It is almost Pro Tour time again. It feels weird, because Ixalan has been out forever and we still haven't gotten a Pro Tour to show us the way. Imagine Peter Frampton singing it: "I want Pro Tour to show me they way!..."
It is a fact that a ton of people wait until after the Pro Tour to decide upon which Standard deck they will invest in. It's not just the money and buying cards. People don't want to invest their time and energy into perfecting the ins and out of playing a deck until they feel confident that it's a proven winner. It feels bad to buy a deck and start practicing with it only to find that it wasn't that great of a choice in the first place!
The Pro Tour shows us what is up. It shows us what the winner's metagame will look like. It creates fanfare for Standard. The Pro Tour is the moment when the horn goes off and we officially usher in the new Standard format. I know it feels weird because the set has been around for a while, but people don't officially get excited for Standard until they get a chance to watch it being played at the PT.
Predicting the PT Ixalan Meta
Today I'd like to talk a little bit about what I'm anticipating at Pro Tour Ixalan. I've been putting in the hours practicing and testing, and I feel like I've got a pretty decent idea about what is likely to happen.
With that in mind, it is always helpful to build up the trade binders in preparation for the Pro Tour rather than afterwards. We know that people will be excited about the PT. We know that people will be looking to buy and trade for decks after the PT. Let's talk about which cards to target in order to make those trades a week from next Monday!
The Leading Archetypes
There are three major pieces on my radar: Ramunap Red, Temur Energy, and Blue-Based Control.
All of these archetypes have variation. Temur Energy can also be Sultai Energy or just splash black for The Scarab God and/or Hostage Taker. Blue-Based Control can be UB "grind 'em out" or UW Approach of the Second Sun. It isn't that you can only do three different things. It's more like there are three broadly defined archetypes under which the majority of deckbuilders will ultimately operate.
I haven't seen any great reason to assume the metagame won't be some configuration of these three archetypes. I've been scouring MTGO results and playing tons of leagues online and the pattern is clear. If there are secret decks out there they are well kept. Obviously that isn't impossible, but in this format, it is more likely that what you see is what you get.
So, let's move forward with that assumption. Today I'll be discussing the best-value, highest-demand cards that are inherently important to the super archetypes in Standard.
8. Fatal Push
Every deck playing black will have four in their 75. Heck, most decks in Modern playing black play four in the 75!
I have a sense about this card that it will level out over $10. It is such an omnipresent card in Modern and Standard that there is simply a ton of justifiable demand. It is on the same level as Path to Exile and Inquisition of Kozilek.
The biggest thing holding Push back is the possibility of a reprint in a Masters or Duel Deck product. Even so, I think demand will keep the tag high. Even if a reprint is coming at some point on the horizon (unlikely in the immediate future, considering the card was printed within the past year) the opportunity to capitalize now is high. I would trade for literally every Fatal Push put under my nose at current market price. It's a great pick-up right now with a likely high return on investment.
7. Bristling Hydra
Bristling Hydra is one of the premier creatures in Standard. The Temur and Sultai Midrange decks are happy to pack this multi-headed beatstick. Hail Hydra! Hail Hydra, indeed...
Standard is all about board presence and removal is everywhere. Well, everywhere except aimed at the many heads of the hexproof Bristling Hydra, that is!
It almost doesn't matter what the match-up is, the Hydra is great. That's why I believe the card is well positioned for some uptick at the Pro Tour. As long as I'm being honest about my feelings toward new Standard, there is a very high chance that I will be playing Energy and Hydra in Albequerque.
With that being said, I've been stocking up on the Hydra for a while now and will be quite happy to cash them out at a higher price point.
Glorybringer is a heck of a Magic card. Seriously, who doesn't love a good value Dragon? The value may be more than just on the battlefield.
Glorybringer is a mainstay in the Ramunap Red decks as well as the Temur Energy decks. I love the fact that the card has kept a relatively modest price tag for so long. If it turns out that Red and Temur are the premier strategies in the format, it makes sense that this card will rise in value as people clamor to pick them up for their decks.
I'm a big fan of foil and full-art versions of the card as well. I have seldom seen a card that has "Cube staple" so clearly written all over it.
5. Approach of the Second Sun
It doesn't matter which deck I'm playing—I always seen to struggle against the UW control decks in Standard. They are very good and certainly have the tools to compete with whatever Red or Midrange has to throw at them.
