Theros will be out soon, pushing Innistrad block and its horror tropes right out of Standard. For me, a guy who writes a weekly tournament report, it is a weird time to be playing Standard. This isn’t a new phenomenon—whenever a block is about to rotate we are left with a lame duck format. Players have a few weeks to ditch their non-eternal playables from Innistrad block, start brewing with the ever growing spoiler, and enjoy a few more weeks with their pet decks from current standard. I, like a lot of players, have mixed emotions about the whole thing. I won’t miss being blown out by a miracled Bonfire of the Damned but I will miss blowing other people out with a miracled Terminus. I will miss Restoration Angel blinking Snapcaster Mage but won’t miss Restoration Angel blinking Thragtusk. I will miss UW Midrange and Esper Control but won’t miss Jund, Junk, or the deck I’m playing this week, Bant Auras.

It is strange to think that Bant Auras won’t survive rotation when Theros is an “enchantments matter” set. Hell, I suppose it’s possible that the deck does get the tools it needs to continue to frustrate hapless opponents, but lets look at what is loses; Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Geist of Saint Traft, Invisible Stalker, Rancor, Spectral Flight, and all of the check lands that support the three color manabase. As of writing this, 110 cards are known from Theros, and while I’m no Patrick Chapin, I can say that I would not slot any of these cards into the current Bant Auras deck. My guess is that if you want to play a relatively uninteractive game by slapping pants on your creatures, the Bogle deck in Modern is probably the best place to do it.

Since we have a lame duck format, and I’m playing a lame deck, I want to add a couple of features to this weeks Ensnaring Cambridge to, you know, add some value to the column. Magic players love value. First, I talked to all of my opponents about their favorite spoiled cards from Theros, that way you can at least see that my opponent is really into Thassa, and not just the victim of Invisible Stalker with an Unflinching Courage. Second, I got into the financial speculation game by putting $60 of my hard earned money into some cards that could potentially be flipped for value somewhere down the line. The speculation stuff is after the end of the tournament report, but you have to read the rest of the article first, I’m evoking scout’s honor on this one.

As usual, I played Wednesday Night Standard at Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For reference, here is Raymond Tan’s Bant Auras deck I’m playing for the second and final time:

Bant Auras

Creatures (18)
Gladecover Scout
Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Invisible Stalker
Geist of Saint Traft
Fiendslayer Paladin

Spells (17)
Ethereal Armor
Spectral Flight
Unflinching Courage
Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Land (22)
Breeding Pool
Cavern of Souls
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Hinterland Harbor
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden
Sideboard (13)
Celestial Flare
Detention Sphere
Feeling of Dread
Mending Touch
Ray of Revelation
Spell Rupture

Round 1—Bernie with GW Stuff (2-0)


It turns out Bernie is just getting back into the game after an extended hiatus. He explained to me before we started playing that he was still tweaking this deck, and that his girlfriend, sitting down the table, had his better standard deck—Slivers. This whole explanation was voiced in a superb South Boston accent, something I actually don’t hear a lot of on this side of the river. Bernie’s deck was filled with “Witchstalkahs, Elixah of Immatality, and Scahvenging Ooze”. The card Bernie is most excited by in the Theros spoiler is Bow of Nylea, because the card oozes with flavor and can be played in a bunch of casual brews he is currently working on.

Games one and two were relatively unexciting (non-interaction is sort of Bant Auras M.O. after all) but there was one interaction which threatened to actually make this poker match a game of Magic. Bernie had four Celestial Flare in his maindeck, which are pretty good against me. Game one, I was attacking with too many creatures for it to make a difference but game two, I was forced to slow down the game, not attack indiscriminately, and wait until I had a creature I could throw away before attacking into two untapped plains.

Round 2—Andrew with GB Rock (1-2)


Andrew said his favorite card spoiled so far is Curse of the Swine,* which I believe instantly cements him as a solid dude. Maybe it’s because I did my master’s thesis on the Odyssey, where Circe casts this sorcery on Odysseus’ men, or because I was forced to read some capitalist propaganda called Animal Farm in high school, but the card feels very literary to me.

Anyway, Andrew was playing GB Rock, which seems like it was initially built by someone who had a personal vendetta against Bant Auras. The deck plays Mutilate, Liliana of the Veil, Abrupt Decay, and Ratchet Bomb and this is not even mentioning Golgari Charm and Devour Flesh in the sideboard. Since GB can basically ignore the line of text that says “hexproof,” Bant Auras is put in the basically unwinnable situation of playing against efficient removal.

