Last week, before the set was fully spoiled, I gave my thoughts on most of the relevant constructed cards in Dark Ascension. With prices already shifting and new cards spoiled, here’s part 2 of my Dark Ascension set review!
Overall, I can’t remember a set that has had a more polarizing reception without the addition of a new controversial mechanic. By and large, competitive constructed players have panned the set almost entirely. They point out that very few of the cards are likely to have an immediate impact on the Standard metagame. In fact, it seems like only Sorin and his B/W tokens have a chance to shift the balance of power away from all [card delver of secrets]Delvers[/card] and Geist of Saint Trafts.
Casual & Limited junkies as well as flavor fans have been much more receptive. Innistrad was oozing with outstanding flavor, and this set continues the trend. I am a little worried about the Limited format myself – I love triple-Innistrad and am worried that the addition of a pack of bombs without much more spot removal will result in a less skilled environment – but adding new pack of sweet cards will still be fun.
While Spikes don’t have to buy more than a handful of singles out of this set, the other two psychographics make out quite well. There are lots of interesting cards here that should hold a modicum of casual value for years.
Wizards has had a bit of a second-set problem for a while now, though. Conflux and Worldwake were the least interesting and poorest-received sets of their respective blocks, and Mirrodin Besieged was nothing special either. Hopefully Dark Ascension will buck that trend.
Financially, there is not a lot of hype for this set outside Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. Mirrodin Besieged and New Phyrexia respectively have ten and eleven cards that book for $5 or above on Channel Fireball. Dark Ascension only has nine. And this is at a time when the prices should be at their highest level ever! This tells me that soft reviews have kept preorder levels lower than normal, meaning that more cards than usual have a chance to grow.
Make sure to keep an eye on sales data for the set. The fact that Avacyn Restored is a big set means that people only have as much Dark Ascension as will be drafted, and if the set is unpopular on top of that the top cards have a chance to keep or gain far more value for far longer. Heck, Sorin might actually keep most of his insane price tag for quite a while if the rest of the set truly is a dud.
Of course, I personally believe that design knocked this set out of the park. I just wish development had been a bit more aggressive about the casting costs of some of the spells. It wouldn’t shock me if this set was in the late stages of development right around the time Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic were being banned. Many of the cards here smack of someone pumping the brakes on Standard’s power level.
Here’s how the mythic prices have moved since last week:
• Sorin, Lord of Innistrad – Up $5 to $55
• Havengul Lich – Stable at $15
• Huntmaster of the Fells//Ravager of the Fells – Stable at $15
• Drogskol Reaver – Down $1 to $6
• Vorapede – Stable at $6
• Falkenrath Aristocrat – Down $1 to $6
• Mikaeus the Unhallowed – Down $3 to $5
• Beguiler of Wills – Down $0.50 to $1.50
• Moonveil Dragon – Down $0.50 to $1.50
So far, it looks like there’s some real separation happening between Sorin (the clear chase card), Havengul Lich/Huntmaster (the second tier), and all the rest.
Sorin’s rise in price was mostly due to the spoiling of Lingering Souls, which will likely go down as one of the best token making spells ever printed. People WILL be playing B/W tokens, and it’ll probably be a pretty good deck. It might not be the BEST deck, but it will certainly be popular among the FNM crowd regardless.
I also expect bumps in price for both Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Massacre Wurm, two cards that are fantastic against this strategy. Massacre Wurm especially has been a hot target in the spec community this week, yet copies can still be found in the $2 range as of this writing. As a small set mythic, there is a chance these’ll be $7-$10 in a couple of weeks if B/W tokens is legit and a heavy black deck can take advantage of the Wurm.
After reading the comments of my last piece, it’s clear that there is a lot of enthusiasm for Havengul Lich, especially in concert with Heartless Summoning. I still won’t believe this will hold its price tag long term until I see some of those decks in action, so I would look to capitalize on the hype while this is still a $15 card.
If I opened any of the other mythics in the set, I would look to trade them into hype at the prerelease and pick them up again in a month or two.
The New Mythics
Here are my thoughts on the three mythic rares that have been spoiled since last week:
Elbrus, the Binding Blade//Withengar Unbound
First, this card is pretty easy to dismiss in Standard. No one is going to pay seven mana for a spell that does literally nothing until you equip it to a creature and connect with it – not with [card karn liberated]Karn[/card] around, at any rate.
Elbrus is slightly more intriguing in Legacy, where Stoneforge Mystic is legal. I doubt it’ll show up, but I could certainly see a format where this card made it as a 1-of Stoneforge Tutor target in certain slower matchups.
