Welcome to my Kaldheim Buyers Guide!
As your resident Magic Finance expert, my goal today is to help you navigate the choppy, northern waters of Kaldheim's frigid seas. What Kaldheim cards are seeing the most play in Commander right now? Should you be buying Standard cards with an eye on post-pandemic competitive play? Are Collector Boosters a good deal? When's the best time to buy premium singles? If you're interested in the answers to any of these questions, you've come to the right place.
I've spent the past three weeks doing a card-by-card set review of every rare and mythic in the set, which you can check out in the links below. Today, however, my goal is to synthesize all of that information for you, combine it with my other thoughts on the set, and present you with a guide to help inform your Kaldheim-related buying decisions. If you're planning to pick up any cards in this set, for any reason, I've got you covered.
Let's start by taking a look at Kaldheim's Collector Boosters. How do they stack up to the last couple of sets? Let's find out.
Right now, a box of Kaldheim Collector Boosters is selling for $200 on TCGplayer. That's $10 more than a box of Zendikar Rising Collector Boosters, which will set you back $190. Theros Beyond Death is also sitting right at $190, as is Core Set 2021. This seems to be the going rate for these boxes, even after the primary market distributors run through their display.
Some Collector Boosters do end up being worth a tad more, though. A box of Ikoria Collector Boosters is about $230 right now, while Throne of Eldraine is all the way up at $260. It's possible that this product simply hasn't been around long enough for most of these boxes to hit their peaks, either. I don't hate the idea of holding onto these boxes for the long-term.
(Incidentally, Zendikar Rising collector boosters are on the cheaper end, despite being full of fetchlands and other goodies—in large part because they also received a higher print run. WotC anticipated the increase in demand, and produced more Collector Boosters accordingly. I assume they'll start to tick up eventually, but it might take a bit longer than I anticipated back in the fall.)
I bring all of this up because some of you might be afraid to snag a box Kaldheim Collector Boosters after seeing that they lack anything with the impact of Zendikar Rising's masterpieces. That hasn't affected Collector Booster prices in the past, though, and it shouldn't hurt you much here, either. Boxes and singles might hold less long-term value, but over the next few years they should sit roughly in line with all the other Collector Boosters, many of which also didn't have premium foil fetchlands.
That said, I suspect that premium Collector Booster versions of Kaldheim's best cards might be a tad underpriced in the early going. The Zendikar Rising masterpieces pushed down the rest of the prices in that set, but there isn't anything like that in Kaldheim to exert similar financial pressure. Thus, you can expect the best cards in Kaldheim Collector Boosters to be worth more than they would have been if they'd been in Zendikar Rising Collector Boosters. And if sellers don't adjust to this right away, there could be some fantastic deals to be had in the early going. If you're in the market for these singles, you should try to strike early.
Of course, some of you probably want to know if you should just buy boxes instead. But how good (or bad) are these Collector Boosters, anyway? Let's do a slot-by-slot comparison between these boosters and the last few sets, since WotC keeps changing it up from set to set:
One foil double-sided token. This slot has been in every Collector Booster. They have a little value sometimes, but not much. It's negligible here, too.
Five foil commons or snow duals. The snow duals you get in Kaldheim Collector Boosters are a little better than the average common, especially in foil, but this slot has negligible value too. Five is the same number of commons that Zendikar Rising Collector Boosters had, and it's one more than Core Set 2021 Collector Boosters.
Two foil Uncommons. Par for the course. The last few Collector Boosters also had these slots. They tend to have relatively little value.
One Foil Snow Basic Land. This is a good slot, especially since more people are going to be playing Snow Basics across all formats going forward. The last few sets didn't have anything like this, though this particular slot isn't unprecedented. The Theros Beyond Death Collector Boosters each came with two of the foil Nyx lands. Those ended up subsidizing each Collector Booster pack a little, and were a nice addition.
One Non-Foil Showcase Uncommon. Previous Collector Boosters had two cards in this slot, and they could have been commons or uncommons instead of just an uncommon. Since this is kind of a bad slot overall, losing dropping from two to one (for the foil Snow Basic) is a marginal upgrade.
One Foil Showcase Uncommon. This is another slot that's returning from the last few Collector Boosters, and yet again we don't have to worry about commons—just uncommons. An upgrade, though a small one.
