This week, we're continuing the series on rotation finance. See part one here. Part two will begin with a focus on the rotating planeswalkers.
The loss of most of Standard's best planeswalkers will dramatically affect the Standard Magic landscape. I feel it is best left up to professional players to tell us what changes to expect from a Standard format without many all-star planeswalkers, but what we do know is that the only all-star planeswalker remaining in Standard is Chandra, Torch of Defiance. We've now seen two of the new three planeswalkers, and both seem like fringe playables at first glance. What we can do, though, is see if we can glean what cards were seeing less play because of the rotating planeswalkers.
(4) Chandra, Flamecaller & Ob Nixilis Reignited
For starters, Chandra, Flamecaller's exodus from the format reaffirms what I said in part one regarding the Ramp archetype: it should die unless we see some insane top-end cards spoiled. This Chandra served both as a board wipe and a win condition, and those are the sorts of threats that Ramp needs to be a competitive deck. As I said last week, I'd wait to speculate on cards in the ramp archetype, in particular on Hour of Promise. I'm still waiting for that card to fall to the 0.25- to 0.50-tix range before investing.
Ob Nixilis Reignited and Sorin, Grim Nemesis are also rotating, shortening the bench of sideboard midrange-value all-stars. Which cards could step up to the plate? The clear favorites are Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and The Scarab God, but both of them sit at all-time highs, and I'd be loathe to invest in either at their current price points. What you, dear reader, should ask yourself is whether Skysovereign and The Scarab God will bury all their competition or whether some other cards that fulfill similar roles could see play. I'm personally skeptical.
Some Potential Targets
What is frustrating is that the market has already begun moving on many of my favorite targets that could increase in price due to rotation, and truth be told, it has been for the whole month of August. This was not the case for my Hour of Devastation series, suggesting that speculators have been focusing more on rotation and less on the normal pattern of a set's value that Matt Lewis and I here at Quiet Speculation like to exploit.
Cards functionally similar to Ob Nixilis will always see play in Standard – drawing cards and removing threats will always be in style. While most might view Liliana, Death's Majesty as his successor, the truth of the matter is that Ajani Unyielding and Noxious Gearhulk bear a stronger resemblance to it. If Ajani returns to 1.00 to 1.25 tix, I think he is worthy of your consideration as a speculation target. Likewise for Noxious Gearhulk below 1.50 tix. Nissa, Vital Force's price movement has mirrored that of Ajani Unyielding; however, I'm less enthusiastic about her since I'm not sure what she can do for you that other options cannot. Don't invest in her unless she is 0.75 tix or below.
(5) Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana, the Last Hope is a rotating planeswalker that puts a real pressure on the format, discouraging the use of one-toughness creatures. There are a whole host of one-toughness creatures that become better that are worthy of your consideration as speculation targets.
Some Potential Targets
Adorned Pouncer and Syndicate Trafficker are intrinsically powerful cards that have yet to see play. Earthshaker Khenra and Bomat Courier have already proven themselves and stand to get a little bit better. Likewise with Electrostatic Pummeler, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Metallic Mimic, and Glory-Bound Initiate.
I have always liked Glory-Bound Initiate as an investment, but the cards that I think get significantly better over the near-term as a result of Liliana leaving the format are Earthshaker Khenra, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Metallic Mimic, and Electrostatic Pummeler. Electorstatic Pummeler has been falling for the past several weeks, and I definitely like speculating on it if it reaches somewhere in the 0.05- to 0.07-tix range; none of the G/R Pummeler deck rotates from Standard at rotation.
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is a card I really like moving forward. I've invested in many copies already. Although I wouldn't want to invest at the current price of 0.90 tix, I do like it as a speculation target between 0.60 and 0.75 tix. The boat has probably already sailed on Metallic Mimic. Speculators are very high on the card because of the tribal themes in Ixalan, causing its price to rise from 2.00 tix to 4.00 tix during August. I definitely want to avoid speculating on it at 4.00 tix, but if you can buy your playsets for playing between 2.00 and 3.00 tix, then I would. Earthshaker Khenra is a speculation target I still like, and I still recommend buying in between 1.15 to 1.25 tix. The reprint of Lightning Strike goes a long way to ensuring that Red Deck Wins will survive rotation. Now all we need are some red one-drops! Adorned Pouncer is at its lowest price ever, and I'm definitely intrigued to speculate on it now that it's creeping toward the 0.05 to 0.15 tix range.
