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Insider: Digging up the Dark Ascension Set Review

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It’s that time again! That time when I look back on my set review and see how I stacked up this time around. I really like writing these articles (and believe I was one of the first to begin reviewing my predictions) because it keeps me accountable for the advice I give out. And I take seriously how I review a set.

The goal is that I don’t need a gimmick like a Magic 8-Ball or dice or anything else to make my reviews interesting to read. I want to get in, touch on the important cards, and get out, hopefully making us all some money along the way.

As usual when reviewing, I’ll use Star City Games prices and hit upon the big cards from the set. I also wanted to include some reference charts from Black Lotus Project, but it looks like the site is having some trouble with Dark Ascension cards, so that's not an option for now.

Let’s see how I fared in that endeavor this time around.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed

Then: “This card seems fairly powerful, and is definitely going into my Commander deck, but I don’t see much here at $8, at least for now. It doesn’t really compare favorably to Grave Titan or Massacre Wurm at six mana. Maybe after rotation it will be more playable, but the price is going to come down in the meantime.”

Now: Down to $6, with EDH demand keeping it somewhat up there. Fairly easy call on this one, since it wasn’t likely going to see any Constructed play right away. That may change post-rotation, but as it stands this card presents a cool EDH combo with Triskelion and not much else. Because of that reason, this thing will stay not-free for a long time and would be primed for a spike if it ever saw Constructed play after the Titans rotate.

Vorapede

Then: “Another one that feels too overpriced coming out of the gates at $7.50. The thing is, I do think this card is powerful, and Mono-Green has some absurd creatures at every point along the curve (Strangleroot Geist into Dungrove into Thrun into Vorapede or Garruk). If such a deck were to become a thing, this card could easily jump past $10. That said, pick them up if you can get them cheap, but don’t feel bad trading them away at their current price.”

Now: As expected, this has fallen. What’s not expected is that it’s only to $7. It sees occasional play in Pod, but never as more than a one or two-of. Like all the Mythics on this list, its price will stay inflated with regards to Mythics from other second sets, like Mirrodin Besieged. That said, I’m not sure how much casual appeal this would have, so once it rotates out of Standard its price may not even stay as high long-term as something like Mikaeus.

Falkenrath Aristocrat

Then: “I’m really up in the air on this card. I’m pretty sure it’s going to show up in Standard at some point, but like some of the other cards on this list, I see it going down before it will ever go higher. If/when it drops to $2-3 after not seeing play, it will likely be a solid pickup for next year’s Standard.”

Now: Still going for $6, though there are nearly 100 in stock. It’s possible the price drop on these hasn’t really hit SCG yet, or they’re already pricing in the fact that these won’t be opened for much longer. Either way, you can find these for half that on the trade floor, and there’s no reason to not pick up a few now in preparation for next year.

Havengul Lich

Then: “Overhyped for now. This card is preselling at $15 and that’s too high. Even if it began to see play somewhere, it likely won’t be as a four-of, though its synergy with Heartless Summoning will keep people on this card.

I’m pretty sure this card isn’t going to see much play in the next few months since such a deck seems difficult to tune quickly, and will half in price. At that point we may re-examine based on where the metagame is at.”

Now: Down to $10 as expected. This does provide a sweet combo and all that in Standard, but $15 is hard to maintain for a card barely seeing play. It’s just too expensive to do much with in play to maintain that price. You don’t really want to cast it until you can activate it, but by the time you have that much mana there are far better things to do.

Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells

Then: “Opinions are all over the place on this card, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it will make an impact on Standard. The only question is when that impact will be felt.

I like what this thing does, as it passes the way-too-important Vapor Snag test. The two life isn’t irrelevant in a field of Delvers pecking at you, and the 2/2 body it leaves behind will be useful.

And that’s if it never transforms. If it does ever flip, it gets real really fast. The power level is there on this card, and its buddy Daybreak Ranger // Nightfall Predator may finally get a chance to shine in the next few months. I do think there will be a dip in this card’s price, but I’m definitely okay with targeting it in trades once it dips below $10.”

Now: Well, this thing dipped to $10, then spiked hard to $30 after the Pro Tour, which I actually called the week before the Tour happened. Hope you went hard on these and let me make you some money, since they go for $25 now and don’t see many signs of slowing down post-rotation.

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Then: “And this is where the true chase card of the set comes in.

I’m pretty sure BW tokens is a very real deck (and has felt insane at times in testing), and especially so once Ratchet Bomb rotates (by the way, pick that up this weekend).

He’s $55 right now, and like it or not, our buddy Jace is the closest comparison based on set specifics alone (since Worldwake and Dark Ascension are in the same boat in that regard). Sorin is obviously no Jace (since nothing is), but he compares decently with other four-mana Planeswalker like Ajani Vengeant and Elspeth, Knight Errant. I believe he’s going to be more similar to the former pair than to our much-maligned buddy Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas.

