Core Set 2019: Our Final Preparations for Rotation

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Rotation is less than three weeks out for Arena (September 26th) and four weeks for paper Magic (October 4th)! If you haven't already, now is the time to be crafting your watchlists for rotating cards and set your target buy-ins. Assuming history repeats itself, the paper price of most cards from Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, and Core Set 2019 will fall as we head into the release of Throne of Eldraine and bottom-out within 4-8 weeks from there. Eternal playables will touch their low-points then begin a rebound upwards until they are reprinted. Be ready!

If you are into Commander and haven't already done so, please go check out the other three articles I wrote for this mini-series. I covered each rotating set in chronological order with this being the fourth and final installment of the series.

Core Set 2019 is quietly one of my favorites of the past 10 years, mostly because of the way Wizards revisited the lore of the original Elder Dragons. The Magic storyline tied to Core Set 2019 covers the birth and aging of my two favorite characters of all-time: Nicol Bolas and Ugin, the Sprit-Dragon.

Unsurprisingly, the set includes Bolas and his kin, but sadly Ugin did not get included with a creature card (I am so wishing this happens someday!). The way Wizards designed Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen as a flip card transforming into a planeswalker was simply marvelous. It showed me even with their smaller sets they pay close attention to detail.

Supply Considerations

Core Set 2019 was delivered quietly last summer where it competed with its standard brethren Dominaria (one of the best selling sets of all-time); Battlebond (a huge hit in its own right); and Commander 2018 (more of a casual product, but a product nonetheless).

I don't have sales data on the sealed product to back this up, but my hypothesis is that this expansion was lesser sold compared to its peers and that could lead to a smaller supply of cards than we are used to with Standard sets.

If true, this could make the price of playables from Core Set 2019 rebound faster after rotation than some of the more widely distributed sets in recent memory. Without any significant chase cards in the set and no Masterpiece Series to bolster the desirability of cracking sealed product, I feel this product was under-opened by stores and players alike. As cards find their way into Commander decks, the lower supply could be felt in the secondary market and the Eternal playable cards could rebound quite a bit faster as a result.

While I cannot confirm this in a truly meaningful way, I decided to factor in a small premium to my timelines for prices to rebound after rotation (note: I feel similar about this with Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan).

Chris's Commander Corner

I said earlier that there weren't any notable chase cards from Core Set 2019; Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen is about as close as it comes, though. An iconic character printed in a throwback manner to the Magic Origins flip walkers, this Bolas card was fortunate enough to dodge From the Vault: Transform meaning a reprint could be particularly elusive in coming years. Furthermore, with Bolas's storyline presumably over (for now), the only real opportunity to reprint a flip card like Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen would be in as a promo or in a supplemental set.

I chose Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen as my top target to acquire post-rotation because of its reprint situation and because it makes for a very fun commander. From my experience, the EDH community particularly enjoys foiling out their commander which makes Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen foils especially attractive.

Investment Plan - I

I'll be aggressively targeting copies of Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen for personal use and to have it in inventory. I anticipate adding these to my watchlist until the non-foils come down to the $5-6 range and foils hit $20-22. It could take until December for these prices to hit, but I plan on being patient given the minimal play Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen sees outside of EDH. Copies will vacate binders for weeks after rotation, but not more than a couple months after the prices hit their floor will Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen turn into a fantastic long-term hold.

I am anticipating Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen foils to retrace back into the $40+ range by Spring 2020 with the non-foils moving back to $10-12 in the same timeframe. The multiplier for foils will be higher than usual simply because of it being a playable general in EDH (it is approaching 1,000 decks already according to EDHREC).

One of Nicol Bolas's brothers takes the second spot on my rotation watchlist for Core Set 2019. Arcades, the Strategist is a hard card to evaluate from a price-point perspective because it sees play in so many places.

First off, casuals like myself loved when Arcades was first spoiled because building a "walls" EDH deck was too unique and fun to pass up. Additionally, plenty of players in Standard have made budget Arcades decks which haven't been competitive enough to win major events but made plenty of showings during Friday Night Magic. Even Saffron Olive hopped on the Arcades train with his Against the Odds series running a build in Modern.

You can see the EDH impact on the price when looking at the current foil multiplier (almost 5x) compared to the non-foil counterpart. This tells me that foils will be harder to come by within as little as six months because so many copies are already sleeved up and ready for the Command Zone. Commander players won't be selling their foil copy at rotation thus supply won't refill nearly as much as other rotating cards.

Investment Plan - II

I estimate foils could get down to $10 but I cannot imagine a scenario where it goes any lower than that. If you can find LP or better copies for that price, scoop up a few and hold them for six months with an expectation that you'll be able to move them at $15-20 by Spring 2020.

