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Insider: Rotation Picks (Gatecrash & Dragon’s Maze)

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Welcome back, readers and speculators! Today's article will complete our cycle for Ravnica block picks at rotation.

Disclaimer #1

Given all the comments from the last article I think it's wise to clarify and emphasize what the buy prices I give mean. These are the prices I expect many stores to have, especially those who are buying larger quantities of a card. If Store X is paying twice what I'm describing but only buying four copies I don't see their numbers as all that relevant.

This being said I do accept that if four or more stores are all buying 24+ copies of a card at around one price and another larger store is buying 100 copies of a card at half that price, the price of the four stores is an acceptable price metric. That being said, I will grade myself on both this article and the last one at rotation to determine the accuracy of my estimations. I believe that self-evaluation is critical to strengthening one's speculative skills.

Disclaimer #2

Prices I give are based on the amount of money I would personally be willing to buy the card at on September 26, 2014 (Khans of Tarkir's release date). Thus they will no longer be Standard-legal and all demand should come from Eternal players, casual players, and collectors. (Stores will obviously have demand but that demand is driven by their expected demand of one of those three listed groups).

Now for the good stuff.

Gatecrash Picks

Aurelia, the Warleader - This card is sitting at a current buylist price between $2-3, depending on who you want to sell to and how many copies you want to unload. Her demand is not driven by Standard play whatsoever (we will ignore the random casual FNM deck).

That being the case her buylist price will likely barely drop at rotation. I'd be happy to pick these up at $2, but given the people who want her the most will likely only need one copy, the play on this one will likely be foils, which already buylist at $20-26 and will likely go up. She has four desirable traits; 1) She's awesome in Commander (and can be one), 2) She's a mythic, 3) She's an angel, 4) The artwork is gorgeous. If you pick her up, don't buy too many as they aren't that liquid (due to being one-of's).

Shocklands - Again we get to look at shocklands. I will stick to my similar logic from the previous article and say that the ones to target will be the color fixers for the Tier 1 Modern decks, with emphasis on the deck's major colors (i.e. not one-of's).

The only one on this list that fits the bill is Sacred Foundry and even then it's a minor fixer for the U/W/r decks. Ironically, it's also the most expensive shock currently and you can buylist them for $8.75. I think this one will likely tank the hardest and you'll be able to buy them (retail) for $7-8, so expect a buylist price of maybe $4-5.

If you're of the belief that shocks will likely not be reprinted again for awhile and that the Modern format will continue to gain a lot of traction then you can pay a little more for them, but WoTC has shown that they will print what they want when they want, which makes me less sure of shocks as a long-term investment (2+ years). They can also sprinkle reprints in other products, Commander and Duel Decks, specialty products, etc.

That being said, I'd be comfortable picking them up at rotation for the following prices, based heavily on the fact that most don't see a ton of Modern play, though I suspect a lot less Gatecrash was opened than RTR which does mean fewer of them.

  1. Sacred Foundry ($4.50) - As stated it is a minor fixer in U/W/r control decks and run as a one-of.
  2. Watery Grave ($3.50) - The buylist on this is already only $6 on the high and Esper Control is a strong Standard deck, as is Mono-Black Devotion with a blue splash. I actually expect most stores to pay even less since it sees little Modern play, but Underground Sea was the most expensive dual land even when it was seeing almost no Legacy play (the days before Deathrite) simply because the color combination is the strongest.
  3. Godless Shrine ($3) - Orzhov is often a favorite color combination with casuals as you get lots of removal, some very powerful creatures, recursion, and a lot of lifelink. However, with B/W Tokens not making a big splash in Modern yet, the demand for this one will likely come mostly from casuals.
  4. Breeding Pool ($3.5) - Blue-green wasn't played a whole lot in Modern outside of Scapeshift decks but with the Tarmotwin deck coming to light there is likely more demand for this card than when it first came out. I am also giving a bit of credit to the fact that blue is the most powerful competitive Constructed color and green is the most powerful casual color (EDH specifically).
  5. Stomping Ground ($2.75) - Red-green is another Scapeshift/Tarmotwin land requirement, however neither would likely be considered one of the "pillars" of the format so demand will be more limited. Unfortunately, red-green is also not typically a major casual favorite color combination (except as part of a Naya build) so the casual demand will be less for this one. I expect this one to likely sit at $5-6 come rotation.

Obzedat, Ghost Council - While protection from sorcery-speed removal and the blink ability are nice, he just hasn't hit it off as a Commander. I think a major reason is that black-white EDH decks are often based around engines (Athreos) or tokens (Teysa), whereas Obzedat would be a more midrangey commander. I can see him falling to $3 at rotation, but with a limited demand I wouldn't want to pay any more than $1 in cash for him.

Prime Speaker Zegana - This card is designed for Commander players. Her ability draws cards and puts counters on her (two awesome abilities for a commander). Her color combination is as previously mentioned one of the more powerful ones and her current demand is already almost exclusively due to casual players (having seen very little limelight in Standard). Her current buylist price is $1 and that's likely what it'll be at rotation. I wouldn't mind picking her up for a buck.

Merciless Eviction - This card is criminally underplayed in EDH (primarily, I believe, because many casual players don't like exiling their own stuff), but flexible sweepers are powerful and exiling in EDH is huge. Its biggest problem may be that its color combination is so good at recursion and exiling its own targets is a non-bo.

These currently buylist for around $0.25 and given that almost all the demand is casual, I expect this one to stay like that. Barring any reprint this could probably be a $2 card in a year or two.

Dragon's Maze Picks

Deadbridge Chant - This card is in strong EDH colors. It provides continual card advantage and has the ability to be abused with cards that exile cards from graveyards so you can keep recurring the same card(s) over and over. It's currently buylisting for around $0.6 and I'd be happy picking them up for between $0.5-0.6 at rotation.

