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Insider: Ixalan Rotation Finance, Part Two

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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!

3 thoughts on “Insider: Ixalan Rotation Finance, Part Two

  1. Great analysis this week. Ive been accumulating positions in the cards you mentioned here, so I am going to keep reinforcing those positions, especially the x/1s.

    However, I think some discussion is warranted around new archtypes being delivered with Ixalan or not. In Adrian’s article this week he was thinking that Grixis pirates will be a thing. When I look at the core pieces, you have 2 good cards in the 2 drop slot, that do have some ability to scale as the game goes long, you have lords in 2cc and 4cc with metallic mimic and the legendary guy, and there is a playable 1 drop. So to me it looks like there are enough pieces for pirates to be at least tier 2. Cant tell you if that’s good enough to beat constrictor, rishkar, gearhulk, but Ive seen more deficient decks than pirates have success…namely Dark Ascension zombies, it had no 2 drops. I bring all this up since I am still trying to figure out whether its time to sell my metallic mimics or keep holding. On the other side of the coin, usually you need 2 sets of a block to get enough support for the new mechanics, and also KLD is one of the most powerful sets that Ive ever seen. These points support your speccing on older cards suggestion. If only we could get an inside man on the Team Channel Fireball house to tell us what decks are working in playtesting. Anyway great article.

    1. Thank you for the compliment Peter, and I always appreciate how thoroughly you read my articles!

      I’m not a believer in the pirate deck as it currently stands. As you noted, my name is also not Brad Nelson or Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa.

      Regarding Mimic, I could definitely see it going higher in the future, if not in response to Ixalan than in response to a future set. What I’d be looking for are more cards like Unclaimed Territory, Arcane Adaption, and Vanquisher’s Banner, cards that will help enable future tribal decks to succeed. Of those only Unclaimed Territory is truly compelling, but we may see another one spoiled in Ixalan or the next set. $4 is a decent price to sell at, nothing to be happy about but nothing to be sad about either.

      Are you going to be playing Standard this season? Any ideas what you’re going to play? Personally I’ll be brewing up versions of Infect/Pummeler. I’m going to test GR, UG, Temur, GB, Sulti, and Jund. Duress and Spell Pierce are very compelling sideboard options for an Infect-style deck.

      1. I play commander in shop once a week, and try to release a commander video on MTGO once a week. Sadly that eats up most of my free time, so squeezing in standard is pretty hard. However, I am actually very excited about the decks going into this standard season, so much so that I am going to try to fit in some standard play. In standard Ive had a lot of success with red over the years. So I think RDW and RG monsters look really interesting, but Jurassic Park is also one of my favorite movies so I think at some point I am going to have to jam some dinosaur tribal. Finally, if the meta is agro heavy I could see a place where UW turbo fog is a thing, with Gideon and stalling into approach the second sun. I don’t remember being this excited about a standard in quite some time. I am also excited about the delayed pro tour. I can try out some of these decks before the meta gets solved so I can actually have a fighting chance, at least until the pro tour happens then devolves into a 2-3 deck format. Yeah duress and spell pierce will big impacts on the format, I could definitely see a pummeler deck like that make its way back with those cards available.

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