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Insider: Flying Under the Radar

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Ask yourself the question, what is priced incorrectly in the market at the moment? If you can figure that out, you are on your way to profits. Return to Ravnica (RtR) is probably at or near it's price bottom as suggested in a previous article. But beyond understanding that RtR represents good value as a whole, delving a little deeper might shed some light on specific cards that hold good value.

Analyzing Block Constructed

Summarized here are the results of the two most recent Premier Events for Block Constructed which currently only consists of cards from RtR. In the most recent event, from December 17th, the top deck was a Bant deck which overcame the only Azorius deck in the finals. Rakdos decks finished 5th and 7th, and the rest of the decks were Bant lists. The December 14th event had a wider mix of decks, but Bant still did very well placing 2nd, 4th, 5th and 7th. Rakdos took the top spot in that event as well as the 8th. A Jund deck took 3rd, and an aggressive Golgari build with a very low curve (including Slitherhead) took 6th.

Presented below are the summed quantities of cards from the two events, separated into mythic rare, shockland and rare. These are the aggregated totals of each card found between the main deck and the sideboard of sixteen deck lists, the top eight from each Premier Event. For illustrative purposes, the current price as of Dec 19th, 2012 is included. All prices taken from supernovabots, except for the prices of Deadbridge Goliath and Temple Garden which were taken from Cardbot since supernova had no copies for sale and thus no sell price.

Card Quantity MTGO Price Card Quantity MTGO Price
Jace, Architect of Thought 39 $16.1 Supreme Verdict 38 $1.4
Sphinx's Revelation 33 $23.25 Loxodon Smiter 32 $0.94
Angel of Serenity 31 $12.5 Detention Sphere 31 $1.0
Armada Wurm 28 $4.05 Dreadbore 20 $0.88
Rakdos's Return 12 $8 Pack Rat 19 $0.105
Mizzium Mortars 17 $0.74
 Hallowed Fountain  40 $3.8 Ash Zealot 16 $0.76
 Temple Garden  36 $3.75 Deathrite Shaman 14 $3.7
 Blood Crypt  20 $3.25 Desecration Demon 13 $0.24
 Overgrown Tomb  8 $3.6 Slaughter Games 10 $0.21
 Steam Vents  0 $3.25 Abrupt Decay 8 $1.1
Underworld Connections 6 $0.195
Cyclonic Rift 2 $0.25
Pithing Needle 2 $0.06
Carnival Hellsteed 1 $0.018
Deadbridge Goliath 1 $0.30

 

The Rares

The shocklands see a high uniformity in price, despite a wide variety in numbers played. This doesn't tell us much as shocklands are very much known quantities, played in both Standard and Modern. With Gatecrash pending, all of these represent good value at around 3 tix or less. Prices on these have come up in the last week so it will be worth watching to see if they maintain prices closer to 4 tix. It's interesting to see that Steam Vents was not played at all in the top eight decks from these two events.

Among the most played rares is one of the best Wrath of God variants ever in Supreme Verdict as well as other top removal spells from RtR such as Detention Sphere and Dreadbore. Loxodon Smiter is the most played creature in the rare slot. All of these cards carry a price tag that is about what you would expect for cards showing up in Standard and currently being drafted. The best cards probably represent good value to the patient speculator, but none of the top rares stand out as being obviously good value over any other.

The Mythics

At the top the list of mythic rares we find Jace 4.0. Between the nine Bant decks and the lone Azorius deck, only one did not run the full 4-of package of Jace, Architect of Thought. That is quite the statistic for those considering speculating on Jace, as his price has dipped due to a recent downtrend in Standard play.

Sphinx's Revelation and Angel of Serenity are not far behind in ubiquity. All three of these cards have impacted Standard to varying degrees and seeing them dominate the played mythic list from Block Constructed is no surprise. They are also the priciest mythics from RtR on MTGO, which is consistent with the best cards in Standard commanding the highest prices.

The next card on the list presents something more striking. Armada Wurm was played almost as much as Angel of Serenity in the Bant decks, and it was played more than twice as much as Rakdos's Return. This suggest that the most-played colour combination (Bant) leans quite heavily on this card as one of its top end finishers. But due to its lack of play in Standard, its price is much lower relative to its use in Block Constructed.

