Hey there! If you're reading this, you're doing so on your break from the flood of Commander 2018 previews that are spilling out onto the internet. As I'm writing this, we only have Geode Golem previewed, an interesting card that allows you to slam your commander for free when he deals combat damage. While I'm certainly just as excited for C18 as you are (I really want a black miracle card in the Esper deck…), there's another finance event sneaking up on you while your back is turned, and it only comes once a year.
Granted, rotation only matters if you play one (or both) of two formats; Standard or the recently added Brawl. If your collection is entirely centered around Modern, Commander, Legacy or Masques-only Pauper Tiny Leaders, then rotation matters a lot less. While rotation is looked at as the "value-killer" for some players, it's also a key factor of the game that's helped to keep things fresh and new over the course of two decades. Magic wouldn't be the game it is today without a scheduled rotation. The fact that it only affects a small subset of the game's cards at a certain time of the year makes it relatively easy to keep track of, and easy to describe to a newer player what's going to happen. If this is your first rotation, I'm going to go over some of the ways you can prevent your collection from losing value both this year, and in the years to come.
On October 5, 2018, the Street Sweeper is coming. It's going to brush away Kaladesh, Aether Revolt, Amonkhet, and Hour of Devastation, bringing in just Guilds of Ravnica to take its place. The last rotation we had in fall of 2017 was similar in scale, sweeping away two blocks of two sets each (Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad block, replacing them with Kaladesh). Because the rotation is still a few months away, it's nigh-impossible to try and guess which cards from Ixalan and Dominaria will weather the storm and climb up in price. There are still so many unknown factors in the upcoming Ravnica set that I don't feel comfortable telling you which cards will be Standard staples eight months from now.
Instead, I want to look at some price graphs of the cards that we're sending off into The Abyss this fall. Contrary to what some people might believe, rotation starts affecting card prices long before their departure from Standard. If you're holding onto staples from rotating blocks and hoping to sell them at their peak, it's likely already too late to get maximum value out of them.
Let's look at two of the format defining all stars who have managed to avoid falling out of favor all this time. While we've had more than our share of bannings in Standard over the past few years, slamming a bunch of Mountains has rarely been a poor strategy. Even today, the most popular Standard deck right now is a mostly red list that happens to splash black for Scrapheap Scrounger, Unlicensed Disintegration and sideboard cards. While Hazoret and Chandra aren't always the four-ofs they used to be, they've managed to avoid a price plummet. Instead, they've elected to take the gradual decline route, sinking quietly as opposed to quickly. In Hazoret's example, she only really peaked after the release of Rivals of Ixalan. Chandra peaked at $40 in late 2017 and is barely holding onto a $12 TCG Market price tag now.
One of the factors that makes this rotation a little different from past years and encourages lower pre-rotation prices is the advent of Challenger decks. Released in early April of this year, the Hazoret Aggro deck contained one Chandra and one Hazoret to add even more supply to the market. While it's impossible to calculate exactly how much those price graphs were affected by the introduction of the preconstructed decks, their effect has been undeniable.
Let's look at another card on the slate for rotation; a card that I would normally suggest snapping up at this price because I would expect a rebound a year or two down the road. Come on over, Spire of Industry! A playset of this thing was jammed into the Vehicle Rush Challenger deck, dropping the Market value of the card from $3 to $1 over the course of a few months. Even though the card sees occasional play in Modern and it's secretly a powerful card in Commander, I can't advocate picking them up at the current near-bulk rate because the supply has been so oversaturated.
If we continue to see another cycle of Challenger decks next Spring, we could easily see cards like Jadelight Ranger, Rekindling Phoenix or even Karn, Scion of Urza slotted into preconstructed theme decks. If or when that happens, we're going to see those staples slide quicker into their post-rotation prices before they make their exit from Standard. Something like Goblin Chainwhirler could easily be a four-of in these decks, and suddenly it's $1 until the sun consumes the earth. All of these theories and guesses lose some weight if you're actually using these cards and playing with them up until the week of rotation, but that's usually where I just link this evergreen article about calculating your own expected value weighed against the cost of buying or selling the cards at a specific time.
