Insider: Rotation Targets from Return to Ravnica

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Today's article might be a bit premature, but preparation is definitely something that is perfectly fine when done in advance. So let's fast forward to September 26 2014. Khans of Tarkir has officially released and the local competitive players want to unload all the previous Standard tournament staples they had to hold onto to keep playing competitively, despite watching the value of their cards plummet the last two months.

There are some cards that I don't expect to dip much in value, those whose value was heavily propped up by eternal and casual formats rather than Standard. The best example from Ravnica block is Deathrite Shaman. His value was almost exclusively due to his dominance in Legacy, and for a while Modern. Thus I don't expect any drop in value with rotation.

It's important to note that when I describe a card I'm targeting and assign it a value, that's the cash value I'd buy them at.


[cardimage cardname="Overgrown Tomb"][cardimage cardname="Steam Vents"][cardimage cardname="Hallowed Fountain"][cardimage cardname="Temple Garden"][cardimage cardname="Blood Crypt"]

The Shocklands

While we writers have been harping on these guys for a while now they have still had a pretty solid price increase in the past year. Last time this year I was buying Steam Vents and Blood Crypt on eBay for $24 a playset shipped, Overgrown Tombs and Hallowed Fountains were $26 a playset, and I simply traded for Temple Gardens (as they were more like $34 a playset when everyone was playing G/W or Naya Aggro).

Now Steam Vents is the only one on the list which has seen minimal Standard play and thus its price is heavily propped up thanks to it being the #1 shockland of Modern (played in UWr Control, Splinter Twin decks, Counter Burn, two major combo decks, etc).

Still, there are a lot of shocklands in the marketplace and there's a strong possibility that players won't keep all 40 shocks (i.e. a playset of each) for Modern but rather only those relevant to the deck they are playing. When you look over most Modern decks, you'll notice they don't even run the full playset of shocks that they can.

The reason is simple--Modern is still a fast enough format that taking lots of extra damage from your mana base is not always a luxury you can afford. You'll often see two-of's for each relevant shock (and in three-color decks likely a one-of for the "weaker" color combination) and these will be complimented by lots of fetchlands (typically eight or more).

That being the case, WoTC will continue to support Modern and demand for the staples (of which the land base is likely the biggest one) will grow. The recent printing will keep the prices down for a while, but within the next couple of years I'd expect them all to be $20+ again (barring another reprint of course), which is a perfectly reasonable price point for WoTC. It's only when these lands break $35-40 that I think WoTC will reprint them again, as this last printing added quite a lot to supply.

We'd expect the price of non-Steam Vents to drop a little bit, however it is important to note that the RTR are the main colors of a lot of different archetypes (Steam Vents covers Twin and Storm, Hallowed Fountain UWx Control variants, Overgrown Tomb BGx variants (Jund or Junk) with Blood Crypt or Temple Garden being minor color combinations or more often paired with one of the major ones).

I am less inclined to target either Blood Crypt or Temple Garden for this reason. I will personally be targeting the lands at these prices:

  1. Steam Vents - $6.00
  2. Overgrown Tomb - $4.50
  3. Hallowed Fountain - $4
  4. Temple Garden - $2.5
  5. Blood Crypt - $2

These prices reflect what I expect many of the stores will be paying at rotation.

Abrupt Decay

Next up is an Eternal all-star. While it gets a lot of face time on camera in Legacy events (often in BUG Delver or Jund) it is also heavily played in Standard. I expect it to maintain a good portion of its price come rotation, but it will drop due to the fact that so much demand does come from Standard use. I will be targeting them at around $5 each.

Sphinx's Revelation

This one shows up as one- to two-of's in a lot of the UWx control decks as well as an occasional one-of in the UWR Kiki/Resto deck sideboards. The ability is powerful, but this one is likely to tank (similar to Bonfire of the Damned) at rotation. I expect these to buylist for $1-2 and that's what I'd pick them up at (and in moderation, as the demand will exist but it won't be huge).

Vraska the Unseen

As several of my fellow writers have stated, casuals absolutely adore planeswalkers and this one has a unique, flavorful ultimate and a useful minus ability. The fact that she was printed in the duel deck has already tanked her price pretty hard and I expect to be able to buy these at around $1 pretty easily.

She's unlikely to see another reprint due to her being a dual-colored planeswalker that already was reprinted in the duel deck and she almost always belongs in any GBx EDH deck if only because she's a pseudo Vindicate that can stick around if protected. I will be happy to pick up a bunch of her at $1.