All of this suggests that Armada Wurm is flying under the radar at the moment as a speculative opportunity. Block players need the card, but Standard players don't. But this year's best block decks are the foundation for next year's Standard metagame. Once you start imagining Standard with many more Armada Wurms running around, it's not hard to imagine a much higher price on this card in the future.

What's the Downside?

In attempting to quantify the downside of speculating on Armada Wurm, comparing it to older cards with similar characteristics is a good place to start. In this case we'll look to high-casting-cost fatties, with somewhat restrictive coloured-mana demands. The card should also be mythic, and coming from a 2nd set is preferred over a 1st or 3rd set mythic.

Although RtR is currently being opened as the 1st set, the fact that RRR drafting will dry up with the release of Gatecrash suggests that comparing Armada Wurm to a previous 1st set mythic might over estimate the downside. Likewise, using a 3rd set mythic, often the priciest set, might underestimate the downside.

Lastly, in order to judge the downside properly, the cards should not be widely played in Standard. If a card had been played widely, the price would not well reflect the risk of speculating on Armada Wurm.

Massacre Wurm is a good comparison available to us from the recent past. It fits the bill as a high-casting-cost creature with restrictive coloured-mana costs. It's a mythic and comes from Mirrodin Besieged, a 2nd set. It also saw sporadic play in Standard.

While being actively opened in draft, Massacre Wurm saw a price floor of around 1 ticket, but after the release of Innistrad, a price floor of 3.5 tix is visible, with a brief dip to 2.5 tix after rotation and followed by a climb back up over 4 tix.

Abstracting away from specific uses in Block Constructed or Standard, the downside risk on Armada Wurm is probably reasonably set at around 1 ticket, i.e. it could see a fall to around 3 tix in price. In the absolute worst case scenario, it could fall much lower to a price of about 1 tix, but with redemption acting on the price of RtR cards in general, and the lack of RRR drafts post-Gatecrash release, the chances of Armada Wurm going to 1 tix seem very low.

Buy Buy Buy

To review, Armada Wurm is a mythic rare from a set with high redemption potential due to the presence of the shocklands. In terms of how the card plays, it's a resilient threat that spot removal is at an inherent disadvantage to. But most importantly, it sees a high amount of play as a critical part of the current "best deck" in Block Constructed, and if Block is a good predictor of the Standard metagame in the future, then Armada Wurm is priced at a low level and represents good value for the patient speculator.

The recommendation on Armada Wurm is to buy at 4 tix and be willing to hold for a period of twelve or more months. It's not a slam dunk, but the downside risk is low and the results from Block suggest this card is underplayed in current Standard. For those who want to try out this strategy with a few less tix, there is at least one other card (a rare) that shows up in high quantities but carries a low price due to not seeing play in Standard. Try to guess which card and good luck.

7 thoughts on “Insider: Flying Under the Radar

  1. Funny, two weeks ago we were debating not to buy armade wurm higher then 3 tix on the forums :)…

    I still think it’s not that strong a card, especially against detention sphere; I expect it to see less play in the future, especially if gatecrash high-end creatures are any good.

    I’m really surprised there are 19 pack rats in this list… are they really playable in constructed ??

    1. It looks like many of the Rakdos decks use Pack Rats in their sideboards. I’m not yet familiar with the Block metagame. It’s possible there is a deck archetype that is very weak to them. Also, with such a limited card pool, cards you would not expect become useful/played.

      So, are they constructed playable? It appears that they are. Pack Rats is one to file away for the future..

      1. They can be fairly devastating against anything not U/W. They’re solid against Selesnya, Rakdos, Golgari, and to a lesser extent Jund. Much more against Selesnya than against the decks running Mizzium Mortars, but they’re still a must answer threat. How good they’ll be as the Block gets an influx of new cards with the two next sets…well…we’ll see. But right now I’m picking them up with extra bot credit…I figure it’s a relatively no cost investment with a decent potential upside.

  2. These pack rats also intrigue me a lot. Both fragile and devastating in constructed. Not very good against any Detention sphere or Supreme Verdict, but against specific decks once you untap with 3 mana open you just win the game.

    The copies are token, this could also be helpful in specific decks. I really like that card. A rats lord in Gatecrash? 🙂

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