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By: The Milk Man, Michael Mulcahy
Oct 06 2014 12:00pm
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 Welcome to Part 2 of the comprehensive guide to investing in Standard cards at rotation. This article is going to cover Theros Block cards and cards from the M15 Core Set.

Reap What is Sown  Incremental Growth  Rampant Growth

Why invest in Theros Block and M15 cards at all? They're not rotating so I should be able to pick them up at any time, right?

Although this is question is largely true, there are some bonuses to picking up these cards currently. The bonus comes under two distinct differences.

The first bonus about investing now is the price and availability. People are still opening packs from Theros Block and M15 and drafting the sets, meaning that this is the time of their highest supply. Once Khans of Tarkir is released there will be a lot less boosters being opened and drafts being played from Theros Block and M15. As we know, the laws of supply and demand dictate that if demand remains constant or grows and supply reduces, the price must therefore increase. So by investing in to these cards early we are able to beat the curve and avoid any blow out in price. This applies both to people who wish to use these cards in Modern, Legacy, Highlander etc as well as people who wish to use them in the new Standard season.

The second bonus is speculation - you have the potential to pick up some of these cards at bargain prices and make a small fortune while these cards are cheap and plentiful. This also means that the savvy investor can add some of these staples to their collection for a minimal price - an important aspect of trading and collecting for the budget conscious player. This aspect of investing - speculation, is explored in detail later on in the article.

So why should you invest in Standard cards from Theros and M15 for Modern, now?

There are cards from Theros and M15 that are currently used in Modern and picking them up now while they're in Standard means you can get them with relative ease while they're in high supply and at a reasonable cost. While they're in high supply it is fair to say that they're also going to be at a relatively low, known, price-point in the cards history. Modern Staples that rotate out of Standard tend to steadily increase in value as the number of people playing competitively in the Eternal formats increases and the supply of the staples dries up.

So which cards should you be looking out for?

Red Cards

Anger of the Gods  Magma Spray  Searing Blood

Eidolon of the Great Revel  Stormbreath Dragon

These are the Red cards out of Theros Block that already see play in Modern. Burn in Modern has been the shell that Eidolon of the Great Revel has been yearning for. When it was  spoiled a lot of people didn't really know where it would fit in but that it was powerful to see play. The efficiency of Modern spells means that Eidolon of the Great Revel just plain shuts down some decks - they MUST remove it or they will die. UR Storm? They're going to take a minimum of 4 damage if they have to waste a Grapeshot to remove it. Without some sort of removal for the Eidolon of the Great Revel they simply cannot combo off around it. 

Searing Blood has also slotted neatly in to Modern Burn decks, with some running it in the mainboard as an alternative to Searing Blaze that isn't as reliant on making land drops and some players are running Searing Blood in compliment of Searing Blaze as a slew of cards that effectively 2-for-1 our opponents - Shocking or Lightning Bolting a creature and throwing a Lava Spike to their face.

Magma Spray is a nice sideboard card that has seen play out of Splinter Twin, Jund and Delver of Secrets decks as a neat solution to Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks in the Melira Pod matchup as well as other problem creatures that you would rather exile than destroy.

Anger of the Gods is used in a similar fashion - it is amazing against the pod matchup, merfolk and any other army of small creatures that relies on board presence. Anger of the Gods is pound for pound the most efficient sweeper in Modern and Standard - the exile clause is a huge bonus too. The exile clause is important against the Birthing Pod matches as a neat solution to Voice of Resurgence, Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap. Anger of the Gods is also great for denying them targets for Eternal Witness, Scavenging Ooze and Reveillark. Anger of the Gods is decent against Jund too, denying fuel for their Tarmogoyfs and Scavenging Oozes. Anger of the Gods can even be combined with other burn spells to exile larger creatures that you don't want coming back from the graveyard.

Stormbreath Dragon is a card that is used in the Big Zoo decks as an alternative to Thundermaw Hellkite as it passes the 3 main removal test; Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay. Thundermaw Hellkite only scores 2 out of 3 on this challenge.

