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Financial Review of Oath of the Gatewatch: The Mythics


Let's start with the big picture. In the recently published Expected Value of Oath of the Gatewatch, we discovered the average value of a Mythic Rare from Oath of the Gatewatch is $5.10, which is on the low end of recent sets. This ebb is partly because the Zendikar Expeditions are eating away at some of the value of the set and partly because there are a greater-than-usual number of somewhat-valuable Rares. Plus, at this point, there isn't one single "chase" Mythic that is pushing up the average (think $50 Narset Transcendent.)

Of course, over the next several months most of these Mythics will trend downwards. If we look at Battle for Zendikar, a grand total of two Mythics are worth more today than when the set was released, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Oblivion Sower, and these cards are only marginally higher than their pre-order price. On the other hand, while the Mythics as a whole will never again be worth as much as they are today, individual cards will rebound. If things work the way they usually do, the floor for a Oath of the Gatewatch Mythic will be this summer, around the time when the second set in Shadows Over Innistrad block releases. Their peak will be next fall, shortly after the Pro Tour. On the other hand, we are still figuring out how the new rotation schedule will impact prices. It's possible these Mythics will rebound much quicker thanks to the spring rotation.

Regardless, today we are going to discuss each Oath of the Gatewatch Mythic, talking not only about their potential to see tournament-level play, but also their financial prospects over the short (pre-Shadows Over Innistrad), mid (fall rotation), and long (post-rotation) term. We'll wrap up with a meta-discussion and hand out a few awards. Let's get to the cards!

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar

Currently Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is the most expensive card in Oath of the Gatewatch, and for good reason. She's a three-mana planeswalkers, and over the history of Magic, almost every three-mana planeswalker has been somewhere between very good in Standard and Modern staple. The worst three-mana planeswalker is likely Ajani, Caller of the Pride, which still saw a bit of play in Standard. So where does Nissa, Voice of Zendikar fall in this spectrum?

I have little doubt that Nissa, Voice of Zendikar will be playable in Standard. She does a lot for three mana, acting almost like a miniature, Green version of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar by making tokens and pumping the team. Of course, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar's tokens are bigger and the Crusade effect is better, but the idea of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar coming down on turn three is scary. Where exactly she fits in our current Standard is more of a question. Anafenza, the Foremost and Den Protector seem locked into the three-drop slot in Abzan aggro, at least until rotation. For the immediate future Nissa, Voice of Zendikar's best bet may be to spawn a new archetype, like Naya Tokens. 

On the other hand, I'm not sure Nissa, Voice of Zendikar does enough to break into Modern. Probably the biggest vote of confidence I've heard is she helps win the Tarmogoyf battle, and she does a good job of stalling out the game against one attacker, but is that really worth a slot in a deck like Jund or Abzan? My guess is people will try her and decide that she isn't good enough. The best cast is she sticks around as a one-of. 

Financially, I think there is a chance that Nissa, Voice of Zendikar will show up in a list immediately and maintains her pre-order price three months from now. However, the odds are far greater that Nissa is squeezed out of the format in the short term, starts to trend down towards the $10 mark, and then rebounds either this spring or next fall at rotation. Remember, we don't have a Standard Pro Tour with the release of Oath of the Gatewatch and getting a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar-like bump is unlikely. My advice is if you want to play with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar right away, go ahead and pick up a playset. You'll likely lose a bit of value, but the loss shouldn't be catastrophic. However, if you are looking to make the best financial move, wait a couple months until Shadows Over Innistrad spoilers start. Then hope she drops a bit, and get your copies in expectation that she'll be very good in future Standard. 

Chandra, Flamecaller

The second most expensive card in Oath of the Gatewatch is the other planeswalker, Chandra, Flamecaller. I know some people are very excited about this card, but at the risk of creating another Jace, Vryn's Prodigy situation, I have to say that I think the new Chandra, like nearly all Chandras, falls somewhere between horrible and fringe playable. I've heard some people compare her to Elspeth, Sun's Champion, but as far as I can tell, apart from costing six mana, these cards couldn't be more different. What made Elspeth, Sun's Champion a format staples was that she was amazing on defense, and she played defense in a way that allowed you to build your board (and her loyalty) until she eventually won the game. If your opponent had a bunch of ground creatures she could create chump blockers all day. If they had a Dragon she could -2 to clear away the threat. Meanwhile, Chandra, Flamecaller can never make a blocker, so her only line of defense is using her ultimate to sweep the board. Unfortunately, if you want her to stick around you can only go -3, which isn't enough to kill a Dragonlord Ojutai,Wingmate Roc, or many other mid-to-late game threats, and even if you use all her loyalty she can't kill a Siege Rhino

