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Traderous Instinct – Revisiting Zendikar

I want to talk a little bit about Zendikar today.

In order to do that, we first need to take a short journey back to Lorwyn and take a look at three interesting cards.

In the spring of 2009, black/white tokens was arguably the best deck in Standard. According to the Black Lotus Project, [card]Windbrisk Heights[/card] – one of the cornerstones of the deck – topped out at almost $9. That means that many of you likely paid $10+ retail for the card in anticipation of using it in upcoming events.

That November, after rotating out of standard, [card]Windbrisk Heights[/card] fell to its current $2-ish value. That price point hasn’t really changed in the two years since then.

[card]Thoughtseize[/card]’s peak was a little earlier. It was a $16 card in February of 2009 ($20+ retail) before starting a slow, gradual decline that bottomed out around $9 the following November. Following that was a period of slow growth before the card made a dizzying leap in February of this year, where it shot from $13 to $24 in the period of a couple months.

The last card I want to talk about is [card]Vigor[/card]. Because it never saw any competitive play, it was a sub-$1 rare for its entire run of Standard legality. As Commander started becoming more popular and fewer copies of the card were available in trade binders, however, it finally reached the $5 plateau this autumn.

As of now, [card]Vigor[/card] is tied with [card]Liliana Vess[/card] as the 5th most valuable card in Lorwyn, trailing only [card]Thoughtsieze[/card], [card]Cryptic Command[/card], [card]Jace Beleren[/card], and [card]Sower of Temptation[/card].

Standard rotation is a funny thing. No matter how playable the card is in a casual or eternal format, rotation will still hurt the price – at least for a couple of months, as standard-only players dump their now-useless staples.

Because of that, it’s well worth trying to identify the cards that will likely make the leap to eternal play as well as those that are likely to command a casual/Commander premium once copies start disappearing from trade binders. If we can separate cards with ‘staying power’ from cards that already had their day, we can make quite a bit of money.

Luckily, the window for doing this is extra large this year.

Usually by the end of November, the eyes of the community are turned expectantly at Extended. The time to get last year’s Standard cards for this year’s Extended season would have already passed, and speculation would have reached a fever pitch.

However, thanks to the OP changes damping everyone’s spirit as well as Extended being abandoned in favor the much deeper Modern, no one is looking back at Zendikar block right now.

Which is why we’re going to.

Zendikar block cards are at their most depressed levels ever. We’re in that sweet spot where the cards have left Standard yet are still omnipresent in everyone’s binders. If you are a speculator or simply want to own some cards from this block that you haven’t gotten to yet, now’s your chance.

Please note that this article is based on the assumption that Wizards will restore organized play to a functional entity that keeps the pro tour alive and people happy. As long as current trends in pricing continue, I believe these predictions will hold true. If Magic enters a period of strong decline, all bets are off.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the most relevant cards in Zendikar block. Not all of them will go up in value, but some of them certainly will. Read what I have to say and then make some informed decisions on your own.

As always, the prices are from this very site – Channelfireball.com.

ZENDIKAR

The Fetchlands ($8-$12)

Currently the most expensive cards in Zendikar, the fetchlands were riding high at $15 when Modern was first announced. Since then, though, very few people have had a reason to play the format and the prices have gone down.

Since so many of these are out there, Legacy demand hasn’t moved them much, either.

While I doubt these will hit the $40(!) that [card]Polluted Delta[/card] is currently retailing for anytime soon, these ARE essential for nearly every deck – casual or competitive. I can see these in the $15-$20 range next year when finding them becomes much more difficult.

[card]Iona, Shield of Emeria[/card] ($6)

Iona has two things going for her: her tribe and her eternal pedigree.

Good angels have always been popular with casual players, and Iona is one of the best. While her status as a ‘griefer’ card keeps her out of all but the most obnoxious Commander builds, she’s still very relevant in 60-card brews.

Further, she’s still an excellent choice in Legacy reanimator builds, despite other fatties (like [card jin-gitaxias, core augur]Jin-Gitaxias[/card]) usurping her as the primary [card]Entomb[/card] target.

Regardless, I expect her to continue to see demand for years to come and believe that her price will likely level out in the $8-$10 range. Pick up foils of this one, too.

[card]Lotus Cobra[/card] ($6)

[card]Lotus Cobra[/card] has seen play at the centerpiece of a winning deck in pretty much every format – and that includes Vintage. Heck, the card is a mythic that inspired gasps and awe when it came out – so why is it down to $6?

Simply put, the card hasn’t been abused enough recently in Legacy or Modern. In Commander, there just aren’t enough fetchlands to make it reliable. That said, I still believe it is an underrated fixer in that format and a card that has been ignored for too long simply because of its prohibitive price tag.

