Instant Analysis: Battle for Zendikar Event Deck
by SaffronOlive // Sep 25, 2015
There's been quite a bit of complaining over the past year about the price of Magic cards: Modern Masters 2015 was lacking value — at least in comparison to the original. After much anticipation, the enemy fetchlands were not included in Battle for Zendikar. I myself wrote an article breaking down how the price of Modern cards had increased 25 percent in a six month period between January and June. There have been numerous buyouts drastically raising prices on everything from fringe Modern cards like Sedge Sliver to staples in the emerging Old School Magic format.
However, despite all this, one area where the game is getting less expensive is Standard. In a somewhat surprising move, Wizards suddenly decided that certain, Standard-legal supplemental products (Event Decks and Clash Packs) should be absolutely stuffed full of value. And this isn't the deceptive "include a whole bunch of $2 rares to make the overall numbers look good" kind of value, this is value from legitimate tier one Standard rares, and in some cases, even eternal staples. Case in point: the newly revealed Battle for Zendikar Event Deck.
Before we talk about the individual cards, it is important to note that the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck is precedent setting. It marks the first time that a mythic rare has been included in one of these supplemental products. This has interesting ramifications, especially for finance types. In the past, you could feel safe investing in a card like Anafenza, the Foremost simply because it was a mythic. The chances of a random reprinting while still in Standard were basically zero; it had literally never happened before. On the other hand, you always had to think twice before going deep on a Siege Rhino simply because Thragtusk (and other similar rares) were clearly free game for Event Decks and Clash Packs since some random, tier one rare almost always shows up in these products.
With the inclusion of Warden of the First Tree and Whisperwood Elemental in the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck, all bets are off. In theory, any Standard legal cards of any rarity could show up in the Oath of Gatewatch Clash Pack and there just isn't any way to know which it will be. While it is still unlikely that high value mythics will be included in these products (e.g. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy), any mythic $10 or less could show up — this price range includes the huge majority of mythics in any Standard format.
Furthermore, while the set symbols may be different colors, everything is the same rarity in an Event Deck. So even though it's a mythic, just as many copies of Warden of the First Tree will enter that market as a rare like Evolutionary Leap or a lowly common like Eyeless Watcher. As such, a reprinting in these products leads to a greater increase in supply (as a percentage of existing supply) for mythics than any other rarity and will likely have a greater impact on their prices.
The Big Ticket Items
From a player's perspective, having Hangarback Walker and Tasigur, the Golden Fang included in the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck is great. These are cards that everyone should own for Standard and are likely worth holding through rotation based on their demand in older formats. However, from a financial perspective, showing up in the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck is a death blow for two popular speculation targets.
Over the past six months, out of all the cards in Standard, Tasigur, the Golden Fang is the one I have most heard used as an example of a slam dunk long-term investment. While this may still be true, Tasigur, the Golden Fang's road to $15 or $20 is going to be much longer and bumpier than expected. Likewise, Hangarback Walker will definitely be the biggest short-term loser from the product since his price was (somewhat) propped up by the low supply of Magic Origins, an advantage which is now gone.
Based on the Magic Origins Clash Pack which started out with a similar amount of value concentrated in a similar number of cards, I expect Hangarback Walker to lose about half of its current value and drop to somewhere between $8 and $10. Whether or not it will represent a good buy at that point really depends on how much play it sees in Modern or Legacy. People have been testing Hangarback Walker out, but it hasn't been universally adopted in any tier one decks. Tasigur, the Golden Fang will fall below $5 and maybe even under $4, at which point he very well might be a great pickup. Unlike Hangarback Walker, Tasigur, the Golden Fang has already proven himself as a Modern staple and Legacy playable. As a result he should recover eventually, but the time frame will be longer and his mid-term ceiling will likely be lower than it was yesterday.
Whisperwood Elemental has been on a downward slide for months now and with the rotation of his normal home in RG Devotion, there is little reason to expect a huge price increase this fall even before the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck announcement. Being reprinted all but guarantees that Whisperwood Elemental is done as a card of financial relevance. He will likely continue to tumble down into the $3 range until he is relegated to a fringe cube and casual card at rotation. Speaking of which, remember that Fate Reforged rotates along with Khans of Tarkir a little over six months from now, so many of the cards from the set will likely peak right around Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar if they have not already.
Warden of the First Tree might have had another spike left in him, especially with a good Pro Tour showing, but this possibility has come to an end. Abzan Aggro seems like it could still be a playable deck post-rotation and the loss of Fleecemane Lion could lead more player towards Warden of the First Tree as an early game beater that is also a late game mana-dump. With the reprinting his current price is likely his ceiling and "breaking out" this fall might mean he can maintain his current $3.50 - $4.00 tag. But this is the best case scenario. Instead, he is more likely to follow Whisperwood Elemental down the price chart as we creep closer to rotation.
