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Trade Routes – A Whole New Format

So by now, everyone has heard the news. [card]Frantic Search[/card] has been banned from MTGO Pauper. It’s huge news and absolutely devastating to the format. Oh, by the way, [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] and [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] got the axe as well.

Wait, what?

It was about 10:10pm MT when I saw the announcement. I had just woken up from a nap and both my Gmail and Facebook chat were blowing up. Fans of the column, local players and teammates all were asking the same thing, what was going to happen to the value of Jace?

Jace, the Mind Sculptor, the single most valuable Standard card in Magic History was going to be banned from Standard. For the past year and a half, this card has dominated Magic. Seeing play in every format, this card seemed to have no ceiling. Unfortunately for Standard, this card was a necessary staple and for many players, the price made it simply unobtainable. Stoneforge Mystic also received the axe in Standard and this will effectively change the format as we know it.

So why the bannings? On a grand competitive level, these two cards are showing up in almost every single deck in every tournament with a Top 8 (SCG 5ks, Grand Prix’s and Pro Tours). In fact, Aaron Forsythe reported that at Grand Prix Singapore Jace showed up in 88% of the Day 2 decks (~112/128) and Stoneforge Mystic showed up in 70% Day 1 decks (~90/128), which is incredible. The two cards were often paired together in the infamous Caw-Blade and have literally dominated more Top 8s than Jund, Faeries and Affinity ever did in their prime.

So as of July 1st, 2011, with just about three months left before their official rotation, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic will no longer be Standard Legal. However, they will still be available in every other format. So what is going to happen to the price of these cards? After the announcement, most dealers immediately dropped their buy prices, shifting Jace’s buy price from $45.00 to $20.00 and Stoneforge Mystic from $6.00 to $2.00.

So the current debate around the water cooler surrounds what will Jace’s final value be. Effectively, this will be the scenario. [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], which has held a solid $75.00 price tag for the past two weeks has already dropped to $60.00 for a sell price. It will probably drop all the way to $40.00 before it stabilizes and begins to climb again. eBay price on this card may see $33.00-$38.00 range as more and more people dump their copies.

One question that was asked to me on Facebook is why will he drop so much? He’s a staple in EVERY format. The fact of the matter is this, Standard is hands down the most popular competitive Constructed format being played today. More people play Standard then Extended, Legacy or Vintage and quite frankly Standard (or the most commonly played format that the card is legal in) is what dictates value. So when people ask, why is it dropping so much? Especially since Stoneforge and Jace are played heavily in Legacy. It’s simply because the supply is currently outstripping the demand.

So what does this mean for you? Well, if you do not own either of these cards, you should pick them up this summer. Without a format to play them in (Legacy doesn’t count) they are going to be really low. When extended hits this winter (or if Modern become an actual format) both of these cards will start climbing towards their former glory. They will continue to see play and I don’t foresee Wizards printing a better version of either of these cards.

With Jace and Stoneforge no longer being Standard legal, we have a whole new format in front of us. Decks that were blown out by Caw-Blade are potentially viable again.

Here are the top five public enemies to watch out for, example decklists and the cards to pick up cheaply in the event that they do well.

Public Enemy Number One: Valakut

Example Decklist:
[deck]2 Avenger of Zendikar
2 Inferno Titan
4 Overgrown Battlement
4 Primeval Titan
4 Khalni Heart Expedition
2 Harrow
4 Summoning Trap
4 Cultivate
4 Explore
2 Slagstorm
4 Forest
13 Mountain
2 Evolving Wilds
1 Raging Ravine
4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Sideboard
3 Tumble Magnet
1 Wurmcoil Engine
3 Acidic Slime
2 Obstinate Baloth
3 Green Sun’s Zenith
3 Pyroclasm[/deck]

The moment this announcement came out, the first deck that most of us thought about was Valakut. Why did this deck really disappear? Was it because it couldn’t be Caw-Blade? Not specifically. Valakut had issues with the attrition that Caw-Blade created through countermagic, hand control and creature control.

