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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Sep 26 2008 7:10am
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The Time Spiral Block Buy Now List

Historically, the best time to buy cards cheaply is just before they rotate out of Standard.  The cards arre readily available and easy to find, and everyone is selling out to get TIX for the next prerelease.   A couple weeks after the next set goes on sale, the supply of old cards has dropped, and prices rise.  If you want to buy cards for formats like Extended, Classic or Prismatic, this is the time.  

Of course, the trick is to buy cards that will actually be valuable and playable - investing is draft filler is never worthwhile.  On the other hand, those of us who had playsets of cards like Second Sunrise or Pyromancer's Swath when the combo decks using them made their debute at Worlds saved a lot of money over those people who had to pick them up later.    

I'll list a number of cards, ranging from the clearly playable in Extended (like Tarmogoyf, which is an obvious include) to likely to see play if not superceded (e.g. Grove of the Burnwillows - a decent GR dual, but one that would be replaced if Wizards prints a better one in future sets) to long shots (like Coalition Victory.  Hey, CV made Top 4 at an Extended Grand Prix years ago.)  I'll also point out all the cards that do something fundamentally different, in a way that might be abusable.  Wizards prints a lot of these cards, and most a garbage.  A few have potential, and can explode if the right other cards appear.  The classic case of this sort of thing was the Trix deck, which combined two crap rares (Donate and Illusions of Grandeur) to make a deck that dominated Extended for three seasons, despite two rounds of bannings.

Time Spiral block, with the Time Shifted cards and Coldsnap to boot, represents over a thousand cards to pore through.  Let's get started, and let's start with the easy stuff.


I have always been very bullish on lands.  My rule - for paper and online - is to trade for lands, and never trade them away.   In paper, that means I keep my ninth copy of a dual land number - online I keep playsets of everything I can.  Lands are eminently playable.  Of course, there are lands and then there are lands.  Technically, Arena and Dark Depths are lands, but not anything I will ever play with in any serious deck. 

In the deep, dark past, pretty much any two or three colored land that did not come into play tapped was highly playable.  This ranged from the obvious gold (like the Ravnica duals - Stomping Ground - and the Invasion painlands - Shivan Reef) to the just decent  (e.g. Salt Marsh and Sungrass Prairie.)   Recently, however, Wizards has been printing good multicolored lands everywhere - and since Shards of Alara is supposed to be the new Ravnica (meaning mutlicolor everywhere), Shards should have several good lands.  That makes the older lands less exciting.   Generally, a two color deck needs about 12-16 two colored lands to function.  With the Onslaught fetchlands, the painlands and the Ravnica duals, plus Reflecting Pool, that number is pretty close to met already.   That leaves less value for lands like River of Tears and Gemstone Mine.   Let's see what will see play. 

Horizon Canopy is a very good bet to see play in the new sets.  Green and white looks like a strong color combination in the new Extended, and the ability to cycle the land if you don't need it is exactly what aggressive decks need in that format.  It is already seeing play in Extended, which is pretty much proof that it will stay around.  I don't know that I would need four, but I can see getting two or three copies if you plan on playing any beatdown Extended decks.  

Moving on down, I don't see the rest of the future shifted duals seeing all that much play.  Grove of the Burnwillows is in a good color combination, and has potential, but that completely depends on what other solid RG duals get printed.  For example, River of Tears is already sitting on the sidelines in Faeries and UB control decks, simply because Secluded Glen, etc. etc. are all better.  Since Shards is almost guaranteed to have another UB land, I don't see my Rivers seeing much play at all.  At best, they may appear as singletons.  Graven Cairns is slightly better, but not a lot.  RB is not a heavily played color combination - and don't talk to me about the Demigod decks - those are mono-red. 

Let's move on to the other lands - the ones that are not dual lands. 

Flagstones of Trokair

Flagstones of Trokair

 is a bit of a stretch, but I could see this doing well in fifteen months.  That's when Onslaught, and the fetchlands, will rotate out of Standard.  At that point, we may need new options for searching out Ravnica Duals.  Flagstones does that quite nicely, if you can get Flagstones into the graveyard. 



