The results of the SCG Open in Worcester were fairly unexciting. There was no flashy new strategy that turned the perceived meta on its head, instead people played ostensibly worse versions of the decks we all got sick of during the summer.
There are a few reasons for this: there’s a Standard Pro Tour in two weeks and most of the community’s innovators are incentivized to sandbag any technology they’ve come across, the comparative lack of support for 3 color strategies coming after a multicolor block made the format harder to build in, and many people haven’t had the chance to put in the time to find new archetypes (or cards for that matter).
So what do we know? Or more accurately, what do we think we know? As far as I can tell week one of Standard was defined by Domri Rade and Supreme Verdict(though this could just as easily be Sphinx’s revelation), they accounted for 11 of the 16 Top 8 slots from the TCG 5k and SCG Open last weekend.
It makes sense that two ‘build around me’ cards from the RTR block would lead the way during the first week. We’re all aware of the strategies they’re best in and know what a Domri or Verdict ‘deck’ looks like because we’ve been playing them for months. However, this does not make them buys despite their results. Betting on a known quantity from the previous format this late is a double edged sword. While they are more likely to have success early due to public awareness and accessibility, their price already reflects these advantages and potential profits are significantly lower because of this. Despite being very successful this weekend, Domri is up a little over $1 TCG Mid, Verdict is up $.5 (Revelation is up $2).
The biggest negative of cards like Domri and Verdict is their lack of flexibility in that they are very effective in one sort of strategy but can’t really do anything else. For instance, Domri doesn’t work in a Jund deck that’s playing eight removal spells and Rakdos’s Return, just like Verdict doesn’t play well with Soldier of the Pantheon and friends. In an undefined format (which is what we have, make no mistake), cards with cross archetypal appeal are the best investments because their demand is broader (they will appeal to more people because multiple archetypes are playing with the card). This was particularly evident over the past few weeks as the demand Chandra, Pyromaster, and Jace, Architect of Though started climbing in anticipation for Theros Standard.
Obviously these two cards have a lot in common, but the trait I’d like to focus on is their mana cost. Being monocolored is a huge advantage, especially in a new format because everyone is still trying to brew. Jace goes in every Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, Steam Augury or Supreme Verdict deck, that’s a ton of additional demand compared to Sphinx’s Revelation which is constrained by being multicolored despite both cards having a similar power level (and obviously being quite successful together). Chandra has it even better, being a powerful addition to nearly any deck that can produce Red mana regardless of archetype.
I can’t recommend buying into these two cards as the biggest jump has likely already happened (though trading for Jace is probably still a good idea), instead, lets take a look at other monocolored staples that still have room to grow.
Mizzium Mortars was the second most played card in the top 32 of the SCG Open (behind Verdict). Like Chandra, Mortars can go in any Red deck and while the ceiling is much lower, so is the price. I really like buying in at $3 and expect buylist to hover between $4-6 within the next month or two.
The only potential issue I see for Mortars is if G/R Domri decks take off in popularity. A field full of copies of Ember Swallower (great trade evener, this card is GOOD and practically free) and Polukranos, World Eater is pretty bad for a removal spell that does four damage, but if the format starts creeping that way the card’s broad demand will make a position easy to get out of due to its high liquidity.
Scavenging Ooze saw some play in G/R Domri decks opening weekend, but I think that was just the beginning. As midrange creeps back into our lives as it does every fall I expect Ooze to be everywhere as people are reminded again that its completely insane. Not being printed in the Theros event deck means Ooze has four months to grow before we have to worry about another printing and I really like buying in right now.
Mutavault saw a lot of play opening weekend in essentially all of the single or two-color strategies from U/W Control to Mono Red. Being a colorless land eliminates its viability in three color decks, luckily it is very good in everything else. Ebay is closing a little higher than Ooze and I think the card is a solid trade target that will be highly liquid even if I doubt it ever goes above $20. I think Mutavault is a trade target rather than a buy not just because its a dollar or two higher than Ooze, but because it has some competition from another colorless land.
I think Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is absurd. Its the type of card that someone needs to figure out how to build around and that may take some time, but the rewards are certainly worth it. Despite the deck construction restraints, Nykthos has much of the same appeal as Mutavault at 40% of the price. You can buy in around $5 and I think it hits $10+ when it breaks out. What I find really interesting about Nykthos is how effected by video coverage its pricing could be over the next few weeks, if someone has 9 mana on turn 4 in a feature match at the Pro Tour people will go absolutely nuts.
Context is Everything
The Esper Control decks from the SCG Open Top 8 range between $550 and $600 TCG Mid, while Max Tietze’s U/W list is about $375. They all share Detention Sphere, Hallowed Fountain, Jace, Architect of Thought, Sphinx’s Revelation, and Supreme Verdict, which makes sense because they’re in the same colors trying to execute the same game plan. U/W/x was the obvious control strategy going into Theros and its no surprise that the various Azorius staples and Jace were very prevalent in the Top 8. However, other than Jace these cards did not do much financially because people interested in playing U/W/x Control already had most of them from the previous format as we’ve already discussed. So what does this mean? Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is going to tank after the Pro Tour unless it finds a home without White.
Ashiok spiked for two reasons, the first was that she is a new planeswalker and the magic community is nothing if not excitable, the second was that Esper is very easy to build if you already have all the U/W pieces (it takes a few lands that you probably wanted anyway along with Ashiok, Thoughtseize and some commons/uncommons).
The big question is, once the former U/W players have had their demand satisfied, who else is buying Ashiok? Why would a player drop $550+ on a deck with a worse aggro matchup than the version that’s almost $200 less this early in the season? There’s certainly casual appeal and a milling Planeswalker will always move well because of this, but her supply is increasing as you read these words and its very hard to imagine demand keeping up if she doesn’t light the world on fire at the Pro Tour.
She’ll get better later in the season once the Midrange decks figure out what they’re doing. However, that’s potentially tens of thousands of boosters in the future and I’d rather get out now and get back in later as her price drops before Standard PTQs start.
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