Insider: Bet on Power

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Everyone has his or her opinion. You know, the one about the card that is suddenly going to break Standard after rotation and shoot up to $25. The one that fits into some deck they presume will take the world by storm.

For someone I know, recently it was Savage Summoning. He thought that once M14 came out a blue-green control shell would take over with Aetherling as the finisher and Summoning as the most important card to push it through.

Obviously that didn’t happen. Sorry Ryan.

But it leads me to my larger point. Sure, looking at interactions is extremely important, but it’s just one way to determine specs. And, I would argue, it’s not usually the best way.

So what is?

Power Level (insert “over 9,000” joke here).

All About Power

So on one end of the spectrum we have “good in a designated archetype,” like Savage Summoning or Lotleth Troll last year when people thought B/G Zombies was going to be the best thing ever.

But the other end of that scale is where I prefer to operate; the end where we find the most powerful cards, find the underpriced ones and just assume they’re going to find a home. This also carries some risk, as the metagame may not develop to a point for the card to find a home, or something else may come along to knock it off its perch (like Aetherling did to Niv-Mizzet).

But this is a tried-and-true tactic for me come rotation. When the format is at its smallest, decks will adapt to run the most powerful cards in a vacuum rather than rely on worse cards that function on synergy.

That sort of stuff can work if the format has enough tools for those cards to form a whole greater than the sum of their individual parts. But the first two or three weeks of October is not when that happens.

It is, however, when powerful cards find a place and spike accordingly.

A Year Ago

A year ago there were two cards moving from Block to Standard that I was behind at this stage in the game: Champion of the Parish and Sigarda, Host of Herons.

Which one do you think made me more money?

All the pieces were there for Champion. There were a ton of humans floating around, and I speculated on it with this reasoning. And I was right. The card saw a lot of play and the copies I had picked up for around $3 in trade went out at $6-7 in trade a few months later.

Sigarda, on the other hand, didn’t fit into a specific deck. There were no other pieces that made it tick or look like a good spec. It was just powerful, and I thought it would find a place because of that.

How did it turn out?

Pretty well, turns out. I traded into a bunch of Sigardas at the $5-6 mark and got rid of them at $12. While this is still just a double-up like Champion, it represents a much greater absolute profit, which is really important when you start factoring in costs like time spent (basically, the opportunity cost), which is the same for both cards but cuts into my Champion spec more than my Sigarda spec.

So which spec was more successful? Both were good, but obviously Sigarda made me more money than Champion, and I think that’s a testament to the strategy more than anything inherent to the cards themselves. After all, Champion went on to be heavily played and nearly doubled up, but it was also something that I think in retrospect was more risky than Sigarda.

We can look at something like Disciple of Bolas, which was another hot spec once all the B/G Zombies in Return to Ravnica were spoiled, as everyone thought B/G Zombies was the new thing and Disciple played great in that deck. But even though the assumed synergy was there, that never really panned out for the spec because the deck just wasn’t powerful enough.

Basically, it’s the difference between looking for devotion enablers in RTR Block and just picking powerful cards up from the Block. Both can hit, but one strategy is safer, if possibly less profitable.

The Powers That Be in Ravnica

With all of that in mind, let’s look at some cards from last year which I think are purely powerful, and therefore likely to find a home post-rotation, even if we can’t see exactly where that may be yet.

Jace, Architect of Thought -- I get that this, along with Sphinx's Revelation, are kind of a cheat since we already know how powerful they are, but it’s worth mentioning anyway.

Detention Sphere & Supreme Verdict -- I cannot recommend these two cards enough, as I have for the last few weeks. I still think these are both steals at $3-4 in trade, and are headed north of $5-6 in the coming weeks. This is one of the few ways to deal with anything in the new Standard, and I expect the blue-white deck to be all over the place.

Mizzium Mortars -- Another one I’ve talked about at length, so I won’t go on about it much more, except to say I still think you want to acquire these in trade, though not as much as D-Sphere.

Hellhole Flailer & Unflinching Courage -- Grouping these together since both are uncommons I expect to make an impact. While the format for these has been in and out so far, both are powerful enough, and the Flailer in particular has been completely forgotten. It’s a great bit of reach in red decks. Probably also worth throwing Lyev Skyknight into this.

Loxodon Smiter & Voice of Resurgence -- G/W looks to be quite powerful, and these are the big drivers on that. I think the upside on Smiter is probably higher, so that’s where I’d prefer to put my money, but there’s probably some money to be made on both.

Trostani, Selesnya's Voice -- Just too much of an aggro killer, and one that’s already seen Block play. At $6 right now, this seems like a strong target.