Given the possibility of a reprint in a supplement set, I am avoiding the non-foils. Worth noting that Arcades is mythic, so a reprint in a Commander precon would likely be done at mythic as well and thus foils wouldn't be safe, either.

As the world of EDH goes, so do board wipes. And as many content creators for EDH will tell you, board wipes are a dime-a-dozen these days, so what makes Cleansing Nova special?


Destroying creatures is built into hundreds of cards, but the choice to destroy all artifacts and enchantments makes Cleansing Nova one of the best utility board wipes in all of Commander. The best comparison I could find is Austere Command which costs one more mana to cast and $5 more to buy. Granted the flexibility of Command is a bit higher than Nova, but it is also one more mana and at the end of the day redundancy is king in EDH.

Players seem to agree with my assessment of Cleansing Nova because it ranks as the most-played card in commander from Core Set 2019 according to EDHREC.

Investment Plan - III

I love acquiring non-foils of Cleansing Nova at its current $0.50-$0.75 price. I don't see this card dropping too much further from its current price. It'll be a tough card to keep in stock for vendors, but it'll also make for a relatively easy reprint in due time. We should be safe for a little while though with Core Set 2020 and the commander precons behind us. Cleansing Nova did get the "Promo Pack" treatment recently, but that supply is so small I see it as negligible to the price trajectory over the next 6-12 months.

I personally plan on grabbing foils at their current $2 price-point. I have my eye on some lightly played copies already and am monitoring supply in September to see if more come online before I pull the trigger. These don't stand to drop much more even if a little supply is added to the market because of how well they sell. Looking at CardKingdom, they are already selling NM foil copies for $3.49 and I won't be surprised to see this jump to $4.99 within six months.

Additional Watchlist Targets

Here's a shortlist of additional uncommons and rares I have added to my personal watchlist. As usual, I am focusing on foils and here are my targets for each card:

  1. Psychic Corrosion: in at $2 (NM foil) and targeting $5 exit in 6-12 months. It is a mill wincon for wheel decks making it very appealing at the kitchen table and viable in a few EDH strategies as well (ex: Niv-Mizzet, Parun).
  2. Poison-Tip Archer: in at $2 (LP foil) and targeting $5 or buylist exit for comparable value in 6-12 months. Elves are always among the most popular tribes in any format, so any sort of hype around them would bode well for Poison-Tip Archer. Furthermore, the Aristocrats strategy has been pushed a lot in recent sets and it shows with foils already in low supply on TCGPlayer (two pages at time of writing). I won't be surprised to see supply for this come back online first before it makes a push higher towards $5. Full disclosure: I purchased two LP foil copies for $2/each.
  3. Liliana's Contract: in at $1.50 (NM foil) and targeting $5 or buylist exit for comparable value in 3-6 months. The fact that this card says "you win the game" on it is immediately enough to make it actionable. Pair that with the Demon creature-type and the flavor to Liliana's storyline and we have a home run. The art is wonderful, too, which will only further help its case in foil. I expect to sell these fairly quickly given the popularity of demons, Liliana, and the historically-strong appeal of "you win the game" cards.
  4. Mirror Image: in at $1 (NM foil) and targeting $3-5 or comparable buylist value within 3-6 months. Shapeshifters have been exceedingly popular recently thanks to Modern Horizons. Additionally, the fact that Mirror Image is just a straight upgrade to Clone bodes well for its long-term price trajectory. I picked up 8 copies of this at the aforementioned $1 price-point and don't anticipate there being any issue reselling those. I don't like non-foils for a few reasons, however. Mirror Image is at uncommon so supply is larger, and the reprint risk always looms for a card like this.

Wrapping Up

There you have it! We've done four sets in eight weeks and the primer for rotation is complete. If you haven't already, leverage the "save for later" feature on TCGPlayer or comparable websites and set up your cart for when the prices on rotating cards make sense to you. As a final reminder, rotating cards typically bottom out between 4-8 weeks with the most played cards typically bottoming a little sooner. Cards that have commander appeal will begin to climb in price again by this winter and a full rebound (including them possibly being worth more than they were in their Standard lifetime) is likely for many of the cards I called out by Spring 2020.

These cards are all out-of-print at this point, so the supply that is in the wild is all we have to work with now. Remember that as you evaluate cards, and remember aside from Dominaria these rotating sets were opened less than recent Standard sets have been due to the missing "lottery" (Masterpieces) aspect.

If you have any questions I can help with, please feel free to reach out on QS Insider Discord or DM me on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

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