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Preparing for Rotation: Magic 2015

Over the past couple weeks we have been working our way through a series about preparing for the upcoming Standard rotation. So far we have made it through three of the four rotating sets; we started by discussing the buys, holds, and sells from Theros, moved on to Born of the Gods, and then talked about Journey into Nyx a few days ago. All we have left now is Magic 2015.

As I've mentioned in the other Preparing for Rotation articles, managing our collections though rotation is one of the most important aspects of MTG finance. Not only can you save yourself a lot of money by selling cards before they rotate, you can also make money by buying certain cards as they decrease in price heading into rotation. To be fair, if your goal is to get the absolute highest price possible for your rotating staples, the best time to sell is in the winter when prices typically peak, but you can still save yourself some money by selling now rather than waiting until September. Likewise, the best time to buy rotating cards — especially non-staples (casual cards) — isn't after rotation, but over the summer heading into the rotation; this window is just about to open (for eternal playables the Winter after rotation is typically the floor). The easiest mantra for rotation is to sell everything and if you had to choose only one response, selling everything would be preferable to holding (or god forbid buying) everything. However, the easiest path isn't always the best, so it is worthwhile to take a more nuanced look at rotating cards.

Magic 2015

M15 is the second to last Core Set — a group of sets designed to be the Duels of the Planeswalkers of paper Magic bringing new players into the game and offering inexperienced players an easy to understand play experience. Typically, core set supply is lower than other large sets (e.g. a fall expert level expansion like Theros), but not as low an unpopular third set like Journey into Nyx. This relatively low supply happens for a few reasons. First, the limited format for core sets is typically bland, sometimes not very well balanced (see: Opportunity), and often not all that much fun to play. Second, core sets are released right in the middle of the summer lull when people are often more interested in non-MTG pursuits. Third, core sets typically lack complexity and are simply not that exciting for enfranchised players who think, "aww, look at that cute reminder text for flying," not "I can't wait to play this awesome set!" Despite all this, there has been some very powerful, playable and expensive cards printed in recent core sets, starting with Baneslayer Angel, continuing through the titan cycle, and most recently Archangel of Thune, Nissa, Worldwaker, and Goblin Rabblemaster

Magic 2015 - Sell

These are cards that I would have sold yesterday, but since it's a bit late for that, selling them ASAP is the best we can do. Most cards from Magic sets generate their primary demand from Standard; when they rotate their supply increases as Standard-only players sell off their copies and demand drops, which causes prices to decrease dramatically. Selling these cards before they lose most of their value is one of the keys to maintaining a Magic collection and (especially when operating on a budget) having some money sitting around to buy cards for the next Standard season.

The Green Planeswalkers

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Planeswalkers — especially ones that manage to miss a Duel Deck reprint — don't typically crash in price. This is one of the benefits of being a planeswalker. At the same time, they don't typically maintain their Standard-legal prices either unless they see some amount of play in older formats. Unfortunately for Nissa, Worldwaker and Garruk, Apex Predator, neither is really playable in Modern or Legacy.

Garruk, Apex Predator is simply overshadowed by Karn Liberated and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon as big-mana planeswalker options. While it does see a bit of play in Commander (about half as much as the Theros block gods) and will be popular on kitchen tables, I'm not sure this will be enough to keep it above $10; I think it's more likely to trend down to between $5 and $7. The trouble is that the spread is already weak and the best buylist price is only $4 so you're really looking to trade out of these if at all possible. 

Nissa, Worldwaker costs about one mana too much for Modern, plus untapping Forests instead of any land is actually a pretty big drawback in a format where Garruk Wildspeaker only sees play to untap Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. As is, getting to five mana (or six, if you want to create a blocker for protection) is just too much to ask in the format, especially when your animated land can just die for one mana to Path to Exile or Dismember. Like Garruk, Apex Predator, the current spread on Nissa, Worldwaker isn't strong, with the best buylist offer being $7 cash/$9.10 credit. Here again I would do my best to find a trade partner if possible, otherwise taking the $9.10 credit option is a fine Plan B. I expect sub-$10 retail prices this fall. 

