Insider: Touch of the Eternal — Long-Term Investments

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Today's article will focus on cards that function as long-term investments. We will see that many of these are EDH cards, which are often undervalued while they are Standard-legal.

Unfortunately, the concept of the EDH or Commander card is often thrown about all willy-nilly. People look at cards like Rite of Ruin and assume that if it's not Standard/Modern/Legacy-playable, it costs a lot and is janky, it must be an EDH card. In reality that's a poor definition. Rite of Ruin is just a junk rare. Sure it may make its way into a few EDH decks, but it's by no means an "EDH card."

When trying to determine if a card might become a Commander staple, there are a few things to consider:

1. Since EDH games tend to go longer, mana costs can be higher. But does the card's mana cost reflect a good investment (i.e. does the effect vs. the cost seem reasonable)?

2. What color(s) is the card? The more colors on the card, the fewer Commander decks can play it. This is why mono-color cards, or better yet artifacts, are often the best spec targets as "EDH cards."

3. Does the card provide any benefits as the number of players in a game goes up (like the primordial cycle from Gatecrash)?

4. Does the card do something similar to an existing "EDH" card (i.e. Parallel Lives is half of a Doubling Season)?

5. Does the card solve a problem that its color couldn't previously solve (i.e. Chaos Warp gives red spot removal for enchantments)?

6. Does the card fit a popular theme, creature type or play style (for example token generators, angels or mill cards)?

7. Does the card fit in a popular Commander decklist (i.e. Gruul Ragebeast is ridiculous in Mayael the Anima decks)?


Let's look at some Gatecrash cards and see if we can find any good long-term investments.

Sylvan Primordial -- This (along with all the other primordials) is a perfect Commander card. The mana cost and ability are a bad investment in a one-vs.-one matchup so immediately it gets lumped into the junk rare category. But consider how ridiculous the abilities are in a four-plus player game. Seven mana to destroy four or more noncreature permanents and fetch any forest, including dual lands, Murmuring Bosk or even Dryad Arbor.

This is like a Woodfall Primus on crack. It gives you immediate card advantage and a 6/8 with reach is nothing to sneeze at. This is also the only primordial whose power level isn't directly influenced by the power of your opponents' decks. I've been buying all the cheap playsets of this I can find on eBay and will keep doing so.

Diluvian Primordial -- This is the second most powerful primordial (but apparently the most common judging by the numerous ones I've seen in trade binders). Similar to Sylvan he can provide immediate card advantage, but his power is heavily influenced by the power of the decks you're playing against. If your opponents cards are good enough, he can easily become the most powerful primordial. Don't underestimate the fact that he exiles the spell after casting it, which can prevent your opponents from looping certain spells. Blue also has some blink effects which could allow you multiple uses and some truly broken plays with him. Do you know what's more fun than casting Bribery in EDH? Casting Bribery from one opponent and Time Stretch from another.

Sepulchral Primordial -- The third most powerful, the black primordial allows you to animate one creature from each opponents' graveyard. If it isn't apparent by now, I love the primordial cycle and believe each one will be worth 5-10 times what they are now within the next 3 years. I always pick them up as throw-ins whenever I can.

Luminate Primordial/Molten Primordial -- These are the weakest of the primordials, but that really isn't saying much. The ability to get an Act of Treason or a Swords to Plowshares for each opponent is still quite powerful and can end games quickly. It doesn't surprise me that the weakest in the abstract is the white one, as white has the most blink effects and the ability to exile creatures is very useful in a format with so much recursion.

Gruul Ragebeast -- I mentioned this card above for good reason. I threw one in my Mayael deck and it became an all-star very quickly. Most decks that want a creature like this play lots of big creatures and the Ragebeast allows you to kill something every time you do. This is incremental card advantage in colors that don't tend to get any, but it's also quite flavorful and a blast to play. His dual color requirement will isolate him from a decent number of decks, but picking up foils will almost assuredly pay off in the long run.

Angelic Skirmisher -- This is one of the few cards I preordered (and quite honestly at an inflated price that I now regret), but she jumped out at me as a very powerful EDH card. The single color requirement allows her to fit in any deck and the real beauty is that you get a benefit the turn she comes into play, assuming she's not immediately killed. My favorite combination is picking vigilance on your attack step and first strike on your opponents. This is also an angel so it follows #6 on the list. Another card I wouldn't hesitate to pickup in foil at 2 dollars or so.

