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Insider: Ixalan MTGO Speculation, Part II

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Welcome back to part two of the review I do for every set, going over the investment potential of important cards in each one. In case you missed it, you can check out part one here. Redemption has started, Innistrad flashback drafts have begun and the set value for Ixalan has risen by about $1 since last week, now sitting at $72.58 according to MTGGoldfish. As we can see in Ixalan's price history, the set stopped depreciating in value very quickly, much more quickly than any large set in recent memory.

That means that now is a good time to begin thinking about speculating on Ixalan cards, and I'm here today to help you do just that! In this article I will cover the uncommons, and in the next article, I will cover the rares. If you have not yet read my Investment Level Up on uncommons, then you may want to take a look, since investing in uncommons is a different experience and places different demands on you as the investor than do rares or mythics.

What is great about uncommons is that they tend to offer the highest percentage return on investment. In Amonkhet block, I invested in three uncommons, and thus far, I'm happy with how they're turning out. Supreme Will has experienced exponential growth already, and both Censor and Doomfall have gone from bulk to hovering in the 0.06- to 0.10-tix range, indicating that they are both poised for a spike in future months (probably next spring or summer).

Ixalan is an interesting set with regard to uncommons, because it offers some manifestly powerful uncommon cards, yet these cards often seem narrower and more niche. Instead of Doomfall or Transgress the Mind, we get Kitesail Freebooter. And the only uncommon in Ixalan that looks like many of the uncommon cards that have yielded good returns is a card that not too long ago saw multiple printings as a common: Lightning Strike.

Nevertheless, I believe that several Ixalan uncommons have what it takes to rise significantly in value next spring into next summer. Let's dig in!

(1) Unclaimed Territory

There isn't all that much precedence for an uncommon five-color land that comes into play untapped with a drawback or restriction. Two of record – Gemstone Mine and Ancient Ziggurat – were printed before their price data was tracked by MTGGoldfish, so we really have only Aether Hub to look to for guidance. Aether Hub could have been reasonably bought for 0.20 tix and sold for 0.75 tix, meaning that it would have made for a good investment. The challenge with Unclaimed Territory is that it is both more narrow, in that it doesn't want you to cast non-creature spells, and it needs a tribal deck to be competitive in Standard.

There are some things going for it. It is seeing play in both Modern and Legacy (I saw it in play at the SCG Legacy tournament as I sat down to write this article), which gives it a certain baseline floor of demand. Further, it itself is an incentive to play tribal, similar to how Aether Hub and Spire of Industry enable energy- and artifact-focused decks to have proactive gameplans with consistent mana bases beyond two-colors.

What Unclaimed Territory really needs is for Rivals of Ixalan to enable groups of Ixalan Block cards to constitute the core shell of a competitive Standard strategy. Right now, Ixalan provides roleplayer cards for a Kaladesh world, and Unclaimed Territory will not climb above 0.50 tix so long as that remains the case. Unclaimed Territory will receive a second chance once Kaladesh rotates if nothing changes in January, so it gets two cracks at bat.

What scares me the most about the card is that it doesn't want your deck to have non-creature spells; it wants your deck to be hyper-linear in a way few decks are. Even linear aggro decks want to cast their Incendiary Flows, Lightning Strikes, and Fatal Pushes. What scares me to a lesser degree is that while I think it somewhat likely that one tribal deck may find its way into competitive Standard, usually you want your uncommons to see play in a diverse array of decks and strategies, not just one. I think I'm willing to speculate on this card if it descends to true bulk status (0.01 tix and below), but if you're more of a believer than I am, I think it's reasonable to buy in between 0.01 and 0.03 tix. This one definitely feels more risky than the cards I discuss in the rest of the article.

Consider buying Unclaimed Territory at: 0.01 to 0.02 tix

(2) Walk the Plank

Walk the Plank is a powerful Magic card that will see some amount of Standard play over the next two years. This is the sort of card that historically has seen price spikes after it is no longer drafted. The reason why I likely won't be investing in this card is that it is in the list of MTGO Player Reward Promos. It has walked its own plank. I suppose I don't think you can go wrong if it gets down to 0.01 tix, but I don't think that the card will have a moderate to high sell window at a price above 0.30 tix. I do believe that some amount of profitable return will be realizable here, but it will be significantly less than it would be without the promo increasing its supply every month.

Consider buying Walk the Plank at: 0.01 tix

(3) Ixalan's Binding

I admit that it surprised me that Ixalan's Binding is seeing play in Standard. I presumed that Cast Out would be universally preferred, but it turns out that the increase in power level is worth it in some decks.  The question is whether it will be able to rise above bulk status. For reference, Stasis Snare could have been bought at 0.01 tix and reasonably sold at 0.33 tix. The fact that Stasis Snare, in competition with no other card, couldn't make it up to 0.50 tix in the era of Emrakul, the Promised End makes me wary that Ixalan's Binding will prove to be a good investment. I think this card will need the next Standard rotation to realize the possibility of a decent return on investment. I'd spend my money elsewhere.

For those of you considering investing in Cast Out, I think that the printing of Ixalan's Binding should make you Think Twice.

(4) Lightning Strike

There are some financial signs that this card could be a good investment – it's not true bulk and is hovering around 0.04 tix. Importantly, all versions are hovering around 0.04 tix. Usually a price valuation like that indicates that the market isn't completely supersaturated with the card, meaning that there is room for growth. What is true about the Ixalan lands in my discussion of them is ostensibly equally true here. And absent earlier printings, this is the sort of card that definitely would find its way to the 1.00- to 2.00-tix range. Even still, I'm deeply skeptical – but maybe I shouldn't be. I would be surprised if this card's value rose over 0.50 tix (meaning that I'd be shocked that it could be reasonably sold for more than 0.30 tix). Nevertheless, I think it is a fairly conservative investment if you buy in between 0.01 and  0.02 tix. I don't believe that come next summer you'll have to sell these to bulk bots, but securing a few pennies from a bot buying Standard cards.