Can Valakut make a comeback? Well the increase in the price of [card]Primeval Titan[/card] suggests that people are going to try and without Jace, the Mind Sculptor control decks are going to be hard pressed to maintain their stranglehold on the current meta. Does aggro have a chance against this mindless behemoth?

Valakut also got a few new tools like [card]Beast Within[/card] and [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card]. Beast Within is an interesting addition for Valakut to use to deal with pesky planeswalkers and permanents like [card]Tumble Magnet[/card]. Phyrexian Metamorph is a solid tool for any deck, but Valakut can definitely abuse this creature by copying a Primeval or [card]Inferno Titan[/card], [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] or opposing Titan/Threat. These two cards might be just enough for Valakut to climb back upon its throne as the “best” deck in Standard.

Cards to Acquire:
[draft]Primeval Titan
Phyrexian Metamorph
Beast Within
Summoning Trap
Green Sun’s Zenith[/draft]

Public Enemy Number Two: Vengevine/Fauna Shaman Decks

Example Decklist for G/W Vengevine:
[deck]4 Phyrexian Metamorph
4 Acidic Slime
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Fauna Shaman
4 Squadron Hawk
2 Emeria Angel
2 Baneslayer Angel
2 Sun Titan
4 Vengevine
3 Thrun, the Last Troll
4 Beast Within
9 Forest
3 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Stirring Wildwood
4 Sunpetal Grove
Sideboard
1 Spellskite
4 Kor Firewalker
3 Act of Aggression
4 Celestial Purge
3 Nature’s Claim[/deck]

Example Decklist for U/G Vengevine:
[deck]2 Phyrexian Metamorph
3 Spellskite
3 Acidic Slime
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Fauna Shaman
3 Frost Titan
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Vengevine
2 Beast Within
1 Into the Roil
4 Mana Leak
1 Noxious Revival
8 Forest
3 Island
3 Halimar Depths
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
3 Terramorphic Expanse
2 Verdant Catacombs
Sideboard
1 Spellskite
1 Frost Titan
3 Obstinate Baloth
2 Dismember
3 Into the Roil
2 Nature’s Claim
3 Deprive[/deck]

These two cards had incredible synergy for a long time in Standard. With effectively a new meta game in front of us, I expect to see this archetype to re-emerge. We also have a collection of new creatures and although in the past, Fauna Shaman/Vengevine were often paired with white, we have seen a resurgence of U/G Fauna Shaman builds that utilize land/board control through [card]Frost Titan[/card] and [card]Acidic Slime[/card].

Remember that we also have Birthing Pod to fetch us up a tool box worth of creatures to combat or affect any board state. With [card]Birthing Pod[/card], we have lots of creatures that have powerful effects when they enter or leave the battlefield. Pairing this with Fauna Shaman allows you up to eight ways to tutor your deck for creatures.

Cards to Acquire:
[draft]Fauna Shaman
Frost Titan
Birthing Pod[/draft]

Public Enemy Number Three: Soul Sisters 2011

Example Decklist:
[deck]4 Ajani’s Pridemate
2 Glimmerpoint Stag
4 Inquisitor Exarch
4 Leonin Relic-Warder
4 Phyrexian Metamorph
4 Serra Ascendant
4 Soul’s Attendant
4 Suture Priest
4 Kor Firewalker
4 Mirran Crusader
4 Glimmerpost
2 Kabira Crossroads
16 Plains
Sideboard
4 Brave the Elements
2 Apostle’s Blessing
3 Dismember
1 Divine Offering
2 Gideon Jura
3 Shrine of Loyal Legions[/deck]

Conley Woods built a deck that took US Nationals 2010 by storm. With the rotation of Soul Warden, the deck became shelved. With the printing of Suture Priest, we now have seen a resurgence of this life-gaining aggro deck. The first version of this deck ran cards like [card]Ranger of Eos[/card], [card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/card] and [card]Oblivion Ring[/card].

