Are you a Quiet Speculation member?
If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.
Following tradition, I’m going to look back on my Theros set review to see how I did predicting the path of the set. After all, evaluating your own calls is important not only for transparency, but also for learning lessons moving forward.
But first, let’s talk briefly about the sea chance we’re facing in Modern. There are a lot of changes coming, and a lot of things have already moved financially.
I know most of you at home knew enough to pick up the fringe Faerie and Zoo cards like Mistbind Clique and Darkslick Shores, so I want to just touch on some of the “next-level” targets I fee like still have room to grow. I’ll be back next week with some more post-mortem on the changes after we have a week to digest.
Knight of the Reliquary has room to grow. Yes, it’s been printed a lot, but I think we may have forgotten just how nuts this card really is. $10 in-season is totally reasonable.
Goblin Guide hasn’t really moved yet. I expect it to for the super-aggro builds of Zoo.
Geist of Saint Traft is my pick for biggest gainer in the next month. It’s a mythic from a set that has given us $50 mythics and it’s about the best turn two play after laying down a $60 Noble Hierarch (that won’t last, by the way). Geist hasn’t moved much from $13 but I expect that to change by the time the Pro Tour rolls around.
I also think the graveyard combo decks get a little stronger, though I can’t imagine Living End doing well against Faeries. That said, possibly some growth in something like Vengevine and Gravecrawler.
I also really like Gifts Ungiven and Elesh Norn. That’s a powerful combo that only requires two cards so it won’t be financially relevant outside of Elesh Norn, but I do expect gains from both.
Supreme Verdict and RWU will likely increase as well, and I like Thrun as an answer to all of that. As a cheap-ish mythic, it could be another big gainer.
Okay, more to come next week. Now back to the Theros roundup.
“$8 now, and the only way I see this being relevant is in some sort of Reanimator shell. Since all we have now is the Whip, whose exile clause doesn’t exactly work with the Rider, I’m calling this to fall. Probably to like $3-4, since it’s still relevant in EDH.”
Now: $3, so nailed it. Still think this is a great pickup long-term as it continues to bottom out, and foils especially so.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
“Good card, and certainly relevant in control mirrors, though I’m pretty sure that’s it. It likely has some casual appeal, but I’m certain it’s coming down from $25 long before we see any rise in it. The fact that it doesn’t protect itself means playing it without backup just sets up trouble.”
Now: $10. Technically I was wrong since this briefly spiked to $30 or so with the Pro Tour, but that made actually profiting from this pretty tough compared to the buy-in, so I’m happy enough with this call.
I don’t really see Ashiok picking up from here either, except maybe after rotation, so this will probably come down a few more dollars in the next few months.
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
“Now here’s a Planeswalker I think is very good, and even though it’s preordering at $30 I think it’s the most likely to see a Jace-like jump to $50ish in the first few weeks. It creates a subgame where if the player doesn’t very quickly handle Elspeth she takes over the game, not to mention she’s a great stabilizer and helps to bring you back when behind.
That said, it’s more likely to settle at $15-20 in three months since it’s unlikely to be more than a two-of.”
Now: $25 SCG and $5 or so below that everywhere else, while seeing play as a two-of as I predicted. It also experienced a double-up from the preorder price on TCGPlayer and topped out at $40-45 SCG, if memory serves.
I went out on a limb a bit with this one, so I’m glad it worked out, and I hope you made some money from these on prerelease weekend.
“I want to address all of these together. I think they’re all solid, but overpriced at the moment.
I’ll leave it at that in terms of their current price, but these are difficult to evaluate because they’re novel in terms of Magic. This tripped me up with miracles a year ago, but I think the proper comparison is a kind of mini-Eldrazi.
I think they will be played in Standard, though in small enough numbers that the prices will all fall.
If there’s any target, I think it will be the white one, because the creature is more valuable than the ability.
That means you want stuff like Precinct Captain. The problem is I’m not positive the mana is there quite yet. Operating on the assumption that this god will be good but not until Born of the Gods comes out and we get more mana-fixing, it has an opportunity to dip but then pick back up, so it’s probably the best target if it goes cheap.”
Now: All the gods have come down as predicted, but I missed the spike on Thassa, which went up to about $5 more than the preorder price at its peak. So it’s not like you missed any big profits by staying away from these on prerelease weekend, but I also completely missed Mono-Blue (or Mono-anything) being a deck, so there was money to be made here in the weeks following release.
There’s not a ton to be learned from this in particular since it’s especially hard to predict new cards in a rotating format, but I did take something from this set in general, which I’ll explain when we get to Nykthos.
Master of Waves
“I wish this was good, but it doesn’t pump Merfolk. While it’s a powerful effect and protection from red is nice, I don’t see it making a huge splash in older formats, and its prospects in Standard likely aren’t going to be enough to keep it $10.”
