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Insider: Investing in Battle for Zendikar – Part 1 (Mythics)

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Battle for Zendikar is finally here, and the entire set has been presented to us for our judgment. We’ve already been subjected to an entire spectrum full of reaction, from complete disdain to clear optimism, of how this set will impact Standard. Whatever your thoughts or bias, I’m here to break down Battle for Zendikar from a financial lens.

Unlike other finance writers, I don’t have the complete disdain for this set even with the inclusion of Expedition lands. There’s still going to be plenty opportunities for profit, although they may be short lived.

Taking Expeditions out of the equation, we originally saw a situation similar to Dragons of Tarkir with what seemed to be undervalued preorder prices. That quickly turned around, and now with the EV of a BFZ box being somewhat “normal” at 90$, that shifts the narrative to a situation similarly to Khans of Tarkir. With two rare land cycles setting a floor, and Expeditions setting a soft ceiling, I question that many cards will hold a strong long-term value.

That doesn’t mean we won’t see drastic price increases over a Pro Tour weekend, or cards increasing during the first 3-6 weeks while supply is hitting the market. The same situation occurred with Khans when cards like Anafenza, the Foremost was a 9$ at one time. Those scenarios can and will happen, which I highlighted in a previous article.

With that said, this set is the first set with Expeditions and will always be a special case--as such we have to temper expectations even more so than with Khans of Tarkir. There's likely not many cards capable of holding a price even near 10$. If somehow a multitude of cards begin increasing, everyone will just turn to buying sealed product, as they did with the fetchlands. This set obviously compounds that scenario to an extreme “because Expeditions.”

Assessing Origins Predictions

Before we get on with the evaluation, let’s recap on how I ended up doing with Magic Origins.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

One that I want to mention to start off is Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, which I didn’t hold in the highest regard during preorder time. While I didn’t quite place this in the highest tier of my evaluation, I didn’t condemn it as a low tier mythic. Overall, I like to be very critical of myself and my card evaluation; I didn’t do you all justice and provide what is now some clearly great profits on this particular card. For that, I do apologize.

To quickly run through the rest:

Overall, I think I did fairly well in my analysis. Cards shifting around between middle and low tiers don’t really bother me as much as it would missing a card that deserve to be one the “chase” card(s) of the set. On this front, I don’t think my overall evaluation of Magic Origins was egregious and I hope it was beneficial to you all. I was very pleased with the cards I preordered, and other than Graveblade Marauder we did well for ourselves. Pat ourselves on the back why don't we?

Onto Battle for Zendikar!

The methodology of breaking down the cards into a tiered list makes it easier for me to look at what will hold the majority of the value in the set. I will most likely use this methodology going forward in evaluating future sets. I also wanted to do it this way because I don’t feel like attaching a future value to any of these cards. I feel like that method is a little inefficient and doesn’t take into account future printings that could potentially make these cards better.

So I wouldn’t want to attach a low value to a card that’s potentially powerful like I have in the past. The truth is while a card may look terrible right now, we don’t know the future and how this card could interact with future cards. So as an avid player of fighting games this method makes most sense to me, since it also allows for cards to move around in the tiered list, which undoubtedly will happen as time goes on. This happens all the time in many of the fighting games during their life cycles.

Here's an explanation of the tiers I'll use:

  • Top Tier is reserved for the cards that will most likely hold the majority of the value in the set, most commonly known as the “chase cards.”
  • Middle Tier is reserved for the cards that aren’t necessarily bad but may be overshadowed at this current point. These could easily jump to top tier in the future, or vise versa.
  • Low Tier is reserved for the cards that will most likely be near bulk. Like Middle Tier these cards could easily jump up to higher tiers but the road traveled will most likely be harder. Again, I don’t think these cards are necessarily bad but my analysis is that these will be the cheapest cards in the set.

Mythic Breakdown

Top Tier

Undergrowth Champion
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Oblivion Sower
Ulamog, the Ceasless Hunger

Mid-Tier

Greenwarden of Murasa
Kiora, Master of the Depths
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Omnath, Locus of Rage
Sire of Stagnation
Quarantine Field

Low Tier Mythics

Akoum Firebird
Dragonmaster Outcast
Part the Waterveil
Void Winnower (yes, it literally can’t even)

I don't think I'm qualified to talk about these cards' viability in EDH. Because of that I am just going to put them all in the low tier mythics section, because I don't think these cards have any significant Constructed applications.

Top Tier Mythics

Undergrowth Champion

undergrowthchampion

We start off with Undergrowth Champion simply because I feel it’s really strong and has had quite the roller coaster ride during the preorder period. Starting off at $7.99 then moving up to $9.99, then again to $12.99 and finally overnight to $19.99, it has sold out at that price at Star City Games. Receiving a good amount of praise from other well-versed players, one can remain optimistic about this card.

