The new standard set Strixhaven is just around the corner; with spoiler season upon us, the time has come to examine these new cards. With the new spoilers coming out as the days go on, people are starting to figure out some of the cool card interactions. One of these card interactions is a two-card infinite combo in mono-black. The first part of this combo is the new Professor Onyx which features a new mechanic by the name of Magecraft. The second part of this combo is an uncommon card from Onslaught, Chain of Smog. This combo has turned this seemingly useless piece of bulk, into a card worth almost $15 apiece.
The way this combo works is very interesting. Liliana's ability, and any other card with Magecraft, causes an ability to trigger whenever you cast or copy a spell. In the case of Professor Onyx A.K.A Liliana, whenever you cast or copy a spell you drain your opponent for 2 life, and you gain 2 life. With Chain of Smog, any target player discards two, and then that player may choose to copy that card. Essentially, you choose yourself as the target, copy the spell, choose yourself again, rinse and repeat. This triggers any Magecraft ability infinitely. This is even better considering that with Professor Onyx it makes a two-card infinite combo in mono-black, which for many cEDH players is a very desirable thing.
Before this spike, Chain of Smog had been sitting at around 30 cents for most of its life span, and up until recently, had no reason to change that. On the 23rd, Chain of Smog jumped to about $15 a piece. There still is a decent supply on TCGplayer, with even damaged copies selling for nothing under $10, but on Card Kingdom, all copies are sold out in every condition, with Star City Games and Channel Fireball in similar positions. Over the past couple of days, it has held its position with a slight downturn recently. If we look at a similar card Demonic Consultation, we will see that it experienced a similar jump in price when Thassa's Oracle was spoiled in early 2020. That is a slightly different circumstance, however, as Demonic Consultation still had a use before then, and had value before then, with the start of the value increase for Demonic Consultation starting in 2019.
Chain of Smog jumping to over $15 last week.
Demonic Consultation showing multiple jumps in price over the past two years.
With the release of Thassa's Oracle in Theros Beyond Death, the playability of Demonic Consultation rose drastically, especially in competitive Commander circles. The reason for this being, while some cards offered combo's with Demonic Consultation before (Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and Laboratory Maniac to name two), none offered a two-card combo this cheap. With the introduction of Thassa's Oracle, you only needed two cards and three mana. The only restriction was that your deck had to be Blue-Black (in Commander at-least), and you had to have two blue mana, and one black mana, to play this combo. This was by far better than the three blue mana and one black mana requirement of Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and Demonic Consultation combo, but more could still be improved.
This improvement is arguably made by this new combo. since the color requirement is only black, you could run this in any Commander deck that runs black. No Commander requirements, no extra colors, just any deck with black. This would allow this new combo to be slotted into a lot larger portion of decks, allowing for more widespread use and more demand. The only downside seems to be the large cost requirement of colorless mana, being eight mana instead of three. This may be a big dealbreaker or could be worked around with other methods. Either by cheating out Professor Onyx or by using some heavy non-color-specific ramp. One suggested workaround is by using Planebound Accomplice to cheat her onto the battlefield. Either way this plays out, I am excited to see how this goes, both financially and in gameplay.
Since Chain of Smog is also almost 20 years old, it is fair to say that the supply isn't absolutely ridiculous. Normal players don't have 10 copies sitting in their attic, but it isn't super rare either. This possibility for widespread use, with an additional aspect of relatively lower supply, could allow for this card to fetch a pretty decent price tag. I think it is fair to say that this could stay at these seemingly ridiculous prices, maybe even higher depending on the actual use of the combo after Strixhaven is released. The possibility of something so ridiculous is becoming less ridiculous as the weeks pass. Remember the Shivan Dragon buyouts that left Fifth Edition versions of the card with prices through the roof? While the prices did eventually fall, it wasn't by much. The cheapest NM Shivan Dragon you can find on TCGplayer is almost $20
Stranger things have happened, and it seems in this strange time that some of the craziest most outlandish things will happen. I could see this combo being more widespread than Demonic Consultation and Thassa's Oracle, or I could see it falling by the wayside, and being discarded as inefficient. Whichever way it goes, this is going to be an interesting example of the economics of high power play.
This could possibly be one of the most powerful combos cEDH and perhaps other formats have ever known. Some master deck builder could come up with an insane turn one win, bypassing all of the downsides of this new interaction, and make this a new staple in competitive decks running black, or we could have all but forgotten about this in two months time. We really don't know, and we can debate all day long, but until it comes, we truly don't know. If you were lucky enough to pick up a couple of copies before the price jumped drastically, I applaud you. If not, you never know, maybe pick up a few and see how it goes.
The future belongs to those who reach out and take it, not those who sit and wait. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back. Until next time everyone, have a great day, be smart, and invest in cardboard.