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Financial Review of Oath of the Gatewatch: Rares


Doing a financial review for Rares for a contemporary Magic set is an odd pursuit. Since pre-release prices are almost always inflated, probably the most realistic way of writing an article would be to say, "the price of each Rare is going to drop." And you'd be right on 9 out of 10 cards. On the other hand, making such a sweeping statement isn't very enlightening. So today we are going to review the Rares from Oath of the Gatewatch in a slightly different way. 

Let's begin by talking a bit about the price of Standard-legal Rares. I've created a handy dandy chart that show how many Rares from each Standard legal set fall into various price groupings. While these numbers are based on current prices, I've tried to account for the fact that Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are on the downswing of rotation by bumping their numbers a bit to resemble their peak prices.

Standard Rare Prices
Set $5+ $2-$4.99 $1-$1.99 Bulk
Battle for Zendikar zero 8 (six lands) 4 (two lands) 41
Magic Origins  2 6 9 (four lands) 36
Dragons of Tarkir 4 6 (one land) 6 37
Fate Reforged 1 2 4 28
Khans of Tarkir 5 (all lands) 2 4 42

As you can see, Rares worth $5 or more - especially non-land Rares - are a rare beast in contemporary Magic sets. In fact, only about 3% of all non-land Rares will be worth more than $5. The rate for lands is much better, especially dual land cycles. Even finding Rares in the $2 - $4.99 range are fairly uncommon, with the typical set having 3.4 non-land Rares (about 7%) in this group. Another 9% end up being worth between $1 and $2. Altogether these numbers mean that 80% of non-land Rares printed in modern Magic sets will be bulk (worth less than $1). Even if you include land Rares, which are almost always more valuable than non-lands Rares, a full 75% of Rares will be bulk. 

Now imagine we have a Magic set that contains no Rare lands. Like most large sets, it has 53 Rares. If history holds true, 43 of these cards will be essentially worthless, which means 10 cards will be valuable and fall into one of the above categories. 

Instead of talking about every single Rare in Oath of the Gatewatch, we are going to pick 10 cards that will actually have value and put them in their proper category. For the sake of our exercise, we are only going to talk about non-land Rares. If you are curious about the future of lands from Oath of the Gatewatch, you can find my thoughts here. Basically the creaturelands will likely be between $2 and $5, while most of the colorless lands will be bulk or in the $1-$2 range. Sea Gate Wreckage could Haven of the Spirit Dragon its way into the $2-$3 range. 

The Chase Rare ($5+). One Card.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In Oath of the Gatewatch, Wizards has printed some insanely powerful cards that require colorless mana, either to cast or activate. Take Thought-Knot Seer, which is close to a colorless Vendilion Clique. The upside of Thought-Knot Seer is the opponent doesn't get to draw a card immediately, instead they have to kill the Thought-Knot Seer first. It's also a 4/4 for four, which is on curve. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm uncertain how easy it will be to make colorless mana in Modern (discounting decks built around colorless mana like Bx Eldrazi and Tron), I have no doubt this card would be a Modern staple. However, I'm hesitant to say that much because making colorless mana does seem to be a real cost for most decks in Modern. 

If we look at the Top 50 Lands in Modern, you'll see very few produce colorless mana. Ghost Quarter is in the Top 10, and then we have all the Affinity lands (Inkmoth Nexus, Blinkmoth Nexus, and Darksteel Citadel), followed by Urza Tron, and bringing up the rear are a bunch of fringe options. Of course, there are plenty of options available: the filter lands, the painlands, the storage lands, the Innistrad cycle of Desolate Lighthouse and Gavony Township, and a bunch of other odd utility lands. The question we need to answer is whether or not it is worthwhile to mess with the amazing mana of Moern to play a card like Thought-Knot Seer

Of course, if you are a deck that is already playing twelve colorless lands (Affinity, Tron, Mono-Black Eldrazi), the cost of playing these cards is non-existent. You can just throw Thought-Knot Seer into your deck if you want. On the other hand, you can't play Jund or Kiki-Chord in their current form and play enough colorless sources to run Thought-Knot Seer. This is why colorless mana should be considered a sixth color . . . at least when it comes to deck building.

Honestly, I don't really know what to say about Thought-Knot Seer. I think that because it requires colorless mana it will see less play than it would have if it cost 3U, 3B, or basically any color of mana. For now I'm sticking with the theory that most Modern decks (and Standard decks, pre-rotation) will not be able to cast Thought-Knot Seer, so it's price will drop, although the card certainly feels powerful enough. The card could eventually spawn a new archetype or push decks to play more colorless sources. 