Blue Cards

Thassa, God of the Sea  Master of Waves  Swan Song

These are the Blue cards that are currently in use in Modern decks. Travis Woo has been playing around with a Mono Blue Devotion deck abusing Master of Waves which is really cool to see some innovation in a format that even Wizards thought was stale enough to change the ban list. Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea also get played in Merfolk decks.

Swan Song is a card that I really like in Modern. Although it has been as low as $0.05, it is still quite a bargain at $0.24. I have used them both in the sideboard and mainboard of UR tempo decks. I am going to go as far as to say that it is better than Dispel. The 2/2 Bird you give your opponent is a reasonable trade for being able to hard-counter sorceries, instants and enchantments with only 1 mana. In a Splinter Twin deck it can be massive to stop an opponent's Turn 1 Thoughtseize to protect our combo or to foil an opponent's turn 2 Pyromancer Ascension against Storm. With cards like Lightning Strike, Electrolyze, Izzet Charm, Boomerang and Echoing Truth in the deck a 2/2 Bird is more than negligible to protect our creatures or the combo.

Green Cards

Voyaging Satyr  Courser of Kruphix

Courser of Kruphix is unfortunately a card that is presently popular enough in the current Standard format as well as looking to be a must have in Khans Standard which means that it isn't a budget bargain at the moment. It does however see play in Jund variants as a high value creature that is also a solid body to defend a Liliana of the Veil, gain card and life advantage, provide an Enchantment type card to pump up Tarmogoyf and be a solid defender and if need be a decent attacker. Courser of Kruphix also passes the Lightning Bolt - the number 1 removal spell in Modern.

Voyaging Satyr is one of the key cards in the Mono Green Devotion deck that is quite popular now in Modern as well as looking to be a decent investment for Khans Standard.

White Cards

Spirit of the Labyrinth Elspeth, Sun's Champion Brimaz, King of Oreskos Eidolon of Rhetoric

Spirit of the Labyrinth is a card that comes out of the sideboard from a few different decks like Hatebears in Modern and Death and Taxes in Legacy. Eidolon of Rhetoric is a similar sideboard card that allows white decks to fight a fairer fight against the tempo decks, storm decks etc.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion is a card that is in the sideboard of some Esper Control decks in Modern and should definitely see more play now that Flooded Strand and Polluted Delta will be in Standard and therefore Modern. Brimaz, King of Oreskos is an efficient enough card for Modern but hasn't quite found a home outside of being tested in a lot of different shells; BW tokens, Hatebears and Orzhov Midrange.

Black Cards

Thoughtseize  Drown in Sorrow  Bile Blight

Thoughtseize is probably the most important Theros block card to pick up if you are looking to get strong, long-term value out of investing in to Theros Block cards. It is the most powerful card in Standard and is certainly up there with the best cards in Modern and Legacy. If you can afford to buy in to some Thoughtseizes, this will be your safest investment. This is a blue-chip, safe-as-houses investment that will only drop in value if they reprint it at common or if God forbid, Magic: the Gathering ceases to be a 'thing'. In fact, Thoughtseize has already started to climb in price, despite appearing to not be as important in the current Standard format as it was in RTR-Theros Standard.

Drown in Sorrow is a great sweeper that is played out of the board of the non-Red BG Rock variants. It sees some play in Ad Nauseam sideboards as well as Mono Black Control decks. The fact that is is -2/-2 rather than damage like Anger of the Gods is great because it beats regenerate, indestructible and creatures with protection from black - the Scry effect is a nice bonus.

Bile Blight is another card that sees some play out of Mono Black Control decks in Modern and like Drown in Sorrow is an efficient solution to many problem cards. It can also be used to good effect against Splinter Twin by killing their Pestermites or rendering their Deceiver Exarchs useless for the turn.

Theros Block Lands

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Temple of Silence  Temple of Triumph  Temple of Mystery

Temple of Deceit  Temple of Enlightenment  Temple of Epiphany

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is the main generator of the Green Devotion decks in Modern. It is still seeing a fair amount of play in Standard in Mono Green Devotion too, however the loss of many Return to Ravnica hybrid mana cost cards mean that other colour Devotion based decks will likely see less play and consequently Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx should become cheaper.

