Khans of Tarkir may look like Shards of Alara in its impact on Constructed play, and it may look like Champions of Kamigawa from a flavor perspective, but from a financial standpoint it is actually the next Onslaught. And of course we all know why: FETCHLANDS!
This set is fairly unique in that, unlike Onslaught, it contains Mythic rares. So my prediction for the overall value of the cards in the set is that they will be highly polarized. Fetchlands at rare will drive the price of all the other rares down drastically. I expect no other rare in the set to retain more than $5 of value throughout its time in Standard. Similarly, most mythic rares will also be suppressed by the high value on fetchlands. The notable exceptions will be the chase mythics of the set. I expect there to be four mythics in the set that will establish themselves as the standout mythics of the set. The rest will settle below the $5 mark.
This means that outside of investing in sealed product, in fetchlands, and in the four marquee mythics of the set, the only other profitable investment is to accurately pick the sleeper card(s) in the set that will rise from $1 to $5. Hence these will be the three topics I discuss today in my financial review of the set:
1. Fetchlands and Sealed Product2. The Chase Mythics of the Set3. Potential Sleepers
Let's start with the big money-maker first.Fetchlands and Sealed Product
The five fetchlands are currently worth between $14 and $17. They will see lots of play in Standard and will see even more play in Modern. And of course Legacy players will want them too, especially foils.
This leads me to my next point. Japanese boxes will sell for a premium after they stop being printed since the prospect of opening a foil Japanese Polluted Delta will eventually be comparable to opening an Underground Sea. Consider the price of Revised boosters right now, the price of Onslaught boosters right now, and the price of Khans boosters right now. Over time the gap between Khans boosters and the other two boosters will become smaller and smaller. I don't know the exact numbers, but the value will be moving in the positive direction in a big way.
Aside from investing in boosters, what trajectory do I expect the price of fetchlands themselves to go? Well, let's consider Zendikar fetches. They were $10-20 while in Standard because Legacy players, Extended/Modern players, and Standard players all wanted them. At rotation they were $7-12. I know because I picked up lots of them. Then they spiked for the Modern PTQ season and dealers were buying them for $20-40. Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn at one point nearly reached $100 before settling back down around $50-60. That's still three times what they were worth while in Standard and five times what they were worth at rotation.
Granted, Khans fetches are reprints, so it's possible they will stay lower for a while, but I don't think that will be the case, mostly because Modern is growing at such a fast rate. Modern Masters didn't actually decrease the price of Tarmogoyfs, Dark Confidants, or Cryptic Commands – at least not for more than a year. And this is because the increased demand for Modern cards outstripped the increased supply created by the reprinting. A side effect was that Modern staples such as Noble Hierarch spiked even higher because its demand increased in the same amount but unlike the other three cards mentioned, its supply remained the same (since it was not reprinted in the set).
So to make a long story short, the reprinting of the allied fetchlands will create a short term Plummet in value because the market is saturated with Khans fetches. Then once the cards stop being opened and rotate out of Standard, the market will again get saturated with all the Standard-only players dumping their fetches for new Standard staples. Then once the Modern PTQ rolls around after rotation, they will spike. And then they will steadily climb to the range that the Zendikar fetchlands are currently at. And as we saw with Modern Masters, the demand for Modern staples more than compensates for the double printing. It's not an exact science since Modern Masters had a limited print run, but the TL;DR of all this is that fetchlands are a great short term and long term investment. They are the best in the set by far.
Now let's move on to the chase mythics of the set.The Big Five Mythics of the Set
There are five mythic rares that have outstripped the others thus far in terms of price:
1. Sorin, Solemn Visitor $242. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker $233. Wingmate Roc $84. Clever Impersonator $85. Surrak Dragonclaw $8
Of these five, I expect Surrak Dragonclaw to drop down into the sub-$5 range while the other four will settle at some point equal to or above the fetchlands. One clever card in particular I predict will outlast the others and be the only mythic to keep pace with the fetches post-rotation. One might say it will do its best job of impersonating a fetchland, price-wise, in the long-term.
