We're picking up this week where we left off last week, taking a financial gaze at Invasion. I consider Invasion to be the first really modern set, because it expresses good understanding of color combinations and power level. The number of gold cards in this set guarantees that a lot of casual cards end up being played. Let's move on down the list!
On paper (or cardboard), the Altar looks unimpressive. Just about every creature costs more than one mana, and the times that you'd like the sacrifice (like when you're chump-blocking), the mana won't do you much good. In that regard, something like Viscera Seer is better. However, the Phyrexian Altar fits a niche along with Ashnod's Altar – it lets people sacrifice lots of dumb creatures over and over with Enduring Renewal or similar cards. Sometimes, you just want that monster sacrificed for free, like with the Hulk Aether Flash decks that ran Carrion Feeder just to eat Kiki-Jiki over and over, unconcerned about the creature pumping.
Though this doesn't make a lot of mana, it color-fixes, which can be helpful. I run a copy in my Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker EDH deck just for free sacrifices. When you're playing a Highlander format and you really want your Enduring Renewal deck to work, then this is perfect. It also has a decent trading volume, meaning you might not have to settle for bulking it out.
Yes, it's a lot of mana. People like to play decks that generate a lot of mana with Power Artifact and Grim Monolith, Metalworker, or just a random infinite-mana loop. Planar Portal fetches up whatever kill condition you need. In EDH, you often have the mana to crank this Demonic Tutor every turn. Thus, it's a popular card that can fit in plenty of decks. Though the Portal has been reprinted in 8th, it's only black-bordered in Invasion. Foil copies command a nice premium, too.
$2.00 ($8.00 in foil)
Reya used to be the stone nuts in Reanimator. Cast Buried Alive and bin Reya and two of her friends. Bring back a zombified Angel and then she'll bring her buddies out on the next few turns! Though the high cost makes her prohibitively mana-intensive for actual casting, it's been a big fan-fave for years. It was reprinted in 10th Edition – it was even the prerelease foil! That cratered the value of Reya, which has been a couple of bucks since then. It's nice to see that it at least costs a little bit of dough, compared to the once-mighty Verdant Force, reprinted to oblivion.
Rith was the most successful of the new Dragon cycle, seeing a bit of play in white-splashed Fires decks. Making tokens is really cool, and even though Rith making a bunch of buddies won't actually seal the deal any faster, it still feels glitzy. It occupies a rare triad of colors for EDH generals, so people like the big dragon.
Circuitous Route is, to my knowledge, the only white instant-speed removal around. Seven mana, no other questions, everything gone. It was phenomenal in Standard because you could still play U/W Control without tapping out on your turn to sweep things away. That made it a little too good. It also makes it powerful in multiplayer formats and casual, since you can blow away everything and still untap to lay out something new. Circuitous Route is also very valuable in foil.
$2.75 ($18.00 in foil)
I was honestly surprised by the value on this one. It's a card I would easily dismiss as a bulk rare, but it's one of the more valuable casual cards in Invasion. It lets you make double the army of elves you have already out, and there's no shortage of people who really dig on Saproling decks (thanks, Thelon of Havenwood!). It's not a serious card because it requires you to have a couple dudes before it actually does anything. When you have time to make Blightreaper Thallid // Blightsower Thallids and Saprolings, it's a fine card.
Does anyone play this guy without kicker? It was part of the Machine Head deck and other random Red aggro decks. It's a little slow for burn decks, but it appeals to the folks who love Ball Lightning. Skizzik is interesting because it isn't worth much more in foil than the nonfoils, which tells me that casual players (but not EDH players) are looking for the card.
Enchantress is a perennially fun deck for both casual players and Legacy enthusiasts. Sterling Grove superpowers the deck, protecting things like Magus of the Moat and Solitary Confinement. If someone tries to take it out, it pulls up whatever silver bullet you'd like. It's an uncommon, but worth more than most rares. This is solid gold to pull out of a bulk box!
$4.00 ($10.00 in foil)
I'm surprised at how much Bellowing Tanglewurm runs, but it's also sort of a green Time Walk. You can stop the opponent's strike, then catch them on your turn with a blowout. Bellowing Tanglewurm reminds me of Turnabout in that way. It's an uncommon and people apparently actually spend money on them, so keep an eye out for them in bulk boxes. Spotting these cards can make a substantial difference in what you take away when you buy a collection.
If you're looking for a Bant EDH general, Treva is low on the list; you've got Rafiq of the Many ahead of it, for example. Treva also competes with Angus Mackenzie and Rubinia Soulsinger. In spite of that, it's a heck of a general because it's hard to find a flying general in Bant colors (yes, Phelddagrif, I know you). Treva's ability is mostly meaningless, which is sad; it's just a pile of beef that flies for six mana. That, along with being reprinted in the Phyrexia vs.The Coalition theme decks, has dropped her price.
Though not as good as Absorb, folks still love UB control decks and Akki Underminer is classic for that. The lifeloss is mostly meaningless, especially since UB decks kill bit by bit (Creeping Tar Pit), in fives (Tombstalker) or all at once (Psychatog). Akki Underminer doesn't help with any of those races, but it does twist the knife nicely in EDH.
This was a super-crazy chase rare, even though it was almost never kicked. The possibility, though, of killing the opponent with just a pair of these is great to dream about. They popped up in a lot of decks at the time, usually just to Lightning Bolt something for three mana. Burn, as you might recall, kind of sucked at the time. This was a $20 card during its low points, but like I said, it was fun to dream about kicking it, even if the card seems quaint these days.
The Happy Tree used to be a budget replacement for Birds of Paradise, but since they have plummeted in value, it's dropped as well. I only see it in multicolor EDH decks, but it still seems weird there; it can't be better than a signet, for example.
Thanks for joining me through Invasion! Next week, we'll see Planeshift and the economic powerhouse that is Apocalypse!
Until next week,