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Financial Review of Magic Origins: Part 1

I have to admit, the first week of Magic Origins spoiler has been pretty exciting. For the first time since Wizards announced that Core Sets would be a thing of the past, I'm actually sort of sad that they are going away. There are so many fun, nostalgic and potential powerful cards in the set I'm starting to think Magic Origins might be able to stake a claim as the best, or at least most flavorful, Core Set of all time. 

Today we will be discussing the set as we review the first week of Magic Origins spoilers. While we will talk about some decklists and synergies, our main focus will be on the financial. There are three things that make evaluating this set especially tricky. Firstly the flip-walkers, which are clearly the face of the set, are something we have never seen before. This means they have potential to be vastly under or overrated since the foundation for evaluation (comparing to other, similar cards from the past) is missing. As I mentioned in my article about the flip-walker cycle, I tend to think most are underpowered, but I could very well be selling them short. Second, we have a lot of cards that look vaguely similar to extremely powerful older cards which most often leads to overpricing during the pre-order periods. Wizards has learned quite a bit about balancing power levels after 20+ years of making cards, so just because a card looks like Demonic Tutor, Time Twister, Opalescence or Noble Hierarch does not mean it will play the same or be nearly as powerful. It has been a long, long time since Wizards made a "fixed" version of a broken card that itself was broken (Yawgmoth's Bargin and Wasteland come to mind, but I don't think Treasure Cruise counts since it is not dominant or even heavily played in standard and Wizards does most of their power-level testing on the standard format). Finally, there are few obviously bad rares and mythics, but also very few that are clearly staples. Instead we have a whole bunch of cards that have potential to be powerful and playable, but their applications are not all that obvious, or seem borderline broken but only in a specific archetype or deck. 

So, here's how this works: As we look over the first week of Magic Origins spoilers, we'll discuss each card, talk a bit about where it might fit in tournament Magic, and then we'll wrap up each discussion by grading two things: the potential for a "spike" as a result of the upcoming Pro Tour Vancouver, and a projected price six months from now (approximately the time when the second set in the Battle for Zendikar set is released). Just one more note: if I don't mention a card, it's simply because I ran out of room. I'll catch up on the rest of these towards the end of the week in part two of the series. Anyway, let's talk about some cards!

Harbinger of Tides

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Most of the discussion I've seen about Harbinger of the Tides centers around its Merfolk creature type. Yes, it might very well see play in modern Merfolk where is could take the the place of either Vapor Snag or Tidebinder Mage depending on the meta and how testing shakes out. Unfortunately, this doens't mean that Harbinger of the Tides will be worth very much — Tidebinder Mage is only $0.82 and hasn't shown any real signs of recovery since rotating last fall. 

Where I'm more excited about Harbinger of the Tides is in a potential revival of Mono-Blue Devotion in Standard. While the deck is still missing Mutavault and Cloudfin Raptor, the spoiling of Shorecrasher Elemental in Dragons of Tarkir and now Harbinger of the Tides shores up two of the biggest weaknesses in the deck. I have a hard time imagining that a curve of UU two-drop into UUU thre-drop into Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves just isn't good enough anymore. The core of the deck is back so the real question is, are there enough supplemental/curve filler cards to make it work? 

The answer is maybe. The one drop slot is dramatically weaker that it was a year ago when Cloudfin Raptor and Judge's Familiar provided a powerful one-two punch. We are also missing a second UU two-drop — the only option apart from Harbinger of the Tides is Mindreaver, which I couldn't bring myself to put into the deck. On the other hand, the green splash for Collected Company and Kiora's Follower might make up for some of these deficiencies. We have 25 hit-able creatures which puts the deck in the usually-will-get-two range, and hitting Thassa, God of the Seas plus Shorecrasher Elemental has to rank up there on the list of best Collected Company plays in standard. 

