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Insider: Waking Up the Sleepers in Innistrad

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Hello! My name is Carl Szalich and I have a problem. I’m addicted to Magic: The Gathering. I’ve been playing for the past 15 years in London, Ontario, Canada with decent results, but scrub out of every PTQ and even casual FNM’s. So what makes me qualified to write for Quiet Speculation? With all of my down-time after being eliminated, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to trade!

Trading, buying, and selling are my favorite aspects of MTG. I’ve made money and I’ve lost money. I’ve come out ahead in trades and I’ve been bent over and pillaged. I’ve seen the sharks rip off little kids and I’ve ripped those sharks in turn to “teach them a lesson”. I price cards based on eBay completed listings and make most of my money on the small stuff, slowly grinding my way into the more valuable staples. My articles are primarily based on trading and speculating so I'm looking forward to contributing to QS from here on out.

I enjoy writing and would love to hear your feedback regarding my articles! Whether it’s something you agree with or feel strongly against, opinions and discussion are what will make us a stronger community and improve the quality of our articles. So if there’s something you have to say… get it out!

Fabled Sleepers

As I played in a few tournaments over the last week I realized that we weren’t quite done with Innistrad. With all of the financial websites out there, SGC's competitive pricing of their cards, a slew of speculators, and tons of articles on deckbuilding, it’s getting hard to dig up undiscovered "sleeper" rares and mythics before tech is spoiled and prices explode.

So how can we find these cards before other people to ensure that we are the ones with the upper edge?

For one, we’re lucky that Innistrad is the first set of the new block. This lets us look ahead to what we may see in the next two blocks that would compliment it. To find out what may be good in the future, we need to look at what this block is trying and accomplish.

What is Innistrad all about anyway? What are its central themes?

  • Graveyard Mechanics (Flashback / Reanimation)
  • Tribal Themes (Humans / Vampires / Werewolves… oh my!)
  • Tokens (Township / Spirits)
  • Milling Strategies (Skaab Ruinator / Laboratory Maniac)
  • Creatures Dying (Morbid)
  • Sponsored by the letter “A” and the number 13!

Identifying what the central themes of the block are will help you prepare for what you may see in the future sets. When we know what we can expect, we can start picking up cards that would complement these themes. Based on the above we can now draw some conclusions and make some educated pick-ups!

I’m not going to bring up cards like Kessig Wolf Run or Snapcaster Mage. Those cards are too expensive to make it worthwhile to speculate on and they’ve already been “discovered”. I’m going to focus on those cards that are still under the radar and attainable at bargain bin prices.

So, while this article may read like a “these are dollar rares so buy them all ASAP!” advertisement, it’s the reasons why you should be looking to invest that are important.

Here’s what I’m thinking still has opportunity and is cheap, along with the reasons why I feel they are good cards to buy into. Even if they turn out to be misses, it’s the critical thinking that goes into making these decisions that is the most important skill to take away from this exercise/article. Be advised that there is going to be a lot more Innistrad opened up in the next few months, so all rares will decrease in value due to the increased supply. Make sure you trade with that in mind!

The Undiscovered


Champion of the Parish - (Theme: Tribal)
He hit a spike then went back down to $3-4. People in my area trade him at $6+, and I think he still has potential to go back up to there in real greenbacks as well. Humans are just starting to get some love, so there will be plenty more in the next set, and this guy has shown up in quite a few top decklists as part of the W/U aggro-Geist builds already (including 2nd/ 4th/ 6th places @ GP Hiroshima!). If you can get this guy on the cheap, it’s worth picking up a playset, even if just to re-trade them.


Elite Inquisitor - (Theme: Tribal)
He can be picked up for around $1, so it’s a relatively low cost investment. He’s the best white knight we’ve seen in a long time, and his pro-vampire/werewolf/zombie clause is only going to get better as more creatures of those tribes get released in the next two sets. He’s also a human, so depending on what’s released for his tribe he could see play (in sideboards, at least)!


Geist Honored Monk - (Theme: Tokens)
At $1 or less this guy is a bargain. It’s already being played in competitive token builds (2x were in the 1st place deck for GP Hiroshima!) and provides card advantage. It’s no “Siege Gang Commander”, but it’s moderately comparable, and being in the same “class” as SGC is a feat in itself.