Obviously this card is designed for multiplayer/Commander play, but I don’t love it in that format either. The best cards in Commander are either subtly good or really stupid right away – they win the game slowly without drawing attention or allow you to do something broken immediately. Elbrus sits around and looks REALLY scary without doing much of anything, which mostly means that people will target you because they don’t want the blade morphing into a big, scary demon.
Personally, I would have loved to see Withengar have an awesome comes-into-play ability. That way, for 8 mana you could theoretically play the equipment, flip him into a guy, and then something awesome and game-changing happens if he makes it through. I would have also liked to see him be made legal as a commander somehow.
As is, I see him maintaining some value sheerly because of his epic-ness and unique nature. He’s incredibly flavorful and still pretty exciting. Many players LOVE their equipment, and this thing is seriously cool. I just wish he was cool enough to fit in more decks.
Other Affected Cards:
Current Price: $4
Future Price: $3
This, on the other hand, is a card I can imagine casting quite a bit in Commander.
Many of my Commander decks sit around and try to stay alive until they can take over the game. That’s really the best way to attack multiplayer, I’ve found, unless you want to take down the whole table early on.
Helvault is useful early in the game, where it will innocently start to store your creatures that have to chump block or die in a wrath. Then, later on, you can either start vindicating stuff or threaten to unleash your entire horde of hidden creatures.
Granted, that’s some best-case-scenario stuff, and for the most part I don’t think Helvault will see much play in Commander. It’s certainly not a staple of the format. It is, however, a card I plan on running in multiple decks I own. Expect this to stay in the $1 range for now, but at some point when it’s out of print it may start to rise due to casual demand. Of course, I said the same thing about Praetor’s Counsel.
In constructed, I expect this card to be a non-factor. Karn seems better suited as a pseudo-Vindicate, though the first ability on Helvault is quite playable in Standard…assuming you’re playing in an alternate universe where damage still goes on the stack.
Of course, this IS a mythic artifact that only costs 3 mana. Ignoring all of the abilities on the card for a moment, and using only the wildest hypothetical scenarios, doesn’t that seem like a deep, deep sleeper to you?
Other Affected Cards:
Current Price: $1.50
Future Price: $2
Speaking of Praetor’s Counsel, clearly Wizards thought that one was too broken when they made this.
For the same eight mana, you get 2 life for each card in the graveyard…but they go back into your deck instead of into your hand. Not a trade-off I’d make…well, just about ever.
I can’t imagine this card seeing more than the fringiest play anywhere. Even on kitchen tables.
Other Affected Cards:
Current Price: $1
Future Price: $0.50
Here’s how the rare prices have moved since last week:
• Grafdigger’s Cage – Down $2 to $8.
• Gravecrawler – Stable at $5.
• Thalia, Guardian of Thraben – Down $0.20 to $3.50
• Vault of the Archangel – Up $0.50 to $3
• Thraben Doomsayer – Down $0.50 to $1.50
• Wolfbitten Captive//Krallenhorde Killer – Down $0.20 to $1.50
• Hellrider – Up $0.30 to $1.30
• Predator Ooze – Up $0.50 to $1.50
It looks like my initial projection on Grafdigger’s Cage was too optimistic. Hype died down very quickly on the rare, and it appears that Cage will settle in the $5 range for a while before making any other moves.
I do still expect Grafdigger’s Cage to command a $10+ price tag at some point, but it might not be for quite a while yet.
I don’t expect much further growth from the Vault of the Archangel. The card is in the same set as Sorin, who is still a $55 mythic, and literally zero decks are going to run Vault without also running Sorin. That screams ‘low ceiling rare’ to me.
Expect the Doomsayer and Captive to keep dropping to the $1 range unless they show up in a deck or two.
The New Rares
Here are my thoughts on the rares that have been spoiled since last week:
This is my personal favorite card in the set. I cannot wait to use it.
First, you should know that there are no timing restrictions with this card. If you counter a creature spell on your opponent’s turn, you may still cast a creature card from your hand. The blowout potential of this thing is unreal.
Historically, Counterlash is most similar to Desertion, which is a $7 card now. Counterlash is no Desertion, though. The extra mana is huge, and you need to have something else in your hand that you want to play for free – you can’t just jack your opponent’s spells.
That said, Counterlash is much more interesting to build around. It’s kind of like a Show and Tell, and people are going to love trying to break this in standard with things like instant-speed Massacre Wurm and in Modern with [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card]. I also expect this to be an actual Commander staple, not just a card some people will run occasionally.
Can a six-mana counterspell actually hold value? History tells me that it can’t, but I want to believe REAL bad.
Current Price: $3.50
Future Price: $5
Every time a set is spoiled, I get excited for the card that shows up in Mike Flores’ column. They usually reserve something aggressively costed and constructed playable for that slot.