So what do you get for your six mana? Well, the +1 ability creates two creatures that are worth less than one mana each (Spark Elemental without trample). While these creatures will close out the game quickly on an empty board, how often is the board going to be empty on turn six? Her ultimate is basically a Wildfire that doesn't hit lands. While it would be great if you are looking to clean up a bunch of Secure the Wastes tokens, on many board states it will be ineffective. That leaves her 0 ability, which is admittedly very powerful. Depending on the deck, it will often be better than just drawing a card. While overall I'm not very excited about Chandra, Flamecaller, I do think there is one deck she might slot into immediately. 

There are two things that make Chandra, Flamecaller appealing in a GR Eldrazi Ramp deck. First, when you play her on turn four, the +1 ability is big game. Second, and most importantly, she can play a role similar to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, wiping away the board to give the deck more time to get to its unbeatable top end of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Kozilek, the Great Distortion. Having an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon substitute may be important to the deck come rotation.

Financially, I expect Chandra, Flamecaller to be the next in the long line of planeswalkers that start off commanding a pretty penny and end up in the $5-$8 range. While I very well could be wrong, I don't see Chandra, Flamecaller as a four of in any deck and as a result, a Narset Transcendent trajectory (losing 5% a week until she is less than half her current price) is expected. My advice would be to wait as long as possible (at least until summer) if you are looking to get the best deal on Chandra, Flamecaller.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

On its face, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a powerful card. A 3/4 lifelink for 2BB is on curve, and its two abilities provide a ton of value. Standard is a format about playing, attacking with, and killing creatures, so over the course of a game of Magic you should get a few 2/2 Zombie tokens for doing what your deck normally is trying to do. As such, you don't really need to build around Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to make it good. The second ability synergizes well with the first since you can sacrifice the Zombie tokens to grow Kakitas, Traitor of Ghet, but three-mana is a steep activation cost. While it is a fine mana sink in a midrange or control deck, it likely won't fit into Aristocrats-style decks for this reason. On the other hand, once Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet becomes a 5/6, it is immune to pretty much everything except hard removal like Ultimate Price and Ruinous Path, which means it should be a nightmare against various red-based aggro deck. In some ways, Kakitas, Traitor of Ghet reminds me of Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and I expect that it can fulfill a similar role as a trump against aggro decks.

Over the long term, the biggest problem with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is that it's legendary, which might mean that rather than being a four-of, it's will more likely be a two-of. Plus — at least until rotation — it's in the extremely cluttered four-drop slot. While there is little doubt that Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a powerful card, the question becomes is it better than Siege Rhino, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, and Collected Company? While the answer could be yes, the competition for the four-drop slot drops significantly in April where perhaps Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet can replace Siege Rhino in Abzan.

Financially, I expect Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to fall a little bit over the short term assuming it doesn't do something crazy like unseat Siege Rhino, but I don't expect this decrease to be severe, most likely to the $5 range. Over the long term, the question will be just how many copies of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet show up in tier decks. If it's a two-of, it might hang in the $3-$5 range for most of its life in Standard, but if it ends up being a four-of, it could easily climb back to near its preorder price. If you want copies to play, you're probably safe to pick them up. Sure, you might lose a couple dollars per copy, but nothing major. On the other hand, if you're looking for an investment there's not much to see here — it would take a lot to go right for Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to ever break the $10 mark.

Kozilek, the Great Distortion

While Kozilek, the Great Distortion is clearly a powerful card, I'm having a hard time coming up with good reasons to play him over Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in Modern or Standard. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is amazing when you are behind on board, exiling two permanents, which is often enough to stabilize the board and close out the game with the huge Eldrazi Titan. Kozilek, the Great Distortion, on the other hand, isn't very good when you are behind on board. Sure, you get a 12/12, draw a bunch of cards, and potentially counter your opponent's next play, but none of this matters if your opponent can just swing for lethal damage with the creatures they have on board or -3 an Ob Nixilis Reignited

As such, I expect the most likely scenario is that Kozilek, the Great Distortion ends up being a one-of in Standard Eldrazi decks as a tutor target for Sanctum of Ugin. Assuming you just resolved an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Kozilek, the Great Distortion is a great follow up, and will likely lock your opponent out of the game. 