Lazav, Dimir Mastermind -- While this card isn't super-cheap at the moment, he has cool abilities in strong Commander colors. His low cost and hexproof ability are highly desirable characteristics for a general. One fun thing to consider is that you can swing with him as a 3/3 and before damage use a kill spell to change what he's copying. He also plays well with creatures that have triggered abilities either on declaring attacks (the Titan cycle) or on dealing damage (Thieving Magpie).

Thespian's Stage -- This card was greatly hyped for EDH players (preselling at $7.50) and has plummeted all the way down to the dollar range. EDH players will still want this land in the long run and the fact that it can go in every single EDH deck means it's a great long-term spec. These are a good pickup as throw-ins when trying to balance out a trade, as they are currently valued low and grinders have no issue trading them off.

One very important thing to remember with all long-term investments is that you can't expect them to payoff immediately. These are not the Boros Reckoners that suddenly spike in price, but rather the Parallel Lives; the cards that start out near bulk and build up value over time.

It's hard to fathom now, but before EDH become big Doubling Season was a bulk rare. These are my favorite cards to invest in other than lands. They are usually easy to pick up in larger quantities and most competitive players are more than happy to unload them at a cheap rate. Put them in a box and forget about them for two years, and then voilà, your cards are worth considerably more than you invested in them, which is exactly the opposite of what happens with most Standard staples.

10 thoughts on “Insider: Touch of the Eternal — Long-Term Investments

  1. David, this is an awesome article. Nicely done! This is what I was driving at with my forum post at… since it seems like there are a lot of misconceptions about what an “EDH card” is in the QS community.

    Sylvan Primordial – This card is insanely powerful in Commander. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets banned; almost every game I’ve been in with it has been miserable for most players. I saw it get copied/stolen/reanimated/played at least 7 times in one game. It reminds me a lot of Primeval Titan, but it doesn’t affect deck design as much, which is one reason why it may never get banned.

    Diluvian Primordial – This card is pretty sweet, but I generally prefer Chancellor of the Spires. I’ve won many games just because the spells don’t get exiled, and for my Wrexial deck, exiling the spells would be pretty off-theme.

    Lazav, Dimir Mastermind – This seems fun in EDH. I think I will put it in Wrexial in place of Sakashima.

    1. Glad you liked it…I’m putting my money where my mouth is on Sylvan Primordial…I’m up to 50 copies now…It’s one of the creatures I often tutor for in my Maya deck and the more players the more ridiculous it is.

    2. I actually like the fact that he exiles the spells (Diluvian Primordial) as it keeps your opponents from recycling them over and over (though I do agree he doesn’t fit as well in a Wrexial deck). It’s also important that Chancellor hits one opponent..Diluvian hits all…so you get to cast that time stretch you would have cast (with either one) and that cultivate/regrowth/harmonize/doomblade you wouldn’t have been able to with the Chancellor. I’m actually contemplating a new 5 color Cromat deck heavily designed to play/blink the Primordials.

  2. What kinds of sell prices are we imagining for these? My problem with low-value cards, ESPECIALLY for Commander, is that buylists are pretty much the only option for selling them as otherwise shipping will eat up too much of the price. It’s especially bad with Commander cards because I can’t sell a playset at a time to eliminate shipping problems, since people only want one.

    1. Well I think it’s relatively fair to compare Sylvan Primordial with Woodfall Primus (you don’t get the recursion…but you do get to hit multiple permanents AND ramp per permanent). However, one important thing to consider is that Gatecrash is a new set and will may very likely continue the trend of “best selling set of all time” (though I think it is a worse set than RtR). This means there will be more of all the gatecrash rares, but it also implies the player base is bigger and demand may also be up (though the ratio is difficult to determine). All that being said, I expect the Primordial to be a $5-8 dollar card in mid/long term future (2+ years). I don’t agree with your statement “shipping will eat up too much of the price” as I never offer free shipping (one forever stamp can take care of shipping for these 1 of’s).

      1. local store (boardwalk) made more money Gatecrash release than any previous day in it’s history by 30%. this means more players, but it also means you can be patient taking long position in new cards and expect rotation out of standard to = tons of volatility, some great buying ops.

  3. I think there is a difference between the term “EDH card” and the term “EDH Staple”.

    Many cards are *only* good in EDH, so I will refer to them as EDH cards.

    Some cards are Sol Ring, and I refer to them as EHD Staples.

    I would refer to the Green Primordial and Thespian’s Stage as EDH staples.

    1. I definitely agree here. The same can be said of every format…Nimble Mongoose is a great legacy card…Tarmogoyf is a legacy staple. The difference between the two is usually that one is good in some decks whereas one is good in ALL decks that play the color.

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