Now: $10, with a big bump in between. Missed this one pretty badly, mostly because I was so blinded by the fact it didn’t create or pump Merfolk like I wanted it to. I think the power level here surprised a lot of people, and it’s crazy still to me that a four-drop like this is actually as good as it is in Modern.
As for me missing it, you’ll notice the continuing thread of “underestimating devotion” shared by everyone who wasn’t on one of two or three Pro Tour teams.
“My pick for most overpriced card in the set. It’s cool and all, and protection from white is certainly relevant, but this thing is no Thundermaw Hellkite. Not only does it kill a turn slower (not counting monstrosity, which costs a million mana), but the monstrous effect has yet to deal more than one damage to me in test games.
This is certainly not a bulk dragon like we’re used to seeing, but $25 feels absurd, because this thing is no Thundermaw Hellkite, and unless pro white really becomes that important I expect this thing will hit $15 before it hits $30, and I expect sub-$20 to be its eventual home.”
Now: $20. Another card I slightly underestimated. This thing actually did spike briefly to $35, so I was wrong there. But, now that we’re three months into the format, its play has fallen to about the level I expected, and so has the price.
The takeaway here was just how good protection from white really was, for a brief period in Standard. But, really, the power level on this card is just high enough that it saw play. I’ve talked before about how the best way to predict unknown formats is to just bet on power level, and this fit the bill.
Xenagos, the Reveler
“I know I said the dragon is the most overpriced card, but this is close to it. $40 is clearly way too much, even for a powerful card.
The problem with Xenagos is this: it fights with Domri, and Domri wins that fight. Both want creatures in the deck, but you can only play so many non-creature spells in your Domri deck. I think it’s clear people will build Domri decks that may contain some Xenagos, rather than the other way around. It’s probably like a two-of in the Domri decks because the abilities are fine, but that’s about it.
Where this may be more likely to find a home is in the sideboards of said decks, because creating 2/2s for free was powerful when Garruk did it, and still is.
In the end, I’m calling $10-15 on this.”
Now: $15. After a few misses, I nailed this one perfectly. To be honest, I would rather tell someone to dump Stormbreaths and have them miss out on $10 there than tell someone to buy Elspeths at $30 and watch it plummet to $10. So I am glad I was able to accurately tell the power level of the walkers in this set and make predictions that followed pretty closely what actually transpired.
Xenagos is still powerful and could still find a home moving forward as G/R got some more tools, but the fact is Theros is going to continue being opened for a while to come.
“This is worth noting only because it has flash. It’s gotten almost no hype at $3, but against the control decks this is probably solid. Flash is super relevant, and along with Advent you get to play on your opponent’s turn. The bestow is just gravy here. It’s a fine pickup at $2 on the potential it hits $5+ in the first few weeks.”
Now: $3, and it did exactly what I predicted, spiking to $6-7 in the first few weeks of the set. This was a big money-maker prerelease weekend if you moved in on them.
Moving forward, we keep getting more and more green creatures with flash, as well as Prophet of Kruphix. All of them but Advent of the Wurm stick around after rotation as well, so some sort of U/G or Bant-based flash deck could be appealing moving forward.
Bow of Nylea
“Ryan and Jason are in deep on this card, but I don’t like it. Yes, it has five abilities, but none of them are game-breaking. It’s probably best used in some of the green creature mirrors, but even seeing play as a two-of or something doesn’t seem like to provide a ton of upside at $3.”
Now: $3. This never saw any real movement, so I’m glad I made the call to stay away from this.
“Love the card, but overpriced at $8. Don’t think we’re going to see many rares sustain this price tag, much less ones as narrow as this awesome Watchwolf.”
Now: $2.50. Another call I was confident in, and one that went as expected.
Chained to the Rocks/Anger of the Gods
I expected these to rise as part of a RWU deck, and Anger did so for a while even though the deck itself never super took off. That said, we finally got the U/W Scryland that feels like it was the missing piece in Theros, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see both see some more play. Of course, I doubt the upside is high at this point, but it’s worth keeping these in your binder.
“$5-7 seems about right, but I want these in my binder this weekend. We have a new gold standard for removal, and these are sure to be popular.”
Now: $10, and it spiked to $15 following the Pro Tour. There was definitely money to be made here, and even though I recognized that these were good targets to acquire on prerelease weekend, I stopped short of telling you to go buy every one you could at $5. Mono-Black becoming the best deck isn’t something many of us expected, so it is what it is.
The issue with predicting cards like this is that there’s really no hidden information. When I advocated picking up $3 Boros Reckoners last year, it was because I recognized the power level of the card in the context of the format. With Hero’s Downfall, it will never be anything more or less than exactly what it is, and what it is is apparent the first time you look at it.
