2020 Rotation Prep: Ravnica Allegiance

My first article covering Guilds of Ravnica posted on 8/27; you can find that one here. I do encourage reading it as I set the table for the purpose and structure of these articles. This one is fluff-less. We’re going straight into the cards to add to our watchlist from Ravnica Allegiance.

Investment Plan

Arguably one of the best EDH cards ever-printed, Smothering Tithe is an easy top-choice for me. It is hard to imagine this card going higher, but then again you have to remind yourself its supply is already higher than the average card because it was printed in the Faerie Schemes Brawl Deck. At $15+ retail in the USA, this card is already defying odds as a rare from a Standard set, but as a Winter small set, all indications point to Ravnica Allegiance having been relatively undersold in comparison to its peers (i.e. War of the Spark).

For me, Smothering Tithe falls into the same liquidity category that Sol Ring helped define, and it is likely this card will make for great arbitrage opportunities forever into the future (even after a reprint).

The foils are holding more than a 2x multiplier in large part due to the supply of non-foils from the aforementioned Brawl deck. At $37+ already, it would seem they, too, are at a peak; but, like the non-foils, I expect the foils to have a lot more upside into the near-term.

WARNING: the biggest risk to Smothering Tithe is Commander Legends in November. A set called “Commander Legends” indicates to me that it will be loaded with all the best staples from the format, and while Smothering Tithe might have been too recent to make the cut, I would not put it past WotC to have this included. If so, and notably if it gets Collector Booster (Extended Art) treatment, the pack foils would take a hit.

I would recommend picking up a copy if you need one to play, but I would not speculate on Smothering Tithe until after Commander Legends spoilers are completed in October. You can stay up-to-date for all spoiler coverage of Commander Legends in Conviction Gaming. There is no better Discord to be in than CG for spoilers!

Interestingly enough, Guardian Project is in many ways also one of the best EDH cards ever printed. This is an auto-include in any deck running 20+ creatures with access to green. Like Smothering Tithe, it is an enchantment which makes it increasingly difficult to deal with, and also like Tithe, it gets out of hand rather quickly.

I run Guardian Project in my Seton druid/elf tribal deck, and it acts as a core combo piece in there. The crazy thing about this card is it triggers on ETB, not cast, so flicker effects give triggers. Similarly, decks like Gishath which put creatures into play off the top of the library also get you the trigger.

Worth noting that the draw is not a “may”, so be careful if you want to go infinite because you will deck yourself.

I am very high on this card long-term, but like anything, reprints have me running scared. I think foils at $9-10 are a solid choice, but like Smothering Tithe, I recommend holding off on making anything more than an “I need this card to play with” purchase until after spoiler season ends. I really like non-foils as well, but would recommend looking into arbitrage opportunities from the EU and Japan rather than paying the near-$6 retail prices in the USA. Hit up the members of MTG BAN for more info about taking advantage of arbitrage opportunities.

Unbreakable Formation comes in as my third favorite pick from Ravnica Allegiance, but it is a card that is often overlooked by my best estimates. I play a reasonable amount of EDH and yet I have never seen this card cast against me (though, I have cast it personally many times). It could be due to its white color identity and thus it is naturally powered down, or it could be that there are other options (see: Heroic Intervention) which are often strictly better. It could just be an underappreciated, lesser known card.

If you follow me in the Conviction Gaming Discord, you know I already called foils on July 17th. We kind of lucked out from there because another prominent finance podcast called it out about three weeks later and that influenced some speculator purchases which actually led to quick flips for Conviction users. I still have a couple foil copies for sale personally (acquired around $1.50 last year), and reentered in July for a few additional NM foils at $3.50/ea. Ultimately, I’m sitting on seven copies (one for personal use).

I’d be careful buying into non-foils because of the ease-of-reprint in Commander precons, but the foils feel safer to me for at least the near-term six months. I may regret this statement, but my hope is we can acquire foil copies for $4-5 and out them around $8-10 by Spring 2021.

Add it to your watchlist regardless, and enter when you feel most comfortable. The supply on foils is surprisingly low across the Internet, so add that to your consideration.

So, here’s my thing with Bedevil – it is a flexible (if not unspectacular) removal spell in a color combination, Rakdos, which traditionally struggles with removing planeswalkers. Black has received help in this department in recent sets, notably with the printing of The Elderspell (spoiler: this shows up in my War of the Spark article!), but it is still noteworthy to have an additional option for consistency.

I’m not high on Bedevil for EDH due to Rakdos’s limitations – they lack a superstar commander still, and thus the color-combination tends to be underrepresented at tables. I love this card more if we see a great Rakdos pairing in Commander Legends, but in the meantime I am holding off personally.

You can find arbitrage opportunities on Bedevil nonfoils if you look hard enough, and TCG Direct sells these for almost $3/ea., so there may be opportunity here. Foils are much deeper in supply and with a multiplier less than 2x, that tells me we could see non-foil supply increase after rotation (due to this card seeing some play in Standard currently).

