Insider: Standard Specs Before the Pro Tour

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With two Grand Prix, last weekend was the biggest display of Standard so far since Guilds of Ravnica's release, and as such has huge implications for the market. It has sent some cards spiking, but there’s still a lot of movement to be made, especially with the Standard Pro Tour starting in just one week.

Today I’ll make some sense of what’s going on by explaining what happened last weekend and how it has impacted the market. I’ll also look forward and make some predictions about the future, identifying some cards that I’d recommend selling because I don’t see a bright future, and cards I’d hold in anticipation of gains.

The big winner last weekend was Jeskai. It won the GP in New Jersey, with two more copies in the Top 8, and put an additional two in the Top 8 in Lille—it also finished 9th place in both events.

As expected, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria was the star of the show, and it looks to be a very strong buy. It’s going to remain a key staple of Standard until it rotates next year, and it will only get better when Ravnica Allegiance brings Hallowed Fountain and other Azorius goodies. It’s an Eternal staple that sees play as far back as Vintage, so I think there’s also a possibility it could just continue to rise through rotation.

New cards played a big part as well. Ral, Izzet Viceroy was a common one-of replacing the 4th Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. So it’s definitely competitive, and possibly underpriced.

Deafening Clarion was a four-of in all of the Jeskai decks, and one of Standard’s key sweepers. It’s also a sideboard card in Boros decks. This cross-archetype demand explains why the price has been steadily increasing since release, from $1 to nearly $3, likely with plenty of room to grow.

Expansion // Explosion was peppered through the Jeskai decks as one- or two-ofs, but big winner Eli Kassis sported a full playset. Accompanying it was Azor's Gateway, which can flip and turn into a mana engine that makes Explosion lethal. It’s a potent combination, and because Azor's Gateway is quite effective in a control deck as a looting effect, there’s not a lot of downside.

Expansion // Explosion spiked a few weeks ago, from a $1 to over $3.50. There could be some more growth, but looking at Deafening Clarion, which has more demand but is cheaper, it makes me think Expansion // Explosion doesn’t have a ton of room to grow.

There’s little chance it’s overpriced after Jeskai’s big weekend, so it makes me confident Deafening Clarion should be worth more than it is. Although there is some chance that non-Standard casual and Commander demand is what’s elevating the split card.

Azor's Gateway was definitely underpriced, and has spiked to over $10. Jeskai will be a big deal at the Pro Tour and a fixture of the metagame in the future, and the Azor's Gateway version might be the best. If it is, then this price could go even higher. If other versions are more popular at the Pro Tour, then the price should settle.

Last weekend was Arclight Phoenix coming-out party, which proved the hype was well-founded. It didn’t dominate, but top-eighting both Grand Prix, with three more in the Top 8 of Lille, show it’s very viable and competitive. Arclight Phoenix is also performing in Modern, and together this has continued to drive its price higher.

Arclight Phoenix grew to $25 but has settled at around $22, so somewhere around this price is probably correct. There doesn’t really seem to be any viable spec targets in the deck, which is otherwise almost all commons and uncommons, but perhaps foils of its cards could yield some gains.

A breakout deck last weekend was Boros Angels, which Brad Nelson took all the way to the finals in New Jersey. He’s known for his Standard prowess, so I expect his deck to be widely copied. Compared to the Izzet deck, it’s packed full of rares and mythics.

It’s responsible for spiking Tocatli Honor Guard, a devastating hoser against Golgari that nullifies its entire creature base. It’s grown from around $0.50 to over $2, but seems to be tapering off. I do see some possible growth because it’s accessible to any white deck, but another spike is unlikely.

Accessibility is also why I like Resplendent Angel. It’s a strong card in any white aggressive deck, and was in a green version of the Angels deck that top-eighted New Jersey. The price almost doubled over the past month, but it seems to be moving slightly higher. I could see it heading from its current $20 to $25 or more if it performs at the Pro Tour.

A sleeper deck is Selesyna Tokens, which slipped into both Top 8s. It did well after release but seemed to have fallen by the wayside since. It’s clear the deck is competitive, and seems likely to remain a fixture of the metagame going forward.

Any of its staples could be good spec targets that will increase if the deck does great at the Pro Tour; otherwise the prices aren’t likely to move much. The card I like the most is Venerated Loxodon, which is not only a key staple that should be a four-of in any version of the deck, but also a staple of Mono-White Aggro, a couple copies of which made Top 32 in New Jersey.

A Few Oddballs

The finals of Lille was a bit of an anomaly, featuring a finals of Mono-Red versus Mono-Blue Aggro. There was only one other red deck between both Top 32s, and the blue deck was nowhere to be found. At this point the safe play is to stay away from these cards, but there is a chance of a big Pro Tour result increasing their popularity.

Speaking of anomalies, winning the SCG Standard Classic last weekend was a Five-Color Mastermind's Acquisition control deck, similar to the deck that saw some play last season, but with the addition of Lich's Mastery!

Other obscure rares in the deck include its namesake and The Mirari Conjecture, but there’s also a mythic in Chance for Glory, which combos with Lich's Mastery not allowing one to lose the game.

I’m not running to speculate on the cards in this deck, but I’ll sure be paying close attention to results to see when it appears again. If it happened to be picked up by some big players at the Pro Tour, however unlikely, then all bets are off.


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