The Scry land or Temple cycle from Theros block is good in slower decks that can afford to have ETB tapped lands and wish to dig to the cards that they need. 

Temple of Silence sees play in some Ad Nauseam decks and Orzhov Midrange decks

Temple of Triumph has seen some play in UWR Midrange builds, RW Burn shells and in WR Twin decks.

Temple of Mystery sees play in Scapeshift decks and Amulet of Vigor decks.

Temple of Deceit sees play in Ad Nauseam decks, Faeries and Gifts Ungiven decks.

Temple of Enlightenment is also used in Ad Nauseam decks, UW Control and UWx Midrange decks

Temple of Epiphany has seen a small amount of play in UR Control decks like Blue Moon.

Temple of Malady has yet to see any play in Modern yet, but is in a very strong colour combination so this may change in the near future. The other temples - Temple of Malice, Temple of Plenty and Temple of Abandon haven't seen much success in Modern either, there is one thing to note here though- they all share colours of Fetches that have been reprinted in Khans of Tarkir and as such these colour combinations will probably see mana bases of decks in these colours improve, maybe even enough for these temples to see some amount of play in Modern.

 

What are the M15 cards that I should be looking out for?

Ensoul Artifact  Ajani's Pridemate  Chandra, Pyromaster  Chord of Calling

Ensoul Artifact is a great card that has quickly found its way in to Affinity decks and enchanted to a Darksteel Citadel presents a really hard to remove threat. The other cards above are reprints from previous sets of cards that have already seen play in Modern. Ajani's Pridemate is the 'White' Tarmogoyf in Soul Sisters decks and a reprint is nice to keep this uncommon at a reasonable price.

Chandra, Pyromaster is a reprint from M14 which although is quite recent, has been included as a sideboard card in many Jund decks in Modern. A fresh reprint will help to keep the price low of a card that has been nicknamed Chandra, The Playable. Chandra, The Playable is sure to see a lot of play in the new Khans of Tarkir Standard for the same reason it did in previous Standard seasons - it is great against creature decks and against control decks alike.

Chord of Calling is a great reprint that was definitely in need. As a staple of Pod decks, Chord of Calling was around $29 before the reprint and can now be picked up for as low as $2. There is also some cool shenanigans that you can do in Standard decks like Green Devotion - fetching Reclamation Sages, Arbor Colossuses, Hornet Nests and Hornet Queens as toolbox answers to specific threats.

M15 Lands

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth  Darksteel Citadel  Radiant Fountain

The previously mentioned Darksteel Citadel is another nice reprint that helps keep the core cards of Modern Affinity decks affordable as well as being a key card in the fringe UR Ensoul Artifact Standard decks.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth was priced at over $15 on the 14th of February of this year on MTGO. Even as a one-of in Jund Decks it was becoming quite pricey. The M15 reprint has seen the price of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth drop an amazing 90% for the Planar Chaos version, down to $1.50 and the M15 version is at a very budget friendly $0.60. 

Radiant Fountain. Really? Some Amulet of Vigor decks are using this in place of Glimmerpost as an anti-aggro or anti-burn strategy. It is at bargain basement pricing at the moment at $0.03 and has a beautiful marriage with Primeval Titan and other lands like Simic Growth Chamber and Vesuva. The loss of Mutavault from Standard means that some space is freed up in decks that want to run some utility lands - Radiant Fountain could fill that role for the control decks that are worried about the onslaught of aggro decks early on in the new format. Radiant Fountain also matches up nicely with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

Battlefield Forge  Caves of Koilos  Llanowar Wastes

Yavimaya Coast  Shivan Reef

The enemy colour Pain Land cycle is a nice reprint for the budget conscious magic player. They keep a healthy supply of these cards at a reasonable price. The pain lands are important for aggressive or combo strategies that have hard mana colour requirements AND need to have untapped lands available on each turn. They will see a fair bit of play in the upcoming Standard season and will continue to see play in Modern. Here are some of the Modern builds that already utilise the pain lands:

Battlefield Forge is used in some burn decks, RW aggro builds such as Norin the Wary Genesis Chamber decks and even in some RW Splinter Twin builds.