Mikaeus, the Lunarch - (Theme: Tribal / Tokens)
Presently worth $4-5 I don’t think he has much more room to grow, however, he’s showing up in T8 lists for token decks and I can see him helping out a human deck as well. Even though he’s already $5ish, his mythic factor and the fact that he’s seeing play already makes him a buy. Note that since he was printed in FTV: Legends that there are more of him out there than the other mythics which you can use to your trading advantage!
(EDIT: The entire ChannelFireball team played him as a 1-of in their Tempered Steel decks and they took FOUR of the top 8 places with it at Worlds this past week! If he's making the cut into Tempered Steel, the question isn't when we'll see him next... it's where!)


Mindshrieker - (Theme: Graveyard?)
I’m not really sure how to classify this guy, but with Ponder and Delver of Secrets in the format he has potential. Ponder sets up both a Delver flip as well as putting cards in the “right order” to do some huge damage with the Mindshrieker. He’s around $1 which is a good place to be for speculating.


Mirror-Mad Phantasm - (Theme: Graveyard)
So far I haven’t had any good brews with this guy, but he has a unique ability and is a mythic rare at around $1.50. If mill decks actually become competitive in the next sets, he may have a shot at the big time. There is already a “combo” with him and Necrotic Ooze that decks yourself for 1U, so there is hope!


Rooftop Storm / Undead Alchemist / Unbreathing Horde - (Theme: Tribal)
Wizards is really pushing the Zombie tribe in this set. We already got a 1cc 2/2 Zombie, and the next set is bound to contain more of this tribe. Unbreathing horde is comparable to Phantom Centaur in a lot of ways, and the Undead Alchemist will be staple in “Zombie Mill” if that ever exists. Rooftop Storm seems REALLY expensive for its CC, but could get broken depending on what new Zombies get released. All of these are under $1 right now. If you’re feeling good about the Zombos… there won’t be a better time to pick them up!


Skaab Ruinator - (Theme: Graveyard)
How the mighty have fallen. I’m glad I was on the team of: “Don’t buy into this guy, he’s not worth the hype” as he went from $20+ to where he now sits at < $5. NOW is the time to purchase the Ruinator. He’s super cheap and all of his potential is still there… it just hasn’t had the cards released to really make him “big time” yet. A “Buried Alive” style card in the next set could send him shooting back up to his old prices.
Bloodgift Demon - (Theme: N/A… he’s just good!) This guy is midrange, and if a Jund Style deck becomes popular, he’ll probably be in it. At $1-2 there is really no reason why not to get a few, I know mine just fly out of my binders at the trade table right now, so even if he doesn’t really go up, he’s still in demand.
Reaper from the Abyss - (Theme: Creatures Dying) Right now people seem to be choosing the Titans over this guy because of the CA automatically generated by casting a Titan. I feel this guy is poised to take over the titans spot in the future. He trumps every titan in that he is able to kill them with his P/T, fly over them, or just come down after morbid has been triggered and outright destroy them (which generates CA with the Reaper). It’s just a matter of time before someone starts swinging into a “bad trade”, then dropping this guy in their second main phase and shattering dreams. He’s $2, mythic, and uses morbid. More morbid enablers in the next set will REALLY help him out, especially if there is a card that just says: “Sacrifice THIS to do THAT” (the Rusalka creature cycle comes to mind).
Instigator Gang // Wildblood Pack / Kruin Outlaw // Terror of Kruin Pass - (Theme: Tribal) Have you ever PLAYED the werewolf deck? It’s a LOT of fun! Other people think so as well, so this tribe is poised to EXPLODE if they get anything new to support them. Instigator Gang is the NUTS so I would go after as many of them as I can find, but his little buddy Outlaw isn’t far behind. They are currently around $1 each, and they've been some of my most popular trading bait lately! (Personally I’m trying to FOIL my werewolf deck! :P)
Daybreak Ranger // Nightfall Predator / Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha - (Theme: Tribal) Unlike the previous two werewolves, both of these lycanthropes are good on their own. Mayor sees play in U based “draw-go” as well as humans and werewolves, and Ranger is solid in Werewolves and any build that’s G/R. They are both around $2-3 right now, so while they’re not the cheapest, they’re still good buys. I would focus on the Mayor, as he crosses into the most themes (even splashing into draw-go control), only needs 1 color, and therefore has the most potential.
Kessig Cagebreakers / Splinterfright - (Theme: Graveyard / Milling) These are the guys that got me writing this article since I played a deck that focused on self-mill and making huge Boneyard Wurms and Splinterfrights. This is a graveyard / mill themed block, so we can expect these cards to continue to get better. At $1 or less each right now, I’m into them pretty heavy… if pretty heavy = around $20 for a couple playsets.
Parallel Lives - (Theme: Tokens) Similar to Doubling Season, if this enchantment doesn’t get any attention from cards like Geist Honored Monk and Hero of Bladehold (however unlikely), it’s bound to increase as casual players clamor to add them to their Commander decks. For $1.50 or less if it’s not going to see play in standard, it WILL see play in casual and should slowly increase in price as the supply dies down and other sets are released.
Olivia Voldaren - (Theme: Tribal) Another $4 mythic with great potential. If there is a competitive vampire deck in B/R (which it looks like there WILL be), Olivia will be there with her pallid flesh and hungry fangs to nibble on your opponents life total. I think she’s constructed worthy for non-tribal decks as well, as her P/T and abilities are awesome for a 4 drop! It’s a questionable call, but she’s a really good commander as well, so has application outside of standard. (EDIT: Looks like Chapin thought the same, and this card is now $10+! Did you miss it? :S)


