Welcome back, readers!
Rotation is still almost two months away, so you might think it's not time to start thinking about it. However, we've seen a pretty consistent cyclical trend of the cards closest to rotation slowly dropping in price as we near it. We can see this with Fleecemane Lion below.
Now the beauty of rotation is that it's a known entity. Everyone can look up online and find out which sets will rotate out of Standard and when. I can't really think of another investment opportunity in life where there is a known and expected sudden drop in demand cyclically. Rotation offers a lot of opportunity for the savvy investor.
The biggest challenges is picking the right cards.
It used to be that you'd typically see everything drop across the board. Thanks to WoTC's support and growth of the Modern format, Modern staples tend to dip very little when they rotate. Here's the chart for Stomping Ground.
Here we see a pretty sudden drop of about $1, then it holds steady through rotation and finally drops slightly post-rotation. While we still see the price decline, compared to Fleecemane Lion the percentage reduction is markedly different. In the three-month period before rotation you see that Fleecemane saw a loss in value of ($3.8 - $1.5) / $3.8 = 60%. Stomping Ground saw a reduction of ($9.5 - $9) / $9.5 = 5.3%.
That's a dramatic difference, but one a lot of people would have expected. The reason is because people now know that there will still be demand for Modern-playable cards post-rotation.
Now I bring all this up because we know that Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir rotate out of Standard on September 30th, 2016. So we have already entered the time frame where we expect to see the majority of the cards from these sets start declining. The time to pick them up is now; the question is which ones are worth it.
1. Kolaghan's Command
This Modern all-star has heavily declined in the past few months (dropping by over 50% from its previous high). It's seen some play in Standard, but the current value is heavily driven by Modern.
Though Grixis Delver and Grixis Control decks seem to be in decline currently, the archetypes are powerful and when they do see a surge again, this card will surely rise in value. It also slots perfectly into the value-oriented Jund, a popular archetype that puts up pretty consistent results.
I don't expect any of those archetypes to suddenly increase their share of the metagame before Kaladesh comes out, so it will likely continue to drift downward, but it's not a bad target currently.
2. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
This once-proud pillar of Standard has dropped dramatically with the loss of the fetchlands on the last rotation. Flipping Jace now takes a bit more work and he's fallen out of favor in the Bant Company decks which have reared their ugly heads yet again. However, he's also a very decent pseudo-Snapcaster Mage in Modern and also found a home in the old Grixis Control lists from months back.
I still very rarely see copies of Jace in trade binders and I've had it up on my PucaTrade want list for over a month with no bites. The buy-in is still very high for a card about to rotate out of Standard---but that high price, despite its lack of play, is an indicator that many players/speculators expect him to return to previous heights.
I personally don't know if I agree with that, but he could easily jump back to $45-$50 should Grixis Control decks experience a resurgence in Modern.
3. Atarka's Command
We're seeing a resurgence in Zoo decks in Modern. The Naya variants typically run Atarka's Command as it often equates to 6+ damage for two mana. It also serves as a Skullcrack which helps these decks prevent opponents from stabilizing. Similar to Kolaghan's Command above, we see that in the past few months it's already dropped by over 50% of its value. To be fair, we've seen the aggro red decks of last year get pushed out by the white Human decks in Standard this year, so it really doesn't have much of a home in Standard at this time.
Similar to Kolaghan's Command, I expect this will continue to trend downward as we get closer to rotation, but I don't think it will stay down for too long. We have a good number of local players on the Naya Zoo plan, and it's a very fast and consistent deck (and thanks to having white has some solid sideboard options to fight the format).
4. Den Protector
Another former Standard all-star that's fallen on hard times, Den Protector is the first card on our list I like for Commander (rather than Modern playability). I know it's basically a more mana-intensive Eternal Witness and it can't be abused with blink effects, but it's still a very powerful Regrowth effect in a format that likes to re-use its powerful cards whenever it can.
If this card ever hits $1.50 I'll likely pick up quite a few, as come rotation I'll simply be moving my copies out of Standard decks and straight into Commander decks. It also helps that it's mono-green, meaning 1) it's in the most powerful color in Commander, and 2) it can go into a large variety of color combinations.
5. Liliana, Heretical Healer
This is another of my Commander picks. The double black in Liliana, Heretical Healer // Liliana, Defiant Necromancer's mana cost does make her a little trickier to cast. But in Commander sacrificing creatures is a pretty natural occurrence (let alone chump-blocking) and her ability to return non-legendary creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield is extremely powerful. As with Den Protector she's mono-colored which allows her to fit into a lot of decks (or be the commander of one).
6. Dragonlord Dromoka
Dromoka has typically been a sideboard card in a few Standard decks last year, but for the most part hasn't really made any big waves in the format. She provides a decent body with lifelink and flying for six mana, but her most important ability is her last one. Preventing your opponents from casting spells during your turn is a very powerful ability in Commander.
For those unaware, City of Solitude recently spiked in price. This card sees very little play in tournament formats, and if players are excited by the enchantment version, you can bet they'll like it when a dragon comes tacked on.
Now Dromoka does have her downsides. She's dual color, so the decks that can play her are more limited, she costs six for this effect, and unlike City of Solitude she doesn't stop abilities. The upside is she is legendary so she can be a commander and she doesn't stop the owner from casting spells on opponents' turns. I can definitely remember a few games in which my own City came back to bite me when an opponent combo'd off on their turn free from the rest of us interfering.
7. Sphinx's Tutelage
Tutelage may be one of the more controversial picks on my list, not because it doesn't have a lot of potential, but because it has already spiked from $1 to $3.5 relatively recently and is only now starting to drop in value. This is the type of uncommon I love. Mill players love to mill people and they will continue to do it as long as this game we love exists.
I can honestly see this being a $5 uncommon (barring any reprints) in the next two years. The ability is tournament-worthy (there was a decent U/R Tutelage deck in Standard for a brief period of time) and the fact that it triggers from you drawing a card (which is something you want to do anyways) really makes it a promising spec long-term.