Magic 2013 Picks

It’s that time again, ladies and gentleman, for another financial set review. In the past, I have been on the winning side of my called shots and analysis of new cards both on the rise and fall—with some exceptions such as Bonfire of the Damned, which did better than almost anyone anticipated. This week, I come to you with the new core set, Magic 2013, which many have been looking at as one of the worst-valued sets printed in the past few years. Although I don’t see the next Jace, the Mind Sculptor cropping up from this set, I think there are certainly some hidden gems.

Usually, the big money lies in the mythics; this time around, I see my usual penny stocks doing better than ever. Ajani and Liliana have stolen the show on the high end of preorders, but some of the cheaper cards such as Thragtusk and Talrand have already proven their worth. As per my usual, though, I am not here to talk about the cards that have already spiked. Instead, I am providing my insight into what I believe this set can shape up to become. With that said, let’s get right into the meat of this casual player’s dream set.

Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Normally, I try to stay away from the overpriced cards, but I want to make an exception for Ajani because I feel he is being misevaluated. People have been trying to jam him in every aggro deck they can, and although the set is fresh thus far, he has not put up any tangible results. His price has been slowly dropping from his $40 debut, and although I think he still has a way to drop, I don’t believe he is a lost cause.

The place I see Ajani shining in is Legacy Maverick or any other midrange decks that can take advantage of cards such as Knight of the Reliquary and Tarmogoyf. It may sound like a win-more in a lot of these scenarios, but acting like a pseudo Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Ajani provides the means to break stalemates in the mirror match while at the same time giving you an alternate win condition if left unchecked. He can typically come down on turn two if you have no other action and provide a quick clock with cards like Knight on the field. The fact that you can still add a counter to him after your board is decimated is just another small plus to the bigger picture. Between Modern and Legacy, I see this card stabilizing at $20 to $25—and possibly spiking even higher based on his showings in Standard.

Faith's Reward

Faith's Reward
Second Sunrise was one of my favorite cards back during its time in Standard; unfortunately, I don’t believe it saw the correct environment to thrive. With Faith's Reward, we have a card that can provide the effect for you just at the cost of an extra mana, and most people have dismissed the card as bulk. I am a little more hesitant to declare this card trash because of a few factors that I believe people are missing.

The fact that we are losing Day of Judgment would normally mean this card is even less necessary given its intended purpose to save you from board sweepers. What people don’t realize is that with Day gone, we are more likely to see aggro strategies rise after rotation unless a suitable replacement is found. Faith's Reward can allow awkward stalemates to become one-sided Wraths in a lot of matches while at the same time providing that same protection if you are forced into some less than desirable blocks. I am still not completely sold on this card, but I would not be surprised to see it crop up in sideboards and therefore rising somewhat in price. I don’t expect this to ever be more than a few dollars, but given how cheap it is now, it is hard to lose on cards like this one. The fact that it also has applications in Time Sieve decks in Modern is just another reason to take a second look at this potential sleeper.

Blue

And in blue, we have . . . nothing. That’s right; for the first time in the length of my financial career, I have found a color that has nothing I am that excited about. Cards like the above-mentioned Talrand have already proven themselves, while cards like Omniscience are still undetermined, but I have not seen any real potential sleepers in my time studying this set.

Disciple of Bolas

Disciple of Bolas
If I was asked today to pick any one card in this set that I felt had the most potential, I would put all my chips on this horse . . . or disciple. The power this card provides in both midrange and late-game strategies is overwhelming. Something as simple as drawing three cards and gaining 3 life after sacrificing a Geralf's Messenger can be backbreaking in a lot of matchups, many times giving you that extra reach you need to close some games out. Beyond that, I really like this card in a B/R midrange deck that can take advantage of another of my sleeper picks I am going to discuss later, Slumbering Dragon.

The Dragon’s playability hinges on your opponent attacking into you in most cases unless you can cheat counters onto him, but with the Disciple in your deck, late-game Dragons can still be turned into a healthy return. Beyond the obvious strategies, I would not be surprised to see this card show up in some sort of deck that can flicker it to abuse its ability over and again while at the same time providing a constant harvest of new guys to beat your opponent down. Until I see this card in action, I don’t believe I can give a proper assessment as to exactly how broken this card can become, but I would bet money that this card tops $5 to $10 before its time in Standard is over.