In Modern, I'm not sure any deck really wants Kozilek, the Great Distortion. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger has managed to break into Tron as a one-of mostly because it's such a good answer to any problematic permanent an opponent might have on the battlefield. The best case for Kozilek, the Great Distortion is to draw a few cards and then protect itself from Path to Exile by discarding an Expedition Map or Chromatic Sphere. Plus, unlike every other Eldrzi Titan, Kozilek, the Great Distortion is fairly easy to chump. Sure, it has menace, which is something, but not very much compared to exiling 20 cards with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or annihilation with the Rise of the Eldrazi Titans. 

As such, I expect Kozilek, the Great Distortion to lag behind Ulamog financially simply because it won't have as much demand from tournament players. The difference between being a four-of in Standard (and a one-of in Modern) and being a one-of in Standard is huge. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kozilek, the Great Distortion drop to the $5-$10 range this summer, at which point it becomes a tempting long-term pickup. Remember, Oath of the Gatewatch has an incredibly short cycle, with Shadows Over Innistrad spoilers starting only six weeks after Oath's release. As a result, barring a supplemental product reprinting, the supply of Kozilek, the Great Distortion will be relatively low, which could give it a chance to grow in price from casual and Commander demand. It is an Eldrazi Titan after all. 

Kozilek's Return

I really dislike that this card is a Mythic. Pyroclasm is an Uncommon and symmetrical Red sweepers like Earthquake and Mizzium Mortars are Rares. Bonfire of the Damned is an exception because it only hits the opponent's creatures. I have no doubt this card is powerful, and I believe it has a reasonable shot of being the most expensive card in the set when things are all said and done. Let's break down all the reasons it's awesome.

  • It's an instant speed Pyroclasm. While it does cost one additional mana, the ability to leave up counter mana and cast this spell at the end of an opponent's turn is huge and makes up for the steeper mana investment. 
  • It gets around protection from colors, which is relevant in older formats. You know that annoying Kor Firewalker in Modern or Mother of Runes in Legacy? Not an issue when you have Kozilek's Return
  • We are moving from a four / five color Standard to a one / two / three color Standard in April thanks to the loss of fetchlands. Right now, Radiant Flames is the only real competition for Kozilek's Return in non-Eldrazi decks, but that's only because it's so easy to splash Red in any deck. Once we have to think about what colors are in our decks, Kozilek's Return will be the right choice for a lot of decks. 
  • Eldrazi Ramp isn't going anywhere in Standard. The Bx Eldrazi deck might stick around in Modern. Obviously, in a deck where you can activate the second ability, Kozilek's Return is absurd. You're an Eldrazi deck. It's not hard to break the symmetry, while pretty much all non-Eldrazi creatures in Standard and Modern will be swept away. Oh, did I mention it's uncounterable and free? Basically, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger now reads, "When you cast me, exile two permanents, and wrath your opponent's board." Seems good. 

Financially, I want to point out that when Wizards prints utility cards at Mythic, in small sets on short cycles, crazy things have been known to happen with the cards' price. Especially when these cards are Modern or Legacy playable. Remember Voice of Resurgence? It spent most of its Standard life between $40 and $55. Bonfire of the Damned? Peaked at just over $45. Lotus Cobra, Baneslayer Angel, even Monastery Mentor is nearly back to $20 despite being a fringe player in Standard. While I'm not saying it will happen, there is a reasonable chance that Kozilek's Return will be the card everyone is complaining about come next fall because it costs $150 for a playset. 

Let's now consider Kozilek's Return is the card in Oath of the Gatewatch that is mostly likely to show up at the Pro Tour next month. Having a good showing at a Pro Tour does crazy things to a card's price in the short term. Since Pro Tour Oath is Modern, the opportunities for new cards to shine will be severely limited. That said, you have to bet the pros will be testing various Eldrazi builds. Tron already plays four copies of Pyroclasm and Kozilek's Return might be better in the deck. While the odds may not be high, there is some chance that Kozilek's Return wins the Pro Tour next month, in which case it will spike to something ridiculous like $40 over the short term. 

Bottom line: Kozilek's Return is the best Mythic in Oath of the Gatewatch. It is one of the few cards that could end up being a steal at preorder prices. 

Inverter of Truth

I'm 99% sure Inverter of Truth is going to end up unplayable and a bulk Mythic. While a 6/6 flier for four seems good, the risk is just too high. Even with fetches and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy in the format, you're not going to have that many cards in your graveyard if you want to play this card on turn four. If you opponent has a single removal spell, you pretty much lose the game on the spot. 

