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Insider: Lame Ducks

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It's been a crazy day on Twitter. As I'm writing this, it's Monday.

You're probably all like "What? Today wasn't a crazy day on Twitter," because for you reading this, its' Tuesday and also because it's probably never that crazy a day for you on Twitter because you've managed to avoid giving yourself a reputation as someone who answers random finance questions. Good on you; that's a smart decision. Just fly under that radar. Just keep on a flyin' under that radar.

The hell was I talking about?

Oh! Right! Twitter. Yeah, Twitter was bananas today. First of all, I got Corbin blowing up my feed with his shenanigans. Apparently he decided to clean out a closet and found a ton of value he didn't even remember he had. This guy even makes money by accident.

Say what you want about the slightly racist, natural disaster-prone, country music-loving, state of Oklahoma that fun passes by on a regular basis, there's money to be made down there Magic card-wise. Corbin's arrangement with his LGS selling and buying singles for the store has surpassed my own arrangement given his total lack of credible competition.

Any time he cleans out a closet he finds money he was too busy to even claim, and he just decides to sandwich it in boxes of bulk like he's trying to smuggle it through customs. If you're not inclined to slog through a bunch of Twitter posts where people congratulate him for being disorganized, you can read about his exploits on the free side.

Additionally, we got an announcement today that seemed to pants a lot of people's specs. The new "Clash Pack" which is basically one Event deck's worth of value spread over two decks. These will alternate each set, with an Event deck slated for Khans of Tarkir, another Clash Pack (maybe) for the set after that and so on until we figure out the pattern and they decide to feed us more curveballs.

I wrote about implications a bit on the free side and since I literally just got done writing it, I'm not inclined to retread it. I think it's info everyone needs to know for the upcoming, post-rotation world. But the last set that won't force a rotation is coming out soon and it is going to create a weird sort of twilight few months where Standard is going to be pretty bonkers.

Lame Ducks Abound

10 weeks is an odd amount of time. We have M14 and M15 both legal until Khans of Tarkir comes out in September. This is a very exciting time to build decks but people aren't super enthusiastic about buying single for speculation purposes and people who are starting to get a bit savvier about when to dump stuff before rotation may have already dumped cards that will be exciting in the interim.

We end up with a sort of lame duck format where we'll see SCG open Top 8s with a new, off-the-wall deck that uses M14 and M15 cards to make a brand new strategy and seven copies of Mono-Black or Mono-Blue control.

Still, if that wacky deck captures players' imaginations, is there money to be made on "lame duck" cards that are about to rotate? Is there money to be made short-term on cards in M15 that contribute to those strategies that will fall in price when the M14 cards rotate and the deck goes away? I have seen a few rumblings online and I have a few decks that we should look at to see what we should do.

Hurting What's In Use Now

Burning Earth

Go ahead. Play painlands.

Some of the only decks ready to slot in painlands are the G/b variants. They have taken to running a Golgari Guildgate or two, even in a post-Temple of Malady world. They are likely going to be receptive to Llanowar Wastes and I am receptive to punishing them.

This could make things rough on the Thoughtseize and Underworld Connections deck. I don't expect Burning Earth to go up much in price, but it may, a bit, and at the least it should stabilize so you can out them for retail rather than a panicked, last-minute Hail Mary pass to a buylist.

Helping What Could See More Play

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Naya Hexproof is a good deck, but not a great one. However, it's a fun deck to play, and with M14 and M15 combined giving it goodies, it may just have enough reach to be truly great.

Spectra Ward will likely replace the Holy Mantle in the board, and may even be good enough to maindeck. Spectra Ward promises to be a bit undervalued at first and I like these long-term for EDH. Look at a card like Spirit Mantle with multiple printings and you can start to glimpse some of the potential of Spectra Ward in a deck like Bruna, Light of Alabaster or Uril, the Miststalker.

Ward is a great tool for the Naya Hexproof deck and could really help it grow legs. However, it's expensive and I don't expect it to have quite as much of an impact as something else.

While this isn't better than Madcap Skills and won't make you reduce the number of those that you run, this card gives you something you need, which is reach. You'll likely pop it to hit the number 20 you're fighting against, but you may remove one of their creatures a non-zero number of times. This is bound to get tested, and that should rekindle enthusiasm for the Hexproof deck.

Mana wasn't an issue before, but let's not pretend this won't get jammed in the deck. Its existence isn't going to be the reason Hexproof is played against, but it is a tool, and the deck with the most new tools has an advantage.

However, Naya Hexproof has an Achilles' Heel, and a reprint in M15 may smother this deck in the cradle.

This is rough for Naya Hexproof to deal with, to be sure.

Meathooks

Slivers have always been a favorite, and we will have a brief window to make them work.

Galerider Sliver

Galerider Sliver likely gets a bump from the mere mention of a working Slivers list. It's already seeing play as a one-of in certain Mono-Blue lists because flying Mutavault wins the damage race. Speaking of which...

Mutavault

We're already predicting a price Holocaust for the 'vault. Luckily it's going to get played until the second it rotates, and its mere existence makes the Slivers deck look more likely.

This is a $4 pre-order. I hope that means we can get foils under $10. I really like foils of this for under $10, but they are such a likely candidate for a reprint it isn't funny.

Bonescythe Sliver

I like these long-term and a sliver deck becoming a thing can help concentrate these. These are in binders and bulk boxes and very spread out. A deck that needs them, even for a month or two, can help get them out of the woodwork and into trade binders where you can scoop them more easily.