Angel of Serenity

Mythic and an angel that provides a form of card advantage (either by acting as three pseudo-removal spells or giving you back three creatures from your yard should she die). She's mono-colored (though a bit demanding on the colored mana) so she can fit in a larger number of EDH decks. The artwork is gorgeous. I will definitely pick up regular copies around $0.5 and I'll heavily target foils at $3-4.


I've gotten quite a few of these as bulk rares and their price will likely drop to maybe $0.5 post-rotation (buylist likely around $0.15). Being a regular rare from RTR there are a lot of these, but they are very good sideboard cards in Modern and I always pull them out from the bulk and set them aside. So I'll be happy to pick these guys up for the $0.15 I expect they'll buylist at.

Cyclonic Rift

This one is the one I think will have a strong shot at being a $5 card...if it can stay off the ban-wagon in EDH. It serves as a universal answer to any nonland for blue with the upside of half upheavaling everyone else while leaving your board state intact. I've seen a lot of EDH games won when someone goes EoT overload Cyclonic Rift and then combos off.

It's because of that exact situation that has me concerned. This is the exact type of card I can see getting banned (our local player group already frowns upon anyone who actually overloads it) because of how far it can set your opponents back all the while having no negative affect on your own board state.

Having looked over my pile of 68 Sylvan Primordials the other day I'm weary of targeting the cards that seem "too good" for EDH, though I wouldn't say no to these at $0.75. Again I would pick these up in moderation.


B/R is usually not a highly desirable color combination on it's own, however Grixis and Jund are, and Dreadbore is a very potent piece of removal. Normally I don't play one-for-one's in EDH unless I feel I really need to or they are very efficient (Swords to Plowshares in white for instance), but the versatility to kill both creatures and planeswalkers is very useful. This card will likely not hit true "bulk status" but I do think it'll be close.

I feel it'll likely fall to $1-1.50 in trade with a buylist of around $0.5. I'd be happy to pick them up at this price, though again due to the limited archetypes that would play it I wouldn't go hog wild (maybe eight copies at most).

Loxodon Smiter

It's a 4/4 for three mana that can't be countered and God forbid they go turn two Liliana with this in your hand. I've been seeing a lot of Junk decks in Modern and while the creature suite they have access to is very powerful, should aggro-control decks start to become a major player in the format this card's stock will go up.

I expect the buylist price on this one to actually fall to bulk or near bulk status ($0.10-$0.15 which I'd be happy to pay and pick up probably five to six playsets easily).

Pithing Needle

This colorless catch-all has proven itself to be a solid sideboard option in both Modern and Legacy as a cheap solution to planeswalkers that can hit before they even have a chance to do anything. It can fit into any deck and its mana cost is almost as cheap as you can get. This is a card I'd be happy to pick up at $0.25 all day (which is around what I expect its highest buylist price will be at rotation).

Rest in Peace

The premium white graveyard hate in both Legacy and Modern, this guy just shuts down certain archetypes (Reanimator and Dredge among the most notorious). It also serves as an awesome way to nullify Tarmogoyfs and turn Nimble Mongeese into Gladecover Scouts. This will also likely fall into the slightly above bulk status, of which I'm happy to pick them up at $0.15-$0.2 and in decent quantities (maybe 40-50).

Supreme Verdict

While it appears to be getting pushed to the side in Modern control decks in favor of good ol' Wrath of God (thanks to Thrun), it still serves as a powerful Legacy sideboard option. Being a buy-a-box promo (with pretty awesome artwork to be honest) means that foils prices will likely stay depressed, but I still really like this card.

I expect it'll fall to $1.25-$1.50 at rotation (given it does see a decent amount of Standard play in the U/W control decks) and I'll be happy to hoard them at this price. I don't expect this one to be reprinted anytime soon and in any format in which the glue that holds it together is a free counterspell, being uncounterable is huge.

27 thoughts on “Insider: Rotation Targets from Return to Ravnica

    1. Definitely agree. However, as someone who plays U/W/x (sometimes red sometimes not) Miracles; Verdict is usually in the board and the matchups you bring it in for…you really don’t want to pitch it to FoW as it often serves as a stabilizer/card advantage.

  1. Just to clarify, the prices you listed for targeted shock lands are what you think buylist prices will be? Thus if you were going to do a cash buy you’d need to get them at those prices? (i.e You’d pick up Hallowed Fountains for $4 each?). What would you be willing to value them at in trades (hypothetically, of course)? Sorry, I relatively new to all this!