(6) Ixalan Mechanics and First Impressions
One of the bigger differences between speculation in paper versus online is that there is more room to speculate really early on in a set's life in paper than online. As other writers focused on paper talk about Ixalan, I and others who focus on MTGO talk about Hours of Devastation and other earlier sets. To any of my readers who are new to Magic or to MTGO, please know this: do not do any investing in ditial Ixalan product for the first several weeks of the set's release. Although a practice that in my view has always been bad, the only reason to possibly consider investing early has been taken away – the Pro Tour is being pushed back several weeks. Thus, you're not going to get rewarded for having the prophetic abilities of Jeremiah and Isaiah as you might have in the past. What we can do with Ixalan is see whether the mechanics and early spoilers should incline us to speculate on any older cards.
The mechanics of Ixalan are raid, enrage, and explore. At the moment, I'm reluctant to make any concrete investment action based upon what we have seen thus far. Some important themes in the set are tribalism, artifacts that flip into utility lands, and Treasure artifact tokens. There are some general things that I can point out that hopefully will help you make sound investment decisions.
First is that Treasure tokens works as well with improvise as Clue tokens did – they don't double up on ramping into improvise payoffs because Treasures require you to sacrifice and tap them. So improvise and artifact all-stars like Inspired Statuary, Herald of Anguish and Tezeret the Schemer are not necessarily going to become competitive staples. In their favor is that improvise payoffs, like the cards that produce Treasure tokens, are in Grixis colors.
Second is that enrage as a mechanic is one uniquely hostile to red. Thus far, we've only seen one Constructed-worthy card with enrage, Ripjaw Raptor, but if we see more potent green threats with enrage, I'm going to grow more concerned about red remaining a dominant control color. I'm not concerned now about my speculation on Hour of Devastation, but I am definitely keeping my eye out for other playable enrage cards as spoilers roll in.
Third is that, to date, no spoiled card or group of cards has led me to think that we'll be seeing a brand new Standard competitive archetype forged largely out of Ixalan cards. This means that you should be more confident than usual in speculating on older cards, and you should not fret as much about whether your Standard deck is going to lose tons of value as its competitiveness fades.
Right now, it looks like the way that Ixalan will most affect Standard is through changes to the Standard mana base. Losing the enemy-colored manlands and getting an allied cycle that plays nicely with the allied-colored Amonkhet cycling lands will definitely affect Standard. Aggressive linear pure-aggro decks will be heavily inclined to be mono-color, tribal to make use of Unclaimed Territory, energy-based to make use of Aether Hub, or artifact-based to make use of Spire of Industry. In general, enemy color combinations will be slightly discouraged, and allied color combinations slightly encouraged.
Signing Off - Iconic Masters Reveal is this Weekend!!
A copy of my investment portfolio can be seen here.
How do y'all feel about Ixalan? Excited for Draft and Standard? Please let me know in the comments below, and as always, I will try to answer all questions posed to me in the comments.
I want to call attention to one thing this week: HASCON is this weekend, and cards found in Iconic Masters will be revealed. In what manner they will be revealed I don't know. However, for those of y'all with investments in Eternal cards, this is a particularly scary time. I have preemptively sold off some cards I had wanted to hold longer (Daze, Pyroblast, Hydroblast, Griselbrand) and am concerned about my fetchlands. I don't necessarily recommend such drastic action, but I do absolutely recommend being more hawkish about checking social media this weekend and having ready access to MTGO so you can fire-sell should one or more of your investments be seeing a reprint.
Going forward, if Wizards continues to pump out multiple Masters sets per year, I don't think I will continue investing in Modern and Eternal staples as I did with Modern Masters 2017. I hope y'all had a good Labor Day Weekend, and I'll see you next time!