I am not saying that Flagstones will be good, only that it could be.  If Wizards prints new fetchlands, or other methods of fighting land destruction, it won't be.  On the other hand, if I am playing something like Smallpox or Boom // Bust that makes me sacrifice a land, this is one I am going to want to sacrifice.  That makes it worth a gamble, so I will keep my playset.  If I didn't have one, I would probably pay the roughly fifty cents apiece is currently charging.  They are playable in casual decks now, and if they become a tournament staple, then you will recoup that price many times over.  

Academy Ruins has a solid place in Extended already, and may find play in future Classic metagames.  It combos nicely with Mindslaver, as well as other potent cards, like Triskelavus.  SInce Shards has multicolored artifact creatures, I see this possibly being better in the future.  It should also be great in multiplayer and casual, like the paper card Volrath's Stronghold.  I see Academy Ruins being played pretty much as long as it is legal, but I don't think anyone will ever want more than one or two.  I own a playset, and that's far more than I can envision needing.   

Tolaria West  is a decent tutor for slower, controlling blue decks.  It works well to fetch singleton lands - like Academy Ruins in the Mindslaver decks.  It can also fetch Pacts, Urza's Factory and so forth.  I think keeping three is a must, and it is probably worth having four.  I don't see playing more than three at the moment, but if the format changes enough to require four, the price is going to shoot up.  I would buy them soon.  Odds are, once MTGO recovers from the V3.0 changeover blues, that the price will rise significantly, and you can always sell the fourth for a profit.

If you play red aggro decks, I would keep at least three Keldon Megaliths.  The Megaliths come into play tapped, so you may not want four, but three seems like a solid option, even for Extended decks.  LIkewise, a singletonPendelhaven is standard issue for aggro decks running 1/1s, and I don't expect that to change.  I would also hang onto one or two copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, but that seems less important to me at the moment.

I have no idea whether the snow-covered lands will be of any value in the new Extended.   Skred Red still seems fine, but Extended is so vast and the options so potent that I'm not sure you would want to limit your mana pool that significantly.  I won't sell off my snow-covered lands, but I don't see a whole lot of point in collecting Scrying Sheets and Mouth of Ronom if you don't already own them.  Their time has passed - as has the time to sell them at anything but a big loss. 

Finally, I have invested in a playset of Gemstone Caverns, which are dirt cheap at the moment.  The odds are that these will probably never see play, but if they do, they will be part of a potent combo deck that will be highly in demand.  It is a case of pay a few cents now, or several TIX later.  I tend to try a lot of combo deck ideas, so I already have my playset. 


 I'll starrt with a few that won't see play. Serious play.  Probably.  I'm talking about the artifacts that reduce casting costs - but cost a bit too much and do not quite enough.   Cloud Key is the one that springs to mind.  It has some potential as a combo enabler, but Wizards played it a bit too safe here.  The same is true of Locket of Yesterdays.  These could have been great, but they are not.  I can't remember ever seeing a cost reducer played in a serious Extended deck since Kai played mono-blue Trix with Sapphire Medalions - and that was a long time ago.

Mirari is another example of a combo enabler without the necessary support.  It had its day.

Lotus Bloom

Lotus Bloom, on the other hand, will remain playable so long as storm exists.  It is a key part of all of the recent storm decks, from Mind's Desire to Dragonstorm to Pyromancer's Swath decks. I can see these being played pretty much indefinately, even in Classic.  If you plan on playing a lot of older formats, this is a good time to get a playset.

The rest of the mana accelerants fro these sets are more iffy.  Coalition Relic is too expensive.  Prismatic Lens is a fine two mana artifact accelerant, but pretty much every set has another version.  Coldsnap offered Coldsteel Heart.  Ravinca block offered the Signets, and so on.  In Extended, you have a huge range of options, including Chrome Mox, so while the Lens and Heart may be played, they will never be critical nor expensive.   