    1. Yes, that is the cash buy price I’d do w/o a qty limit (i.e. SCG style). I doubt I’d have a lot of people willing to accept the Crypt/Garden price simply due to price memory, but when I cash buy I also factor in my ability to unload said cards and I think those 2 would be harder to trade/sell. I expect Steam Vents to lose maybe 10-15% of it’s current value (max), Overgrown Tomb/Hallowed Fountain to lose maybe 20% of their current price right now, Temple Garden and Blood Crypt could lose probably 25-30% of their current prices right now. This is based on expected usage in modern (which would be the largest factor in buoying the price)

      1. I think you are way off base on shocks. I think very few players will be unloading these. They’ll keep their 40.

        Also, the word you want is “wary”. This is less a dig at you and more at the QS editor!

        1. I honestly thought that too..until JediJules did the compilation in the forums regarding shock usage.

          also while reviewing most modern decklists they often only run 1-2 of a specific shock. This implies that if the same # of players that played standard all jump into modern they will still only need around 50% of their shocks.

          1. No. You’re assuming that players’ collections track with top8 decklists. That’s not a claim I would call very well supported.

            The majority of players will keep full playsets of all of them – the playerbase has learned from watching duals and fetches that real estate is something you should ALWAYS hold on to, for financial reasons and also “just in case” a future deck will require a playset. And also to use in a second deck, or EDH, etc.

            1. I have my doubts that (a majority of) the playerbase will act differently here than they have for the last 20 years. Magic players in general have always been either shortsighted or under-capitalized or both when it comes to this sort of thing, which is one of the reasons that speculating on rotating staples works in the first place. It is easy to lose sight of that on a finance board where that shortcoming is so uncommon.

              And if things really have changed, then I’m not that interested in shock lands at rotation. If the traditional dump-and-rebuy-it-later cycle doesn’t apply to shocks, their near-term upside would be much more limited. Essentially you are then reduced to waiting on playerbase growth instead.

  2. I aggree with your targets, but I think the prices you’ll be able to get them at won’t be anywhere near that low. Also, even though shocklands will see less play once they rotate, everyone knows that they are played in modern. Even if a standard only player is ready to dump their shocklands, they know that they hold value. A lot of eternal playable Innistrad block cards didn’t drop at all late summer, and I don’t think many of these cards will either.

    1. My pricing was definitely very aggressive, but was from a “buylist” perspective. I 100% agree that they won’t sell for those prices, but I expect that may be where a lot of the buylists drop to. I should have been more clear that I factor in how easily I think I’ll be able to unload them as well into my pricing (i.e. cards with less demand I’d use a higher spread % simply because they will not move as quickly and tie up capital). Some of the cards are already close to my expected buylist prices (Pithing Needle, Supreme Verdict, Loxodon Smiter, Vraska the Unseen), I also believe that so much RtR was opened that prices will almost have to drop. While the player base growth rate has kept increasing, I still feel that the RtR brought in a massive influx of new players and with so much product opened and the fact that many of these targets are mainly modern/casual pics that the demand will just not exist to hold their current prices.

      1. Oh, ok so those are the prices you expect store buylists to arive at? Or are you hoping to pick these cards up at those prices. I’ve been buying shocklands for $6 – $7 on MOTL and had some people sell them to me. I’ve bought Loxodon Smiters for $1 each and then lowered to .75 each and have had some sellers. I also bought a lot of Lotleth Trolls at $1 each as I feel they will fit into a lot of graveyard brews. I haven’t had much luck picking up Detention Spheres at $1 each. Looking forward to picking up Cyclonic Rift and Supreme Verdict closer to rotation (Cyclonic Rift is sooo good in Commander!).

        1. Yes, those are what I expect store buylists to hit and thus what I’d ideally offer as well, since I don’t have a storefront to move cards as easily. It’s very important to remember that these prices are post rotation. I really do believe that RTR was opened in such massive quantities that the demand for most of these cards will drop at rotation even if they are casual/eternal playable.

  3. Why even bother putting up prices like that? I’m willing to buy this card for 25% of buylist. I’m willing to buy this card for 30% of buylist.

    Of course you are – everyone is. What good does that do anyone?

    1. I would agree 100% that this would be painfully obvious…if I was referencing current buylist prices…but these are the buylist prices I’m predicting at/post rotation, where you will see a significant drop in buylist prices…these are my estimates at where they will fall. I will review these calls at rotation and grade these predictions as well.

  4. I like the approach given the disclaimer in the first paragraph that the article is premature. There isn’t really any downside to going into this with numbers that may be too low. If they are, you either raise them later and buy, or you don’t raise them and don’t buy that card. But there are infinite other targets, so that isn’t a real downside. On the other hand, if you go in with numbers that are too high you could make bad buys that take years to break even.