Let's discuss each of these five cards in detail so that you can make an informed decision on which to invest in and which not to.
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Sorin started out around $13 a week ago and has already climbed ahead of Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker at $24. I don't see any reason to believe it will stop rising right away either.
Sorin does not work especially well in a control deck since making tokens is the costlier of the two non-ultimate abilities. The +1/+0 lifelink ability is still pretty sweet with Elspeth, Sun's Champion, pumping your tokens and putting you outside of burn range, but it's a pretty mediocre defensive card overall.
Where Sorin really shines is on offense. Any deck that is in the market for an anthem effect gets way more than it Bargains for out of Sorin's + ability. Lifelink means you are essentially guaranteed to win a race, even if they kill the Sorin right away and you only get one attack in with +1/+0 lifelink to all your creatures. And aside from the lifelink part of the ability, just granting an offensive bonus to all your creatures is worth around three mana anyway (see Spear of Heliod and Hall of Triumph).
Furthermore, the creatures also retain the +1/+0 lifelink bonus for blocking on the following turn. So if you just want to defend Sorin, his + ability helps in that regard too. This makes vigilance creatures very good with Sorin. Hmmm, if only there was some sweet three mana white creature with vigilance that could immediately benefit on offense and defense from Sorin's + ability...
Ajani Steadfast has seen some amount of play and Sorin essentially grants you both Ajani abilities together. Need to pump your team? Deal! Need to gain some life? Got that covered too! And by the way, this all happens as part of the + ability, making Sorin harder to kill on the swing back since he has five loyalty, and building quickly toward its ultimate.
Speaking of the ultimate, let's consider that next. You play Sorin and + him to five; then next turn you plus him again to go to six; then the following turn you can already ultimate Sorin if you so choose. A one-sided abyss will eventually break just about any stalemate. Sure, Elspeth, Sun's Champion will trump it head-to-head, but not many other cards in the format can. And Black/White has more answers to Elspeth than any other color combination (Banishing Light, Hero's Downfall, Utter End, etc.). So even Elspeth is unlikely to save them from the inevitability generated by Sorin's ultimate.
Was Sorin worth $13 a week ago? Clearly it was! Is it worth $24 today? We'll likely know by the end of this weekend since there are multiple Open Series events going on to showcase the new cards.
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
While Sorin has already nearly doubled in price since last week, Sarkhan has remained pretty much exactly the same. This might not sound promising, but retaining a high price tag throughout the first week is actually rather promising, given that most cards tend to start falling by this point.
In terms of play value, the biggest question is whether Sarkhan is good enough to see play over Stormbreath Dragon since they each cost the same and do similar things and will likely fit into similar decks. Well, based on the extensive amount of testing I've done in preparation for the Pro Tour in two weeks, I can say with confidence that yes, Sarkhan is in fact better than Stormbreath Dragon!
Wait, what?! Better than a card that was among the handful of cards that defined Standard for the past year? A year in which Pack Rat, Mutavault, and Sphinx's Revelation were legal?
Yes, I am saying that this new planeswalker is straight up better than a card that was among the most powerful cards in the format for the past year.
Let's say you're a green deck and you clog up the ground with Courser of Kruphix and whatever else. The coast is clear for a big 4/4 flying haste dragon to enter the battlefield and begin killing the opponent. In this scenario Stormbreath Dragon and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker are equally effective.
Now instead, let's consider a slightly different board. You're a bit behind. The opponent killed your Courser of Kruphix and then played a Savage Knuckleblade or a Brimaz, King of Oreskos. You could play the dragon and try to race the Knuckleblade or block the Brimaz, but if they have a removal spell then you are way too far behind and have essentially lost the game. But what if you had Sarkhan instead? Well, in that case you simply use the -3 ability to kill the threat and then pass the turn, threating a 4/4 flyer just the same on the following attack. This forces the opponent to still use their removal spell, but only to maintain board parity instead of to generate an overwhelming lead.