Domri Rade -- I think the time to really profit off of this has passed, and I hope you got in a while back when we were talking about it. That said, it could spike past the current price of $25 after a good first week.

Overall, I think there are better targets on this list, but I wanted to include it because I think it’s still a solid play, though one with less upside.

Firemane Avenger -- This just in, Lightning Helix is good, and this is currently under a buck.

Obzedat, Ghost Council & Blood Baron of Vizkopa -- Both of these are seeing play in Block, and moving to a format with easier mana means that will likely continue. Both are mythics and primed to double in the course of a week if they see big play out the blocks. I like Blood Baron as a pickup more because of the lower entry price, but I can’t fault you for either.

Boros Reckoner -- Card is still nuts, and is a super devotion enabler at that. Love this at $10 in trade. Again, I don’t think the upside is great, but it could move back to $15 without too much trouble.

Scion of Vitu-Ghazi & Advent of the Wurm -- Both from an under-opened set, and both super powerful. Much more upside to Scion, obviously, but these alongside Smiter and Voice seem like the backbone of an insane deck.

Aetherling -- Obviously the finisher of choice. Movement over $5 likely.

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch -- What this card does depends entirely on whether or not B/R turns out better than R/G. That means coming up with a reason not to play Rampager (which isn’t on this list due to the four-of Event Deck printing).

Anyway, we got a new 2/1 for one in Theros in black, so this may see its time in the sun. It’s super powerful at the top of the curve, and at near-bulk I’m all over this.

Top Five picks (No Order)

Based on a combination of power-to-upside concerns:

  • Jace, Architect of Thought
  • Detention Sphere
  • Loxodon Smiter
  • Supreme Verdict
  • Boros Reckoner

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

9 thoughts on “Insider: Bet on Power

  1. Nice article! I like your top 5 choices – though both Reckoner and Jace have already creeped up a good ways off their lows. I agree grabbing these in trades is probably best here.

    Also, just wanted to mention that Supreme Verdict is already in the $5-$6 range. I’ve sold a few playsets myself between $20 and $21. Still have 1 playset with another 2 on the way that I found cheaply ($13 range). Many are expecting $10+ price tags on Verdict….I’m not so confident it goes this high (looks like you agree?). I know Terminus went that high, but there are way more Supreme Verdicts that were opened. Plus Verdict was a BaB promo. So I’m perfectly comfortable selling these profitably as they hover in the $6 price range because the upside becomes less. Detention Sphere is more attractive right now for this reason 🙂

  2. Lighting helix angel was looking good until Lightning Strike. Now it’s bad in the short term. In the longer term (like, 1 year or more) it seems like one of those cards that’s randomly $3-5 on casual appeal, like a Darksteel Plate or Quicksilver Amulet. But you should have better things to do with your money in the meantime.

  3. Enjoyed the article. I like the calls. Not sold long term on Supreme Verdict, but Smiter and Sphere are very good cards to be picking up in trade, I think.

    P.s. Typo under “All About Power” – “Vasuum” should be “Vacuum.”

    1. You don’t like Supreme Verdict for the long term? Given Wrath of God is averaging $5-6 on tcg and it’s been printed 14 times….I think Supreme verdict has a strong chance of eventually hitting $7-9 a few years down the road.

  4. I agree completely. I think one of the major mistakes that people make while starting out speculating is trying to hit that one home run. For every single Splinter Twin, there are 2 or 3 cards with the same price point that never pans out. Every single Constructed specs should be scrutinized with these 3 questions:

    1) Is it a rare or a mythic?

    2) Is it a 2-of or a 4-of between main deck and SB?

    3) Does it go into one deck or multiple decks?

    At a minimum, it should at least be a 3-of in one deck with potential for more decks to use it. This usually speaks to the power level of the card.

    Certainly at some price points, the cards are cheap enough that it doesn’t hurt to buy into. And obviously, there will always be exceptions, such as casual favorites like Asceticism, Parallel Lives and Exquisite Blood.

  5. I’ve been stocking up on a lot of the same specs you talk about here, 20x supreme verdict @ 3.50, 20x detention sphere @ 2.7, 30x Desecration Demon @ 2.20, 30x merciless eviction @ .39, 8x deathrite shamen @ 11, 40x boros charm @ .50, 10x mana bloom @ .25,

    Which of the current standard cards do you see shooting up because of how they interact with some of the spoiled theros cards? Ive been thinking about biomancer, nightveil specter, lotleth troll, corpsejack meanace, and a few other cards, maybe even savage born hydra with the way r/g seems to have a lot of ramp cards, and a ramp plains walker.

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