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Undervalued Pre-Sale Cards, and DTK Spoilers!!!


Today is the day we have all been waiting for: the start of the official Dragons of Tarkir spoilers! I promise I'll get to the new cards in just a few minutes, but first I want to talk about a more meta-topic that relates to spoiler season — cards that increase in price during their pre-order period and/or the first few weeks after a set's release. 

Currently, there are a ton of vendors that pre-sell magic cards, ranging from major websites like ChannelFireball and StarCityGames, to tons of random people on eBay. The fact that so many independent sources are pre-selling cards means there are a lot of different eyes looking for power and playability to determine how to price the new cards. As a result, it is very rare for an obviously powerful card to slip through the cracks and be priced too low. However, there are a few categories of cards that are often initially underrated and underpriced, so keep these in mind as you are evaluating Dragons of Tarkir spoilers of the next three weeks. 

We Haven't Seen This Before

 

Tarmogoyf is the classic example. Although you can't see it on the chart, you could buy Tarmogoyfs for $2 when it was first released. Tasigur, the Golden Fang is a more recent version of the same phenomenom. When a card is initially underpriced, it is often because it does something new. One of the easiest ways to evaluate new cards is to look at old cards that have similar effects, but when something entirely new enters the multiverse, the baseline is missing which can lead to vendors setting their presale prices too low. 

With Tarmogoyf people were confused by the word planeswalker — a card type that didn't exist at the time. Players overlooked the fact that the card takes very little work to be way above the curve for a two-drop. With Tasigur, the Golden Fang, I underestimated the power of single-colored mana cost delve spells (which is especially embarrassing since Treasure Cruise was wrecking eternal formats at the time). As a legendary six-drop, Tasigur, the Golden Fang is uninspiring, but as a three-drop, like Tarmogoyf, he is considerably above the curve. 

Of course not every unique card ends up spiking in price. If it did, Ugin's Nexus would be $10. So instead of being a green light endorsement to buy a card, this category is more like a yield sign, telling you to proceed with caution and investigate the card further because it just might have potential to grow.

Looks Too Much Like a Bad Old Card, But is Actually Way Better

I wrote about Sphinx's Revelation in one of my very first MTGGoldfish articles, but it's worth rehashing it again here. Sphinx's Revelation looks a lot like a harder to cast Blue Sun's Zenith, an inexpensive fringe card in Scars of Mirrodin standard. Everyone missed that fact that, due to the lifegain ability, Sphinx's Revelation was more powerful than Blue Sun's Zenith. The fact that Return to Ravnica standard was characterized by Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere was also far more inviting for an expensive draw spell. Sphinx's Revelation was far more powerful than the old card it was compared to, but this wasn't readily apparent on first glance.

While not having a similar card as a baseline can lead to under-pricing, relying wrongly on an existing card can also lead to problems. There are a lot of variables that go into Magic; each format is different, and as Sphinx's Revelation showed, something as seemingly insignificant as lifegain can be the difference between a fringe playable and the best card in a format. 

Holy !$%@, That's Getting Banned in Modern

This category is pretty self-explanatory. Much like Wizards of the Coast, many vendors (and players) are focused largely on Standard. When cards like Deathrite Shaman and Dig Through Time come along, people think, "sure, but how often will I have a land in my graveyard to make mana," instead of "in fetchland formats, this is the best Birds of Paradise ever printed," or "eight mana is a ton" instead of "how quickly can I Thought Scour and get six cards into my graveyard?"

After this initial evaluation, there is usually some person (or small group of people) who is very good at eternal formats who starts shouting from the rooftop that Treasure Cruise is Ancestral Recall. Everyone laughs at them for a couple of minutes. Then when they stop laughing and actually think about the cards, they realize that they are right. Before long, the cards spike in price based (in large part) on eternal demand, and since it takes at least three months to ban a card (and generally much longer, unless there happens to be a Modern Pro Tour on the schedule), there is a solid window to profit, even if the card does eventually get banned. 

The Pro Tour Performers

What do Jace, Architect of Thought and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker have in common? They both hit their all-time highs in response to the Pro Tour following their set release. A good performance at a Pro Tour only a couple weeks after a set hits shelves creates the perfect storm for increasing prices. Supply is low because Magic Online redemption hasn't started yet and there hasn't been much time for people to crack boxes or play drafts at their LGS. At the same time, demand spikes because everyone wants to play the deck LSV used to Top 8 the Pro Tour (or, more realistically of late, the card LSV commentated on while one of his teammates like Cheon or Efro play the Top 8 =) ). 