A few weeks ago, Conley traveled out to an SCG Open and brought with him an updated list. This one was full of regular faces ([card]Ajani’s Pridemate[/card], [card]Soul’s Attendant[/card], and [card]Serra Ascendant[/card]) while being joined by a few new ones. We even have an infinite life gain combo in [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card], a Life-Gain guy, and [card]Leonin Relic-Warder[/card].

This deck inadvertently loses its equipment package with the loss of [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]. Still, cards like Sun Titan, Splicers and other cards with CIPT (Come Into Play Tapped) abilities are being explored.

Cards to Acquire:
[draft]Phyrexian Metamorph
Serra Ascendant
Mirran Crusader[/draft]

Public Enemy Number Four: U/R Twin

Example Decklist:
[deck]4 Deceiver Exarch
4 Spellskite
4 Mana Leak
4 Splinter Twin
3 Into the Roil
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Spell Pierce
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Preordain
4 See Beyond
9 Island
7 Mountain
2 Halimar Depths
4 Scalding Tarn
Sideboard
3 Phyrexian Metamorph
3 Pyroclasm
4 Arc Trail
3 Inferno Titan
2 Deprive[/deck]

Not completely out of the question, this deck may still be viable. A teammate of mine and PTQ ringer talked a lot about this deck recently and we’ve just started testing this build. Originally we built this around a [card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card] shell. After initial testing, we found that cutting the burn spells down to fit the Twin Combo made the deck awkward and the burn was simply a “win” more.

Further testing revealed that this deck had enough control elements to combo out mid-game without fear of [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card] eating a [card]Dismember[/card], [card]Go for the Throat[/card] or [card]Into the Roil[/card]. Not quite finished yet, this deck has a ton of potential and the loss of Jace, the Mind Sculptor is only mildly missed.

Cards to Acquire:
[draft]Splinter Twin
Phyrexian Metamorph
Spellskite[/draft]

Public Enemy Number Five: B/R Vampires

Example Decklist:
[deck]4 Bloodghast
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Kalastria Highborn
3 Manic Vandal
4 Pulse Tracker
4 Vampire Lacerator
3 Viscera Seer
3 Dismember
4 Go for the Throat
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Lavaclaw Reaches
4 Marsh Flats
6 Swamp
1 Verdant Catacombs
Sideboard
3 Act of Aggression
3 Vampire Nighthawk
3 Phyrexian Crusader
3 Phyrexian Obliterator
3 Skinrender[/deck]

This deck has made a huge splash on Standard recently. Taking quite a few recent Top Eight Spots, I fully expect to see a rise in popularity post banning. More consistent than Boros and Mono-Red this deck is one to fully consider over the next few months. Unfortunately, this deck’s match up with Valakut is not the greatest and declined in popularity because of this.

I expect new versions of this deck to emerge wielding cards like Inquisition of Kozilek, Duress and potentially the new Entomber Exarch. Keep this deck in the forefront of your mind when you start making decisions on what you should and should not play come July 1st.

Cards to Acquire:
[draft]Bloodghast
Kalastria Highborn
Phyrexian Obliterator[/draft]

Now I fully understand that some of you may have issues with the cards I suggested above. Below is a list of cards that I believe are going to see a rise in value after the banning officially takes hold.

1. [card]Frost Titan[/card]
2. [card]Fauna Shaman[/card]
3. [card]Primeval Titan[/card]
4. [card]Kalastria Highborn[/card]
5. [card]Phyrexian Crusader[/card]
6. [card]Spellskite[/card]
7. [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]
8. [card]Birthing Pod[/card]
9. [card]Venser, the Sojourner[/card]
10. [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card]

The above listed cards are currently low still in price and are worthwhile investments. Fauna Shaman is the major question mark for many as it has not been confirmed for Magic 2012. However, if you pick them up and move them within the next two to three weeks, I believe there is definitely a profit to be made. Extended Season this winter will also see play for Fauna Shaman and if she becomes confirmed for the new set, we will definitely see a rise in popularity.