Goblin Rabblemaster

Life as the best card in Standard is great until you rotate and no one cares about you anymore, and this is where we are with Goblin Rabblemaster. One good comparison is probably Pack Rat, which was undervalued initially, discovered to be totally busted, shot up in price, and is now under $2 even though it sees fringe play in older formats. Goblin Rabblemaster doesn't even see fringe play currently. I've seen people try it in Legacy or Modern Jund, but it certainly hasn't caught on and even then it is typically a one-of in sideboards. To make matters worse, it only has limited casual appeal coming in near the bottom of the list of M15 cards played in EDH. 

Currently the best buylist is $3.50, so again, try to trade Goblin Rabblemaster away first. If this fails, I wouldn't feel bad about taking the cash despite the miserable spread. I expect retail prices to be near or even under the current buylist price post rotation. 

Perilous Vault

Perilous Vault falls somewhere between a sell and a hold depending on how you can out the card. The best buylist price is currently only $1 despite the $5+ retail price tag, so it seems like vendors are betting it is a sub-$2 mythic in the not too distance future, and I tend to agree with them. It sees some amount of play in Commander, but falls outside the Top 20 EDH cards from M15 and it's overshadowed by Oblivion Stone in other formats. I would happily trade them away for half of the current retail price if I could find a taker, but otherwise I'll let them sit; $1 from buylist just isn't enough to whet my appetite on a somewhat playable, colorless mythic. 

Hornet's Nest and Waste Not

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

I like both of these cards over the long haul, but at nearly $4 each you're better off getting rid of them now (assuming you can find a buyer/trade partner) and buying them back later when prices drop. Hornet Nest's retail price is inflated due to diminishing Standard demand and it doesn't even show up in the Top 50 Commander cards from Magic 2015; it should be a dollar or two before long. Waste Not falls into a group of discard focused cards that tend to be expensive (think Liliana's Caress) and has a ton of janky combo potential on kitchen tables, but I don't think we are at the floor quite yet. It's the type of cards that people hold onto for its life in Standard just in case someone figures out how to break it and I expect this supply to be entering the market soon as people realize that it's not going to happen. If it falls down to $1.50 I'll start thinking about picking up a few copies as a long term hold. 

Magic 2015 - Holds

Holds are cards that I'm not actively buying or selling at the moment (although if someone offers me SCG prices I might take it, or if someone is willing to sell at-or-below buylist I might be interested in buying). There are two types of cards that I end up in this category. The first are cards that I don't expect to lose much at rotation, but that I also don't expect to increase significantly in price in the near future. If you think you might want these for casual play, you might as well hold onto them through rotation because there isn't much to be gained or lost either way. The second type of card has low-loss potential but the potential for significant gains. The reason these cards are not in the "buy" category is that their absolute low-point should be this Winter, so if you are buying on speculation, that would be the time to do so.

The Painlands

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

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Before their spoiling in Magic 2015, the painlands were worth around $2 (with the exception of Shivan Reef which was $5 thanks to Modern play in decks like UR Storm) based on their casual playability and their status as (very) budget options for Modern. This is despite that fact that their last printing was in 10th edition — a pre-growth set that came out way back in 2007. 

Today, thanks to M15, the supply of the enemy painlands is significantly higher than it was a year ago, and while this didn't matter while the cards were Standard staples (they were on of the rare cycles that actually increased in price due to reprinting thanks to the massive increase in demand), this high-supply/low-demand dynamic should drive prices down to or below where they were a year ago — close to bulk dual status, which is typically a dollar or two. 

The problem is that big vendors know this and have lowered their buylist prices significantly, to the point where you can only get $0.50 to $0.75 per copy depending on the specific card. If you can find a buyer/trade partner at or a little below retail, jump at the opportunity. Otherwise I'd be tempted to hold onto them. How much can you really lose at this point? Selling copies of Shivan Reef for $0.75 just doesn't feel right. 