If you're someone who plays both Standard and Commander (specifically different than Brawl, I know), then you might want to consider buylisting those Standard staples and turning them into rotating Commander cards that are less likely to drop any further as we move into autumn. If you can turn your Disallows and Champion of Wits into a pile of Panharmonicons, then you're going to be comfortable waiting for the long term until Guilds of Ravnica gives us more Commander and Standard toys to play with. The list of rotating Standard staples that haven't already bottomed out is growing smaller by the day, so I recommend turning those Glint-Sleeve Siphoners and Soul-Scar Mages into *something* while you have the chance.
Here's a short list of trade targets that you could be looking at until rotation: these are cards whose demand is almost entirely filled by Commander, so there's no real reason for them to be sold in higher numbers by Standard players as rotation looms.
Panharmonicon is pretty much the perfect example of what Commander means to most people. Whatever you're doing, do TWICE AS MUCH. If it dodges a reprint in Commander 2018, it's going to continue to climb over the next year. Foils are a much safer bet, as with any card that would struggle to find a home in a Masters set.
See above. Doubling stuff is always going to be popular, and you can look at the graph for Parallel Lives to get a rough idea of this card's potential. While the supply on Procession is significantly higher, it also has to compete with Doubling Season while this gets to be the sole provider of doubling in white. I don't expect $10, but it could easily creep to $8 while no one is looking.
I get this card in bulk a lot, even though it's the most powerful of all the Expertises in Commander. It lets you play the biggest spell for free and draws a ton of cards. This card is going to go under the radar even more once it rotates, allowing you to find really cheap copies in binders and dollar bins at stores. Rotation is the perfect time to grab cards like this.
I really underestimated this card on release. I called it a worse Exsanguinate, because it was a punisher mechanic that allowed the opponent to choose the best option for themselves. However, the raw power level per mana spent just puts it on a whole different level. It's the best Exsanguinate out there, because even casting it for 8-10 can decimate the table and immediately make you the archenemy. It obviously hasn't really seen Standard play, but these will continue getting soaked up by black Commander decks for the next year or two. I wouldn't be surprised to see this hit $8-10 in a year, at all.
As long as they avoid reprints, they previously mentioned cards each have a strong chance of being slow gainers over the next year or so. They're generic enough to be played in multiple styles of decks, so they're solid pickups even if you don't plan on selling cards; you can simply add them to new or existing decks of your own.
Lastly, you could move your chips into the Modern format. We've had a good number of cards in these rotating sets that have already found homes in Modern, and those cards will continue to creep downard and hit their lows once they're forcibly removed from Standard. Cards like Walking Ballista, Fatal Push and As Foretold probably have a little bit more room to drop but will be safer straight across trades because they have a significantly higher floor than something like Hazoret. Baral, Chief of Compliance doesn't look like he's going to be slowing down anytime soon, thanks to his applicability in Modern Storm.
We've seen cheap rotated cards from Eldritch Moon spike recently off the back of the new Spirit lord Supreme Phantom – Mausoleum Wanderer and Selfless Spirit were both fringe playable in Modern prior to these spikes, and you were able to pick them up at very low prices over the past six months.
My pick for a card that will likely increase in price down the road thanks to Modern usage is Whir of Invention. As more and more artifacts are printed, the card becomes a much more versatile and powerful tutor in a format where cheating mana costs is at a premium. Aether Revolt and Kaladesh were both full of extremely powerful cards, and Whir is a card that used to be a bulk rare but has crept to $2 on its Lantern Control usage alone. I don't think we're done seeing Whir be included, and I think anyone planning on playing the card in the future would be smart to squirrel away a playset before they're $5 each in a year.
- DJ Johnson