Looking through the rest of the rare artifacts for the block, a number stand out for casual play.  Akroma's Memorial is fine in multiplayer.  Candles of Leng is insane in EDH and other singleton formats.    Hivestone is great for Slivers fanatics.  Stuffy Doll plus Pariah is a fun casual combo, but probably too fragile for serious play.

A few cards have some potential for future play, either in sideboards or very specific decks.  For example, I will keep my three Serrated Arrows, because a colorless source of creature removal, even if not perfect, may be valuable at some future time. On the other hand, creatures are getting bigger all the time, and Serrated Arrows may not do enough, fast enough, to ever be played again.  In the same vein, Tormod's Crypt still has strong sidebaord potential, even though Wizards may be supplying better graveyard hosers in the next set (if the spoilers are to be believed.) 

A few cards will see play in certain styles of decks, whether those decks are any good or not.  The Rack is a great example, since people will insist on playing discard, whether or not it is any good.  Of course, if it is good, then the value of the card will soar.   

Finally, keep one copy of Triskelavus, for use with Academy Ruins in control decks, and with Tooth and Nail.  That archetype may be poised for a comeback after the rotation.


In general, creature fair quite poorly after a rotation.  Creatures that were playable in a smaller card pool, like block, often get sidelined in Standard, and rarely make it into play in Extended or Classic.  Time Spiral block and coldsnap contain many, many white creatures, but only a handful are worth keeping.

Martyr of Sands is one.  The white Martyr has already proven its worth woth a Top 8 appearance at Worlds.  White Martyr control decks can work, but some of the key elements (like Decree of Justice) are rotating out.  The questions on the deck are twofold.  First, Wizards will have to supply replacement pieces - if they don't appear, the deck won;t be worht playing.  Second, will players be able to play the deck quickly enough?  Martyr decks are slow, and slow decks tend to lose to the clock way too much.

Aven Riftwatcher might continue to see play as a foil to fast red decks.  Maybe.  White control decks used to play Descendant of Kiyomaro to fill that role, but I haven't seen any of those in a while.  The set also includes some other potent foils that are not seeing much play.  Aven Mindcensor is a silver bullet that has pretty much never been fired.  Honorable Passage was great once, but unplayed now.  Porphyry Nodes is unspellable, unpronouncable, and - apparently - unplayable, although it may see sideboard use in control decks.  It is worth testing. 

Akroma, Angel of Wrath will be popular in casula play and in reanimator decks.  Jotun Grunt should see more play, especially in Classic as a hoser for Threshhold decks.  Ronom Unicorn may find a home in some sideboards in beatdown ecks.   Stonecloaker and Sunlance will see some future play, but most of the rest of the white cards are closer to Squire that to Akroma.


I'm not certain that the blue suspend card drawers will see play, but they have a high potential.  I would keep a playset of (Ancestral Visions) around.  AV has proven itself to be very goood in aggro-control decks, like Faeries and Merfolk, and Wizards seems to be pushing Magic in that direction.   I see the classic Counterslivers style of deck doing well in future years, and Ancestral Vision fits that deck well.  If you don't have a playset, this may be a good time to get one.

I am not as sure about Aeon Chronicler.  This is a far more control-oriented card drawer, and I think Extended may be far too fast for the Chronic to make a comeback.  Keep a copy or two for EDH and casual play, but I don't see this in Extended.  (On a side note, I could see some weird Classic decks built around mana acceleration, suspend cards and - if Wizards ever puts it in MED - Balance.  Maybe.)

It will be interesting to see whether the Merfolk decks can port into Extended and Classic.  Maybe, but I doubt it.  I will keep my Lord of Atlantis, but only because they work in casual - and in some Legacy and Vintage events.  If Wizards gives them some love in MED2 and MED3, they may get played again.  Few of the other creatures that saw play in block and Standard will continue to see play.  Pickles (with Vesuvan Shapeshifter and Brine Elemental) is too slow for Standard now, and seems way too slow for Extended.  Draining Whelk may appear in some blue Tron decks, but I would never expect to need more than two copies, if that. 