UndergrowthDamn

Currently if you were a person who pre-ordered this right away, then bravo to you! I would most certainly start looking to move these immediately as they enter your possession or beforehand if at all possible. Consider this drastic price hike a win, and don’t do yourself the disservice of guessing where its price will end up next.

Preorder Price: $19.99

Oblivion Sower

oblivionsower

I just can’t say enough good things about this card. Not only myself, but fellow writer Brian DeMars highlighted this card as well. This has also been discussed by Doug, Kelly, and myself via the QS Cast. In addition to all that talk, the QS Insider forum posters started to invest into this card as the spoilers continue to roll out and they evaluated it as one of the strongest (if not the strongest) mythic in the set.

Obviously we all have to temper expectations here due to the Duel Deck printing, but I’m a firm believer that this will be the most utilized mythic in the coming Standard. I foresee a similar situation to Polukranos, World Eater back when Theros was released. During the initial weeks when supply is not at its peak, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a high demand for this card. I still can’t see many cards being better than this in Battle for Zendikar.

Preorder Price: $4.99

Drana, Liberator of Malakir

dranaliberatorofmalakir

So I haven’t talked about this as much as the others. I did start to see this in playtesting sessions, as I mentioned on the latest QS Cast. This card is dangerous, and quite frankly when I look at the other cards in the set, this is just one of those quintessential Constructed playable cards. It has a lot of good things going for it:

  • 3CMC (Works with Collected Company)
  • Evasion
  • Can take over a game if left unchecked.

That criteria seems fitting for a mythic creature, and barring the whole “dies to removal” caveat, if it’s not killed it will end the game extremely fast. Alongside old friends like Warden of the First Tree or Siege Rhino this can be quite potent.

Preorder Price: $14.99

Middle Tier Mythics

I grouped these together because I think each of these cards' success has to come off the back of cards like See the Unwritten. How viable the deck becomes, and whether any of these cards are included, will determine their overall value. Obviously they could have applications outside of that one specific archetype, but I really think these will rise or fall with their use as a curve topper in ramp decks.

Again, I’m not an EDH aficionado, but all of these creatures have appeal in that format and other casual formats as well. So, there’s always room for optimism on that front. The main thing to monitor his how Omnath, Locus of Rage vs. Dragonlord Atarka will play out, and which will reign supreme as the dominant seven-drop. One fetchland activation makes Omnath extremely scary.

Preorder Prices: $7.99, $5.99, $11.99

Kiora and Ob Nixilis

Kiora, Master of the Depths Battle for Zendikar ob nixilis reignited bfz spoiler

Two serviceable planeswalkers, and their current pre-order prices justify that. Both of these cards have upside, and Kiora being CMC 4, it can always be considered in some capacity for Modern.

That being said, I think it’s a telling sign where these started when looking at previous planeswalker preorder prices like Narset Transcendent. There doesn’t seem like a whole lot of confidence in these cards maintaining more, and I agree. Again, out of these two I can see Kiora breaking out and being on the same level as Gideon, but that may be a steeper hill to climb.

It’s worth noting that Ob Nixilis initially started at $14.99 on StarCityGames, and other than large retail websites, it can be found close to the original starting price.

Preorder prices: $19.99, $19.99

Low Tier Mythics

Like my article about Magic Origins, I don’t have a whole lot to say about the Low Tier Mythics, other than they may have upside in a casual setting. Cards like Part the Waterveil have a good historic floor in the sense that “take an extra turn” cards usually end up maintaining a $5+ price tag as the years go by. Unlike its predecessors, they never had to compete with product being opened in a frenzy to find a golden ticket. So again, I’m not going to be too optimistic about these cards, and I put them in this tier as a result.

If any of you are at all excited about these, I would highly suggest waiting to purchase them. Those of you who were waiting for Dragonmaster Outcast to be reprinted, well, here you go. To be truthful, I would have rather seen it in Modern Masters 2015 than waste a mythic slot here. That's neither here nor there, though.

As I said earlier there will be some opportunities, and all things considered there are some solid mythics in this set that can initially command a premium price tag. As the weeks and months go by we will likely see a drastic decline across the board, and we will finally see how the new two set block cadence will impact Magic: the Gathering financially.

So, as always keep yourself informed and act swiftly to reap the benefits when the opportunity arises and I would suggest not treating this set or any other with complete disdain. There’s always profit to be made by bold financiers, and to write off this set “because Expeditions” I think is a wasted opportunity. Even if it is short-lived, that might be how business is conducted in this new landscape.

~

Up next, rares! There are certainly a select few I like going forward. I’ve mentioned them in a previous article, and of course on the QS Cast.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to comment or message me via social media. Hopefully this list is helpful going forward to decide what's worth trading for or buying at the prerelease and beyond!

- Chaz (@ChazVMTG)

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