Despite all these powerful cards and interactions, Harbinger of the Tides is the rug that ties the room together. In a format where everyone is looking to play expensive dragons, having an on-curve 2/2 that can bounce a six or seven mana play is a huge tempo swing. Although it's clearly worse than Tidebinder Mage against Siege Rhino, Den Protector, and Courser of Kruphix, Harbinger of the Tides is better against the field at large. Plus it's not like you are required to bounce something if it is not benefitial. The old Mono-Blue Devotion deck was more than happy to run Tidebinder Mage for its mana-symbols in a field full of Mono-Black Devotion and Sphinx's Revelation control — decks where it was literally a 2/2 for UU. 

Financially, Harbinger of Tides is significantly overpriced at the moment with the most recent Ebay completed listings closing for between $7 and $11 per copy for playsets. Tidebinder Mage only managed to hit $5 at it's peak while Mono-U Devotion was perhaps the best deck in Standard before declining to $3. It feels like $5-$7 is about the best case scenario for Harbinger of the Tides over the short term assuming people actually put their Mono-Blue decks back together before rotation this fall. Once Battle for Zendikar hits, Harbinger of Tides's playability and price depends almost solely on the printing of more powerful Merfolk, especially Merfolk lords. Remember that over the history of Magic, being a double-color-mana two-drop has been a bad thing; over the past year-and-a-half we have been living in a strange world where the existence of the devotion mechanic has flipped this paradigm on its head. So barring the release of some merfolk lords, Harbinger of the Tides is less likely to see a serious amount standard play after Theros rotates in October and could end up falling into the $2 to $3 range.  

Pro Tour Spike Potential: High

Six Month Price: $2-4


When Wizards announced they would be moving away from unconditional four-mana wraths, I assumed this meant we were in for more Hallowed Burial variants like Crux of Fate/End Hostilities and more oddball damage-based sweepers like Blasphemous Act/Chandra's Indignation. What I did not expect was for Wizards to print a four-mana Plague Wind for Abzan Control. While slightly worse in straight-up control builds, Languish is going to be better than the long-desired Damnation if you are playing Siege Rhino and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Seriously, check out the list of the top decks in the standard format organized by the percentage of creatures that die by Languish

Deck Creatures Killed
Mono-Red, Atarka Red 100 percent
GW Company 100 percent
Mono-Black Warriors 100 percent
Bant Heroic 100 percent (pre-heroic triggers)
Mardu Dragons 90 percent
GR Devotion 82.25 percent (discounting Genesis Hydra at x=5 or more)
Abzan Aggro 80 percent
Naya Dragons 77 percent
Abzan Midrange/Control 72.73 percent
Esper Dragons 60 percent

While calling Languish a Plague Wind is obviously an exaggeration, the fact remains that apart from Esper Dragon Control, Abzan Midrange/Control is hurt less by Languish than any other deck in the format with just over 70 percent of its creatures dying. This is compared to a 90 or 100 percent kill rate for many of the most popular decks in the format. And this isn't even considering the fact that Abzan Midrange can get this rate even lower by running more copies of Taisgur, the Golden Fang, Gurmag Angler or even Dragonlord Dromoka while Collected Company decks and mono-red/Atarka red can do very little to fix this problem. When it's all said and done, I expect the text on Languish to read something like "sacrifice half of your creatures: destroy all creatures your opponents control." 

These kill rates suggestion something else beyond the power of the card in Abzan Midrange; namely, in our current standard format, Languish is a lot closer to an actual sweeper than you might expect. Against many decks, this is far better than Crux of Fate, not only coming down a turn earlier (which may be the difference between life and death against Atarka Red or Abzan Aggro), but it also cleans out problematic creatures like a monstrous Fleecemane Lion or an untapped Dragonlord Ojutai

Financially, this card is already near its peak, long-term price. Wraths — even very good wraths — typically have difficulty pushing past $7. Supreme Verdict has an argument to be the best wrath ever printed, and it peaked at $6.87. Crux of Fate hit $6.75 on release day before declining swiftly to below $3. Mutilate and Day of Judgment didn't break $4. All in all, this suggests that, even though I expect Languish to be very strong in standard, I don't foresee it being more that $3 or $4 over the long haul. 

