Insider: Bans and Spoilers, Some Snap Thoughts

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As expected, we’re deep in M13 spoilers now, and the set is fast approaching. Wizards has done a lot to make the core set interesting in recent years, and M13 looks to be no exception, especially with the Titans finally rotating out.

And while M13 remains the hot topic, it will be pushed out for a few days at least by the action, or inaction, of the banning committee. On Wednesday the quarterly decisions were announced, with nothing getting the hammer in any format, and Land Tax actually being unbanned.

Let’s start with the obvious. Land Tax has gone crazy in price, and we have no idea how good it will be in Legacy. If you have any Land Taxes or you got in cheap, I have to default to my usual rule of thumb: sell into the hype. Unload your Land Tax now while you can, because even if the card turns out to be real (and it could be, with Scroll Rack and miracles) it’s unlikely the price will hold where it is now. Unless you absolutely need yours, sell now and lock up some profits.

Arguably more important than the unbanning of Tax was the lack of a ban on any of the pieces of Sneak and Show. I honestly thought Show and Tell would get the ban, since it’s always being talked about for possible banning and is so difficult to interact with. I know some people were calling for the banning of Griselbrand, but I never bought into that. If the combo was too good for Legacy, Show and Tell would have gotten the axe, not the big baddie. After all, they banned Survival of the Fittest, not Vengevine.

With that said, there’s very little in the way of upward movement possible with the pieces, since Sneaks and Shows have already spiked. The big Demon himself, though, I’m looking to unload. He was banned in EDH on Tuesday, so that will cut down on some demand, not to mention the set he’s in is still being opened.

The most interesting tech to beat the combo decks has been Gilded Drake, a card that was fetching a weekend price of $20 on the floor at the SCG Invitational last week. It’s likely you can pick up some of these on the cheap still in trades, and I suggest doing so since it looks like those combo decks are going to stick around for a while.

Let’s touch on Modern for a second. While largely ignored right now, I wrote last week that it was time to move on Modern cards again to take advantage of this. The lack of bans in the format backs that up nicely, since it shows both that Wizards seems to be content with the current state of the format and you can make your investment moves accordingly.

Now onto Standard, where Delver still reigns supreme after no part of the deck got hit. If anything went, I expected it to be Snapcaster, since that’s the most inherently powerful card in the deck. But the win percentages of the deck seem to be acceptable to Wizards, though I suspect that is a product of such a large percentage of people playing the deck, including less skilled players. Just because a deck is “fair” in the hands of the average player doesn’t mean it’s not overpowering in the hands of a better player. While that’s true of any deck, it does help to explain why Delver dominates tournaments and headlines despite performing at a median rate.

But here’s what I suspect is the true reason behind the lack of bannings. First off, understand that Standard bannings are not where Wizards wants to be, and such measures will only be taken in extreme circumstances such as Cawblade. So when Wizards tells you in their release that tournament attendance has never been higher, you can see perfectly clearly why no ban is coming.

Sure, Delver may clearly be the best deck and close to overpowering, but as long as people are still showing up to play Wizards has a hard time justifying upsetting a portion of its player base by banning cards. I won’t go so far as to say it was absolutely the correct decision, but I think it’s probably fine, and it will only be another few months of Ponder and Vapor Snag anyway.

No bannings means you can feel confident picking up more Restoration Angel, as the card is obviously very good and now in no danger of losing its status as a go-to card in the best deck. It also means the cards that would stand to get better with bannings, like Primeval Titan, need to go asap.

Now let’s look at M13, the newest Core Set coming out. With the Duels of the Planeswalkers game releasing yesterday, previews are coming in earlier than usual. I’ll have my usual full review here in a few weeks, but I wanted to touch on the two new Planeswalkers we’ve had spoiled so far. If you’re not a spoiler person (do those people still exist, even?) then don’t read on.

Let’s start with Liliana. She’s a four-cast gal who comes down with three loyalty like our old buddy Jace. To start off, I see a few obvious problems with the card. It’s not that she can’t protect herself, exactly, but a lot of the time you’ll just be paying 4 mana to shoot one of their guys, in which case an actual removal spell is obviously better. She has more applications in a control deck, but I can’t see a ton of decks wanting to maindeck Liliana outside of something like a Control mirror where all that matters is hitting your land drops.

Now we get to the Ultimate. Except we don’t. Never judge a Planeswalker by their ultimate. Ever. In this case, the Ultimate is extremely underwhelming, and does very little to win you the game on its own. That’s pretty bad.

Price-wise, I see a similar trend to Jace, Memory Adept. Popular for casual players and EDH groups and a fringe contender in Standard. $10-16 is what I think now, assuming Shocklands in either M13 or Return to Ravnica and nothing else groundbreaking out of the set.

Now the big one. Imagine this sequence of plays, since it’s going to happen to you. I play a mana dork on Turn 1 and pass to you. You play your Shockland tapped. I play a Planeswalker with 5 Loyalty and ship the turn.

Sound bad? It is. The new Ajani doesn’t protect itself very well either, but it comes down so early and with so much loyalty that it can easily overcome that shortcoming. It makes your Birds big enough to trade with Delvers or pumps up your Champion of the Parish the turn it comes down.

It also has the ability to almost instantly end a game with its powerful -3 ability, not to mention sticking around afterward. Wizards really pushed this card, and while I don’t think it’s another Jace, it will probably settle around $20-30 in the end.

That’s where I’m at on the two big cards of the set, without knowing the full contents of M13. There’s also still a hole in the land cycle, setting us up for a possible reprint of shocks, probably the allied color ones I’ve been calling for a year in a half. What is almost certainly true is that there will be something new, since the lands haven’t been revealed and the old Glacial Fortress cycle would likely be spoiled by now. All the Farseek-type cards just reinforce my point.

There’s also the lingering question of Noble Hierarch. It’s a perfect opportunity for Wizards to reprint it, but the card could be too powerful for Standard. Hierarch is obviously great since it’s played all the way back to Legacy, and is even a Human to go into the GW Human decks. Of course, Hierarch into Geist into something dumb isn’t very fun for either side, so we’ll see what happens. One thing is for sure – it’s going to be an interesting next few weeks.

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

One thought on “Insider: Bans and Spoilers, Some Snap Thoughts

  1. I am on the fence about Noble Hierarch myself. I sold my set since I was so confident in a reprint. As cards began to spoil, I lost that confidence. This past weekend I managed to grab a set on eBay for $53.50, a full $10 or so below what I sold at. The good news is, I made a little money in this endeavor. The bad news is, the Hierarch's price has dropped a little due to fear of reprints. As a result, I may be tempted to sell these as soon as they come in.

    What to do, what to do…

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