Game one, my turn three Fiendslayer Paladin met Liliana’s -2 ability. Then my Geist of Saint Traft was exiled with Lifebane Zombie. Andrew landed a Desecration Demon and I played a naked Invisible Stalker. The game was over very shortly afterward.

-3 Simic Charm
+2 Negate
+1 Spell Rupture

Simic Charm just doesn’t do enough here. Though you can occasionally blank a Golgari Charm or Abrupt Decay by giving all your permanents–including enchantments–hexproof, it just doesn’t match up well against edict effects. Negate and Spell Rupture proactively stop Liliana and Mutilate so they come in here.

Game two, Andrew mulliganed to five and I luckily had the Negate for his turn four Liliana. I won on the back of Fiendslayer Paladin, who singlehandedly put me up to 36 life. Game three, Andrew didn’t cooperate with me and only mulliganed once, and not the two or three times I needed him to in order to have a shot at winning. The final board state looked like this with Andrew swinging for lethal:


Round 3—Steve with Jund (2-0)


Steve’s Theros crush is Thassa, God of the Sea, which makes sense because that card is awesome. Unfortunately, Steve had no devotion to blue and was playing Jund, which is another bad matchup for Bant Auras. Though Steve didn’t have any Liliana’s in the maindeck, nor did he have any Mutilate shenanigans, Bonfire of the Damned is always around, lurking near the top of library, waiting to burn out my enchantment wearing idiots.

Game one, I played an early Gladecover Scout, enchanted it with Spectral Flight, and then later put two sets of Ethereal Armor on it and won. For what it’s worth I also played out a Fiendslayer Paladin in order to play around a potential Liliana, but this was just Bonfired away. There was some element of a race with him attacking with a Scaveging Ooze and a Lifebane Zombie but they turned out to be no match for my 9/9 flying, first-strike, hexproof, elf scout.

-2 Simic Charm
-2 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
+2 Negate
+1 Spell Rupture
+1 Mending Touch

Avacyn’s Pilgrim basically dies to everything in the Jund deck, so I like to take out a few of the mana dorks in order to have another answer to Bonfire out of the board. Mending Touch is of course much better against decks with Supreme Verdict but I think having one is fine here as it effectively counters a Bonfire or allows a suited up creature to attack into Thragtusk or Huntmaster and his wolf without fear.

Game three, Steve gets stuck on two lands for the first few turns, though he does manage to fire off a Duress, taking Rancor, and two consecutive Golgari Charms both destroying Spectral Flights. Since, Steve was casting figurative Disenchants all over the place, I had to get there with a pair of pant-less Fiendslayer Paladins. Steve did manage to draw a couple of lands in a row to threaten my knights with a Bonfire for two, but I still had a Negate in hand to seal the game.

Round 4—Kevin with Gruul Aggro (2-1)


Kevin’s favorite card in Theros so far is Xenagos, the Reveler. While perhaps Kevin likes Xenagos because he’s into Satyrs, I suspect its more likely because this dude loves playing Green/Red beatdown.

Game one lasted five turns:
T2—Land, cast Simic Charm to bounce Legion Loyalist with Madcap Skills
T3—Land, Geist of Saint Traft
T4—Land, put Rancor and Unflinching Courage on Geist of Saint Traft, swing for ten

-3 Simic Charm
-1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
+2 Feeling of Dread
+2 Fog

Even though Simic Charm saved me in game one, I like Feeling of Dread as a way to continually lock down attackers (and potential blockers) and Fog to stop any Ghor-Clan Rampager bloodrushing.

I have no recollection of game two, except that he Skull Cracked me both times I would have gained life from Unflinching Courage. Game three, Kevin got stuck on one land, and I was able to put multiple pairs of pants onto an Invisible Stalker** and win the game:


Now that I’ve amazed you with my skill laden wins with Bant Auras, let me tell you a little bit about what I bought to get into Magic speculation. Feel free to tell me how bad I am at in the comments.

Here is what I knew about Magic speculation before spending a few hours roaming TCGplayer and putting stuff in my cart.