Mutilate

Being a reprint obviously hurts the value of this card, and I hate to be one of those clique people who always hails the return of mono-black as a legitimate archetype, but I would not be surprised if this card began seeing heavy play when (okay: “if”) the shock lands see reprint. The fact that you can not only play what looks to be the only available 4-mana Wrath post-rotation, but also play another color bodes well for Mutilate’s future.

Mutilate
Magmaquake

Magmaquake

With all of the mass removal shifting toward the higher end of the curve, cards like Magmaquake that can still kill a small army early in the game should be given some extra consideration. Not only does this card kill creatures, it is also one of the first ways we have seen to deal with multiple problematic planeswalkers. I am not sure how high this card can climb with Bonfire of the Damned in the format, but I would not be surprised to see this card see some face time just because it can be played at instant speed and does not need to be miracled to kill larger creatures in the midgame. I could safely see this card hitting $5, but I doubt it will climb much beyond that.

Slumbering Dragon

Slumbering Dragon
Between cards like Disciple of Bolas and Increasing Savagery, this card is begging to be abused. I don’t believe this is a great fit for most decks, but as long as you have a secondary plan for it outside of relying on your opponent, I think it is worth considering. Not only does this slumbering titan punish your opponent for going aggro, but it also comes down early enough to get around any counters, making your late-game tricks must-counters for your opponent. The presale on this card was a bit underwhelming considering it will be a four-of in any deck that can manage to crack the code, so now is the time to get on the bandwagon. I could easily see this card rounding out at the $6–$8 range given a few good finishes, but even if it sees moderate casual or fringe-competitive play, it is likely to rise higher than it is currently priced.

Green

Green also has very little to cover this time around outside of the obvious cards like Yeva and Thragtusk. Boundless Realms may see some Commander play, but other than that, we are unlikely to see any real sleepers come out of green this time around.

Akroma's Memorial/Gilded Lotus/Stuffy Doll

Akroma's Memorial
I put these cards all in the same category when I look at them since they are all casual reprints that have demanded relatively high price tags. It is unlikely any of these cards will see real competitive play—even though I love the idea of Stuffy Doll and Blasphemous Act—but that does not mean they are worthless now that they have been reprinted.

I want to cover these this week because I think people forget a major factor when it comes to reprints, and that is the fact that the originals still hold value. Looking at the retail prices of these cards, we can see that the original copies are fetching almost fifty percent over their new counterparts. When you are in a trade, most people value cards based on their most current price, so the opportunity is there to make a few bucks when you see any of these Commander and casual gems in their older forms.

Staff of Nin

Staff of Nin
It may be just me, but I love this card. Everything about it screams “control” to me. Not only does this card let you win the Lingering Souls/Snapcaster Mage combat battles, it also provides you with a clock in those mirror matches while still providing card advantage. With Swords rotating out, we will probably see a decrease in artifact removal, meaning the Staff becomes even better post-rotation.

With the promo version of this card already out there, it is hard to predict exactly what the limit is on this card’s price, but I would say it is a safe estimate to see this card hit $5 in the next year. Not only is this card amazing in Standard, it also slides nicely into almost any Commader deck, making it an even better investment in the long term.

Trading Post

Trading Post
I am still not sure how I feel about this card considering the investment to doing anything particularly relevant is steep. I can, however, see this becoming a miser’s card in future control decks while at the same time being a build-around card for the local Friday Night Magic circuits. I don’t expect anything too insane from Trading Post, but I would certainly pick them up at bulk if you can find them.

 


That’s all I have for this week’s edition of the Magic 2013 sleepers. Join me next week as I delve into another facet of the Magic financial world. Until then, get out there and pick these cards up because it is one thing to say a card is good, and it is a completely different thing to take action and make some money. I will be working on the trade floor this weekend at Grand Prix: Columbus, working to stock up on this list as much as I can before the cards take off in the next few months. Hope to see you there!

Ryan Bushard
@CryppleCommand