It's worth noting that both of the mythics included in the set are nearly at the end of their Standard life. Their reprinting reminds me a bit of how Wizards uses planeswalkers in the winter X vs Y Duel Deck. People aren't buying boxes or packs of Fate Reforged any more, and neither Whisperwood Elemental or Warden of the First Tree are the type of cards that will be able to sell products once they rotate from Standard. So including them in the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck offers Wizards a way to squeeze a bit more equity out of two cards that are a few months away from being worthless. With the accelerated rotation schedule, it wouldn't be surprising to see this happen more often. The Oath of the Gatewatch Clash Pack could certainly contain a mythic or two from Khans of Tarkir or Fate Reforged, and in the following Event Deck (for the yet to be named spring set), the inclusion of Dragons of Tarkir or Magic Origins mythics wouldn't surprise me in the least.
The Other Rares
Most of these cards were not all that financially relevant even before the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck printing, either being bulk rares or from Battle for Zendikar (which is a guaranteed way to end up being under $1 unless you are a Standard all star). But it is worth talking a bit about Llanowar Wastes and Evolutionary Leap.
Llanowar Wastes isn't all that expensive and isn't all that likely to spike having been reprinted in Core Sets two years in a row. From a meta perspective, its inclusion in the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck seems to confirm the trend of a single member of the current rare land cycle being in the Event Deck/Clash Pack. As a result, it's likely that next spring or summer one of the slowlands or manlands will show up in a yet-to-be-named Standard-legal supplemental product. Unfortunately, there really isn't any way to guess which one will be included; it's wholly based on the colors of the decks. So you really can't plan your buying or selling around it happening — just know that it is likely to happen.
As for Evolutionary Leap, the hopes some people have been holding onto for a spike seem to be getting dimmer. It will be much for difficult for a "buyout" spike to happen with this fresh supply entering the market. Much like Hangarback Walker, it loses the advantage of being from a comparatively under-opened set. If it drops all the way down to bulk, there will be little risk in picking up some copies, but if you do buy in, plan on being in it for the long-run.
Putting It All Together
A couple months ago I broke down the Magic Origins Clash Pack. I mentioned before that the Magic Origins Clash Pack is pretty similar to the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck in terms of value. I made some EV based predictions of where the cards in the set would end up, so before doing the same thing for the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck, let's see how the predictions turned out.
|Card||Initial Price||July 30th Price||Hypothetical Three Month Price||Actual Current Price|
|Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit||$2.50||$2.10||$1.00||$0.83|
|Avatar of the Resolute||$1.60||$1.50||$1.00||$0.77|
While some of the individual predictions were off by a dollar of two, the total value estimate was dead on with the actual value being $0.87 less than my prediction. It's almost like I knew in advance that the values of the cards in the product would end up being equal to or less than the cost of the product. The point is, while individual predictions are difficult and depend on a lot of variables that are hard to sort through, we know that the total value estimate based on EV are going to be fairly accurate. As such, let's break down the expensive cards from the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck in the same manner to take a look at how much value they will lose over the next couple months.
|Card||Current Price||Hypothetical Three Month Price|
|Warden of the First Tree||$3.79||$3.00|
|Tasigur, the Golden Fang||$7.75||$5.00|
|Zulaport Cutthroat (x2)||$1.40||$0.50|
Should You Buy the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck?
The answer here is actually quite simple: If you want any of the high-end rares for your collection, yes. Look at the numbers for the Magic Origins Clash Pack one more time; even now, after sitting on the shelves for two months, you are still getting a "good deal" in comparison to retail prices (although a somewhat poor deal compared to buylist prices). I expect much of the same for the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck. If you want Hangarback Walker, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Whisperwood Elemental or [[Warden of the First Tree] to build some new Standard decks, go for it.
On the other hand, if your goal is to turn a profit, things get a bit more sticky. While the retail prices of the cards in the product are significantly higher than the cost of the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck, when you consider fees, shipping and buylist spread, the possibility of a "quick flip" profit seems minimal. If the cards from the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck react like the Magic Origins Clash Pack, they are going to start decreasing in price soon — before the deck will even be for sale.
Should You Dump Your Hangarback Walkers?
Yes, if you are not playing with them. As of this writing, you can currently get $14 for buylisting your copies of Hangarback Walker. It's extremely likely that the retail price of Hangarback Walker will be less than this a couple months from now. However, if you are using them to play Standard, then no. The amount of money you'll gain by buylisting and rebuying a playset of Hangarback Walkers is small enough (maybe $4/copy) that it's probably not worth tearing apart your decks for this small financial gain.
As for the other cards in the product, Tasigur, the Golden Fang is only buylisting for about $4 so you might as well hold; just plan on holding longer than you were before. The same goes for Evolutionary Leap. The current best buylist price of $1.19 just isn't that appealing. Whisperwood Elemental and Warden of the First Tree, on the other hand, are auto-sells (assuming they are not part of your Standard decks), but this is as much because rotation is creeping around the corner as the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck. If you want to wait until Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar in hopes of catching a spike, that's fine. But after that we are reaching the "sell" territory not only for Whisperwood Elemental and Warden of the First Tree, but most of the cards from Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged.
Anyway, that's all for today. Leave your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.