Almost half of Theros has been revealed which means that it’s time to take a look at some of the spoilers over MTGSalvation and consider what they mean for the economic value and cost of playing and collecting Magic cards. Just last week we took a brief look at Thoughtseize, but this week we’re going to look at all of the current spoilers and identify a few choice cards that will be sound investments, and some you should avoid like the plague. As always, take this advice with a grain of salt, as we only have seen half the set so far, and anything can happen between now and the pre-release events on the 21st.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion – SELL:  The newest Elspeth hasa lot of things going for her that make a Planeswalker a solid investment. By now you should be familiar with these. She has a +1 ability that lets her protect herself. She has a -3 ability that serves as a very formidable mass-removal effect. Her ultimate ability, at -7, can end the game on the spot. Her loyalty begins at 4, making her difficult to kill in one turn. Despite all of this upside there is still one massive downside that is going to relegate the latest white ‘walker to the realms of Commander and multiplayer formats: her large mana cost. Six mana is a lot to pay for any spell, especially one that doesn’t immediately swing the game in your favor. When looking for value in a six-drop, the big money is in cards like Primeval Titan and Sovereigns of Lost Alara.

Heliod, God of the Sun – SELL: Heliod is likely the weakest god in the cycle of Theros deities. While a 5/6 indestructible creature for 2WW is  a solid investment, the two abilities it comes with aren’t worth the devotion drawback. Heliod works best in conjunction with cards like the new Elspeth, but really where does that leave you? White Weenie decks are made viable by Glorious Anthem effects, not the vigilance mechanic and certainly not from pumping out 2/1 dorks for four mana. This god will find a home in dedicated token strategies, but don’t expect those to be viable, especially with Intangible Virtue rotating out of standard.

Phalanx Leader  – BUY: Speaking of White Weenie decks, this creature has some potential. The only thing holding him back right now is his 1/1 power/toughness. If this had been a 2/2 I would be long on anything remotely close to playable in White Weenie. As it stands, at 1/1 he isn’t as impressive. Still, this is the kind of effect (see above) that becomes the engine of a successful beatdown deck utilizing efficient cheaply costed creatures. Syndic of Tithes strikes me as something that could go nicely with Phalanx Leader. You may be hesitant to put too much stock into an uncommon with only half the set spoiled, but just take a look at Burning-Tree Emissary.

Master of Waves – SELL: This is interesting use of Devotion, which is most commonly seen as a drawback mechanic, akin to Fading, which is used primarily to make cards cost less mana, in exchange for some drawback. Master of Waves however, uses Devotion as a way to get much more value out of a properly costed card. Let’s not kid ourselves here. At a converted mana cost of three, Master of Waves is a $10 card, possibly higher. With a converted mana cost of four, he’s going to find himself in a pile of fairly worthless mythic rares. Why is this? Because most merfolk these days enter the battlefield by way of Aether Vial. There is very little value and too much time invested in running the Vial up to four counters, so Master of Waves is unlikely to find his way into the only competitive strategy that could make the Devotion mechanic worthwhile.

Thassa, God of the Sea – BUY: The best comparison I can make to Thassa is Phyrexian Arena. Black’s willingness to pay life allows it to draw two cards per turn. Blue, unwilling to make the sacrifice that Black thrives on, gets a variation on this mechanic. However, there are probably ways to better abuse an effect like Thassa over purely drawing cards. Delver of Secrets comes to mind as an obvious combo. Another obvious combo with Thassa, just like with Phyrexian Arena, is playing any sort of control deck. Scry is card quality over card quantity, but it’s still card advantage, and at a CMC of three, it is very good card advantage indeed. Oh, and if you get enough blue mana symbols out you get an un-blockable, indestructible 5/5 creature. How’s that for control-deck finisher? Go long on Thassa. Go very, very long. Thassa is available via pre-sale for $25 on SCG right now. If she becomes a standard staple in blue control decks how high do you think she’ll go?

Erebos, God of the Dead – HOLD: Despite the sweet artwork, it’s hard to gauge Erebos’s value. Back in the day, I was always a huge fan of Greed. This is an incredibly powerful effect, trading life for cards, and it’s one that belongs almost exclusively to Back in the color pie. There will always be an option to play a straight blue/black control deck in any environment, but cards like Erebos and Thassa are what make those decks work. Unfortunately, it’s possible that Thassa will actually limit how much play Erebos sees. However, those daring players who are willing to pay the price for Erebos’s ability will end up with a very different sort of control deck than those who opt for the steady and patient advantage provided by Thassa. Quantity over quality. Which one will you go with? I wouldn’t get rid of Erebos, but I’m not sure he’s going to be a good long-term investment. Unlike Thassa, who has Modern potential, Erebos is out-classed by Dark Confidant and Phyrexian Arena.

Thoughtseize – HOLD: As I said last week, Thoughtseize should stabilize around $30. However, that was based on Mutavault which has never been as dominant as Thoughtseize. At any rate, the liquidity of Thoughtseize should be very high, so don’t expect the price to fluctuate too wildly.

