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Ikoria and Government Checks: Two MTG Finance Catalysts

Four years ago, Revised Wheel of Fortune was a $20 card. Here we are in 2020 and the latest round of buyouts has driven this card near $200.


Many other cards are spiking as well, as it becomes clear the lack of in-person MagicFests isn’t slowing down speculation. It did for a short bit, but now I’m hypothesizing there are a couple catalysts sending prices higher.

First, there’s the government stimulus check hitting many accounts across the globe over the past couple weeks—sure, if you’re unemployed you may use that money for food or rent. But for those who received the stimulus while still remaining gainfully employed, this windfall could be heading straight into the Magic fund.

Second, there are a few formats suddenly gaining interest due to the pending release of Ikoria and Commander 2020. This week I’ll examine a few different formats as I try to predict what other cards may be on the move soon thanks to these two catalysts.

Speculation on Commander Cards

Let’s start with this article’s headliner, Wheel of Fortune. Over the weekend this card was suddenly bought out on TCGPlayer—no simple feat given the number of copies that exist and their price point! Someone (or some group) with deep pockets are making a move on this long-time Commander staple. In addition to being a Reserved List favorite, this buyout could have been catalyzed thanks to the new Commander 2020 card Gavi, Nest Warden, which encourages you to cycle and draw multiple cards. Or, more likely, Ikoria card Rielle, the Everwise is the culprit.

Card Kingdom is now offering $90 for this card on their buylist, the highest vendor buy price since it momentarily hit $91.50 back in 2018. This to me is a very bullish sign. Card Kingdom had recently dropped their buy prices significantly, likely as they preserve cash during the COVID-19 shutdown. But now they’re paying top dollar for a card that was recently bought out.

With new Commander decks coming out, my suspicion is that other Reserved List Commander staples may be vulnerable as well. My intent here is not to encourage buyouts, but rather to remind readers that this could (and probably will) happen again, and I don’t want folks to be left out to dry wishing they picked up their copies sooner.

On top of that, consider the newly enabled infinite mana combos now available thanks to Zirda, the Dawnwaker. Reducing an activated ability by two mana already makes many cards more interesting in Commander, but it makes Grim Monolith an infinite mana engine.


Here’s another perennial Reserved List card with tremendous Commander potential and limited supply. About a year ago, this card was buylisting for around $130, so the $99 buy price today isn’t the best. But I do wonder if we’re destined to return to the highs once Commander players get their hands on physical Ikoria cards.

I guess technically Basalt Monolith can also generate infinite mana under Zirda’s lead, but that card has been printed a lot more and isn’t on the Reserved List. Still, I mention it because Revised copies are at an all-time high now and buylist for around $2. This could be a good time to pick up high-end copies such as Beta or Commander Anthologies copies.

While it doesn’t go infinite, Mana Vault is a Commander favorite and would slot in nicely with Zirda.


Between Commander 2020 decks and all these new Companions from Ikoria, Commander players are going to be excited to deck-build again. Since Commander players rarely take old decks apart, this could mean a new wave of demand for the format’s most popular staples.

Legacy and Vintage

Speaking of Companions, have you seen how broken these are in older formats? Vocal Vintage player Rich Shay has expressed his concerns over Vintage’s health thanks to the advent of these Companions.

His data may be anecdotal, but I know Rich plays enough Vintage to develop a balanced, unbiased assessment of the format. According to Rich, Lurrus of the Dream-Den has broken Vintage. He will likely get banned.

But if he’s not banned—or if he’s banned in Vintage only—Lurrus may catalyze movement in some zero mana artifacts. He can do some pretty broken things with Lotus Petal and Lion’s Eye Diamond.


Not that a turn one 3/2 is all that impressive in Legacy, but you can use LED to cast your Companion and then return the LED back to play! Surely there must be something broken that can be done here, right?

Hareruya published a different kind of list with Lurrus as companion, inserted into Grixis Delver.

If this kind of list takes off, expect to see newfound demand for Mishra’s Bauble, Dreadhorde Arcanist, and Legacy mainstay Force of Will. (Disclaimer: I just recently completed a playset of Force of Will). Dreadhorde Arcanist will probably be a playable Legacy card with or without Lurrus, so picking up some $2 copies while he is the cheapest he’s ever been may not be a bad idea.

If Lurrus of the Dream-Den isn’t your kind of card, but you like the idea of infinite combos with Zirda in Commander, perhaps you’d appreciate its port over to Legacy. Consider this build presented by Hareruya:

This list seeks to generate infinite mana with Zirda, the Dawnwaker and Basalt Monolith or Grim Monolith. Then there’s the other infinite combo enabled by Auriok Salvagers: you can sacrifice Lion’s Eye Diamond to generate three white mana, use the Salvagers to bring it back to your hand, cast it, and repeat to generate infinite mana.