The other 1% is the Against the Odds brewer in me that wants to see this card work with Laboratory Maniac, Leveler, and Gitaxian Probe for the turn four kill. But please, please, please don't buy this Mythic at preorder prices. If you want it to build a janky combo deck, wait until its $1-$2 in a few months. 

Linvala, the Preserver

Since at least last summer, control players have been asking for a Timely Reinforcements-type card to help stabilize against aggro decks. It looks like their prayers were finally answered with the printing of Linvala, the Preserver. That said, while a lot of people have been making the Timely Reinforcements comparison, I'm not sure that's fair. Timely Reinforcements is a card you can play on turn three against an aggro deck to gain back all (or at least most) of the life you lost over the first turns of the game. If you draw Timely Reinforcements in the late game, you can cast it, stabilize, and still leave up a counterspell for your opponent's next play. 

Linvala, the Preserver, on the other hand, reminds me more of Wingmate Roc or a less consistent version of Thragtusk. She's not fast enough to stabilize against Atarka Red, although she might be very good in aggro matchups once the Become Immense/  Temur Battle Rage combo rotates this April. She does create a ton of value on turn six if the conditions are right. Instead of being a trump against Aggro, I see her more as a control deck's trump against midrange. Seriously, the lifegain undoes two Siege Rhino triggers, and the bodies are great at blocking. Linvala, the Preserver herself shuts down pretty much any non-Eldrazi creature in the format. 

The problem for the immediate future is where does Linvala, the Preserver fit in Standard? Since she is too slow to combat Atarka Red, what is her purpose in the format? Obviously, she isn't playable unless you are going to trigger her abilities with some regularity, so we are looking for decks that are often behind in life and board. I guess one option is Esper Dragons, but is she really better than Dragonlord Ojutai? You can't get her back from the graveyard with Haven of the Spirit Dragon and six mana is a lot more than five, so maybe she's a sideboard card for specific matchups? Jeskai is playing Monastery Mentor these days, and Mardu is playing Pia and Kiran Nalaar, so they seem unlikely to have less creatures than their opponents a significant amount of the time. Plus, decks that are attacking (e.g. Abzan Aggro, Esper Tokens, Black White Warriors) would rather have Wingmate Roc because they can able to trigger raid consistently. 

Financially, I expect Linvala, the Preserver to trend down towards the $5 mark, maybe even a little bit less. For her to regain her value in the future, she'll have to prove she can be more than a one-of control finisher or sideboard card for specific matchups. 

Mirrorpool

I wrote at length about Mirrorpool in The Lands of Oath of the Gatewatch, so I'm not going to rehash everything here. Basically, my theory with colorless lands (and colorless cards in general) is to wait a couple months before buying them. I really believe they will get pushed to the fringe of Standard thanks to the insanely good mana available until rotation. Hopefully, this neglect will cause the prices to drop and give everyone a window to pick up copies on the cheap in March. Mirrorpool and friends could be in line for a massive increase in play thanks to the newfound freedom of no more fetchlands. Also, I expect Mirrorpool will be a legitimate Commander staple, so keep an eye on foil prices. If they dip they could be a good long-term investement. 

World Breaker

Does any deck in Standard want a more expensive Acidic Slime? That is the question that will make or break World Breaker. It seems like an obvious staple in Commander, but seven mana is still a ton in Standard unless you are playing Eldrazi Ramp. Do you really want World Breaker over cards like Oblivion Sower, Kozilek, the Great Distortion, and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger? World Breaker looks especially poor compared to the later. Yes, it's three more mana, but Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger exiles any two permanents, which is a massive upgrade. I guess there could be some appeal in curving the land destruction of World Breaker into Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, but even if you are ramping, there is a finite number of slots you can dedicate to 6+ drops before you start getting incredibly clunky openers and losing games as a result. 

Plus, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is still in the format, and until rotation he will occupy multiple slots in the Eldrazi Ramp deck. My guess would be that, until rotation, World Breaker falls somewhere between unplayed and a one-of silver bullet — although I'm having a hard time imagining what can't be handled by Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. After Ugin, the Spirit Dragon rotates there might be a slot for World Breaker, but I'm not expecting much. Basically, I think it is slightly more playable than Void Winnower, but not by a significant margin. The competition for the "Big Eldrazi" slots in Standard decks is just too intense. 