Grimoire of the Dead - (Theme: Graveyard)
Apparently $2 mythics are a theme in Innistrad? While I don’t think this card is all that great, it’s withstood the initial market influx of cards and has retained its $2 price tag which means something at least. The reason why it’s making the cut to a possible sleeper is because of the fact that you reanimate as an INSTANT. Don’t go hard, but picking up a few for the “just in case” factor isn’t a bad idea!

Until Next Time!

Not a terrible list for a set that was said to have been picked clean of sleepers, eh? While not everything listed here will end up being a hit, I still believe these are the cards with a lot of potential to increase from the low price point upon which they currently reside. Take it with a grain of salt, however, as many of these cards will rely on the next 2 sets and what they have the possibility of bringing along to compliment them. I guess that’s why they call it speculating.

This is my first article for Quiet Speculation so I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section.

Until next time, remember: “You’re bigger than you think!”

Carl Szalich

14 thoughts on “Insider: Waking Up the Sleepers in Innistrad

  1. Great article! You write well, and I'd love to see more.

    I do have a couple questions:
    1) Is NOW the time to buy for some of these ~$2-3 cards, or should we wait until sometime around late December, when the prices may have dropped even lower? When I look at BLP for the history of sets like Zendikar and SoM, it seems that the lowest average price point for mythics and rares in these first sets is right around the start of the new year. I guess in a nutshell, what I'm asking is, do you think any of these prices will go even lower?

    2) You had a lot of love for werewolves and zombies in this article. Do you think tribes like Spirits will be worth looking into at all?

    1. If you're planning on buying them for cash, I still think it would be a good time since now that worlds is finished, people are going to be homing in on those decklists and trying to buy the cards that have ALREADY made it big-time, which could cause a secondary dip in the market for sleepers since none of them were breakouts at worlds so aren't on the radar (yet). Lucky for us, we ARE taking that second glance so that we can continue to look ahead instead of setting our sights behind us on what has already been proven to be good… we want to get them BEFORE they're identified as playable.

    2. 2) Right now I don't think there is enough to make spirits a good tribe. They are in the set, yes, but don't have a feel as something that would show up in a COMPETITIVE decklist yet. We have a good base in Geist Honored Monk and Doomed Traveller, but I feel spirits are going to end up more the token route, less the tribal route. On top of that, it seems like they are trying to tie the spirits in with humans, which takes away from their focus. Look at Dearly Deprted for example: It's a spirit that doesn't even help the spirit tribe… it helps humans! This division in the tribe is going to hurt it if it continues into the next set. So as far as the spirit tribe is concerned, just pick up those that would actually be good on their own (like the GHM), as there don't seem to be any complimentary sprits out there right now. Should this change, I still don't see any other spirits that really make me say: "Wow, this guy would be great if they were to release a lord!". Maybe the next set will set up up for spirits in the third?

