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Insider: Why I’m Avoiding Theros in Favor of RTR Block (For Now)

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As of this writing, I haven’t preordered, purchased, or traded for a single Theros card. Just like with almost every new set, Theros cards are priced too high across the board right now, especially for cards that very few have played extensively. These prices are driven by limited supply and hype, and while individual cards may go up, the price of the average rare is going to drop significantly in the coming months.

On the other hand, we’ve had a full year of Return to Ravnica block, and the cards are very known quantities. We’ve had a Block Pro Tour that provides us with tons of data about what post-rotation Standard might look like. The new-set hype is in the past and card prices are based more on real factors—how good is it, how much play does it see, and what is the supply? We’re coming off of the summer, when tournament attendance wanes and card prices are depressed.

There is real opportunity here because everyone is so focused on Theros right now. When Innistrad was current, many cards from Scars of Mirrodin block shot up in value, including Wurmcoil Engine, the fast lands, and even uncommons like Gut Shot. Just before Return to Ravnica was released, Olivia Voldaren only cost $4, Craterhoof Behemothwas practically a bulk mythic, and cards like Sever the Bloodline could be had for less than a quarter.

This isn’t to say there’s no money to be made speculating on Theros cards right now. There certainly is, but I prefer a more cautious approach. I’ll be waiting until after a couple SCG Opens and the Pro Tour to have an idea of what the meta looks like, then use that knowledge to move forward on Theros specs. In the meantime, I’d like to discuss a few Return to Ravnica block cards that are good financial opportunities.

Advent of the Wurm

What I like:
• The card was a four-of in the Block Pro Tour winning deck.
• It’s powerful on its own and synergistic with other cards in its color combination.
• Two decks showed up in the top 32 of SCG Worcester with four copies.
• A higher upside because of low supply due to being from Dragon’s Maze.

Risk factors:
• Selesnya does not currently have a scry land, and if the GW temple is printed in the spring set instead of the winter set, this might never reach top-tier status.
• The token does not assist with devotion, which could hurt this if green devotion strategies are relevant (which I doubt).
Ratchet Bomb provides an easy and cheap answer to these tokens.
• No decks in the top 16 of SCG Worcester ran the card.

I’m looking to obtain copies in trade only, because Advent of the Wurm’s future is highly dependant on whether the GW temple is in Born of the Gods or Journey into Nyx. By the time the spring set comes out, the meta will be well established and I doubt too many new strategies will catch on. I also believe that the meta will settle into color combinations that have an option to play temples instead of guildgates, so the order in which the remaining temples are printed is crucial for speculators.

Prime Speak Zegana

What I like:
• A buy-in price of less than $3 for this mythic is very low risk.
• There is a scry land for the Simic color combination in Theros.
• Even if this card never sees play in Standard again, its desirability in EDH limits how much lower it can drop.
• Synergy with Prophet of Kruphix, giving you additional opportunities to play all those extra cards you drew.
• One of the few card-draw spells that might be able to compete with Sphinx's Revelation in terms of efficiency.

Risk factors:
• The Simic color combination is not traditionally very powerful in Standard, due to its lack of removal.
• Zegana got worse with the rotation of Thragtusk.
• Bant strategies might still prefer Sphinx's Revelation to Prime Speaker Zegana. Will BUG or RUG strategies even exist?

Prime Speaker Zegana is at or near its floor right now and I’m looking to trade for or even purchase competitively-priced copies. I think this will hold casual value forever, and it could spike to $10 or more if it sees any Standard play in the coming months.

Thespian's Stage

What I like:
• Its closest comparable, Vesuva, is a $10 card.
• After the legend rule change, its synergy with Dark Depths in Legacy became noteworthy. This caused a temporary spike up to $3 a couple months back, which has since settled down, but nobody has played the deck yet. If a theory can cause a 300% spike, imagine what happens if somebody actually makes the combo work.
• It’s another option for 12-post strategies in Legacy.
• It gets better each time a powerful new land is printed.
• Even if competitive decks never end up using it, it will be an EDH staple forever.
• At only $1, it’s a perfect throw-in to even out trades.

Risk factors:
• A lot more Gatecrash was printed than Time Spiral, so this may never reach Vesuva’s $10 price point.
• If this never sees Legacy play, its ceiling might be limited due to only being played in EDH, a singleton format. Then again, it can go in every EDH deck, so this effect may not be as pronounced as with non-land cards.

I’ve liked Thespian's Stage for a while, and acquire them in trade every chance I get. A couple weeks ago I mentioned purchasing 17 copies for 99 cents each, and I have so far felt no buyer’s remorse. I’m pretty confident there’s money to be made on this card, but I haven’t yet determined an exit strategy. I think it’s a long-term hold, but I might start trading them out slowly once the price has gone up to a steady $3.