Financially, I expect World Breaker to dip into the $2-$4 range and sit there for most of its Standard life. I'm not sure it will ever be true bulk, but it would need a lot of things to go right to become a four-of staple and shoot up to $10. It's also a weird color to slot into the new Bx Eldrazi decks in Modern. Black-Green is currently a distant fifth in popularity. My advice would be if you want a copy for your Commander deck, go ahead, and pick it up. I don't expect it to lose a significant amount, but if you are looking for financial relevance Oath of the Gatewatch has more appealing cards. 

Bulk Mythics

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

I'll start by saying Sphinx of the Final Word may be playable, especially if control decks are popular in the Standard. However, it seems like its best case is Pearl Lake Ancient, a one-of control finisher, and these type of cards typically don't end up being expensive. General Tazri is apparently a big deal for Commander, and I could imagine building Five-Color Allies for Against the Odds, but it takes a lot for a five-color card to break into tournament tables. Maybe there is some deck that wants her just for her tutor ability, but that would require Allies to be competitive in Standard, and the pieces aren't there. 

Crush of Tentacles feels close to playable, but I expect casting another spell to turn on Surge will be harder than it looks in Standard. When you're not getting an 8/8, the mass-bounce is overcosted for competitive play. In some ways it reminds me of Part the Waterveil, and while I really, really like Part the Waterveil, it isn't all that expensive. I expect Crush of Tentacles will follow suite and linger in the bulk or just above bulk range, even if it does see one-of play in an Awaken Control deck. 

Meta-Discussion

If we take the Oath of the Gatewatch Mythics as a whole and think of their prices like an index fund, my advice would be to wait before buying in. While traditionally the best time to buy in on Mythics is the summer after release, the new block cadence may flip this convention on its head. 

The most likely outcome for the Mythics of Oath of the Gatewatch is that they are overshadowed in Standard until Khans block rotates in April. Only then will you see many of the cards become heavily. Instead of waiting until summer, you may want to pick up your copies about two months from now, at the beginning of March. 

Now, I know what your thinking: how much money do I really save by waiting two months? That's not really enough time for prices to drop, is it?  The answer here is yes and no. Looking back at past sets, it's fairly common for the Mythics to lose 25% of their value within two months of their release. In theory, you'll be able to get a $20 copy of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar for $15 the beginning of March. While this depreciation doesn't matter too much if you're just looking to pick up a card here or there to play Commander, if you are looking to buy a playset of Oath of the Gatewatch Mythics to play Standard, you'll likely save $100 or more by holding off six to eight weeks. 

Awards

  • Cards to Buy Now: Kozilek's Return. Obviously, this one isn't a guaranteed win. But if there is a Mythic from Oath of the Gatewatch that could be $40 in a couple weeks, this is the one. I know several financially-minded players who have picked up their playest at pre-order prices to hedge against this increase, and I think it's a solid plan.
  • Best Bet for Spring Rotation: Mirrorpool. As I mentioned before, my theory is that cards with colorless activation costs will get pushed aside by the amazing mana available in Standard until fetch lands rotate. Mirrorpool is incredibly powerful on its face and colorless utility lands can end up being extremely expensive (e.g. Mutavault). I definitely want to have my playset before April. At worst it's a solid long term hold for Commander. 
  • The Longshot: Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. If Nissa, Voice of Zendikar can somehow break into Modern, she could end up being very expensive. While the odds of this outcome seem fairly low, they are greater than zero, so keep a close eye on Modern lists. If Nissa, Voice of Zendikar starts showing up, get your copies fast!
  • Most Likely to be Bulk: Inverter of Truth. I spend a lot of time trying to make wacky, unplayable cards semi-playable, and even I don't have much faith Inverter of Truth can see play in anything but an Against the Odds deck. 
  • Commander All-Stars: General Tazri and World Breaker. The Five-Color Ally general is already pushing $30 as a foil, with a crazy 13x multiplier. Apparently the Commander community is excited about her possibilities. I'll be watching to see if this card drops once foil sets start being redeemed from Magic Online in another six weeks. If she somehow falls into the $10 range, she feels like a snap buy. Likewise, World Breaker foils will currently set you back almost $20, which is too much to be appealing, but like General Tazri, if the price drops its a great long-term hold. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What is your dark horse Mythic from Oath of the Gatewatch? Apart from Kozilek's Return, are any others attractive purchases at pre-order prices? Did I overlook anything that may make some of the lower tier Mythics tournament playable? As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinionsm and suggestions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.


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