  2. Great article! You write well, and I'd love to see more.

    I do have a couple questions:
    1) Is NOW the time to buy for some of these ~$2-3 cards, or should we wait until sometime around late December, when the prices may have dropped even lower? When I look at BLP for the history of sets like Zendikar and SoM, it seems that the lowest average price point for mythics and rares in these first sets is right around the start of the new year. I guess in a nutshell, what I'm asking is, do you think any of these prices will go even lower?

    2) You had a lot of love for werewolves and zombies in this article. Do you think tribes like Spirits will be worth looking into at all?

    1. Hi Greg, thanks for the feedback! 🙂 Let's see if I can answer those questions for you…

      1) Yes, I think now is as good a time as any to start buying into the $1-3 cards. We already missed out on the Olivia jump, but just think where we could have been had we been speculating on it all along because of the fact that it's a vampire (one of the Innistrad themes we'd identified)? We want to try and eliminate our chances of misses as best we can, so picking up a few of these here or there for these prices at ANY time is reccomended. If you can avoid outright BUYING these cards and just trade for them, you'll be much better off! There aren't many people out there who would hesitate to throw in a Splinterfright or lesser Werewolf into a deal to finalize it.

  3. I love the commentary for each card, but how about a scale factor as well? Maybe a 1-10 showing how risky or safe an increase in value, and maybe a ceiling that you believe it can hit. Also, how about ranking them on the ones you beleive are the very best buys and you are targeting the most. From reading it seems like it may be Skaab Ruinator, Reaper of the Abyss, and Instigator Gang. Am I correct?

    1. Todd: Those are great suggestions for next time… love it!

      Indeed, I do suggest the three that you'd listed with an emphasis on the Reaper and the Skaab since they're mythics, and the Instigator because he's what really makes the Werewolf deck lethal with that +3/+0 to attack. While I am collecting ALL of those listed in the article, some others that I would put major focus on would be:Mirror-Mad Phantasm (Unique Ability / Mythic), Kessig Cagebreakers (Try him as a Pod target!), GHM, Elite Inquisitor, and Mikaeus (because of his placing at worlds).

      It's funny because of those, I wouldn't pay more than $2 for the mythics listed (except for the Skaab, which I'm paying around $3-4 ea. right now) and $1 for the rares. I really think the mythics are the place to be however, as they tend to jump highest in price quickest (see Olivia).

  4. Carl, I am looking forward to your next article! 🙂

    Good stuff in here.
    I really like the way you explain your calls. Easy to understand, yet you focus on the important things = how you came to your conclusion and how we can learn to do the same.
    Thanks!

  5. Carl,

    I like your mention of Skaab Ruinator here. He is one of those unforgotten Mythics. Some pros were stoked to brew with this card when he was first spoiled, but thus far he has fallen flat. Much like Stoneforge Mystic with equipment, Skaab Ruinator should get better as more milling cards are made. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

    Look forward to reading more!
    Sigmund

  6. You can Vial out a Skaab Ruinator! I agree it has potential, but it needs to be protected and I don't think a Buried Alive effect is going to be successful enough.

    1. Hey Matt! OOooo I like the vial tactic… didn't even think of that! :). I'm thinking it also has potential if there is a big mill card like "Glimpse the Unthinkable". T2 Glimpse will enable a T3 Ruinator everytime and may even give enough to bring him back once!

  7. I want to add two more calls to this list!

    1) Bloodline Kepper (Theme – Tribal)
    He's the new Vampire Nocturnous, and once we see more vampires in the next two sets will be KEY to building the deck. He's already $3-4, so isn;t very cheap right now, but he's going to get more expensive before he drops, so I'd pick up a few in trades if you can. I'm actually trying to get a few on MODO right now @ around 0.7 tix as well. I think he's going to hit $5 at least.

    2) Moorland Haunt (Theme: Tokens / Is just good!)
    Seeing tons of play EVERYWHERE. Channel Fireball splashed U into tempered steel just for this card, and their deck took 4 of 8 top places at worlds. Also seeing play as a 4x in humans, and who knows if spirits will ever get anything good to compliment it as well. Somehow it actually seems to have gone DOWN to $1 so I'll be buying at least 12. I can see this hitting $3-5 in the future, as it has casual appeal as well!

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