$55 isn’t sustainable long-term, but I don’t see him dropping like a rock either. Liliana still commands a $30 pricetag, and I can’t see Sorin going lower than that anytime soon. I feel like $35-40 is going to be a fair price for this guy in a few months, so keep that in mind if you bust him this weekend. While he isn’t going to sustain higher prices than what he has now, it won’t be all that easy to pick more up later.”

Now: $30 on SCG, and cheaper than Liliana, which is interesting. Most of this guy’s drop came from the fact that everyone showed up with infinite Ratchet Bombs the week after he was printed, which kept his playability down. Since then he has begun to crop up in more and more decks, so it’s good to see my initial price target was fairly close, if not 100% spot-on.

Thaila, Guardian of Thraben

Then: “This is pre-selling at $4, and I think that’s a reasonable price. I can see this being a fairly real card in Standard, and don’t think it falls below $2-3 during its run in Standard. It also has the potential to spike to $6-7 after a good weekend when the set is new, so keep that in mind.

I’m also not sure where this thing fits in among older formats, so keep an eye on that, as it will affect its price (especially foils) heavily.”

Now: Up to $5 at SCG, making an impact just as we expected. It’s made waves in Modern and especially Legacy, where it and Scavenging Ooze have made Maverick the best deck in the format. If you haven’t looked at the Prediction Tracker lately, you’ll see that this is one of my favorite speculation targets right now. Grab these at $3-4 in trade and you’ll likely double your money in six months to a year.

Dungeon Geists

Then: “This card seems to be getting heavily hyped in the last few days. While I can see why, I also don’t think there’s a ton here. Four mana for a creature is a lot in the type of UW Delver deck it would seem to best fit into. They are practically free right now ($1 SCG price), so it can’t hurt to grab a few this weekend, but I don’t suggest going deep.”

Now: $4 on SCG. While I’m glad I didn’t miss this card entirely, I didn’t exactly tell you to go out and buy them all either. I overlooked the interaction with the Captain and I consider this my biggest miss of the set, though I’m glad I picked up a few and had it included.

Geralf's Messenger

Then: “$4 on SCG right now, even though names like Patrick Chapin have advocate for the card. Yes, the mana cost is extremely prohibitive, but people love two things nowadays — Mono-Black and Zombies. This thing is both, not to mention being powerful in its own right.

One weekend is all it takes for this card to jump to $8. I like grabbing these this weekend. What makes this card attractive is that it likely shows up in all the same places Gravecrawler does, but is still $3 cheaper.”

Now: $10 on SCG. Nailed this one and glad I did. I’ve made a lot of money flipping Messengers, and I consider it a good place to continue to put your money in for the next year. Both this and its buddy Gravecrawler will continue to be popular for the next year-and-a-half, and there aren’t going to be many more opened.

Hellrider

Then: “This is what I call reach for red decks. It’s similar to Hero of Oxid Ridge except it doesn’t matter if your guys are blocked. While the upside of the Hero isn’t here for Hellrider, the downside isn’t much either, since it’s so cheap right now ($2 on SCG). Pick these up for a buck this weekend if you can, it’s a pretty low-risk move.”

Now: $3 on SCG, though it was at $4 for a while. Pretty much accurate on this one, and it’s still heavily played in Block, which bodes well for next year.

Grafdigger's Cage

Then: “Absolutely hate this card. I feel like it’s way too wide of a hate card, even if its not as good as people initially thought. It’s still $10 on SCG, but you can find it significantly cheaper elsewhere.

I’m pretty sure this will come down as far as $4-6 during its run in Standard and as people realize it’s not as oppressive as they thought. But one thing that won’t come down much is the foil price of this card, since it apparently tears up the Vintage scene (so I’m told from trusted sources). The foil retails for $30 on SCG, but you can probably snap these up for half that this weekend, since most people aren’t clued into the Vintage scene.”

Now: $4. I remember the week after the set released there was a guy at my LGS adamantly claiming this would stay $8-10 during its run in Standard, even arguing with me when I explained to him that 1) it’s a sideboard card and supply and demand would never be more out of sync than they were at the time, and 2) I do this for a living. Whatever, guess we’ve seen who won that argument. 😉

Interestingly, the foil price is down to $10 as this card has turned out to be even less oppressive than I originally thought. Turns out foil prices on in-print Rares can only go so far, no matter how good it allegedly is for the 10 or so people who play Vintage.

Wrap Up

I have to say I’m very proud of myself for this set review. I didn’t miss anything wildly important, and even though I wasn’t huge on Dungeon Geists, I still made note of it rather than ignoring it completely. The fact that I nailed Messenger, Cage and Huntmaster, three of the most-talked about cards during spoiler season, is just icing on the cake.

We’ll be back before too long with the review for Avacyn Restored, and I hope we do as well then!

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler
@Chosler88 on Twitter

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