This impact of the Pro Tour goes beyond planeswalkers. If you look back to Khans of Tarkir, the last set release followed by a Standard Pro Tour, pretty much all of the new rares and mythics that put up good performances spiked. Mantis Rider went from $2 to $7, Dig Through Time from $3 to $13, Wingmate Roc from $10 to $19, Siege Rhino from $6 to $10, and even Rakshasa Deathdealer went from $2.50 to $5. Basically, any rare or mythic from Khans of Tarkir which managed to top eight at least doubled in price in response to the Pro Tour (except for a couple like Sorin, Solemn Visitor, which spiked before the Pro Tour). 

Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir will likely be less impactful to Standard prices than Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, simple because Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir was the first major event post-rotation. But as we move forward with the new rotation schedule (and, if Wizards gets its way, only Standard Pro Tours), this cycle of low-supply/Pro Tour fueled demand will happen in earnest twice a year. As a result, picking which cards from a new set are likely to perform well at the Pro Tour will become even more important. While I won't pretend to know exactly how the changes in rotation will impact the Magic economy, one thing that is clear is that everything — set releases, cycles, rotations — is speeding up. Investing successfully in Standard is going to require the ability to take advantage of short-term windows created by things like Pro Tours and the old "buy in a year and wait for rotation" will no longer be a viable strategy since every other set rotates in only a year. While I suspect there will still be opportunities created by rotation, the time-frame will be greatly accelerated. 

So, keep these four categories in mind as we move through the next months of spoilers and then a Pro Tour. While buying cards at pre-sale prices willy-nilly is a losing strategy, if you choose well and sell in the right window, it can be a very profitable short-term play. Anyway, enough of this big-picture talk. Let's look at a few of the Dragons of Tarkir cards that were spoiled today.

Dragons of Tarkir Spoilers: Day 1

Deathbringer Dragonlord

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Deathbringer Dragonlord is interesting, but it likely has one too many "if's" to be playable in constructed. If the card had been printed with only either the "five or more creatures" clause or the "if you cast it from your hand" clause, Deathbringer Dragonlord might have had an outside chance of sneaking into Standard, but as is, I think its ceiling is a casual card. Even worse, it's the launch party promo — a group of cards which is composed of some of the worst rares in every set (with a few exceptions like Restoration Angel and Phyrexian Metamorph). Launch parties promos are the black sheep of the promo family. Judge promos are the older brother that went to Harvard and is now a successful doctor or statistician. Buy-a-box promos are the sister who has a moderately successful indie rock band, but everyone in the family knows it won't last. FNM promos are the the baby of the family, cute, but not all that productive, plus you get tired of changing their diapers after a while. Then we have launch party promos. Do you remember the episode of Futurama where Leela return to the orphinarium and gets her picture on the wall next to the guy who "successfully switched from heroin to methadone?" Launch party promos are that guy. 

Financially, Deathbringer Dragonlord is very likely a bulk rare. I have a hard time imagining a Standard format where this dragon is playable, let alone a four-of, which is pretty much a requirement for a Standard-only card to maintain significant value. Nothing to see here.

Dragonlord Silumgar

Dragonlord Silumgar is definitely the flashiest card spoiled today and among the most powerful. Maybe I'm a bit woozy from watching Sower of Temptations steal Siege Rhinos in Modern for the past few weeks, but I think Dragonlord Silumgar will see some amount of play in Standard, even if the sideboard is his most likely initial home.

1. Apart from Hero's DownfallValorous Stance, and Murderous Cut, it dodges all of the commonly played removal in the format. This includes Stoke the Flames, Bile Blight, Lightning Strike, Glare of Heresy, Crux of Fate, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion

2. There are tons of great creature targets. Can you imagine stealing a Polukranos, World Eater and then blocking a Stormbreath Dragon? That's pretty much GG. Plus, if there is one thing I've learned from a million cube drafts, it's that stealing a planeswalker (with Zealous Conscripts for example) is awesome. This later part is especially important because it makes Dragonlord Silumgar live against a deck like BUG Control; where as Sower of Temptation is horrible when your opponent's only creature is Satyr Wayfinder, the ability to steal a Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Garruk, Apex Predator, or even a Kiora, the Crashing Wave makes Dragonlord Silumgar at least respectable in this matchup.

3. It works sneaky-good with Whip of Erebos, especially against planeswalkers or with a sac-outlet like Butcher of the Horde.

4. It kills everything in combat. If you look over the list of 50 most played creatures in Standard, you'll see just how good a 3/5 deathtouch body really is in the current Standard format. By my count, there are only three creatures that Dragonlord Silumgar doesn't stonewall: Polkranos, Worldeater, Arbor Colossus, and Pearl Lake Ancient.

On the other hand, being Legendary obviously limits its ability to see four-of play, and Modern decks are not going to play the six-mana dragon over Sower of Temptation. It's also in a weird color combination to use its ability. My guess is that it might start out seeing sideboard play in BUG Control decks with transformational sideboards, like the one that took down first place at GP Memphis last weekend.