As with other EDH/casual all-stars the real target will be foils, which currently have a 5x multiplier (buylisting for around $3.50). If the foil buylist drops any at rotation I'd definitely pick foils over regular, but you can't really go wrong with either.

Progenitor Mimic - Another awesome EDH card (and in blue-green). This card's power level is pretty insane especially since you aren't forced to target your own creatures and so many creatures that are played have ETB effects that you can really abuse this guy. Nonfoils currently buylist for around $1.50 (again almost all due to casual demand) so don't expect a drop at rotation. Foils are already buylisting for $9 (a 6x multiplier), if you can get them for this I'd suggest doing so as this will likely be an $18-25 foil in a year or so.

Ral Zarek - Typically planeswalkers have a price floor of around $4-5. Ral's abilities aren't particularly backbreaking, though the ability to untap any permanent can certainly be used to abuse big-mana artifacts or lands and tapping an opponent's big blocker isn't a terrible thing either. The second ability is pretty weak in a format of giant creatures.

The ultimate doesn't honestly feel very "ultimatey" to me, however, he does fit well into the "random" themed EDH decks (you know, the ones that run Krark's Thumb and Goblin Bomb). While I'm not big on this guy I also feel that unless he finds his way into a dual deck he can probably end up $8-9 in a year or so.

Master of Cruelties - Another casual favorite (and I admit my favorite card when I first saw the full spoiler), he's basically an auto-include in every Kaalia of the Vast EDH deck and quite honestly every red-black EDH deck. His ability is ridiculously powerful and having both first strike and deathtouch makes him an amazing blocker. He's the perfect rattlesnake card.

He currently buylists for $1.35-$1.50 and given none of that demand is from Standard it's unlikely to change at rotation. Currently foil copies are buylisting for $4-6 which is incredibly low for such a powerful casual card and retail price shows him sitting at $7. I expect a bump in both within a year or so.

Voice of Resurgence - Finally we have an Eternal-playable card...by which I mean Modern. Voice has proven itself to be a powerful creature that can fit in several Tier 1 Modern decks (both Pod variants and Junk midrange decks).

He is currently buylisting for around $11 and despite finding a home in Modern I still imagine he'll drop to around $8 (probably $12-13 retail), as he does still see a decent amount of play in Standard. I would definitely pick them up at that time.

The fact that my entire Dragon's Maze pick up list is only five cards (all of which are mythic) just helps prove how weak this set was and the fact that Modern Masters came out a couple months after it released meant that even fewer drafts occurred than normal. This is definitely the type of set in which a card could breakout and double or triple in value after a strong PT showing and all bets would be on Voice.

TL;DR

The last two sets of Return to Ravnica block are chock full of casual favorites but are clearly lacking the real power level of Return to Ravnica itself. It's also important to keep in mind that drafting of this set was:

  • 3 months - Triple Return to Ravnica (RTR)
  • 3 months - Triple Gatecrash (GTC)
  • 3 months - Dragon's Maze (DGM)-GTC-RTR (but Modern Masters released and there was a definite drop in these drafts occurring at LGS's as players spent their money on MMA.

This means that when comparing the number of overall cards available, there's more RTR than GTC, and more GTC than DGM. Given the overall power level and desirability of RTR cards I'd guess the ratios are probably something like 45%/33%/22%. I know when I won FNM's during this block I always picked RTR packs for prize as did almost everyone else who won, though this is mostly conjecture on my part. If anyone has access to the actual numbers, let me know in the comments.

What this means is that while RTR has the largest list of pickups since it had the most powerful cards, the other two sets have the higher likelihood of a price jumping drastically if one of the cards does prove to be more powerful than we'd thought simply because there are less of them in the supply.

6 thoughts on “Insider: Rotation Picks (Gatecrash & Dragon’s Maze)

  1. Some questions for you:

    1. Where do you find sellers for these cards? An online website, word of mouth?

    2. Are you much more aggressive pursuing Theros block cards right now that will improve at rotation?

    3. When do you intend to pursue these cards at these prices? If you wait until the day of rotation, most players will have already liquidated their copies.

    1. 1.) Most of my sellers are local players or sometimes LGS’s that have a lot of stock and don’t think they can move it (often they don’t attend major events like I do). A lot of the players around here come to me when they want to unload cards because I use MTG.GG to price them out so they make more than just selling to many stores.
      2) I am more aggressive at picking up cards that I think will go up faster and or will be more liquid when they do, typically this does mean the staples of the block not rotating (specifically the mana base). The problem I’m seeing is that with the explosive growth of MTG and the competitive market still being a smallish fraction of the total playerbase it means more of the competitive cards are being opened than ever before. The only time you have a real home run is when a card is both a casual all-star and a competitive juggernaut.
      3.) As stated these are the prices I’d buy them on the day of rotation, while some players will have unloaded these cards, the cards I mentioned as likely to not drop are the same ones that will likely not have been unloaded due to their stability. It’s also important to remember that there are plenty of players with limited income and when new sets hit they are more willing to deal and unload to get the latest “hot new cards” so their is more demand for both the new cards and more importantly cash for acquiring them.

  2. For an insider article, this approach “here’s the amount I am going to look to pay – by the way, it’s about 75% lower than retail” is a HUGE cop-out.

    If you’re going to call picks, call them with your audience’s ins…not your own personal ins. While there are probably several people here who are dealers, or player-dealers, I would bet a majority of the people who are insiders are buying from ebay, retail, and TCG. So, why don’t you grow a pair and make some calls with prices that are realistic?

  3. I like your analysis of Aurelia, the Warleader FOIL. You point out some very good points on her versatile nature. I speculated and bought some foils to see how it pans out. Oh yeah, the artwork is phenomenal!

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