Building a WAR chest

Cliff Daigle • May 22, 2019

We are just a few days into Modern Horizons previews, and we’re going crazy with the pauses as new cards cause impressive spikes. Snow lands? Changelings! All sorts of mechanics!? Sign me up, and do so quickly!

Notably, we’re still in War of the Spark season. This means that at your local FNM or a Limited MagicFestGrandPrix, you’re opening War of the Spark packs. Frankly, it’s a little underwhelming to open these when we’re having new cards being revealed daily, but that’s the way of things now.

If War of the Spark was timed differently, we’d have another six weeks or so to focus on this set and really drive the values into the ground. Amazingly, Modern Horizons is pulling attention and clicks away from the Mythic Edition 3 fiasco, and also from the lottery-ticket phenomenon of the alternate art planeswalkers. Frankly, that’s a good thing. We’re going crazy on what the new prices and new spikes are, and meanwhile, we’re just about at perfect buying time for War of the Spark cards. Supply is at maximum, and people who must have the new things are moving on.

I’m keenly aware, though, that War of the Spark cards have until October of 2020 before they rotate out. That doesn’t sound like a short time, but consider that the traditional time for a Standard card to rise in price is about six to eight months after its release. For these cards, that means they’re getting hot just as people are getting rid of extra copies as they near rotation.

Some examples:





So what I want to do is figure out which is the equivalent of the $5 Vraska’s Contempt or the $8 Vivien Reid. My goal is to acquire them now, cheaply, and then one of two things will happen:

  1. At some point in their Standard lives, they spike due to a new deck/card/interaction. Difficult to predict this, but rare removal spells are usually a good bet. Yes, I think Bedevil will have its time to shine, especially once Vraska’s Contempt rotates out.

  2. The card stays low and even trickles downwards in price, never going back up. This means we will store the card forever, and simply be patient until it’s worth it to dig out...knowing that might be a long time indeed. (Want to hear about my 50 copies of Prophet of Kruphix?)

The latter possibility is why I prefer to pick up relatively cheap cards, and also because a bump in price won’t have to do much for me to make my money back.

So with the buying philosophy clear, let’s look at War of the Spark’s good pickups.

Finale of Eternity


($2/$6 foil)
I’m in love with Finale of Eternity for Commander, but it’s a fun-of for the new Command the Dreadhorde deck that was featured on camera last weekend. It’s not hard to see this being 2BB: kill three creatures in the red or white deck. Cheap mythics always have my attention, because when they get popular, the price goes up that much faster. Since the foils are cheap I’d rather get those for long-term Commander appeal.

Ral, Storm Conduit


($3/$9 foil)
If you missed it, there’s infinite damage combos with Ral, Storm Conduit, but it requires making copies of copies, and is a bit convoluted. It works though, and even with Dovin’s Veto being a popular card you can win out of nowhere. Three bucks is cheap for the planeswalker who would be an automatic four-of if they print the right accessories. If it’s any consolation, it’s unlikely that he goes much further down.

Bolas’s Citadel


($2/$9 foil)
I haven’t seen it happen yet, but we aren’t very far from a Wildgrowth Walker deck jamming a Bolas's Citadel into play and going absolutely bonkers. Explore as a mechanic is literally perfect for what the Citadel wants, and if Ixalan block wasn’t rotating in the fall, I’d be buying a whole lot of these.

The Citadel is also remarkably easy to abuse in Commander, and I’ve already seen someone go off with this and Aetherflux Reservoir in play. (Your groans echo my own, I assure you, and when Cream of the Crop landed, that’s when we all conceded.)

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries


($3/$10 foil)
Alternate win conditions are near and dear to my heart, and this carries the additional fun of being a redundant effect with Laboratory Maniac. Finally, those annoying blue Commander decks have a way to win that doesn’t care about other people at all! I’m much more intrigued by the foil here, because there’s potential in Modern as well. The gains are potentially even bigger, too. If a $2.50 card jumps to $7, then the $10 foil will become something like $25. Much easier to turn that profit over.

Mobilized District


(75¢/$3 foil)
Creaturelands have rarely been bad, and while Mobilized District has the drawback of making colorless mana, don’t overlook vigilance. Any control mage in Modern can tell you how good it is to attack with Celestial Colonnade and still have mana open. There are some powerful utility lands out there, such as Blast Zone or Karn’s Bastion, but creaturelands have a true pedigree. This goes in any deck and is especially awesome in the Standard superfriends deck, a style that most people enjoy playing.

Command the Dreadhorde


(75¢/$4 foil)
I was already picking up Command the Dreadhorde foils before it did well on camera for Jim Davis, and now it’s got just enough attention to keep it out of the bulk bin. This is amazing, to have mass reanimation that can be so lopsided for such a low mana cost. It’s even Standard-legal with The Wanderer, though you can’t Command back the planeswalker and have the damage prevented. It’s a card begging to be broken, especially in Commander.