Insider: Rotation Picks

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Welcome back, readers. Standard rotation is always an interesting time for the finance community. There are big gains and losses to be had (or suffered) according to how one alters his or her portfolio. So how do we isolate our losses and increase our wins? In order to do so we need to evaluate our cards without bias or preference.

Biggest Losers

The biggest losers are the Standard-only stars, the Blade Splicers, the Champion of the Parishs, the Dreadbores. You can usually identify cards that fall into this category because they are only good in comparison to other Standard cards. They may be the most efficient or best threat available in Standard during their heyday, but they are quickly outclassed when the card pool opens up from the last six sets to 10+ years (Modern) or 19+ (Legacy/Vintage) worth of sets.

Biggest Winners

The biggest winners are the Eternal all-stars with a low chance of reprint (usually due to a block-specific mechanic or reference to a specific plane or character in the name.) Ideally these cards are the ones that see some Eternal play already, but didn't make it in Standard.

Often the 3rd set in the rotating block is the best place to look for these. They will have had the smallest time in standard and it seems Wizards R&D seems more willing to take chances on them. We had the Eldrazi from Rise, Phyrexian mana from New Phyrexia, and the miracle mechanic from Avacyn Restored.

I am confidant enough in these picks that I am currently trading aggressively for them.

I believe the miracle mechanic is unlikely to be reprinted anytime in the near future and that the ability to Hallowed Burial at instant speed for 1 white mana is too ridiculous to remain less than $3 for too long. Entreat is in a similar boat, though making the angels is less impressive from a Legacy player's standpoint.

Flip cards are also unlikely to see print as they require the checklist cards in the packs as well to play them (in sealed), thus requiring WoTC to have yet another issue to deal with if they were reprinted. Both cards have already seen fringe Legacy/Modern play and are a steal in the sub $7 range.

Cavern of Souls is the only card that doesn't feature a mechanic on this list. But its ability is insanely powerful in tribal decks, and most believe that it was printed in response to U/W's oppressive reign over Standard and was made over-powered in WoTC's zealous attempt to "fix" Standard. I think this one will actually drop a bit more, as tribal decks in Legacy are on the downswing and Modern hasn't seen any good ones yet. I will happily get in on these as 1+ year investments.

Past in Flames is a strong pick because the ability is insane in Eternal formats and even casual ones. Thalia has proven herself a thorn in the side of all Legacy combo players. She was printed in a second set (small set) and if she hadn't been reprinted in the event decks I'd expect her to still be at $5. The fact that you can pick her up for sub $2 is almost criminal.

Other Winners

Not all rotational dips last that long. Many cards that were good in Standard can also be good in Legacy or Modern. These cards will dip for a brief period right before or after rotation, but will gradually rise back up and settle in more of a long-term price.

These are the cards that are known Eternal all-stars but were also Standard all-stars. Often good mana fixing lands fall into this category as well as cheap utility creatures. These are cards you will need to aggressively trade for for the next couple of months (while they are at their lowest), as the Standard-only players will keep increasing the supply until they run out.

EDH Winners

Last but certainly not least we have my favorite category. These are the cards that will most likely have the highest percentage increases.

This is because 1) They appeal to the casual crowd, which is a large part of the MTG community (I believe they are the "silent" majority), 2) The entry cost is often so low that risk is minimal but they can quickly double/triple in price, 3) They are less likely to be reprinted because the price usually doesn't get so out of hand that WoTC feels they need to intervene (though it has happened...Doubling Season is a great example), 4) These are the types of cards that players get excited to find in your binder.

The risks are simply that they won't catch on with the community, something better will get reprinted, or they aren't "generic" enough to fit into a large percentage of EDH decks. These are the cards I like to target in foils because the entry cost is often only twice the non-foil cost, although the percentage increase will often be higher.