One non-foil rare Saga, rare or mythic rare Commander Deck Exclusive, or Set/Theme Booster Exclusive Rare. This is the "wild card" slot that we've seen in some Collector Boosters. This slot's EV varies wildly, since most of the Sagas are not very good. A few of the Theme Booster cards are nice opens, though. (More on them a little later.) At any rate, the fact that this slot guarantees a rare is notable, and is a nice break from previous Collector Boosters, where you could have opened a copy of Scoured Barrens in this slot simply because it was reprinted in that set's Commander decks.
One foil Rare or Mythic Rare. We've seen this slot in the last few sets as well, though sometimes it gets lumped in with the extended art slot in a weird way like it did in Core Set 2021. Thankfully, this slot is quite simple in Kaldheim, and it's not constantly threatening to show up instead of the premium rares you really want. This slot is not the reason to buy the pack, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
One Non-Foil Extended-Art Rare or Mythic Rare. This is identical to the Zendikar Rising Collector Boosters, and is always one of the better slots in the pack.
One Non-Foil Showcase or Borderless Rare or Mythic Rare. There are 22 Showcase rares and mythics, four borderless planeswalkers, four borderless pathway lands, and five other borderless mythics (the Foretell cycle). With 18 mythics showing up half as often as 17 rares, that means that each mythic will show roughly once every 52 packs. Most of these cards are good opens, and this is one of the best slots in the pack.
One Foil Showcase, Borderless Rare or Mythic Rare, or Foil Extended-Art Rare or Mythic Rare. This is the best slot in the pack. Note that all of the foil extended-art cards are sharing a slot with the showcase and borderless cards this time around, making it roughly as difficult to open any specific card as it is to do so in a normal Draft Booster. That makes the foil Extended-Art Planeswalkers and Showcase Cards a lot scarcer than in a set like Theros Beyond Death, where there was a dedicated slot exclusively for those.
This distribution model also speaks to the scarcity of Kaldheim's number one chase card, Phyrexian Language Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. It only shows up in this slot, and unless WotC goosed the drop rate of this particular card, it'll only be showing up at a rate of 1 in every 134 Collector Booster Packs. That's an estimated one copy in every twelve Collector Booster boxes. Cards that scarce can hold a lot of value, especially without a bevy of fetchlands dragging down the price.
Taking a look at Vorinclex's price chart, it seems like others agree with me:
While I don't think I'd even consider buying this card until Collector Boosters have actually reached store shelves, just in case the drop rate is better than the initial math indicates, it's clear that this version of Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider is probably going to be worth $100+ for the foreseeable future. Based on my estimated drop rates, I don't see that changing any time soon. If you want a copy, you'll have to pay up for it.
As for the rest of these Collector Booster cards, I'd suggest picking up singles early on. Prices tend to be at their lowest during peak supply, when everyone who pre-ordered boxes dumps their singles onto the market all at once. That might be doubly true this time around thanks to the lack of chase cards beyond Vorinclex. There are no Godzilla cards or fetchland masterpieces here, and all that value has to go somewhere. This lack of hype might also lead to fewer Kaldheim Collector Boosters sales, which could also cause higher singles prices at some point.
If you want to buy and crack boxes for resale, just know that it's as much of a gamble as always. You might open well, or you might open poorly, so you should only do it if you think it might be fun. Otherwise, just buy the singles you want. It's less enjoyable, but you're guaranteed to actually get the cards you want.
EDHREC is a really useful resource that I turn to whenever a new set comes out. As opposed to individual card-by-card reviews like mine, which attempt to divine the most popular Commander cards in a given set, EDHREC measures actual demand: cards that are being inserted into deck lists by active Commander players. That's always going to be a better indicator of future value than one person's gut reaction, even mine.
According to EDHREC, the Top 8 most popular Commanders in Kaldheim right now are:
These are the cards that people are building around, which is why we've seen a lot of secondary spikes related to them already. Dwarf Tribal cards have spiked thanks to Magda, Squirrel Tribal cards have spiked thanks to Toski, and Pox-style cards have spiked thanks to Tergrid. We've yet to see much in the way of Five-Color (Esika) or Poison (Fynn) spikes yet, but that's in large part because those cards were already quite expensive and had a lot of existing Commander support. Even still, I wouldn't be shocked if we see some of them start to get a little frisky in the coming days. I'd buy in now if you've been in the market and were holding off.
