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Financial Review of Magic Origins: Part 3

Over the past week we've been working out way through a review of Magic Origins. Monday we covered the first week of spoilers in part one of the series and yesterday we reviewed the red, white, blue, and green cards in part two. Today in the conclusion of the series we are going to talk about the black cards and reprints before finishing up with a fun little EV exercise to double-check the price predictions from all three articles. Like last time, our conversation today will focus on the rares and mythics from the set. We'll talk about their place in the format, discuss a few test deck lists and all that fun stuff, but more importantly we'll be exploring the financial ramifications of the cards. In particular we will be looking at the chance a card has of spiking at the upcoming Pro Tour Magic Origins (this is roughly a measure of short term potential) as well as a projected six-month price. 

Erebos's Titan

Every time a new set is spoiled I browse through Gatherer in hopes of making Gray Merchant of Asphodel good one more time before he rotates. So far I've been disappointed — there simply have not been enough black mana symbols in standard; but with Magic Origins, things seem to be changing. Not only do we get Titan of Erebos, but also Despoiler of Souls, Liliana, Heretical Healer and Languish. Plus Thoughtseize, Whip of Erebos and Hero's Downfall are still legal for a few more months, so it just might be time for a Mono-Black Devotion reunion tour. While the lack of Underworld Connections might be a deal breaker and we definitely do not have a Pack Rat, I plan on testing something like this:

Whether or not a revival of Mono-Black Devotion is possible, Erebos's Titan reminds me a little bit of Phyrexian Obliterator (the only other black 5/5 for four without a drawback), not because their abilities are similar (because they are not), but because they are both extremely powerful cards if you can cast them. Thankfully, for the next three months we still have Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in the format which solves the triple-black problem on its own. Being a 5/5 is a pretty big deal in our current format since it not only stonewalls Siege Rhino and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, but also dodges Languish. It seems unlikely that indestructibility will come up all that often in standard — there are just too many creatures floating around these days, although against something like UB Control it will be devastating. The second ability also shouldn't be that hard to trigger in most matchups. Not only does Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector (targeting a creature) get the job done, but so do Haven of the Spirit Dragon, delve, and Whip of Erebos. While the post-rotation future of Erebos's Titan is somewhat cloudy, he seems like one of the best Origins mythics for the next few months.

Chance of Pro-Tour Spike: Medium

Six Month Price: $3-$7

Despoiler of Souls


[Despoiler of Souls]] might walk, talk and come back from the graveyard like Ichorid, but an Ichorid this is not. Costing two mana and two creatures to buy it back from the graveyard kills any potential this card might have in legacy Dredge, and I'm not even sure it's good enough for modern Dredgevine. Getting back Bloodghast and even Gravecrawler works because the commitment is so low, but with Despoiler of Souls you are likely to run out of resources quite quickly.  

As I mentioned a moment ago, I'm currently most interested in the horror for its two black mana symbols in Mono-Black Devotion, but there might be potential in other decks as well. Mostly likely this would have to be some sort of black aggro deck. While white gets a 3/1 for two mana almost every set, this combination of stats is actually extremely rare on black creatures. In fact, Despoiler of Souls is only the second ever printed after Oona's Prowler, which had the downside of letting your opponent discard cards to trim its power (plus, life was hard as a one-toughness fliers in a Bitterblossom format). As a result, we don't have a very good foundation for our evaluation. Sure, it's worse than Ichorid and Bloodghast, but maybe having three power and being semi-recursive is good enough? Only time will tell for sure, but at only $0.99 I'm willing to pick up a few just on the off-chance that it finds a home, in which case being $3 or more isn't out of the question. 

Chance of Pro Tour Spike: High(ish)

Six Month Price: $1-$3

Tainted Remedy

Tainted Remedy is one of my favorite long-term casual cards in all of Magic Origins. Kitchen table players love weird effects like this, especially when they involve life gain (see: Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood). Plus Rain of Gore is pushing $5 on extremely fringe modern play as a counter to Soul Sisters and Tainted Remedy is mostly better since it deals with lifelink as well as other forms of life gain and doesn't care who controls the life gain effect. 

Tainted Remedy also allows for a modern version of The Cure, a tier 9 legacy life gain combo deck. With a Tainted Remedy on the battlefield, Beacon of Immortality becomes an instant win combo, Pulse of the Fields becomes Flame Javelin, and Wall of Shards becomes an aggressively costed finisher. You can even transmute for Tainted Remedy with Dimir Machinations, Drift of Phantasms or Perplex. This deck probably won't be great since it is relativity slow and gets wrecked by Abrupt Decay in response to Beacon of Immortality, but it is janky enough that someone will try it. I'll be waiting for Tainted Remedy to hit bottom (hopefully as a bulk are) in a few months and stocking up on as many copies as possible for the long-term casual hold.

