My name is Michael Cuevas, and like many other players, I remember playing Magic: the Gathering, as a young kid. I also remember giving my collection away around the age of 14 because cool kids weren’t supposed to play magic; wow do I regret that decision. I am 27 now, and a couple of years ago, due to a bit of nostalgia, and a coupon that came in the mail from my LGS, I decided to buy a few booster packs. Remember kids, the first one is always free. I then played a couple of FNMs with a white weenie pre-con from the Innistrad block, which of course snowballed into me picking up the game again.
Building a collection of Magic cards can be a daunting task and can be very expensive no matter what kind of budget you are working with. It is equally frustrating when the cards you purchase lose their value within mere months. I learned very quickly how to parlay the value of my cards from one standard rotation to the next, and through that process, became quite involved with the financial aspect of the game. Following the release of Return to Ravnica, I began a “pack to power” project, with a pack a friend had decided had no value and gave to me. Wild Beastmaster was the rare. The only card of note was a Selesnya charm, which became a Lingering Souls, which started the chain of trades. Around nine months later, I finished my project, trading the contents of my binder for a Beta Time Twister with moderate play. (Full disclosure, the twister’s border was inked by a previous owner to cover the wear on the whitening edges, but I still consider this a success.) I’ve also spent some time traveling to magic events across the Midwest.
Through my experience, I will look to provide insight into which cards are poised to move based on tournament results. The purpose of this column, will be to recap the events of the weekend, point out cards on the move, and identify emerging archetypes. This weekend in particular was choc-full of magic events, with both the Star City open and invitational events taking place in Las Vegas.
The safe bet this weekend in standard was once again Mono-black devotion which was the deck of choice for both Timothy Rivera, the Standard Open champion, and Maxwell Brown, the Invitational champ. Both players moved to four mainboard copies of Pack Rat. This is something that Mono-black has been trending toward, and something that Haibing Hu had done last week in his Mono Black list he Top 8’d with at Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth. In the finals of the invitational, Max Brown was quite dominant, not dropping a single game throughout the Top 8. Despite the Mono-black deck’s dominance this weekend, Standard has been quite diverse as of late.
Consider Jim Davis’ Naya Devotion decklist. He was able to pilot this list to a 7-1 record through the standard portion of the tournament, a record that no mono-black pilot was able to match. This deck ran two copies of Mindsparker; not a card that has seen a lot of attention at the top tables, but one can see how this card can be effective in this shell, and the 3/2 first strike with upside can be an effective clock on its own. This deck also has access to Domri Rade, Chandra, Pyromaster and Xenagos, the Reveler. Chandra’s first two abilities are very powerful, and as demonstrated by the price spike this card made earlier this year, I am not the only one who feels that this card has the potential to dominate the standard format. The planeswalkers that this Naya deck presents are resilient threats in a removal-heavy format. The premise of the Naya devotion deck is essentially the same as the R/W devotion list, and as many players were packing the R/W, this Naya list could potentially just be better suited to the meta-game that has developed.
Andrew Shrout brought a unique take on the G/W aggro archetype to the invitational this weekend. His build seems like an effective way to combat the Esper, U/W control, and the Mono-blue decklists that made up a larger part of the meta-game at the invitational. This deck is pre-boarded for basically any blue deck with 4 Skylasher, and 4 Mistcutter Hydra in the mainboard. Skylasher currently is a bulk rare. With the U/W and the G/W scry land seeing print in the next set, smoothing out the mana for the U/W control list, as well as the G/W creature based decks that would be interested in the ‘lasher, this could be a relevant threat. At bulk rare prices, Skylasher can’t go any lower. At any rate, I like the idea of acquiring a few extra playsets of the cards that are staples in the G/W archetype. TCG is listing Advent of the Wurm at $2.71 with shipping included, copies of Fleecemane Lion can be picked up at $2.73, and Boon Satyr at $2.34. I don’t necessarily advocate buying these cards in cash, but these are cards I am targeting out of trade binders. When a new set is released, aggressive decks are often successful in the first few weeks, and this is when I would be looking to see the G/W cards see a spike in their values. Shrout’s deck was also innovative in that it had a transformational sideboard to where it could become a pseudo-hexproof deck. Capitalizing on the same enchantment, Unflinching Courage that was quite popular before the last rotation. This transformational strategy was likely quite useful in matchups against other aggressive strategies.