If you're interested in speculating on these eight Commanders themselves, grab them as soon as the flood of Collector Booster singles hits the market. Make sure you grab them in Extended-Art and Showcase Foil if you can. Commander brewers always like to have flashy versions of their Commanders, so the premium versions should hold a nice multiplier over their draft booster counterparts.
Moving on, let's take a look at the most popular Kaldheim rares and mythics that people are slotting into their Commander main decks. There will be a few repeats from the last list, since some of those cards are also good as part of the 99, but there are also some other staples here:
Be sure to keep this list in mind as you decide what Commander cards to buy. Cards like Jorn, God of Winter, Alrund's Epiphany, Koma, Cosmos Serpent, and Tyvar Kell are being hyped up as future Commander staples, but they don't seem to be generating much early excitement yet. That may change in the future, but the cards most likely to see immediate gains are those that are already capturing the imaginations of the EDHREC audience. This makes me a lot more bullish on cards like The World Tree and Esika, God of the Tree now that I see how popular they are. If any cards from this set are going to be worth $10+ due to Commander demand, they're probably on this list.
There are five rares that will only be appearing in Kaldheim Theme Boosters as well as in the "wild card" slot in Collector Boosters. They are Valkyrie Harbinger, Surtland Elementalist, Surtland Flinger, Canopy Tactician, and Cleaving Reaper. These cards are already tracking a little higher than most of the other rares in Kaldheim, primarily due to anticipated scarcity. Canopy Tactician is currently leading the charge, since that's the card most likely to see high demand due to its power in Elf-based Commander decks.
There are also sixteen brand new unique Commander cards that will be printed in the Kaldheim Commander decks, and they will also be appearing in the Collector Booster "wild card" slot. (Side note: did you even know that these decks were a thing? I didn't until I went to go write this article.)
Overall, the new cards in the Phantom Premonition deck seem relatively weak. I just don't think Foretell is a great casual ability; it's fine, but it's not the kind of keyword that makes me think, "wow, I can't wait to build a deck around this!" Stoic Farmer is a decent Land Tax variant, and Spectral Deluge is a neat Cyclonic Rift variant for mono-blue decks, but I don't think either card is going to end up as a future format staple. They'll be worth a couple of bucks each, though.
Sage of the Beyond is more interesting, since it's worth playing in nearly all Commander decks that like to cast spells out of the graveyard or out of exile. The Sage is expensive to cast, but I can definitely see it spiking at some point in the future when some new graveyard-centric set makes a splash in Commander. If you're going to speculate on any of these cards, that's the one I'd look at.
Elven Empire is a better Commander deck, and I expect it to be quite popular. It's the best place to start if you want to build Golgari Elves in Commander, and I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes hard to find at MSRP. My only real issue with Elven Empire is that seven of the eight new cards are really only good in Elf decks, which means that you might as well buy the whole deck if you want the singles. The good news is that if you're building Elves anyway, Elven Empire is chock full of great ones.
The one brand new non-Elf card is Pact of the Serpent, which might be worth running in other black tribal decks. Remember, life is a lot more trivial in Commander, where you start at 40, so this card can draw a lot of cards at relatively little cost. If any card from Elven Empire is going to break out, it'll be this one. Grab your copies soon if you want them.
I love bulk rares, the penny stocks of Magic. While very few cards from current sets actually jump from $0.10 to $10+ these days, it doesn't take much to make a profit when you're buying cards like this in bulk. I like to shove a few boxes of penny stocks into the back of my closet for months or even years, and I eventually seem to hit on about half of them. Plus, it's kind of fun!
Anyway, most of my favorite penny stock buys in Kaldheim are Standard-related, so we won't be looking to sit on them for years at a time. Here they are:
These aren't must-buy cards, and half of them will probably not pan out, but if you like the sorts of low-risk investments that I do, you might want to grab a few of these. At the very least, I'd snag playsets of each if you're planning to play Standard at some point. The price is right, and you never know!
Kaldheim is going to be Standard-legal until September of 2022, which is roughly nineteen months from now. You don't need me to tell you that nineteen months is a long time. Nineteen months ago was late June/early July of 2019, when the COVID-19 pandemic was still more than half a year away.