Chance of Pro Tour Spike: Low

Six Month Price: $0.50-$1.50

Infinite Obliteration

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

So what we have here is a cheaper but less-powerful Cranial Extraction/Slaughter Games/Stain the Mind since it only hits creatures and costs double-black. What do these cards have in common (with the exception of Cranial Extraction when it was first printed)? They we all worth $1 or less during their time in standard. The thing is, these cards are not very good unless your deck is worried about a very specific card that you have to answer or else you lose the game. For example, you're playing standard Jund and you have a great matchups against Esper Control unless they start chaining together Sphinx's Revelations. Or you're are playing Elves and you just can't beat a Wrath of God. These are the instances where you want this type of effect. 

What you don't want to do with these cards is just hit some random creature "for value." Sure you can exile four copies of Siege Rhino against Abzan, but guess what? You're just going to lose to Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Deathmist Raptor. Even worse, what if your opponent does not have any copies of Siege Rhino in their hand? You are paying three mana and a card to take away the possibility that your opponent might draw a copy at some point in the future. Probably the best thing you can do with this card in standard at the moment is to take all four copies of Dragonlord Ojutai away from your Esper Dragons, leaving them with one or two Silumgar, the Drifting Deaths to try to win the game. Even here, in the absolute best case scenario, I'm not sure this is worth the price of a card; maybe as a one-of out of the sideboard, but that's about it. The fact that this card is pre-selling for over $3 boggles my mind. 

Chance of Pro Tour Spike: Low

Six Month Price: $0.50-$1.00

Priest of the Blood Rite

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Seven power and toughness, five of it evasive, split across two bodies is a pretty good deal for five mana. As we have been talking about, five seems to be the key number for toughness in the upcoming standard format. Unfortunately, just having good stats isn't always enough anymore. Sidisi, Undead Vizier has a very impressive body and a relevant ability, but still hasn't managed to break her way into the format in any meaningful way. I'm just not sure what a Priest of the Blood Rite deck would look like, or if one even exists. This could change in the future, but my initial feelings are that the cleric will fall into the all too common "powerful but underplayed" category of standard rares. 

Chance of Pro Tour Spike: Low

Six Month Price: $0.50-$1.00

Graveblade Marauder

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Graveblade Marauder has a potentially powerful combination of stats and abilities, although based on the performance of Master of Cruelties, I don't have high hopes for standard playability. I'm not sure Mono-Black Warriors wants him since he isn't all that aggressively costed until your graveyard is full of creatures, and even then getting through combat damage is not a given. This said, having a three mana creature that trades with everything is pretty solid, so if there is a defensive deck that really wants a Horned Turtle, Graveblade Marauder is a good one. I'm not expecting much, but I'm also not willing to write him off completely; Graveblade Marauder could be very strong in a specific deck in the right meta. 

Chance of Pro Tour Spike: Medium

Six Month Price: $1-$2


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

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Shivan Reef and the other enemy painlands return for the second core set in a row. During the M15 edition of preparing for rotation, I said the cycle was a hold mostly because the price had already decreased so much that it wasn't worth selling them. This ended up being sage advice because now they will be playable for another year. While there will still be some amount of financial ebb and flow based on what color combinations are most popular over the next year of standard, although seeing highs of near $10 like we did last year is less likely because the supply is significantly higher now. I'd be surprised if any member of the cycle manages to push past the $5 mark this time around. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sigil of the Empty Throne seems absolutely insane in standard, at least until Theros block rotates. While it is typically used as a combo finisher in modern and legacy, in standard, much like Starfield of Nyx, it feels most like a value card/finisher for an enchantment or constellation deck. You do need a critical mass of enchantments to make it good so you can't just jam it in UW Control, but thankfully we are on the tail end of an "enchantment block" so there are ample synergies to build with.

The most obvious use and benefit of Sigil of the Empty Throne is generating value whenever you draw a middling enchantment creature off the top in the late game. A Brain Maggot or Courser of Kruphix is a much better topdeck when it comes along with a 4/4 flying angel. While this is probably the most competitive use of the card, there might be a chance to build a true enchantment control deck with Heliod, God of the Sun, Banishing Light, Demonic Pact and the like. Whether or not this deck could be good is beyond me, but grinding out games with enchantments does sound pretty fun.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Gaea's Revenge was a sideboard control beater last time around combined with mana from Primeval Titan. It might be able to do something similar against Esper Dragons or UB Control while Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is still in the format, but in most matchups it is going to be less impactful than Dragonlord Atarka. It's pretty embarrassing against Deathmist Raptor and gets chumped by everything, so it seems unlikely to see any main deck play. I'd expect it to float around the bulk/just-above-bulk range unless the format shifts drastically towards control post-rotation. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm not sure what to make of Knight of the White Orchid in our current standard format. Fetching a plains is fine and the body is on-curve, but it feels strange to have a knight in a format where the tribal synergies are dominated by Warriors and Soldiers. Maybe this will change in Battle for Zendikar, but for now he seems like a value card for non-tribal white weenie strategies. Keep an eye on what Craig Wescoe plays over the next month and especially a Pro Tour Magic Origins. His white decks tend to become the stock lists, so if he plays Knight of the White Orchid, other people will too. However, even if it is adapted as a four-of in a tier one deck, the fact that Knight of the White Orchid is on its third printing severely limits his financial potential. Being anything more than $5 would be a surprise, and trending down to the $1-$2 range wouldn't be that shocking if it does not see much play. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Finally, the most exciting of the reprints: Goblin Piledriver. Is the legacy staple (well, former legacy staple; no one plays Goblins in legacy anymore) going to break modern or standard? I honestly have no idea, but judging by the price spikes of several goblin-related cards (Warren Instigator, Cavern of Souls, Aether Vial, Legion Loyalist), people are going to give it their best shot. At first I thought that modern Goblins would just be a worse mono-red deck than Burn, but the more I talk to people about the decks, the more I'm starting to think it might have some real potential in the format.

