Welcome back, readers!
As soon as I saw WoTC's announcement last week I posted my thoughts in the forums, but today I want to dig a bit deeper. There were a lot of things announced so I'll simply do my analysis in segments related to each announcement. But first take a look at the announcement itself if you haven't seen it yet.
"Pirate Vraska battles Dinosaurs."
So Ixalan is a plane with large oceans populated by pirates and feathery dinosaurs. This is a lot to take in—talking with people at my LGS, it seems the more casual players are pretty excited about this theme. Others (like myself) picture a writer going to a Hollywood studio to pitch this idea for a movie getting laughed out of the building.
Despite the very imaginative theme, both these creature types have existed in Magic before (though not really together). Let's look at some potential cards that might end up gaining demand due to creature type, should the theme be pushed.
Interestingly enough, we actually have zero tournament legal creatures in Magic's history with a subtype of Dinosaur (with the only exception being Old Fogey from Unhinged). Even Allosaurus Rider is an Elf (given he is the one riding the Allosaurus).
That said, dinosaurs have been represented on Magic cards before, using the creature type Lizard. These cards may be slated for a creature type update to bring them in line with the new tribe. Most of these are older cards with little speculative potential (Pygmy Allosaur, Shivan Raptor), but a few could be playable alongside the new Dinosaur cards (Deathmist Raptor).
We have a few more options for Pirate (there are 14 cards with the subtype Pirate) though it's fair to say that many of them are bulk commons/uncommons. However, there are a few interesting ones that haven't been printed in a long time that might be worth taking a look at.
It's a Portal: Second Age rare, it's blue, and it lets you draw cards. As a five-drop 1/1 this normally wouldn't turn heads, but a cool legendary Pirate in the set might entice casuals to build a pirate EDH deck. In that case I imagine this guy will be included, simply because the Pirate subtype is so limited, and he at least has a somewhat useful ability.
Kari is an interesting one because she's from Aether Revolt (one of two Pirates in the set, the other being Skyship Plunderer). The challenge I see with this one is that she's the only red Pirate currently available (unless you count changelings) and almost all the others are blue. Wizards did state that the Pirate tribe is affiliated with Grixis colors, so she still might be relevant.
Here's Magic's first Pirate (at least the first with the subtype), and he's a Legends uncommon with no reprints. Unfortunately, he is also a 4/3 first striker for six mana—so outside of someone really trying to force a Pirate-themed EDH deck, he is not really designed to be a commander.
This seems like one of those cards that will get bought out by some speculator. The price will go up briefly because of it, and then they will realize there is no real demand and they'll be left holding a bunch of them in a box of shame... Please don't be that speculator.
Last but not least, we have the only rare Pirate from Mercadian Masques (there are a few pirates in this set). The foils of this card already spiked (though the reasoning is not currently known) and while the ability looks somewhat playable, it's a 3/2 flyer for five mana. The only type of deck I'd play this in is one that can blink it repeatedly as a way to make your opponents sacrifice a lot of permanents.
Duel Decks: Merfolk vs. Goblins
This is an announcement which might have a bit more financial relevance. It's interesting that this is the second Duel Deck featuring the Goblin tribe (they were in the very first one versus Elves).
Merfolk will likely have the greater financial relevance here, as some powerful Merfolk, particularly in Lorwyn block, have so far escaped reprints. Their current price reflects this scarcity. If any end up in the Duel Deck we will likely see a significant drop in price, especially since several are uncommons.
All three are staples in both Modern and Legacy Merfolk decks, but any reprinting would likely tank the value (especially if multiples are included in the deck). The other card to watch for is Master of the Pearl Trident, another staple of Modern and Legacy Merfolk with just a single printing.
There are a lot of good Goblins throughout Magic's history, however, many have been reprinted (some numerous times). The one I'd most watch for is Warren Instigator. It's more of a casual favorite then a competitive one—mostly because the Goblin tribe has suffered since the rise of Miracles—with a single printing (at mythic in Zendikar). A reprinting would tank the price.
