Insider: Ikoria and Black Swans

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Magic has been around since 1993. It existed when we had the dot com collapse from 1999-2000 and it existed during the 2007-2008 economic collapse. Here we are in 2020 with yet another economic downturn, and yet this one provides additional opportunities that the others haven't with regards to MTG finance. While the prior two events both caused massive stock market losses and put a lot of families into tough financial decisions, our current downturn has the additional factor of social distancing.

As many of us have found, it is very difficult to actually play paper Magic in the current environment, where much of the MTG financial realm lives. We have seen a lack of paper events tied together with the truly broken Companion mechanic has given us depressed standard prices that many players have never seen before and those of us who have played for a long time haven't seen in 15+ years. The current set EV according to MTG Dawnglare for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is sitting at $62.52. The most expensive regular version card in the set is Fiend Artisan which is around $12-$13.

The next top 3 mythics in the set are only in the $7-$9 range and the most expensive regular version rare is Zagoth Triome which is currently a little under $6.

Why is this a big deal?

The reason I'm focusing in on the low prices of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is because, with such a low set EV and no demand from competitive Standard players, stores aren't cracking boxes. Normal economic principles dictate that when either supply is low or demand is high prices go up. Currently, we haven't seen prices rise from the set and we have already had another set, Core 2021, release which will divert drafting and many casual pack buyers away from Ikoria. So today, we will focus on some of the sleepers from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths that I like for Commander.

While I don't know if I'd want to build a Commander deck using Keruga, the Macrosage as a companion, though admittedly I don't think his requirement is that out of line for a Commander deck, instead I like him as a potential commander himself or as 1 of the 99. Blue and green are arguably the most powerful 2 colors for Commander so his color requirements aren't much of an issue.

His ability is very similar to Regal Force which prior to it's Eternal Masters reprint sat at $12+ for a year and a half. The change from creatures to permanents with CMC above 3 could actually make Keruga, the Macrosage better. There are plenty of U/G/x Commander decks that play very few creatures that cost less than 3, so in those decks Keruga is likely superior as the ability to trigger off of artifacts and enchantments is a big plus. With current buy-in at or very near bulk prices there is minimal risk in this card as a speculation investment.

This is the first Ultimatum on our list, but it won't be the last. This card remind me a lot of players casting Gifts Ungiven and creating a pile that always works out well for the caster. While the mono-colored spell requirement does reduce the power level of this card, there are still no shortage of extremely powerful mono-colored cards that can be played in a Sultai shell.

Initially, I wasn't that impressed with this card, but with the right deckbuilding this card just says cast 2 of the 3 most powerful cards in your deck. Think of a pile like Time Stretch, Expropriate, and Praetor's Counsel and then ask yourself if casting 2 of those is worth the 7 mana investment of Emergent Ultimatum. This card also sits at the bulk or near bulk status so buy in cost and risk are both low.

This card fits perfectly into any of the Jeskai storm decks, usually commanded by Kykar, Wind's Fury, however, Jeskai also tends to be an archetype that plays a lot of noncreature spells in general so adding a free card draw with no additional mana cost seems extremely powerful. As with my other previous picks the current price is very low so the risk is minimized.

The limitation on Eerie Ultimatum is basically nonexistent in a singleton format like Commander, so it essentially says put all permanents from your graveyard into play. Abzan reanimator decks have been popular in Commander since the first Commander decks came out with Karador, Ghost Chieftain at the helm. This card is an obvious staple in that archetype and honestly could easily go into any Abzan deck to be used as a late-game value engine. While this card isn't at bulk as it's sitting around $1 it is still very cheap.

The last of the Ultimatum cycle we will cover today, this card's biggest issue is it's Mardu color requirements. While it can't be played at instant speed and has a 3 color requirement it's effect is likely better than Cyclonic Rift's as you deal with your opponent's permanents rather than just resetting their boards.


While I think there are a plethora of great Commander cards in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, my focus today has been on the cards with the lowest buy-in that still have significant upside. My speculation focus is heavily skewed towards cards that can have very high percentage gains even if the risk is higher than other cards; for example, I think the Triome cycle is amazing for Commander as any deck playing a lot of fetchlands can often have perfect mana very early on in the game, despite being greedy with the color requirements of many spells. However, I don't know how high the prices can go on these lands given there are so many variants and they would be pretty easy to reprint.

I will admit that I have purchased at least 6 copies of each Showcase version of each Triome, but my logic on that decision is that specialty versions of a card shouldn't take much of a hit with future reprints as that particular version is unlikely to be reprinted.


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