Insider: Block to Standard – Looking Ahead

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Block Constructed Pro Tours are divisive. Some people enjoy them, and others think they’re a waste of time. It’s a format many of us will only see once, and over the last couple years we’ve seen that Block does not always predict the following year’s Standard.

However, it would be an error to just discount the results of this event entirely. There is lots to observe, and thus lots to learn. Let’s take a look at some of the opportunities presented by the top eight.

The Defining Cards

The most frequently played cards in the tournament were the usual suspects: the ten scry lands were all over the place, fixing mana and draws all at once. These lands are all currently sitting at around $5. More and more, it seems likely that they will see a bump after rotation.

I’m unsure how high they can go, but because of the 6:2:1 drafting ratio, the best targets are from Journey Into Nyx and Born of the Gods. I believe Temple of Epiphany will see play in Modern combo decks, and being from JOU probably makes it the best pickup of the ten.

At least one copy of Mana Confluence showed up in seven of the top eight decks, totaling 18 copies. With lots of three-color decks in the format, this makes sense, although I am surprised that even control decks were running this card. I suppose being able to play one’s spells is important enough to make the life loss worth it.

I expect the card to be a format staple for aggro decks moving forward, but I doubt it will be this prevalent among control decks. How next year’s Standard shapes up will dictate the trajectory of this card. Given the new set and the inherent lack of supply that comes with it, I’m looking to sell copies for a couple weeks until the summer lull, at which point a buy-in may be warranted.

But besides lands, which cards really dominated the top eight? With 28 copies each among the day-three competitors, these little guys simply defined the format:

Unfortunately, the price points for both of these cards are not particularly attractive for buy-ins. Sylvan Caryatid is a rare from a large fall set, which is hardly a recipe for a huge price tag. Courser of Kruphix is close to $10, which is probably already somewhat inflated due to BNG’s underwhelming card pool.

While I wouldn’t suggest buying in with an eye toward profit, these are cards you should be holding for next year. Looking to play Standard after rotation? Prioritize getting your copies. Trading more volatile cards (like RTR-block or JOU cards) for these must-haves is a viable option as well.

Every Day I’m ‘Walking

If there’s one thing this event had a lot of, it was planeswalkers. All five of the block’s planeswalkers saw heavy play throughout the tournament. In the top eight, there were 15 copies of Elspeth, Sun's Champion, 10 copies of Kiora, the Crashing Wave, 10 copies of Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, eight copies of Xenagos, the Reveler, and two copies of Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, for a total of 46 among the eight decks.

Elspeth is likely to be a format staple next year, but at close to $20 retail, I don’t like it as a buy. Last year, Jace, Architect of Thought was a great spec at half the price, and when it spiked, it fell just short of $30. I don’t see Elspeth as a $40 card, so again, copies should be traded for and held, but not aggressively acquired.

On the other hand, Ashiok is coming in with a low spread paired with a low retail price. Whether or not Ashiok is good next year will be dependent on the metagame, but casual demand will never allow a planeswalker purchased for $5 to $6 to be a huge loss. I’m looking to trade for copies aggressively and will keep an eye out for particularly well-priced copies.

Everything said about Ashiok applies to Xenagos with regards to price, spread, a casual floor, and my ideas regarding acquisition. Xenagos is great against control and will thrive in a control-dominated metagame.

Kiora is such a cool card, but I can’t advocate buying or even trading for copies at the current price. Yes, Born of the Gods was opened at only a third of the rate of Theros, but it’s very unlikely that Kiora crosses the $30 threshold. That’s pretty common for freshly-released planeswalkers, but that number is very seldom reached after the hype wears down.

Ajani is too freshly released to be picked up now. I knew this was the case before even looking up the price, and once I did, my instinct was proven true. I’m waiting for Journey cards to settle.

Get Out of My Way

Two rare removal spells each saw 20 copies in the top eight (okay, one had 19).

Hero's Downfall was instrumental in destroying creatures and planeswalkers both, though we quite often saw it fall short of truly answering Elspeth—those tokens cause some real trouble!

Since Theros was released, Hero's Downfall has fallen from about $15 to $5. As a rare in a large fall set, this drop was expected. A reprint in an event deck merely quickened the decline. At its current price, Hero's Downfall is likely not a great spec, but if you don’t have your copies yet, you should get on that before the summer ends.

Silence the Believers is an interesting one. At less than $1 retail, it’s hard to find a cheaper buy-in among cards that dominated this tournament.

However, it’s important to note that Theros block lacks a true sweeper. Silence the Believers may have saw an inordinate amount of play due to the fact that it can serve as spot removal in the early-to-mid game, but can act as a sweeper of sorts in the late game.

It’s extremely good against bestow, so the future of this card depends on the sweeper situation in Standard and how much bestow is being played in tournaments. You certainly can’t go wrong trading for copies at the current price, and buying in is certainly worthy of consideration.

While not a removal spell per se, there were 18 copies of Thoughtseize in the top eight, which is actually lower than I would have expected. This card does good work in every competitive format; it’s a true staple. With the Lorwyn printing reaching as high as $65 before the release of Theros, the card’s financial future has lots of upside.

There will be a time to buy in, but the question is whether that will be this summer or when Theros rotates. Given the MTG community’s growing knowledge of basic finance principles, as well as the growing Modern playerbase, I have a good feeling this summer will be the time to buy. Have some funds ready to devote if the retail price drops below $15 at any point.

It’s a Trap

Finally, I’d like to highlight three cards from which I am staying away despite being prominently featured in the event coverage.

Corbin was quick to point out on Twitter that Prognostic Sphinx was likely performing so well due to the lack of a sweeper in the format. This is accurate, but even more so, the problem with the Prognosticator is that it doesn’t really fit in aggro and doesn’t close the game out fast enough in control.

The card is powerful, though, so perhaps a midrange blue deck looking for value will want it post-rotation. I have been getting these as trade-ins for quite a while, so personally I’d love to see a spike, but I’m not putting any money toward this card, despite the very low buy-in price.

Despite being talked up all weekend long, including in the top eight, the fact is that only one Eidolon of Blossoms deck made it to day three. This doesn’t mean the card isn’t good (quite the opposite really—somebody made top eight with it!), but it’s not as dominating as the coverage guys led us to believe over the weekend.

With a promo printing and being only a rare, I can’t see this card exceeding $5. At a $2 buy-in, you’d be lucky to break even at that price. Trading for your playset is probably not a bad idea, though.

The two copies of R/G Elspeth in the top eight both packed Stormbreath Dragon as a four-of. The card is powerful and at its lifetime floor. Thundermaw Hellkite flirted with $50 during its time in Standard, so this seems ripe for purchase, right?

The thing to remember is that there was literally a gajillion times more Theros printed than M13, so the Thundermaw Hellkite comparison is not exactly relevant (Thundermaw was also probably a better card).

I’m willing to be wrong about Stormbreath, but I just can’t see it going past $25 in even the best circumstances. It’s probably lower than it will be come rotation, so get your copies if you’re determined to play with it. But there are better cards to speculate on.

Does It Translate?

Again, Block Constructed does not always give a clear indication of how next year’s Standard will look. Reading too much into these results can give you some major misconceptions regarding which cards are good pickups, but it’s foolish not to at least consider what could be good moving forward.

The summer is the time to pick up Standard cards for rotation, so regardless of whether these results mean anything, we should all be keeping our eyes peeled for good buys. Some profit in the fall is just the way to start the school year out right.

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