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Standard in the Storm


With the flurry of Modern action these past few weeks, culminating into the first worldwide Magic weekend, it can be difficult to remember what the most played format in this game is. This week, I am finally bringing it back around and returning to my comfort zone: Standard. I feel that we have been gone forever, and after looking through what results I could dig up, it seems the format has remained relatively stable during our absence.

With a short list of new decks, I am also going to do a bit of a Vegas wrap-up and answer a question publicly that people inquired about over the past week while I was in Sin City. If anyone has any further questions about Modern or the trip, feel free to leave them in the comment section below or send them to me on Twitter; otherwise, I am going to leave this article rather free of story time.

Reapproaching a Standard format after a month in many ways mimics the release of a new set. This time around, since the entire format has sat in stasis, awaiting the return of its following, we do not have to dig nearly as deep for the answers. It seems Abzan has taken a dominating stance, finally pushing control over the edge with the usual suspects, both in control and aggro form.

While I believe this means the metagame is very fair in its current state, it also seems a little boring for me. Herald of Torment is nice to see again, but nothing really that new or innovative has come out of these shells—and why should there be? Sometimes, if it works, there is no reason to fix it. That of course, combined with the upcoming release of Magic Origins, means we probably will not be seeing much real movement on any cards in these decks. I can see some cards slowly climbing over the next few months, but I believe it will take some new blood in the format to see anything worth moving in on.

One deck I was looking at reapproaching was Jeskai Tokens, as I feel you may have a reasonable game against Abzan if built correctly. After doing some research and playing around with the old builds, I realized I like the idea of the token strategy, but I would also like some late game that does not revolve around that. That conclusion had me looking at Dragons. Jeskai Dragons has a clunky mana base, so I was looking to optimize and focus on R/W. Just about the time I finally approached the deck yesterday, after a long break for Vegas, I found the following list, which is probably where I am going to start.

Variants of this deck have been around for a while, and R/W tokens started to go this direction when I quit focusing on Standard, but it is nice to see what looks like a fairly polished list to start from. I am not big on most cards from Standard right now, but I feel Thunderbreak Regent remains to be one of the safest places to stash value for the upcoming rotation. This card is already phenomenal, and though it is losing its buddy Stormbreath Dragon, it still stands beside Siege Rhino as one of the most efficient 4-drops ever printed.

Thunderbreak Regent
I have not liked this card in cash yet, and I still that it is likely too high for a strong return later, but if you need them, this would be the time—there will not be much more Dragons of Tarkir opened before Magic Origins releases, and once that happens, this card probably has nothing but a higher price tag in its future.

I will start testing this deck over the weekend when I finally have some free time, but I feel it should be a reasonable counter to Abzan over the coming weeks before the inevitable spoilers begin and people quit caring about the current environment. With little knowledge of the set, it seems relatively useless to begin preparing now, but if you have any events between now and then, R/W Dragons is where I would want to be.

So one question I was asked this past week really got me thinking about my process when it comes to hoarding sealed product. I really don’t have a ton of sealed in reserve for myself, as I usually move it quickly and only buy it from stores looking to move excess or closing up shop. I do, however, have a number of customers who buy sealed product from me, and I usually give them advice on what sets to buy in on to see the best return down the road in five or so years.

The question was, “What factors help you decide what Standard boxes to hold on to long term and which to dump during their Standard lives?”

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
I could take the easy out here and tell you just to pick up boxes of Dragons of Tarkir and to thank me later, but as most sets are not a home run, it can be slightly more difficult to find the gems than that on average.

The question stemmed from a discussion involving winning sealed product as either a player or a judge. The main key here is to make sure any sealed product you want to hold long term comes sealed in box; this matters a great deal for the future value. If you can, in fact, acquire a full box and do not need to break it for singles, how best should you decide how to maximize your value?

This week on Brainstorm Brewery, I talked about sealed boxes of Innistrad and Dark Ascension as great long-term targets, and though both are set to go up in value, their current prices are very different for a few reasons. The first is the number of Modern and Legacy singles that come in Innistrad; to begin with, we have Liliana of the Veil and Snapcaster Mage, either already making up a great deal of the original MSRP of the entire box. Even though these two sets were printed back to back, the hundred-dollar difference between the two shows you just how relevant this factor is.

Return to Ravnica seems to be a great long-term target for exactly this reason. Jace, Architect of Thought is going to eventually rise from the ashes, and we already have the shocks and Abrupt Decay. If you have boxes of this set lying around still, I would keep them stashed away happily for a few more years.

Khans of Tarkir seems exceptional and will probably follow a similar pattern, though I am not as sold on Theros even with Thoughtseize. Shocks and fetches make for a great bet down the road, as both are always going to be eternally playable. Of course, not every set has an exceptional mana base for us to identify.

Any set that does not have the competitive edge still may have the casual appeal in its corner. This factor usually takes longer to catch on, as many of these cards are much more likely to gradually increase due to steady demand rather than spike from market influence or playability. Fate Reforged has that feel for me, as do Born of the Gods and Journey into Nyx in their own ways. Gods are very appealing in Commander, and with them all being mythic, I have to imagine enough will catch on over time to influence the sealed price. There are plenty of other staples in those sets as well, meaning most of Standard is a fine hold if you are looking way down the line.

Thassa, God of the Sea
If I had to evaluate each box in Standard against the long-term value and how long it would take to get there, assuming you want to at least double your value, it would look like this:

Magic 2015 Sell

Theros Sell

Born of the Gods Hold

Journey into Nyx Sell

Khans of Tarkir Hold

Fate Reforged Hold

Dragons of Tarkir Hold

Well, on that note, I am off for the week to attempt to finally recover from the desert climate that ruined me. I will hopefully get some Standard testing in this weekend and catch up with some coverage. If you have any questions or comments, as always, leave me a message below or find me on Twitter.

Ryan Bushard


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