Traderous Instinct – Innistrad’s Immediate Impact

I was about halfway done with an article about non-basic lands when I stopped to check my Twitter feed.

Monday is usually one of the best Twitter days, filled with people fighting about the previous weekend’s tournament results and football games. The malaise of the week hasn’t set in yet, and people are generally alert and excited about things.

Yesterday, it was chaos.

“What’s going on with [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]?” People started asking me. “It’s doubled overnight…are we seeing the next Jace?”

“Uh…don’t look now,” others said, “but you can’t find a [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card] for under $10 anywhere at the moment. That can’t be real…can it?”

After answering a few of my followers, (join them and follow me @chasandres) I decided to scrap my lands article for the time being and look at what cards from Innistrad are already making an impact

Obviously there are good decks – possibly even tier-1 decks – that haven’t been totally figured out yet. But if you can trade a hyped-but-homeless card for tech that’s already proving to be a tournament staple, I highly recommend it.

Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain

Please bear in mind when reading this article that I am not backing off from my position of the last two weeks that Innistrad cards are a poor long term investment.

Demand for most of these cards will never, ever be higher than it is right now. Pre-orders are only just being mailed this week. Boxes and cases are only just now arriving at homes. Every Friday, thousands of packs are being cracked for limited play – and this will continue for over six months.

If you are a patient casual or Legacy player, now is NOT the time to acquire your set of ANYTHING from Innistrad.

That said, if you like to trade, it’s impossible to avoid the new cards until the prices get better. That’s where the demand is right now, and if your supply is zero, good luck getting anything you want in return.

Also, if you play a lot of Standard, you can’t put off getting the new cards much longer either.

So take my ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ ratings with a grain of salt. I am going to tell you to buy in on cards that are undervalued now, meaning I think they will go up before they go down.

If you’re patient, though, understand that everything in the set will probably be lower than it is right now at some point this year.

With that large caveat out of the way, let’s get to the cards!

[card]Stromkirk Noble[/card]

After pre-selling for around $2.50, [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card] is currently sold out at $6 on Star City Games and sold out at $10 here on Channel Fireball. A quick check of eBay reveals that you can find single copies around $8 and playsets around $30, leading me to believe that the current retail price on this card is between $10 and $12.

This is a direct result of mono red’s dominance in the SCG open last weekend.

It’s true – mono red placed both first AND second in the standard tournament, proving once and for all that burn strategies are at their most powerful when a format is new and unknown and all the control decks are at least a turn or two slower than they’ll be once their optimal builds are figured out.

Of course, mono red can never REALLY be the best deck in a format, can it? Historically, it’s always been possible to construct a sideboard so that if you need to beat the deck, you can. And [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] is one of the better weapons we’ve ever had against the red menace.

That tells me that now is a great time to sell [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card]. [card]Goblin Guide[/card] only hit $10 when the deck was performing really well, and he was a far better card. I see this settling at a similar $4-$5 before long, so if you can get $10+ in trade, I would.

If you believe in this deck, I recommend picking up [card]Hero of Oxid Ridge[/card]. It retails around $8 right now, and is a mythic from a small set. Both are important in the build, and this should not be the cheaper of the two cards.

[card]Brimstone Volley[/card]

[card]Brimstone Volley[/card] seems awesome in these decks, doing a pretty good [card]Lava Axe[/card] impression for just 3 mana. Foil versions of this card might hit $5 if the deck continues to win.

[card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]

After pre-selling for $15, the Geist is already up to $20 on Channel Fireball. Considering they aren’t available for less than $15 on eBay, this is likely the new retail value for the card.

While the Geist debuted to mixed reviews from the pros, it actually did quite well for itself in the tournament last weekend.

U/W aggro (whatever Caw Blade has reinvented itself as now that there aren’t any more caws) is still a very good deck, and most builds of it are running between 1 and 4 of this guy.

My recommendation is to buy this guy at $15 in trade if you can still get it – and for another week or so, you probably can. Granted, I wouldn’t go out and drop $15 cash on these unless you need them right away, but there’s a good chance that this will stabilize between $15 and $30 short term depending on how good the deck ends up being.

I’m just not going to bet against the recent pedigree of U/W decks that enjoy attacking.

It’s also important to note that many people have this deck half built thanks to the fact that most Standard players ran Caw Blade at one point or another. This is working to increase demand at the moment.