Financially, I'm taking a wait-and-see attitude on all the colorless cards. The good news is we shouldn't have to wait long. Either the pros will figure out a way to make the mana work in Modern at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, or they won't. If they do, the future will be extremely bright for the colorless cards from Oath. If not they will fade into the purgatory of cards that require snow mana to activate.

Thought-Knot Seer is my pick for the most expensive Rare in Oath of the Gatewatch over the long term. If colorless mana isn't too big of a drawback, it could be the second coming of Siege Rhino in Standard. While staying at $15 is unlikely, barring a breakout performance at the Pro Tour, sitting somewhere between $5 and $10 seems possible, if not probable. 

Good Rares ($2-$4.99). Four Cards.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Matter Reshaper is similar to Thought-Knot Seer, but without as much Modern potential. It reminds me of Voice of Resurgence as an on-curve, early game creature that replaces itself when it dies. There's also a bit of Coiling Oracle since Matter Reshaper's death trigger plays much like Coiling Oracle's enters the battlefield trigger. 

I do wonder one thing about Matter Reshaper. Is it the type of card that is powerful enough to make a deck "splash" colorless mana? For Thought-Knot Seer, at least in Standard, I think the answer is yes. For Matter Reshaper I'm much less certain. While decks with access to colorless mana will play it for value, it's not like Coiling Oracle, Voice of Resurgence and Elvish Visionary show up in every deck of their colors. If Matter Reshaper is just a Standard archetype staple for colorless and mono-colored decks, it will be hard for it to maintain it's preorder price. As a result I expect it to end up somewhere in the $2-$4 range. The good news is it is very unlikely to fall to bulk, both because of its playability and because of its high starting price tag. If you really want copies for a deck, you won't lose a ton of value by buying in now, but if you wait until March you'll likely get a discount.  

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Forget everything else; Eldrazi Displacer is a 3/3 for 2W. That is a rare combination of stats in Magic. In fact, the only comparison I could find was Frontline Medic, which started off at $6 and hung over the $2 mark for its first year in Standard. Obviously, apart from the stats, the cards are a lot different. Frontline Medic had more value in aggro builds and Eldrazi Displacer is better in a value-centric midrange deck. On its face a 3/3 for 2W is playable in Standard. The second question is, just how good is the blink ability in Standard?

First off, there is an infinite combo with Brood Monitor, where you can generate an infinite number of death triggers to abuse with Zulaport Cutthroat. Basically, you use the Eldrazi Scion tokens produced by Brood Monitor to repeatedly active Eldrazi Displacer to blink the Brood Monitor. As a three card, creature based combo I think the interaction is more of an Against the Odds deck than a real Standard player. On the other hand there are a ton of cards I really, really want to blink with Eldrazi Displacer

Financially, Eldrazi Displacer seems like a long-term casual hit. Commander players love enter the battlefield triggers and blink effects, so it should see tons of play in the singleton format. However, Commander usually isn't enough to drive up the price of an in-print Rare, so over the short term the price tag of Eldrazi Displacer will depend on Standard play. As an on-curve option that can generate a ton of value over a long game, I think it will show up in some lists. It's not like it takes that much to make the card good, but it isn't something you'll just jam in every White deck. I expect it to trend down over the next few months and end up in the $2-$3 range.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

On it's face the stats on Goblin Dark-Dweller are fine, but not exciting. A 4/4 for five is slightly below the curve, even with menace. For this one it's all about that ability, which thankfully is a good one. Casting things for free always has the potential to be broken, or at least very good, and even with the CMC three or less restriction, Goblin Dark-Dwellers is no different. It seems insane with Kolaghan's Command, but even in a land of watered-down burn spells there are plenty of things worth casting for free in Standard. 

Goblin Dark-Dwellers is also the Buy a Box promo, and these cards have a strong track record of being Standard staples, or at the very least Standard playable. On the other hand, there's an increased supply. If Goblin Dark-Dwellers ends up being a two-of instead of a four-of, the promo printing could keep the price down, at least initially. There's even been some talk that Goblin Dark-Dwellers could show up on Modern, but that sounds ambitious to me. Five-mana is a lot in the format, but it is worth noting that if your plan is to flashback Kolaghan's Command in a deck like Grixis, you are getting exactly the same deal as Snapcaster Mage (total cost of five mana), but you trade flash for a much more intimidating body. Regardless, even if it does break into Modern it will be in small numbers, which likely won't do enough to the price. 