Suffice to say, I feel pretty confident that the pandemic will be well under control during Kaldheim's time in Standard. "When COVID is over" is certainly sounding a lot like "when the Reserved List is abolished," as the meme goes, but I really do believe that local shops will start opening up for in-store play this summer. Even if competitive play doesn't really start up until 2022, Kaldheim will still be Standard-legal for most of next year.
Because of that, I'm expecting this entire set to see a major price increase at some point over the next year or so. Standard prices are massively depressed right now due to lack of demand, but that's going to change once stores and events are back. And since very few people have been selling their cards to their LGS owners or trading them to event vendors, the available supply will probably lag demand for a bit in the early going. That could cause some large spikes due to low supply, similar to what we're seeing now with Reserved List cards but on a much smaller scale.
What cards should you look to pick up? That depends on what we learn over the next few months. I'm going to give you a list of my favorite Standard cards of the set, but keep in mind that it's based solely on my personal evaluations during the set review/pre-order period. Some of these cards will end up being terrific, but we'll know more during the first two weeks of Arena play than I could ever hope to predict. This list is a good jumping-off point, but make sure you update it based on your own experiences with Kaldheim once it hits the digital shelves.
When should you buy in? Let's take a look at some price charts from Zendikar Rising to see if we can figure that out. First, here's Agadeem's Awakening:
This card has never been cheaper than it was on release day, and it did nothing but climb for about two weeks after that. It has yet to hit those lows again.
On the flipside, here's Kazandu Mammoth:
If you bought this one on release day, you had to pay almost twice its current price tag. That's wild to me, because Kazandu Mammoth is currently the 5th most-played card in all of Standard. Not only has the Mammoth not gained any value since release, it's still available for less than fifty cents. If you want to see why I'm targeting Standard cards for late 2021, this is why. The market is beyond depressed right now, and you can pick a lot of these cards up at your leisure over the next few months.
Based on these charts, it looks as if the best time to buy new Standard mythics is on release day, but you can hold off on all the rares until later. Here's Shatterskull Smashing, a mythic rare and the 6th most-played card in Standard right now:
And here's Skyclave Shade, another popular Standard rare:
My assumption is that Kaldheim's Standard-centric rares and mythics will follow similar trajectories. Snag the mythic rares ASAP, and hold off on the regular rares until they bottom out. In all cases, you should be able to get these cards for a lot less than they will eventually be worth, when the pandemic is finally under control.
It also goes without saying that you should be buying all of these Zendikar Rising cards as soon as you can. They've already proven themselves in Standard—something no Kaldheim card has done yet—and they're still incredibly cheap. Zendikar Rising and Kaldheim also rotate out of Standard at the same time, so you've got 19 months to hit on these cards, too.
As Reserved List cards and iconic ABUR cards like Shivan Dragon and Fork continue to spike, I wouldn't be surprised if the markets continue to go buck wild over the coming months. It's quite likely that additional stimulus checks are on their way, and if they end up being $1,400 (or $2,000) we are going to see some of that money pumped into the high-end Magic market. I also wouldn't be shocked if many of the Redditors who made money on GameStop Stock last week—assuming they ever see their gains—are the same folks who love buying and grading high-end cards. Combine that with the current FOMO culture surrounding these cards and the overall lack of supply due to the continued cessation of large events, and you have a recipe for some pretty bonkers gains.
If you're in the market for Reserved List or other older cards, I'd suggest snagging anything that hasn't spiked yet ASAP. If you missed the boat, however, I'd suggest holding off. Reserved List spikes tend to follow a "spike and valley" trend, where cards drop off a bit after their initial spikes before eventually jumping in price again. Here's what has happened to Taiga since the start of 2017, for example:
As you can see, both the valleys and the spikes are a little higher each time, but you still never want to buy into a spike. There will be another valley this time, too, and I'd preach patience if you've got patience to give.
I do think that the graded/collectable card boom I talked about a few weeks ago is coming, though. I've already seen a lot of chatter about it on Magic Finance Twitter and in the subreddit, and graded cards are starting to pop up on various marketplaces. If you've got 1993/1994 era cards in near-flawless condition, consider getting them graded and definitely don't just sell them as NM right now. At some point in 2021, I expect this to become an incredibly hot market.