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Insider: The Planeswalkers of Theros

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The next big event on the MTGO calendar will be the release of Journey Into Nyx (JOU). The addition of JOU into the market will have a few key impacts. Notably, the prices on boosters will be in flux as prize distribution gets shuffled around to account for the new set.

On top of this Standard will get a brand new look with the addition of the last scry lands and whatever other constructed-playable goodies are in the pipeline. In that regard, it's possible that JOU will be a stronger set than what we've seen recently.

With Dragon's Maze (DGM) and Born of the Gods (BNG) being the last two small expansions and both somewhat underpowered, we are just about due for an overpowered small set more in line with Worldwake or New Phyrexia. Regardless of what is spoiled though, we can anticipate a buying opportunity for cards from Theros (THS).

Set releases are always a good time to pick up constructed staples and other speculative cards as the MTGO economy tilts towards placing more value on tix. Combined with the fact that release events will be injecting new supply of THS cards into the market, that gives a strong impetus to be prepared with a few prospective buy targets.

Today I'm going to examine the case for speculating on the planeswalkers of THS. With about six months of pricing data, including the impact of BNG release events, the price history on each of these cards is established enough to do some analysis.

Elspeth

This 6cc planeswalker is the nominal hero of the block and has made a big impact on the THS Block Constructed format. According to the website mtgGoldfish, this card is the seventh most played card in block. This heavy use has contributed to steady price increases of late. Elspeth has even eclipsed the former highest priced card from THS, Stormbreath Dragon.

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Looking at the chart below, we can see that Elspeth found a price floor in December and January of around 10 tix. Since that time, it's largely been on an uptrend with a brief dip during BNG release events. This type of price activity is not unusual for one of the top cards from Block Constructed, as this format is quite widely played on MTGO.

After JOU is released, it's probable though not certain that Elspeth will continue to be one the the top cards in Block. Regardless of what happens in that format, the factor that could drive the biggest gains on this card will be Fall Standard.

In Standard, it's rare that a 6cc planeswalker makes a big impact. Due to the larger card pool, Standard decks have better mana bases and tighter mana curves. This often leaves 6cc cards on the outside looking in, although Elspeth does see some play currently, showing up as the 43rd most played card in Standard and the 25th most played spell.

If Elspeth got down closer to 10 tix during JOU release events, I would be tempted to buy at least a playset. However, 10 tix does not scream good value to me. I would avoid placing a big bet on this card due to the hefty mana cost. Although Block Constructed can give some insight into Fall Standard, in this case I'm not sure if Elspeth will be a safe bet to make the transition.

Ashiok

Unlike 6cc planeswalkers, a 3cc one like Ashiok has to be always in consideration for play due to being able to come online so early in a game. This card sees a small amount of Block play, coming in at 34th most played in that format. However, it is not ranked for usage in Standard, suggesting that this card has potential for future price increases if it sees greater uptake in that format.


The chart illustrates the price history of the card. Similar to Elsepth, it found a floor in December and January (albeit at a lower level). The flood of supply from BNG release events knocked the floor down a notch, from 5.5 tix to 5.0 tix.

It's possible that JOU will knock it down even further, into the 4 to 5 tix range. At that price, this card is a snap buy if you are willing to hold for 10 to 12 months. It's got some constructed potential and probably won't go below 4 tix as long as it's in Standard.

Holding a long enough time line as a speculator allows the format to find its way to your card. It might never find its way to favoring Ashiok, but when you can buy a card at a low price, you won't need the format to shift very much in order to break even.

A strong push towards using this card in the Fall would push the price of this card into the 10 to 20 tix range. Buying this card during JOU release events will set you up for a possible windfall come the Fall.

Xenagos

This card is right behind Ashiok in terms of Block play, coming in at 35th most played card in Block. Also similar to Ashiok, this card is not ranked for frequency of play in Standard. It's also got a very similar chart, finding a price floor over the winter, followed by a slightly lower floor after BNG release events.


This card will probably see fringe play in Standard at the very least, supporting the R/G Monsters deck with an expanding supply of satyrs and the chance to set off monstrosities. A similar line of reasoning to Ashiok, this card is a snap buy in the 4 to 5 tix range as long as you are willing to hold for 10-12 months. Keep a long term perspective with the two lower-cc planeswalkers of THS and you are not going to be disappointed.

The last time to get these "on sale" will be coming up in May and June, so set aside a few tix to scoop them up on the cheap. Buying a mythic rare, at or near an established price floor, while a set is being opened heavily, is a surefire way to cut risk and to lay the groundwork for future gains.

Matthew Lewis

Matt Lewis currently lives in Ottawa, Canada and is a long time player and PTQ grinder who now speculates and plays exclusively on MTGO. He's always ready to discuss ideas and investment strategies, so drop him a line in the comments, the forums or on modo, username mattlewis.

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