Magma Jet – SELL: If we learned anything from Modern Masters, it is that reprints do not treat commons and uncommons very kindly. If the limited printing of Path to Exile and Kitchen Finks earlier this year caused a small drop in value compared to the originals, what do you think will happen to Magma Jet with a full printing of the latest large block? Originals from Fifth Dawn  should hold up alright, currently around $3.00 at TCGPlayer, but expect the Theros ones to drop quickly from the $2.00 price tag SCG currently has on them.

Purphoros, God of the Forge – BUY: I guess what Young Pyromancer really needed was a mythic rare to combo with, right? This one should be pretty self-explanatory, but expect Purphoros to be the Bonfire of the Damned of Theros. Burn decks are already very successful in Standard, and with this two card engine fueling the flames for the next 12 months, I see a very bright future for Red Deck Wins. As bright as a burning forge stoked by a juvenile spark-wielder. You get the idea.

Polukranos, World Eater – HOLD: Remember when being a 5/5 creature for less than five mana meant you needed to have a drawback? Nowadays they come with only upside. Except it’s a green creature, which is why I am putting this at hold instead of buy. Everyone loves R/G beats, but Polukranos is no Thragtusk. The super-fight ability when it becomes monstrous will sometimes be a big swing, but no bigger than the existence of a creature that big would be anyways. Polukranos will see a ton of play at the Commander tables, but he will not be a replacement for Thragtusk in competitive decks. Not without some help later in the block allowing him to be a piece, but not the cornerstone, of a beatdown deck.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver – HOLD: There is a lot of hype around this planeswalker and that’s not to be unexpected. Traditionally, the blue/black combination has been Magic’s most dominant. Blue and black planeswalkers have been very successful and Ashiok should find his calling at some point. Alongside the blue and block gods, there could very well be an incredibly strong control deck in there, somewhere. If Ashiok is the win condition to complement Thassa and Erebos, then expect them to all climb in price. Otherwise, if any of the three is likely to be left in the dust it will be Ashiok, whose effect does not pay immediate dividends. Also, he is a planeswalker who struggles to protect himself, which is the norm for his mana cost, but still a liability.

Xenagos, the Reveler – BUY: I never want to be too hyperbolic, but I think it’s appropriate to refer to Xenagos as the R/G Jace. I don’t think his price point will approach anything near Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but I do think that Xenagos will be to R/G decks, what Jace is to blue decks. Xenagos reminds me a lot of Garruk Wildspeaker in terms of effect. He can protect himself with a 2/2 creature, or he can provide a mana-ramp effect. He also has an ultimate ability that can immediately end the game. Xenagos makes me thankful that cards like Glimpse of Nature are banned in Modern. Expect to see a lot of play for Xenagos in both standard and modern, as people build incredibly powerful decks designed to ramp into large creatures. SCG already has him at $40. That’s a bit steep right now, but don’t be surprised to see him climb rapidly.

The Quick Hits

  • I’m beginning to get the impression that, inevitably, all Magic writers eventually address the topic of how to improve as a Magic player. This week’s perspective comes from Owen Turtenwald. [Owen’s a Win]
  • If you have a couple of minutes you should really check out the trailer for Theros that premiered at PAX Prime. While not amazing, these things are getting way better. [Magic Arcana]
  • Michael Martin shared a touching story about teaching his step-son how to play Magic. Most of those in my generation learned from our friends or taught ourselves how to play, so this is a brave new world. [StarCity Games]
  • This is mostly non-Magic, but also mostly all-awesome: a video recap of cosplay at this year’s Gencon. There is plenty of Magic to spot though. [Gathering Magic]
  • Check out these sweet promo cards for Theros. If I were still a collector I’d be looking for a set of full-art Phalanx Leaders and the buy-a-box Sylvan Caryatid. [Magic Arcana]
  • Are you or a friend you know going to Pro Tour Theros? If so, then Lauren Lee wants to know their team affiliation. This is an awesome thing. [Mulldrifting]
  • Heather Lafferty took us inside the mind of the brains behind Growing up Gamers, aka Angela Newnham. [Gamer Boy, Gamer Girl]
  • If you missed our own Monique Garraud’s investigation into player tells, you really want to give it a read before your next major tournament. [Grinding it Out]
  • Is it just me, or does ancient Greece, aka Theros, look a whole lot like Lorwyn? Just me? Take another look… [Magic Arcana]
  • This week’s installment of the Planeswalker’s Guide to Theros highlights the non-deity entities of the realm. [Daily MTG]
  • MJ Scott put together a Vraska costume in a few hours and left the rest of you a handy how-to guide. [Gathering Magic]
  • If you’re really into tournament reports, then take a look at Jon Corpora’s list of the top-ten tournament reports. [The Stacks]
  • Finally, Heather Lafferty takes an in-depth look at some Magic-themed cosplayers. [The Magic of Cosplay]

Wallpaper of the Week

I have a fishy feeling we’re going to get wallpapers for more than one of Theros’s deities, but Erebos is a good place to start. It is a very clean wallpaper, but not very exciting. The cloak however, is absolutely gorgeous at high resolution. I would put a print of Erebos on my actual wall, but maybe not my desktop.

Grade: B+

The Week Ahead

 With only two weeks to go until Theros pre-releases, you should enjoy this time with your family, friends, and loved ones. Because we all know what you’ll be doing for the next month after Theros hits your local gaming store.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

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