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Medium

Six Month Price: $3-$4

Day's Undoing

I almost didn't write about Day's Undoing at all because I'm still not sure what to make of the card. My gut instinct, when it was first spoiled, was that it was the second coming of Time Reversal and would end up being a bulk mythic. While this is still my belief, I've had enough conversations with strong supporters of the card that at this point I'm hesitant to take a strong stance either way. Could it break modern and end up being a $40 card (or even banned?) Yes. Could it end up being $0.50 and unplayable? Just as likely. Only time will tell for sure.

One thing I'm confidant of is that Day's Undoing is not a combo piece. If you're are playing Quicken and Leyline of Anticipation to make it work, guess what your draw sevens are going to be full of? That's right, Quickens and Leylines. It also seems unlikely that Day's Undoing will have much of an impact on standard where emptying your hand on turn one or two is difficult, if not impossible. On the other hand, it's possible the card could be good in modern Affinity or Burn as a way to refill your hand. Affinity in specific has the ability to dump its entire hand as early as turn two, which offers an avenue for breaking the symmetry of Day's Undoing. Take, for instance, this list based off one suggested by Jordan Boisvert from Modern Nexus.

The long and short of it is that I have no idea what the future holds for Day's Undoing. So until tournament results start to roll out a few weeks from now, I'm taking a wait and see attitude. I'm personally not buying copies (thanks again Time Reversal), but I'm doing so knowing I could be missing out on the next big thing.

Pro Tour Spike Potential: High

Six Month Price: $1.00 - $40.00

Woodland Bellower

Woodland Bellower has two things going for it. One is that it gets better the more non-lengendary green creatures with a cmc of three or less are printed, which means there is a chance some odd and broken combo is found eventually. Second, it seems pretty good at getting Eternal Witness in modern. While Mono-Green Nykthos isn't exactly a tier one deck, chaining together Primal Command with Eternal Witness is pretty powerful and the deck makes so much mana that casting the six-drop as Eternal Witness numbers five and six isn't out of the question. 

This said, until and unless someone figures out a broken combo, I expect Woodland Bellower to be one of the least-expensive mythics in the set. I'm just not sure you can play it as a value card. Maybe getting a Savage Knuckleblade is good enough in standard — it does offer 10 power for only six mana — but it seems likely that if you are going to invest six+ mana, you're probably better off playing a dragonlord of some kind. A price point of below $5 seems like a given, and ending up bulk at $2 or below isn't all that unlikely. 

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Low

Six Month Price: $1-$3

Archangel of Tithes

I wrote last week about how there are currently four Savannah Lions legal in standard, and how a mono-white aggro deck seems to have the potential to be super powerful. One of the big problem for the deck is the lack of reach and the potential for getting outclassed on turn four by cards like Siege Rhino since there is no Brave the Elements type card legal in standard. Well, Archangel of Tithes can do a pretty good imitation of Brave the Elements. Since the triple-white mana cost limits the number of archetypes that can play the 3/5, I imagine the primary use of this card is as a Falter. If you can play Kytheon, Hero of Arkos, Soldier of the Pantheon, Raise the Alarm, and friends over the first three turns, you can get in a bunch of quick damage which will likely force your opponent to tap out for a Deathmist Raptor or Siege Rhino on turns three or four. You can then follow up with Archangel of Tithes and make your team unblockable which should come close to locking up the game. It also survives Languish, which is another weakness of the all-in-Savannah Lions strategy, and also suggests it could be good in some sort of Abzan deck assuming the mana base can handle it. 

Large set mythics, six months post-release, RTR through KTK. 

Mythics By Category

Financially, I think the trajectory is down. The mana cost is just too restrictive to maintain a price near $20. If you browse through various sets, you'll see that there are actually very few standard-only mythic that can stay above $10. In fact, 83 percent of large set mythics are worth less than $10 six months post-release and more than half will end up being worth less that $5. As such, I expect Archangel of Tithes to be in the $6-$9 range six months from now. 