Sarkhan is basically what Liliana of the Dark Realms always wished she could be – a walker that could come down and kill something while barely staying alive in the process. This makes Sarkhan much more like Elspeth, Sun's Champion, who can do exactly that with its -3 ability. And we all know how good Elspeth is and has been.
Will Sarkhan be one of the defining cards in Standard for the next year? Yes, I can't imagine it would not be since playing around it means: (a) not playing any creatures with toughness less than 5, and (b) not having any problem dealing with a 4/4 flying indestructible haste creature. In the end you have to just accept that Sarkhan exists and that you are going to get two-for-one'd by it. Will it retain a $23 value? No one knows for sure, but I expect to pick up my play set this weekend and not get rid of them until they rotate out of Standard.
Aside from Sorin, Solemn Visitor, which increased by $11 over the past week, Wingmate Roc rose more than any other card in the set in that timespan. It started around $5 and is already up to $8. I expect it will fully pass Clever Impersonator [I keep calling it Clever Imposter] and Surrak Dragonclaw by the end of this weekend. How high will this eagle Soar? Will it barely cross into double digits? Will it keep rising until it meets up with the dragons and vampires in the $20+ range? Again, nobody knows for certain, but I would not be surprised if this ended up being the Entreat the Angels of the set. Entreat began around $5 because nobody quite understood how powerful the new miracle mechanic was, and it quickly shot up to $20 once people realized how powerful it was.
Wingmate Roc is a fairly unique card and it's not super surprising that it has been relatively slow to catch on. Will you pick up yours now while they are still $8 or will you hold off to see if they actually reach the $20 that some expect them to reach? Well, investment aside, if you plan on playing the card during its time in Standard, I think the chances of it going back down to $5 are much smaller than its chances of rising well above the $8 it is currently at.
Then again, when has there ever been a five-mana white flying, life gaining, mythic rare creature that defined Standard and pulled a premium of more than $8? If ever such a card existed, I'm sure its price tag had more to do with its "protection from demons and dragons" ability than with any of the abilities it shares with Wingmate Roc.
After all, it's not like large flying creatures that enter the battlefield and duplicate themselves have ever seen competitive tournament play. I mean, sure, there was Broodmate Dragon, but those were 4/4 flyers whereas these are just 3/4 flyers. Conveniently enough, that means they survive the -3 ability on Elspeth, Sun's Champion, which I suppose could be relevant if you wanted to run the two of them together in the same deck. But who would want to do that?
Ok, my sarcasm meter is about to explode, so let's just leave it at this: Wingmate Roc is a powerful Magic card. That is all.
Let's get one thing out of the way first. This card is not the real deal. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is nothing more than an impersonator...
...but as an impersonator, this is the best there ever was!
In the beginning there was Clone and Vesuvan Doppleganger. Each saw an enormous amount of play in both multiplayer and head-to-head battles.
Then a long time later Phyrexian Metamorph and Phantasmal Image were printed. Each saw lots of play in Standard and continue to see play in Modern.
Now we have Clever Impersonator, the only one ever to be able to copy a planeswalker! Copy your Sarkhan, attack your Sarkhan. Copy your Elspeth, make tokens. Copy your Nissa, animate my land, attack your Nissa. Copy your Garruk, kill your Gurrak. Well, you get the idea. But that's only the planeswalker-copying mode.
It is also a Clone when you want it to be a Clone. Copy your Polukranos. Copy your Wingmate Roc, make a token. Copy your Narset. Copy your Hornet Queen, find out what all the buzz is about.
And then there will also be scenarios where you copy your own creature. Mantis Rider, attack for three. Next turn, copy my Mantis Rider and attack for six.
Or there will be times when you copy a Banishing Light, either to get rid of the opponent's oppressive card or to exile the Banishing Light to get your banished card back.