 

Initial eBay presales went up for $20, but prices quickly dropped to $10. I may be underestimating the power of the casual market and the massive appeal of Dragons, but I would expect $10-$15 to be a more likely pre-order price tag once vendors start listing and other mythics are spoiled, and it will likely fall even further once supply increases.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

First off, Paulo likes it, and Paulo is very good at magic:

Wow, this card seems fantastic to me... I'd be surprised if it didn't see a lot of play [picture of Sidisi, Undead Vizier ].

— Paulo Vitor (@PVDDR) March 2, 2015

Despite PVDDR's enthusiasm for the Zombie Naga, I'm skeptical. Maybe I'm not looking deep enough, but instead of being a Standard staple, Sidisi, Undead Vizier looks a lot like a situationally better Diabolic Tutor to me. On the plus side, much like Dragonlord Silumgar, Sidisi's 4/6 deaththouch body blocks everything and Exploit could very well play better than it looks on paper. However, it has been along time since Wizards printed a playable tutor in Standard. Rune-Scarred Demon seems like a good comparison, but I think Sidisi, Undead Vizer is significantly worse. The beauty of Rune-Scarred Demon was you could cast it on an empty board, have a massive flying body, and find another threat or answer depending on what the situation called for. This doesn't really work with Sidisi, Undead Vizier. You could also chain Rune-Scarred Demons together, creating a massive evasive army, but this too is prohibited by Sidisi, Undead Vizier being legendary. So until PPVDR proves otherwise, I'm going to assume Sidisi, Undead Vizier is more Diabolic Revelation than Rune-scarred Demon and plan accordingly.

Financially, the new Sidisi could hang above-bulk because of the popular casual creature type (Zombie) and potential fringe standard play, but the $4 pre-order price is way too high. $1 seems more likely in a couple months, and I don't think hitting bulk prices at some point in its standard life is out of the question. If that happens, picking up some copies with an eye on the casual market could be the play (maybe foils), since you just know someone out there is going to be using Sidisi, Undead Vizier to exploit Gravecrawlers, Butcher Ghouls, and Geralf's Messengers and tutor up a Mikaeus, the Unhollowed for value. 

Stratus Dancer

 

I really want to believe that Stratus Dancer is a playable card, mostly because I love Voidmage Prodigy. Unfortunately, there is only one playable morph in all of Khans block (Rattleclaw Mystic), and I'm not sure the ability to "megaunmorph" will make a difference. Speaking of megamorph, people tweeting about the new mechanic has been one of the highlights so far:

Also megamorph? MEGAMORPH? What's next? SUPERSHROUD?

— Sander van der Zee (@TheMeddlingMage) March 2, 2015

Can't wait for megascry and megatrample. #SickofIt. #MTGDTK

— Matt Sperling (@mtg_law_etc) March 2, 2015

.@SOLRing13 Megascry 2. (Scry 2, then smugly pat yourself on the back - you did it!)

— Matt Sperling (@mtg_law_etc) March 2, 2015

Beyond the fact that it sounds like someone's kid named the mechanic, a lone +1/+1 counter really undersells the "mega" to me. Measlymorph.

— ZachSellsMagic (@ZachSellsMagic) March 2, 2015

If megamorph is released in a set where Zordon is not a Planeswalker, I can't live on this planet anymore.

— mtgblogger (@mtgblogger1) March 2, 2015

Anyway, back to Stratus Dancer. The main problem I see is, since there is such an extreme lack of playable morphs, when you cast a Stratus Dancer face down, pretty much everyone will know what's coming. It's the element of surprise that makes a card like Stratus Dancer good, otherwise it's pretty easy to play around. It's also in a really strange place on the curve: if you cast a Stratus Dancer face down on turn three, you're pretty much locking yourself into playing a two and three drop over the next two turns if you want to leave up the (mega)unmorph ability. If you're not planning on leaving up the ability, you're probably better off playing Savage Knuckleblade, Courser of Kruphix, or some other threat on turn three. Finally, out of all the existing decks in Standard, the only one that might want Stratus Dancer would be Jeskai Aggro/Tempo. Jeskai is already overloaded with good three drops between Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Goblin Rabblemaster, Hordeling Outburst, and Mantis Rider. In the end, it seems like Stratus Dancer might be an example of a good card that doesn't see much play because there are better options available. 

Financially, Stratus Dancer is another card I expect to trend towards bulk shortly. I just don't see a place for it in the format. Even if the format shifts (which is possible), the ceiling on the monk doesn't seem that high. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Until next time, make sure you keep up to date with all the latest spoilers on the Dragons of Tarkir page. So what do you think? Do you have any good megamorph jokes? Does Dragonlord Silumgar have a place in Standard, or only on the kitchen table? Are either of Stratus Dancer or Sidisi, Undead Vizier better than I'm giving them credit for? Do any of the other cards spoiled today stick out to you? Let me know in the comments, or on twitter @SaffronOlive.


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