To me, [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] is one of the strongest pickup targets on this list. If someone breaks it in a tournament two years from now, getting them for under $25 will be nearly impossible. It’s a 2cc mythic that everyone knows is kinda sorta broken. What’s not to love?

[card]Goblin Guide[/card] ($4)

[card]Goblin Guide[/card] bounced around from $5 to $10 during its entire run of Standard legality, cementing its place in a top tier of Goblins ever printed. If you played any constructed Magic at all for the past two years, you know the difference between your opponent having the Guide on turn 1 and your opponent not having the Guide – it was like playing against an entirely different deck.

[card]Goblin Guide[/card] has also proven itself as a Legacy staple, albeit in a deck (Goblins) that ranges from terrible to outstanding depending on which way the wind is blowing that month. When Goblins comes back around again, (and it always does), this card will shoot back up to the $10 it has proven it can sustain.

[card]Eldrazi Monument[/card] ($3)

[card]Eldrazi Monument[/card] was often not as powerful in Standard as its wielders hoped it would be, though that didn’t stop it from commanding a $15 price tag as one of the top mythics in the set.

At 5 mana, though, it isn’t likely to ever have much of an impact in Modern or Legacy.

Don’t count the statue out, though: it’s a Commander superstar.

Much like [card]Akroma’s Memorial[/card], [card]Eldrazi Monument[/card] can make creature combat into an absolute joke. I have a copy in every single Commander deck I own that isn’t pure control, and I’ve won dozens of games off it.

[card]Eldrazi Monument[/card] is a mythic rare that is only going to get harder and harder to find. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this card hit $10 again due to casual appeal alone.

[card]Bloodghast[/card] ($2.50)

Much like Iona, [card]Bloodghast[/card] is a card in a popular, iconic tribe that has put up results in Legacy. Peaking around $12, Bloodghast has proven itself to be the best and most popular ‘[card]Nether Spirit[/card]’ variant ever printed. Some decks just cannot beat this guy coming back from the graveyard over and over again.

For less than the price of a single copy during its heyday, you can pick up a full set of [card]Bloodghast[/card]s in anticipation of future Modern or Legacy play. Remember – this card only costs 2 mana. That means that it is potentially playable in any format.

[card]Felidar Sovereign[/card] ($2.50)

You can tell a lot about your local Commander metagame by how they react to this card.

If people murmur about the unfairness of [card]Felidar Sovereign[/card] and believe that it should be banned, you’ve got a casual crowd.

If people don’t even have this card on their radar, even if they’re playing white, you’re rolling with a competitive bunch of Commander fans.

Regardless, a card that allows you to win a game of Commander by itself (providing you haven’t yet lost life and can stick it for a full go-round on the table) is reasonably potent. It was retailing for $5 for a while purely on the back of Commander demand when it was Standard legal. Now that it isn’t, its price has been cut in half.

Uh, considering no one ever played this card in an actual Standard tournament, I think the decrease in price was mostly due to a decrease in awareness of the card.

Regardless, this could easily hit $5 again soon. If you can pick it up as a bulk mythic, I would.

[card]Emeria, the Sky Ruin[/card] ($2)

This is the quintessential casual land that grows over time until one day it’s like $8 and everyone wonders how that happened.

In Commander, the drawback is tiny considering the amazing amount of card advantage that it can generate in the late game. With any sort of ramp, (or even just a single [card]Land Tax[/card]) your CIPT land can threaten to straight up win the game. It’s no [card]Academy Ruins[/card], but it’s in the same ballpark. Of course, it’s only good in mono/heavy white decks, so it’ll never hit ‘staple’ status the way something like [card]Volrath’s Stronghold[/card] did.

[card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] ($2)

I highlighted this one in my Modern review, and mentioned it as a potential pickup then. It’s one of the few cards that was seen in multiple winning Modern decklists (albeit in the sideboard) that didn’t take a visit to Crazytown in terms of value. I talked a lot about this card with people at Worlds last weekend, and nearly everyone was in agreement: it’s a true sleeper.

While [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] may have been a bust in Standard, it’s still a potentially free counterspell that doesn’t need blue mana – or even a blue card! – to activate. Pedigree suggests that this dog will still have its day.

[card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] could stay at $2-$3 forever, but its upside is immense – $25+ isn’t out of the question in the right format/environment. I’m not actively picking them up, but I’m not trading them for less than $4-$5, either.

[card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/card] ($1.50)

While Oracle is likely too slow for Legacy, it certainly could have a place in Modern and does have a place in Commander. At a buck fifty retail, the investment is pretty low.

At four mana, though, I’m not convinced it’ll be a huge gainer. [card]Future Sight[/card] and [card]Seedborn Muse[/card] are probably two of the best casual comparisons, and neither of those cards is worth all that much. Both of those cards always trade well, though, and I expect demand for the Oracle to be healthy for quite a while to come.

