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Insider: Why Liliana is Not Jace

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I’m sure you’ve heard the comparison made. “Liliana is the next Jace, get ready for $100 staples all over again.” I’ve had people asking me if they should be buying in at $70 in case it spikes to $100. Better to get in cheaply now, the concept goes.

I’m here to tell you that is not the case, and why.

Is Liliana the next Jace?

Beneath the Veil

Liliana of the Veil is a great card, there’s no doubt about it. She’s a dominating Planeswalker that can lock up a game. So it’s no surprise we have the comparison to Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

But Liliana is not Jace. And, more importantly, her price is not even going to be close to Jace levels.

Here’s why:

Innistrad is not Worldwake

Let’s start with the most important reason, and one that many people don’t immediately take into account.

Worldwake was drafted for an extremely short amount of time in an unpopular draft format. Seriously, ZZW was all about turning tiny dudes sideways for five turns and this kept a number of players out of the format. This is not the case with Innistrad. According to Aaron Forsythe, the set has set new records for prerelease attendance, more than doubling the Scars of Mirrodin release. We can only assume there will be a great many players interested in drafting Innistrad.

In addition, Worldwake was only part of the draft format for a pitiful three months before Rise of the Eldrazi booted it out entirely. This significantly cut the number of packs opened. The “third set effect,” (though it actually applies to whatever the last set in a draft was, for instance Worldwake or Eventide), creates significantly higher prices across the board and leads to randomly valuable cards like the Liege cycle out of Eventide.

This is the variable I most often see people forget when evaluating cards, but it’s really one of the biggest factors in a card’s price. Prices from a set like Alara Reborn are higher across the board than a set like Shards of Alara. It’s also the reason Zendikar fetchlands sat at $10 forever while Stoneforge Mystic made the climb past $20. And, in case you’re curious, it’s the reason Snapcaster Mage won’t sustain a $30 pricetag in a few months.

Liliana is not Blue

Outside of the factors outlined above, Jace has an inherent advantage over Lily. That is, he can be pitched to Force of Will and was the base color for every control deck in every format. While Black is also a heavily played color, it does not cover the range of decks that Blue does, particularly in older formats. While these older formats can easily play both Black and Blue, many of them would have to change what works well in their deck already to accommodate Liliana.

It’s well-known that eternal playability drives a card’s price quite a bit (but not as much as Standard playability), but Liliana doesn’t easily slot into these eternal decks like Jace did.

The financial environment has fundamentally changed

There’s a reason Mythics make such drastic jumps nowadays, and it’s all thanks to our buddy Jace.

Back when Jace 2.0 came out, Planeswalker were already very good, but they hadn’t gone crazy yet because none were truly as broken as Jace. What this meant is that there was no precedent on pricing for Planeswalkers of Jace-level power. We all know the rest of the story. Jace went higher and higher and players in every format created noticed how insane he was and began to warp formats with him. This caused the $100 pricetag.

But even at the height of his powers last season with CawBlade, Jace had begun to come down in price, and fell significantly off his highs on Ebay, even if retail prices hadn’t followed suit yet.

What that means for every Planeswalker since is that players are terrified of being behind the curve and missing out on the next $100 ‘Walker. This creates a huge run on cards as they begin to show up in a few lists. It happened to Koth, it happened to Venser, it happened to Chandra 3.0. While none of those quite panned out, we have a better candidate to compare Liliana to — Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas.

For starters, Tezz was from Mirrodin Besieged, which was opened in far, far fewer numbers than Innistrad will be. In addition, unlike both Jace and Tezz, Liliana actually gets worse as your opponents begin to play her (whereas Jace and Tezz would stay about the same in value), since +1 her has the very real possibility of helping them more than you, which is something that never happened with Jace or Tezz.

While Tezz 2.0 fell off in price due to not being great in the meta, his initial price spike after a good tournament showing mirrors Liliana quite well. While there’s an argument to be made that Tezz would have sustained high prices if he had continued to be format-defining, it’s not a very good one.

The initial spike to $40 on Ebay came down to very reasonable levels later, and now you can find Tezz for less than $20 retail. Even if Liliana continues to see more play than Tezzeret did at his peak (possible), it’s extremely unlikely she can sustain the $60+ price she’s going for on Ebay right now, given the factors we’ve already outlined.

In order to do so, she would have to be played enough more than Tezz to make up for the fact that she will be opened in far greater numbers. The math just doesn’t add up.

In short, no Planeswalker since Jace has lived up to the standard, and with the number of copies that will be in circulation in a few months, it is exceedingly unlikely (read: impossible) Liliana can replicate Jace’s performance.

