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Insider: Speculating Around Arcades, the Strategist

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First I'd like to apologize to any regular readers who were disappointed I didn't have an article come out last week. However, I had a pretty good reason...

Now that I'm all married, I'd better get back to the grindstone to pay for all of that pomp and splendor. This week we got a very cool spoiler from M19 (well we got a lot of cool spoilers, but for the sake of this article we will be focusing on one).

This is a better version of Doran, the Siege Tower. Why better? Well, Arcades lets creatures with defender attack and each one replaces itself on enters-the-battlefield. Also, blue is arguably a stronger color than black.

Arcades has already caused some interesting card spikes in the past few days, so our goal today will be to look at what could potentially spike next. Our winners so far are Wall of Kelp and Shield Sphere.



Both have seen tremendous gains (700%+) in just a day or two. It's important to note that Wall of Kelp is actually on the Reserved List, and its new price puts it at the most valuable card from Homelands (not the greatest distinction, but one nonetheless).

I can also vouch that people are actually buying it at this new price (as I sold five on May 21 which I had only put up that morning). Only a couple of my Shield Sphere's have sold so far—despite being the cheapest in the stated condition—so the jury is still out on that one (for me at least).

Rare/Mythics

One major challenge with speculating on walls is that honestly there aren't a whole lot of rare or mythic ones. There are actually only two mythic ones, Tree of Redemption and Tree of Perdition, only one of which an Arcades deck can play. That being said, let's start with the few rares and mythics that look interesting.


While I think using its ability is a bit risky in many Commander games, a 13/13 for four mana seems extremely powerful. It has two printings (both at mythic): one in Innistrad and the other in A25.

Foils of this card are currently pretty reasonable (many sitting in the $2-$3 range) and as a foil mythic there aren't a lot in the current supply. A search on June 24 showed zero copies of the foil A25 version on TCGplayer, and only around 25 of the Innistrad version). Interestingly enough, Card Kingdom is out of every single Tree of Redemption.


Grozoth has actually been on a gradual rise from bulk status to around $2 since 2016. This shows continual demand, yet it's not really a commonly played Commander card; so any sudden increase in its playability will likely drive its value up considerably.

Now to be fair it is a nine-drop, so it's hard to know if it will in fact show up in an Arcades deck. Magic has a plethora of walls throughout its history, and while Grozoth's ETB is cool, I don't know if that's enough to justify it finding a home in this deck. For now I just suggest you be aware of its existence, but I wouldn't buy in expecting Arcades decks to increase the demand for this card.

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Opal-Eye is another steady gainer (though very slowly) having gone from around $0.7 up to around $1.7 since 2013. Not the most impressive gains for a Magic card, but it still shows constant continual demand.

I like this option a lot more than Grozoth simply because it's got a reasonable mana cost and the tap ability allows its owner to survive one massive damage spike. It has just a single printing from Betrayers of Kamigawa, so it wouldn't take a whole lot to cause this card to jump in price. This is definitely one I would look at acquiring as a speculation target.


Typically we see this card in "group hug" decks thank to the "each player draws a card" clause. However, it does fit in an Arcades deck as well, allowing the Arcades player to draw a card when it enters and add counters at the end of an opponent's turn to draw additional cards on their turn.

This is a single-print rare from Dissension, but interestingly the foil price is about three times the regular price. So there is definitely some room for growth on the foil end, especially since there are a grand total of 10 copies on TCGplayer as of me writing this. Supply is already low so it wouldn't take much demand to jump.


This Innistrad bulk rare has rarely found a home (even in the most casual of decks), but it has a very interesting interaction with Arcades. As it's specifically worded to lose indestructibility only if it loses defender, Arcades allows it to attack while maintaining indestructibility.

Now, Innistrad is a recent enough set that there is a boatload of regular copies of this card lying around, and while it is a bulk rare now, I think its max price ceiling is pretty low due to the massive supply. On the other hand, foils are also near bulk ($0.5 each) and while there are still a fair amount of foils lying around as well, there are a whole lot fewer.

Uncommons

I'll preface this section with the fact that I typically avoid speculation on non-rares/non-mythics due to the much larger supply. However, that doesn't mean one should always avoid speculating on them—just keep the larger print run in mind.