Stay tuned and until next time,

Brian Grewe
mtgo: briangrewe
twitter: briangrewejr

30 thoughts on “Trade Routes – A Whole New Format”

  1. I’m not sure why you would want to be picking up Splinter Twins since the card’s price has been dropping since mid-May. That deck is significantly hurt by the loss of Jace, and most of the cards you’ve listed as picking up were good buys a month or two ago, but at this point are definitely cards to sell, not buy.
    Other than that, solid analysis of the coming meta, and I like your Frost Titan call (though reprints must be taken into account when picking a price point).

  2. Mono Red will own the world till rotation. I’m not so sure about Frosty, he is only good against P titan. Control is dead, as agro and combo will just be insane good now. Basically the format is way to fast for him now. I actually like Abyssal Persecutor atm. 4cc and does not die to dismember. Obliterator is in the same set as that removal spell and will never be good.

  3. Did you seriously just suggest that Valakut play Phyrexian Metamorph? To what? Copy your Primeval Titan so you can win twice as hard?

    Why are you telling people to buy Fauna Shamans? The Fauna Shaman / Vengevine / Cobra engine is at it’s best vs. control decks. Those won’t be nearly as present. The engine is at it’s worst vs combo decks. I hear Valakut and Splinter Twin are going to be pretty good.

    Frost Titan is also a crappy investment. That card is only good when the format is extremely Titan-centric. Splinter Twin will probably keep the format from becoming that (tap out for a 6 drop and die etc etc). And even if the format becomes Titan-centric and Frost Titan sees increased play, it’ll be played for 2 weeks, decks will adapt, and it won’t be played again.

  4. Right Frosty saw play when Valakut was very popular and Vamps, Boros, and Mono Red were scarce. When those became more prevalent that’s when Graves came on the scene as he was good against ramp and agro. He is almost assuredly in M12 as well. Blue and White just wont really be colors any more IMO.

  5. @Monored can never “own”. It’s only as good as the amount of people who are unprepared for it. Sure, monored has a lot more answers to cards like phyrexian crusader/kor firewalker with dismember/shrine, but it’s still just an aggro deck which can be hated out.

    I really hate this “dies to dismember” argument. Not every deck will play 4 between mb/sb. People act as if you will draw the card you want every time. Even if your obliterator does get dismembered, it’s just a 1 for 1 trading 4 mana creature for 3 mana spell or 1-2 mana and some life. It’s not the same as having your 4-5 CC creature bounced by Jace 2 or 3 times in a row.

  6. frosty lol what would you want it for? it’s nearly dead against exarchtwin and too slow for the new sling of aggro decks. Speaking of aggro decks you completely missed RDW, it naturally has one the best combo matchups of the aggro decks because of it’s reach and speed not to mention the awesome cards available to it. Hate for RDW is actually quite low as well since white will be seeing little play and dismembers solves all the rest.

    I wouldn’t dismiss something like UB control either yet, it has access to the best removal (go for the throat and dismember, both awesome against the combo decks). It has a good planeswalker to build around, especially as artifacts will probably not be hated as much anymore, using tezzeret to dig for wurmcoil is pretty sweet for example and it can still play a bit of blue to improve the combo matchup.

    New top 4 i expect: valakut, twin, rdw and UB. Vampires and tempered steel tier 2 i guess. Fauna shaman and soul sisters are incredibly poor positioned now as they are terrible against the combo decks.

  7. Yeah, not sure if twin is #4 as opposed to #1/1A/or 2.

    How can you cheaply acquire twin when the jump occurred already and other writers already tapped this as #1/1A or 2?

    And the dismissal of RDW seems strange with the ranking of soul sisters at 3, above twin.

    How does Metamorph as a promo affect the profit potential and price ceiling?