Caves of Koilos is used in a few BW tokens builds and in Orzov Midrange decks in Modern.

Llanowar Wastes is used in a small amount of BG Rock decks and sees play in quite a few GR Tron decks too.

Yavimaya Coast sees some play in UG infect decks as well as Scapeshift decks.

Shivan Reef happens to be both in a colour combination that sees a lot of play in Modern and in decks that need untapped sources of Blue and Red to cast spells with relatively hard mana requirements such as Splinter Twin, Cryptic Command and Goblin Electromancer. Shivan Reef is played in Splinter Twin decks, UR Storm decks and Delver of Secrets decks. Shivan Reef even sees some play in Affinity and Tron decks.

 

That pretty well covers the cards from Theros Block and M15 that are currently in play in Modern. I am really hoping that the Khans of Tarkir fetch lands shake up Modern which might also see other Standard cards get their time to shine in the spotlight.

 

The second part of investing into Standard cards is speculating on what cards will be good. But how do you know what cards will be good?

This component to investing in to Theros Block and M15 Core Set cards is speculative - by this I mean what cards from these sets could or should be good in the upcoming Standard format. By speculating on these cards you may end up either saving yourself a tonne of money or making a tonne of money. Who remembers how cheap the following cards were a little over 15 months ago?

Desecration Demon  Nightveil Specter  Underworld Connections  Pack Rat

Desecration Demon - 6th of July 2013 - Average Price $0.2 Jump forward a few months to 30th of November 2013 and the average price is $5.7

Nightveil Specter - 6th of July 2013 - Average Price $0.1. Jump forward a few months to the 20th of January 2014 and they are $4.3 each

Underworld Connections - 6th of July 2013 - Average Price $0.1. Jump forward to the 2nd of Febraury 2014 and they are $3.9 each

Pack Rat - 6th of July 2013 - Average Price $0.10  -2nd of February they peak at $3.9 each.

So if you had have predicted that these cards could be the next big deck, you could have bought all of the RTR Block rares for around $2, saving yourself around $70. For the budget conscious player this is a pretty significant saving. The biggest problems are knowing what is going to be good, getting in early and avoiding buying into the duds.

 

 Ok. So how do we know what is going to be good? 

This is quite a tough question, as speculation is far more of a gamble than picking up Modern staples but we do get given a couple clues.

First Clue - One of the first places to look is from the previous Block Constructed decks. 

In Return to Ravnica block the top decks largely translated over to the top deck of Theros Standard. According to mtgtop8.com, the most popular/successful Block Constructed deck from RTR Block was UW Control. Sound Familiar? The same deck that won Pro Tour Portland/M15 is the same deck that dominated Block Constructed over a year ago. Other top decks from RTR Block include Red Deck Wins and GW aggro. Both of these decks put up really good finishes at the M15 Pro Tour as well. So what can we derive from this information?

The card pool when Khans of Tarkir comes out is going to be limited to 4 sets that are already in standard and then one new one. So it is likely that decks that are successful in Theros Block Constructed should port over to Khans of Tarkir Standard Constructed quite smoothly. The top decks in Block Constructed are Naya Monsters and Gruul Monsters. The difference between the two? Some run Elspeth, Sun's Champion in the mainboard and some run it out of the sideboard. So what are the key cards?