The real play is getting this card in foil. It’s gorgeous, fairly cheap, and will be an easy sell to Commander nuts for years to come.

[card]Archive Trap[/card] ($1.50)

Look at the price of [card]Glimpse the Unthinkable[/card] and [card]Mind Funeral[/card] before coming back and reading this. While not all mill cards go nuts due to casual play, enough of them do that you should pause and examine each one in case it’s next on the list.

If you can snag these at $1 in trade, I would. Worst case, you’ll be able to find a buyer at retail thanks to mill’s popularity.

[card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card] ($1.50)

This card has never really been worth all that much, even when it was winning tons of events. In this respect, it’s very much like [card]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/card].

Keep an eye on it, though. It’s likely to remain dormant for a while, but if it suddenly becomes a viable Modern/Legacy deck a couple years from now, the price might finally shoot through the roof. As of now, though, it seems like its doomed to rot in binders for the foreseeable future. I haven’t had interest in any of mine for quite a while.

[card]Rite of Replication[/card] ($1.50)

A popular casual card. This should hold value and be a nice, solid, slow riser. Get foils.

[card]Luminarch Ascension[/card] ($1)

[card]Luminarch Ascension[/card] is one of the strongest early-game plays available in a large game of Commander, though it does put a massive target on your head. It’s an angel card too, so demand will be doubly high in the casual community. Again, foils will always command a premium.

[card]Blade of the Bloodchief[/card] ($0.80)

People REALLY like Vampires. Heck, [card]Vampire Nocturnus[/card] is still a $15-$20 card! This is a very powerful card in a casual Vampire deck, and is the sort of thing that may trade at $3-$5 down the line.

[card]Oran-Rief, the Vastwood[/card] ($0.80)

Another great land with a small drawback in casual play. A solid sub-$1 pickup that should be $2-$3 eventually.

The Zendikar Basic Lands ($0.50/ea.)

Over time, these will only go up in value as they get more and more prestigious. I bought massive amounts of these when they were $0.10-$0.15 each, but even $0.50 is reasonable for them. Given time, the normal ones will become an easy $1 in trade and the ‘good’ ones (the whirlpool island, the spiral mountain, etc) will be $2-$3.

If you can get some of these as throw-ins now, you should. People love unique lands, and these are among the best ever made.

WORLDWAKE

[card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] ($60)

Even though Jace would improve nearly any Commander deck, most don’t run him. The monetary cost is quite absurd, and the target he puts on your chest is actually far bigger than the amount of resilience he provides – he’s feared more than he should be in that format because of how crucial he was in Standard.

All Legacy and Vintage players should own a set of these, though. He is one of the pillars of the format and one of the best cards of all time. Not all blue decks will run him, but most should give him a very long look.

Further, Jace is a good investment. He will never see print in a Standard-legal set again, and he will likely live on forever as the best Planeswalker of all time.

Even if they do a judge foil of Jace, that won’t hurt the price whatsoever.

$60 is the absolute bottom of the market for Jace. If you ever waffled about getting in on Jaces, do it now.

[card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] ($6)

This is another card that will likely see Eternal play between now and forever. A crucial role-player that only gets better with every equipment printed, you cannot lose picking these guys up at retail.

And unlike Jace, this card is omnipresent in many good Commander decks.

[card]Dragonmaster Outcast[/card] ($5)

Did you have any idea this guy was worth $5 and was the third most valuable card in Worldwake? I didn’t either. I cannot recommend buying into this at $5, nor do I think it will go up, but clearly it has way more fans than I had previously thought. That means it’s worth keeping an eye on.

[card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] ($3)

This monster is wickedly fun to play with in Commander, though its casting cost limits it to that format alone. Avenger still trades well to the casual crowd.

[card]Basilisk Collar[/card] ($3)

Not only is this a fine card in Commander, it’s a cheap piece of equipment with a more than reasonable casting cost. I could see it cropping up in both Modern and Legacy, so keep an eye on it.

The Worldwake Manlands ($1-$3)

These guys were pretty low through most of their run in Standard, with either [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] or [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] occasionally jumping up into the $7-$10 range. All of them are must-haves in their respective Commander decks, and [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] (Creepy Carpet?) will almost certainly see significant Modern play as anti-Planeswalker tech.

These are cards that will certainly rise in price, and are one of the best bets on here. Get your sets of these now and forget about them. You’ll be glad you did.

[card]Joraga Warcaller[/card] ($2.50)

This is an awesome, versatile elf that would likely be worth twice as much if it wasn’t the release foil for Worldwake. I still recommend picking them up – it’s a fringe constructed playable that has the casting cost to be useful in the right Eternal deck.

More importantly, Elves are the #2 (after Vampires now) casual tribe. If [card]Immaculate Magistrate[/card] is a $5 card a couple years after release, this one probably is too.