Of course, you should keep in mind that this is a very narrow gold card so it’s success is limited to U/W or nothing. If the deck gets hated out of the metagame for whatever reason, Geist drops to $5 overnight.

[card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]

Over the past few days, Lilly has started making an end run toward [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] prices.

She’s out of stock both here and at Star City, and if you want her on eBay you’re going to have to spend at least $55.

If I had one for trade at the moment, I would be asking for around $70 worth of stuff in return.

While many people immediately point to Jace as the obvious comp for Liliana, a better comparison is [card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/card]. That card debuted around $45 retail, and had fallen to around $30-$35 by the first weekend it was tournament legal. The deck performed well, and the card gained $25-$30 in value overnight.

Yeah, people REALLY don’t want to miss “the next Jace.”

Just like Tezzeret, though, Liliana is REALLY narrow. She is currently seeing Standard play, and I don’t expect that to change, but she doesn’t draw cards, bounce creatures, lock your opponent out of the game, and then win the game like Jace does.

The thing is, though, Magic players like to have fun – even tournament players. And for many Spikes, fun is roughly equivalent to playing the most wonky, slow, toolsy control deck that it’s possible to crush the opposition with.

Much like mono black control, people REALLY want Solar Flare style decks to be good. So when two show up in the top 16 at an open, game on!

Even if Solar Flare is tier-1, there’s no way Liliana holds a $60+ price tag for long. She’s only there because she’s a planeswalker and we still haven’t really figure out how to value those yet, five years after their inception. I recommend that you sell on Liliana right now and buy back in when the hype has died down somewhat.

[card]Garruk Relentless[/card]

Poor Garruk! While Liliana saw a little bit of play and shot up to $60+, Garruk saw about the same small amount of play and is still retailing for $25.

This might not be the best Garruk ever, and he’s certainly not the best planeswalker ever, but don’t overlook his splashability. Costing just one green and hosting a raft of relevant abilities, (mostly just wolves, though) I think Garruk is actually a buy right now at $25. Good planeswalkers that see play in good decks are usually worth around $35-$40 for a while, and all it would take is someone to win the next SCG open with this guy (who ended up in the 9th place deck last week) for him to explode in value.

Honestly, if this deck had finished 8th instead of 9th, I think we’d have seen the value increase already.

[card]Mayor of Avabruck[/card]

After debuting in the $2 range, the mayor is up to $4 on all the major retail sites. He’s easily available at that price point, and the fact that he was the prerelease card should mean that if you want a set of these, you’ll have no problem acquiring them.

The mayor didn’t blow away the competition at SCG Indy, but a couple copies of this did end up in the top 32. Further, this guy is actually pretty versatile. Pumping humans is a relevant ability in one sort of deck, and allowing him to sit around pumping out wolves each turn is quite good in another.

I recommend a buy on the mayor – not at retail, but there’s a very good chance you can nab these in trade for $2 or less from people that don’t really want him.

There’s not much heat on this guy right now, and he has lots of chances to shine as more humans and werewolves see print. Worst case, this is the sort of card that tends to hold casual value far higher than it should.

[card]Daybreak Ranger[/card]

If you haven’t read Brian Kibler and Brad Nelson’s love songs to this guy, let me summarize: unlike any of the other wolves, this card doesn’t need to wait around before being awesome. His first ability is pretty relevant, and he can fight immediately when he flips. He isn’t an undercosted bomb or anything, but he is certainly a powerful piece of utility.

I bought into these the minute those articles went up, and I was hoping this guy would be the breakout card of SCG Indy so I could cash out. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. He saw some play, and was by all accounts quite good, but you need to run him in a RG deck and that means that his application is actually quite narrow. His $4 price might rise to $5, but it’s still a top-8 or three away from hitting $7-$8.

I will be selling some of my copies of this guy to insure I make most of my money back, but you can still buy this guy for less than retail in most trades since he’s so narrow. He may not have put up results yet, but I still don’t think Brian and Brad are wrong.

[card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card]/[card]Gavony Township[/card]

Right now, the Wolf Run is at $3 and the Township is at $2 here on Channel Fireball.

The same is true for the other three cards in the cycle, honestly. The [card nephalia drownyard]Drownyard[/card] is the least likely to see constructed play, but look no further than the price of [card]Glimpse the Unthinkable[/card] and [card]Mind Funeral[/card] to see how valuable a casual card this will likely be in 5 years.