Beck // Call

What I like:
• Its closest comparable, Glimpse of Nature, is a $20 card.
• With Glimpse of Nature banned in Modern, this is the only option for combo elves in the format.
• It comes from underopened and underloved Dragon’s Maze.
• The buy-in price is only 50 cents right now.
• The card doesn’t have to be in a winning deck to see a spike—all it takes is one brew shared by a popular writer to cause an increase.
• Even if the card doesn’t spike before next year’s rotation, it’s a Modern spec and therefore still viable for years.

Risk factors:
• This hasn’t seen any play yet. It may never see play.
• Being a split card with a not-particularly-useful second half, the card is just uglier than Glimpse of Nature.
• The second color and mana requirement makes this less good than its counterpart.
• If it makes Modern Elves too good, it will almost certainly follow Glimpse of Nature onto the banned list.

I’ve got a couple dozen copies of this card, and will continue to pursue them as throw-ins. I bought 20 copies a few weeks ago at 49 cents each, and I don’t think I’m going to go deeper in cash. Still, I feel very comfortable having multiple playsets of Beck // Call on hand, so I’m happy to have made the purchase.

Time is of the Essence

The first draft of this article included a section on Blood Baron of Vizkopa, but its spike from $10 to $14 in the last week largely invalidated my comments. Being from Dragon’s Maze, Blood Baron has a chance to get even more expensive, and I was all for trading for them at $10. But now that they’re $14, I think the risk is too high for a speculator. If you need a playset, though, I’d pick it up as soon as possible.

My point is that Return to Ravnica block cards are starting to see price jumps, and if there’s anything on which you’re looking to speculate, you might want to get on it. Now that Return to Ravnica block is no longer being drafted, in a month or two, cards from those sets will be overpriced. On the other hand, Theros cards will be all over the place and much more attractive spec targets.

Some final thoughts on picking up Return to Ravnica block cards:

• Cards from Gatecrash and Dragon’s Maze have more upside than Return to Ravnica, due to their lower buy-in prices and lower supply for those sets.
• Gatecrash guilds already have scry lands in Standard, so Gatecrash guilds are likely to see slightly more play than Return to Ravnica guilds until Born of the Gods.
• It’s probably too late to jump on cards that have already spiked like Jace, Domri Rade, Obzedat, etc. Don’t let yesterday’s targets become today’s mistakes—if you missed the boat, wait for the next one.

Zero to Draft Update

I played a four-round Sealed release event this weekend and managed a 3-1 record. I opened Thoughtseize, Temple of Triumph, and Soldier of the Pantheon, so at retail values I exceeded the cost of entry—another stroke of luck for me.

Given my belief that Theros cards are generally overpriced, I was looking to flip these cards immediately. I exchanged Thoughtseize for a Steam Vents and a Garruk, Caller of Beasts. I then traded the Garruk, Steam Vents, Soldier of the Pantheon, and Temple of Triumph for a copy of Arid Mesa. Any day I have a chance to trade Standard cards up into Modern staples is a good day indeed.

Here’s a quick overview:

Events played: two sealed events (including a 2HG)
Money spent: $75
Money received from card sales: $61 (plus $7 claimed but not yet received)
Notable cards held: Arid Mesa, lots of bulk
Packs currently held: 5

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@dbro37 on Twitter

4 thoughts on “Insider: Why I’m Avoiding Theros in Favor of RTR Block (For Now)

  1. I’m pretty sure all 5 other scrylands will be in the next set, because the last set will be a small one. Almost certain I read this on Daily MTG.

    1. Born of the Gods and Journey into Nyx will both be small sets.

      In the Latest Development article “How Theros Got Its Scry On,” Sam Stoddard said: “Tom LaPille made a strong argument, though, that the previous year in Standard had extra time with the Return to Ravnica shocklands, and that the Gatecrash color pairs could use some extra time in the spotlight, so that is the model we went with. This left us with five more for the rest of the block. What will the order be for their release? You’ll have to wait and see.”

  2. , I didn’t get into Theros preorders besides some dirt cheap Heliods from eBay. I’m fairly deep into Advent of the Wurm and Thespian’s Stage too.

    I’d love to see estimates of DGM and GTC supply. We know that RTR is the most opened set of all time and that DGM was opened at a much lower rate, but how much exactly? Ben from SCG shared some info in the QS forums on M14 supply when discussing Chandra (core sets are opened at 1/2-1/3 of a large fall set), I wonder if he or anyone else can enlighten us with DGM and GTC open rates.

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