Welcome back, readers! While a lot of talk was going on about the possibility of a Stoneforge Mystic unban in Modern, some potentially bigger news slipped under many people's radar.
Since it first appeared on unofficial spoilers a few weeks ago, everyone has been speculating about the new colorless mana symbol, "<>" or "diamond." During the World Magic Cup coverage over the weekend, WotC confirmed the mechanic will appear in Oath of the Gatewatch (OGW) and described how it works.
If you haven't heard yet, the symbol will appear on all cards that produce colorless mana. It isn't a change to the rules proper, but rather a new visual convention to clarify how the mana system works. Costs are represented by the traditional number in a circle, whereas mana production is represented by the new symbol.
The one new twist is the Eldrazi's requirement of colorless mana, as seen on the new Kozilek. These cards synergize with every colorless mana producer ever printed, and many an EDH aficionado and Standard brewer will be scouring Gatherer to see what they can use to power out the new monsters.
While old cards are not receiving new functionality per se, their interaction with the OGW cards themselves will be unprecedented. Until now the production of colorless mana has been strict downside---the new mechanic may breath life into older cards.
Given this development, we may want to survey the landscape of old colorless mana producers and see if anything jumps out as a relevant speculation target. Today I'll cover the applications in Standard and Modern. I'll cover Commander and Legacy in a later article.
Let's start with a rough list of the more powerful colorless mana producers from Magic's past:
Add to these all the filter lands (Twilight Mire, et.al.), the painlands, and the cycle of utility lands from Innistrad block like Gavony Township. There are obviously more---if you want more examples I suggest googling a Karn Commander deck, as that deck's colorless constraints really pushed people to dig deep.
The first thing you'll notice is a lot of these cards already see significant play in Commander. A few, like the Urzatron lands, filter lands and Mutavault, have a home in Modern. There are even some Legacy and Vintage staples in there, so this could affect all formats.
The format that's likely to have the most potential here is Commander, but as I said that will be reserved for Part 2. Since Standard is the most played format and the one with the smallest card pool to reveiw, let's start there. I'll limit my choices to rares and mythics, as anything else is unlikely to be attractive to speculators.
That's not too bad, even if none of the cards on this list are mythic (which is normally where I like to focus on speculation opportunities, due to the scarcer supply).
Of these options, I like Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, Sanctum of Ugin and From Beyond the best, due to the fact that they should play very well together in a ramp strategy. Shrine and Sanctum have already found a home in the big Eldrazi ramp decks currently being played in Standard, and I expect these decks to get considerably better with the new Kozilek.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the current Eldrazi Ramp decks is that Sanctum of Ugin only has one good target (Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger), and being legendary, casting a second copy just bins the first one. The addition of another target lets you search up whichever one you're missing, and slam it into play if you're so inclined.
The new Kozilek is also just good, and solves one of ramp's main problems, gassing up after you've emptied your hand.
Here's where it gets interesting. Standard has relatively limited options, whereas Modern has a much larger card pool to dig through and a Tier 1 deck that is heavily colorless to begin with.
I won't reiterate the cards mentioned above, although note they're all Modern-legal (and some may be relevant.) We'll start with rares/mythics, and then cover a few older uncommons with potential.
Rares & Mythics
The first thing to note is that WotC has printed mana rocks predominantly at common and uncommon, and only a few have been deemed "rare-worthy." So most of our initial list is comprised of lands. Again, of note are filters and Innistrad utility lands.
With what we know so for about OGW, Kozilek is the only card that looks likely to have an immediate impact on Modern. One of Tron's problems is that is has very little card advantage, and sometimes can durdle about if its first threat is handled. Kozilek is a nice way to restock.
While I'm currently focused on cards that would make Tron better, that's not to say there isn't potential elsewhere. One card I want to highlight is Thespian's Stage. This card is cheap around $2, and sees heavy Commander play, as well as playing an important role in the Lands deck in Legacy. If I had to pick one land to invest in here, Stage would be it.
Academy Ruins is another option. It's not exactly cheap but the ability is incredibly powerful, allowing indefinite looping of artifacts and a form of inevitability.
Commons & Uncommons
One of the beautiful things about Modern for the speculator is it goes all the way back to 8th Edition, which debuted in 2003. Back then the player base was much smaller, so some of the single-printing commons and uncommons can still jump up and hold value.
Turning to the lower rarities we find a plethora of additional options.
In the uncommon slot, we also get the original Ravnica block utility lands (Prahv, Spires of Order, etc.)
As far as mana rocks go, the Talisman cycle is probably the most promising. They only have one printing and Talisman of Dominance has shown up in Legacy Tezzerator lists before.
Buried Ruin was reprinted in last year's Commander product, but the ability is very powerful and particularly useful in a deck looking to include a lot of artifacts to begin with. Recursion without fear of countermagic, on a land no less, is nothing to sneeze at.
Scrying Sheets has already seen a decent jump in price thanks to Skred and Commander play, but given it comes from the under-opened Coldsnap there's still room for growth. The same can be said for Mouth of Ronom, but it's not quite as strong a card.
Anything glaring I've missed that will combine well with the new Eldrazi mechanic? Let me know in the comments, and tune in for Part 2 when I'll cover Legacy and Commander.