The following are card I'd only get in foils, as I don't believe the demand for regulars will be high enough to provide a solid profit:

The criteria I used for determining EDH winners is as follows:

  1. Does the card already see significant play in a decent number of existing EDH decks?
  2. Does the card provide utility in multiple situations?
  3. Is the card thematic (zombies, angels, vampires, etc.)?
  4. Does the card provide some impressive, game-ending type of effect?
  5. Does the card fit with an EDH "strategy", i.e. life gain, milling or part of a combo?
  6. Does the card help you find other resources?
  7. Was the card prohibited from seeing Standard play due solely to its casting cost?
  8. If you were playing an EDH deck with the card's color requirements in it, would you want to play it regardless of your strategy?

Developing Your Own Criteria

One final note; it is critical for every speculator to determine their own set of criteria. I like to list mine because I believe that if you want to follow my financial advice you should know what criteria I used to make my decisions.

If you disagree with any criteria or have more of your own please feel free to comment, but it's important to remember that the money you invest in MTG is your money, not mine, so you are the one who assumes the risk.

I will state that I am already actively invested in every single card I've listed on here because I believe in my criteria and my ability to discern good picks. It's unlikely that I will get them all right, but if I get a good majority of them right I don't mind when I miss out on one or two.

30 thoughts on “Insider: Rotation Picks

    1. Avacyn was not included because her price is completely independent of the fact that she is standard legal. She is a great edh card, but because of the afor-mentioned fact she won’t see any dips that would allow you to buy her undercosted to sell later. I focus on cards that will dip with rotation and go back up within a few months (though some are long term specs)

  1. Do you advise on waiting until these cards rotate out to buy them or is this the time to buy all you can, for example Sorin Lord of Innistrad and Garruk the Relentless?

    1. Honestly I always try to trade first (as cash is your most liquid asset), but I am starting to advertise my own ‘buylist’ on a none store affiliated facebook group I created just for this sort of venture. It allows those who need money to sell to me at the highest buylist price and for me to buy more cards cheaply.

      1. This sounds like an idea I’d like to hear more about. Any chance a future article could come out teaching how to set up ones own buylist?

  2. I like articles like this because they are a great resource to go back to if you’re making a reminder list at rotation time.

    Are there any cash buys in the list or do you recommend mostly trading?

    Also, was Snapcaster Mage excluded off of the “Other Winners” list for a reason?



  3. You forgot Snapcaster Mage? 😉

    Other than that, great summary article. I really like your list and all your criteria. I would add some caution that one needs to be patient when speculating on these cards. Some of them will take a little longer to become profitable – these are not your quick flips.

  4. Where do you see Olivia? First section I suppose but she has seen a little Modern play but I guess Falkenrath Aristocrat is in that boat too -Olivia probably good in EDH. Lingering Souls – add foils?

    1. Olivia is not a bad target…however, I don’t expect her to rebound from the rotation dip very quickly. She’s a solid card and her mana cost could keep her somewhat competitive in modern, though the deck that would most likely play her (Jund) already has Huntmaster at the 4 spot. She has solid EDH potential too; I just think that you can pick her up after rotation without much fear of any spikes.

      1. Has Jund settled on a defacto 4 drop replacement for BBE? I remember reading articles about trying Huntmaster to lackluster results. Wouldn’t Falkenrath Aristocrat, Garruk Relentless, or Thrun be better? There’s also the option of just skipping to Thundermaw Hellkite.

        1. Jund has decreased in play significantly with most of the recent list that have done well having Huntmaster. Now that Scavenging Ooze is legal it could cause some reshuffling potentially making the other 4 drops better or worse.

    1. Well I don’t think they’ll be reprinted in Theros block (as WoTC chose NOT to reprint the original check lands). I would specifically target Sulfur Falls (as R/U is modern’s combo deck color combination of choice). The checklands will most likely NOT see much play in 3+ color decks, but I can see them doing a lot of work in the 2 color decks.

  5. I disagree on Stromkirk Noble. It’s an evasive 1-drop that grows and is a member of a potentially relevant tribe that’s just a few cards away from being a viable Modern deck. I’d pick him up when he drops for medium/long-term gain.