Pro Tour Spike Potential: High

Six Month Price: $6 - $9

Demonic Pact

Demonic Pact might be one of the coolest, most flavorful Magic cards ever printed. It is also extremely powerful. It's first choice has traditionally cost seven mana as seen on Vampiric Feast, Soul Spike and Covenant of Blood. The fact that is costs only one more mana than Exquisite Firecraft — a burn spell that most people agree is, at the very least, standard playable — while also gaining your four life is fairly stunning. Basically, choice one is a black Stoke the Flames with suspend one like Rift Bolt. The second and third modes are slightly overcosted on their own, but still quite good. It is worth noting that the second choice is is the first mono-black "draw two" without an immediate downside like loss of life or sacrificing a creature. Choice three is a four-mana Mind Rot

The problem, obviously, is the fourth choice. Losing the game is a quite a cost, so you either need to win the game with your first three choices, or find a way to remove Demonic Pact from the battlefield before you are forced to make the final choice. You also need to do this in a way that avoids the "playing bad cards to make bad cards better" problem. In standard, there are really only three "good" ways to get the enchantment off the battlefield: Dromoka's Command, Sultai Charm and Restoration Sage. This plan probably isn't very consistent. Playing cards like Naturalize or Riptide Chimera just isn't worth it to be able to play Demonic Pact. While I hope I'm proven wrong on this one because the card is so sweet, I don't think killing your own Demonic Pact before it kills you is a legitimate strategy in standard. 

On the other hand, using Demonic Pact in a suicide black strategy could have potential. Mono-Black Warriors has been floating in the tier-two area for a while and there is a chance that Demonic Pact is the card that puts it over the top. 

According to our analysis of 85k games of standard, the two worst matchups for Mono-Black Warriors are Mono/Atarka Red and Mardu Dragons and on paper it seems like Demonic Pact has potential to improve both of these matchups. Against red aggro, gaining four life is significant and having a way to dome your opponent for four offers an amount of reach that is rarely available to mono-black decks. Yes, the fact that you don't get to choose until your next upkeep is troublesome; if your opponent can kill you before you untap, you spent four mana for nothing. On the other hand, games in this matchup typically end so quickly that it is unlikely you'll be force to choose "I lose the game" very often (which will happen the earliest on turn 8). Against Mardu Dragons, having a spell that can burn your opponent out while also having the potential to take care of a problematic blocker like Stormbreath Dragon or Thunderbreak Regent seems fairly powerful.

All things considered, I'm just not sure this card is worth the effort for tournament decks and the potential of seeing play in a fringe deck like Mono-Black Warriors isn't really enough to offer much financial potential. While I think the card is too cool and flavorful to be complete bulk, if I was forced to make a choice, I'd pick Demonic Pact to be worth $2 or less six months from now. 

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Medium

Six Month Price: $1-$3

Near Bulk Rares

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Before Thallia, Guardian of Thraben there was Glowrider. To my knowledge, Glowrider never managed to see any play and I'm not sure the flying from Vryn Wingmare is enough of a bonus to overcome this history. The problems, apart from driving a little slower, are that the lack of first strike mean it is much less efficient as a blocker and that adding on extra mana typically means the damage is already done in eternal formats. Forcing your opponent to spend their entire second turn casting Sword to Plowshares or Path to Exile on Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a huge tempo win. By the time you cast Vryn Wingmare on turn three there a decent chance your opponent will already have up counter-mana (even on the draw, which is another benefit of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben) and your opponent can kill it with either a one or two mana removal spell (depending on play/draw) on the spot. Basically a strictly better Glowrider is still a Glowrider, and being a Glowrider isn't all that great. 

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Low

Six Month Price: $1-$1.50

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Assuming you get to five mana and have a card you want to play right away, Dark Petition is Demonic Tutor. Being able to tutor for a Liliana, Heretical Healer and use the Dark Ritual mana to cast it immediately is cute, but Wizards has made it abundantly clear that they will not print a broken (or even playable) tutor in a modern Magic set. In standard, Sidisi, Undead Vizier will typically be better, and after a bunch of hype from both pros and the finance community, he is basically unplayed at this point. If Dark Petition does see play, it will most likely be as a one-of as the fifth copy of a very specific and important card. The trouble is, standard is dominated by midrange decks and mostly homogeneous creatures so I'm not certain such a card exists in the format.

