“I see a red door and I want it painted black. No colors anymore I want them to turn black.” – The Rolling Stones
This lyric pretty much sums up my perspective on Standard (and, by extension, Alchemy) these days. Black has been a powerhouse since rotation, and the printing of cards like Liliana of the Veil and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse have really cemented black’s dominant status.
What does it mean for card prices? Are we seeing subtle shifts reflecting the popularity of black cards in Standard? Let’s investigate!
First, let’s dive into some data. First, I took a look at the most played cards in Standard according to MTGStocks.com. Here’s a snapshot of the top 20:
I’m not sure where Snow-Covered Forest came from to be in the top spot. Ignoring that, I’m seeing the far-reach of black sprinkled throughout this top 20 list. Counting lands that tap for black, I count 12 cards of the top 20 either black or multicolored and inclusive of black. New Dominaria United cards Cut Down and Liliana of the Veil are already making waves, and I suspect those rankings could climb higher in the coming weeks.
You could argue that red is also a dominant color based on the top 20 list above. But there are only half as many red cards (6) as there are black cards in this list. More than the 20% you would expect from a perfectly color-balanced metagame, but a far cry from 12.
Still skeptical? I am, too. So let’s dig a little deeper.
Here’s another set of data, this one being a snapshot of the Standard metagame according to MTGDecks:
This lists the Tier 1 and Tier 2 decks along with their respective share of the metagame. Every single tier 1 deck includes black, with Mono-Black being the deck with the highest share. There are two Tier 2 decks that don’t include black (Red Deck Wins and Boros Justice), but otherwise, you can find black in nearly every other top tier Standard deck.
The total share percentage of the tier 1 and tier 2 decks that contain black is 55.45%. This is consistent with the most played card data above, where black or B/X represented around 60% of the top 20 list.
These data sources, combined with my own experience (albeit playing Alchemy instead of Standard), has convinced me that black remains a force to be reckoned with in current formats.
Examining Specific Cards
What does a typical Mono-Black deck look like in Standard? Here’s a list by Imazawa Junmpei, which won a Qualifier at Hareruya:
One of the first things I noticed when looking at the list was the new cards that show up thanks to Dominaria United: Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Evolved Sleeper, Cut Down, and Liliana of the Veil. These cards, in combination with the powerhouses black already boasted from recent sets, have really set black up for success in Standard.
Mythics On The Move?
For those who weren’t around when Liliana of the Veil was last seen in Standard, I seem to recall she was pretty powerful then too. With the right supporting cast, she can really warp a format. I’m not saying she’s that dominant (yet), but it wouldn’t surprise me if things moved that way.
Looking at these two price charts begs a question I recently asked on Twitter. I had just opened up two Dominaria United collector boosters, and one of them contained a showcase printing of Sheoldred. After seeing this card’s value, I asked if I should sell it immediately. The tweet spurred some interesting debate on the card.
Paul, Quiet Speculation's Director of Content, was pretty high on the card. So far, he’s been correct—Sheoldred has minimally maintained her value throughout the week, and I could see some potential upside. For comparison, A-The Meathook Massacre, another black Standard powerhouse, is trickling up towards $70 post-rotation. Granted, A-The Meathook Massacre may see more play than Sheoldred for now. Still, $50 for Sheoldred is definitely not far-fetched.
Rooting For the Underdog
Expensive mythic rares aren’t the only cards seeing movement thanks to black’s dominance in Standard. Check out the recent price action on Tenacious Underdog:
This card headlined an article I wrote back in late May when Streets of New Capenna hit the scene. At the time, copies were around a buck each, and I predicted a climb to $5. At the time of this writing, Card Kingdom’s near mint price is $4.49 and there aren’t many copies in stock—this card is likely to climb over $5 now that I see how powerful it is in the new Standard. I only wish I had higher confidence in this spec, as I already cashed out of them once I saw the buylist move. I could have made a good bit more had I been patient.
Not Busting The Bank Yet
Another card I like in the new Standard is Reckoner Bankbuster, the number three most played card in Standard, according to MTGStocks. I know, I know, this isn’t a black card. I’m cheating a little bit here. However, there’s no argument that the card is powerful and is making waves in Standard. Despite this, it’s only $1.99 retail and copies can be had for a little less on TCGplayer.
I am seeing some movement in the card’s price lately, and I expect that momentum to continue heading into the fall. This could be another $5 rare before you know it.
Other Cards of Note
Graveyard Trespasser // Graveyard Glutton has already climbed significantly off its lows reached at the beginning of 2022. That being said, people aren’t going to be opening many packs of Midnight Hunt anymore. This could see some movement higher as a result. However, since it’s already worth a few bucks, I’m less inclined to go so crazy over it. Standard rares just don’t have the upside they had once upon a time.
Invoke Despair also deserves mention. Not only is it a four-of in the Mono-Black list posted above, but it’s also a four-of in some non-Mono-Black lists. For example, I see a Grixis Standard list hit mythic on Arena recently. Despite being three colors, the deck still runs the full playset of Invoke Despair. If players are jamming the 1BBBB spell in three-color decks, then it must be extremely powerful! Hovering around $1, this card hasn’t moved a lot. This will change if three-colored decks continue to run four copies.
Lastly, I want to give honorable mention to Soul Transfer, a powerful rare played as a 1-of in a couple of these lists (with additional copies hiding in the sideboard).
The card hasn’t moved at all, and the market price is virtually bulk, at about $0.15. This isn’t likely to break out and become a $5 rare, but if you’re buying other cards already you could do worse than to add a couple of cheap copies of this card into your cart.
Lands: The Glue Holding it All Together
I can’t wrap up this article without acknowledging the dependence on lands in the current Standard manabase. Mono Black decks of course don’t have to worry much about this, but the two- and three-colored decks need to rely on ample dual land variants. Take a look at the manabase for the aforementioned Grixis deck, the one that runs four Invoke Despairs:
Holy nonbasic lands, Batman! I’m seeing a combination of pain lands out of Dominaria United, three-colored triome variants out of Streets of New Capenna, and the Haunted Ridge variety of lands. By the way, did you know Haunted Ridge retails for $20? I had no idea these were so expensive!
I don’t expect pain lands to get anywhere near that high since they’ve been reprinted a ton. That being said, you can definitely expect them to maintain a modest price point during their lives in Standard. The triome variants can definitely climb higher, so I’d keep an eye on those and pick them up strategically if the price is right.
Wrapping It Up
It’s very rare that I study and write articles about Standard. Ironically, it was my Alchemy play on Arena that got me reading up on Standard. Well, that and the fact that I opened two Dominaria United collector boosters and I wanted to see if I opened anything valuable. It turns out the Sheoldred, the Apocalypse card I opened was a chase mythic of the set! I’m not normally this lucky, so I think I’ll stop here and call it a win.
Just because I’m done opening Dominaria United product doesn’t mean I’m done acquiring new cards. I don’t speculate hard on Standard, but I am liking some of the trends that black cards are seeing recently. The metagame is definitely favoring that piece of the color pie, and it’s moving card prices in step.
With another 6 weeks or so until the Vegas event, I’m inclined to sit on my DMU cards for the time being. In the meantime, I may even acquire a few more speculative cards based on the strength of black across the Standard metagame. Either way, it’s definitely worth keeping a close watch on the cards showing up in the lists above—with paper Magic back in full swing again, these could all be well positioned as we head into the fall.