Insider: Return to Ravnica Case Study

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In this new year I want to kick off by wishing everyone a prosperous 2013. We as Magic speculators are a bit spoiled because of the Gatecrash spoilers coming out. In this article I want to explore the rise of a sleepercard in Return to Ravnica. It has been 3 months ago Return to Ravnica has been released. At the time of the Prerelease the prices were formatted on a cheatsheet for QS members which still can be reached when clicking here 

I've made a spreadsheet where we can compare the prices set on that cheatsheet with the prices of today and its respective %price change:

The Losers

To make the percentual change clearer, I have highlighted certain cells. Let's start with the biggest losers. These consist of the planeswalkers Jace, Architect of Thought and Vraska the Unseen, overhyped rares like Abrupt Decay and Lotleth Troll and some casual hyped cards like Rakdos, Lord of Riots, Armada Wurm and Niv-Mizzet, Drocogenius. They all lost between 35 to 69% of its prerelease value. For rares this is quite logical due the amount of supply being increased substantially due the fact this set is so popular. If my local game store had to open Fat packs in order to supply 2 pods of 8 people to draft each week, that probably means something.

In absolute numbers Abrupt Decay lost $14 on its value while in the mythic section one see Vraska the Unseen being the scapegoat losing $17. I think we as QuietSpeculators already knew that this was going to happen.

The Sweet Spot

Now the notable stable cards are only found in the Guild Lands section. Hallowed Fountain and Blood Crypt stood their ground in price being only one percent off despite being a rare like Abrupt Decay. Furthermore they are highly demanded among traders, which is fascinating that they retained their original price.

And The Big Winners

The cards highlighted in green are the notable sleepers. I do not think Temple Garden is a sleeper but it gained 33% due the fact that GW lands are more demanded in the Standard constructed environment. The biggest sleeper in the Mythic section is Sphinx's Revelation with an astonishing 391% increase or $15. A humble second is Angel of Serenity which was circulated to our QS Insiders on 9/13/12 which Sigmund explained that the card is preselling at $7.99 on SCG. I joined the boat only to miss the peak hype of $25 but it is still a solid gain.

In the rare section we have Ash Zealot which gained 62% or a gain of $1.21 per card. But the biggest jump is Deathrite Shaman climbing from a low $4.53 to just $11.27 (+148%). Now for a rare this is fascinating because generally these rares do not retain this value nor jump that high.


I want to delve more indepth in how a one mana Elf Shaman with three abilities became the most expensive rare of this set on European Soil and is highly liquid.

Deathrite Shaman's Ascent

Deathrite Shaman got spoiled on September 18 during Gavin Verhey's article with a couple of brews of other players.He writes about the utilities of this card mainly being a ''pseudo-Grim Lavamancer'' or just another ''Arbor Elf'' although in upgraded form. The B/G aggro decklist he posted is very close the list that is a viable deck in Standard today.2 

On that same day Matthew Santos made a thread on QS. In that same topic Matt Lewis gave us information that SCG is sold out at $5.99 pre-orderered. I also posted there that I like the card but found it a bit expensive to go in at $6 in Pre-order season.3

When the whole spoiler is released, there are authors on SCG, CFB, Tcgplayer and other sites doing a set review. The first one published was Conley Woods at TCGplayer4 saying the following about Deathrite Shaman:

'' (( 3 / 5 rating )) I am a little skeptical on this guy. On the one hand, I think he might be absolutely absurd in a land where fetchlands are rampant. The ability to have the mana ability online from turn 1 is so important to what I think this card wants to be. In Zoo for example, this is similar to a Noble Hierarch in that it provides early mana with a late game presence. Meanwhile, in Standard, it feels like this will be lacking. Without a reliable way to get lands into the yard immediately, this just comes up lacking. In reanimator decks that are casting Faithless Looting on turn 2, it seems good, but in your average rock deck, it seems mediocre.

Conley was skeptical about this card but Craig Wescoe was particularly bullish about this card in his Financial article at TCGplayer making a prediction the card will be $7.5 while it is current $4.68 TCGplayer Low at the time he published the article. 5

On that same day Sam Black wrote a Premium Article about updating his Legacy Zombie deck. He dedicated a lot of text to Deathrite Shaman explaining his choice for playing this card.6  When looking at the Legacy Decks through the StarCityGames Deck database one sees loads of decks containing 4 Deathrite Shaman when one filters Deathrite Shaman as an inclusion in the deck resembling a staple card int he deck.