While the early returns on Goblin Dark-Dwellers were impressive, with it showing up as a three- or four-of in some successful builds of Mardu and Jeskai at SCG Atlanta, over the long term it seems that $2-$3 is the most likely resting place. It will see play in Standard, but it will have to see a ton of play, like Siege Rhino-"most played creature in Standard"-type play, to stick at over $5 for the long-haul, and that seems like a stretch for the 5-CMC creature. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

My initial instinct was to drop Reality Smasher down a tier, based on the assumption that it was only good in aggressive decks. Then I came to my senses. Even ignoring trample and haste, it's a 5/5 for five, which stonewalls pretty much all non-Eldrazi creatures in the format. 

The first card everyone jumped to as a comparison for Reality Smasher was Thunderblust. While the comparison isn't great, it is the best we have. Both are huge trampling, hasty creatures for only five mana, and more importantly, guarantee a two-for-one should an opponent decide to kill it. The big benefit of Reality Smasher is that it is much easier to cast than Thunderblust, so it theoretically fits in more decks. 

Obviously, the higher the mana cost of a colorless creature, the easier it is to play in your deck, which is another vote in favor of Reality Smasher. The number of colorless sources you need in your deck to have access to colorless mana on turn three for Matter Reshaper is significantly higher than the number you need to reliably cast Reality Smasher on turn five. Reality Smasher isn't as manabase warping as some of the other colorless options. 

That said, Reality Smasher is just a big, hard to kill creature. A lot of the time a good player will just hold an extra land to discard when they kill Reality Smasher. Even though it's a two-for-one, it won't always be a good two-for-one. Plus, it has very little potential in Modern, where you can get Batterskull, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Thragtusk for the same amount of mana. As such, I expect this one to straddle the line between the $1-$2 category and the $2-5 category, depending on how playable it ends up being in Standard. 

Not Quite Bulk ($1-$1.99). Four Cards.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm running on the assumption that the "planeswalker bonus" won't be relevant in most tournament matches. Yes, there will doubtlessly be casual decks that use Oath of Nissa in Five Color Superfriends, but in Standard, it's not the reason to play the card. Some people have gone as far to suggest Oath of Nissa allows Modern Tron to cast Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. While I'm proud someone came up with this idea, mostly because it sounds like something from Against the Odds, the thing that makes Tron so powerful is its consistency. Jamming a bunch of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalkers in your deck in hopes you have a Oath of Nissa on the battlefield seems like a sure way to knock a deck from tier one to tier five. 

A comparison for Oath of Nissa is something like Ancient Stirrings or Commune with Nature. In some ways Oath of Nissa is better. It is less restrictive, hitting a land, creature, or planeswalker, while the others only hit lands and colorless spells (Ancient Stirrings) or creatures (Commune with Nature). In other ways it is worse. You only get to look at three cards instead of five. Unfortunately, cards like Ancient Stirrings and Commune with Nature are typically only playable in very specific decks and not the type of cards every Green deck wants. 

As such, I'm not as high on Oath of Nissa as other people. While I think some Green decks will play it, especially in Standard where Green doesn't have a good turn-one play since we don't have Elvish Mystics or Llanowar Elves anymore. I think people will try it and find that it is much better in theory than in practice. Yes, if you are having a hard time finding the last card for your deck, the Oath is a low opportunity cost way to fill up a slot. But unless you are a deck that can take advantage of the second ability, I think another creature, spell, or planeswalker will often be better. After all, it can't hit spells, so you will rarely be able to use it to find an answer, instead you'll use it to find another threat. Why not just put more threats in your deck?

I expect this one to end up in the just-above-bulk range between $1 and $2 as people figure out the prerelease hype is unfounded. This card is really a semi-playable Common disguised as a Rare. Of course, in the long term it could rebound from casual demand, but that is assuming it dodges the reprint bug. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

It took me a while to realize it, but Bearer of Silence is an uncounterable edict. Yes, it is four mana, but Gatekeeper of Malakir was three mana, much harder to cast, didn't have any evasion, and is still fringe playable in Legacy. Personally, this card excites me because it greatly improves Eldrazi Aggro. It's a fine, on-curve option on turn two, but it's also very strong off the top of the deck in the late game, which helps solve the deck's biggest problems of fizzling out in the mid / late game. 

While it's obviously at its best in some sort of aggressive strategy, I could picture playing Bearer of Silence in a control deck, depending on the metagame. If people are going wide with tokens it isn't great, but if the format is about playing a bunch of ramp spells into huge Eldrazi, Bearer of Silence seems awesome. It kills a Kozilek, the Great Distortion even through its "discard a card, counter a spell" ability, and cleans up all the other Eldrazi as well.