Did I mention I could Chord of Calling for it? Yeah, I'll copy your Elspeth during your end step, or your Hornet Queen after you attack me with all your creatures.
I expect Clever Impersonator to see quite a bit of play in Standard – about as much as Phantasmal Image saw. It will also see some fringe play in Modern as the Image and the Metamorph do.
The demand that will be most relevant long term on this one, however, is the Commander demand. This card will forever be an EDH staple and it will be one of the most fun cards in the format and therefore highly sought after for years to come. Thus after Khans has long rotated out of Standard, I expect Clever Impersonator to become the most expensive mythic in the set. And boxes of Khans of Tarkir will be worth infinite due to fetchlands; so as the most expensive mythic in the set, the Impersonator's ceiling will be entirely dependent on where and how often it is reprinted. $8 is a good investment no matter how you look at it.
Of the five big mythics of the set, this one is easily the weakest. Yes, it trumps Elspeth, Sun's Champion by allow your other creatures to trample over the tokens, but wouldn't you rather have a 4/4 flying haste creature, either a la Stormbreath Dragon or Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker? Uncounterable is not irrelevant and flash certainly makes the card playable, but being a legend means you'll really never want more than one or two copies in your deck, assuming you even want one. And you'll have to be playing Temur, which is yet another restriction. If he gave himself trample instead of just other creatures, I might be on board, but if he's your only creature, Elspeth easily trumps him since the tokens can just chump block him all day long. And his legendary status means you can't even chain them together back-to-back to trample over the blockers.
His one redeeming attribute and hope for retaining value is that he is a fun-looking commander for EDH. There are a lot of those though, most of which are not high dollar cards. I'd maybe hold onto the first copy of Surrak, but I'd sell on all the others. It's unlikely you'll ever need that second copy, if even the first.
Before we get into the last section on sleeper picks, I'd like to point out the fact that Elspeth, Sun's Champion has played prominently in the discussion of each of the marquee mythics. It is arguably the strongest card in Standard post-rotation. And if I'm correct that Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker eclipses Stormbreath Dragon, then one of Elspeth's primary competitors from Theros is also due for a price Plummet (get it? Plummet the dragon?). Hence I take Elspeth, Sun's Champion to be an excellent investment right now, as it currently sits around $20.
Ok, now let's discuss sleeper picks.Potential Sleeper Rares of the Set
The following low-price rares have a few things going for them and at least one of them will likely prove to be a good sleeper investment. I've narrowed the list down to seven and the most pertinent reason for each. If you want my #1 pick it would be Jeskai Ascendancy, though I could easily see any of these cards making the $5 jump.
Howl of the Horde
Works great with Shrapnel Blast and with other burns spells or card draw spells, such as Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time, or even just Divination.
Dig Through Time
Aside from its synergy with Howl of the Horde, Dig is a good late game card draw spell on its own. It's also very good in Sultai with cards that fill up the yard. The question is whether it's better than Murderous Cut since they each exhaust the same resource (card in graveyard).
Allows for a third turn kill in Modern in conjunction with a Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch + Doran, the Siege Tower.
It's unplayable in Modern and not playable in Standard yet, but the next set is supposed to have a strong colorless theme to it and so this card might prove to be the Eye of Ugin of the set.
If control decks and midrange green ramp decks are the norm in Standard, which is entire possible, then direct damage and counter-magic are each well-positioned. This card has both.
It is the most powerful thing you can do with ten to twelve mana in Standard. This may prove to be the trump for green mana ramp decks in Standard since it goes over the top of everything else.
Sam Black believes it is the basis for a strong combo deck in Modern. Several others have been posting various Standard combo decks built around the card. Pyromancer's Ascension was never more than $2 until it rotated out of Standard, but it is currently $5. This card feels like the new Pyromancer's Ascension. Whether it will follow the same price trajectory is anyone's guess. If it sees any amount of Standard play it will likely be the card from this list to jump to $5.
Which cards will you invest in?
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