[card]Tectonic Edge[/card] ($2)

This is outclassed in Legacy, but it should still be a consideration in Modern. I don’t think there’s much room to rise at $2, but you can pick them up for under $1 from tons of people who don’t need them now that Standard is done.

RISE OF THE ELDRAZI

[card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card] ($12)

The price for the promotional copies of this are cheaper, but the point stands: this, the most powerful and mana-intensive Eldrazi, is the most expensive as well.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see this hit $20 as the promos disappear from binders and the sheer power of these hits mythical status. The fact that it’s banned in Commander hurts a lot, though, and who knows how the Legacy metagame will shift. Right now, Emrakul is a reasonably powerful option. That might not always be true.

I don’t think it will grow past $12 anytime soon, but if you can pick up the promos at $5-$7, I would.

[card]Kozilek, Butcher of Truth[/card] ($12) & [card]Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre[/card] ($10)

I was hoping I could snag a pile of Kozileks and Ulamogs after rotation on the cheap, but they haven’t come down in price whatsoever. Oh well.

Unlike Emrakul, these two ARE legal in Commander, and in that format they are absolutely unreal. If Commander card values keep following the same trend and recent cards grow to the price of their historical counterparts, these two are easily worth $20 each.

That said, I wouldn’t invest in these right now, either. Commander prices are high across the board, and you won’t be getting any post-rotation dip in value. Just keep an eye on these and try to pick them up from people who don’t know or care that they didn’t come down in value.

[card]Vengevine[/card] ($7)

Unlike the Eldrazi titans, this card I do recommend investing in.

Before [card]Survival of the Fittest[/card] was banned, this was part of one of the most degenerate Legacy decks of all time. Heck, people were calling for [card]Vengevine[/card] to be banned instead, claiming that this was the broken card!

Beyond that, [card]Vengevine[/card] is simply a blast to play. [card]Vengevine[/card]/[card]Fauna Shaman[/card] made me excited to brew in Standard, a format that I otherwise tend to avoid.

[card]Vengevine[/card] isn’t a great Commander card, but there’s a chance it will come back in Modern or Legacy somehow. At $7 each, I’m willing to make that gamble.

[card]All is Dust[/card] ($6)

This is another card that I think is undervalued at the moment.

Having a wrath that any color can use is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and this card was seeing Modern play before [card]Cloudpost[/card] was banned. While I don’t think its future as an eternal card is super bright, it is a fantastic piece of utility in Commander.

As a mythic, this could hit $10 on the back of Commander alone. It trades well, too, at least in my experience.

[card]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/card] ($4)

I always thought Linvala was a bit underrated for what she did in Standard, but her body made her vulnerable even though the effect was good. She’s certainly too expensive for Legacy, so her ability to rise would be based on Modern alone.

Linvala isn’t a card I recommend picking up now, but she’s absolutely worth buying in on if you start to hear rumblings about her viability in anything down the line.

[card]Sarkhan the Mad[/card] ($4)

Fun planeswalkers that have only been printed once should probably not be quite this low. Sarkhan is actually pretty good, and he trades reasonably well, too. A strong casual pickup at $4.

[card]Coralhelm Commander[/card] ($3.50)

This guy was never expensive due to Standard play – he’s a Legacy card in a good, fun, and still reasonably affordable deck.

Expect this to slowly rise as long as Merfolk are still competitive. Check the prices of the Merfolk uncommons from Lorwyn and then remember that this card is rare.

[card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] ($2)

With all the shocklands (and [card]Dismember[/card]s?) running around Modern, this is often better than [card]Thoughtseize[/card]. Even when it isn’t, it is useful as [card]Thoughtseize[/card] 5-7 if necessary.

While it may not hit a steady $5 like it once was, it’ll likely trade at that inflated rate on the floor during some Modern events this season.

[card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card] ($1.50)

A strong casual uncommon. Pick up foils for Commander.

Conclusions

In the end, these are the cards I most recommend actively trading for right now:

– [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] – [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] – [card]Vengevine[/card] – [card]Eldrazi Monument[/card] – [card]Bloodghast[/card] – [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] – [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] – Manlands, especially [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card]

There are plenty of other great cards in Zendikar block, though I have less to say about them – particularly about changes in price due to rotation. [card]Gideon Jura[/card], for example, has his price mostly tied to his appearance in M12. [card]Amulet of Vigor[/card] is a great card, but it needs the right home. Etc, etc.

If you have any other pickups you recommend from Zendikar block, please discuss in the comments. I’d also like to know what you think about my picks above.

Maybe we as a community can reach a consensus on which of these cards are worth investing in. After all, only about 25% of those listed in this article are likely to gain significant value over the rest of their lifetimes.

Until next time –

– Chas Andres

Discussion

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