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Insider: All About Event Decks

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It has been almost exactly three years since the printing of the first event decks. Most financiers agree that event deck printings hurt card prices, but by how much? Today, I’m going to take a look at the history of event decks to see if we can gain some insight into the matter. Keep in mind that card prices are determined by myriad factors, so rather than identifying hard-and-fast rules regarding event deck printings, we’re just looking for patterns.

In the Beginning

The first event decks printed were for Mirrodin Besieged. Neither was incredible, but one was certainly better than the other. Take a look at the rares in each deck (with some pertinent uncommons, too).

I was recently surprised to learn how inexpensive Memnite, Ornithopter, and Signal Pest each are, given that they’re all four-of staples in Modern Affinity decks. Going back and looking at these decklists certainly explains that for me.

Noting the four-of staple uncommons in this deck was a lesson to me: sometimes there’s a reason cards are the “wrong” price relative to how much play they see. Checking the lists for event decks, intro packs, and other supplemental products can alert you to extra copies of cards you’re considering buying, so check these products periodically to be reminded of what’s out there.

I was on hiatus during the Caw-Blade era, but I have to imagine people were excited and then subsequently annoyed when Stoneforge Mystic was reprinted as a two-of in a pre-con and then quickly banned from Standard. The ability to play this deck with no changes has to be one of the most awkward fixes I’ve ever heard.

Stoneforge spiked up to almost $30 recently, which goes against all of the common knowledge regarding speculating on cards printed in event decks. However, it did take a few years for that spike to occur. Would Stoneforge have spiked earlier without this printing? We can’t know that, but what we can know is that an event deck printing doesn’t invalidate a spec—it just makes it longer term. This is good news for quite a few cards we’ll be seeing in these lists moving forward.

M12 and Innistrad Block

Verdant Catacombs reinforces my point about Stoneforge Mystic: for a while, this was easily the cheapest fetch land. I remember them being available for as low as $8. But now, due to seeing tons of play in Modern, Verdant Catacombs falls short of only the blue fetch lands. It took a while—a couple years. More and more, I think cards in event decks are fine for long-term specs but to be avoided for short-term.

I’m also noting casual staples Steel Hellkite and Mimic Vat. These are popular cards in my area, especially Vat, and they go in literally any EDH deck. And yet they’re both still under $2. Is it possible that event decks put more downward pressure on casual cards than competitive? It’s something worth keeping an eye on.

This is a pretty lackluster pair of decks, with only Birds of Paradise and Green Sun's Zenith being relevant cards for eternal formats. This is event-deck printing number two for GSZ, which you may recall is banned in Modern. It’s hard to count the number of reprintings BOP has seen, so these were truly disappointing decks. Did Wizards decide to put fewer chase cards in event decks at this point?

Dark Ascension Event Decks

Apparently that’s not what happened. At the time of this printing, Inkmoth Nexus was one of the hottest cards in Standard. Birthing Pod decks had always been a thing, but as the format was getting larger, they were becoming more prevalent. So after some very disappointing products with Innistrad, Wizards printed two decks with two-of tournament staples to go along with Dark Ascension. Both of these cards, by the way, are just recently beginning to rise from their historical floors—roughly two years after this printing.

The three copies of Torpor Orb represent the first and only time an event deck had three copies of the same rare. A very narrow sideboard card seems like a strange choice for this honor, but it hasn’t kept this card from slowly rising over the last year.

Avacyn Restored Event Decks

Okay, now things just seem random. Both these decks have a good amount of ~$3 cards, but neither has any true chase cards. I suppose Gravecrawler and Gerralf's Messenger did spend some time in the spotlight of $10+, but ultimately, these decks just look meh. It’s hard to tell what criteria event decks have as far as monetary value, if any.

M13 and Return to Ravnica Block

Not printing Snapcaster Mage in the flashback-themed event deck was a slap in the face to players everywhere, but not such bad news if you were (or are) speculating on the card. This was at the beginning of Thragtusk’s reign of terror in Standard, and as we’ll see moving forward, it presents a very interesting case.

Also note GSZ’s third printing here. Incidentally, it is at its historical floor and may be worth picking up in trades. The card is still relevant in Legacy and will go crazy if ever unbanned in Modern, as unlikely as that might be.

Once again, Thragtusk was reprinted. If you’ll recall, the price didn’t drop. Apparently, if a card has become such a staple in Standard that basically every deck wants it, as was the case with ol’ Tusky at this time, even two event deck printings won’t budge the price. It was also around this time that a pattern was becoming clear: one event deck was regularly packed with goodies, making it a clear buy, whereas the other one was generally not attractive. We see unbalanced concurrent products like this still today, most recently in Commander 2013.

