We just recently had the last set in the Zendikar block come down the line and the Standard environment is starting to shift about to fit some of the epic Eldrazi and their associated mechanics and cards into winning and promising decks. So, I want to look at what the Scars of Mirrodin block will likely hold for us and what Zendikar block cards we should be excited about playing in the Zendikar-Scars Standard environment.
Some of you may feel that we are too far out from the Scars release to begin serious speculation as to what the block’s contents will be, but let me explain why I am taking on this task and the unprecedented support we have in this venture compared to other block speculations in the past.
Much like a couple of the people I follow over on Twitter, namely Kelly Reid of Quiet Specualation (@kellyreid) and John Medina of MTGMetagame Blog and the recent Pack-to-Power project at Mananation (@mtgmetagame), I believe in trading for value. It is partly due to necessity as our beloved Magic is not the cheapest pursuit to be enamored with, and because the trading is also like a game in itself, a place to practice salesmanship, bartering, and test your wits and savvy against others.
Part of the way I play the trading game is to get a slight edge in trades and get a huge edge in speculative growth. This is a strategy that I’ve read Kelly Reid talking about before, and many people participate in speculative purchasing when a new set is about to drop to ensure they get in on cards before a price spike, real or perceived. The biggest key to speculative trading or buying is to put together knowledge and make tentative conclusions about the future. Scars of Mirrodin gives us a special quantity and quality of fore-knowledge about what cards we can expect and what cards we should be making sure we acquire before any fluctuations in demand price them out of our grip.
Thanks to the below points of knowledge, I feel pretty secure talking about which cards to keep an eye on and what to look for as we get closer to the release of Scars of Mirrodin.
WotC likes to maintain certain staples in one form or another, as shown with the Onslaught fetches rotating out of Extended coinciding with the Zendikar fetches rotating into the format. We can expect similar rotational repeats to occur in this exchange. Certain staple cards of importance to the formats’ health will reoccur, possibly directly but more likely in an indirect approximation.
We can expect to see cards that will fill the roles of Engineered Explosives, Chalice of the Void, and Chrome Mox. Personally, I suspect that they will take yet another crack at the Lotus, attempting to create yet another variation of it that will be attractive but balanced, likely as the replacement for Chrome Mox.
Remember Vampire Nocturnus, the quirky mono-colored Vampire Lord who had barely any vampires to lord over at the time he dipped into the very multi-colored card pool? If you had the foresight to grab them for $2-$4 when they were first being cracked, just a couple months later you could have off-loaded them at the peak price of around $45 each. That’s quite a return. How about Knight of the Reliquary, which suddenly became super-relevant with the introduction of Zendikar Fetches and Spell-lands? I intend to feel out the next Nocturnus or Knight of the Reliquary while it is still in its larva ‘Junk Rare’ status.
We’ve been to Mirrodin before, and we know what we saw the last time we were there. Last time we were visiting Mirrodin we had the following themes and these are my thoughts on their chances to return or matter, and which cards to grab or watch for with that in mind:
Modular isn’t likely to return in any meaningful way as the unintended consequences of moving +1/+1 counters around in mass with any artifact or creature sacrifice outlet can lead to much confusion, hilarity and terror. Cool concept, but abuse potential is too high.
Equipment is going to be amazing, and there is plenty of support for this using the Inter-block Synergy premise. Look at Armament Master, Stoneforge Mystic, Kor Duelist, and Kitesail Apprentice. Mirrodin was the birthplace of the Equipment subtype in Magic history and would be a perfect place to explore new design space. Stoneforge Mystic and Armament Master might prove to be undervalued at current prices if juicy and innovative Equipment comes out of the Mirrodin Armories.
Affinity is dead. There is too much danger in how easily it can and was abused to even touch it again. If something even looking like affinity drops. You can expect a massive chorus of people singing ‘The End is Nigh’ and also players just leaving due to having ‘been there, done that’ before. It should go without saying, but the Artifact lands will also be only a memory, just like affinity.
Other artifacts matter cards will of course be abundant and they should be. As such, I’d make sure I have some of the Zendikar Block Artifacts set aside just incase they should prove integral to one archetype or another. Khalni Gem, Eldrazi Monument, Eternity Vessel, and even Seer’s Sundial have use or abuse potential if made a little better by also adding to your ‘Artifacts Matter’ counts.
