Let's say after loading up on Return To Ravnica (RtR) shocklands and a few other mythics you still have a few tix left over to speculate with. Are there other opportunities out there which have gone overlooked to this point? Running down the list of top-down strategies we see that the time to buy up Scars block cards was back in October and November, so that's out. Modern season is in full swing so as a general rule you should be selling and not buying at this point. That leaves us with Innistrad block for cards with some value in Standard.
Keep in mind though, prices for Innistrad block cards will start to decline in the Spring when players realize their pet cards aren't going to make the cut in Standard. At that point, they will start selling them off and prices on those cards will decline. That will be the start of the process which inevitably ends with a price crash just prior to Fall Rotation. Cards like Bonfire of the Damned might be Standard staples, but it offers almost zero utility in Modern. The value of a given card from a recent set is largely determined by its utility in Standard. Combined with the ease of buying and selling on MTGO, this results in large price swings for recent cards.
The obvious picks from Innistrad block are already at inflated prices, cards like Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells and Restoration Angel, so there's not much value there. If it's currently being played in Standard to any degree, it's probably not going to make the cut in terms of value. Also, cards that have seen flashes of use, like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, have a price memory so they are probably not suitable for us. We're looking for real bottom-of-the-barrel Standard cards that have some speculative potential.
How to Look for Value
First of all, the card should be priced cheaply. It should be at or near its all time low. Even if a card is priced cheaply at 2 tix or less, if the current price is +50% higher than its low, be cautious. If it's close to 100% higher than its low, avoid it for sure.
It's a general rule that cards from the 3rd set hold higher prices because they were opened less so we definitely want to take advantage of the the 3rd set effect. Core sets have recently held higher prices as well, so we'll include M13 in our search. The block structure for Innistrad means that there is no true 3rd set, but both Dark Ascension (DKA) and Avacyn Restored (AVR) act like 3rd sets.
If it's a reprint, leave it aside. Reprints have a harder time moving up quickly in price due to wider availability, especially for cards that are not staples. And we're looking for a card that is about as far away from a staple as possible.
This card must be a mythic. When hunting for value, you'll want everything to line up in your favor. The nature of mythic rares on MTGO means that they will always hold some value to redeemers, whereas regular rares do not.
That leaves us with mythic rares from DKA, AVR and M13 that are not reprints and that are priced at or near all time lows.
Doing a search of price histories on mtggoldfish and then filtering out cards for the characteristics listed above reveals the following cards (all prices in tix, taken from supernovabots.com and mtggoldfish.com).
|Beguiler of Wills
|Battle at the Helvault
|Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
At this point, one could stop analyzing and simple buy a basket of these cards. All represent good value according to the metrics set out above. But a bit of experience with the game of Magic can narrow this list even further. Cards that could find some use in Standard over the next few months should be our final filter.
Archangel's Light is potentially an impressive life gain card. But at 8 mana, it's quite expensive for a sorcery. Typically a high-casting-cost sorcery or enchantment should win the game when played, and this one will just prolong the game. We can discard this one as having little value due to being overcosted.
Beguiler of Wills is a conditional and repeatable Control Magic effect. It's similar in a way to Vedalken Shackles, but as a creature it is much less resilient. To get its effect going it encourages over commitment to the board which is not a good sign for a constructed card. Also, this card has no immediate impact on the board, which is a pretty big red flag for a 5cc creature. This one is off the list due to its fragility, high casting cost and lack of immediate impact.
Battle at the Helvault has an interesting effect. It drips with flavor as well, but that is not really what matters to us. It does not have a high casting cost, but the most useful effect costs 7 mana to activate. Artifacts that can 'kill' creatures have found uses in the past to deal with pesky creatures with protection, but protection has seemingly fallen out of favor as a creature key word. Hexproof is the current key word showing up on creatures and Battle at the Helvault doesn't help against those. This card doesn't seem to do enough in an actual competitive game of Magic, despite its obvious flavor and ties to the Innistrad storyline, and so it too is discarded as a potential target.
Elderscale Wurm is a green fatty, which is a good sign as green fatties have seen competitive play over the years. Although this card has a novel effect, unfortunately it's a reactive effect and a very odd one at that. Also, its casting cost is prohibitive so it would probably only feature as a card in a reanimator or ramp deck. But this card is overshadowed in Standard by Craterhoof Behemoth, which has an immediate impact on the board. Thus, Elderscale Wurm is discarded as having little potential for breaking out in Standard.
Finally, we're down to Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. Here's the chart for review.
Previously I've recommended picking this card up as a value play back in the Summer. Read about that recommendation here.
Speculating on a Planeswalker
This is the first and only 2cc planewalker, so high casting cost is not an issue for this card. Having an immediate impact on the board is not required of low-casting-cost cards if they fill a particular role for their deck. Tibalt doesn't stack up as a flagship card. It's definitely in the role player category, so it's going to have to fit into a deck, helping that deck out in a particular way for it be relevant.
The double-red casting cost immediately puts us into mono-red, or near mono-red. That's a good place to be for speculating because Mono-Red is one of the cheaper decks to build online. This means that if Tibalt finds a spot in that deck, then it's bound to see some hefty short term price gains.
In reading up on recent Mono-Red decks and coverage, I notice that Ari Lax played Mono-Red to a high finish at GP Atlantic City. He also talked about the deck over at Star City Games. The article is behind the pay wall, but one of the points that he made about the deck was how bad Archwing Dragon was out of the board. Nominally the card is to be a repeatable source of damage that dodges the mass removal of Bant control lists, but according to him, it sounds like it hasn't proven effective in that role.
Fortunately, Tibalt might fit the bill. As a planeswalker, it's a resilient threat that dodges Supreme Verdict, Terminus and other non-Dreadbore, non-damage-based creature kill. Bringing Tibalt in from the board of an aggro deck like Mono-Red diversifies the deck's threat base against control decks packing board sweepers.
Currently I've been trying to test this as a sideboard option for Mono-Red, but I've only played a handful of two-man queues and I haven't had a chance to bring them in yet. I'll keep you posted in the forums on my progress using this card as an answer to Bant control decks, but for the moment put this one on your potential list of speculative targets. Don't overpay, but paying 2 to 2.5 tix on this card means downside risk is up to 1 tix for each copy. Hold for the next 2 to 3 months and then be prepared to sell before prices start falling in the late Spring.
Hopefully you've enjoyed learning about the process of hunting for value. Don't be afraid to apply your own analysis when looking for your next speculative target.