Firstly there is the land base:

Temple of Plenty  Temple of Abandon  Temple of Triumph  Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Add to this the pain lands and fetch lands from M15 and Khans of Tarkir and you get a faster mana base that still offers decent colour fixing -

Battlefield Forge  Wooded Foothills  Windswept Heath

So it is likely that these lands will become important over the next Standard season. In contrast to this though, the new block is focusing on the Wedge colours and therefore GRx might be better suited to RuG or Temur as it is now known. This would make the following lands more important to competitive play, therefore in higher demand and rising in price:

Shivan Reef  Yavimaya Coast  Wooded Foothills

One of the issues with the data regarding successful decks in block is that each set had a large impact on the meta and the meta shifted quite a lot with each set. The data from mtgtop8.com discounts the success of decks like Mono Black Aggro and Junk Reanimator towards the end of the block when they got big boosts from Born of the Gods and Journey into Nyx.

'Rotation Proof' decks

Another way to look at what might be successful is to look at what decks are 'rotation proof'. This meaning the decks that are made up largely of block cards anyway and will function very similarly after the release of Khans of Tarkir. Green Devotion is one such deck that will largely be 'rotation proof'. Other decks that are rotation proof include Mono Black Aggro, Mono Red Goblins, RW Tokens and Junk Midrange.

So what cards are important parts of these decks?

Mono Black Aggro's most expensive cards include the following:

Herald of Torment  Whip of Erebos  Thoughtseize Hero's Downfall

Given the spoilers have revealed a powerful card that will slot straight in to Mono Black Aggro and two fetch lands that can be included to thin the deck and make the draws more consistent, the above rares could potentially spike in price. By investing in them before they become popular 'must haves' you can save yourself some money or sell excess copies for a profit.

Green Devotion has been reinvigorated thanks to a new card from M15 - Genesis Hydra. It already used a lot of good cards from Theros Block and could still be a top deck post rotation. Some of the cards are quite expensive at the moment while others are reasonably priced. Key cards include:

Sylvan Caryatid  Courser of Kruphix  Arbor Colossus  Nylea, God of the Hunt

Genesis Hydra   Mistcutter Hydra  Polukranos, World Eater

Nissa, Worldwaker  Boon Satyr  Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Some of these are budget buys at the moment such as Arbor Colossus at $0.13 each while others (Nissa, Worldwaker being the biggest offender) are amongst the most expensive cards in Standard. 

Mono Red Aggro is a deck that typically does well early in any format as the combination of synergistic aggression and burn punishes any durdly decks that are still trying to be worked out or decks that are 'missing' a card. Mono Red Goblins is a variation of this which is not too bad with Theros and M15 as well as there being a lot of new Goblins coming in Khans of Tarkir. Cards that will be important in this sort of a build include -

Goblin Rabblemaster  Obelisk of Urd  Purphoros, God of the Forge

Second Clue - Large Tournaments

The large tournaments that are run prior to the Pro Tour will give us some indication of the meta and consequently what cards are going to be important and therefore valuable. The time and effort that some individuals put in to their competitive deck brewing should not be understated. Although many players on the independent tournament scene are amateurs, the collective brewing power of the community usually figures out strong archetypes and ideas pretty early on in the Standard season. This means that we can take information from these tournaments and apply it to our speculative purchases. The first SCG Open of the new Standard Season happened just this last weekend and there are some standout cards, including some sleepers from Theros Block that many had forgotten about. They might just get their chance to shine in the new meta

Doomwake Giant  Eidolon of Blossoms Pharika, God of Affliction  Steam Augury

 These are some of the cards that I noted from the SCG Opens last weekend that haven't really had as much play in Standard as they could have had. Steam Augury is a great value card particularly when played for free off of a Narset, Enlightened Master. The 3 card combo of Doomwake Giant, Eidolon of Blossoms and Pharika, God of Affliction give a Mono Green Devotion shell two elements that they normally lack - repeatable card draw and hard removal. The Red splash is the more common splash for Green Devotion, but black certainly has a lot to offer too. Keeping an eye on the independent circuit tournaments will give strong indicators of the cards that you want in your collection and if you're attentive and vigilant you can pick them up while they're still at bargain prices.

