Insider: Prepping for Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

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By the time you read this, Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar will have already started or be starting soon. As such, your speculative buys are probably locked in.

Most of us have our stacks of Mantis Riders and Crackling Dooms in addition to our own particular ponies. I personally see Crux of Fate and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon poised to make big moves in the Jeskai Black-G/W Megamorph metagame, and soon we'll see how these picks pan out.

Hopefully you jumped on Dragonlord Ojutai the first time we mentioned the card, or came to invest in it for a different reason back when it was $10-12. That certainly didn't last, and we can expect early performers like Ojutai to have the most significant gains this time too.

This is the trend we've seen since SCG Opens started highlighting the new format right before the Pro Tour (PT). A lot of cards see significant spikes leading up to the PT. A few select cards see additional PT spikes, and the pros pick up on some cards the community at large missed.

Camera time at the PT can lead to knee-jerk price spikes, though the best returns come from Top 8 decks. Abbot of Keral Keep and Exquisite Firecraft were the big winners from Pro Tour Origins, and they're still higher than their pre-PT price today.

Battle for Zendikar vs. Khans

That said, PT Battle is going to more closely mirror PT Khans, as both are first sets in their block and both will be opened like crazy to farm rare lands.

After PT Khans, a couple cards on nobody's radar saw nice gains, such as Pearl Lake Ancient which went from about a buck to $3.50. On the other hand, several known quantities saw spikes as well, such as Siege Rhino and Dig Through Time.

The two cards I see as sure shots to top-eight the Pro Tour are Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

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

Investing in Jace at $65-$70 sounds kind of crazy to me, but if Jace wins the Pro Tour he definitely isn't at his ceiling. Nobody is cracking Origins anymore, and Jace has already been bought off the internet twice.

The price trajectory of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is a bit harder to predict. Gideon tends to show up as a four-of in lists playing him, which explains his $30 price tag. The closest comparison we have to Gideon is Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, who saw early play in Khans Standard and placed five copies in the Top 8 at PT Khans.

There are two big differences between the cards. First, as stated, Gideon is a four-of kind of card. Second, while Sarkhan dropped off in popularity after the PT, Gideon is likely to be a long-time format staple.

Sarkhan was around $35 after PT Khans. But if two Gideon decks top-eight PT Battle, it will likely mean three more copies in the Top 8 than Sarkhans in PT Khans (one deck ran 2, and another ran 3.)

I predict we see growth in Gideon after the PT, and $40 could be his short-term price tag. Or even higher, if more than two Gideon decks top-eight.

From Bulk to Hit

Obvious power and reasonable predictions aside, there will likely be some surprises in the PT Battle Top 8. It's a weird set, and most people on the Pro Tour are there for a reason. I could see a handful of cheaper cards making a breakout performance this weekend:

I'm not advocating you act on these cards right now. I would stay away until it becomes clear one is slated for a Top 8 berth, which is about the time availability and prices start shifting online. I'd rather pay a quarter more per copy for a card likely to hit, than speculate hard on something at fifty cents, only to see the value dwindle to a dime.

Using this strategy, you'll get more mileage with access to more local game stores. If you can make it out to stores on Saturday and Sunday as prices are changing, you'll probably lock in lower prices, specifically on the low-end cards.

As an aside, you might run into a store owner that accuses you of being scum for buying out a card at pre-spike prices. Here's why they're the asshole: It's their responsibility to price each item in their retail space such that they're happy moving it. To ask for more than the price sticker is gouging.

Even if they would have risen the price later, there was no guarantee of that happening--and in any case they're not losing money. If they're selling it for a dollar, they bought it for a dime. If you as a consumer find something below market price, you'd be something of a good Samaritan to raise the point to the business, but you are under no legal nor moral obligation to do so.

When a business buys something for a dime and it spikes to $10 retail, that's not money that they're entitled to in any way. It's just gravy--and I say this as a vendor and an aspiring store owner.

As far as acting on any of these cards, remember that the Pro Tour metagame doesn't always carry forward. Most PT spikes should be treated as quick flips. Know your exit strategy, and have access to a fast one.


The Pro Tour is an exciting time for Magic, both as a game and financially. I personally haven't played any new Standard, and all I've really figured out is the mana--so I'm intrigued to see what new strategies come out of the PT.

I'm taking a low-risk approach to this set, which may yield lower returns than risky plays, but it's the one I'm comfortable with at the moment. If you decided to take a riskier approach, I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

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