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This week, we have a few goals. The first is to take a look at the lists that have begun to stabilize as the top contenders—we’ll look at what cards they may have been running at first that now may not have as big of a home but that still haven’t dropped in price. After that, it appears that it is time to decide on a shell for where I want to start my Standard adventure, and as much as I was excited to start jamming Abzan, my goals have shifted a bit since last week.

Butcher of the Horde
This past weekend, Los Angeles hosted the Grand Prix, and the top tables did not disappoint when it came to diversity. I knew going into this format that it looked to be very exciting, but I did not expect every clan to be represented at the top tables. Not only can you play a wide variety of three-colored decks, there are just as many two-colored and even mono-colored possibilities out there; usually, I am bored with the format by now and cannot decide on one of the three tier-one lists, but this time around, I am having a tougher time narrowing it down to just one.

While Jeskai and Abzan continue to take up about fifty percent of the field, we are slowly seeing the other decks adapt. The new Mardu Midrange deck finally sports a home for Butcher of the Horde, a card I have wanted to play since it was announced. If this deck looks like something you may want to play, there are a few cards here, such as Butcher, that you may want to get into soon. Even if they do not move up much, they have probably begun to bottom out now that they are seeing play. I am still seeing these lists keep cropping up with Chained to the Rocks, leading me to believe this price cannot sustain much longer. Before, I was suggesting getting in when you can, but you may want to make that sooner rather than later.

Though it may seem aggressive, Sorin, Solemn Visitor is not a bad card to be snagging when you can, even with a $20-and-higher dollar price tag. He has stagnated here for a while, and the play he is seeing keeps increasing every week. I very much misjudged this card at first based on what I believed the format would be, but when most of the control shells struggle, it opens up midrange to dominate, and this card is currently great in almost every matchup. I could see this price start to climb soon enough if we continue to see new builds sporting him and old builds increasing the number they play.

This list also brings about one of the cards I wanted to talk about trading out of—Elspeth, Sun's Champion has spiked above $30 now, and honestly, as good as the card is, she is becoming worse and worse each week as decks seem to have more catch-all cards, thus making her much less of a threat. This may sound crazy, as she can still run away with games, but I have been watching lists go from four down to three and now two or one, and others, such as this Mardu list, are boarding her instead for more neutral cards that can combat some of the more aggressive decks such as Sorin.

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
In the same light as Elspeth, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker has also been seeing less play over these past few weeks, and the price has been on a steady decline. If you still need them to play, hold onto them, as they will probably ebb between their current price and $15 for as long as they see play. If they are sitting in your binder collecting dust as a play set, it is safe to move two of them now, as it seems most decks have defaulted to two or fewer anyway.

On the subject of overpriced Planeswalkers, it may be time to move off your Nissa, Worldwakers for a while. I expected her to see much more play than she is, and I am sure that, as the format progresses, she will. Her price will come back up, but just by looking at the numbers, she is on a steady decline for now.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is the last Planeswalker for this week, and this one again comes more from the numbers than the playability. Both online and in paper, Ashiok’s price has steadily crept back down since the recent spike while the retail still holds. This is usually a good indicator that it is time to move them before the buy list and retail adjust. If you play with them, have no fear—I expect Ashiok to be back up soon enough, as there are constantly new shells sporting Ashiok, and it only takes a few to make a major impact again. If you can trade for these around TCGplayer prices, you are doing well for the long term, but at the current retail values, I would want to be moving them.

I was very happy to see this list do well, as it is riddled with cards I think are still flying under most radars. I was not sold on Savage Knuckleblade at first, and I still am not sure that is where I want to be in the format, but there is no doubt of the fact that it is playable, and that means the price should begin to turn from the recent decline.

Crater's Claws
I am very big on Crater's Claws right now, as it is a bulk rare, and like Sorin, this started as a one- or two-of in most lists and has suddenly spiked to a three- or four-of. Even with only one or two archetypes supporting it, as it has now, this card is certainly ready to go up soon. I believe that, as the format continues to evolve, more than just Temur will be sporting this, and that means now is the time to move in.

Ashcloud Phoenix is right on the cusp of being poised for a small spike if it continues to be adapted into lists like this one. Some variations of Jeskai already want this guy, and Temur adding more pressure means, as a mythic, it could easily be sitting close to $10 in the near future.

I don’t think I need to post a list, but it is relevant with the ever-increasing price of Stoke the Flames—due to its playability in a number of decks—that the card is going to be limited in the coming months. You do not need to rush to pull out of your extra copies, but remember this is the Friday Night Magic promo for December, and that means even if it continues to see this much play, the supply will hurt the market. A major reason this card is so expensive is the set it was printed in, and now that people are done cracking Magic 2015, not very many are being opened, so when these begin to show up in people’s binders, expect a decline.

Stormbreath Dragon has been on the rise lately, and though I cannot advocate buying in to make a profit, it does seem reasonable to acquire a set now. Sarkhan is seeing less and less play, and the number of Stormbreath Dragons seems to be increasing in lists, meaning we may see their prices flip here soon enough once the supply of Sarkhan loosens the current market constraints.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion
I know I promised a list of what I would be running, but honestly, the truth is I still have no idea. This past weekend left me even more curious coming out than going in, which changed my game plan. My theory is that if every clan is represented, that means every color is playable in Standard, in some sense, in a midrange shell. This means—if you know me, of course—I am instantly drawn to the idea of five color. With this concept in mind, I began to craft mana bases to see what I could make work and came to a few interesting conclusions over the past few weeks. At first, I was attempting to pick a clan as my primary colors and splash the other two. I was starting with Abzan, but after Elspeth and other densely-costed cards, it was hard to find room to splash.

After I began to study more and more of exactly what I was trying to do, it became clear that I have to give up some of the power for consistency if I want to go this route. I decided I was going to instead start with base green, go heavy into a second color—most likely blue or black—and let the other three be splashes, thus limiting what triple-costed cards I could play to tailor to my mana base. I believe I have a strong shell now, but I need to fill in a few gaps before this weekend. If everything goes as planned, I am going to try to play this at the 50k event this weekend in Columbus. I forgot what it was like to be a player scrabbling last minute for cards. If I am able to play, I will write about my findings; otherwise, I will have a list finalized next week on Magic Online and start testing there.

If you happen to be in Columbus this weekend, let me know via Twitter; I really enjoy feedback in person, so please come up and introduce yourself if you can make it out. Thank you as always for reading, and join me next week as we continue to evaluate this ever-evolving meta.

Ryan Bushard

@CryppleCommand


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