Insider: The Mystery of Vraska and Carnage Tyrant

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As many readers of my weekly column know, I have expressed consternation at the ability of six-mana mythics Carnage Tyrant and Vraska, Relic Seeker to sustain exceedingly high prices. In a recent weekly video on the state of MTGO finance, Chas Andres made mention of the same phenomenon, claiming that Carnage Tyrant simply hasn't been seeing the amount of play to be justifying its price tag.  What my readers don't know is that I've read every Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story and novel covering the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and this week we are going to level up our speculation skills as we investigate the mystery of this Ixalan duo in light of historical trends.

A higher baseline and median price for six-mana mythics seems to have continued with The Immortal Sun, and I wonder whether we are entering a new era for six-mana mythics. Carnage Tyrant has not seen an exponentially higher amount of play than did Dragonlord Dromoka or Dragonlord Silumgar, yet look at its price history in comparison to comparable six-mana mythics from yesteryear.

The table above contains the cards most similar in function to Carnage Tyrant and Vraska, Relic Seeker over the past five years, and what immediately strikes us is that they are commanding prices double or triple what we would have expected them to just a few years ago. Historically these sorts of cards have commanded an average price between 2.00 and 5.00 tix during their time in Standard, but our Ixalan duo thus far has more than doubled that, clocking in north of 10.00 tix.

What say ye, Dr. Watson?

(I) Carnage Tyrant is behaving more like the only two elite six-mana mythics of the past five years.

It's exceedingly rare for six-mana cards to define Standard, and these are the only two that have done so since I recommenced playing Magic back in 2013.

Carnage Tyrant doesn't shape Standard like either Torrential Gearhulk nor Elspeth, Sun's Champion, yet its price trajectory and median price resemble those of those two powerhouses. Going forward, I am going to be elevating my expected price floors for Standard-playable cards like The Immortal Sun and Carnage Tyrant. This will be especially true if Brawl picks up steam.

(II) Mythics perceived as being unplayable in Standard are acting in line with historical trends.

In the above data table, we see that there has been no discernable change in how junk mythics behave. Much like the junk mythics in the converted four- and five-mana category, these junk mythics are not worth your time investing in. While some prove to be okay investments, the average rate of growth on these cards is a meager 65-percent, meaning you'd likely see a 30- or 40-percent rate of return on your investment. There are better investment opportunities and strategies to pursue.

(III) Six-Mana Mythics have fewer price spikes. Compare the price graphs below carefully.

Torrential Gearhulk and Elspeth, Sun's Champion's price graphs resemble the price graphs of mythics that cost between one and five mana and are the outliers that prove the rule. As I was doing the research for this article, I quickly began noticing how few in number the price spikes on these cards were. Descend upon the Sinful and Noxious Gearhulk were typical – both saw one significant price spike. While the percentage gains in value on many cards in this category were roughly equivalent to that of mythics at lower converted mana costs, what was true is that the windows were narrower, and the opportunities to unload them at a profit were fewer. This makes sense – cards at this mana cost tend to have more niche roles, and thus their place in the metagame is undeniably more precarious. This leads me to three recommendations:

1. Invest in no more than 20 to 25 copies of cards in this class "worse" than Carnage Tyrant.

2. Do not hesitate to invest in Standard-playable cards like Descend upon the Sinful. They can be a good source of profit for you and a good way to diversify your portfolio.

3. Once a card in this class has experienced a major price spike, avoid the temptation to invest in it after it has crashed. History says that it likely won't experience another rebound.

(IV) What have been the best mythics of this class?

These are the sorts of cards that I think are worthy of your consideration in the future. None were cards that were guaranteed to make waves in Standard, meaning that you could have gotten in on the ground floor.

There are two types of cards here. On the one hand, we have the powerful unique effects, ones prone to being Saffron Olive favorites – these are your Descent of the Dragons, Part the Waterveil, See the Unwritten, and Oblivion Sower. On the other hand, we have enhanced versions of other (value) cards that have unique wrinkles pushing them up to six mana – your Soul of Theros, Noxious Gearhulk, Descend upon the Sinful, and Dragonlord Silumgar.

I would pay close attention to this list because the power level of these cards is generally the power level that you can expect to make money off of with this class of card. The Immortal Sun and Vraska, Relic Seeker fall in here, whereas I think that Demonlord Belzenlok falls just outside it.

(V) Signing Off: Resolving the Mystery?

My personal hunch is that the elevated price of six-mana mythics we've seen in Ixalan block has to do with a change in how often Standard limited environments are drafted. I think that Ixalan block was drafted less than usual, leading to a higher price premium on cards in demand, even if that demand wasn't all that high. Importantly, though, I think this has less to do with Ixalan being a bad draft format and more with the increasing frequency of other drafting opportunities Magic Online is offering its players. We should thus monitor closely whether this trend continues. I expect it to.

Another possibility to consider is that, since redemption now closes much earlier, it is possible that stores and vendors are cramming all of their redeeming into the shortened time window, leading to a higher percentage of mythic rares leaving the marketplace in the first half of their Standard life cycles.

Anywho, I hope you enjoyed today's article, and I hope you are enjoying Dominaria. Also, check out my article from last week. Although several of the cards I suggested speculating on have since spiked, cards like Heart of Kiran and Vraska, Relic Seeker, others like Ifnir Deadlands are lagging behind and would still make for quality pickups. A copy of my portfolio can be found here.

Leave your comments and questions down below and I will be sure to get back to you. Thanks for reading 🙂

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