  1. You should invest in inexpensive cards because they are lower risk than cards that cost more. If I buy 20 cards at $.15 each and they don’t move, well, I only lost a few dollars and can always ship them back to a bulk buyer for a little less than what I paid. If I buy 20 cards at $5  and don’t move them, well my electricity bill is not getting paid. Also, if a card goes from bulk to playable, it should multiply in price several times, from $.15 to $1 is almost seven times the initial investment. This is not commonplace in more expensive cards.
  2. You should invest in EDH playables. Since the Standard market crashes every couple of years, with the exception of a handful of eternal playables, and the Legacy/Vintage environment is hostile to 95% of the cards that Wizards prints, Commander seems to be the safest market for speculating. If I had realized that bulk rares like Asceticism, Mycosynth Lattice, or Deserted Temple would be worth actual money, well, I would be a much richer man.
  3. Your speculation stock should be diversified. Instead of going in on 500 Hex Parasites, it’s certainly safer to have a speculation box full of several different targets. Think about this like roulette, you make more money if you have all your chips on 22 black, but if the ball doesn’t land on 22, you’re going to wish you have spread out your chips a little more.
  4. If the price of something spikes, get rid of it while it’s hot. Cards often fluctuate very quickly in value before falling once again. Think about Land Tax‘s price after it was taken off the Legacy ban list, it went from $5 to $35, but after seeing essentially zero legacy play it settled around $15. Don’t get greedy.
  5. Don’t speculate on cards from the newest set until prices go down. While I wish I would have bought Tarmogoyfs for their initial $4 presale price tag, for every Tarmogoyf there are 50 cards that presell for way higher than they ought to be. I actually traded for Time Reversals at $25 when they came out and I still hate myself for it.
  6. Be patient, these things take time.

So with my limited knowledge of speculating and my limited available funds here is what I bought:

8x Merciless Eviction ($.45 ea)


This is a unique, powerful, and versatile, “wrath” effect in EDH that has a non-zero chance of seeing some standard play.

8x Nightveil Specter ($.65 ea)


This guy saw play in the RTR block control decks, its mana cost works well with the devotion mechanic, and seems like it has some chance of being played in the post rotation standard.

8x Razorverge Thicket ($1.66 ea)


Though the Scars lands are almost exclusively played in Modern, they are seeing a reasonable amount of play. Razorverge is played in Melira Pod, GW Hate Bears, and Boggled Enchantments and seems like a good candidate to shoot up to $4 when Modern season starts.

8x Diabolic Revelation ($.24 ea)

Diabolic Revelation

This is exclusively an EDH and casual card but it has a unique and splashy effect which seems to encapsulate what EDH players want to do—get more cards to do more cool things.

8x of each Gatecrash primordial ($.15-.20ea)

Luminate Primordial

I didn’t actually find any Sylvan Primordials for this cheap, though I’ve been picking those up for a dollar when I see them. All of the Primordials seem to be tailor made for EDH and will see play much to the bane of everyone around the kitchen table. Gatecrash was a recent set and one that was drafted quite a bit, so I think these will take some time to emerge from the bulk bin, but emerge they shall.

8x Breaking // Entering ($.49 ea)


Why is Glimpse the Unthinkable a $20 card? Because casual players fucking love to mill their opponents. Breaking//Entering is pretty close to Glimpse with the added bonus of also reanimating a creature which, coincidentally, casual players also like doing.

8x Mimic Vat ($1.49 ea)

Mimic Vat
Another EDH card. How is this not already $5?

8x Leonin Arbiter ($.34 ea)

Leonin Arbiter

This card is seeing play in some of the GW Hate Bear decks in Modern. If one of these decks has a real finish come Modern season it seems like it could go up a dollar or two.

8x Obzedat’s Aid ($.23 ea)


I don’t actually know why I bought these. It’s a cool and unique effect so…maybe casual players will want it?

20x Phyrexian Ingester ($.15 ea)

Phyrexian Ingester

A guy’s got to dream right? I realize this isn’t Duplicant but, if it’s even a fifth of what Duplicant is and can command one-fifth of the price, I’d still make a few dollars.

That’s it for my tournament report-speculation target hybrid. Next week I will be playing Red Deck Wins, a deck that still looks to be very much a thing post-rotation, as well as the only deck I have played during Ensnaring Cambridge that does not have islands in it.

*If you haven’t read LSV’s spoiler spotlight on Curse of the Swine, you’re clearly doing it wrong.
**Doesn’t it seem that flavor-wise, Invisible Stalker should lose his invisibility, and thus become blockable, when enchanted by things like Ethereal Armor? Creatures can block Haunted Plate Mail which seems like just about the same thing right?

At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a Seventh Edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 10 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mind Sculptor at PAX, and competes with LSV for the record of most lifetime Islands played. When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and keeps a blog about pro wrestling.

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