This week I want to take a brief reprieve from the weekly buyout discussion. Old School cards, random Reserved List cards, and uncommons from Magic’s earliest sets are still hot. I do see some calming down in certain pockets of the market, but we haven’t seen significant retracement yet. I’m sure I’ll be returning to this subject again soon, especially with another direct payment from the government in the works.
In the meantime, I wanted to talk about three groups of newer cards: the mana-fixing lands of Standard.
We’ve seen a wide range of these printed by Wizards in the past, and I have to give Wizards credit: the current mana base consisting of Temples, Triomes, and Pathways (along with Fabled Passage) are well-designed and balanced. All three serve their purpose in the right deck.
But what does this mean from a financial standpoint? This week I’m going to look at the most played lands in a couple formats and try to see where money could potentially be parked for a year for modest, less-volatile returns (relative to all the crazy Reserved List noise).
I’ve been a fan of the tri-colored Triomes ever since they came out. In fact, I even speculated on a few copies of the non-foil, Showcase versions myself. (That may seem inconsequential, but realize it takes a lot for me to buy into any newer cards these days). So far, this investment has yielded lukewarm results, but I am still optimistic.
In terms of playability, I see demand coming from three buckets of players. First, there’s Standard. Granted, there are very few paper events nowadays, but as game shops gradually open there should be an increase in Friday Night Magic Standard tournaments. According to MTG Stocks’ Most Played Cards page, only Zagoth Triome cracks the top 50 (number 27). Despite the modest showing, Zagoth Triome is the most expensive of the group.
Second, there’s Pioneer. This is a format I’ve largely ignored throughout its young history in Magic; it simply does not interest me. But MTG Stocks does track the most played cards from the format, and I see a few Triomes on the list. Ketria Triome is number 20, Raugrin Triome is number 44, and Zagoth Triome is number 49. Modest numbers, again, but this will fuel demand for the cards as well.
Lastly, there’s Commander. This is what gives me the highest hopes for Triomes over a longer time horizon. According to EDH REC, the least played Triome is Raugrin Triome, still shows up in over 9,000 lists. The most played, Zagoth Triome, appears in over 11,000. Any three, four, or five-color deck is going to run these and it’s hard to beat a fetchable land that yields three colors. The cycling is a nice touch for long games where top-decking a land isn’t so useful.
All in all, the Triomes offer a unique set of abilities that will keep these relevant in Commander, and to a lesser extent Pioneer, for the foreseeable future. If you’re looking to buy, you already missed the bottom and optimal entry point. These could climb a bit throughout the rest of their life in Standard, and I like their long-term prospects to an extent. But there will be some pressure on price when their time to rotate out of Standard arrives. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see reprints in future Commander decks. For this reason, I prefer holding the Showcase variants (foil or non-foil).
Core Set 2021 Temples
I know these see at least some play in Standard and Historic; at least they do on Arena. But none crack the top 50 lists on MTG Stocks. That, combined with all their printings, explains their dirt cheap nature. That said, I grabbed a playset of all five Core Set 2021 Temples when the set first came out for $0.35 a copy. Just like with the Triomes, getting in near the bottom paid off.
Now Card Kingdom prices regular, non-foil Temples between $0.49 (Temple of Triumph) and $1.29 (Temple of Silence). Sadly, I’m not sure if there’s much more upside left. At the time of my purchase, $0.35 a Temple seemed like a bottom, especially when considering I was able to buy all 20 from a single vendor to take advantage of free shipping. But will these see much more appreciation throughout their life in Standard given their limited play profile? I’m not so sure.
The one positive is that these Temples show up in many EDH REC decklists. For example, Temple of Silence appears in 23,824 decks on the site! I know this number doesn’t accurately reflect actual play, but seeing a staggering number like this at least indicates that many players are using these. If Wizards ever stopped reprinting Temples, they would probably gradually climb over time as a result.