Let’s make it reprint number three for Thragtusk. It was about this time that the card finally started to crash, but that was as much due to the metagame moving away from it as this reprinting.

The funny thing about this pair of decks is that the good buy was the deck without Thragtusk, at least while the cards in it were Standard-legal. It seems like as event decks have continued as a product, Wizards has focused more and more on Standard staples as opposed to eternal playables. The only card in either of these lists that might qualify for eternal-staple status is Thalia, Guardian of Thraben—quite the change from the Stoneforge Mystics, Goblin Guide, and Verdant Catacombss of yore!

Finally, Wizards gave up on the two-event-deck plan and went to one deck with ten rares, up from seven. Unfortunately, the increased number of rares came with a whole lot of bulk and casual cards. With only Godless Shrine really applying to Standard or Modern, this deck does not make the future look bright for the value in this product line.

M14 and Theros Block

Once again, we’ve got a whole lot of bulk to go with one Stomping Ground. At this point, I’m forced to wonder whether Wizards is trying to get these decks out of the hands of speculators and into the hands of casual players. This could have some interesting ramifications, considering that if fewer of these decks sell due to lack of value, the cards in them may not be as impacted in price as before. This is definitely something to keep an eye on as we move forward.

As an aside, you have to be impressed that Mizzium Mortars has maintained $3.25. The card is a rare from a large set, and it’s been reprinted in several event decks and intro packs. Imagine where the card would be without any of those reprintings. I’m just glad that my speculation on it stopped at preordering a playset—anybody who bought in just got daggered by reprints over and over again.

More $3 cards with a shock land. Is it just me, or are event decks getting boring? Printing Detention Sphere as a two-of certainly hurt those buying in at the $2 floor that hit right before this deck’s announcement. I was all set to buy in myself, but luckily decided to put my money elsewhere.

And most recently, we have another deck full of Standard cards with some okay stuff but nothing insane. You’re definitely going to want to consider outing any positions you have among cards in this list, since none have really proven to be eternal playable.

Conclusions

It’s hard to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions from these lists, but here are some patterns we’ve identified:

1. Event deck printings hurt the price of most cards during their time in Standard, except for ubiquitous cards like Thragtusk.
2. After two to three years, eternal-playable cards from event decks tend to recover from depressed prices caused by their reprints (i.e. Stoneforge Mystic and Verdant Catacombs).
3. Wizards appears to be lowering the quality of chase cards in event decks, especially after increasing the number of rares included with Dragon’s Maze’s deck.
4. Wizards is not afraid to print cards in multiple event decks, so just because your pet spec has already been reprinted in one doesn’t mean it won’t be chosen again.
5. Casual cards seem to take larger and lengthier price hits than their competitive counterparts.

Honestly, there are just too many variables to determine how much event decks can impact prices, but it doesn’t hurt to review what information we do have available. I, for one, found it very interesting to see which cards had been printed in these products, as after some time, it’s easy to forget what’s gotten the nod.

Today’s article was perhaps a little light on advice, but let me make up for it with a big suggestion: keep a list handy that shows which cards were reprinted in event decks, intro packs, and other supplemental products. Knowing this info can have a huge influence on your speculative activities, and having it easily available will help you go in with as much knowledge possible. To help with this, I’ve included a list of all rares and several pertinent non-rares in event decks that you can copy and paste. You can find it below. Thanks for reading!

Born of the Gods

Underworld Herald
1 Agent of the Fates
1 Blood Scrivener
1 Crypt Ghast
1 Desecration Demon
1 Herald of Torment
1 Pack Rat
2 Xathrid Necromancer
1 Fated Return
1 Hero’s Downfall

Theros

Inspiring Heroics
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Fabled Hero
1 Frontline Medic
2 Imposing Sovereign
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
1 Precinct Captain
1 Soldier of the Pantheon
2 Detention Sphere

M14

Rush of the Wild
1 Stomping Ground
1 Deadbridge Goliath
1 Ogre Battledriver
1 Pyrewild Shaman
1 Rubblebelt Raiders
1 Wild Beastmaster
1 Wrecking Ogre
1 Clan Defiance
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Savage Summoning
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
2 Burning-Tree Emissary
3 Skullcrack