Pact of Negation will continue to see play in control and combo decks.  I think two will be heavily played, while some decks might pack three.  I could see some combo decks packing four, but mainly in classic, where you already have Force of Will.  I would advice getting three - four only if you really love combo and don't have a playset of Force of Will.

The rest of the blue cards are probably iffy.  Cancel is not good enough.  Rune Snag is fine in Standard, but when you can also play Mana Leak, it may not get played. (Back in the day, Mana Leak and Miscalculation were both available in Standard.  At best, Miscalc was Mana Leak #5.) It's worth testing, but so far my testing says "go with Leak."

Speaking of testing - two cards will need a lot of testing to determine if the rotation has changed their value.  First, Counterbalance was a staple when paired with Sensei's Divining Top, but SDT is now banned in Extended.  That may be enough to kill the card.  On the flip side, the rotation will remove Stifle, meaning that Trickbind may be promoted to sideboard in years to come.  Maybe, but this might be a good time to pick up a playset.


Black has no creatures I want to keep around for future play.  I might make an exception for Shadow Guildmage, which may see play in RB decks as a replacement for Grim Lavamancer but that is not a given.   The only other black creature I gave serious thought to was Haakon, Stormgald Scourge, but if he can't find a spot in Standard decks that could use him to cast an endless string of Nameless Inversions, I can't see hime maiking it in Extended or Classic. 


Three cards will definately make the grade in future Extended decks.  Extirpate is still excellent graveyard removal, and split second may give it an edge over Faerie MacabreDamnation is still Wrath of God in a darker hue, and Wrath gets played in Extended and Leagacy.  Slaughter Pact also fine - "free", instant speed removal will never go out of style.

Another split second spell worth considering - for future sideboard use at least - is Sudden Spoiling.  Sudden Spoiling proved its value at US Nationals this year, when Sam Black rode it to the finals. 

Slaughter Pact

Black has a couple of other cards to consider acquiring (or hanging on to.)  Bridge from Below is, of course, great in Dredge decks, as we all know.  Those decks have lost many of their madness outlets, leaving them crippled, but if they find replacements, then the card will  once again be feared.  Another favorite archetype is discard.  Again, this archetype is not really potent at the moment, but it can be good if it gets a few more peices.  If you like the archetype, then you want to pick up a playset of Stupors and Smallpoxes - and maybe a (Nihlith) or three - now.    

Finally, consider heading over to and buying a set of Bitter Ordeals.  This is a "future-shifted" card with a unique (so far) variant on the storm mechanic.  It is not impossible to build an infinite combo around this card and deck all your opponents even in multiplayer games.   In the paper world, I use Ashnod's Altar (sacrifice a creature, add two colorless mana to your pool), a pair of Myr Retrievers and this (plus Disciple of the Vault) in one multiplayer deck. 


Red is the exception when I say that creatures played in Standard and block never make the transition to Extended and Classic.  Red has a number of creatures worth keeping, if you have them, and buying now if you don't.

Greater Gargadon

But Norin the Wary is not one of them.  His only function is to make people read this text.

The playable creatures begin with Greater Gargadon, which is already appearing in some Extended decks).  Magus of the Moon will certainly see play in Extended, just as it does in Standard.  It seems to have totally supplanted Detritivore, but the suspend dude is still a possibility while the Onslaught fetchlands are still in the format.   Bogardan Hellkite will continue to see play in Dragonstorm and reanimator decks (although everyone's favorite black dragon might be better in Dragonstrom.) 

Norin the Wary

Aside from creatures, I want to keep a playset of four main red cards (in addition to the obvious common burn spells, like Rift Bolt).  I want to keep Dragonstorm around, because it may become playable in the future.  I'll also keep a set of Pyromancer's Swath, because the other red storm deck may be feasible, especially in Classic.  Maybe. In either case, if I am playing red storm decks, I'll be playing Rite of Flame, and testing Simian Spirit Guide.  