That’s why I’m shocked that I don’t see the potential in this little guy.
I can almost get behind the casting cost, but the comes-into-play-tapped clause really seems to doom the Messenger. Of course, for just three mana you do get the better part of a Lava Axe and a not-insignificant threat. Remember that Kalastria Highborn wasn’t well-loved when it was spoiled, either.
Also, as I’ve said many times, finance is based on demand far more than quality. That’s why Phyrexian Obliterator is a $12 card even though it never shows up in winning decks. I’ve learned not to underestimate the zeal of committed MBC players, and they’re going to be all over this little guy. He probably deserves to be about a buck, maybe a buck fifty, but I bet at some point an MBC deck will luck into a T8 and it’ll jump to $5-$6. If it’s actually good, this card will be at $10 overnight.
Other Affected Cards:
Gravecrawler and all the other mono-black Zombie cards suddenly get way more attractive if this thing is actually good. Phyrexian Obliterator might start living up to its potential as well.
Current Price: $2.50
Future Price: $5
It’s kind of frustrating that they didn’t really push Morbid toward major constructed playability. If they had, we might have seen this become a really powerful enabler. As is, I’m not sure where the home for this card is other than casual decks. It’s quite good with Undying guys, so maybe that will be a thing. I like this whole cycle long-term, but for now I see this card dropping fairly soon.
Current Price: $1.50
Future Price: $0.80
New Dollar or Less Rares
This section is even bigger than last time. Holy cow are you unlikely to open up a good card in this set.
• Deranged Outcast This is kind of a sweet combat trick in a G/W humans deck, and it’s on a reasonable body. If this sees play it’ll be a $3 card, but my guess is that there just won’t be room for it in the tier-1 decks. BULK RARE.
• Dungeon Geists Is half a Frost Titan worth paying 2/3rds of his mana? I’m guessing not. The 4-slot is the sweet slot in constructed Magic these days, and this just isn’t enough of a trump. My real question is about the word ‘zeitgeist.’ What’s the etymology of that phrase, I wonder? Does it have anything to do with geists? When we talk about ‘the cultural zeitgeist,’ are we referring to some sort of pompous ghost? If only there was a free online encyclopedia that might contain the answer… BULK RARE.
• Markov Blademaster If you ever get this to connect even once, holy crap do you have a serious threat. This is quite the win condition in a red deck, though I’m pretty sure it’s currently outclassed by Chandra’s Phoenix and a bevy of things with haste. Double Strike is quite a popular casual mechanic, though, and I can see this holding value or evening ticking up a bit. $1-$2 Card.
• Alpha Brawl For when you need to spend six mana on possibly wrathing the board but not really. I mean, yeah, this is the closest to Plague Wind red has gotten in a while, but I doubt that’ll interest anyone all that much. BULK RARE.
• Call to the Kindred I wish this wasn’t an aura. I’d quite like it if it just sat in play on your side of the board and worked for any creature you had on your team. Would that really have been broken? I’m guessing not. As printed, it lacks the consistency of Polymorph, which is somewhat like saying a dozen doughnuts is less bad for you than thirteen doughnuts. BULK RARE.
• Curse of Bloodletting I remember the days when Furnace of Rath was a hot trade commodity. This card is kind of like that one, only it can be tutored up, it costs a little more, it’s one sided, and it doesn’t work on damage to creatures. So, uh, maybe it’s not much like Furnace of Rath. I can’t see this one hitting the table in competitive constructed decks, and only the most dedicated red players in Commander will want this card otherwise. BULK RARE.
• Curse of Echoes If Hive Mind/Pact becomes a thing in Legacy again, this speeds up their clock by a full turn. It’s also going straight in my chaos-based Commander deck. My guess is this card bumps along at a quarter until/unless the pact deck breaks out again. If it does, this’ll trade at a solid $2-$3. Until then, consider it a BULK RARE.
• Curse of Misfortunes What did we do to make a mummy really angry? I can’t think of any other reason this set would be cursed with so many unplayable rares. BULK RARE.
• Geralf’s Mindcrusher I’m going to be first picking this in so many drafts you have no idea. I also think he might make the cut in some U/B zombie Commander builds. Unfortunately, though, this guy fails the titan test even with Undying. I just don’t see him making it as the six-drop of choice for any control deck. His mill and survivability might make him a late casual bloomer, though. This is the kind of card that might be $1-$2 a couple years from now. While it’s Standard legal, though, I expect it to remain a BULK RARE.
• Havengul Runebinder If this wasn’t an intro pack rare, it would likely be my pick as an intriguing casual sleeper. In the world of $10 Death Barons, the Runebinder is an army unto himself. I would not be shocked to see this card creep up in price as time goes by. $1-$2 Card.