Dragon’s Maze

Strength of Selesnya
1 Godless Shrine
1 Grove of the Guardian
1 Champion of Lambholdt
1 Geist-Honored Monk
1 Odric, Master Tactician
1 Wayfaring Temple
1 Advent of the Wurm
1 Growing Ranks
1 Increasing Devotion
1 Parallel Lives
4 Intangible Virtue
3 Lingering Souls
4 Selesnya Charm

Gatecrash

Thrive and Thrash
1 Deadeye Navigator
1 Dungeon Geists
1 Gruul Ragebeast
1 Sphinx of Uthuun
1 Thragtusk
1 Wolfir Silverheart
1 Yeva, Nature’s Herald
3 Rancor

Rally and Rout
1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Slayers’ Stronghold
1 Ash Zealot
1 Champion of the Parish
1 Silverblade Paladin
1 Spark Trooper
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Return to Ravnica

Wrack and Rage
1 Dragonskull Summit
2 Stromkirk Noble
1 Devil’s Play
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Vexing Devil

Creep and Conquer
1 Grim Backwoods
1 Woodland Cemetery
1 Deadbridge Goliath
1 Disciple of Bolas
1 Ulvenwald Tracker
1 Wolfir Silverheart
1 Thragtusk
4 Strangleroot Geist

M13

Repeat Performance
2 Razorverge Thicket
1 Blade Splicer
1 Geist-Honored Monk
1 Sunblast Angel
1 Thragtusk
1 Green Sun’s Zenith

Sweet Revenge
1 Darkslick Shores
1 Desolate Lighthouse
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Firewing Phoenix
1 Red Sun’s Zenith
2 Slagstorm
4 Faithless Looting

Avacyn Restored

Humanity’s Vengeance
2 Glacial Fortress
1 Moorland Haunt
1 Blade Splicer
1 Mirran Crusader
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Divine Deflection
4 Mana Leak

Death’s Encroach
1 Cemetery Reaper
1 Gerralf’s Messenger
1 Gloom Surgeon
1 Gravecrawler
2 Lashwrithe
1 Surgical Extraction

Dark Ascension

Gleeful Flames
2 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Hellrider
1 Curse of Stalked Prey
3 Torpor Orb

Spiraling Doom
1 Grim Backwoods
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Hex Parasite
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Birthing Pod

Innistrad

Hold the Line
1 Champion of the Parish
1 Elite Inquisitor
2 Mirran Crusader
2 Honor of the Pure
1 Nevermore

Deathfed
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Splinterfright
2 Bonehoard
1 Green Sun’s Zenith
1 Ratchet Bomb

M12

Illusionary Might
1 Glacial Fortress
2 Grand Architect
1 Lord of the Unreal
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Precursor Golem
1 Steel Hellkite
4 Mana Leak
4 Preordain

Vampire Onslaught
1 Verdant Catacombs
2 Bloodghast
1 Kalastria Highborn
2 Blade o
f the Bloodchief
1 Mimic Vat
4 Dismember
4 Vampire Hexmage
4 Viscera Seer

New Phyrexia

War of Attrition
1 Kemba, Kha Regent
1 Mirran Crusader
1 Puresteel Paladin
2 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Sword of Vengeance
1 Bonehoard

Rot from Within
1 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Putrefax
1 Green Sun’s Zenith
1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
2 Obstinate Baloth

Mirrodin Besieged

Infect & Defile
2 Drowned Catacomb
2 Phyrexian Vatmother
1 Hand of the Praetors
2 Consuming Vapors

Into the Breach
1 Contested War Zone
2 Goblin Guide
2 Devastating Summons
1 Spikeshot Elder
1 Leyline of Punishment
4 Memnite
4 Ornithopter
4 Signal Pest

3 thoughts on “Insider: All About Event Decks

  1. Wow! This is VERY informative. Thank you. I was utterly baffled as to why Mizzium Mortars is still $3 and D. Sphere is still $2, or why Mirran Crusader never reached higher prices while Silverblade Paladin and Boros Reckoner definitely did. This explains everything.

    The corollaries are 1) regular Standard rares are not bad if they are unlikely to show up in these decks;
    2) since there is always randomness involved (or at least, more than I assumed before), it’s good to diversify your portfolio a bit after taking 1) into account;
    3) note that mythics mostly don’t carry such risks at all, barring a duel deck reprint.

  2. Wonderful article. I had been poring over the lists already. I have been slowing on the intake of certain cards in standard (namely Hero’s Downfall, Desecration Demon and shocklands).

    This is a nice list. I would like to see it maintained in the forums, as a list of cards to be weary of picking…

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