I'll keep some Ancient Grudges in my collection, because I already play them in my favorite Classic deck.  I'm on the fence about Browbeat - but what else is new.  I have seen them played, and seen them castigated.  Maybe.

My longshot red card of the set is Fortune Thief.  It is a great sideboard card against decks that don't have a way to remove it.  Every once in a while, these decks appear, and you can catch them for a week or so with the Thief - then they bring in Serrated Arrows or something similar and you need a new answer.  For those few days when they win games, however, I will keep at least three Fortune Theives around.


I'll start the green list with a card that does something other cards do not - auto-shuffle your graveyard into your library when being milled.  I'm talking, of course, about Gaea's Blessing.  Some day, a year or so down the line, we will have the Exodus set online, and Oath of Druids will be playable.  Oath decks absolutely love Gaea's Blessing.  Gaea's Blessing is playable in a number of multicolored control decks (e.g. Baron Harkonnen - and other Adrian Sullivan creations), but I recommend buying a few now, so you will have them once Exodus arrives.  The Ped Bun designed, Bob Maher piloted Oath of Druids deck that won PT Chicago is one of the most fun decks I have ever played - falling just slightly behind my GB Survival of the Fittest deck from that same era.

Green's list of creatures palyable in wider formats starts with the obvious:  Tarmogoyf.  No need to discuss that beast.  After the Goyf, however, the pickings are slimmer.  Wall of Roots is a solid option for control decks - it is mana acceleration that stops weenie beats.  Personally, I like Spike Feeder, mainly in the same role as Aven Riftwatcher, but that's mainly nostalgia - I don't realistically see playing it in Classic.  I would recommend a set of Scryb Rangers, because the untap / reuse lands may be critical in some future archteype, but that is only slightly more likely than playing Spike Feeders.  Finally, I would keep one copy of Deadwood Treefolk around, since it fits nicely into some mid-range control decks, but a singleton copy should be enough.

Green now is the home of Disenchant, and two Disenchant clones are worth keeping.  Seal of Primordium is good, and Krosan Grip is great.  Beyond that, Summoner's Pact can be a critical part of some combos, and Harmonize is card drawing - an incredibly rare find in green.  You want playsets of all of these cards.


I am a huge fan of Glittering Wish, and think it will get better now that Cunning Wish, Living Wish and Burning Wish have all rotated out of Extended.  I have three, and the fourth is high on my wishlist.   After that, though, the gold cards look a lot less exciting. I will keep my playsets of Lightning Angel, but mainly because I want to recreate the Star Spangled Slaughter deck from 1999, not because I think it is really great.  Likewise, Zur the Enchanter and Mishra, Artificer Prodigy decks are  a lot of fun, but I don't think the archetypes can survive into Extended.  

At best, I could see a couple gold cards being worth testing, perhaps, but I doubt they would be worth playing.  Stormbind has some potential - but it would be so much better if the discard were not random.  Teferi's Moat may se sideboard play in Extended, in UW control decks.  Shadowmage Infiltrator and Void may also fill some slots, but that depends on whether black makes a comeback.   

 Wrapping Up

At this point, during proofreading, I realized that I had forgotten the paragraph on the blue Legends:  Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Venser, Shaper Savant.  Both are quite playable, and I was intending to add them to the blue list.  I just forgot, which leads me on to my next point:  I did not hit every card that might be worth playing.  I skipped some of the commons, and may have forgotten others.  In other cases, however, I have decided that some favorites will never again be playable.  If you don't find a card on the list and you think it should be there, let's talk about it in the forums.  


Not Rotating by walkerdog at Sat, 09/27/2008 - 17:32
walkerdog's picture

Decree of Justice is NOT NOT NOT rotating out of Ext.  It is from OLS.  Under the new rotation policy, OLS stays in.