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Insider: Investing in Dragons and Origins for Next Year

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Excuse me if I'm saying the obvious here, but do you know how long we'll have Dragons of Tarkir (DTK) and Origins (ORI) in Standard? A long time. I'd wager that, though this information is publicly available, it hasn't sunk in yet, because the two-set chopped up rotations are so new.

When the new two-set block schedule was announced, we received a calendar with a bunch of test set names on it. Over on GatheringMagic, they laid it out as best they could at the time. Here's how the calendar looked:

Time of Release Large Set Released Block/Sets Rotating Out Standard, in Blocks
Fall 2014 Khans of Tarkir Return to Ravnica Still two three-set blocks
Spring 2015 "Louie" Nothing rotates Still two three-set blocks
Fall 2015 "Blood" Theros block Still two three-set blocks
Spring 2016 "Tears" Khans of Tarkir and "Dewey" (winter '15) Now three two-set blocks
Fall 2016 "Lock" Next year's core set and "Louie" (spring '15) Three two-set blocks
Spring 2017 "Barrel" "Blood" block Three two-set blocks

Since we only had codenames at the time, people could be forgiven for not noticing what happens in Spring of 2016. Namely, Khans and "Dewey" (AKA Fate Reforged) rotate. What happens to Dragons of Tarkir? We've got it for another six months, along with Magic Origins. I've talked to other players about this and most thought that all of Khans block was going to rotate at once. Not the case. We'll have DTK and ORI for a full year from now.

Mining Long-Term Gold

This is definitely the time to snatch up cheap engine cards to hold onto. I believe that Hangarback Walker is going to be around so long that we all breathe a cheerful sigh when it rotates next fall. On the other hand, there are plenty of gems and roleplayers waiting to be discovered.

With that in mind, I've concentrated on a few categories. First, we have the roleplayers. These are cards that slot into classical archetypes that crop up in most Standard sets. Second, we'll look at sleepers, the engine cards that could become very potent later in Standard.

Bear in mind that by next Spring, Origins will be far out of peoples' minds. Simply keeping a staple like Hangarback can really pay off. One day, people will wake up in May and wonder why Hangarback is a $35 card.

Roleplayers to Hold For Next Year

I'm often asked about stable and steady investments. Barring a box set reprint (which could happen to Hangarback Walker most obviously), the following cards will gain value over time.

First of all, red aggressive strategies will always be dependable. Zurgo Bellstriker ($2.25) and Exquisite Firecraft ($8.50) make up the bedrock of good red damage.

I don't think you'll get any particular bargain on Firecraft right now, but its price has been stable for the past three weeks. Zurgo is a great pickup, but Firecraft is more of a "hold if you have it." By the way, as you're looking at good pickup targets, check out the graphs for the price history on our Trader Tools. You'll get a great sense of whether you should wait (the price is dropping) or move in (the price is going up).

Likewise, Thunderbreak Regent ($5.00) is a very understandable card for red aggressive decks. It has a lot of versatility right now, pivoting into Mardu Dragons and R/G Monsters among others. Its price is leveling off right now, but I would still be greedy and see if I can wait to get these at $4. Regent is going to be a classic card that people forget is still in Standard. A 4/4 flier is simply great at four mana; I'm not telling you anything new. Remember that Thundermaw Hellkite took many months before it picked up and became the premier finisher in its Standard era.

I've mentioned Hangarback Walker ($17.00) enough already; let's talk about it. The artifact slots into everything and feels great on just about any turn. As Standard evolves and changes, the Walker will still be here. If Battle for Zendikar has a decent amount of mana acceleration for Eldrazi, then we can expect Walker to reap the same benefit at any point on the curve. This is my stand-out "keep and hold" card but I don't think I'm telling you anything new.

Though it's folly to anticipate Standard a year from now, Languish ($6.50) will still have many monsters to kill. This is a boring pickup, as is Tragic Arrogance ($1.75), but both are reliable board sweepers. There will always be a spot for them in Standard.

