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Tales from the Buylist #7 – The Challenger Decks and Rotation

A part of me wanted to immediately jump on this article as soon as they announced the Challenger decklists last Monday, but I restrained myself as best as I could. I decided I would take a week to think on my picks and drink in the data on all the cards that might take a hit from the huge supply injection we’re about to see. My list of reprints that I thought would be likely was mostly on-target. I compiled this list on February 14th in our Discord, as I was confident in sharing what I thought would be easy reprints.

While I’m incredibly surprised that we didn’t receive Vraska’s Contempt or Search for Azcanta, I completely understand Wizards skipping the Teferi, Hero of Dominaria reprint. Lyra Dawnbringer is also a worthy mention as a miss here, being one of the better and more costly mythics from Dominaria.

It’s entirely possible that the density of rares required to make a worthwhile Esper or Jeskai Control list may have been too high for one $29.99 product when a single Teferi, Hero of Dominaria costs more than the deck itself. However, I’m overall happy with what we’re receiving for the cost of each challenger deck. These will be easy to upgrade and turn into competitive decks until Fall rolls around.

Hits

History of Benalia
Carnage Tyrant
Rekindling Phoenix
Jadelight Ranger

Of the cards I mentioned above, I expected these cards the most. The Challenger Decks are an excellent product to position to new players at an event such as Friday Night Magic, and creature strategies are great for teaching the basics of more competitive play. These cards were quite expensive pieces that, except for Carnage Tyrant, were usually registered as a playset for Standard events.  If you haven’t attempted to do so already, dumping these to buylists will be the fastest and most reliable way to get out of whatever undesirable copies you have. As someone who works in a buylist department, I’m steeling myself for the inevitable onslaught of these cards.


There will be two copies of History of Benalia in the white weenie deck, United Assault, which will likely result in a huge price drop. Getting the full four will likely cost under $10 once they drop, and is arguably the most significant upgrade to the deck. Legion’s Landing is in a similar spot, and will likely be even less.


Carnage Tyrant was one of the most terrifying threats to face down for many decks and was climbing toward a $50 price tag before the announcement of the Challenger Deck‘s return. This in tandem with the metagame shift brought about by Ravnica Allegiance caused the price to go on a downswing. Once supply is increased by the inevitable crack and resale of these decks, I estimate this will be an easy get for $5 or lower by the end of April. TCG Player sellers are already beginning to race to the bottom in order to offload this once expensive mythic.

While not seeing widespread play, the six mana dinosaur has been featured in Modern sideboards of decks like RG Valakut and Ponza as a potent threat against UW Control. I think there’s an opportunity here for long term growth because of this, but I’d be waiting for Modern Horizons to drop before I made the decision to start snatching these up.


Rekindling Phoenix was by far the most expensive piece in Mono Red decks over the past year, and showed little sign of slowing down. As with all the cards I’m going to list here, it’s on the downswing already. I think this Lightning Aggro list will be the most potent of the four for current Standard play, featuring a lot of powerful playsets including Goblin Chainwhirler. I don’t think there will be much of a home for this card outside of Standard as it is a bit slow for eternal formats. If you’re interested in this card at all as an investment spec, I would consider waiting until the Fall when rotation occurs.


Jadelight Ranger is one of the most solid creatures to be playing in Standard right now, recently showing up to great success in GP Kyoto’s finals. Expect these to be around the $2 range once we get a lot more of them available in the next two weeks. I don’t have much hope for this card seeing much eternal play outside of something like a fringe Simic Merfolk list, but I’m very open to someone changing my mind on this.

Now let’s get to the cards I was completely wrong about.

Misses

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Lyra Dawnbringer
Vraska’s Contempt
Search for Azcanta


Now to address the elephant in the room. Choosing not to include Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in one of these decks is an interesting move. Teferi is an all-star planeswalker seeing play in multiple formats in UW based control strategies, and for good reason. It draws cards, removes troublesome permanents, and can be a win condition all on its own. Well, with multiple copies anyway. This card will go down as one of the most powerful walkers of all time, and its price tag will likely reflect that for the foreseeable future. I was super confident that this was an auto-include for the Challenger Series, though there is a slim chance this is a signal that there will be another product featuring Teferi in the near future.

