'Tis the season. With Christmas only a few days away it seems everybody is obsessed with getting good deals and finding secret value wherever possible. With all the gifting, celebrating, and traveling going on during the holiday season it's no surprise that finding a better deal is on a lot of people's minds.
Sometimes the unexpected deal can come from a surprising place. With all the presents and holiday festivities people need to shell out for this time of year, Magic singles prices have dipped pretty sharply. In particular, we notice Standard singles have taken a bit of a beating, as many people would rather invest their time and money in holiday-related activities (and Star Wars, which was great!).
My strategy for Magic investing has always been to get my dollars in when things are bottoming out. It doesn't make sense to buy things that are already in high demand and hope the hype train will continue driving down the tracks to dollarville forever. The key for me has always been to invest in things people don't covet highly right now, but which have a high probability of increased demand in the near future.
It's also a simple truth that good or flashy cards will always have a place at the kitchen table. One could do much worse than assume that wildly powerful Eldrazi monster cards will continue to be coveted by casual players for years to come!
In today's article I'll make a short list of cards from Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) I believe have dropped below what they ought to be worth. Generally, I think these cards are undervalued compared to their overall play value, and depending on what lies in store with Oath of the Gatewatch (OGW), are well situated to see big increases in demand.
In many cases, changes in the Standard metagame won't necessarily be required in order for these singles to gain value.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger has already proven itself in Standard and commands a reasonably high price tag. However, it's dropped in the past few weeks and I don't see it going much lower before beginning to rebound.
First of all, the card is very good. It will live forever in Modern as a staple win condition in G/R Tron decks. Once a card finds a home in Modern, it usually retains a solid price tag.
Another thing I'd like to note about Ulamog is that it certainly has that kitchen table flashiness going for it. Ulamog is one of the three named Eldrazi characters, alongside Emrakul and Kozilek. The same argument made about planeswalkers like Jace apply to the Eldrazi---it's an Ulamog so it will basically have value forever.
Aside from being a popular casual card and a Modern staple, the card has big time breakout potential in Standard once the new set and the eventual rotation roll around. One of the reasons Eldrazi and ramp strategies haven't been more than a role player in Standard is the overshadowing of BFZ by three potent multicolor Khans sets.
There's a three-to-one advantage for sets that support powerful gold spells like Siege Rhino and Mantis Rider and only one set with Eldrazi stuff going on. Once we get another Eldrazi-themed set into the mix (and eventually when Khans and Fate rotate) the Eldrazi spells and strategies will become a bigger part of Standard.
When ramp becomes a major component of the metagame, the biggest, most powerful finisher gains extra stock. The card that goes the biggest is always highly played, both as the best payoff for ramping, and as a trump in the mirror/control matchup. Ulamog is easily one of the most powerful options available (at least so far---we've not seen an Emrakul yet.)
Just because a card is expensive doesn't mean it isn't near its bottom. In the case of Ulamog, a gigantic, flashy, monster of a mythic, there's little chance of falling much lower than $10. At its current rate I'm willing to trade for extra copies in case it becomes a staple chase rare at some point in the future.
I'm hoping that Santa leaves some Eldrazi in my stocking this year!
Speaking of Eldrazi that are certainly better than coal...
Eldrazi are basically the theme of today's article. Their future power level in Standard is hard to assess and there are a lot of them floating around.
In the case of Void Winnower, I'm fairly certain it will have applications not only in Standard, but in Vintage and Legacy. It's certainly a problematic card when cheated into play, eliminating around half of your opponent's spells on the spot! It's also kind of a combo with Oath of Druids in Vintage because it can't be chumped by the spirit tokens made by Forbidden Orchard.
Let's not kid ourselves: a Meddling Mage that targets only your opponent and names half their deck is powerful and unique. It's also a fast clock and difficult to block. All things considered, the power level is here and it's quite disrespected by a $2 price tag.
Void Winnower also has that big splashy melee goodness of a Commander staple because it can cripple multiple opponents at the same time!
Basically, my thoughts on this card is that it's ridiculously undervalued. I'm trading for every copy at the current value I can get my hands on.
Let's not jump off the Eldrazi train just yet...