  8. You forgot red. Koth went from 17 to 27 tix online over the past week. I predict it will rise a bit more. But I said that since MBS release…

  9. A decent analysis. I picked up a bunch of Frost Titans at 3.75 a month ago and now he’s jumped up to the 6-8 dollar range again. And as wat said “That card is only good when the format is extremely Titan-centric. ” well what do you expect new standard to be? You have two combo decks (Valakut, SplinterTwin), RDW’s, and decks that will play titans (pretty much any deck with Lotus Cobras will include Titans). I’ve built SplinterTwin and been playtesting it pretty heavily and without JTMS it’s ROUGH…you have a deck that frankly doesn’t do much and isn’t proactive at anything but digging for it’s combo…without a solid tutor effect it’s honestly not that great (at least not in just the U/R form). I like Flores’ idea about a G/U/R one using Birthing Pod to go find the Deciever and just playing as more of an “oops I win with splinter twin combo” OR being just a U/G/R good stuff deck that can win on it’s own.

  10. Have to agree with Chromatone; I would stay away from any blue cards for the moment (outside of Metamorph obviously.) I don’t think blue will be a very represented color post ban.

    The reason is rather frustrating actually – WoTC purposely kept the power level of blue down, because of JTMS, they knew he was a menace and couldn’t very well justify printing more absolute bombs to play alongside him. Now that he’s out of the picture blue is severely lacking in high power cards. Yes there’s Consecrated Sphinx but that’s about it, and that card was overshadowed by JTMS for a very long time. I don’t expect blue to be viable as a primary color until the set after M12 to be honest.

  11. To be fair, Blue is still going to be played. And I only suggested cards that would have the highest percentage of jumps. Meaning Koth going from 19.99 to 24.99 is a 25% increase, which is not good enough. Frost Titan going from 4 to 8 is 100%.

    I recommend Splinter Twin because all the spikes are scooping them up after they dropped.

  12. RDW is ignored because any matchup that has trouble with RDW can easily sideboard in enough to make the matchup go in their favour, if RDW starts showing up in numbers at any point. RDW is very easy to sideboard against.

  13. It’s going to be very hard to predict the meta. Losing Jace changed everything as every deck in the last 9 months was basically playing him as a four-of except for Valakuut. People expect Valakuut to take over which is a fair assumption. It is a little more consistent than splinter twin and less disruptable. However, we have surgical extraction, 3 types of 1cc discard spells, and memoricide in the format as well. Combo is pretty easy to hate out right now (ironic since R&D didn’t see splinter twin and put in surgical extraction for vengevines). I see a B/x control deck definitely rising to tier 1 at this point. The main thing it’ll need is some sort of card advantage with big Jace gone. Baby Jace is a decent enough substitute (that is terrible against aggro decks).

    Aggro will also be back in force with a slew of amazing 1-drops in m12. RDW, Valakuut, and Splinter Twin are definitely going to be tier 1 decks. But I wouldn’t count out some B/x control deck getting there as well.

    As for vengevine decks being good … lol? Vengevine decks are only good when control decks dominate. They are singularly owned by combo decks of which there are 2 rather ferocious versions of in the meta.

  14. To Niles, who posted that RDW doesn’t get any love. This is with total respect for players who enjoy playing it, but the absolute truth is, RDW doesn’t require a think tank to operate, it does win matches dont get me wrong, but it’s also the basic deck a beginning player would use in his first tournament, (I have tought many beginning players, using that deck because of its simplcity; any decent veteran to the game is always happy to help new comers.) Because it’s straight forward, there are no twists and bends any halfway decent tournament player has a sideboard, and some mainboard to handle RDW and Boros, and like many who have posted before me about RDW and Boros, if a player is ready for them, it doesn’t have much of a chance, unless the opposing player can’t draw a decent hand. And with the new Ban list on July 1st, Anything with lifelink, will just eat up your resources.

    To be honest, people are looking to revive old decks, that had good percentile wins, but to be honest I think right now in standard FNM is when you’re going to run into many rogue decks, and people are going to be struggling what to sideboard against you, post first match. It’s a time for rogues in MTG, let the ANARCHY BEGIN!

