcery-speed-removal is key to breaking the mirror match. Plus, it serves as a mana accelerant!
Primal Forcemage: One of the biggest beneficiaries of Planar Chaos, Primal Forcemage turns Groundbreaker into a 9/4 trampler, Timbermare into an 8/8 Bolt, and Giant Solifuge into a 7/4 monster. All three of these creatures will see play together. This is probably enough haste to get Primal Forcemage into the deck, at least as a possibility.
Scryb Ranger: Which has so much Synergy with Magus of the Library, that it is sick. Scryb Ranger also gives a way to fight through bounce, doubles production from mana elves, and comes out at inopportune times for countering.
Serrated Arrows: With Magus of the Library, Llanowar Elves, Birds of Paradise, and other X/1 creatures running around all over the place, wouldn't you like to treat yourself to a four-cost artifact that gets a three-for-one, and sits around threateningly while doing so? Special bonus: Kills Savannah Lions, Scryb Rangers, and other pesky oft-recurring utility creatures. Other special bonus: Stops Groundbreaker dead.
Tendrils of Corruption: While it's no Corrupt (can't hit other players), it'll still gain a healthy chunk of life against aggro decks. Since now all of your lands (basic or otherwise, Urborg or otherwise) will probably be base Black, Tendrils will usually hit for a minimum four.
Urza's Factory: A card that can provide a repetitive threat against control decks. While it's not optimal without the Urzatron, it still serves a similar purpose to Stalking Stones, both in and against control decks.
Void: I have no particular reason for having Void here, other than to say that it is one of the least-played, highest-potential cards in Standard, if you need to kill a threat plus strip out the other similarly-costed threats your opponent has in hand.
That's all for this week! I'll see you all next week when I take a few pages to discuss the design of Planar Chaos!