Insider: My Journey Into Nyx

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Welcome back readers! This past weekend was the pre-release for Journey Into Nyx (the third set in Theros block). I didn't participate in the midnight prerelease as I've lived the cartoon below a few too many times.

midnight prereleaseBut I did play in the 2-Headed Giant prerelease my local game store held on Saturday afternoon, because

  1. It was at 3pm (no fighting to stay awake and still make proper sequencing plays)
  2. It was 2-Headed Giant (the best sealed format)
  3. I felt I need to support my LGS even if I'm not that excited about prerelease events.

Luckily, my teammate and I both pulled an Atheros (so we had a really strong, synergistic black-white deck). Unluckily, that deck that we relied on to carry the team decided to have mana issues all day and we ended up 1-3.

However, there's another benefit to attending these events. You can trade with players who may not venture to the store for regular competitive events and even more importantly you can see the power level of some new cards actually being played. Granted, you need to take it all with a grain of salt (as the limited format views power levels very differently than constructed formats).

My favorite thing is to see people play cards in a way you might not originally consider yourself. I also use the opportunity to gather data on the cards people are asking for as it gives me an idea of local demand and the decks people want to play. Luckily, the surprisingly powerful card and the one most people asked me for were one and the same.

Full disclosure: after leaving the prerelease I went and ordered 62 online, so I'm putting my money where my mouth is on this one.

I saw a player (player A) run his team into his opponent (player B) who had profitable blocks on most creatures only to have player A flash in the Dictate after blocks and wipe player B's board.

Some other awesome aspects to this card:

  • It's black. Currently, black is one of the most powerful colors in Standard right now. It can fit into a mono-black build and provide two devotion.
  • It's an enchantment. This means it's difficult to get rid of (maindeck) for many other decks.
  • It's a new Grave Pact. Many people don't remember the last time Grave Pact was Standard-legal but it makes a lot of kill spells into 1-for-2's, which is terrible for the opponent. It also plays really well with instant-speed sacrifice affects. Just as important; Grave Pact is currently a $9 card despite being reprinted six times. The triple-black of Grave Pact may be good for some EDH decks (ones that are mono-black or focus on devotion), but the slightly easier mana cost (2 black and 3 colorless) for Dictate might make it easier to play than Grave Pact.
  • It has flash. This allows people to flash it in in response to kill spells or what looks like "bad" attack math.

The next card on my list of cards from Journey is

The reasons I love this guy are

  • He's a two-drop. The reason this is critical is that Legacy has a lot of really powerful two-drops and pitching extra copies of him to go get answers seems really good.
  • He pitches to Force of Will.
  • He has 3 toughness. This is critical because he can swing into a lot of commonly played cards (like Dark Confidant, Stoneforge Mystic, and Deathrite Shaman).
  • He tutors repeatedly. This is an effect you don't typically see and while it may be hard to evaluate, anyone who has played EDH knows that tutors are incredibly powerful and being able to do it repeatedly is huge.
  • He can potentially play really well with Snapcaster Mage (discard an instant/sorcery) and flash it back later.
  • He can turn "bad situational" cards into the answers you need. No more is a turn six topdecked Thoughtseize a "wasted draw". Just dump it to go get a Brainstorm or maybe Swords to Plowshares. Though obviously this effect isn't immediate.

Because he's an uncommon and I see his potential more for eternal formats as opposed to Standard. I am targeting foils (or foreign foils).

The other cards I picked up are the non-blue dictates (not because I don't think the blue one is good too, but because I think it's currently overpriced). All of the dictates are going to be played in EDH decks. So it'd be wise to target foil copies (this time in English).

Lastly, I joined the Pharika train. I saw her potential playing against an opponent who simply used it to make 1/1 removal spells. The fact that they can trigger constellation, can't get hit with Doom Blade or Ultimate Price, is just gravy. Also reviewing the other gods in this block I noticed that with few exceptions (Karametra) all the older gods have stabilized at $4 or more, despite most not seeing a lot of play in Standard.

Thus my buy-in of $6 seemed like I was risking about $2 per copy (or $8 total) with a potential upside of $10-12 (especially if a deck breaks out with her within the first month or so). If it hits that I'll unload them and rebuy back later; if not...I'll stick to playing one of my favorite color combinations.

Lastly we'll talk about the obvious pickups, the scrylands. It was interesting (to me at least) that WotC waited to release the Izzet and Golgari scrylands until last. While neither color combination is currently seeing heavy play in Standard at the moment, they are two of the strongest color combinations for Modern.

I'm heavily invested in the original Theros scrylands because I've seen the land price cycle enough times to know a sure thing when I see it. I made a great profit on Scars fast lands and then did the same on Innistrad checklands. Theros scrylands are just the next ones in the cycle of initially undercosted rare mana fixing lands. While they are slower than the previous ones and I honestly think a bit worse (though a lot of people do like the free scry), after Ravnica rotates out in the fall these will form the new core of mana fixing.

Now, you might be wondering why I left Mana Confluence off this list.

That's because currently I think it's way overpriced. While I do love that we get a new City of Brass (especially since I have both Legacy Dredge and Legacy Storm built), the fact that it's a regular rare land, in what seems to be a well loved set, means that lots will be opened.

The last rare land that was similarly hyped was Cavern of Souls. Granted it spent a lot of time above $20 during its heyday, however it also started out at around $25 and was touted as an Eternal game changer. (It still is, but not as much as people though). It also came out in a block with a tribal subtheme (mainly "human") and provided amazing mana fixing if you built a deck that was synergistic with it.

I see a lot of similarities with Mana Confluence, except it's a functional reprint of an existing card that while played in eternal formats isn't so good that it's jammed in tons of decks (even ones that are 3+ color). For reference, here's the chart for Cavern.

cavern of souls graph

The important thing to note is that despite being a total game changer, it still dropped by 20% after release (and for the most part continued downward until it got a spike). What this leads me to believe is that Mana Confluence will likely drop right out of the gate to about $14-15, assuming it finds a home in Standard. If not, I can see it hitting $10 or so.

I do believe it will eventually find a home (likely in a three-color aggro deck that just can't afford a turn one play of tapped land, pass. The only stipulation on this card I can throw out there is for foils (especially foreign ones). Not only are those highly sought after by Eternal players, but the artwork is gorgeous.

So if you happen to have a foil copy, don't unload it yet...if your copy isn't shiny, feel free to trade it away now and pick it back up cheaper in a couple months.

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