  15. I personally think UW control will be great post banning. If everyone is playing red and or combo then I want spreading seas x4. If everyone abandons blue just because JTMS is gone and everyone abandons white just because SFM is gone they are dumb. These colors can still do what they were born to due: CONTROL. I personally like oust and preordain just fine and dismember can go in too. As for win cons, what is wrong with Consecrated Sphinx and Sun Titan? Jace Beleren is way better than that new Jace and I will be playing him until he rotates. 😛

  16. @Jude so, playing rdw takes no skill at all?

    You might want to talk with Dave Price, I hear he has a couple things he’d like to teach you

  17. and BTW Jude, people who talks about “absolute truths” are usually ignorant or unreasonable, just so you know…

  18. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  19. “but the absolute truth is, RDW doesn’t require a think tank to operate, it does win matches dont get me wrong,”

    The people who say this are almost always people who play blue decks: the simplest and frequently best matchup for RDW. Keep tilting, bro.

  20. I strongly disagree re: RDW not taking any/much skill to pilot. Sure, it’s easier to pilot RDW at 80% proficiency than it would be to pilot some control deck at 80% proficiency, but getting that last 20% is very difficult.

    The fact is that there are many subtle decisions that, if made incorrectly, can result in missing points of damage over the course of the game. And since the overall power level of each card is generally pretty low, you have to extract every last ounce from the deck in order to win. If you don’t, you’ll fall frustratingly short. It’s not a forgiving deck in a lot of ways.

    I personally find red decks to be much more exhausting to play than control decks. The amount of math I have to do each turn with RDW is very taxing. “Okay, so if I sequence these cards in this order, than I do X damage. But if he has a counterspell, then I need to play around that. Okay, so now I drew a land/spell, let’s recalculate. Oh, he just played a blocker for my Ball Lightning, but he left up an Island. Okay, recalculate again – do I play around Spell Pierce? Does the blocker matter? Should I hold this land in case I draw a Searing Blaze? How does that affect how much I’m doing next turn? The turn after? Okay, now he drew a card and passed. What does that mean? What does he have? Which spells can I risk getting countered? Let me do more life calculations,” etc.

    It’s so taxing to have to do a math equation every single turn, knowing that if you miss by one point, you could lose the game. When I play a control deck, I have different things to take into account, but I don’t actually care about my opponent’s life total for the most part. I’ll eventually get around to killing you when I cast Cruel Ultimatum or whatever it is that’s letting me take over the game.

    RDW is a skill-intensive deck, but it uses a different set of skills than other decks. But beatdown decks in general are oft-misunderstood as being mindless, when it’s just not true. Sure, if you play beatdown mindlessly versus control mindlessly, you’ll have much more success with the former, but neither one is going to ultimately win tournaments with it because Magic is hard and playing any deck optimally is hard.

    I’ve spent most of my year playing control decks (just by virtue of what I think was best in the format – not due to some conscious decision to play “more skill-intensive decks”) and after a long tournament of casting blue spells, I find myself more mentally fresh than after a long tournament of casting Lightning Bolts and Goblin Guides.

    RDW is criminally underrated as a skill-testing deck. And now that I have to put my Jaces away in Standard, there’s a good chance I’ll be sleeving up my Mountains and Grim Lavamancers and burning faces again. And if I do, I know I have to play very well in order to win my matches.

  21. Red is hard because you have to decide whether or not you’re going to interact with your opponent. If your opponent is at 9 and has an infernal titan out and will kill you in 2 turns if you don’t kill it, do you use the two lightning bolts in hand on it, or do you burn face? If you don’t kill the titan and don’t draw gas, you lose. If you do, and then draw cards, you could lose because you didn’t burn them initially. The choices are never a clear choice or ever entirely right.

    However, with no card manipulation, the deck is very much a beat down deck with reach, and you have to pray they don’t find a way to stabilize, because your game plan is to not interact with your opponent and hope they stumble in any way, shape or form. It’s the same reason Valakut is an easy deck to play. You just hope they don’t draw anything, and you solitaire. Valakut just has the added pressure of playing around counters.

  22. Drop the stags and the firewalkers from the main and replace them with two more lands and Heroes imo.

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