Either of these infinite-mana engines can then fuel a giant Walking Ballista for the win. In this list, Lion’s Eye Diamond is again a key pick-up. This kind of decklist could also explain why Ancient Tomb has seen a bump in demand lately. Better yet, you can pick up Reserved List City of Traitors if you think this deck has legs.

Hareruya presents lists for other Ikoria Companions as well, but I won’t dwell on them all. I’ll just call out one more that looks particularly spicy and has already reared it’s ugly head in Standard. Meet the Gyruda, Doom of Depths Legacy combo deck:

This one is fairly straightforward: cast Gyruda as quickly as possible by playing all the sol-lands and artifact mana accelerants (there’s Lion’s Eye Diamond and Grim Monolith again). Then once you resolve Gyruda, Doom of Depths you continue to reveal Clone and blink effects to make a whole bunch of copies of the 6/6 creature. One 6/6 isn’t too intimidating in Legacy, but a board filled with six or ten of them can become a bit much!

Whatever your preference, Companion creatures will ensure that Ikoria is the most disruptive set to Legacy in quite some time, and this could mean new sources of demand for many key cards!

A Brief Nod to Standard

I don’t really care for Standard speculation all that much. But it would be ignorant of me to state that money can’t be made speculating on the format. Just look at the recent price jumps in Companions and Shark Typhoon, which are proving to be quite the powerhouses in the format.

Now we have to be careful speculating on Ikoria cards because they haven’t even been released in paper yet—that’ll take a few more weeks. The same warnings about pre-orders apply.

Spark Double’s move, on the other hand, is more organic since the card’s been on the market for a while now.


This card is on the rise thanks to the Gyruda combo deck that is played in Standard, doing the same thing as its big brother deck in Legacy. I’ve seen this combo play out on Arena and it can be very powerful!

Now, I do believe my Tier 3 Standard deck on Arena, Mono-white Devotion, stands a chance against the Gyruda combo deck for one reason: it runs four Hushbringer. If I can stick this creature and protect it, the Gyruda combo is completely shut down. Hushbringer also happens to shut down the popular Witch’s Oven / Cauldron Familiar combo deck. I’m not saying the card will become the next powerhouse in Standard, but it is a reasonable option should these two decks become too dominant in the format.


You could do much worse for a buck.

Wrapping It Up

Ikoria: Lairs of Behemoths. Whether you love the set or hate the set, it is doing wonders for the Magic finance market. In a world of COVID-19 and record-level unemployment claims, such catalysts are much needed in Magic. I welcome the shake-ups with open arms! That, combined with the release of Commander 2020 and the recent government checks, is really doing work in perturbing the market.

The Companions are definitely shaking things up, disrupting Standard, Commander, Legacy, and even Vintage! I wouldn’t be surprised if Pioneer and Modern decks also started leveraging these special creatures.

As these format metagames shift, I expect newfound demand for some key cards. Grim Monolith, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Basalt Monolith, Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors, and Force of Will are some of my favorites. But any perennial Commander and Legacy staples should bode well in this environment.

Lastly, I even believe Ikoria will be disruptive enough to change Standard in a significant way. That means there will even be opportunities to profit on Standard, something I haven’t considered for a long time now. Perhaps my exposure to Arena is opening my eyes to the dynamics of the format? Whatever the reason, keep an eye on how the metagame evolves because once Ikoria is released in paper, I expect a number of cards will suddenly become more valuable.

All this action is truly exciting me about Magic finance. Anything that excites me these days is a welcome surprise, and I look forward to sinking my teeth into some speculation in the coming weeks!

Sigbits

  • Mox Diamond demand is fairly strong right now—to acquire a copy, you’ll need to shell out north of $200. Card Kingdom has the artifact on their hotlist with a $175 buy price, but I expect this to tick higher in the coming weeks. The same goes for Lion’s Eye Diamond, which is also on the hotlist with just a $120 buy price.
  • Once again, Transmute Artifact and Power Artifact are on Card Kingdom’s hotlist with buy prices of $90 and $85, respectively. These cycle through the hotlist every week or two, and their buy price tends to fluctuate between $80 and $100. Note Power Artifact is yet another way to go infinite with Grim Monolith and Basalt Monolith!
  • Other popular Commander cards on Card Kingdom’s hotlist include Mana Drain ($70 for Iconic Masters) and Serra’s Sanctum ($65). These are well off their highs, but still noteworthy returns to the hotlist. Once again, if Commander interest increases these could see a bump in demand over the coming weeks.


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Sigmund Ausfresser

Sigmund Ausfresser

Sigmund first started playing Magic when Visions was the newest set, back in 1997. Things were simpler back then. After playing casual Magic for about ten years, he tried his hand at competitive play. It took about two years before Sigmund starting taking down drafts. Since then, he moved his focus towards Legacy and MTG finance. Now that he's married and works full-time, Sigmund enjoys the game by reading up on trends and using this knowledge in buying/selling cards.

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