This week I want to focus on War of the Spark. It’s been a few weeks since release and its cards are quickly disseminating throughout all formats in a way that few sets do. Since every format is impacted by War of the Spark I want to take some time to touch on what’s doing well and where I see prices trending as we move forward.
The first Magic Pro League split happened this weekend and the deck lists are presumably the best of the best that pro players have to bring to the table. We can see from the decklists here a few trends that are worth looking at. Teferi, Time Raveler continues to perform well and be included in some number of copies in all decks that have the ability to cast it. It’s one of the few planeswalkers that is getting a lot of mileage out of its static effect and the density of Nexus of Fate decks has helped his popularity. Teferi is selling for about $12 and the highest buylist on the weekend is paying $10 for it at Magicfest Madison. I think its future largely depends on how many Nexus of Fate decks continue to put up results in Standard tournaments. It’s flexible so it could continue to see inclusion in Esper decks, but Teferi is nearly the peak price of what a Standard legal rare can reach without being colorless. If you own copies you don’t plan to play in the near future this seems like a good time to sell them.
Narset, Parter of Veils will show up on this list many times but I’m going to discuss it most here. It’s a response to the Chemister's Insight /Teferi Hero of Dominaria dance that a lot of players end up doing. It’s a powerful card that can find more threats and limit your opponent’s ability to set up raw card advantage. Given the fact that most control mirrors are extremely creature light, Narset can often stay in play many turns, causing a lot of issues. She’s selling for about $2 and as an uncommon that’s pretty high. The set is still being opened and most of the demand is not coming from Standard players. There will likely be more opportunities to purchase this cheaper in the future and would recommend selling them if you don’t plan to play with them.
The last set of planeswalkers that are seeing some amount of play are Vivien, Champion of the Wilds, Liliana, Dreadhorde General, Ugin, the Ineffable, Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord, and Gideon Blackblade. I don’t think any of them are particularly good speculative purchases except for Sorin. He’s a $3 rare that helps you to re-buy your fallen Thief of Sanity and pressures opposing planeswalkers without large upticks (Narset, Teferi, and Vivien). If you enjoy the Esper Midrange deck that was playing this I don’t think you can lose much by buying in now. We’ve seen that some excitement for rare planeswalkers can drive them up in price, like Chandra, Fire Artisan and Teferi, Time Raveler.
The last card I want to touch on quickly is Oath of Kaya. It looks innocuous, but like Oath of Nissa, the enter the battlefield effect is often the reason people are playing it. Teferi, Time Raveler often does not have a good target to bounce in the control mirror and makes having your own Oath of Kaya particularly appealing. I think there is a future where Oath of Kaya and Teferi are used together to pick off opposing planeswalkers as well as pressure cards like Thief of Sanity. Currently its selling for $0.25 and is a good pickup if you see yourself playing this style of deck in the future.
The two biggest players in Modern are Neoform and Ilharg, the Raze-Boar. Neoform is more explosive and could largely be detrimental to the format as a whole. The lack of results so far leads me to believe it will likely be too inconsistent for people to keep playing it. That hasn’t stopped cards in the deck like Allosaurus Rider, Chancellor of the Tangle, and Autochthon Wurm from spiking. I don’t think any of these cards have a future of long term stability so I’m excited to buylist them at their current price.
Ilharg adds an extra layer of spice to the Griselbrand, Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn, Goryo's Vengeance, and Through the Breach style decks. Ilharg combos well with the other two legendary creatures from your hand if it gets reanimated with Goryo's Vengeance but is also not unreasonable to cast with the same CMC as Through the Breach. I think this is a marketed improvement in the deck but nothing that will cause a lot of people to switch to it. If you like the Through the Breach / Goryo's Vengeance decks then this card will be good for you, but Ilharg will be unlikely to raze all of Modern anytime soon. I recommend selling any Ilharg you don’t plan to play with.
There are two important types of cards in Commander. There are legendary creatures and everything else. In a set with so many planeswalkers I’m kind of surprised to see so many legendary creatures in this set. There are a few standouts that we should talk about.
According to EDHREC.com (a great Commander resource), the two most popular Commanders are Feather, the Redeemed and Niv-Mizzet Reborn and nothing else is close. The legendary creatures themselves are unlikely to be very expensive but the older cards that are key to the decks may be.
Feather is particularly popular because it’s very different from other Boros Commanders. The most expensive cards that work well with the deck have spiked, but it might be in your best interest to look at bulk stocks here. A lot of the best cards to go with Feather are heroic creatures and if you have a bunch of Theros block bulk you can start to pick out a few creatures in particular. Vanguard of Brimaz, Phalanx Leader, Akroan Crusader, and Akroan Conscriptor seem to be the best bets. This deck is full with budget cards and only needs one or two spotlights from a popular Youtuber to see some price increases.
Niv-Mizzet is another card like Feather that introduces new deck-building constraints. Unfortunately, this card will lead to a bunch of “good stuff” decks that don’t really rely on singular powerful cards to win the game. As a result, I don’t think there are any particularly good cards to buy if you want to work on this deck. It’s often just going to be a deck full of all of your favorite gold cards.
As far as individually popular cards, the standouts here are Karn's Bastion, Bolas's Citadel, Narset, Parter of Veils, and Ashiok, Dream Render. Karn's Bastion is a card that looks like it could be ubiquitous but ultimately I think a lot of people that are playing it are doing it because they don’t understand the cost. Half of the top 10 decks that are including Karn's Bastion are 3, 4, or 5 color decks. To play a colorless land in a 3+ color deck it has to be very good. I don’t think Karn's Bastion is good enough for that. Bolas's Citadel is pretty busted and I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually got banned for similar reasons to Griselbrand and Yawgmoth's Bargain. Narset is good in this format like its good in every format because it hoses card draw non-symmetrically. Leovold, Emissary of Trest had a similar ability and was banned in part because of it. I don’t think Narset has the same type of target on its head because it can’t be your Commander but I also don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to be banned in the future.Ashiok, Dream Render is hugely popular because it’s a non-symmetrical graveyard hate card that also affects all of your opponents. I believe this to be a long term staple of the format because the graveyard is a hugely important resource in Commander.
Legacy and Vintage
I’m not as well versed in these formats but it seems that Teferi, Time Raveler and Narset, Parter of Veils continue to show up in small numbers. Neither format usually has a huge impact on the price of the non-foil copies of cards but it would not surprise me if the most premium versions of these cards had significantly higher multipliers due to Legacy and Vintage play. As an example, the Japanese Alternate Art Narset is $23 for a non-foil copy and out of stock at $365 for a foil copy. These numbers are influenced by availability (or unavailability as the case is) of Japanese War of the Spark sealed product but also by their demand from Legacy and Vintage players.
It’s unusual for a set to have so much impact in such a small amount of time but it seems like there is plenty of juice to squeeze from this set. I will be keeping an eye out in the future and making note of the trends going forward. Most of these cards will drop in price, the only question is when to buy in. If you’re interested in more up to date news, make sure to check out the podcast I’m part of Cartel Aristocrats.