One day later Gerry Thompson briefly mentioned Deathrite Shaman in his brewing Reanimator list saying Deathrite Shaman functions as a proxy Birds of Paradise. I think around this period the authors are comparing the Shaman with either Birds of Paradise or Grim Lavamancer in a vacuum. 7

But we – as Quiet Speculators – are mainly interested in its financial potential. So on that same day Ben Bleiweiss released his Premium Article titled ''Return to Ravnica Financial Wrap''  and ''The Financial Value of Return to Ravnica: Daily Edition''. Both are premium articles but I will paraphrase what he basically wrote about our Shaman. The starting SCG price was $3 and 24 hours later it was $6. Ben feels this is a hyped card expecting it to drop significantly because of its conditional activation. Basically he shares the view of Conley Woods at that time that it has a lot of abilities but finds it to marginal to find a decent home in constructed magic.8 9

Chas Andres wrote on the 1st of october another Financial Set review on StarCity confirming the bearish view towards Deathrite Shaman. He briefly mentions it as an ''unreliable Arbor Elf''. 10

On that same day there is a free article on StarCity by Valeriy Shunkov writing about 'Return to Ravnica Modern Set Review'.11 He argues Deathrite Shaman is a very powerful card in its colours and in its metagame as it ''has multiple applications against different decks as it is good against Kitchen Finks, Snapcaster Mage, red decks and against stalled boards in creature mirrors''. I particularly enjoyed his argumentation for an upcoming metagame.

Luis-Scott Vargas concludes on ChannelFireball with his RtR set review that he sees that there is ''plenty of potential for this in older formats'' as it produces mana in most cases so being a 1 / 2 Birds of Paradise with an enormous upside. 12

Just before the Pro Tour of Return to Ravnica (19 – 21 october) , Kelly created a thread about Deathrite Shaman once more highlighting SCG increased its price to 10 from 6. I feel around this period loads of playtesting concluded that Deathrite Shaman is actually pretty good in Modern Jund decks. 13

As expected Deathrite Shaman held the number 2 spot in Top 5 cards at the Pro Tour as well as 2 out of 3 Jund decks that were T8 at the Pro Tour played 4 Deathrite Shaman's mainboard. 14

I pulled an Ark42 graph resembling only a 50% increase during the Pro Tour. It did show a $4 starting price which I found crucial in a graphical presentation. 15

Furthermore in Europe, we have MagicCardMarket often being the Low price for cards selling Deathrite Shaman from 9.99 euro ($13.15).16 I mainly focus on English, NM and sellers who have more than one.

Looking at retailers I see MagicMadHouse and Manaleak (United Kingdom) selling at $13.82, Nedermagic (Netherlands) at $17 and Outpost (Belgium) at $16.49. These prices are almost double compared to TCGplayer low while TCGplayer average is at $11.53

I am very sure that I can miss information published on social media and/or other MTG websites regarding Deathrite Shaman and I do realize that the information provided here is incomplete. My intention to show this information is to analyse and understand how we – as speculators – can be steps ahead of other MTG players by anticipating the next moneyrare in Gatecrash in the forms of Snapcaster Mage, Restoration Angel or Deathrite Shaman

Having this card in your binder creates a huge amount of liquidity as you can easily trade these away for Modern staples like ZEN fetches in which you can then further uptrade to something stable in the long-term. Apart from that it is also perfectly reasonable to buy them low and sell them high to buylist or on marketplaces. Finally I think this card is a keeper in the sense that the value is stable, the liquidity is very high meaning you can trade it away to a higher tier card and that the use accross multiple game formats ensure its viability.

I would like to continue this discussion further in a thread or the comments section where we both can conclude whether using information based on set reviews, financial predictions from stores itself is useful.


Thank you for reading!




14 thoughts on “Insider: Return to Ravnica Case Study

  1. Craig Wescoe’s comment about the Shaman in his set review was most insightful:

    “When I first saw the card, I was not particularly impressed. These sorts of cards are never big winners. However, an old friend of Mine – Sol Malka, caused me to take a closer look at the Shaman. You see, Sol Malka knows GB Rock the way I know White Weenie. Ever wonder where the name “Rock” came from to describe Green-Black? About 15 years ago Sol Malka (aka the People’s Champion) wrote an article describing an Extended deck called “The Rock and his Minions,” a deck primarily based around Phyrexian Plaguelord and Deranged Hermit. The Plaguelord was the Rock (after the professional wrestler), and all the squirrels and other weenie fodder were his minions. Sol almost always played Green-Black and qualified for multiple pro tours with the archetype. So when Sol claimed that Deathrite Shaman was the best card in Return to Ravnica, amidst all the other highly esteemed Golgari cards, this definitely caught my attention.”

