Sleeper Cell NPH

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This week we will go off the beaten path of the usual trade analysis articles I write.  Instead I want to talk about the new set. Now before you groan and close this article bear with me I promise it will be worth it.  Yes, we all know Karn Liberated and Sword of of War and Peace are insane as this has been beaten again and again by every author on the internet.  What about the rest of the set?  Is there any value or is it just a pile of trash?  This week I will cover what I like to call the sleeper cards, the ones people turn a blind eye toward to focus on the larger metagame changers.

What few people realize is that the casual market drives prices just as much as the competitive standard players.  Do you know what the lieges from Lorwyn block are worth?  Few people realize that they still hold any value at all and if you know how to play your trades correctly you can turn a hot ticket item into double or triple the value just from people’s lack of knowledge.  The same works for new sets, everyone is looking for the new game changers and fail to realize that just because a card isn’t worth 10+ doesn’t mean it won’t be worth picking up.   I’ll run down the chain so you can follow by set color and I’ll cover anything that has potential to be more than bulk.  Most of these prices will take a month or three to catch on but when everyone else is so concentrated on the competitive aspect they still make great pickups while they are cheap.


Blade Splicer: Expect this guy to be a bulk rare to start with. It's unlikely that it will see any real standard play but with the new set comes a “new” tribe.  Golems have been around the game of Magic for year’s but casual players love the idea of theme decks so expect this guy to be a quick return at 2-3. It does have the added benefit of being four power split between two guys for three mana so it is not impossible to imagine an aggro deck that wants more Sword targets to look at this guy for consideration.  Either way a very safe pickup at bulk to a dollar.

Verdict: 2-3

Chancellor of the Annex:  It's unlikely that this card will see any play at all. Its not enough of an impact to see Standard play and casual crowds hate counters. Even EDH doesn’t have much of a home for this guy. Its reveal mechanic is cute and may slow down the game slightly but the in play mechanic is extremely underwhelming.

Verdict: Bulk

Elesh Norn // Elesh Norn: Everyone knows this card may see play as a finisher in some control post rotation and Legacy Dredge is already looking at it in the SB spots so I don’t feel like I need to explain.  EDH and Casual appeal as well doesn’t hurt the mythics price tag so pick them up if you can get a good deal.

Verdict: 6-8

Norn's Annex: This card won’t see any Standard play as the decks you want it against just don’t mind paying the life and to have it down by turn three costs four life itself.  Perhaps fringe EDH play to go with the suit of Propaganda, Ghostly Prison and similar effects but unlike the others no mana is required and typically swinging with a fatty feels worth the two life.

Verdict: Bulk

Phyrexian Unlife:  This card may never see a competitive table in its lifetime; however, the potential in so many combo decks makes this card look like a great pickup.   With Melira in the same set casual players all over are sure to be drooling over this.  The reason Platinum Angel is not a bulk rare is the same reason this will remain in the green.

Verdict: 3-4

Puresteel Paladin: Currently has a six dollar price tag on SCG and while that seems relatively high I expect that price to remain.  Mono White Quest has still been putting up numbers in the latest MODO events and this guy appears to be able to take that deck into post NPH with style.  Combined with Quest and Flayer Husk the card draw that deck lacked before may be available in a package that is efficiently costed and gives you a backup plan in case your armored creature hits the bin.  The deck may need to transform slightly in order to allow more artifacts in but it may be a change well worth the tweak.

Verdict: 5-8


Chancellor of the Spires: This guy looks like garbage to the competitive eye, and rightfully so.  He has no business in a Standard seventy five as even if mill becomes viable he is to much of a dead draw after your opener to even be worth considering.  Does this make him worthless?  Certainly not, there is a reason Glimpse the Unthinkable is a 15+ dollar card, Casual players LOVE mill.  I venture to say it is probably one of the top 5 played archetypes in the casual realm.  The idea of free mill and a huge body is doubly appealing. The ability is just a bonus.  Everything about this guy screams Timmy!

Verdict: 4-6

Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur: Boy is this set made for the Timmies out there.  Spike looks at this guy and tries to cheat him in which may or may not prove effective, but Timmy wants to cast this guy straight out.  This card not only has the Casual and minor competitive draw but EDH will scoop this up in a heartbeat. Mono U control may have just found a new general and even if he doesn’t get the nod in most decks in the key position, expect to see him in the 99.  A strong card that denies your opponent’s a chance to play real Magic while sifting through your deck at an unmatched speed….sign me up!

Verdict: 6-8

Phyrexian Ingester: A Death-Mask Duplicant of sorts that for one mana provides an extra power and toughness.  However the beauty of Death-Mask Duplicant is the fact that it gives decks like green a way to remove creatures and can be searched for in a multitude of plays.  Ingester seems outclassed and while Death-Mask Duplicant stays out of the bulk pile I feel he will not share the same future.