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Medium

Six Month Price: $0.50-$1.50

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

It's a bad and legendary Siege-Gang Commander. Its ability is an overcosted Shock. It's also an intro pack rare, which is basically Wizards' way of saying "please don't play this card in a competitive deck." If the "sacrifice an artifact" ability cost one-mana, I might be interested. If it works with one of the tribal themes from Magic Origins, the same would be true. As is I would be thopter-shocked if this card saw any meaningful amount of play. 

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Low

Six Month Price: $0.50-$1

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Helmet of the Gods (1)

Equipped creature gets +1/+1 for each enchantment you control.

Equip 1 Mana

What Ghostfire Blade is for a morph deck, Helmet of the Gods is to an enchantment deck. While I think there is some outside chance this card finds a home and ends up being worth a couple dollars (it is, after all, costed as efficiently as possible), I'd put the odds somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 percent bulk rare, 10 percent finds a home. Until I see some sign that Helmet of the Gods can overcome these odds, I'll take a pass. 

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Medium

Six Month Price: Bulk to $3

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

As a bounce spell, this card is pretty bad. Not only is Displacement Wave sorcery speed, but costs a ton to bounce everything in the late game. On the other hand, it could have a very tiny shot at being a combo piece. Retract spiked recently thanks to its ability to bounce a bunch of 0-cmc artifacts in modern Cheerios and Displacement Wave can do the same thing. Sure, it costs one more mana, but it's not restricted to artifacts, so if your looking to go off with Crookshank Kobolds and Glimpse of Nature, this might be the card for you. 

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Low

Six Month Price: $0.50 - $1.50

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Being the prerelease promo increases supply significantly, and while Mizzium Meddler's effect is pretty sweet, it is also completely overshadowed by Spellskite in modern (although I can imagine some blow-outs where you play this, nab an opponent's Splinter Twin and lock out future Twins and removal spells with the copies). In standard it might be good out of the board against mono-red where being able to counter a Lightning Strike while providing a decent blocker is a big deal, possibly enough to deserve a slot or two in the right deck in the right meta. Against other removal spells though, it is basically just worse than Dissipate or Dissolve since actual counters can hit problematic creatures and planeswalkers while Mizzium Meddler can only affect targeted spells.

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Medium

Six Month Price: $0.50-$1.50

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I have always thought of Lotus Guardian as the worst creature with the text "add one mana of any color to your mana pool," but it looks like the competition is heating up. While like Patrick Sullivan, I'm perfectly fine with this card existing, I'm also perfectly fine with never putting it in a deck. The problem with Honored Hierarch is that even when everything goes perfectly (you are on the play, resolve it on turn one, attack and make it renown on turn two), it's still only a slightly better Leaf Gilder, and Leaf Gilder isn't typically the type of card that sees play in a competitive deck. When things go wrong (for instance, your opponent plays a blocker) what you have is Momir basic staple Scornful Egotist. Plus, on a purely financial level, it's in the Magic Origins Clash Pack which means supply will be high, diminishing Honored Hierarch's already limited potential even more.

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Low

Six Month Price: $1-$2

Bottom of the Barrel 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

These are rares that I don't really feel like writing an entire paragraph about. They are either featured in intro packs, fairly obviously limited fodder, or the obligatory janky red enchantment that never pans out in constructed. Before you get excited about Jace's Sanctum, remember it wasn't that long ago that Arcane Melee was printed, and the Avacyn's Restored rare did less-than-nothing in tournament Magic. Maybe scrying one is a game changer, but this seems unlikely to me. 

Pro Tour Spike Potential: Low

Six Month Price: $0.25-$0.75


Anyway, that's all for today. What do you think about Day's Undoing? What cards am I undervaluing? Which am I overvaluing? Have you made any pre-orders yet? If so, what? As always, leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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