Rotation Finance – A Look Toward Guilds of Ravnica

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Welcome back, folks. Last week I discussed some of the repercussions of Standard's premier deck (Red Aggro) leaving the format, so if you missed it, go check it out. This week we're going to look ahead to Guilds of Ravnica to frame our discussion of rotation finance. What do we already know about that set that can help us predict what will happen to the value of IxalanCore 19, and Dominaria cards? A lot, it turns out!

I. "It's the Mana, Stupid."

Thus spoke James Carville. Standard is largely defined by its mana, and we have a very good grasp of what Standard mana bases will look like once Guilds of Ravnica drops. Staying are the Ixalan and Dominaria checklands, and on top of that, we'll get rare duals of the five guilds above. We don't know whether they'll be fast lands like the Ravnica shocklands or slow like the Theros temples, but even just knowing the colors tells us a lot about what Standard will look like.

Perhaps a visual picture will help.

Better Mana:                   Worse Mana:
Boros {WR}                         Simic {UG}
Selesnya {WG}                   Gruul {GR}
Golgari {GB}                       Azorius {UW}
Izzet {UR}                           Rakdos {BR}
Dimir {UB}                         Orzhov {WB}
-----------                            -------------
Naya {RGW}                      Temur {GUR}
Sultai {UGB}                     Esper {WUB}
Jeskai {URW}                   Mardu {BWR}
Abzan {GBW}                   Jund {GRB}
Grixis {UBR}                    Bant {UWG}

1. No, No, NO!

I know many people have been itching to play with some of these Ixalan tribes in Standard, especially Merfolk. While card quality will keep Pirate Tribal and Dinosaur Tribal from being competitive in Guilds of Ravnica Standard, mana quality will preclude Vampire Tribal and Merfolk Tribal from being playable until Ravnica Alliance is released in January. Merfolk, in particular, I expect to become Standard-playable once Ravnica Alliance is released, both because we'll get a rare Simic dual and because I think it likely we'll get a few rare and mythic rare Merfolk.

2. Yes, Yes, YES?

I know you're a good boi, but can you do it alone?

Grixis mana will be no worse in September than it is now, and that bodes well for Nicol Bolas. Less good for Nicol Bolas, however, is that most of its supporting cast is leaving. Roughly 70 percent of it, in fact.

My hunch is that Grixis Midrange is going to take a backseat for the time being, likely emerging as a tier-one deck once again as more and more cards become added to the Standard card pool. Honestly, looking at the rare and mythic threats in Grixis colors that will survive rotation, all of the good ones that fit in a midrange strategy cost four mana or more. If you don't believe me, check it out. This means I'll avoid speculating on Nicol Bolas for the time being. Currently sitting at $17.50, I think it's possible, if not likely, that it dips down into the $10.00 to $12.50 range, especially if the new rare duals are slow. Buy then, not now.

II. What Decks are Surviving Rotation?

How does Grixis Midrange's card retention rate compare to other top-tier decks? Let's take a look.

  • Red Aggro: 17%
  • Sai's Resevoir: 27%
  • Grixis Midrange: 30%
  • Green Stompy: 55%
  • UW Control: 60%
  • Bant Turbo: 73%

Keep this data in mind as you make speculatory investments over the next few weeks; Standard is going to change drastically after rotation. Every offensive deck is going to need to pick up some heavy hitters in Guilds of Ravnica, even Green Stompy. Scrapheap Scrounger, Heart of Kiran, and Rhonas, the Indomintable are major losses.

The decks best positioned to sit atop Standard at rotation are UW Control and Bant Turbo Fog. Teferi ($35) will likely shoot up to $50 in the Fall, and Search for Azcanta and Glacial Fortress might see some gains too. I'm hopeful that my 100 copies of Seal Away will go somewhere, and you may want to consider picking some up if you want to add a penny stock to your portfolio. For you paper players, consider picking up your Nexus of Fates now.

1. What Cards Can Fill Old Shoes?

Guilds of Ravnica can't fully replace the entirety of Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks on its own, so some cards from the most recent sets will have to step up and take their place in the metagame; identifying those most likely to do so are another avenue for speculation success. In particular, it might be worth taking a look at cards that saw play late last year before sinking back beneath the surface.

Two, Deadeye Tracker and Dire Fleet Daredevil, I mentioned last week. But there are actually several others that have some potential as speculation targets. Hostage Taker ($0.93) has already increased by 100% this week, but these other three are still in the doldrums. Deathgorge Scavenger ($0.27) and Profane Procession ($0.11) are two I'm considering investing in over the next few weeks.

III. Wizards and Saprolings

'More fungus friends?!' -- Slimefoot, the Stowaway

Izzet and Golgari will both be in Guilds of Ravnica. Izzet always gets a plethora of Wizards, and we can glean from the released concept art that Golgari will feature Elves and our favorite Fungi and Saproling friends. Wizards and Saprolings were already tier-three decks in Standard, and I think both will become more competitive after rotation. How competitive it is impossible to foretell, but it has made me more inclined to invest in this area.

Golgari tokens don't have many great speculation opportunities because most of the cards are common and uncommon. But two cards stand out:

You should already have been picking up your Woodland Cemeteries, but definitely grab your playset if you haven't already. Tendershoot Dryad ($0.19) is a powerhouse rare for a Golgari token deck, and it commanded a $1.00 price tag during the first month of Dominaria when players weren't yet sick of getting crushed by Goblin Chainwhirler. I think it's a coin flip to return to that price, so I'll be picking up some copies and waiting for them to shoot up.

(Hey, at least I laughed.)

As with Golgari Tokens, many of the Wizard workhorses are common and uncommon, limiting our speculation options. There are some cards, however, I think are worthy of your consideration.

Although Wizard's Lightning and Naban are both good penny stocks, the Wizard I'm most excited about is Naru Meha ($0.30). I'm not saying that she'll definitely go up in value — we have to see the Guilds of Ravnica spoilers — but I do believe that she could spike to $1.50 or more, and possibly settle at double or triple her present value. This is one of those low risk, low probability, high potential speculations that I like incorporating into my portfolio.

I'm not sure we'll see Sulfur Falls fall below $0.75 again, but I'll be snapping up any copies that I do see there.

Signing Off

No matter what you think of my picks, I hope that you find value in incorporating some of the metrics I'm using into your speculation decisions. Mono Red will no longer be Standard's Level 0 deck, aggressive decks are losing more than the Teferi decks, the balance and quality of mana will be changing, and all of this will impact the fabric of Standard. Considering these things when deciding where to put your money over the next several weeks will give you a definite leg up.

As always, I look forward to reading your questions and comments. Last week I learned from the comments that there was a revolutionary rider who performed an even greater feat than Paul Revere, so who knows what we'll learn this week!

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