Speculating on New Standard Powerhouses

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Lately, it feels like Wizards of the Coast is constantly iterating on their organized play system. When COVID-19 became a pandemic, they had to make some changes in order to ensure some level of professional play would endure, since paper Magic was out of the question. Magic Arena did an acceptable job filling that gap.

However after over two years of flux and uncertainty, the Pro Tour will be coming back at a frequency (for now) of three times per year. That means players from all over the world will be competing in paper Magic events likely spanning both Limited and Standard formats. I welcome this update with open arms and an eager heart.

In fact, this news has even motivated me to look at Standard again for potential speculation. With the return of competitive paper Magic, we just may find ourselves re-living the golden years, where metagame shifts unfold during Pro Tours and card prices move drastically in response. Here’s hoping!

What’s on the Radar

Before touching on some cards, I need to transparently share that I will probably be a bit rusty in picking newer cards for speculation. That being said, I reviewed the Streets of New Capenna Set Championship top 8 lists and noticed a few standouts worth mentioning.

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki

Holy ubiquity Batman, this card is everywhere and it’s so versatile! Because this card offers so many applications for just three mana, it shows up across multiple archetypes. The first mode provides you with a 2/2 creature that can attach to produce treasure tokens, which works very well in lists jamming Goldspan Dragons. The second mode provides helpful card filtering by letting you rummage twice. The third and final mode grants you a mini Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Talk about powerful!

It's no wonder 24 copies showed up in the top 8 of the Set Championship—that means six of the eight decks played the full playset. The card also shows up as the number one most played card in Standard on MTG Stocks and I can believe it!

Copies of this card are still findable in the $7 range, but Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is approaching that sweet spot where prices bottom and then start to rebound as players shift focus toward newer sets. If this enchantment remains as dominant as the Pro Tours ramp up, I can see it doubling in price before the end of 2023. So far I’ve purchased just a single copy, but will keep an eye out for more if I can get them at a good price.

Tenacious Underdog

This new creature from Streets of New Capenna also made waves at the Set Championship. It showed up in five of the eight top 8 decks, though not always as a 4-of. I counted thirteen total copies, ranging from a singleton to the full playset. While it may not quite do as much as Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, the Tenacious Underdog still packs a punch, with solid stats for a two-mana creature.

Where this card really shines, though, is in its ability to come back over and over again from the graveyard. Not only does this make Tenacious Underdog tough to deal with on a permanent basis, it also offers you card draw when its blitzed from the graveyard, providing players with card advantage.

I wouldn’t be so hot on this card if it wasn’t so inexpensive! Copies start at just around a buck each plus shipping—it’s hard to imagine it will get too much cheaper. So far, I’ve bought six copies, but would love to get a solid chunk of 20 if I can find more in the $1 range. Granted, we may not have hit peak supply yet on the market, but if demand picks up as prospective professional players return to paper Magic, I can see this card climbing toward $5.

Raffine, Scheming Seer

The first two cards I mentioned were rares, but Raffine is a mythic rare. This means the creature from Streets of New Capenna could have a higher ceiling. Two players included a full playset of this creature during the set championship. While my occasional Standard play on Arena probably doesn’t provide me with a true look at the metagame, I can confidently say I’ve faced down this creature on the opposite side of the battlefield multiple times. It can definitely impact the board, especially when combined with other creatures for a large-scale attack.

The ward ability make this card slightly more annoying to deal with, and that toughness of four means certain removal spells just won’t do the trick. Once the creature can attack and connive for a counter, it goes out of range of Voltage Surge as well.

I recently purchased two copies of this card in the $7 price range. Like the Tenacious Underdog, this card could see a slight increase in supply before the price can bottom and then climb higher. This card is also slightly more speculative because it costs three colors, narrowing the lists into which this deck is a smooth inclusion. Still, it shows up currently as the seventeenth most played card in Standard on MTG Stocks and I like it for a gamble.

Lands Lands Lands

After watching David Inglis pilot his Jeskai Storm build throughout live coverage of the Set Championship, I was inspired to try the list out myself. I must admit, this is the most fun I’ve had playing Standard in years. Being a fan of Storm lists in Legacy and Vintage, the opportunity to cast a dozen spells in a single turn in Standard was too juicy to pass up.

Throughout my budding experience playing this deck, I’ve learned how crucial it is to have a consistent mana base. In fact, on Arena I (like many others I suspect) have a short supply of wildcards. Because I wanted a functioning deck, I decided to craft the spells I needed for the deck, forgoing the optimal mana base in the short term. While this has been sufficient to experience the deck and have some success, I must say there are plenty of times when I’m punished for my weak mana base.

Swiftwater Cliffs just isn’t as good as Stormcarved Coast or Riverglide Pathway // Lavaglide Pathway.

As I look at David’s list, I see he played 20 lands (plus a smattering of modal double-faced cards) and 12 of those 20, or 60%, were rares. On Arena, this is a major wildcard drain to include the optimal mana base for such a deck. In paper, the pain is magnified because these rare lands add up quickly!

When I counted the lands on MTG Stocks’ most played cards of Standard, I found there were 15 in the top 50! Part of this is because lands from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty double as utility spells with little downside (they always come into play untapped) so there’s little reason not to include a couple.

The largest reason, however, is the fact that Standard decks currently favor three colors. When I browsed through the Set Championship top 8 lists, every one of them is named for a three-color shard. With the powerful cards introduced by Streets of New Capenna, along with the bevy of mana-fixing lands available to build with, there seems to be little reason not to run three colors.

Of course, three colors means an expensive manabase. I’m not going to single out individual lands in this article, but I just want to emphasize the importance of the rare lands in Standard. Some are older and closer to rotation, while others are brand new and may not have reached peak supply. No matter what you choose to speculate on though, you’ll likely not lose money as long as you flip the cards while they are still Standard legal. I haven’t purchased any myself yet because I need to research more on which ones may offer the most upside.

If I was forced to choose, I’d look closely at the Streets of New Capenna tri-lands as my first choice—maybe in the coming weeks, as supply peaks, I’ll pick up a few copies here or there. Not yet, though. I want to see how the metagame evolves more first.

Wrapping It Up

It’s not often I find a Standard format entertaining enough that my interest is maintained for more than a week. So far, I’m just now passing the week mark for the newest metagame introduced by Streets of New Capenna, and the format has still been fun. Perhaps that’s partly because I can play Storm in the format!

As Standard gets more attention and paper pro play resumes, I’m anticipating an increase in demand for the format’s most played cards. With this theory in hand, I started examining the most successful lists from the recent Set Championship to identify key standouts with upside potential. In my opinion, this includes Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, Tenacious Underdog, and Raffine, Scheming Seer.

I’m sure there are other potential standouts, and I just may have to follow the metagame a little more closely to stay on top of the latest tech. No matter how the metagame evolves, however, I can guarantee rare lands will be a crux of each deck. This is because some of the recently printed rare lands offer utility beyond just tapping for mana. Most importantly, mana-fixing lands are critical in a format dominated by three-color decks.

It'll be interesting to see how organized play’s influence on card prices unfolds in the coming months. I’m optimistic for an inspiring season of engaging gameplay and dynamic card prices, yielding opportunity to speculate and profit along the way. I look forward to the ride!

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