We are still a month or so out from the upcoming Standard rotation, but as is always the case with MTG finance, it pays to be ahead of the curve. At this point in time, we know that the tides will soon be turning and that multiple sets will be leaving Standard, creating a brand new format. Prices are bound to follow the advice of House of Pain and "Jump Around."
Today, I'll be discussing a few of the different ways that I evaluate cards going into a rotation as I try to stay one step ahead of the pack.
Dump Those Old Standard Cards ASAP
The first thing to keep in mind is that when cards rotate out of Standard, there is a very limited ceiling for their value. Is the card good enough for Modern or Eternal? Is the card a Commander or casual all-star? If the answer to both of these questions is no, chances are that the card is headed for a nose dive from which it likely won't return.
The problem is that most savvy players are looking to dump Standard mainstays that are not well-positioned to have a spot outside of Standard. It makes a lot of sense to be getting out of these cards for whatever value can be had over the next month or so, because chances are the getting won't get much better.
Make some trades. Get some value. Look for opportunities to move these rotating Standard cards without a future whenever you can!
Predicting the Unpredictable
Trying to find hidden Standard value before the new set has been spoiled is very difficult. The problem is that we lack context.
Magic cards are always good or bad within the framework of their format. A card can be sweet or great, but if there isn't a deck to put around it, chances are that it won't see a ton of play and thus won't be valuable. Magic is littered with sweet cards that never found the right support deck.
Without knowing what the cards to come will be, it's difficult to figure out which cards or decks will be the rage in the fall.
We do know a couple of things. The first is the sets that will remain: Ixalan, Rivals, Dominaria and Core Set 19. The second is an upcoming Ravnica set, which means a likely multicolored set.
We can use both of these pieces of information to make educated guesses about the cards that have a high potential for being major players in the fall.
Good Card Theory
One abstract concept that I frequently use when deciding which cards to invest in is simply "good card theory." The MTG metagame, economy, and demand are all fueled by cards in context, but we can also discuss how good a card is without that supporting context.
It's pretty easy to understand why a Tarmogoyf is more powerful than a Grizzly Bears: it has more potential upside and synergies with potential cards we might put around it. When you look at enough Magic cards, it becomes easier and easier to evaluate which cards have better stats or do things for better rates. Is the card good?
I love looking for cards that I think are good but never quite had a home in Standard when it comes to a rotation. The first thing to consider: with several sets leaving the format, there is less competition and more opportunity for a card to find a new place in the meta. Secondly, new sets always present the opportunity for a new supporting cast of cards to create a context where the old card can thrive.
I look for cards that I think are actively great and have a legitimate shot of finding a place post rotation. Whether or not these picks will pan out comes down to two factors: how accurate is my assessment that the card is powerful and whether or not the metagame (context) aligns to make the card a real player in the format.
The Price is Right, Right Now
Another thing to consider is that leading up to a rotation is typically a great time to get good deals on Magic cards. People are done with Standard until rotation. Interest, and thus demand, is low.
Secondly, nobody knows which cards will actually be good post rotation, and so there's less incentive to hold onto cards. The prices tend to go down in the months before rotation and then pick back up in the fall when the new set and new format dazzle and excite players once again.
Cards Tha Could Be Good Post Rotation
I took a look through the cards that won't rotate from Standard and made a list of the ones that I plan to target in trades. These are all cards that I think have a relatively low price tag, but also have a power level that I would expect to be a competitive Constructed Standard card.
Let's take a look at some potentially good targets:
History of Benalia is a great Magic card that I would expect to be a player post rotation. The card is so good that it almost doesn't matter whether it goes into a controlling or aggressive shell. It would also be a strong "tokens matter" deck card. The card is at its all-time lowest point, which makes it an ideal time to move in.
Another card that could be good alongside History of Benalia. These are dirt cheap right now, but it is a good card and thus could be a player in a go-wide style deck.
Another powerful creature that has a shot at being a major player after rotation. Also, knowing that Ravnica tends to be guild and multicolor based, there is a chance that the Selesnya ability will be at a premium.
Sai is a great card and I've been writing about him in my finance column for months. He could be a major player in Standard if the artifacts align.
There are multiple Token hate cards in Standard... I wonder if Tokens are going to be a major player post rotation. Maybe a Selesnya based token mechanic? These are basically a bulk rare but could be important down the line.
Carnage Tyrant is so powerful. I could see this card doing major damage once two large blocks rotate out of the format and leave a smaller format. It's good to be king. Not a cheap card, but a card that I think will still gain value down the line.
Another powerful finisher and value card that will likely thrive on its power level alone. Could be made better by Golgari cards from Ravnica.
The card is great as far as three-drops go. Maybe Dinosaurs have a future with some of the big fish rotating. These are flexible enough that they are good beyond just a tribal shell. Lots of different decks would be happy to play this creature.
I think this is a great card that will be great for a long time. It is becoming a bigger and bigger player outside of Standard. I've even seen it played in Vintage. I think this card, alongside Teferi, will be the tone-setters post rotation. It's already expensive, and I'd expect it to be even more so post rotation.
If Teferi and Search are the big dogs, I guess this card has the potential to be strong... I've played Spyglass in basically every format and it's for real. I like picking these up now before fall.
What are the chances this card needs to be banned after all of the Amonkhet and Kaladesh sets rotate? I'd love to see it unbanned and allowed to play alongside its other little dino friends. Could be a great heads-up investment.
There are lots of places to look for value in the coming months, but preparing for rotation is where it's at as far as Standard cards go. Remember to get out of those rotating cards while you can, but also be thinking about cards that could be strong if given a new context.