If you don’t think Magic will have a major shakeup by then, you could do worse than buying a thousand copies of this today and just forgetting about them for a few years…

The other four lands, though, will absolutely see constructed play, and Wolf Run/Township are already making serious waves in Standard.

I want to give these a strong buy, but remember that Valakut was a tier-1 deck for months on end and its namesake card was nearly impossible to trade for more than $2 basically ever. So I am announcing a hold on these for now. They are unlikely to drop at all as the set continues to be opened, making them a fairly strong long term buy, but I don’t see a massive price increase until years from now when one of ‘em shows up in a Legacy deck and goes from $2 to $15 overnight.

[card]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/card]

A card I pretty much dismissed in my FTV: Legends preview, Mikaeus has actually shown up to the party and is seeing some play in Tempered Steel as well as in W and GW tokens/humans decks. The fact that he fits anywhere on the curve is kind of awesome, and he can get pretty disgusting with some [card]Gavony Township[/card] shenanigans.

Remember: just like Solar Flare, tokens is a VERY popular strategy and people WILL want to play it if it’s viable.

Mikaeus is retailing for $6 right now, and I recommend a buy at that price. I will be attempting to trade for them at retail when possible, and I believe that he will see $10 if token/white aggro strategies continue to do well.

[card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]

Yeah, so about this guy…

Last week I told you, with great conviction, that this guy will drop to the $15 range within a month or two. My points made sense, and most people in the comments and on Twitter agreed with me. If you go by the historical record, there’s no way this guy can stay at $20-$25+, can he? I mean, he’s a large set rare! We’re gonna be opening packs with Tiago in them for months to come!

Then I saw the tournament results.

Much like [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] is already warping the format around him. People shoved this guy into basically every deck that could run him, and he’s proving to be every bit the house that people predicted.

Granted, there were only ten copies of him in the Standard Top 8, but the Top 32 is practically loaded with the guy. He even managed to do well in Legacy last weekend.

“So what?” you might be saying. “We knew this guy was legit. No one ever denied that. So what’s changed?”

The trading environment.

I made one mistake when I compared Snapcaster to the Zendikar fetchlands: I overestimated the ease of trading.

Back in Zendikar block, there were five different fetchlands, meaning that you probably cracked one every couple of drafts. If you had four random ones, it was fairly easy to trade them into four of the same one and finish your deck.

But in a hit-and-mostly-miss trading environment like the current standard, how are you going to trade for your four [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]s?

If you’re a heavy duty trader, you’ll probably go to your eternal binder and move a [card]Force of Will[/card], or a [card]Show and Tell[/card], or some dual lands or something.

If you only play Standard at a local shop, though, what are you going to offer? Only [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] and a few of the Innistrad/M12 Planeswalkers have comparable value right now, and there aren’t too many of those floating around.

The only way that Snapcasters are going to be traded in most stores is for the good Planeswalkers. Otherwise, people will keep them because they have so much perceived value. And if, say, ¾ of the people at your FNM need a full set, it’s going to be a while before enough Innistrad is cracked to meet the demand.

This is the same phenomenon that keeps [card]Garruk, Primal Hunter[/card] at $20 despite seeing next to no play: with so few cards in standard being worth actual money, most casual players just won’t trade the good stuff they have. This keeps supply down and demand up far longer than it should.

While I will eat a hat if [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] doesn’t hit $15 at some point, I am now revising my prediction. I no longer think that it will hit $15 within the next few months – it will stay in the $20-$25 range for a while yet, so plan accordingly.

I don’t know what the long term ceiling is for a large, fall-set rare, but we are about to find out.

Other Quick Hits

– [card]Champion of the Parish[/card] might end up being even better than [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card], and is already up to $5. Just saying.

– [card]Birthing Pod[/card], sadly, just isn’t equipped to compete right now. It’s already dropped down to $12-$13 from a high of $15, so sell ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.

– [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] is another essential card in the mono red deck. They retail around $4, and should trade well for the foreseeable future.

– [card]Dismember[/card] isn’t going anywhere. Do you have your set?

– The Scars duals are ticking up in price each and every week. If you’re looking for some smalls to fill out a trade, look for these.

Until next time –

– Chas Andres


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