While we are clamoring over the hype of new cards, it is actually the cards that are left in Standard after rotation that should be the focus of attention. Battle for Zendikar is relatively light on the cheap and efficient cards that define Magic, and it will play a supporting role to the powerful Khans of Tarkir block and Magic Origins--and even then, it will be mostly with its lands.
It is existing cards that will define Standard, and they are a valuable resource for speculators. Today I'll look at several that I believe are primed for gains in the new format.
Ahem...with Battle for Zendikar so heavily featuring colorless creatures, most importantly Eldrazi Scion tokens, Ghostfire Blade has a lot of promise. This one seems obvious now, because on Monday the MTGO price of this card jumped 53%, but it's something that myself and many others missed. I really see this card doing a lot of work in Standard over the next six months, and with the price stagnant since the bump from U/R Thopters, I think there is great opportunity to make some money on the card.
I also like that Ghostfire Blade comes with the long-term safety net of its many applications in eternal formats like Modern, and casual, especially with the new Eldrazi enabling better colorless decks in formats like Commander and Tiny Leaders.
Since late August, the MTGO price of Dragonlord Ojutai has grown over 150% from under 10 tix to over 25 tix today. The paper price has been in steady decline since its peak over $30 in May to under $14 today. Esper Dragons lost surprisingly few of its cards, and Battle for Zendikar readily offered up replacements for those that did leave. It is being lauded as one of the clear top decks after rotation.
The Dragon also has applications in Jeskai, and in any new deck that wants to stretch its mana to support it. If the card picks up popularity, the price simply has to rise, and the sky is the limit for this mythic.
Avatar of the Resolute
Avatar of the Resolute has grown by nearly 40%, to over 2 tix, in the last week on MTGO, but the paper price is stagnant at an all-time low, and can be readily had under $1. There is a lot to like about this efficient and aggressive creature, especially in the G/W Hardened Scales deck that survived rotation and even gained a new tool in Undergrowth Champion.
Monday also brought over a 30% increase in the MTGO price of Demonic Pact. The card is extremely powerful and still unexplored, and it's certain that teams testing for the upcoming Standard Pro Tour will be attempting to break the card. Consider that with Theros block and M15 leaving, taking cards like Courser of Kruphix and Ensoul Artifact with it, there will be a relative decline in the amount of enchantment removal played in Standard, which leaves more breathing room for Demonic Pact.
The paper price of Demonic Pact has fallen sharply and steadily over the past five weeks. It peaked in mid-August at $10, but it's down to under $4, so there is clearly opportunity for big gains.
The new dual lands are extremely effective with fetchlands, and it means that three-, four-, and even five-color decks are going to become the new norm in Standard. We have reached the opposite pole of Theros and its monochrome world characterized by Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and players are embracing that fact. Players are sharing brews all over the internet, and it seems the card players are most excited about stretching their manabases for is Mantis Rider.
Mantis Rider grew by over 30% on MTGO on Monday, which isn't particularly impressive considering it lost a third of its value in the previous few weeks, but I think it's a sign that the tides are turning. The paper price has been slowly declining ever since it was printed, currently around $3.5, but if the once $8 price of Siege Rhino is any indication, Mantis Rider has some room to grow.
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Pia and Kiran Nalaar hasn't received a lot of fanfare, but this Siege-Gang Commander reincarnation has already had a lot of success. There were three copies in Stephen Berrios's Pro Tour Magic Origins Top 8 deck, and a month or so back a version with four copies won the MTGO Standard Championship while Shota Yasooka won a major tournament in Japan with the same deck on the same weekend. Gerry Thompson played two copies of the card in Modern en-route to his cash finish with Grixis Control at GP: OKC.
There is clearly a lot of potential in Standard and beyond, and the $1 price tag really seems like a steal. The jumped over 30% on MTGO Monday, and an eventual paper rise is inevitable.
With Stoke the Flames and Lightning Strike leaving Standard, and with Battle for Zendikar offering no replacements, Exquisite Firecraft is going to bear a heavy burden after rotation. It's now the best burn spell in Standard and will be featured in every aggressive red deck.
The MTGO price grew by 15% on Monday, following a few points of growth over the weekend, and I expect the price will grow much further still. The paper price has been in slow decline, and while it's hardly a "bargain" at $7, that's significantly lower than the nearly $10 it once was. With supply drying up, and with Mono-Red as the most obvious and popular deck immediately after rotation, I think there must be some room to go higher.
Abbot of Keral Keep
Abbot of Keral Keep has proven to be the best new tool for red decks in years. This card provides card advantage to a color sorely lacking it, and it does so in an aggressive body. It's going to be a key feature of any aggressive red deck after rotation, but it also has promise in plenty of other strategies and styles of decks, even in Modern.
New supply on this card is going to really slow down as people stop drafting Magic Origins, but the demand will go nowhere but up. $7 really does seem cheap, and I would not be surprised to see that price doubled in its Standard lifetime.
The printing of new dual lands has made the fetchlands better in Standard than anyone could have imagined. Combine their absolute necessity in Standard with their eternal and casual appeal, and you have a set of cards with a very promising future. The prices of fetchlands have already seen massive gains in the past month, but they continue to grow online and in paper, and I see the trend continuing into next year. There's still meat on these bones.