Pioneer and Other Trends Heading Into 2020

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The end of 2019 has been an exciting time for Magic and the market. The announcement of the Pioneer format two months ago has been the biggest driver of price movements, and regular bans have repeatedly shaken up the metagame and demand, but the days of weekly bans are now behind it, and the format is starting to stabilize.

Since the banning of Oko, Thief of Crowns, a green ramp deck has emerged as the biggest force in the metagame. It fills a similar niche to that of Urzatron in Modern, filled with haymaker plays and even sharing Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and it’s establishing itself as the new deck-to-beat.

The inclusion of Cavalier of Thorns has driven its price to incredible highs on Magic Online, to over 40 tickets. In the past week, its paper price has turned around, bottoming out at $4 last week, but now up to over $4.50 and heading towards $5. As a new Pioneer staple that also has plenty of life left in Standard, it looks like a great pickup.

All of the staples of deck, especially the mythics like Oblivion Sower and World Breaker, have seen major online gains online and look like strong buys. However, I’m paying closest attention to Ulvenwald Hydra, which previously was not a known factor. Picking up a few playsets at fractions of a ticket made me some easy gains online, as it’s now nearly three tickets. Its price has sat steadily at $6 on the back of strong casual appeal, but it’s heading higher, now past $6.5

Another emerging trend is red decks, which look to have finally firmly established themselves in the top-tier of the metagame. A Red-White burn deck with Boros Charm has proven most successful, winning the Challenge last weekend and performing well in Preliminary events all week.

Boros Charm itself looks like the best spec in the deck, because in recent months all of the copies have shown significant growth. It was heading towards $4 before reprint in Masters 25 crashed its price to $1.50, but it has now broken $3,  and recent developments will only drive it higher. Most of the other staples in the deck, like Eidolon of the Great Revel and Monastery Swiftspear already spiked at the time of the Pioneer announcement or soon after, so any specs on said cards will be risky given the downside. One idea is to take a more long-term approach and stock up on something like Wizard's Lightning, which is quite cheap at not much more than a quarter, but over a long-term horizon seems likely to appreciate considerably.

It’s not a new trend, but Mono-Black aggro continues to thrive without Smuggler's Copter, and it continues to be a major threat in the metagame.

The newest development in the deck is the adoption of a full playset of Gutterbones, which replaces Night Market Lookout  used primarily for its synergy with Vehicles. Gutterboneshas correspondingly seen large gains online, and its paper price is now heading the same direction. It's being helped by its recent success in Standard as a staple of the Rakdos deck that won MagicFest Portland last weekend, and should have a very bright 2020.

Delirium strategies were once a major force in Standard, and they are starting to finally break out in Pioneer, with a 5-0 in a Preliminary sure to draw attention. The deck is mostly comprised of known quantities that have already spiked and don’t look to be attractive specs, like Traverse the Ulvenwald, Tireless Trackerand Courser of Kruphix, but there are a few silver bullets farther off the radar.

At $30 I’m not too keen on Emrakul, the Promised End, but Ishkanah, Grafwidow looks like an incredible bargain under $2. Its price had done nothing but sink over the past years, bottoming out at just about $1 before spiking to $1.4 at the Pioneer announcement. It has slowly and steadily gained since to $1.75 and should only continue to grow as the deck further establishes itself in the metagame.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer // Nissa, Sage Animisthas maintained a solid price since leaving Standard because it has strong Commander appeal, but it has gained new life, and a couple dollars in price, as a Pioneer playable and good silver bullet in the Delirium deck, and I think it has more to gain in 2020.

Modern Movements

Looking outside of Pioneer, one important trend to be aware of is the rise of a new kind of Urza, Lord High Artificer deck in Modern. It has moved deeper into green by including Ice-Fang Coatl, and embracing its new more controlling role with Archmage's Charm, providing the most high-profile and successful home for the card yet.

The card has always been an obvious staple, just one without a home, which has driven its price to a bargain of just over $1. After months around the same price or less online, it’s finally on the rise online, now over $2.25, and I expect the paper price to start following suit in 2020.

I’m also high on Ice-Fang Coatl, which has reached incredible highs online, over 22 tickets. Its paper price sagged to $4 before starting to rise this week, now past $5, and with a very bright 2020 as a Modern and Legacy playable, even if Oko, Thief of Crowns is eventually banned.

Theros Beyond Death Spoilers

This week also saw the first spoilers for the next set Theros Beyond Death, with Gray Merchant of Asphodel confirmed for a high-profile comeback.

With a Mono-Black Devotion Standard deck inevitable, now looks like a good time to start stocking up on potential staples like Ayara, First of Locthwain. I’m also paying close attention to Bolas's Citadel, which in a popular tweet by pro and known deckbuilder Sam Black brought attention to as a very powerful card to combine with the Zombie.


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