Ratchet Bomb made an appearance as a 3-of in the sideboard of Gregory Hatch’s Mono-blue decklist. Ratchet Bomb answers a vast number of threats, and frees threats from Detention Sphere. In a recent article, Reid Duke identified Ratchet Bomb as a “hidden gem” of standard. I tend to agree and have been baffled why this card hasn’t seen more attention. Copies can be picked up for $1.49 on TCGplayer. On its versatility alone, Ratchet Bomb is probably a safe trade target, and it may see more attention if the aforementioned G/W aggro strategies are token based, or adapt Shrout’s hexproof approach.
We also saw a lot of Legacy this weekend. Likely as a nod to True-Name Nemesis, Jund made a resurgence this weekend. Jund packs several answers to the mini-Progenitus and is a potent strategy in its own right. The problem with Jund is that it is weaker to combo strategies, and many players who wish to ignore True-Name Nemesis outright have moved to combo strategies. That didn’t stop two of the players who made the cut to top 8 at the invitational from piloting the deck successfully through the legacy portion of the tournament. Notably, Deathrite Shaman is a four-of in Jund, Elves, and Esper Death-Blade lists. That’s just legacy. It also sees a ton of play in Modern in some of the most successful archetypes, and it’s still standard legal.
Max Brown, the eventual winner of the invitational decided to run Omni-tell this weekend, and proclaimed that part of the allure of the deck was the lack of following that it had. I think this is the deck’s appeal over the Sneak and Show version. It is of note that Brian Braun-Duin utilized Ashen Rider out of the sideboard in his Sneak and Show list. This is an adaptation that many are making in their sideboards to combat the sneak and show strategy. Ashen Rider has nearly reached bulk mythic prices, and is poised to see as much attention as Angel of Despair from competitive players. What is curious to me is whether the driving force behind Angel of Despair’s value is due to competitive play, or rather, due to its casual appeal. Either way, picking up Ashen Riders at their current value in trade is likely a safe long-term play. It is probable that you can get these as throw-ins in trades from disinterested players.
The Legacy open maintained the trend we saw earlier in the weekend with two copies of Jund in the top 8. I think it is very telling when a grizzled RUG Delver veteran, such as Jacob Wilson moves away from playing RUG, and opts for a different deck. Moving to the top 4 of the Legacy open, three of the four players were on a Delver variant. One of Jund’s best matchups is RUG Delver. RUG generally has very few ways to create card advantage, and Jund will simply one for one with them gaining card advantage at every turn. Facing down three Delver players, I felt that this was Jund’s tournament to lose. Ultimately the Jund player, Cory Teran, fell to Jacob Wilson in the finals. I think Jund at least for now, is the format’s answer to True-Name Nemesis.
I can imagine a day where players opt to play Geist of Saint Traft over True-name nemesis because the former doesn’t die to Golgari Charm. The Legacy meta-game is shifting due to True-Name Nemesis, and the full impact of the card on the format is likely yet to be seen.
I am very excited at the opportunity that the gang from Brainstorm Brewery has presented me in bringing you a synopsis of the action from the weekend, and giving some insight in what cards are trending. I look forward to feedback from readers and providing more analysis to you in the upcoming weeks.
Jason is a financier living in Michigan. You can find his work on Gathering Magic, Quiet Speculation, and MTG Price. Jason brings several years of MTG finance experience to the podcast as well as his signature wit and comic relief. Jason joined the podcast as a guest on Episode 10 and again on Episode 12 and it was clear that the group had a great dynamic. He became a permanent member of the cast soon after and the world of MTG finance hasn’t been the same since. Jason is also a disgruntled former member of Team Simic.