Likewise, Dragonlord Ojutai ($15.00) is a monster and will remain terrifying.

Deathmist Raptor ($22.00) is a controversial pick for a long-term hold. I spoke with a few colleagues and many feel that the dino has reached its price ceiling. On top of that, megamorph is great in this grinding format, but what will Eldrazi bring? I have to imagine that if a game lasts to eight lands in play, we'll have more swingy things to do than morph up a Raptor.

Den Protector ($9.00) is more tempting. Regrowths are good. However, it's just too expensive to stock up on right now.

Cheap Sleeper Cards to Bet On

More fun than the expensive cards are the near-bulk rares that have "engine" written all over them. They're the cards with powerful effects that veteran players will remember. Standard will have between five and six sets in it at that point, meaning that the card pool gets deep enough for interesting combination decks as well as reliable control. With that in mind, let's start with the enchantments.

Flameshadow Conjuring ($0.50) makes one think of Splinter Twin and then dismiss it. I think that's unfair, because its ability is still reliable and incredible on its own. One needs to have monsters that are good enough to duplicate for a red mana, but we're moving into a set of big guys.

As Conjuring needs a creature, so Molten Vortex ($0.75) needs a land. This can form the backup plan of a burn deck because it means that you never have bad topdecks (aside from other Vortices).

Commune with Lava ($0.50) depends on you casting it during an opponent's endstep. While it's no Braingeyser, it can serve up a multitude of cheap burn spells to finish off an opponent. I'm keeping an eye on this card. It's got Travis Woo written all over it.

Pia and Kiran Nalaar ($1.75), Chandra's parents, form a reasonable Siege-Gang Commander impression. I'm intent on letting these drop down to bulk rare status and picking them up if they ever get there. An effect that spawns several tokens and lets you hurl them is solid. As I've said time and time again, I can't predict the new Standard, but I can highlight cards like this one that do something pretty unique in Standard.

Finally, I want to point out two pretty loose removal spells that have a lot of upside tacked on. Hixus, Prison Warden ($0.25) is a draft all-star and he's one of the few killer creatures around. Sure, he only looks like a Fiend Hunter, but he dodges the common red burn spells that aren't Exquisite. That he can remove a hexproof dragon or an Eldrazi on the attack is potent.

Last, Foul Renewal ($0.25) is almost embarrassingly bad to mention. You can't return a Courser with this for much longer, but keep an eye on it if we've got a big-butt monster that we can ideally sacrifice. In the right light, with some squinting, this looks like Bituminous Blast. Angled properly, it kills a creature and then brings back a serious threat. I know, it looks weak, but my historical precedent on this is Consuming Vapors--a card that saw $5 during the first Zendikar block.

What are your sleepers for next fall? What will hold value going forward in this new rotation schedule? Let me know in the comments!

- Doug

3 thoughts on “Insider: Investing in Dragons and Origins for Next Year

  1. I have serious love for Commune with Lava. I think that card is way better than people give it credit for. Something about it makes people think “bad card”. I don’t know what that is. But end-stepping this to temporarily draw 3 should be JUST fine. Especially if you hit some Abbots 🙂

    Molten Vortex is one of those cards that just makes me go “wow”. I’m not sure why it’s so cheap. My concern, however, is that BFZ will have landfall, and Vortex is polar opposite to that mechanic.

    Still, paying a mana and a card for an option that says “all your lands also are Shocks” is pretty reasonable!

  2. Regarding Commune with lava I fully agree, I think most people just forget the “next turn” clause and read “until end of turn” instead. Origins is full shock of good potential cards in the bulk range (Vryn Wingmare…)

  3. Another thing on Commune – the Goggles deck might want it. First, you get some fun goofy double-goggs action with Forking it endstep. But more importantly, you get to fork a card of your choice on your next turn, which is excellent as well. If we\’re making strange Goggles decks (and the pros are, after all) then red card draw with an X in it looks rich.

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