By now, my readers are familiar with my writing style and areas of focus. I often cover older formats, investing, and Magic’s earliest sets. These realms of MTG finance reflect overlap between all of my personal interests in the game. I love that there are so many ways for people to engage in this hobby—it’s like there’s something for everybody!
This week I’m going to shift gears a little, stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’m going to talk about cards in new frames for once!
How will I do this without any expertise in formats like Modern, Pioneer, and Standard? I’m going to use MTG Stocks’ “Most Played Cards” page as an estimation for each format’s metagame. Then, using the data provided, I will make some comparisons to see which cards show up in multiple formats.
The addition of Pioneer may have fractured the player base a little bit, and this could cannibalize Modern or Legacy. But if a card sees significant play in multiple formats, it has a higher likelihood of maintaining a consistent demand profile. Combine that with a growing Pioneer player base and tax refunds coming in, and you may have some reasonable targets to consider!
Because Pioneer is the newest driver for demand, I’m going to try and find cards that see play in multiple formats that include Pioneer. Here’s what I found.
Thoughtseize has to be one of the most solid pick-ups. According to MTG Stocks, it is the number one card in Pioneer. This could fluctuate as the metagame evolves, but I’m confident no matter how the meta shapes up, Thoughtseize will find a place in the top 50 of the format. For reference, the Players Tour in Brussels last weekend included Pioneer and there were 16 copies in the Top 8.
Thoughtseize is also the 18th most played card in Legacy and 21st most played in Modern. It’s not quite as prevalent as number one, but still a very useful card in those formats. Expect demand of this one mana sorcery to remain strong in 2020. Barring a reprint, this card probably has an upward trajectory in the coming months.
The number two card in Pioneer according to MTG Stocks is Fatal Push. There were twelve total copies at the Players Tour, so it is definitely prevalent in the format. The one-mana removal spell is also the 18th most played card in Modern. After the uncommon bottomed in late 2019, it rebounded into the $5 range. While it may be difficult for a newer uncommon to overtake the $10 mark, a lack of reprint and robust multi-format demand could be enough to get Fatal Push there.
I have to admit, when I sat down to write this article I would not have expected to mention a Throne of Eldraine uncommon. I can still visit my local Target and purchase boosters of the set, after all! Yet I think it deserves mention being the fifth most played card in Pioneer, the tenth most played card in Modern, and second most played card in Standard. There were thirteen copies played in the Players Tour Top 8 last weekend.
What gets me excited about this card is its low casting cost and obvious utility in non-rotating formats (especially where blue is popular). The card reminds me of Spell Pierce, a common worth over two bucks before its reprint. One mana counterspells are potent in older formats, and I believe Mystical Dispute’s full potential is just now being unlocked. Given its recent printing, I’d look closely at foils for maximum upside. The foil multiplier is currently only 2x, and that seems low for a multi-format staple.
The Core 2020 reprint of Leyline of the Void crushed the enchantment’s value. It was worth north of $40 before, and has since retreated down near $10. There is one upside to the Core 2020 reprint, however: the card is now Pioneer legal. While it’s not likely to be a main deck all-star like Thoughtseize, this card is a potent sideboard tool in the right matchup. There were seven copies in the Players Tour Top 8 and MTG Stocks has it listed as the 18th most played card in Pioneer.
The black Leyline also happens to be the 7th most played card in Legacy and 6th most played in Vintage. One could argue that these older formats won’t generate enough demand for Leyline of the Void, and to an extent, they may be correct. But the card’s efficiency at hosing graveyards is difficult to match, and I think there’s upside here as Core 2020 fades in the rearview mirror.
The last basket of cards I want to touch upon is the enemy-colored Fast Land cycle. These Kaladesh lands are likely to see play in various degrees across both Pioneer and Modern. Actually, I was at first going to write about Shock Lands since they’re likely the first consideration for Pioneer deck builders. But those lands have been reprinted so many times, whereas the Kaladesh fast-lands have yet to be reprinted. Despite slightly less demand, these have greater upside potential due to their lower supply.
At the Players Tour, deck-builders had to be creative when developing their mana base. A quick browse through the Top 8, and it quickly becomes apparent each player found utility in a different variety of lands. Some maxed out on Shock Lands and supplemented with others, while others preferred lands with more utility, such as Temples and Fabled Passage. I particularly liked Joel Larsson’s Sultai Delirium list for its distribution of lands:
Playing three colors in Pioneer is not difficult, but the traditional fetch-shock or fetch-dual approach of Modern and Legacy, respectively, is not available. Between all the mana fixing lands available, there’s no shortage of options. Which lands are most played will vary by metagame, but I believe Kaladesh Fast Lands offer the best balance of playability and print run (single printing) to offer upside in 2020.
Wrapping It Up
It didn’t take long for Pioneer to become popular—players love new formats as it quickly becomes a new place to brew and explore Magic. MagicFest Brussels had a terrific turnout as players remain excited to play the evolving format. I believe this newfound interest will translate to greater sales of the most played cards, leading to higher prices.
While not my area of focus, I felt it important enough to explore the format a little more in-depth to see which cards had the greatest upside potential. In order to minimize risk, one approach would be to find cards with multi-format appeal and buy accordingly. That’s precisely what I tried to do this week.
It turns out the list of options is quite long, meaning there’s no shortage of ideas to explore. If you’re new to Pioneer like me, then perhaps this list offers a useful snapshot of where to focus your attention. Personally, I have no position in any of the cards I discussed today—I’ve been focusing on upgrading my Old School decks recently. But if I do decide to make a play in Pioneer (probably a good idea as it encourages portfolio diversification), the cards I discussed in this week’s article are where I’d start.
- Legends Mana Drain has made a return to Card Kingdom’s hotlist, now with a $120 buy price. After seeing a pullback post-reprinting, this card has rebounded strongly and offers decent upside going forward…as long as it doesn’t get the reprint treatment again!
- One card with a bafflingly high price is Bloom Tender. Somehow, after all these years, the card still continues to dodge reprint outside the Mystery Booster Packs (which really doesn’t count, the set is too huge to introduce significant supply of any one card). As a result, the card remains on Card Kingdom’s hotlist with a $42 buy price!
- Another card that constantly dodges reprint is Cabal Coffers. The uncommon (not even rare!) did see a reprint in Planechase, but that was still a long time ago now. Thanks to its popularity in Commander, the land now buylists to Card Kingdom for $49! Torment copies buylist for “only” $39, but that’s still wildly high for an uncommon that sees little play in 60-card formats. I jokingly wonder at what point Torment booster packs are worth cracking for a shot at this card!