Surprise Deployment

Howdy howdy folks. If you were here last week — and why wouldn’t you have been? — you know our fearless Bargainmeister took this week off. But the awesome new Expeditiously-laden Battle for Zendikar drops on Friday along with our bank account balances. People will pore over binders for new Standard staples. Everyone will want [casthaven]Gideon, Ally of Zendikar[/casthaven]. You want some tips for valuing trade fodder before we know what the new Standard will bring? I am here to help — or help you think about why I’m an idiot — during this crucial time for rotating binder value.

Did you make it to the prerelease? I mostly hang out at the Limited tables, and I write about such things right here at the hipstamatic blog of blogs on Thursdays. Here’s what I said I was looking forward to going into the prerelease. I had a sweet sealed pool and won my 50-person prerelease, smacking around a few names you might know. So check that out on Thursday!

Now for something completely different.


Prodigal Sorcerer

You might have heard people bagging on the low power level of Battle for Zendikar in Standard. You might be one of these bagpersons. I might be carrying the BFZ-monogrammed [casthaven]Birkin of Badness[/casthaven]. I try to keep an open mind about new sets, so I’m not sure. But I have the feeling Standard will be a much weaker format next week than it is right now.

So what does that mean? There will be cards from Khans block that couldn’t find a competitive deck in the old Standard, and they might be good enough now. Some will surge in value, some won’t. For every [casthaven]Nightveil Specter[/casthaven] or [casthaven]Desecration Demon[/casthaven], there are countless [casthaven]Dictate of Heliod[/casthaven] or [casthaven]Prime Speaker Zegana[/casthaven]. I’m not here to tell you which ones will skyrocket in value and which will never get there. Stefano won’t tell you to speculate, and neither will I.

But I will tell you which bulk Khans rares you should try to acquire on the cheap when you trade away the [casthaven]Ob Nixilis, Unshackled[/casthaven] you picked up at the prerelease. And which cards you might want to pull out of your bulk trade binder, lest you be on the wrong end of an information asymmetry.



Let’s go shoot in the dark! It’s lots of fun as long as you don’t use real bullets. All of the information below I offer as one person’s perspective on why some Khans-block cards might find their ways into new Standard decks.

You read Bargaining Table? Then you must spend a lot of time analyzing card power and value. You know to consider as much information as possible. You know to have reasons for your choices. You know that when everybody looks right, you go left.

Let’s start easy. [casthaven]Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker[/casthaven]. He saw play early in Khans Standard, but some chump named [casthaven]Stormbreath Dragon[/casthaven] stole his thunder. [casthaven]Hero’s Downfall[/casthaven] also gave our five-mana red planeswalker friend a bad case of the card-advantage blues. As in, he stopped giving you any. Red decks last year also tended to stay lower to the ground. I heard Sligh-style decks won some Pro Tours recently, right?

Point is, Sarkhan is a good card that might have more room to play these days. You can pick him up on the cheap, maybe. At least you can hope the copies you already have will draw more attention from bargainmakers. I don’t think I’m telling you much you haven’t figured out already. But maybe you forgot, and I just reminded you. People are too hesitant to hear things they already know.


Fallen Cleric

Want to get serious? [casthaven]Hardened Scales[/casthaven] serious? Yuuya Watanabe played the deck at Pro Tour Magic Origins.

It sucked. Maybe it still does. People are going to try to make it work, though. Maybe the format is weak enough now that you can mess around with counter shenanigans. Maybe three-color manabases with fetches and the new duals will be a little more awkward than we think. Maybe [casthaven]Undergrowth Champion[/casthaven] puts the strategy over the top. Maybe Converge works its way into the mix.

Lots of variables at play. We make decisions in complex systems with incomplete information. As at the tournament table, so too the Bargaining Table. You aren’t going to penny-stock this one — the speculators already got involved and [casthaven]Hardened Scales[/casthaven] is no longer bulk. Hopefully you already knew that, but hey, I’m here to help you out. Nobody knows about everything.


Blind Seer

What costs two mana, trades with [casthaven]Mantis Rider[/casthaven], has crazy upside, and also happens to be great with [casthaven]Hardened Scales[/casthaven]? [casthaven]Avatar of the Resolute[/casthaven]. Two mana for a 3/2 reach trample is efficient. You can play it on turn two without feeling totally stupid (until they [casthaven]Wild Slash[/casthaven] and untap into [casthaven]Mantis Rider[/casthaven]).

If you’re doing it right, though, the Avatar can survive through [casthaven]Languish[/casthaven]. All I’m saying is, don’t be too surprised if [casthaven]Avatar of the Resolute[/casthaven] starts showing up at tournaments.

Another card that might rise with the counter-seeking tide, if such a thing exists, is [casthaven]Daghatar the Adamant[/casthaven]. Total bulk! A 4/4 vigilance for four with an easy mana cost is plausible. You wouldn’t go out of your way to put it in your deck, but sometimes you just need one more solid creature. Probably not a white four drop in Gideon’s new world, but who knows. Daghatar can steal counters off of an opposing [casthaven]Hangarback Walker[/casthaven] or [casthaven]Den Protector[/casthaven]. That’s not amazing, but it is something you might want to do.


Steamflogger Boss

What about stuff nobody’s figured out how to win with just yet? Temur has some splashy cards that haven’t done much yet in Standard. Everyone can figure out to try [casthaven]Savage Knuckleblade[/casthaven], but it’s not in demand right now. [casthaven]Sarkhan Unbroken[/casthaven] also seems obvious and will draw attention. He still gets owned by [casthaven]Crackling Doom[/casthaven], but nobody’s perfect.

I won a Dragons draft once by tapping out for Sarkhan, then plusing him to play [casthaven]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/casthaven]. That’s ridiculous in draft, but it could actually be a plan in Standard. Converge screams out for crazy five color decks, and the fetchable duals make it worth trying.

The Temur card I really want to see emerge from bulk, however, is [casthaven]Surrak Dragonclaw[/casthaven]. Drop him at the end of turn six, then untap and play [casthaven]Dragonlord Atarka[/casthaven]. Your opponent has few options that could reasonably disrupt that one-two punch. If counterspells become the name of the game, Surrak becomes a plausible play.


Elder Land Wurm

Will these predictions pan out? Who knows. It will be exciting to see what comes to life over the coming weeks. Be informed, be thoughtful, and be smart. Above all else, you gotta be kind. Thank you for indulging my constructed fantasies.


Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was [casthaven]Armageddon[/casthaven] plus [casthaven]Zuran Orb[/casthaven]. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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