    Also, what about Gravecrawler? Zombies have even seen fringe Legacy play, and his ability pairs very well with sac or dredge effects. (Although he seems like he has high reprint potential)

    1. I like the gravecrawler spec…I do think he’ll drop down to $3-4 post rotation and I won’t argue against picking up a few at that price…the problem is that while he is a good card..he is by no means broken.

  6. What do you think Griselbrand’s long-term price is? He’s banned in EDH, so his only real home is probably Modern/Legacy SnT or Reanimator type decks. Do you see his trajectory as analogous to Emrakul?

    1. I think that’s a very good comparison…the only thing to keep in mind is that griselbrand can be cheated into play easier (more reanmiation spells can hit him), however I would not put it past wotc to ban him (if he becomes a bigger probelm)

    1. Well Omniscience’s value is 98% due to it’s legacy I honestly don’t expect much of a price change on this one after rotation. Thundermaw’s value is almost solely due to his standard playability, thus he’ll have a solid drop at/after rotation. However, he is a dragon (so he has extra “collectibility”) AND he did some some minor play in modern Jund…with the elimination of BBE in the format, there is potentially some room for him to find his way into decklists. It’s important to remember both are from M13, and cards from core sets have more potential for long term growth due to the more limited cracking of packs.

  7. Sooo..about the comments: TL;DR

    As for my takes:

    Champion of the Parish and Bonfire of the Damned both have huge potential to be big hits in Modern, even as soon as this season.

    Huntmaster, Cavern, and Thalia are the only of your Winners that I think have potential, every thing else seems so niche.

    As for other winners, Restoration Angel, Liliana, Geist and Griselbrand are probably the biggest winners overall in the end. Also, Avacyn should be a winner, card sees absolutely no play and it s $10+, can only go up from there. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad will probably rebound from whatever low he hits too.

    Also, no mention of Snapcaster Mage?!

    1. Where do you see Champion of the Parish fitting in? There is no modern human deck and the fact that a lot of modern decks try to combo out on turn 4 means that he’s unlikely to be all that threatening by the time you lose the game. Bonfire isn’t a bad card, but consider the fact that modern also lacks very little deck manipulation…AND can have a much faster clock than standard (save Naya Blitz which is on par). Terminus, Entreat, Garruk, and Past in Flames ALL see Legacy play AND casual play….they might not be spectacular in modern, but if you think Bonfire has a lot of potential in modern how can you NOT feel the same about Terminus/Entreat….Terminus is MUCH better at clearning the board via miracle and a big Entreat can end the game in one turn…I mentioned Avacyn and Snapcaster Mage in other comments..

  8. Standard has even less deck manipulation and this card is excellent in the format. With Modern turning more to creature decks, Bonefire is going to get even better. The standard version of Naya Blitz already gets turn 4 kills and Champion is a big reason why. Imagine what Champion can do with all the sets from Mirrodin till forever!

    Those cards might see Legacy play, but it isn’t a lot. UW Miracles it not a major player in the format and Entreat/Terminus are really only played in that deck. The reason that Bonfire is a better card is that it is still awesome when not Miracled. The other 2 are just fine when you cast otherwise. Garruk and Past In Flames aren’t doing enough elsewhere to make them do anything really.

    1. I will have to disagree with you on that one…Bonfire is NOT awesome when not works at X=1 in standard fine (sure) it occasionally works at X=2 in standard, but unless you’re playing grindry drawn out games it doesn’t work at X=3+ (7 mana or more) against aggro decks in standard….you have even LESS time to set up a board state in modern…you also have to pay RX in modern to wipe the board, compared to W for the same effect…I play UWr Miracles in Legacy and Terminus is amazing…bonfire I won’t even consider, I just don’t care about dealing a little damage to my opponent).

  9. Nice article mentioning rares!…but what about the commons/uncommons about to rotate that have more opportunity of profit?. My target are casual/legacy/modern playables but any concrete examples to look for? (look what happened with Remand many years after).

    1. It was an example of a card that was great in standard but has no real potential elsewhere as it’s power level was great in a limited card pool, but not up to snuff in a much larger one…

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