The Rest of the Planeswalkers

Of the other four planeswalkers, Chandra Pyromaster is clearly the best and the most playable in Modern, but it is also one of the two with multiple printings. Even though her numbers are weak with best buylist at $1.50 and the spread at nearly 50 percent, I still think she is a solid long-term hold, and perhaps even a borderline buy. You can count the number of planeswalkers that have a legitimate claim to being Modern playable on one hand: Karn Liberated and Liliana of the Veil are obviously the big two, and then Chandra Pyromancer probably fronts the next tier with Jace, Architect of Thought, Garruk Wildspeaker, Gideon Jura, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and possibly Jace Beleren (although this last one might just be my wishful thinking). Either way, I think there is a reasonable chance that Chandra Pyromancer ends up being worth $10 eventually assuming she continues to see some amount of play in Modern and isn't reprinted. It is likely her price drops a little bit more before it begins to climb. I'll be keeping an eye on her this winter as a potential pick-up once she hits her floor, but for now, buylisting copies for $1.50 just doesn't seem worth it. 

Jace, the Living Guildpact might be the most disappointing planeswalker since Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded, but he's still a Jace, he still only has one printing, and he is currently at bulk planeswalker prices. Planeswalkers, based on their type alone, have a different floor than other cards or even other mythics. While it isn't surprising to see Time Reversal and Archangel's Light under a dollar, this simply doesn't happen with planeswalkers (or at least it hasn't yet). At under $3 retail and a measly $1 on buylists, there isn't much sense in selling now. There is actually potential that this Jace's lack of popularity will be his saving grace in the long-term since he's less likely he is reprinted, potentially giving him time to grow if/when he finds his footing on kitchen tables. 

Ajani Steadfast also gets the one-printing bonus, but unlike Jace, the Living Guildpact, he's actually a reasonably powerful and popular card in EDH where he comes in as the second most played M15 planeswalker behind Liliana Vess. Currently retailing for a bit over $7, I expect $4-$6 in the near future before slowly climbing. While I could see an argument for selling now for store credit (where the best offer is $4.55), I don't think you stand to lose much over the short-term by holding on; he could end up between $8 and $10 in a few years. 

As for Liliana Vess, she is basically the Path to Exile of planeswalkers. No matter how many times Wizards reprints her, she is still worth $7 or $8. This is because she is — far and away — the most played M15 card in EDH. While I don't expect her to make any major gains, I don't really expect her to drop much either. If you want to pick up some copies for your deck, go for it. There isn't really much potential for profits (or losses) on this one. 

The Souls

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

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

These are all holds of necessity based on the fact that the current best buylist for any member of the cycle is $0.25, which is the absolute, bottom-of-the-barrel bulk price for any mythic. I mean, right now I could sell 100 Archangel's Lights and Time Reversals for a quarter each to a buylist, and I have to think that the bad Avatars are at least slightly better than these notoriously horrid mythics. They do see a tiny bit of Commander play, headed by Soul of New Phyrexia and Soul of Innistrad, but still I'm not holding my breath for the future. With a bit of luck you might be able to out them for $1 down the road, and from time to time Troll and Toad buys bulk mythics for $0.60 each, so this would be my goal. You'll always be able to get that $0.25 in the future, so there just isn't really any reason to sell now at that price. 

Playable and Semi-Playable Rares

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

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

All these cards are already at or near bulk prices as far as buylist are concerned, but all have some potential over the long term. I don't like them enough to want to go out and buy them at the current prices, but I like them too much to sell them for $0.10 or $0.20 a piece. For me, setting these types of cards aside and forgetting about them ends up being a sort of unintentional spec. When I dig through the box in a year or two, if I can sell them for more, I'm thrilled. If not, I can always sell them for bulk then. I just hate the idea of giving away cards with any amount of potential as bulk (of course, if someone is willing to give you retail prices now, take it, thank them, and run!)

Magic 2015 - Buys

Cards listed in this category are ones that I think may be worth buying now, or at the very least over the summer when rotating casual cards typically hit their floor. As I mentioned before, some of the cards listed as "holds" have long term potential, but the best time to buy them will likely be six or eight months from now rather than over the summer.

The Reprints (especially foils)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

I should start by saying that I think non-foil copies of both Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Chord of Calling are solid holds, with Chord of Calling possibly being a buy despite its recent price increase thanks to Modern Elves. But I think foils are where the real action is. Both of these cards are legitimate EDH staples. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is the third most played mono-black card in all of Commander, while Chord of Calling is the 13th most played mono-green card. If you are playing these colors, you are going to have these cards in your deck. What group of players loves their foils more than any other group in the multiverse? You guessed it, the Commander crowd. The fact that both see some amount of play in Modern, or in the case of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Legacy, is icing on the cake. 