Third clue - Pro Tours

As far as speculative discussion goes, I could write an article on two thirds of the cards in the available pool - almost all of them can be built around in some way or another. There are a few other good ways to cash in on what the next big thing is going to be in Khans Standard. The top decks in Theros Standard have largely remained the same since the Theros Pro Tour. At each and every Pro Tour there is new tech that comes out and people jump on the bandwagon. I don't think that you are wrong to do this at all - here you have a large pool of professionals whose job it is to play Magic and come up with these decks while the rest of us have day jobs, families and other commitments that get in the way of our professional magic playing aspirations. So we can use the expertise of the Pro Tour competitors to cash in on cards and decks that we can play competitively without necessarily paying the full price tag.

So how do you cash in on a Pro Tour?

During the M15/Portland Pro Tour I purchased some Stoke the Flames and Goblin Rabblemasters when I saw the decks that were running them and the success that they were having. I picked up 8 Goblin Rabblemasters for $3 apiece and a playset of Stoke the Flames for $4.50. I also bought digital versions at the same time for $0.46 each (for Stoke the Flames) and $2.66 for each Goblin Rabblemaster. I regret getting so few. Had I purchased them at current prices I wouldn't be getting much change at all from $90 (here in Aus) for paper versions and it would set me back over $40 for digital versions. By getting in early I have been able to save some serious cash on cards that are so good people are slotting them in to all kinds of decks that are using Mountains. Stoke the Flames looks to be the premier red removal of the upcoming Standard format now that Mizzium Mortars is on its way out. Stoke the Flames also matches up neatly with problem cards like Courser of Kruphix and Brimaz, King of Oreskos.

While trawling on eBay recently I saw some Stoke the Flames that were $1.50 for a playset so I bought them out of all 4 playsets. This sort of opportunistic speculation is rare, but if you can do it you might be able to flip them for some quick cash. This sort of speculation though is high risk/high reward. For paper cards the risks are even higher as it takes time to purchase/receive them and then to find a buyer and to sell them as well as postage costs. Speculating like this on digital cards is lower risk (and often lower reward) as you can normally find some bots to offload the cards to for a tasty profit.

How do you know which cards to cash in on?

You don't need to wait to see what wins the Pro Tour or even to see what makes top 8 - you will probably be too late by then anyway. Find a deck early on that you like - colour, playstyle, deck builder or whatever it is that attracts you to a certain deck and watch their games and deck techs. You will quickly learn about the key cards and can then log on to MTGO or a good website like mtgotraders.com and pick up the cards that a large number of Magic pros have deemed to not only be good enough to build a deck around, but have enough confidence in the cards and deck to bet their Pro Tour performance and paycheque on.

There is a good chance that the decks that are successful at the Pro Tour become mainstays for the Standard season. The top 8 decks from Pro Tour Dublin/Theros were - Mono Blue Devotion, Mono Blue Devotion, Esper Control, Green/Red Devotion, Orzhov Midrange, Mono Blue Devotion, Mono Black Devotion and Mono Red Devotion. If these decks sound familiar it is because they have all been quite popular and successful over their time in RTR/Theros Standard. Although some of the decks 75 cards have changed a fair amount, both the 'core' cards and the 'money' cards have remained largely the same. The particular make up of each particular deck also shifts with the changing meta game shifts but the key cards are still the same. In fact, with the Mono Blue Devotion there are only about 3 cards that were in Jeremy Dezani's winning list that have fallen out of favour. The other 72 cards are still the same! This is testament to the strength of Mono Blue Devotion and to the teams who put in the hard work to come up with these decks. I would be quite surprised if Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir in Hawaii does not offer up some similar predictions for the upcoming Standard season.

4th clue - Multicolour set

We know that Khans of Tarkir is a multicolour set. So it stands to reason that cards that are impacted by multicolour sets should be of higher value now than they were in Theros block.

Soldier of the Pantheon  Mana Confluence  Springleaf Drum

These are examples of cards that improve in intrinsic value with more multicolour spells and decks being played. It is fair to assume that they will also grow in financial value if 3/4/5 colour decks become competitive in the new Standard environment.

So that wraps up the two part guide to investing in to Return to Ravnica and M14 Core Set Standard cards at Rotation. I hope you can save or make some money and add value to your collection.

 

- The Milk Man