Here we have a Mercadian Masques uncommon with no reprint that basically taps to give any of your creatures +4/+4. Unfortunately, the cat's out of the bag on foils of this, as TCGplayer only has three sellers and the lowest price  is $16.

Still, it's an old enough uncommon for regular copies to jump to $1.5-$3, should Arcades prove popular enough. I don't know if I'd go and buy any, but I'm definitely going to dig through my Mercadian Masques uncommons and pull them out of bulk.


Here we have an Apocalypse uncommon (so another one that's old enough to be rarer than a new-age rare). However, this one does have a reprint (two in fact, in Explorers of Ixalan and Iconic Masters).

The Iconic Masters foils can be found for under $0.1 so they are a pretty low-risk spec, but I like the Apocalypse foils a lot more. Many can be found for under $0.5 and they have the beautiful old-style foiling. The fact that this wall already cantrips even without Arcades in play means it's never a bad play.


Battlement is a newer card and is only uncommon in Iconic Masters (it was originally printed as a common in Rise of the Eldrazi). However, the foil IMA versions can be found for around $0.25, while Rise foils are more like $1.50. As this one produces mana (and likely a fair amount the longer the game goes) it seems like a clear auto-include in the Arcades deck.


Captain is an uncommon from Worldwake, a second set that wasn't drafted excessively, because of the triple-set Rise of the Eldrazi format that followed it. At the time, cracking WWK boxes was basically a Jace, the Mind Sculptor lottery—if you missed, you lost money. Of course, now we know there are tons of valuable cards from the set, but at the time it was pretty lackluster. Because of these factors, foils from the set are a bit rarer than those from Zendikar or Rise of the Eldrazi.

Perimeter Captain provides continual life gain at a very low cost. It seems likely that a wall-themed deck would be more popular on the casual spectrum. Unsurprisingly, the lifegain on this card could similarly appeal to the same players. Currently there are 7 foil copies on TCGplayer all with a buy-in under $1 (though several have higher shipping costs).


This card was powerful tech back in the days when UW Control was trying to defeat the Jund Menace (before we got Squadron Hawk, Batterskull, and the swords that created Caw-Blade). It provided a powerful brick wall to protect one's Jace, the Mind Sculptor, that was incredibly difficult to deal with.

It has four non-foil printings, but only two printings with a foil option. The original Alara Reborn has copies in the $1.5-$2.5 range, and the much cheaper MM17 printings has foil options at $0.5-$1. This card is extremely powerful in the Arcades deck (basically an 8/8 shroud flyer for three mana) and I'd argue is another auto-include in said deck.


Normally I avoid more expensive foil cards (especially non-rare/mythics), however, Wall of Shards is different as it's a Coldsnap uncommon, which are much rarer than you might think. The regular version sells for over $3, so the fact that you can buy foil ones for under $10 means there's definitely some potential here.

Again, as of June 24 there are only eight copies on TCGplayer (and two on SCG) so supply is extremely low, and the cumulative upkeep seems pretty minimal when you get to hit for eight a turn (with flying).

Commons

As you might guess, if I'm wary of speculating too hard on uncommons I'm even more so for commons. However, I would be remiss if I didn't include some that I think have potential.


Here's another foil that appears to have been bought out on TCGplayer. There were zero copies listed as of June 24. It's a single print (from Rise of the Eldrazi) common that provides all your walls +2/+2 (really +0/+2, but when Aracdes is out it's basically a double anthem for 1W).

If you can find any at the old price there is some easy money to be made (this is the type of card that would likely end up in a bulk foil box). I don't think I'd buy in at the new price though.


Planeshift released way back in 2001 and the playerbase was much smaller back then (so a lot fewer of these are floating around). More importantly, it was a second set, and as I recall a pretty weak one (I believe the big card was Phyrexian Scuta).

Interestingly enough, foils of this were already worth something before Arcades came out back in January 2018, likely because it's good enough to fit into any Bant Commander deck. This is another one that you might find in a bulk foil pile (though a lot less likely than the Shield-Bearers above).

Conclusion

There are a lot of random old defender cards spiking in value thanks to the spoiling of Arcades, the Strategist. Typically walls end up mostly in bulk, so there's definitely potential for some major gains. We have already seen this on a few cards, and will likely continue to see more as the hivemind optimizes the Arcades builds.

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