Because of that, cards like this usually come out of the gate priced properly, and any fluctuation after that is entirely dependent on the metagame, which following a rotation is nearly impossible to predict.
“Don’t buy into the hype. Even $4 is too much. The abilities are cool, but it’s still basically just worse at every point on the curve than comparable creatures, which relegates it to possible sideboard use, and that’s it.”
Now: $4 still, and hasn’t gone higher than $5. Turns out this is the perfect card against Mono-Blue, which is the only reason it hasn’t neared dollar-rare status. But there wasn’t any money to be made here.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
“$10 is nuts for this. The card is cool, but it’s going to crash hard. I think it’s probably a good long-term play at that point, but that’s it. You need a devotion of four or more before it even generates extra mana, and at that point you’re probably not super in need of one or two more mana.”
Now: $12, with a spike to $20 a few months back. Of all the cards in the set, this is the one I feel worst about missing, and I did it because I forgot an old lesson.
It was during Zendikar block season that a weird-looking RUG deck did really well at the Pro Tour. The deck ran a lot of weird cards, but was centered around Lotus Cobra, Oracle of Mul Daya and Explore. Why was this deck a good deck, and why would anyone think to play it when it hadn’t existed at all before?
I believe, the story goes, that it was master deckbuilder Zvi who came up with the deck. How did he do so? By approaching like he approaches every unknown format: by figuring out the most powerful ways to make mana, and building from there. It obviously worked out well at that Pro Tour and the Standard season that followed.
When I saw Nykthos, I saw a cool Legendary land that actually has a hard time ramping you into anything relevant. What I didn’t see was the fact that having 6-7 mana on turn four actually worked really well with the devotion cards that already existed in Thassa, Erebos and Underworld Connections. It’s a lesson re-learned, and one I don’t intend to forget again.
“This blocks just about everything from aggressive decks, doesn’t die to removal and ramps you. That’s a lot to like, even if the $6 preorder price isn’t. I want this card in my binder, though I don’t think there’s a ton of upside. But remember that despite a million printings, Birds of Paradise is almost always $5 when it’s in Standard.”
Now: $7. Again, there wasn’t necessarily any money to be made here, since this never went higher than $8-9, but I did mark it as a target to trade your overpriced stuff into, so I’m happy with this call as well.
Soldier of the Pantheon
“Another card I think belongs around $4-6 (it’s $4 right now), but more importantly one I really want in my binder. This is very powerful and I expect it to see play in several decks. I know this will trade well even if the price doesn’t move a ton.”
Now: Still $4, and one that has indeed been popular, so not much to see here either. There’s not much upside for the next few months with so many on the market, but it’s going to be stable in that $3-5 range.
Predicted these to sit at $4-5, which is exactly what they’ve done. Is there upside from here? Maybe, but in general if we’re looking at next season the real money will come from the scrylands that aren’t in Theros.
So that’s that. Another set review gone by, and considering the difficulty of predicting a brand-new metagame, I’m pretty happy with this. I missed some cards that would rise, but I identified a number of others that would, while not missing anything by advising you to overpay on it. I’m pretty happy with that.
What do you guys think? How did your initial projections stack up against what actually happened?
Thanks for reading,
@Chosler88 on Twitter
5 thoughts on “Insider: Taking a Look Back at Theros”
I really thought Ember Swallower and Hammer of Purphoros were going to jump up a bit, but never happened. The Hammer in particular surprised me as it seemed like an excellent card to smash control decks with.
Honestly I’m a bit disappointed with your results. The predictions that you “nailed” were regarding over-priced cards that nobody in the QS community would’ve considered investing in in the first place. The cards you wiffed on were the money making opportunities. Overall I’d grade this a C-. But on the plus side at least this time there wasn’t anything as egregious as your $6 Voice of Resurgence pick.
You may want to go back and re-read what people, even on QS, thought at that time. It’s really easy to look back and say “nobody thought this,” when it’s not really true.
Like I said I missed Devotion being the best deck in Standard (and so did everyone else before the prerelease). I nailed Elspeth rising from a $25 preorder price and identified several other underpriced cards. There is nothing more difficult than writing a set review on Rotation, and I’m pretty comfortable with my results against the field in this case.
For instance, picking one at random, Bow of Nylea had a lot of backers, including some well-respected financial minds. It’s the kind of thing you “forget” about three months later, but at the time my call on it was actually somewhat controversial.
I’m not trying to sugarcoat what I missed here, but all those things revolve around an unproven mechanic upon rotation that no one else predicted, either. I’m definitely taking a few lessons from it forward, though, so try and improve in the future.
I’d love to see you revisit this list and go at these cards again. You articulated where you saw them going and where they’re at now. How about predicting where they’ll go from here all the way post rotation? This would be helpful for those considering to move their stacks of Nykthos or not…