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Insider: Considering Conflux

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Conflux was the second set from Shards of Alara - more gold spells, more interesting monsters and of course, more pricey cards for you! The set has a good amount of tournament-worthy cards, on top of a solid base of fun Commander spells. Let's take a look at the set!

Apocalypse Hydra

$1.75

If this were a "mere" rare, it probably wouldn't push a dollar. Being a Mythic means it's at about the Mythic bulk price. It scales into pretty awesome Commander size with more mana - eight mana makes a 12/12, which is an appreciable beast for that amount.

Banefire

$1.75

X-spells are getting better and better with newer sets. This makes a game-ending flameout into something approaching Urza's Rage. If you're a newer player, you've got to realize that X-spells used to be terrible. Ghitu Fire terrible. Would you rather flame someone with Ghitu Fire, hoping to sneak it in at their end-step to avoid a counterspell, or would you rather punch seven mana into this and never worry about a Cancel or Circle of Protection? Banefire has got a lot of casual appeal and people try it now and then in Commander decks.

Child of Alara

$1.50

One of the quirks of the Commander rules is that you can choose to have your general go to the graveyard when it dies. Child decks are based on this idea; they are frequently 60-70% lands, with things like Phyrexian Tower to kill their general and Volrath's Stronghold to recur it. Five colors means you can play anything in the format. It's a cool use of the rules, but it's hard to make a Child deck that uses its general without being overpowering. After a certain number of board wipes, everyone is sufficiently fed up with your general that the games become unfun!

Ethersworn Adjudicator

$1.25

This guy is really appealing to a casual player. You look at it and your mind races to the easy conclusion: with enough mana, you can machine-gun the board! Adjudicator is, sadly, too mana-intensive to pull this off most of the time, but it easily acts like a beater with pseudo-Vigilance and a really awesome rattlesnake effect in multiplayer games. I remember going to the Conflux prerelease and praying to open this, since it dominated sealed games.

Exotic Orchard

$1.25

The only time that this really saw play was as a 1-of in Cruel Control decks. If the opponent played lands like Vivid Creek, you didn't have to worry about making the right kinds of mana anymore. It pops up in Commander decks that use a lot of color-specific cards, since it almost always taps for rainbow mana.

Font of Mythos

$1.75

This is pretty straightforward - it's a double Howling Mine. It's so obvious that I wonder why we haven't seen it sooner. The Font holds a little bit of value precisely because it is good in Turbo-Fog decks. The way those decks work, be they in Modern, casual or Standard when Conflux was legal, was simple. Load up on a bunch of Fog spells and hope to have one each turn. Howling Mines and Fonts fueled your deck. It didn't matter if the opponent was drawing five cards per turn if they could never get a creature to hit. Eventually, you could deck the opponent - they drew first from every Font, so you could kill them without even running a dedicated kill spell.

Inkwell Leviathan

$1.75

A simple creature with three deadly interlacing abilities. Inky saw a bit of play in Vintage as a Tinker target before Blightsteel Colossus showed up. It also comes up in Legacy Reanimator decks from time to time. It's a huge commitment to get into play, but there's just no realistic way for most decks to get rid of the Leviathan when it hits.

Knight of the Reliquary

$8.50

Knight has always been a chase-worthy rare. It shot up to $14 during Extended, only to drop below $9 after it saw a promotional reprinting. Aside from just beating in, Knight can act like a Sylvan Safekeeper when he grabs a Sejiri Steppe or stop a reanimation problem with a Karakas. Knight even hunts down Arena in Modern, limiting Splinter Twin decks from comboing out. Knight is a pretty safe bet as a card to hold onto; if Bant or Zoo decks become dominant again in Modern, I'd expect it to hit an easy $12.

Maelstrom Archangel

$3.75

It's easy to tell why this card is popular with the casual crowd. It's an Angel, for one. It's a five-color card, which makes some people go nuts. It's a 5/5 flier for five mana that lets you cheat anything in your hand into play. Practically speaking, you'll not often have cards worth putting down with the Angel that you couldn't cast anyway - believe me, I've got a bit of experience on this one. If you're using her to cast Tidings, you're doing well. If you're using her to put that Mind Stone into play, it's probably not worth the work of getting all five colors together. That does not hold a lot of players back, though.

Martial Coup

$1.50

This is a mega-expensive Wrath of God because, let's be honest, you'll never cast it for less than 5WW unless you absolutely need chump blockers. When it works, the effect is huge. I expect to see some UW Tron decks in Modern start running with the Coup instead of spending time on things like Mindslaver. Why steal a turn when you can wipe the board and drop a two-turn clock?

Master Transmuter

$4.50

The Master started a long and steady climb up in price. First, people unsuccessfully attempted it in Vintage, trying to sneak Colossi into play. Apparently, a lot of people have not given up that dream, since this clocks in at a very respectable price for a rare. In a pinch, you can return the Transmuter to your hand, but it's much more fun when you can bounce things like Ichor Wellspring for value.

Noble Hierarch

$14.75

Hierarch is a hugely pricey card and it's not coming down any time soon. Exalted is a very popular casual mechanic that crops up in tournament decks from time to time. I got destroyed in Vintage just last week by an Exalted deck with a clock and all the answers. Exalted is a keyword specific to the Alara block. Unless we see it again in the future for another set, I doubt Noble Hierarch will ever be reprinted. Thus, this price will likely remain stable forever. It's unfortunate that this is the case; Hierarch is a solid card that players want access to. You can't reprint it all the time or you just destroy the reason for running other mana elves, but a boxed set with these here and there wouldn't hurt...

Path to Exile

$3.00

Path is the new Swords to Plowshares. It's highly efficient. It's a Modern and Legacy staple. Path has never even dipped below $3 in all its time. That it has not jumped up significantly tells me that $3 is about what the market will bear for this card; no use hoarding them.

Progenitus

$11.25

Beyond its general appeal, this card is a study in what a truly casual-popular Mythic can achieve. You've got to have a card at this one's level, but this is proof that the market will sustain a mythic at over ten dollars. Part of Progenitus' value comes from the fact that it is five colors. You can bring it up with Natural Orderr or send it away for Contagion. It makes a dominating Commander if you can live long enough to summon it and aside from board wipes, there's no getting rid of this hydra.

Reliquary Tower

$3.00

What happens when you print a casual uncommon with an ability that everyone loves? You get a sleeper hit uncommon. These are $3 and they sell like wildfire. Though they'd make a great reprint candidate (good art, generic name, great ability), they might ever see a reprint. To shed some light on why people dig this, I'll share an anecdote. When Wizards did market research long ago and showed players pictures of every card in Exodus, they picked Spellbook as their favorite, far beyond any other. That spirit is still alive and well with Reliquary Tower.

Thornling

$1.25

This is how low a Mythic can drop when it doesn't strike a chord for anyone. Thornling was a necessary evil in some Constructed decks. The longer the game went, the better this card became when you ripped it off the top of the library. Nobody was exactly thrilled to run it and it didn't even trade on the Morphling art the way that Torchling did. Green has some interesting keywords and abilities, but this card took a great idea and killed it by using the most boring Green abilities around.

Wall of Reverence

$1.75

People like lifegain, people like big walls. This card was briefly All That in Constructed because 5C Control players often cast this on the turn after they played a Plumeveil. A 1/6 wall, a 4/4 wall and four life per turn was nearly unassailable by aggressive decks. Wall of Reverence shot up to $6 at that time, but it has settled in the meantime.

That's it for Conflux! Join me next week when we take a look at Alara Reborn, an all-gold set that pushed the color relationships to their limits. Until then,

Doug Linn

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