They announced that the From the Vault set for this year is focused on double-faced cards, which is a very limited group of cards. This is honestly a bit disappointing (at least to me and most of the people I've talked to so far). If you do a search for double-faced cards there are only 16 worth more than $2 currently:
- Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
- Kytheon, Hero of Akros
- Liliana, Heretical Healer
- Archangel Avacyn
- Arlinn Kord
- Thing in the Ice
- Bloodline Keeper
- Delver of Secrets
- Elbrus, the Binding Blade
- Garruk Relentless
- Gisela, the Broken Blade
- Mayor of Avabruck
- Huntmaster of the Fells
- Westvale Abbey
That doesn't leave a lot of room for conjecture. It's entirely possible that they will put in something like Duskwatch Recruiter or maybe a few other lower-priced transform cards as well, but either way I don't really see Jace, Vryn's Prodigy as a true driving force behind the product.
In previous iterations we had Mox Diamond, Berserk, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Dark Depths. At the time, these cards were over $50 each (except Mox Diamond). The most expensive card on the list above is Jace, Vryn's Prodigy at $25.
Given that MSRP is $35 for these sets, WoTC doesn't have to put too much in them to balance out with the MSRP. Keep in mind that once they are released, the value of each card tends to drop some so they tend to overshoot MSRP.
Return to Dominaria
For those who aren't aware, a lot of the original Magic storylines took place on the plane of Dominaria. This includes Invasion block, Ice Age block, Onslaught block, Odyssey block, Time Spiral block, and some of Urza's block. It also includes Antiquties, The Dark, Legends, Prophecy, Mirage, and Visions. That's a ton of Magic sets—and a lot of potential mechanics that could return.
There are also some really cool characters from Dominaria, the most famous being Urza and Mishra. We did get Mishra, Artificer Prodigy in Time Spiral, but we have never seen an actual Urza card (unless you count the Vanguard one). Other interesting characters without cards include Tawnos, Ashnod, the planeswalker Serra, Yawgmoth, and several of the Weatherlight crew.
This is likely going to be a popular set with older players, who grew up playing cards from Weatherlight to Apocalypse and enjoyed the story arch between the sets. I don't know what type of financial relevance to expect from this announcement though; the only risk I see is in any higher-dollar cards from these sets that haven't been mass-reprinted yet (i.e. in a major released set). These include cards like Grove of the Burnwillows, Horizon Canopy, Phyrexian Altar, and Sliver Legion.
25th Edition Masters Set
So we get yet another Masters set (which will put us at four in a two-year time span). With the Masterpieces from the last three blocks, I am really starting to wonder if any cards have any long-term speculation potential any more. This type of release is yet another way to mass-reprint cards without risking them warping Standard due to power level.
While the previously announced Iconic Masters set coming out later this year seems to be focused on iconic creatures in Magic, we don't know much about the 25th Edition Masters set. So at this time financial opportunities are basically null. Keep an eye out when more information starts to come out.
Reintroducing Core Sets
It seems WoTC realized that while core sets sold worse than regular block sets, they still served an important purpose. They allow a way to introduce the game to newer players (typically by limiting the mechanics in core sets). They're also a way to reprint cards that don't fit a block theme, or add cards to the Modern card pool (à la Scavenging Ooze).
I'm actually happy to see this return as I liked that core sets could allow WoTC to add to the card pool of both Standard and Modern without being hamstrung by block mechanics or design intent.
The only financial information I can glean from this is that we should feel less "safe" holding onto medium-term speculation targets. Some cards are more insulated from reprints because they won't fit the theme of a set or block, but that doesn't prevent their inclusion in core sets (see Akroma's Memorial and Darksteel Forge).
WoTC is finally doing another "Un" set after 13 years (yes, it's been 13 years since we saw Unhinged). These sets tended to be opened in much smaller quantities (as the cards weren't legal in any format). The big draw for competitive players were the full-art lands which, until Zendikar, were limited to Un-sets.
I never drafted any of these sets, but players around here seem excited about the return of Un-sets. The real challenge will be that outside of "fun drafts" the only way for WoTC to move a lot of the product will likely be with beautiful full-art lands. Thanks to Zendikar, Battle for Zendikar, and Amonkhet, they've degraded the value of adding full-art lands to products. However, arguably, all it would take is some breathtaking artwork or an increase in rarity to boost sales.
From the financial side, I would consider unloading older foil full-art lands (especially from Unhinged) as all it takes is a new "favorite" artwork and demand will drop.
Those are my thoughts regarding the announcements from this week. Next week I'll delve into the Ixalan spoilers released this past week (against WoTC's desire) and discuss some of their potential financial ramifications.