I'm not comfortable saying that you should go super deep on these cards despite their solid multipliers. This is especially true of foil Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth which will likely be held back a bit by the FTV: Realms printing. From the Vault printings tend to have a significant impact on the price of foils, especially for modern border cards (for instance, both Vesuva and Boseiju, Who Shelters All have multiplier of under x2). This said, if you are looking to pick up copies for your EDH decks or for Modern, now seems like a great time to do so; these foils are about as cheap as they will ever be. 

Sliver Hivelord

I believe that Sliver Hivelord is the odds on favorite to be the most expensive cards from M15 over the long-term. Casual players love slivers, love five-color decks, and hate getting their creatures killed. Sliver Hivelord offers all this on a respectable body. Plus, five-color slivers have a pretty strong pedigree of being expensive; Sliver Overlord is pushing $20 despite the premium deck reprint, and Sliver Queen is over $40. And this isn't even considering the fact that Sliver Hivelord has great stats highlighted by increasing buylist prices (ChannelFireball's are up from $3.50 to $5 in the past two weeks) and a killer 17 percent spread. This suggests that the price is going to adjust upwards sooner rather than later. So if you want some copies of Sliver Hivelord, my advice would be to get them ASAP.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Since we are on the topic of slivers and hives, well, I'm sure you can see where this is headed. While the numbers on Sliver Hive don't suggest any immediate positive movement (if anything, the spread and buylist prices are rather weak), this is an auto-four of in any casual (or even competitive) slivers deck from now until forever. If casuals are willing to pay $4.25 for the thrice printed Ancient Ziggurat and $8 for Swarmyard, I expect they will eventually be willing to pay just as much for Sliver Hive. Like I said, this one isn't a rush thanks to the low buylist prices, but it seems likely that $3 will eventually seem like a steal. If it ever drops to $2 or below, I'll be anxious to grab as many as I can. 

One of the reason I feel safe with either of these cards is I have no idea where they could be reprinted. We just had two sets predominantly featuring the tribe, and with Magic Origins being the last core set (and not looking too sliver friendly from the early spoilers), this crosses another potential landing spot off the list. There isn't much EDH demand from what I can tell, so showing up in the Commander deck series seems unlikely, which basically leaves us with random supplemental products where they already did the sliver theme deck. As such, it seems possible (or even likely) that it will be a while before either Sliver Hivelord or Sliver Hive get a second printing, which just so happens to be the exact formula for creating very expensive cards.

Spectral Ward, Life's Legacy, and In Garruk's Wake

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

If you've been keeping up on this series, you probably know by now that I like to gamble on bulk rares. The opportunity cost and risk is low, and when you happen to hit you can make a handsome profit. Well, these are my three favorites from M15. You can pick up all three for somewhere between $0.20 and $0.25 cents per copy. All see some amount of EDH play and have some sort of historical context for (potentially) being worth a dollar or two. Spectra Ward lets you build your own Iridescent Angel and casual players love their janky white enchantments (I mean, Sunbond is actually worth more than Spectra Ward at the moment). In Garruk's Wake is basically a super Plague Wind. While the difference between seven and nine mana is a ton in tournament Magic, have you ever heard a casual or EDH player say, "I'd love to play that, but it just costs two mana too much?" I didn't think so. Life's Legacy might seem like an odd selection, but it is an inexpensive way for a green deck to draw a bunch of cards and also offers random synergies in sacrifice and graveyard based decks. While I don't think any of these cards are a slam dunk like Dictate of Erebos, at their current prices, it might be worth taking a chance in hopes of cashing out for a dollar or two down the road. 


That's all for today. Hopefully I managed to cover all of the important cards from the set, but with large sets like M15, it is basically impossible to cover every single card without writing a book. If I missed something, make sure to let me know in the comments so we can discuss it. I'll be back this week so we can talk about all the new and exciting Magic Origins spoilers; I've got some thoughts on the new flip-planewalkers that I've been dying to share, but I've been trying to wait until Jace is confirmed to be on the safe side. Anyway, as always, leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.

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