Consider buying Lightning Strike at: 0.01 tix

(5) Chart a Course

Chart a Course is the one uncommon in Ixalan that I am genuinely excited about speculating on. It is an undercosted draw spell, at the sweet spot of one to two CMC, that has wider applications than most draw spells since you can use it to fuel your graveyard (*cough*, I mean help you search for Azcanta). It is seeing play in Legacy, Vintage and Standard already, and I think it has the potential to spike to 1.00 or 1.50 tix in the future. I like, too, that it works well with Jace, Cunning Castaway and likely with the pirates that will be printed in Rivals of Ixalan.

The question I have is how greedy to be when choosing a buy price. I saw it dip to 0.03 tix briefly today, but its stable floor has been roughly 0.04 to 0.06 tix. I'm going to snag any that fall to 0.02 tix and below, and I may start buying them at 0.03 or 0.04 tix in the near future.

Consider buying Chart a Course at: 0.02 to 0.06 tix

(6) Powerful Early Drops

I suspect that many of you are considering at least one of these as a potential speculation target. Of these, I think Kitesail Freebooter, Merfolk Branchwalker and Vicious Conquistador have the best chance to rise above bulk in the future. With that said, I don't even have faith that these three will see meaningful time north of 0.50 tix in the future.

Longtusk Cub, for example, has yet to rise above 0.20 tix. In Merfolk Branchwalker's case, I don't think that significant and genuine modern demand alone will make its price hit that 0.50 tix benchmark.  If any of these were artifacts and could thus fit into a greater multitude of potential decks I'd be more optimistic about them. And with Duress in the format, I don't think Kitesail Freebooter will be able to see play outside of tribal decks in Standard.

With so many better options available to you in Ixalan, I think I'd pass these up in favor of others. There's an off-chance I'll invest in Branchwalker, but I'll do so only at true bulk prices. Keep a playset of some of these from your drafting in case you want to play with them, but don't expect to make money speculating on them.

Signing Off

Thanks for reading, folks, and I hope that my analysis clarified some things and proved valuable to you. A snapshot of my portfolio and recent transactions can be found here. All in all, Ixalan appears to offer a greater number of potential uncommon investment targets, but many of them look to me like cards with lower-than-ideal ceilings. Nevertheless, there is definitely money to be made here, so don't skip over these tiny stocks!

Because I can't discuss all the rares, please tell me which ones you want me to discuss in the next installment of this series so that I'm more likely to relay information that matters to you. And as always, I look forward to reading and replying to your questions and comments below.

4 thoughts on “Insider: Ixalan MTGO Speculation, Part II

  1. Hi Kyle, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Settle the Wreckage, Sunbird’s Invocation, and all of the flip cards that aren’t Search for Azcanta in your next article. I know Adrian Tan covered some of these as well but I’m starting to dabble in some standard speculation so any insight would be very helpful. I’m presuming this week is a great week to be buying standard cards with the Pro Tour happening next weekend and should lead to some great selling opportunities over the weekend and into next week.

    1. Thanks for the requests George. I’ll be sure to cover those cards in my next article.

      Regarding speculating this week – the PT is very unpredictable, and I think there is a decent amount of room for surprise at the tournament. There is definitely a lot of money to be made if you predict the metagame correctly or correctly predict a breakout performance for a certain card. If I were to go to Vegas to wager on a surprise, I’d place my money on a Ruin Raider – Glint Sleeve Siphoner shell or on a Search for Azcanta and Champion of Wits value deck. A Sunbird deck would be my third choice. I don’t normally try to play the PT Finance Speculation game, and I don’t think I will be doing that this go around either.

      Let me also say that I don’t think it’s essential to make your Ixalan investments this week – if anything, I think the ideal period during which to buy Ixalan cards will extend through Christmas. I do think that Ixalan more or less has bottomed out in price, so I think you’ve begun investing in Ixalan at the right time 🙂

  2. Hey Kyle,

    Just curious with uncommons and other close to bulk price standard cards, how many copies do you usuaully go after? Is there sweet spot between risk and reward? Ive generally maxed out around 100 on things like stasis snare, stormchaser mage, and reflector mage. Just wondering if you had any limits on quantity.

    1. I don’t think of it as a matter of risk vs. reward with the uncommons – the risk is generally minimal. It’s more that the more copies you have, the smaller the rate of return will be because you can’t move all your copies at peak prices. I’ve generally been happy investing in about 100 copies of any given uncommon.

      Large sets are generally more unforgiving than small sets regarding the quality of sell window. While I think the quality of sell window for a card like Supreme Will would be high regardless of set, I’m unsure I would have invested in 100 copies of Doomfall had it been in a large fall set (I might have opted for 50-75 copies instead).

      Dealing with rares at bulk prices is a bit different as those cards increase in value more sporadically and less frequently. I’m still trying to learn about this facet of MTGO finance, and some price trajectories I find interesting are Bomat Courier, Baral’s Expertise, Aetherwind Basilisk, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, Key to the City, and Metalwork Colossus. I have yet to commit more than 30 copies to any of these sorts of cards, indicating a hesitancy and a lack of faith in them. It’s not easy to have faith in a $0.01 rare.

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