As with all standard powerhouses, we’ll see a pretty significant dip around the time of rotation when players start moving these to make next season’s buy-in a bit cheaper. Teferi was on a decline in the past month, but I expect a moderate rebound going into Spring. I don’t expect this card to ever fall below $20, even if it saw a significant reprint. However, I may be underestimating just how many copies of this card actually exist.


Search for Azcanta was probably my top pick for inclusion, and I was very quick to move my existing copies into trade credit via my employer once the Challenger Decks were a known entity. I don’t know just how hard I may be punished for that decision just yet, but I chose to turn all of my UW Control cards from Standard into credit towards foil Khans Fetchlands instead. I think I made out okay so far, but we’ll see what the next few months bring. Reasonable pricing is in the high teens, and will likely rebound around $25.


Lyra Dawnbringer felt like another auto-include for these decks, but no dice on this one either. Many like to make the comparison to Baneslayer Angel on this card, for obvious reasons. Lyra is another good example of a card that has fallen a bit out of favor in Standard that is at a relative low. You can expect to pay around $10 for a copy, which will likely be its price for the remainder of its Standard legality. As an investment target, I think the casual appeal of Angels as a tribe and its viability in Modern UW Control sideboards will make this a solid pickup either way.


Last up is Vraska’s Contempt. It seems strange not to have at least one copy of these in the BG deck, Deadly Discovery. Most of the Golgari and Sultai lists that see play at least run one copy, and I would consider this such a vital tool for the deck to have when facing down opposing Teferis or Vivien Reid. At any rate, these are floating around the $10 range and will almost surely see play for the rest of this Standard.

Unexpected Visitors

Arclight Phoenix
Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Experimental Frenzy
Overgrown Tomb

These are all excellent inclusions, but I’m genuinely surprised that they were included in these lists at all. I expected very few if any Guilds of Ravnica cards to be featured in these lists, but it’s a sign of good faith that there will be some future value in these lists post rotation. I’m a bit tired of talking about Arclight Phoenix at this point, but I’m certainly glad that they printed it here to make it more available to those that want to play with them. I think this choice along with the two Niv-Mizzet, Parun included in the Izzet Arcane Tempo list make this my clear choice for future value among the four decks.


I’d like to note that Overgrown Tomb is the lone Shockland between these decklists, and this printing will almost surely make it the least expensive of the 10 overall across the three sets it’s featured in. $5 seems to be the going rate for one of these, but this could easily fall down to $2 once peak supply is reached.  Given the strength of BG Rock lists in Modern and the consistency of Sultai decks in Standard, these will be an excellent pickup.

Bring it on Home

Wizards has managed to put out another solid product here, and I expect moderate demand for these decks. I don’t think we’ll see a situation where any one of these decks is price higher than the others like the last iteration, but Arcane Tempo could make a strong case with the excellent value it provides in Arclight Phoenix, three copies of Sulfur Falls, and three copies of Entrancing Melody.

I’m already seeing a lot of the reprints hitting buylists already, and I only expect to see these numbers decrease. Do your worst, #mtgfinance.

Pickups (post release)

Holds

Folds

  • Literally everything else in these decks.

That does it for this week! You can follow me on Twitter @chroberry or Instagram @chroberrymtg if you want to see extra goodies and spoilers for next week’s article. Feel free to let me know how you feel about my targets here in the comments, or if there’s anything you think I missed!

Peace!

 



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Christopher O'Berry

Christopher O'Berry

Christopher O’Berry is a Magic player based out of Boise, Idaho. He started playing in 2010 at the age of 18. He enjoys Modern, Legacy, and Draft formats the most, but really is just happy playing a blue deck of any sort. His career highlights include several undefeated finishes at FNM, and a top eight (of nine in attendance) at the saddest TCGplayer States event ever seen.

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