• Increasing Ambition This is a good card in slower Commander groups. It’s no Demonic Tutor, of course, but tutors with built-in late game card advantage are kind of unheard of. I think this is a sleeper of a casual card, and I like its long term chances. $1-$2 Card.
• Increasing Savagery Triple Travel Preparations still isn’t good in Constructed, sorry. Call me from Instantopia, where every sorcery is an instant, and then we’ll talk. BULK RARE.
• Increasing Vengeance I still run Fork in my cube, even though it’s rarely good. This is because I have a gorgeous Beta one and I still remember the days when Fork was just about the best Magic card it was possible to own. Increasing Vengeance only seeks to increase the amount of mocking I’ll get for that decision while reminding me that there’s just no room for Fork in today’s world. I still think it’ll be kind of a fringe Commander card, and I look forward to ‘getting’ someone casting a game-breaking spell who forgot this was in my graveyard. I can’t give it ‘bulk’ because it’s freaking Fork with upside, though. People are going to want this card at some point. Right? $1-$2 Card.
• Lost in the Woods I love the flavor on this new Fog! BULK RARE.
• Requiem Angel This would see a little bit of play at 4 mana I suspect. BULK RARE.
• Sudden Disappearance I severely dislike this card. I’m going to lose otherwise-unlosable games to it in draft, because it’s swingy as crap and takes no skill to slam down. In constructed, it’s not good enough because it costs 6 mana, meaning you can’t really play this and then do something else with your mana that you otherwise couldn’t do with your opponent’s board in play. That basically means it’s limited to being an expensive and obnoxious falter. BULK RARE.
Bah, I’m done with rares. Let’s move on to uncommons before I continue to seethe.
Here are the uncommons that I believe will be worth $1+ at some point. Keep these out of your bulk bins now and you won’t have to go digging around for them later!
• Drogskol Captain This card further cements Hexproof as the most prevalent and annoying mechanic in today’s Standard. I expect this will see play as a 4-of in many of the decks that already run Geist of Saint Traft, making Day of Judgment more important than ever.
• Diregraf Captain This guy is one of the biggest reasons I believe most casual Zombie decks going forward will be U/B instead of mono black. This is the kind of casual card that’ll be worth $2-$3 forever.
• Immerwolf Even if there’s never another werewolf printed, this card will stay at $1 or more.
• Stromkirk Captain These uncommons are why Dark Ascension is a sneaky-good set for value. It’s true that there’s a higher-than-average number of bulk rares, but there’s a WAY higher than average number of uncommons that will be worth money for years to come. Pick these up now while they’re easy to find.
• Lingering Souls Yep, this one should stick around a buck as well. That’s five uncommons in this small set that should be worth a dollar or more for the foreseeable future.
• Strangleroot Geist This is the sixth, though it might take a bit longer to get there.
• None of the commons immediately jump out at me as future Delvers, but I’d keep a few sets of Evolving Wilds and Faithless Lootings in the binder just in case.
Aside from the obvious chase rares/mythics, here are the foils I’d target that I believe will maintain a significant price increase over the non-foil version.
• Lingering Souls Especially if this does start to see some eternal play, this may end up as a $10 foil.
• Beguiler of Wills The foils on this will look beautiful, and the only play this mythic will see is in Commander. I can see the regular one dropping to $1 and the foil rising to $7-$8.
• Helvault As I said, I have a feeling on this card based on almost nothing. If you’re a fan of blind luck, I’d buy a couple foils of this and sock ‘em away.
• All the Uncommon Tribal Lords These will all hit $5 and keep rising at some point.
• Increasing Confusion The ‘people who like mill cards’ and ‘people who like foil cards’ demographics often overlap.
• Black Cat I knew people would want to collect these and I seriously debated buying out SCG at $0.50 each when they went up for preorder. Turns out I should have because they’re now sold out at $2.50 apiece. It doesn’t matter if this card is ever played in anything, it’s a kitty.
• Evolving Wilds This is a $2-$4 foil all day long.
• Faithless Looting This foil is already selling for $8. That seems very high to me, but it should stay above $3-$4.
• Grafdigger’s Cage This is a vintage staple if nothing else, so pick these up in foil when you can. Current retail is $30, which is absolutely sustainable in the long term.
• Jar of Eyeballs I bet the eyeballs glow. That alone is worth a couple bucks.
• Torch Fiend It’s a common, it’s only worth a buck at most right now, but it’s a cube staple. That means you should be able to trade it to someone at $2-$3.
That’s about all I can say about this set until I actually get to play with some of the cards! Good luck at your prerelease, open well, and I’ll catch you all next week.
- Chas Andres