All in all, Bearer of Silence is one of my favorite cards in the set. I expect it to see play in Standard, and possibly Modern as well where it could fit into the Bx Eldrazi decks. I almost put it one level higher, but considering there isn't much hype about the card, I expect it to be one of those cards that's better than its price tag. Utility cards like this one often fly under the radar unless they are Abrupt Decay. At first blush Bearer of Silence isn't the type of card that jumps off the page. For now I'm putting it in the $1-$2 category, but holding out hope it could slip into the $3-4 range if things shake out right. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 '

Ignoring everything else, Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim is a one mana sacrifice outlet, which is cheap enough that it could see play in an Aristocrats deck. She's also capable of much more. Discounting Wren's Run Vanquisher which had the weird tribal drawback, we've never seen a three toughness deathtouch creature for only two mana. While stonewalling creatures with two power is only somewhat relevant at the moment (e.g. Abbot of Keral Keep and Seeker of the Way), it could be better post rotation. Plus, unlike most two drops, Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim is great in the late game, where it can trade with an Eldrazi and any other ground creature in the format. 

While I think it might be a trap, the last ability is insane if you can trigger it without warping your deck too much. I mean, if you are main decking Arashin Clerics to get to 30 life just to Vindicate something, you're probably doing it wrong. But if you are incidentally gaining life from Siege Rhino or Wingmate Roc, being able to activate Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim once will likely end the game. 

The main thing holding Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim back is being legendary, which might make it a two or three-of rather than a four-of, which brings down the price tag a bit. While I think it's possible she climbs into the $4 range, somewhere between $1 and $2 is the most likely resting place for the two-drop.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

My initial impression of Oath of Gideon was lackluster. Raise the Alarm is a two-mana instant which does basically the same thing. Then I talked to a few people who suggested that letting Gideon, Ally of Zendikar ultimate the turn it enters the battlefield and stick around is the real power of the card. While I'm not 100% sure, it's possible they are right. We haven't really seen a card like Oath of Gideon before. Maybe one additional loyalty counter is a big deal.

Obviously it benefits from the fact that Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is one of the best cards in Standard and isn't going anywhere. As such, half of the "combo" already sees play, it's just a matter of throwing Oath of Gideon into some decks and seeing if it sticks. I have my doubts, but we are scraping the bottom of the barrel for Rares. For now I'll say that Oath of Gideon sneaks in just over the $1 mark. 

Others

That's it. If history holds true Oath of the Gatewatch will only have nine non-land Rares that maintain a price over $1. The tricky part is figuring out which ones they will be. I did want to hand out some honorable mentions to a few other Rares. These are cards that will most likely be bulk, but could break the mold and move into the $1-$2 or $2-$5 groups.

  • Sylvan Advocate: I really don't understand the hype about this card. Sure, it's a two-drop that is better than most in the late game, but a vanilla 4/5 on turn six isn't all that exciting. While it seems good in ramp decks (where it can be a 4/5 on turn four) it still doesn't feel game breaking. While it could end up over $1, I think it's more likely people realize it just isn't all that good. 
  • Jori En, Ruin Diver: While it's a nice card advantage engine in the late game, I'm just not sure where this card fits in Standard. Every time I read it, I want to pair it with Brainstorm, Ponder, and Preordain. A legendary 2/3 for three doesn't seem quite good enough for Legacy.
  • Eldrazi Mimic: Is a solid two drop, but has a very limited number of decks it could call home. It might be a staple in Eldrazi Aggro or another colorless build, but being very good in one tier two deck isn't enough to keep a Rare over $1.
  • Mina and Denn, Wildborn: I like the card, but I'm afraid being a legend will keep it from seeing enough play to maintain a reasonable price.
  • Vile Redeemer: I feel like this one is flying under the radar. A 3/3 flash for three is solid on its own, and it provides some amount of wrath protection for creature-heavy Green decks. In the past, similar cards have fallen to the wayside, but this may be because they are usually instants, which means they don't offer any value on their own. Think of it as a 3/3 flash for three with an ability that is pure upside, and you have a potentially playable card. The question is, where does it fit?
  • Eldrazi Obligator: Zealous Conscripts was a playable card back in the day, although even in its prime it wasn't very expensive. If a Devoid / Eldrazi Aggro deck somehow ends up tier one, there's a chance that Eldrazi Obligator sneaks past a dollar, but I wouldn't hope for much more than that. 

The rest of the cards don't really excite me financially. While some will be fun to play in Budget Magic and Against the Odds, I don't see any one of them having financial relevance. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Given that the tiers are consistent across sets, how would you rank the Oath of the Gatewatch crew? Did I overlook anything that could make one of the Rares I listed as bulk suddenly expensive? How much potential do the colorless cards have in Modern? In Standard? Let me know in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.


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