Given that I've struggled so mightily against UW online, I'm inclined to consider that the deck is better than I've given it credit for. If that is the case, it makes sense that UW Control could have a monster outing at PT Ixalan.
Approach of the Second Sun is the premier finisher for these decks and is just a tick above a bulk rare at the moment. If by chance UW becomes the "deck to beat" out of the PT gate, these silly rares could see significant upward movement.
If these can be found cheaply at market price, I think they are well worth the risk of holding onto for a couple of weeks until the PT results roll in.
4. Authority of the Consuls
Authority of the Consuls is an extremely important card in the Standard metagame. The card is the single most effective thing a player can do to combat the Ramunap Red menace!
The incidental life gain is nice. However, causing red's plethora of haste creatures to enter the battlefield tapped, thus negating haste, causes a ton of damage. It effectively creates a scenario (for the low, low price of W) where the red deck is always playing a turn behind schedule (not to mention their creatures trigger life gain for the opponent).
Many of the white decks like UW Control tend to have an unfavorable match-up against the all-in red aggro decks, but this card out of the board dramatically swings things in the other direction. I'm fairly certain that Authority of the Consuls is one of the most important cards in the format and, depending upon how things end up, this card could easily be in high demand.
3. Rampaging Ferocidon
Dinosaurs look like they may be a bust (cue ominous "for now..."), but the Ferocidon hits pretty darn hard!
Rampaging Ferocidon is a mainstay in all of my Ramunap Red decks. I always have the full four in the 75. While the card may typically be a sideboard staple, it is nonetheless important.
It is an all-star against Ramunap Red's worst match-up, UW Monument. Ferocidon takes away life gain and punishes those decks for trying to go wide. It basically demands a removal spell (of which they don't have a ton) or threatens to win the game singlehandedly.
I could easily see Ferocidon spiking hard after the PT if Ramunap Red puts up another strong Pro Tour finish, which I think is extremely likely.
2. Regal Caracal
But... The cat came back!
The cat never really went away. It has just steadily ticked upward in value over the past few months. "Catacal" is a serious way to fight against whatever is trying to attack you. It blocks for days and gains life. It is almost impossible to answer efficiently.
I've faced this card out of the sideboard of UW Monument and UW Control and it is a pain to deal with when you are forced into the beatdown role. The card is already kind of expensive but it looks like it will be a major player in this new metagame, which means it could easily end up as a money card in high demand. I don't really see the card dropping dramatically. Conversely, this is the kind of card a lot of people simply won't own coming out of the Pro Tour, and will need to pick up.
It's the perfect opportunity to make some extra cash. Also, I've had pretty good luck at plucking these out of dollar boxes that are not watched particularly closely. I mean, it was a bulk rare a few months ago. If you can find good deals, these are great to pick up and hold until after the PT.
1. The Scarab God
Copies of The Scarab God are already starting to spike up yet again. It's one of the most powerful threats in Standard, and the ultimate closer for any deck that needs to adopt the control in all its match-ups.
It is amazing how the card almost immediately flips the board and puts its controller in a position where they can suddenly become the aggressor.
I suspect the card will be a big game at the Pro Tour, which means it could easily continue spiking even after the event. I don't typically like investing in cards with such a steep buy-in that's already on an upswing, but in this case I think a few things are going on.
First, the card is obviously great with a proven pedigree. It is also a card that goes into a couple of different decks. Importantly, blue decks. The kind of blue decks that people love to play. Grindy blue decks.
Secondly, we haven't had a truly expensive Standard card in a while. You know, like a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I feel like The Scarab God has that kind of potential. No, it isn't Jace. Or even Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound. Nonetheless, I think this card could attain and sustain a big-budget price tag beyond where it is even now.
In order for the card to make the jump, it would need a solid Pro Tour finish. With that in mind, I'm not betting against The Scarab God in Standard. The card is busted as heck and I'd anticipate it putting a few decks into Top 8. After all, it is a card that is good at beating the kinds of decks that people love to play.
Bring on the Hype!
These are my picks for cards I think are nicely positioned to gain some value at PT Ixalan. Feel free to drop your ideas in the comments below. I'm always down to hear some solid investment ideas as well.
Whatever you do, don't wait until it's too late. Take a look at the decks and anticipate where things are headed. As long as you are doing that, you'll be in a good position to make some nice acquisitions before the PT hype kicks in and pushes up the prices!