Gatecrash is fully spoiled and brewers everywhere are testing new decks, figuring out if there are any Constructed diamonds in the rough. For a speculator, brewing might not be personally that interesting - but paying attention to what brewers are up to can give an early clue about where Standard is headed. Two brewers in particular, Travis Woo and Jesse Smith, are quite prolific and vocal online, and they have both built up a following that can move the market.
Brewers and the Market
Woo was brewing with Epic Experiment and Omniscience in the Fall and helped to popularize decks featuring those cards. He also writes regularly at Channel Fireball and often records and/or streams his play on MTGO. Woo's work with Omni-Door helped to push Omniscience from junkish mythic to 5 tix at its height.
Jesse Smith has written for Star City Games and helped to break Mono Black Infect in the early stages of Fall 2011 Standard. More recently, he was pushing Zombies (notably featuring Blood Artist), which helped spur Geralf's Messenger and Gravecrawler to their peaks. This was in in Summer of 2012 and those cards have since proven themselves.
Although the Mono Black Infect deck didn't last long as a competitive threat, it enjoyed a few strong weeks as a metagame choice. Smith's work, and his audience, helped to popularize the strategy. The financial winner of all this was Lashwrithe of New Phyrexia. Lashwrithe could combine with any Infect creature and make a one-shot killer.
In the chart below, the long straight section leading up to the Innistrad icon is the period of time when Supernova bots were out of stock on Lashwrithe. The chart reflects a gradually increasing buy price, but the market sell price got up to over 4 tix in the last two weeks of October before it started coming down again.
Checking in on these two brewers will give us a sense of what might be popular in the early weeks of Gatecrash Standard.
Smith is going with what he knows - turning black creatures sideways. See his latest brews here. His decks with Immortal Servitude involve a lot of aggressive one-drops. Then there are more traditional aggro strategies which include Gravecrawler, Geralf's Messenger and Obzedat, Ghost Council.
If there's an aggressive, Orzhov-based strategy, chances are Gravecrawler and Geralf's Messenger will see increased play. Fortunately, with Zombies largely out of favor, this gives speculators a chance to buy low and ride the wave of a shifting format.
Both Geralf's Messenger and Gravecrawler show a steady decline in recent months, and two tix is near their floor. Buying in at around 3 tix exposes you to about 1 ticket of downside with 2 to 3 tix of upside. If a Black based aggro strategy supplants Mono-Red as a popular choice, then these cards will get closer to Hellrider's price of 9 to 10 tix.
In Standard Constructed, Woo is still big on, well, going big. Urban Evolution and a solid mana base with the GTC shocklands might reinvigorate ramp and high-end strategies. Both Omni-Door and Epic Experiment strategies have included Temporal Mastery. You can read up on what Woo is thinking in his article on Channel Fireball.
As a 3rd-set mythic, Temporal Mastery has seen a ton of price volatility while in Standard. The market has driven its price from 10 tix all the way to 20 tix and back down again, twice! It has dipped under 10 tix at the moment - are we going to see a third spike? Once again, if you look at the graph after the M13 icon, there's a straight section which represents the period where Supernova was out of stock on this card. During that time period, prices briefly touched 20 tix after Reid Duke won a SCG Open with a Wolf Run Blue Ramp deck. That deck featured Temporal Mastery as a 4-of.
This card has some downside risk, with a previous floor of around 6 tix. That's about 3 tix of downside potential to accompany 5 to 10 tix of upside potential. The ups and downs on this card have been dramatic, indicating players have been buying, selling and rebuying this card repeatedly. Right now they are in 'sell' mode, looking forward to Cube draft and GTC release events, so picking these up before they change their mind could yield nice short-term profits.
The Past as Guide
Strategies from both of these brewers have the potential to see some play at the beginning of Gatecrash Standard. When looking out to a set release, getting caught up in the hype around the new cards can obscure the speculative potential of older, out-of-fashion cards. But brewers always have their pet cards and decks in mind. Breaking a new archetype is the brewer's dream.
If you plan to buy a few copies of any card mentioned here, keep in mind that prices on last year's sets as a whole will start coming under pressure in the Spring. Although the price crash of impending rotation is a long way off, players are finally letting go of their pet cards when they realize which ones can't cut it in Standard.
If you look at the chart below, Koth of the Hammer's price saw a price drop and then a small bump in the period after Dark Ascension's (DKA) release events. This was probably due to players selling cards they were not using for tix to play in release events. The bounce back in price occurred at the end of release events as the focus shifted to constructed formats.
After the small price increase in the 6 weeks after DKA, Koth saw a flat-to-declining price up the end of March, before dropping to around 7 tix. After that, the trend of flat-to-declining prices continued all the way to Fall Rotation and the release of RtR.
Use this as a guide when speculating on how the price of last year's cards might behave in an unsettled Standard environment. Typically there's short term interest, but after about 6 weeks, if the card hasn't proven itself, chances are that a down trend will set in. It's at that point that speculators should cut their losses and look for the next speculative bet.
Temporal Mastery is probably the best bet for gains presented today. Alternatively, buying the zombies from DKA is a way to try out this speculative angle without risking too many tix. Prepare for profits, but be ready to accept a loss.