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Insider: Simple Game with Four Drops

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I don’t play Standard more than a few times a year, but when I do, I play aggro. This is for two reasons: 1) I do virtually no testing of the format, so I want to be proactive in games; and 2) Quick games give me time to trade in between rounds. Don’t get me wrong, I love drafting grindy control decks as much as the next guy, but when it comes to playing Standard, I would rather play less and trade more.

For what seems like forever, the four-drop slot in Standard aggro decks has been occupied by the likes of Falkenrath Aristocrat, Hellrider, Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells, and Restoration Angel. With these format-defining cards all rotating soon, cards in Return to Ravnica block and the M14 Core Set have real potential for gains. In this article, I will discuss the merits of several aggressive four-drops and give my recommendations for each. Intro over, let’s dig in.

Advent of the Wurm

TCG Average: $3.99
Top Buy Price: $2.00

This won the block Pro Tour, has pushed stats, and comes from an under-opened set. It topped the curve in Wescoe’s PT-winning deck, but the card is also good in a Bant control shell. It shares both its colors with the most expensive card in Standard, and if Voice of Resurgence is as ubiquitous next year as it is this year, gravitating toward Advent of the Wurm seems natural. Trostani, Selesnya's Voice isn’t aggressive enough to discuss in this article, but it’s worth noting its synergy with Advent, as well. I’d be surprised if this didn’t go to at least $8, with an even higher ceiling possible if Selesnya dominates next year’s Standard.

Recommendation: The price is a little too high to advocate buying in, especially with the current spread, but I think it’s reasonable to trade for these at $4.

Chandra, Pyromaster

TCG Average: $12.99
Top Buy Price: $10.91

My initial impression of this card was that it was merely average, but it’s grown off me (that’s the opposite of growing on me, right?) and now I basically think it’s as bad as its predecessors. There’s a chance a Grixis control deck might want her, but Jace seems better for control, and how many four-mana Planeswalkers can a deck realistically play? In aggro, the card seems underwhelming at best.

Recommendation: Despite the spread being low, I say sell away. Even if Chandra somehow matters next year, she will dip below $10 before that happens.

Corpsejack Menace

TCG Average: $1.30
Top Buy Price: $0.50

Seems like a vanilla 4/4, and you can get that in the three-drop slot from Loxodon Smiter. Sure, following this up with Kalonian Hydra is bonkers, but an unanswered Kalonian Hydra is kind of a terror all on its own. The card is certainly synergistic, but I don’t think it provides enough guaranteed value to be a force in Standard.

Recommendation: There’s not a ton of downside to holding these if you like the spec, but I think $1.30 is obscenely high for a future bulk rare. I’ll be selling mine at this price.

Desecration Demon

TCG Average: $2.45
Top Buy Price: $1.57

On my first draft of this article, the spread on this card was only 15%, but has since increased to 36%. It’s huge for it cost and gets significantly better when Lingering Souls rotates, but cards that give your opponents choices are almost never top-tier. Granted, when the choices are between The Abyss and taking a ton of damage, there’s little downside, but it’s still a card that doesn’t always do what you plan.

Recommendation: Despite last week’s low spread, I don’t love this spec. I’ll be selling mine, but holding your copies isn’t horrendous.

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

TCG Average: $1.01
Top Buy Price: $0.45

Now we’re getting somewhere. Nothing is blocking Exava profitably on turn four, and in an aggro deck with a +1/+1 counter subtheme, Exava is a great top end. She attacks the turn she comes down and continues to provide value if not removed. Exava seems like a much better combo with Kalonian Hydra than Corpsejack Menace, and the spread is a very reasonable 35%. Her biggest downside is her Legendary status, but I don’t think it limits her too much. I don’t think this will jump like Hellrider, but $4-5 seems feasible.

Recommendation: Trading for these at $1 seems like my kind of low-risk, high-upside play, and spending cash isn’t very risky if you can get in under a dollar.

Firemane Avenger

TCG Average: $0.96
Top Buy Price: $0.58

Firemane Avenger is another target I like quite a bit. An evasive body at a reasonable rate is a fine start, but if a competitive deck fires her Battalion trigger with consistency, she could be a real force in the meta. As an angel, there’s minimal downside here, as even if she doesn’t make a splash in Standard, casual players won’t ever let her dip to true bulk. Without haste, she may be just a little too weak for competitive play, but with Searing Spear rotating in favor of Shock, there’s a chance the stars will align for this card. I think Firemane Avenger is currently at its price floor, will likely be at least $2 a couple years in the future just from casual demand, and may be as high as $6-8 if it sees Standard play.