Liliana simply isn’t as good as Jace

I’ve touched on this in part in the above points, but there are some other reasons why Liliana is more of a Tezzeret than a Jace – Her design makes it literally impossible for her to be as ubiquitous as Jace. Jace slotted into every deck that wanted to be more consistent (Twin), and every control deck that needed a finisher/card advantage machine. I’m not going to harp on his merits any longer because we all know them – He simply did everything.

Liliana, on the other hand, is a much more specialized weapon rather than the Swiss Army Knife Jace was. As I stated above, her +1 loses a lot of its value if your opponent is also playing Liliana, which is not true with Jace.

Her -2 is debatable with Jace’s -1, but there’s an important distinction. Liliana’s takes her to 1 loyalty, and easy peck for Inkmoth Nexus or Chandra's Phoenix. While it may not seem like much, your opponent can kill her easily enough with an Inkmoth the turn after you play her. While this is still good for you in the game, it’s not on the same level as Jace.

Oh yeah, Liliana doesn’t have that free ability named Brainstorm. There’s that.

Both have Ultimates that end the game, blah blah, nothing to see here.

For all the reasons I’ve outlined, I hope you agree that Liliana is not on the same power level as Jace. If you disagree, you’re probably one of those people who rip up bulk Mythics in front of kids to prove a point (seen it happen).

So Liliana isn’t as good or ubiquitous as Jace, will be opened in much higher quantities, and doesn’t have the shortage of supply that Jace did. But people still think it’s going to go as high or higher than Jace?

I think we can all agree that’s absurd.

Lowering the Veil

So the $70 question is, where is Liliana going?

Here’s what I said about her in my prerelease primer:

“In my limited testing, Liliana has been insane. She comes and edicts a player, then sticks around to accumulate value as you make them discard things they care about while you pitch something like a Vengeful Pharaoh. She probably won’t be staying at $35, but I see her staying pretty relevant as we move forward and price increases are possible. I’m interested in picking up as many of these as possible for reasonable prices.”

This was a pretty apt description, with one glaring error. While I said to pick her up at Prerelease weekend, I made the mistake of thinking the great minds behind SCG pricing knew the same things I did.

I figured the Jace Effect had already been priced into the $35 presale price on SCG. With one of the best finance minds around (Ben Bleiweiss) and a stable of the best pros in the game, surely they would have priced Liliana near the upper end of her price range?

I guess not, since they’re now buying them for $40 (sell yours now if you don’t need them).

I was spot-on with my analysis of the card, but made a mistake in placing too much trust in SCG’s pre-pricing scheme. I know that they are always going to react to the market and raise the price accordingly; I just didn’t expect it to be this substantial.

Lesson Learned.

From here, I suspect Liliana is going to stay very high for a few weeks, and depending on how the metagame evolves I can see her coming back down to her previous level or hovering around $40-50 retail in a few months at the high end. Either way, from a financial standpoint, now is the time to get out.

I hope I helped to sway your opinion on Liliana if you were unsure and save you some money. Let me know if I’m off-base on anything or you have anything to add to this discussion. Personally, I think it’s insane that people are paying $70+ dollars for a card that’s going to be opened for another nine months, but that’s just me.

As always, thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

2 thoughts on “Insider: Why Liliana is Not Jace

  1. I'm so torn. I just opened one, and am trying to decide if I should sell it. It seems like they're selling for between 50 and 60 on ebay. Assuming I can only make 50, would you still recommend dumping them?

    1. Definitely dump if money is a concern to you when it comes to something like this. From a pure financial standpoint, you absolutely sell, but if you're interested in playing with and the $20-25 hit is something you don't mind, keep it. Personally, I have a difficult justify spending lots of money on cards, which is why I've turned Magic into a self-sustaining hobby. But others just want to save themselves some money while still paying out when playing.
      Bottom line – It's up to you. If you want the most money, sell now. If you need/want it to play with and don't mind the loss, keep it.

  2. ^benk, yeah. dump. I agree corbin. good piece, i'm still thinking that liliana is a tezzeret not a jace. amazing in teh right deck, will see some play, but this is just some hype.

    If i wanted to play devil's advocate (which i love to do) I'd say the comparison between innistrad and worldwake isn't enough to squash her as not being jace worthy. People are cracking packs like crazy, but part of that is Magic is simply blowing up right now. Pre-releases were off the charts, and i personally know lots of casual players that are trying to build competetive type 2 decks and get more involved with magic. So its certainly possible there's just a rise in the amount of players who want type 2 stuff.

    /devil

    I'm not suggesting this is the case, but possible.

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