One thing I'm certain of is that modern Goblins will not be legacy Goblins. In legacy, Goblins is a card advantage deck built around grinding out wins with the the mana denial of Rishadan Port and Wasteland combined with the card advantage generated by the ability to chain together Goblin Ringleaders. In modern, Goblins will almost certainly be an aggro deck built around curving Legion Loyalist/Goblin Guide into Goblin Piledriver/Warren Instigator into Goblin Chieftain/Goblin King. These sort of openings offer a ton of early damage — enough damage that a copy or two of Goblin Grenade/Lightning Bolt can finish off the game. 

The advantage of playing Goblins over Zoo or some other multi-color aggro strategy is not only consistency, but the ability to play three or four copies of Blood Moon in the main. If Merfolk can get away with running a bunch of Spreading Seas to get some free wins from islandwalk, I don't know why Goblins couldn't do the same thing with Blood Moon. Blood Moon not only beats a decent percentage of the field on its own, but it also lets Goblin King do a pretty good Lord of Atlantis impression. Here a test list:

While the cardpool is significantly smaller, Goblin Piledriver is actually a pretty scary card in standard as well. Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst both make goblin tokens, Frenzied Goblin and Foundry Street Denizen are solid one-drops, and we have multiple four-damage burn spells. On the other hand, the downside of being an x/2 is probably more significant since Wild Slash is a playable card in standard. Regardless, I imagine Goblin Piledriver and friends will do a pretty good job of punishing players who have a clunky draws or keep hands without answers.

Financially, Goblin Piledriver is limited by the fact it is only playable in one archetype. A card like Goblin Rabblemaster, which reached $20 at its peak, saw play in various Jeskai builds, some midrange builds, and Mono-Red. The only deck that will even consider Goblin Piledriver is tribal Goblins. As a result, I'm expecting $7-$10 to be the the range for Goblin Piledriver; this is about as expensive as it gets for archetype staple in-print rares. If it breaks modern, it could be a bit higher; if we find out it is completely unplayable in both formats, it could head towards $5, but the most likely outcome is somewhere in between. 

Checking Our Work

Typically six months after a set is released, the expected value of a booster box is somewhere between $60 and $70 at TCG-mid pricing. While we will break down the actual current EV of a Magic Origins booster box the beginning of next week, to wrap things up today we are going to check my six-month price predictions by doing a quick EV calculation to make sure these prices put the box EV in the normal range. 

One quick note: since I wrote an entire article on the flip-walkers, I didn't include them in either part of our financial review. My expectation is that two will end up in the $3-$7 range (most likely Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh), two will end up in the $7-$12 range and one will end up being the most expensive card in the set at $15+. Unfortunately I'm not sure which of the three remaining flip-walker will be the most expensive as I can see positives and negatives for each. Gideon, Champion of Justice is the most playable as a creature and is relatively easy to flip, but the payoff is only okay. Liliana, Heretical Healer is only acceptable as a creature but is the easiest to flip and transforms into an above-average planeswalker. Nissa, Sage Animist is clearly the most powerful as a planeswalker, but is one of the hardest to transform and doesn't excite me as a creature. Regardless of which comes out on top, these are the prices we will be using for our hypothetical six-month EV calculation.

Six Month EV Prediction
Rarity Average Price Number in Box EV Added
Mythic $5.25 4.5 $23.62
Rares $1.23 (counting "bottom of the barrel" at $0.20) 31.5 $38.75
Total     $62.37

Figuring out the hypothetical six-month box EV doesn't tell us anything about the validity of the price predictions for individual cards, but the good news is that it does show us the predictions are in the right range overall. If the predictions added up to $100 in EV (or, on the other side of the coin, $30 in EV) we would know that something, somewhere was off, but the idea that the expected value of a Magic Origins booster box this coming winter will be $62.37 is perfectly reasonable. Currently, Khans of Tarkir is at $68, Fate Reforged is at $62 and Dragons of Tarkir is at $75. If anything, the average mythic value of my predictions could increase slightly (for instance, moving the "chase" planeswalker from $15 to $30 and a couple of mid-level mythic from $5 to $9 jumps the overall box EV up to $70), but as is we are in a perfectly normal range. 


Anyway, that's all for today. I'll be back the beginning of the week with The Expected Value of Magic Origins, but in the meantime what do you think? How good is Erebos's Titan? Can Mono-Black Devotion be good again? Will Goblin Piledriver break standard or modern? What (non-Piledriver) reprint do you find most exciting? What cards am I undervaluing? Which am I overvaluing? Let me know in the comment, or as always, you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.

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