Recommendation: I have several of these set aside already, and wouldn’t mind picking up a few more, either through cash or trade.

Ghor-Clan Rampager

TCG Average: $1.36
Top Buy Price: $0.60

This card is obviously very good, but probably isn’t appropriately slotted in this article as its two-mana pump ability is more often relevant than its four-mana 4/4 body. I bring it up because it will be a four-of in the M14 Event Deck. Its price is relatively high for an uncommon, but the release of this product will almost certainly crash it well below a dollar.

Recommendation: Sell, sell, sell! Any extras you have should be outed immediately, as an influx of this card into the market will crash any potential upside it may have had. If you managed to buy in cheap on this uncommon, now is the time to lock in your profits.

Gideon, Champion of Justice

TCG Average: $4.45
Top Buy Price: $2.65

I’ve had a chance to play Gideon in three different Limited decks, and he has not impressed me at all. If a Planeswalker doesn’t even perform in Limited, it’s hard to predict him doing great things in Standard.

Recommendation: All that being said, $4.50 is likely the price floor for a Planeswalker. It can’t hurt to hold him. He doesn’t have to be good to spike next year, remember.

Master Biomancer

TCG Average: $5.75
Top Buy Price: $4.10

This is like Corpsejack Menace with a weaker body. Granted, he has a universally-good ability instead of just a synergistic one, but I still don’t like him much. The card has seen very slight Standard play in RUG decks, which haven’t really been relevant this year. Maybe I’m doing things wrong, but I didn’t even like this card in my Maelstrom Wanderer EDH deck. I think it was a mythic for Limited reasons, where it’s terrifying, but it just seems kind of slow and boring in Constructed formats.

Recommendation: Sell. I even traded the one I acquired for EDH as it was boring and slow.

Ogre Battledriver

TCG Average: $2.45
Top Buy Price: $1.08

People seem to think this will replace Hellrider, but I just don’t see it. Hellrider is a top-of-the-curve, game-ending machine. Ogre Battledriver is a Hill Giant that has to live for a turn and requires a follow-up play before doing anything relevant. I’m not saying Battledriver is unplayable or anything, but it seems like it would be better in a midrange deck, especially one that abuses attack triggers.

Recommendation: I’d buy in if this was at bulk, but at its currently hyped price I’m selling. Even if this is good at some point in the next year, I anticipate being able to get it at $1 before any spike happens.

Ral Zarek

TCG Average: $11.49
Top Buy Price: $6.50

Ral Zarek’s -2 ability is better than either of Chandra, Pyromaster’s pertinent abilities, but come on. That +1 is just bad. Ral doesn’t fit into Izzet Blitz and that’s the only current aggro deck that could run him. It is worth noting that casual players love the character so he might have a higher price floor than other Planeswalkers.

Recommendation: If this ever dips to $5-6, it’s worth acquiring, but at $12, it’s one to sell.

Rubblebelt Raiders

TCG Average: $0.54
Top Buy Prices: $0.23

This card has potential in an aggressive deck with lots of creatures, but I don’t think it quite gets there. It can be chump blocked for days, doesn’t have haste or an immediate impact on the board, and has a prohibitive mana cost. I don’t really see it going up, but crazier things have happened.

Recommendation: It’s basically bulk already, so there’s no real downside to just holding these. If it never does anything, you’ll get the same price after next rotation as you will now.

Summary

Advent of the Wurm: Acquire (trade)
Chandra, Pyromaster: Sell
Corpsejack Menace: Sell
Desecration Demon: Sell/Hold
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch: Acquire (trade or cash)
Firemane Avenger: Acquire (trade or cash)
Ghor-Clan: Sell
Gideon, Champion of Justice: Hold
Master Biomancer: Sell
Ogre Battledriver: Sell
Ral Zarek: Sell
Rubblebelt Raiders: Hold

3 thoughts on “Insider: Simple Game with Four Drops

    1. I don’t view these as can’t-miss targets (see my previous article about summer trading), but I think they are low risk. How deep I would go depends on the buy-in price. I’d buy as many as I could get at the buy-list price of 50 cents, as I don’t think either will ever be true bulk. At the current retail price of $1, I’m not quite as excited, as if they end up at $2 (which I think is where they will be just based on casual appeal–any higher price will be determined by Standard play), you’ll just break even after shipping/fees. Still, when breaking even is the downside, it’s not the worst spec ever. Personally, I want to have dozens of copies at rotation but not hundreds, as I’d rather diversify than put all my eggs in either of these baskets.

  1. I’m not sure I understand the comment about Corpsejack Menace being a bulk rare…it has never and probably never will be a bulk rare due to casual demand…

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