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We often call a card “undervalued” and make financial decisions based on this evaluation, but what does that really mean?
Well, the basic definition of value itself is simply relative worth. The key word being relative. A card’s value is never defined in a vacuum. This is why cards can suddenly shoot up in price when a new card that combos with them is spoiled, and why card prices almost always drop right after a set’s release.
Knowing that card values are all relative to each other, we can look at the undervalued cards in the non-rotating sets and see if we can find any cards that would be good investments into the new Standard. Without knowing exactly what is in the fall set, Guilds of Ravnica, we can’t be certain on anything, but we shouldn’t allow that uncertainty to drive us toward inaction. After all, speculation by its definition requires risk.
The other factor we want to consider is what is behind the undervaluation. Some of the more common reasons a card is undervalued are:
- There is a superior alternative currently available.
- There is currently a more powerful archetype that makes the card unplayable.
- The card lacks necessary support (either color or archetypal).
- The card has been misevaluated.
Knowing these factors, one can deduce which ones may change with rotation and thus likely cause a change in a card's valuation (note that these factors can also cause a card that is currently highly valued to drop in value).
Now, we also know which cards will be leaving the format, so we can guesstimate an updated valuation for any given card. Again, keep in mind that we don’t have spoilers for Guilds of Ravnica, so our valuation could be very far off depending on said spoilers.
For now, we will focus on non-rotating mythics worth less than $9 that could be competitive. For my analysis these will have a converted mana cost of six or less, as we have very rarely seen Tier 1 standard staples that exceeded that cost, without some form of cost reduction stapled to it. Today I'll cover Ixalan, and in subsequent articles we'll look at the other sets.
- There is no superior alternative to this card currently available.
- The Pirates archetype is underwhelming in its current state. There are some good synergies, but the mana base is a bit stretched and there aren’t enough individually powerful cards to justify playing a Pirate-specific deck.
- There isn’t enough support for a Pirates archetype, and we aren’t likely to see a strong pirate theme in Guilds of Ravnica.
- The card just doesn’t do enough to warrant building around it.
- There is no superior alternative to this card currently available.
- Cards that cost six mana and don’t do anything the turn they are played typically don’t find a home in any competitive format.
- This type of card serves as a decent “reset” button if the board can be stalled to a point where it’s worth a significant life point swing.
- This card seems too niche to have much of a chance at significant gains.
- There isn’t exactly an alternative to this card, however, the current domination of RB Aggro makes it much worse. Typically the opponent is down a significant amount of their life by turn 5 (when one could play this card) so it doesn’t do as much.
- As stated previously, the Pirate archetype doesn’t currently seem powerful enough to fall into Tier 1 status and it just doesn’t really do enough compared to other five-drops in the format (like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria).
- Currently neither black- nor Pirate-themed decks seem to have enough power to move into Tier 1 status. We may see a shift more towards black when both Abrade and Harnessed Lightning leave the format. The color may be helped by the fact that currently our best instant-speed catchall removal is Vraska's Contempt, which happens to be a pretty clean answer to Teferi.
- While I could see this card finding a home in casual or Commander decks, I don’t think it does enough to be playable in a Tier 1 deck.
- While there isn’t a direct alternative to this card, there is a much better five-drop planeswalker (Teferi, Hero of Dominaria).
- This planeswalker seems to have been built for a Boros or Naya Dinosaur deck, yet one has never materialized. I do actually think Dinosaurs could be a viable archetype in the future Standard environment—their biggest downside is that they just aren’t as fast as the current Mono-Green Stompy or Mono-Red Aggro decks. However, Mono-Red loses a lot at rotation and if the format slows down, some Dinosaurs could be good in a midrange archetype. The challenge is that the best Dinosaurs are green (Ripjaw Raptor, Thrashing Brontodon, and Deathgorge Scavenger), so this would require playing a Naya version to justify running this version of Huatli.
- As stated above, there is support for this card, however, that support is mainly in green. Whether this card makes stretching the mana base to three colors worth it is yet to be determined.
