Welcome back, readers!
How many of my fellow EDH---or Commander, for you newer players---enthusiasts became giddy when they saw Omnath, Locus of Rage spoiled in Battle for Zendikar (BFZ)? How many immediately began planning their Omnath deck and started to scour Gatherer for synergy?
We saw a lot of cards jump in value thanks to Omnath, but we also had some time to find them. Most of these jumps occurred after BFZ was released (and a good bit of time after Omnath was spoiled).
You can see the BFZ release symbol on the graphs and you can also see the lag (especially with Tempt with Vengeance).
When a new and unique legendary creature comes out, a lot of Commander players get excited and build decks around them (myself included). The beauty is that because Commander is less competitive (for the most part) and the card pool is so vast, it often takes a while for cards to pick up in demand. This lag means a smart speculator can reap solid financial gains by digging in and finding the opportunities.
Right now this phenomenon is particularly relevant. We're seeing the same kind of excitement in the Commander community surrounding The Gitrog Monster.
Squandered Resources has already skyrocketed in value thanks in large part to this commander. Squandered Resources is a rare on the Reserved List (so its quantities are limited to what currently exists), it plays insanely well with The Gitrog Monster, and it was a powerful engine in an old combo deck (Pros Bloom).
In a stroke of luck I actually picked up 15 copies last week because some friends of mine want to start playing old Standard favorites against each other and nobody in our area had the cards for Pros Bloom, so I picked those up (but that's an idea for a future article).
This spike (along with my own search for the perfect Gitrog deck) got me thinking about other potential speculation targets for the deck. I've come up with a few currently.
Commander players (myself included) typically frown upon mass land destruction. I have a particular hatred for Armageddon, but in some of the more competitive scenes mass LD is viewed as a viable "control" strategy to help fight the mass ramp decks that are a large part of the format.
Natural Balance is another Reserved List rare from Mirage (so a lot fewer copies exist than newer rares) and likewise part of the old Pros Bloom deck (I picked up eight copies for myself). This one is particularly nasty with Squandered Resources as it can act as a huge mana generator and wreck your opponents' ramp plans.
Lake of the Dead is another Reserved List rare that serves as a continual source of self land destruction which, while not normally desirable in Commander, actually plays very well with The Gitrog Monster. It turns every swamp into 4 black mana and a card draw. It's also likely that most Gitrog decks will play land recursion so the pain is offset a bit.
This one has the added benefit of often finding a home in mono-black Commander decks and again being so old is much harder to find than you might think. I again picked up another eight of these (mainly because I traded off my personal one unknowingly and I like this spec a lot).
In Lotus Vale we have another Reserved List rare that requires the sacrifice of lands. It provides multiple mana, which is always highly desirable in a land thanks to numerous untap abilities available in the format. Its starting price is already near a recent high so the cost of this spec is a bit higher than I'd like, but for the sake of this article it's still a potential option.
With The Gitrog Monster out, Realms Uncharted is a tutor that puts two lands in your hand and draws two random cards---all for three mana at instant speed. This one is a few years old (with no reprints) and is near bulk status. This is the type of card that goes from $0.5 to $5 if it hits.
I like this particular one because the upfront cost is so low and it's a tutor for a very hard-to-deal-with permanent. That being said, cards that let your opponents make the decision typically have difficulties finding homes in ultra-competitive decks, so this could be one that's more limited in its demand.
A few of the Gitrog lists popping up feature Herald of Leshrac, a bizarre little gem from Coldsnap. That set was short-printed so we can expect supply to be relatively low.
Herald is capable of stealing a massive quantity of your opponents' lands. The downside is that because the lands are owned by your opponent they don't go to your graveyard to trigger the Gitrog's draw ability. However, because you have a continual source of land sacrifice it means when this guy eventually dies your opponents may not get all the lands taken back.
The other downside is that it's expensive. Cumulative upkeep is a pretty slow mechanic for Commander, especially on a seven-drop.
Ob Nixilis, the Fallen is an original Zendikar block mythic with a really powerful landfall ability. Similar to Omnath decks, I imagine Gitrog decks will play a lot of extra lands, both to make sure the frog is well fed and to take advantage of the attached Exploration effect. This means a lot of Ob Nixilis triggers and a powerful, cost-efficient threat.
Life from the Loam is a pretty obvious inclusion in this type of deck. It recurs lands indefinitely to keep The Gitrog Monster alive, and lets you retrigger all kinds of valuable land effects in the process.
It has a higher price tag thanks to Legacy/Modern demand, as well as several printings, but it could see some decent gains anyway. As you can see by the graph it has held a much higher price ceiling in the past, though that was before being reprinted in the Izzet vs. Golgari Duel Deck.
Titania, Protector of Argoth is one of the most commonly paired cards with The Gitrog Monster. Her ability is unique and powerful and she's only had one printing, in the green Commander 2014 deck. She started out with a lot of hype which slowly died down (along with her price).
Note how powerful her first ability can be given it's an enters-the-battlefield effect, so if you have a way to recast and/or blink her she can serve as a land recursion engine. While blinking is not really green or black's strong suit, they are the two colors best at recurring cards from the graveyard (with white being the other major player).
I hope this week's article gets your wheels spinning with regards to potential speculation opportunities for one of the funnest (in my opinion) potential commanders to come out in awhile. There are likely other speculation options I didn't run across in my search, so please feel free to let me know if you have any others in the comment section below.
Either way, you can bet I'm not the only one who's excited to build around The Gitrog Monster, and a whole rash of people are going to be looking for weird, old cards to pair with it. Commander specs may not be as exciting or high-profile as Modern or Standard, but when prices jump, the prepared investor benefits all the same.