    Immediately upon reading it, I jumped onto ebay and picked up a play set for $20.00. His full review is found here:

    1. Hey Nikolas, thanks for quoting the remainder of Craig Wescoe’s comment. Can I ask you what you specifically found insightful when reading that piece of writing?

  2. This was from Craig Wescoe who I read regularly and have found to be a thoughtful writer. The account is only anecdotal but the nature of the account was most intriguing. He speaks of a player, Sal Molka, who we can tell has been in the game for at least 15 years and was writing about the game 15 years ago. Being a writer doesn’t necessarily command respect but I tend to give MTG writers more respect than people in the community who don’t write. I definitely perceived Molka to be among the more seasoned Magic players. The guy obviously loved playing G/B decks and qualified for multiple pro tours with them. So, if there is such a thing as an authority on G/B Magic cards Molka would be a better candidate than almost anybody. He claimed not that it was a great card but that it was the BEST card in Return to Ravnica. This was so divergent from what anyone else at the time was saying about which cards were the most powerful in the set that to me it smelled like one of those rare instances when someone through his unique experience had attained near certain knowledge. It wasn’t a sure thing for me but was good enough that I wanted to make sure I picked up a play set of the card.

    1. Thanks for the elaboration. While I do not doubt the player in question has multiple years of experience, the information we obtain is not directly from him. I would be a bit skeptical hearing it from someone else.

      Ofcourse we can do research and investigate whether player A, writer 1 is suggesting that card X is pretty overpowered is a reliable source to believe it.

      I do not see writers do this often enough to be skeptical since most writers are seasoned pros like Craig ‘White Weenie’ Wescoe 🙂

  3. I’ll also add, if you have a SCG premium act, Chas Andres writes some amazing financial articles. In a recent article, he predicts Deathrite Shaman will be a $20 card while it is still in standard.

    1. We’re at low tide for RTR staples right now, and it’s higher than the shocks. It also sees a lot more multi-format play than the shocks, and we’re bearish on terra firma right now… why not shaman?

  4. Chas Andres is the best writer in mtg right now. Buy scg premium for him & gerry t, and just ignore every single other person. Oh ya, read Ben Bleiweiss articles and do the direct opposite of what he says. He was wrong on Jace, Deathrite, Sphinx & Angel, so batting .000 basically.

    1. You’ll notice that when it comes time for Mr. Bleiweiss to review his predictions, and I’m not sure about how consistent he is with doing that, he will get most of them right, and will ride that as hard as he can. This is not to say he’s writing the correct stuff on the cards that matter, but if you guess enough crap rares correctly (Even if they’re plain as day) you’ll have a winning percentage.

  5. That guy from SCG games talks down cards, like if he didn’t know Deathrite Shaman was good, then the dude is delusional. These guys want the prices the opposite at the set release so they can sell the ‘faces’ of the set for big bucks while they buy up the cards they classify ‘duds’ right around release time. My comment is mainly to call out the guy Ben and his lying sac of squirrel nuts, because as speculators, I know we all look for information on the net, and this guy BEN is not the place to get the info. I have been keeping track of his BS on these over-hyped articles he always writes around the spoiler season, 80% of the stuff he says is totally inaccurate, but his comments about Deathrite Shaman just show what a lying, desperate scumbag this guy is for the financial market. Who the heck would even pay him retail prices for the cards anyways. The dude is always lying about cards, trying to manipulate the market before the sets are released so SCG can get a piece of the action. I’ve had my nose to him for awhile, all these financial reviews he writes are total BS, how can he be an expert but get 80% of his information wrong? Great that you included his thoughts in the article, shows what a fool that guy is

  6. Someone needs to confront him about his articles. I cant even stay a member of that site just thinking about how bad his articles are and how he always is so in your face trying to relay prices, like releasing an article like every day, how desperate. Just thinking about this guy, I cant even be a member of their premium any more but reading some of those pros is such good info, Im so torn.

  7. Always liked Craig Wescoe. I still don’t know how he gets White Weenie to work all the time. Guy must be a genius.

    Also, I read all of Chas Andres’s articles when he still wrote for Channelfireball. Too bad he moved to SCG. Stupid premium. At least there’s still LSV, monguise durdler.

    (On to more useful information, I’m glad I got into Deathrite Shaman. Guy is insane, and I don’t even play black. Because of him, I might start. $20 MIGHT be too high, but though Standard has no fetchlands, I love Grisly Salvage and Tracker’s Instincts. BUG control?

    And do complete opposite of what Ben Bleiweiss says, gotcha.)

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