- Had this card been Gruul I think it would have a much higher probability of finding a home in a Dinosaur-based midrange deck. As a Boros card, I don’t think there's a high probability of it finding a home in a Tier 1 Standard deck.
- There is currently no alternative to this card.
- This card would likely fit best in an aggro or tempo style deck. While many had hoped that Simic Merfolk would be an established archetype it hasn’t happened yet. It does come close, though, so with a drop in red aggro it may finally find a spot in competitive Standard.
- Jace himself isn’t a build-around-me card, nor are any of his abilities so powerful to justify inclusion in any blue deck. Both of his minus abilities produce tokens, so his abilities would be most comfortable in a token-based deck (like one with Anointed Procession).
- Low-cost planeswalkers are always worth keeping an eye on. Planeswalkers provide a mana-free benefit every turn so the lower the converted mana cost the sooner one can take advantage of said benefits. Jace’s biggest problem is that he drops to one loyalty to protect himself (by making a token) so a Goblin Chainwhirler from the opponent still kills him and leaves the Illusion token staring at a brick wall.
- We currently don’t have any creatures with a better draw-discard effect than [card[Rowdy Crew[/card]. We do have Cathartic Reunion to serve as a better draw-discard outlet, as you actually get to choose what is discarded.
- This card did find a home in the Rx God-Pharaoh’s Gift decks a while back. Those have gradually declined in the metagame, mainly because resolving and keeping a seven-drop artifact against a field of Disallows and Abrades isn't very likely.
- This card actually has a fair amount of support currently (mainly with God-Pharaoh's Gift which turns the discard into a potential plus). Unlike the artifact, however, it’s not powerful enough on its own to build around.
- This card doesn’t come off as overtly powerful, especially when turning the discard into a benefit is gone.
- Vona provides repeated nonland Vindicates, which is unique in the current Standard environment.
- The biggest challenge is that thanks to Goblin Chainwhirler, and before it Rampaging Ferocidon, the WB Vampires archetype has never really gotten a foothold in the format. Chainwhirler makes playing one-toughness creatures an opportunity to get blown out—especially given how prevalent it is right now.
- If Goblin Chainwhirler were to be banned, or the RB Aggro archetype were to fall to Tier 2 status, then we might see BW Vampires turn into a competitive archetype, but that’s a big if. Currently the best “life gain” strategy in Standard uses Aetherflux Reservoir, which serves as both the life gain and a difficult-to-answer win condition.
- This card does provide useful abilities for any sort of control deck (destroying problematic permanents) and a continual source of lifegain (up to 8 per turn round), so I wouldn’t write it off yet. This is a card I’d keep my eye on, especially if Orzhov is included in Guilds of Ravnica.
- Vraska is definitely a powerful planeswalker with good potential. At different times she has been as high as $15, and has since fallen to around $7-$8. She protects herself, has a very powerful ultimate, and creates threats.
- While we do have a Tier 1 Golgari archetype it’s far more on the mono-green spectrum than the actual Golgari spectrum (playing just a few black sources for removal options). She also suffers from being a six-drop in a format dominated by hyper-fast aggro that can easily kill before turn six, and powerful control decks that typically run multiple counterspells.
- There is some decent support for this card. We have enough mana dorks in the format to help ramp her out quicker, and black is a solid splash color at the moment thanks to Cast Down and Vraska's Contempt. If RB Aggro slows down enough at rotation (and it does lose Hazoret the Fervent, Soul-Scar Mage, Ahn-Crop Crasher, and Bomat Courier), then the door might be open for a GBx deck in Standard. In such an archetype Vraska is a very likely inclusion.
- I don’t think this card has been misevaluated, however, the current metagame is not friendly to it. Both of the main Tier 1 decks will lose a significant number of cards at rotation; I think this is definitely a card that is undervalued.
I find it’s very important to discuss my methods and reasoning behind determining a card’s valuation, specifically when looking for undervalued cards. I have covered Ixalan this week and will be covering the remaining sets in my next few articles.