Verdict: Bulk

Phyrexian Metamorph: As with Elesh this guy has already had a lot of hype.  A sculpting steel for 2 life or a clone at the same cost feels amazing. While sculpting steel has a pretty high price tag itself I expect this to top it.  Four dollars seems low in the long run but that is SCG’s early price. I expect a bump to 6 within a month and possibly closing in to the 10 mark if it finds a competitive Standard home.

Verdict: 6-8

Psychic Surgery: While this card does have some cute applications in Legacy it seems far to narrow to ever see any real competitive play.  Casual players may look at it but overall without fetchlands and other search effects running rampant among their circle of friends even they will probably stray away.  EDH may run it as an annoyance but with little effect on the actual game play I feel its destined for the bulk binder.

Verdict: Bulk

Xenograft: Another card I would label as “cute”. If this had been aggressively costed we may have seen a few Turntimber Ranger decks popping up but as it is I don’t see any potential even in the casual realm.  The effect has been done in the past and those cards don’t hold much value so expect this to follow suit.

Verdict: Bulk


Chancellor of the Dross: As with the white Chancellor I just don’t feel like this card does enough in either instance to warrant a look.  Casual players may find it appealing in multiplayer games to start 12-15 life ahead while draining the others but painting a bullseye on your head before the game even starts seems to outweigh what little advantage it offers.

Verdict: Bulk

Glistening Oil: I can’t say enough as to why this card is bulk.  Casual players have no interest in giving their opponents infect and beyond that this takes multiple turns to see any results, all the while they are still beating your face in.  The last ability is about the only thing that even makes this card limited playable and even then I’m not that excited about it.

Verdict: Bulk

Life's Finale: This is one of the cards I have been trying to evaluate for weeks now with no avail.  Although the ability is extremely good and it is a wrath….it also costs six.  Black has so many other ways in casual formats to remove creatures. I feel that the two extra mana for a pseudo Earwig Squad ability may not be worth it.  At the same time in the EDH realm this card seems fantastic .  I can’t be sure on every card and this one is certainly one of the few I’m still torn on.

Verdict: 1-6?

Phyrexian Obliterator: I am on the Mono Black train. I’ll admit that something about being so evil in game just makes matches seem entertaining to me.  As for this guy I had to read him about twenty times to make sure I wasn’t missing something.  With the rise in Doom Blades to take care of Precursor this may sneak into some top eights before people know what hit them.  It appears all the tools are in place to make a tier one deck but whether on not that comes to fruition is still yet to be seen.  As for the Casual market, they will scoop this card up for that and any Mono B EDH decks floating out there.

Verdict 15-25

Praetor's Grasp: While this card will be unlikely to see any Standard play, EDH and Vintage love him.  I don’t think the price will be astronomical but remaining slightly above bulk seems fine considering the rest of black is pretty disappointing in this set.

Verdict: 2-3

Sheoldred, Whispering One: This card is one of those few gems in a set that everybody will love.  A cross format card, especially at mythic, it is one to certainly watch out for.  Costing one more than Grave titan means it may not see immediate play but this card may quickly become a control finisher.  Just like Grave Titan expect the price to start low where it is now and only go up from here, possibly reaching the 15-20 mark at some point.  Being the Prerelease card does hurt that potential some but with the casual crowd and EDH alike gunning for this girl expect a quick spike shortly after release to 10.

Verdict 10-15

Surgical Extraction:  This is strictly a competitive card. Useless in EDH with very little casual appeal makes the current and future price completely dependent on tournament results.  That said the card seems great in almost every format and I expect a lot of play so I would say the current price tag will stick, perhaps only seeing a slight drop with the buy-a-box promo being available as well.

Verdict: 8-10

Well that’s it for this week, come back next week for the conclusion of the set and a look at the casual commons and uncommons to keep an eye out for.  While many of the prices are known just as many of these cards have slipped past the radar of competitive players.  Playing the casual and competitive markets against each other is a great way to turn the new set into great profits for yourself while giving everyone what they want in the end.

Until next week, keep trading!

Ryan Bushard

@CryppleCommand on twitter

2 thoughts on “Sleeper Cell NPH

  1. Solid analysis. Lieges have been favorites of mine to pick up as throw-ins in trade for a while. People value them at literal bulk rare prices when they are all a solid $3-5.
    I also agree with the Metamorph, but it being a release promo is definitely going to hurt it.

    1. Knowing the casual cards is the bread and butter of a true value trader so I feel people should be aware of what to look out for. Metamorph seems insane in every format and considering he is "colorless" makes his appeal that much better. I expect the release card to hurt the price slightly but releases are always less attended than prereleases so that may help. Also this is the first time in a long while we have seen two very playable cards for multiple formats as the release and prerelease cards. I am certainly glad not to be getting bulk with my entry.

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