Unfortunately, there’s no way of guaranteeing we won’t see Temple reprints in the near future; they seem to have become favorites of Wizards in the Standard environment. Therefore, I have little interest in holding them over the long term. Given how cheap they are, there’s little reason to rush out and sell; but if I can flip these for store credit and a bit of profit, I am inclined to do so. There are just too many other areas appreciating far faster I’d rather park the money. If I played newer formats in paper, I’d likely just hold onto my set of 20, however, so keep this in mind.
Last but not least, I want to have a look at the cycle of Pathways across Zendikar Rising and Kaldheim. These seem to be the lands of choice in Standard. Cragcrown Pathway is currently the number 5 most played card in Standard!
Needleverge Pathway is the 12th most played card in Standard, Clearwater Pathway is 15th, Branchloft Pathway is 19th, Darkbore Pathway is 20th, Barkchannel Pathway is 23rd, RIverglide Pathway is 25th, and Blightstep Pathway is 43rd! That’s a lot of Pathways seeing a ton of play in Standard!
In addition to their play in Standard, some of these have even cracked into Pioneer. Currently, Blightstep Pathway is the 4th most played card in Pioneer and Cragcrown Pathway is 25th. This demand is probably small relative to Standard, but gives these particular Pathways an extra bit of demand, which should facilitate a stronger price over the next year.
Despite the high play numbers, these Pathways are still very inexpensive, especially when compared to the Triomes. Branchloft Pathway is the cheapest, which makes sense as it’s the least played of the bunch, and retails on Card Kingdom’s site for $3.49. Market price on TCGplayer is even lower, at around $2.70. Interestingly, the borderless variant is even cheaper, with a market price of $2.49. Regular and borderless copies of Cragcrown Pathway are in the same price range, as is Needleverge Pathway.
Prices climb from there, but cap out in the $5 range. At one point, I remember when the Showcase Triomes were hovering in this same price range (perhaps a buck or two higher). For a speculative play, this could be a solid buying point as these are hitting peak supply. If I had to guess, I would predict these would, on average, be more expensive one year from now. The borderless variants may be the most attractive to grab, though I don’t know if they merit a huge premium over their regular printing. Borderless is cool, but it’s not the same as the Showcase printings seen on the Triomes.
The one strike against these is their sub-par performance in Commander. The advantage the Pathways give is their ability to enter play untapped while also giving the player early game flexibility on manabase. Commander often progresses a little more slowly (though not always), so there’s less urgency to having lands enter untapped. Color flexibility is more valuable, and having these lands only tap for one color of mana is a bit of a drawback. As such, I’m not as confident in their long-term Commander demand profile.
While this will cap gains over the long-term, the short term is still bright for the set of Pathways given how ubiquitous they’ll be in Standard. Demand should especially pick up as more FNM’s resume with in-person paper events in the coming months.
Wrapping It Up
I must admit I haven’t paid much attention to recent Magic developments in a while—there’s been too much going on in the Old School market, where I focus most my attention, that I haven’t had time to monitor trends in newer cards.
These lands are still on my radar, however, and I wanted to provide a brief update on how I view each group: Temples, Triomes, and Pathways. If forced to choose between the three, I’d put my money into Triomes for a long-term play and Pathways for a short-term (less than a year) play. I haven’t bought any Pathways yet, but I may look to do so soon. I already have a small pile of Temples and Triomes—I’ll be monitoring pricing trends closely in the coming months to see if I’m presented with an attractive exit point.
Even if these do appreciate modestly, I still think they’ll carry with them an unattractive opportunity cost. It feels awkward holding a Triome and waiting a couple years for its price to go from $7 to $12 when we have stuff like Singing Tree going from $100 to $300 in the same timeframe.
But now that many Reserved List cards already jumped, perhaps one viable strategy is to cash out of the overpriced, less-useful older cards and move store credit into Triomes and Pathways. When I receive store credit, and I find that all the cool old cards I want are way overpriced, this will be my backup plan. For me to even consider acquiring more of these new cards should say a lot to my readers, however, and I hope they consider these seriously when looking for smart areas to put money to work in an era where prices are already lofty.