Oblivion Sower is a great card. In fact, I thought it was the best card in the set the first time I read through the spoiler. It's the type of card I'd want in most of my casual, Commander, or multiplayer decks and one I'd like to find an excuse to play in Standard. It has a huge body, ramps, and creates card advantage. What more can you ask for in a six-drop?
If Eldrazi are a thing after OGW, Sower will likely have a place in that deck, which makes me interested in collecting the card at its current $3-$4 price range. It already saw a spike about a month ago when it bumped up to around $10---this means people have demonstrated a willingness to shell out prices like this.
I also like foils on this card just because of how Commander-friendly it is.
Conduit of Ruin
So, one last Eldrazi, because what is Zendikar without the Eldrazis?
The Eldrazi are easily the most iconic cards from the original Zendikar block and the main thing people associate with the plane. Yes, some people will say Zendikar equals fetches. I think as time goes on the plane will become less and less associated with the five enemy fetches and remembered more and more as the home of the Eldrazi.
Remember fetches (the allied ones, at least) have now been printed in three different sets. They've also been printed in Duel Decks. The Khans reprint fetches went so far as to put the dragons themselves into the art. The fetches will become a generic part of Magic over time, whereas the Eldrazi will be more unique to Zendikar.
Anyways, Conduit of Ruin... Another good Eldrazi. He does a couple of cool things. He tutors for a follow-up play and helps cast it if they can't kill him first. The card has already seen play in Modern Tron to some success.
In addition it seems pretty great in Commander. At roughly $0.35 it is hard to miss on this card. I feel confident it can't go lower, and there's significant upside.
So, I did allude to non-Eldrazi cards on this list and here they come!
Undergrowth Champion is a powerful Magic card and feels like a solid constructed playable, but current Standard is hostile to it right now.
There are simply better options in the three-drop slot because the format so nicely facilitates playing three and four colors via the fetches and Battle lands. I don't anticipate Standard looking that way for much longer. Eventually, there will be constraints on mana that make a 1GG card significantly easier to cast than a WBG one.
Champion was evaluated positively during spoilers and came out of the gates with a steep price tag. At one point they were selling for $30! Now that the card is under $4 it's a great time to pick up copies in hopes that it finds a spot in the future. Same idea here as the other cards---it can't go much lower so the upside clearly outweighs the risk.
I was hot on this card when the set first came out, and it has failed to find a place in Standard. However, I have played against the card multiple times in Modern...
I believe there will be a time when this card is part of a premier-level strategy in Standard. It's just really powerful. It facilitates casting Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Ulamog way ahead of schedule. It also fits in many different Commander decks.
If the card is Commander-good, Modern-good, and likely to be Standard-good, fifty cents seems like a steal. For me, Renewal is a slam dunk speculation pick.
Last but certainly not least we have Painful Truths. It's seen a lot of play recently as a draw-three for three mana, which is about the best rate you can find even in Modern.
I've seen this card played in various Jund, Junk, and Grixis builds in Modern and all over the place in basically every Standard deck with access to three colors and black mana (so, all of them...).
It's currently lingering in the $2 range and the card is just way better than that price tag. I could easily see this card hitting $6-$10 in a couple of months. It's in the same tier as Kolaghan's Command as far as utility and raw power are concerned. It is a Modern card and it is all over the place in Standard. It may well be the single most important card in BFZ by the time things are all said and done.
It was one of the breakout cards of the SCG Invitational and now that trend is starting to pick up all over the place.
An actual draw spell in Modern is a big deal because there's so much parity and one-for-oneing, and this spell could go a long way to creating ripples in the format. If you're planning on playing Jund mirrors and all your opponents are packing two or three copies, you almost have to run some yourself. It becomes a kind of card advantage arms race.
I expect after the holidays when more people get back to playing Magic in the long, boring winter months that we're going to see a lot more of this powerful card drawer.
Generally speaking BFZ may have been something of a big, fat lump of coal---but that can work to our advantage. Since people think the set sucks they tend to undervalue the good cards, just by association. BFZ looks like it really needs OGW for most of its cards and strategies to shine.
If that is the case, expect BFZ cards that suddenly become good with the new set to see solid gains.
Good luck and Happy Holidays!