    1. Bingo. As I stated for the most part this would be the “buy all that you can” buylist price. Given I don’t have infinite resources, I would likely pay a bit more just to get a few copies of each (if the buylists didn’t drop as much as I expect), but I also have a fair number of a lot of these targets already that I picked up in trade (except Sphinx’s Revelation)

  5. Abrupt Decay sees Standard play in just a single deck, but it sees play in Legacy in like 6 decks. I think $5 is an unrealistic drop. I don’t think this card ever sees below $7 again until a reprint.

    1. I will say this was the hardest one to grade. It see’s play in 4 legacy decks that I can think of BUG Delver, BUG Cascade (which has pretty much died off), Jund, and Elves. It also sees play in modern Jund/Junk/ Rock decks. However, the standard demand is a LOT (as B/g is a very popular/powerful deck). I do agree that it won’t retail for less than $7 (again my numbers were buylist prices) in fact I doubt it’ll drop below $8.

  6. You definitely have the right cards listed to target come rotation. You won’t get any argument from me there.

    But to echo the point some others have made, you’re not likely to get many Shocks at your target prices. Especially on the ones that see less play like Blood Crypt. No way someone will sell their Shock Lands for $2. You’re telling me someone will trade a set of Blood Crypts for a Blackcleave Cliffs + $1-$2? No way. Shock Lands may drop a tad at rotation, but no one is going to unload their copies en masse like they may for something like Sphinx’s Revelation.

    1. Sigmund,
      I regret not being more descriptive in my reasoning behind some of the prices. The reason for the low buylist prices on Blood Crypt/Temple Garden is primarily due to my concern that they are played some of the least in modern and RTR was opened a TON. While we obviously see the “highest buylist price” listed attached to the picture..if you look at which store is buying the most (as of when I write this) it’s Card Kingdom…and they are paying $2.80 per…so while my numbers appear off a lot with regards to the stores buying a few copies (20-24) when you get to the 80+ buylists…they are fairly close to what we’re seeing now….and rotation hasn’t even hit.

      1. David,

        Context would have helped, I agree. But I still don’t like your price rationale too much. To use an extreme as an example, Troll and Toad is offering $310 for an UNL Mox Ruby (I’m sure NM). That doesn’t mean I should insist on picking up Mox Rubies at $310. I assure you they are worth far more.

        Using the lowest buy price on a card to justify a value for it doesn’t make sense really. It’s just not the way supply and demand works. I would bet the farm that someone will be paying more than $2 for a Blood Crypt for years to come barring further reprints.

        I am fine with your claim that Blood Crypt will be one of the cheapest, but don’t forget it sees plenty of casual play and Commander / Cube play as well.

        1. Fair point and I’ll definitely concede that some stores my offer more on them post rotation, however, these are my personal buylist prices which I expect will line up with a lot of stores. It’s critical to remember that because one store’s buylist is one price and another’s is a different price it doesn’t mean either’s price is “wrong”, the buylist price should reflect what they (or in this case me or you) want the card for. If one LGS sells a lot of modern/legacy cards their buylist will be higher than a store who’se focus is mainly on standard…that doesn’t mean either store is incorrect it just means one store thinks they can move the cards easier. I personally think Blood Crypts will be a lot harder to move, after all you need 4x commander decks that require both black and red mana to justify the playset you may or may not already have from standard. Feel free to railroad me at rotation if my estimates are really that far off (I know I’ll be grading myself)

  7. What are your thoughts on holding Abrupt Decay and Angel of Serenity? I’ve been picking up these two cards because I thought their price was tied to other formats/casual and not standard, and therefore wouldn’t drop much on rotation. Do you think either are sells with the plan of rebuying later, or are they just holds for those of us with a lot of copies?

    1. At this’re probably better off holding. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s not a strong demand for the more casual cards (like Angel of Serenity) so if you wanted to sell quickly you’d have to do it close to TCG Low and there’s still no guarantee they’d sell. You % you pay to the site when you sell them and your paypal/credit card fees and you’re not really much further ahead then you would be post rotation if you sold and tried to buy back. I have my Angels pulled out of the trade binder and into the spec box. I think the Abrupt Decay price is currently being partially buoyed by their standard demand, but they are a known multi-format all star card, so the number of players who will unload them will be fewer than for other cards, which means less “race to the bottom” oppurtunities. Unless it’s a huge discrepancy (like for instance Sphinx’s Revelation), I think the effort/cost of selling them is not worth it in the long run.

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