These are so cheap right now, and rotation will make them even cheaper. If you don't want to sit on these, a sliver deck could renew interest and help you get out.

This is going to drive a lot of interest in Slivers in general. Every time they print something like this, there is a sliver renaissance. Do you trade with casual players? If you do, this will help you get out of sliver cards you don't want. I think this has long-term viability since it's a good general, albeit a budget one. This could help a Sliver deck in Standard grow the beard for sure.

I haven't seen this get discussed much, but I think this should be in any Standard Slivers deck. Tools like this make people brew and when people brew, you can make some money.

A successful slivers deck will buoy a few key cards.

This is obviously quite good in a Slivers deck. If we do start to see some serious builds online, this card is an automatic four-of. I am sure other Standard decks will emerge that use this, but this is so obvious in Slivers that we could see a reversal in the downward price trend. I'd get these now if you want to play with them.

Mana Confluence

The ultimate painland. Slivers jams this if it comes about, and if multi-colored decks are the new normal, this could have some real upside. The price it's at currently is in a world where the best decks are mono-colored. With shocklands gone and temples and painlands fixing mana, Confluence could go up as precipitously as I expect Nykthos is going to tank.

Can anyone else just not wait for a cheap Nykthos?

Losing All of Its Tools

Mono-Black Control is a deck with a ton to lose. When Khans comes along, it's getting wiped out. Grey Merchant is a fine card, but without Pack Rat, Underworld Connections and Nightveil Specter the deck is poised to lose a lot of the impetus to play Mono-Black. So what cards that aren't rotating are people going to back away from?

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is going to be a big loser. The monochromatic decks are going to lose a ton of tools and aren't poised to be real contenders after rotation unless we get a lot of solid mono-colored stuff from Khans, which seems unlikely.

EDH and casual as well as fringe decks in Modern will keep this card from going to crap completely, and Mono-Black and Mono-Blue aren't jamming this as a four-of under the best conditions, but this has a lot to lose. Remember, this is also printed in the Clash Pack. All of this is going to make it a very, very cheap card. I like these very long-term, but short-term I'm distancing myself from this card as much as possible.

This card is good a lot of places, but I don't know that Standard is one of them. Mind Rot plus Thoughtseize could make this a decent build-around, but price data for Waste Not is not encouraging and it hasn't even been opened in any packs, yet.

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More like "Want Not."

This is nuts in EDH decks like Nath of the Gilt-Leaf but I don't know that it will impact Standard as much as people would like. People have had longer to brew with this card than with any other M15 card by virute of it having been spoiled months ago to announce the new anti-counterfeiting bling and new border. I haven't seen anything that is particularly compelling.

I think Waste Not's price initially was heavily predicated on Jund and mono-black type decks being the new norm. Two things, though. First, I don't think there is room for this card that does nothing on its own in those decks. Secondly, I don't think they'll survive rotation. Thoughtseize will survive rotation, but will we want to be all-in on it to the extent that we play Waste Not?

I think this card is on its way down, and if you pack these, I would ship them immediately. I don't think it's a bulk rare, but we'll need a deck built around it to even justify including it and I haven't seen anything online.

The good thing is that it will take so long to dial in a deck built around it that we will likely have time to dump these and potentially pick them back up. I am staying away from them, personally.

The Less Obvious

What new decks will Khans of Tarkir make possible? It's not all that clear to me, but what is clear is that cards that are very powerful in a vacuum are the first to build around.

Prophet of Kruphix

This card is so good that people want it banned in EDH. Is the Clash Pack a harbinger of good blue-green things coming in Khans? Yavimaya Coast and Temple of Mystery sure don't hurt. I don't know that this is going to see Standard play, but I think it's powerful as hell and powerful cards need a second look.

Sylvan Caryatid

I think we'll be leaning on this guy more than ever coming up. He's expensive, but Courser of Kruphix seems to dictate the ceiling for in-print non-mythics and this isn't there yet. I don't think it can ever get as high as Courser did at its peak, but I think there is upside. We're about to be playing multicolored decks, I think, and this card's success was never tied to a particular deck or strategy the way a card like Nykthos was. I am bullish on mana fixing that doesn't deal you damage going forward.

It's important to keep rotation in mind, but I think it's also worth taking a look at the odd period right before the next rotation, where we get a brief, magical Christmasland format with more slivers than any core set can handle on its own. Let's make this "lame duck" period anything but lame.

3 thoughts on “Insider: Lame Ducks

  1. I totally disagree about Nykthos. Devotion is still a major component of Theros block, which will be over half the format at rotation. While the decks will no doubt be very different from current devotion (esp monoblack), I doubt that WotC would print Khans without reasonable support for devotion. They always specifically plan for cross-block synergy, and permanents with heavy color costs are one of the easiest things to do.

    I actually expect green-based devotion to be an early deck to beat. You have strong permanents with good devotion: Polukranos, Nissa, Arbor Colossus, Caryatid, and Bow. Nylea seems trivial to activate and provides a mana sink for Nykthos and other ramp. And between Caryatid and dual lands, splashing a second color is fairly easy.

    1. I don\’t think it matters whether we keep a bunch of good stuff. I think it matters that Khans of Tarkir is going to give us an alternative. Nykthos might not go down, but if it does, you know I\’m scoopin them like they\’re my dog\’s poop and there\’s a cop standing there just waiting to give me a ticket.

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