We also have a couple cards that already care about Artifacts in Thada Adel, Acquisitor, and Lodestone Golem. With Pilgrim’s Eye and Everflowing Chalice helping your mana develop and giant colorless game finishing creatures abounding, Scars may provide enough support for an Artifact/Colorless Control Deck to form and for an anti-artifact control deck to challenge it for superiority. With very strict counterspells being the norm lately, Annul might see print again, making a deck featuring Thada more attractive to battle the artifact hordes for diehard Blue players.
There are five cards in Zendikar block that reference charge counters and three are considered junk Rares, Angelheart Vial, Sphinx-Bone Wand, and Surrakar Spellblade, one is a junk Mythic, Eternity Vessel, and the last one is Everflowing Chalice, a utility colorless mana acceleration card that could be broken in half if you can manipulate charge counters. Mirrodin had a few ways to play with charge counters on the various artifacts and this seemingly innocuously named class of counter could provide a subtle inter-block window to doing some very disturbing things in Standard. If you can somehow add counters to an established Eternity Vessel or Everflowing Chalice, you can begin an unexpected climb to recovery or victory where you would have otherwise been dead. Surrakar actually may have the most potential however as he generates charge counters that may be moved about and his own ability is pretty great as it is now with cards like Distortion Strike.
This one I’m on the fence about. Sunburst cared about how many different colors of mana you paid to cast something. After all of the multicolored pains of the past two years with Shadowmoor and Alara, this may be one thing they let fall aside to make room for something less colorful. There are also no cards at the moment that really would make this exciting to see, so put on the spot I’ll say this isn’t going to come back.
This is dead. As much as Chrome Mox rocks, players want to cast their spells, not discard them from the game attached to something else. WotC has been particularly attentive to want players want to do lately rather than rewarding them for doing the counter-intuitive. I might expect something that seems reminiscent of Imprint in that you may reveal a card, use a card already removed, or use cards in your graveyard to apply some trait to the artifact in question, but they are going to let you keep the cards in your hand until you’ve used them or your opponent takes them away.
This could become a theme that will make combat and various strategies more complex but also make playing the cards and killing them more rewarding. With the Edict effects on cards like Gatekeeper of Malakir and Consuming Vapors, the door is open to introduce indestructible permanents that can still be answered. Consequentially, Consuming Vapors may see a corresponding rise in price if playable indestructibles are spoiled. I’d also pay closer attention to ways to neutralize things without destroying them, such as Oblivion Ring and Path to Exile like cards that may show up in M11.
We like modality and this seems ripe for a review and expansion just like Kicker received. We saw Entwine in Mirrodin the first time around and I hope to see it again with a new twist, but I’m cautiously optimistic here. The reason for caution is that kicker had been gone for a single Extended Rotation before it returned, leaving a year that the Extended format had no kicks. We may see a similar period for Entwine when Mirrodin rotates out, but I hope not because it seems like just the type of flexibility we would want upon losing all of the multicolored support and options.
In either case, there are very few cards that I can think of off hand that could benefit value-wise from such a comeback. In fact, the only one is Pyromancer Ascension, and then only if the right kind of options show up on the cards. Perhaps a few of the Rebound cards can get together with some Entwine cards and make Johnny happy with a little Pyromancer’s combo deck.
Ok, so this wasn’t really a theme, but you have to admit that Mirrodin’s colorless Artifacts and the Eldrazi seem to be made for each other. WotC also seems to be dropping a hint to this extent and some possible reprints in the issuing of Cloudpost, the massively colorless mana producing Locus, as the May FNM promo. The price of the Eldrazi titans and all the colorless spells could see a significant bump up if Locus reappears in either Cloudpost or an associated form. Another thing that might have a similar effect is if a good colorless manabase can be formed up out of Quicksands, Tetonic Edges, Eldrazi lands, and colorless man lands like Dread Statuary or new iterations of Blinkmoth Nexus or a Mutavault-esque land. Finally, also be on the look out for a reappearance of Urza-tron in M11 either exactly or a series of role sharing similar lands. People want to cast Eldrazi titans and WotC wants people to want and do just that, so they’ll be sending enablers down the pipe.
So there you have it. By analyzing WotC’s trends and past, as well as player’s behaviors and desires, we can make some predictions on what cards that are currently floating about our environment that may become suddenly much more relevant once Scars starts getting spoiled. In five months you’ll be able to look back to this article and thank me for convincing you to grab a couple extra Lodestone Golems and Consuming Vapors now, while they were obtainable.
Agree? Disagree? Predictions I missed? Say so in the comments section below, or catch me on Twitter @RobJelf!