If you want to buy into this card, wait until October/November. I recommend adding it to your cart and doing a “save for later” method where you can keep an eye on the cheapest copy’s price. Make a note for yourself every few days and see what kind of velocity its price fluctuates at. If you see it start dropping into October, be patient. If it stabilizes and starts increasing, that is a good sign we hit the bottom and you can grab your copy. Ultimately, here’s another arbitrary and shameless “it can be reprinted” warning to add to your consideration as well.

Hear me out – Cindervines is underplayed in Commander. Yes, there are a lot of options to remove artifacts and enchantments in Gruul colors, but there are few that pack a punch like this. For three mana total, you get a flexible removal piece, a Shock, a graveyard trigger (hello, Korvold), and a static upside-ability that punishes non-creature spells. It’s only showing in 3K EDHREC decks currently, and more shockingly, it shows in fewer Korvold decks than its peers Krosan Grip and Nature’s Claim. I get the desire to save on mana commitment with Nature’s Claim, and I understand the upside of Split Second on Krosan Grip, but the miss here is that Cindervines actively pumps Korvold while replacing itself with Korvold’s triggered draw ability.

I cannot in good conscience advocate this as a true spec because I think it will end up sitting in storage too long, but I want to make sure to address it nonetheless because it is an underrated card for EDH purposes. If we get more Gruul commander support in the future, I’d expect this to become an increasingly popular choice.

Cards that have the ability to prevent creatures from being countered have a strong history of being valuable (see: Vexing Shusher). Add in the fact that Rhythm of the Wild is an enchantment which makes it harder to deal with, and we have ourselves an EDH allstar. Foils are already holding firmly over $11 in the US, and that isn’t a surprise considering the EDHREC count is 21K+ already (!). This shows just how popular (and important) the card is for creature-based strategies. Add in the ability to give creatures haste or a +1/+1 (which for all intents and purposes is just a bonus to this card) and we have ourselves a perennial auto-include.

Here’s the thing: it is at uncommon and easy as heck to reprint in just about any spot WotC wants. The foils are already at $11+ in the US, but I could admittedly see these being $20 in short order given the prowess of the card. That said, as high as I am on this card, I am cautious to recommend anything more than a small position in foils and to avoid non-foils unless you can get them well-below retail (I don’t have one myself other than the two copies I use to play with).

I am confident the foils will be $20 by Spring 2021 (if not way sooner, and barring reprint obviously). I am also confident the non-foils will move efficiently, but like the next card I am about to cover, the reprint risk is just far too real.

Did you know Wilderness Reclamation was already reprinted in Commander: Ikoria? I did not realize that until completing research for this article, but hopefully this helps justify why I keep putting the “if not reprinted” disclaimer on every card. WotC has me running for the hills with speculation due to the sheer volume of reprints in 2020, but as a player I absolutely love it because it pulls prices down so much.

There is a case to be made that the foils of Wilderness Rec make for a fantastic spec even at their $17+ price right now. The fact that it was just reprinted would normally bode well for it to not show up a second time in a future set, but 2020 has definitely put that thought-process to rest. If you can find foils overseas for a converted $10-12, think Europe or Japan, I think you will stand to make a strong profit in short order. I’m not opposed to picking up one or two foil copies for $17ish, either, though I’d be more cautious here.

One final point on Wilderness Rec that is important to cover: it sees a ton of non-EDH play. This card was banned in Standard due to how much it warped the meta, but it still sees significant play in Pioneer and Modern. This means the reprint in Commander: Ikoria might be absorbed quickly and the non-foils could have upside into the $5 range if true (and if it doesn’t end up being banned in those formats).

Coronavirus (i.e. no MagicFests) hurts the demand in paper for now, but nevertheless I expect this to be fairly reprint-resistant card. I also believe the fact it was banned in Standard means we will never see it again in another Standard set, and that bodes well for future reprints because supply would likely be minimal.

All-in-all, this card is one of the best uncommons ever printed, and it deserves a nod as a clear #1 pickup. The play on these will be especially strong in anticipation of life returning to normal and paper events being possible again. We don’t know when that will be possible, but when it does, the multi-format demand would accelerate the paper price quite a bit.

I won’t spend long on Vindictive Vampire because the time to spec on foils came to pass two years ago (you could get these for $0.50 back when I first mentioned them in 2018!). But I do want to be transparent that I’m sitting on eight foil copies of this, and I fully expect them to sell for $6-8 range in coming months. The supply on foils is relatively low and this is a sneaky enough card that I will take my chances on no reprint in the immediate future (I jinxed myself I am sure).

If you see foils of these overseas for $1-2 converted to USD, grab them. This will find its way to $5+ in time.

So, I hardly ever recommend speculating on commons, but Growth Spiral is everywhere in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper. It is also showing in almost 16K decks according to EDHREC. Like Wilderness Rec, Spiral was also reprinted in Commader: Ikoria rendering the non-foils an otherwise-meaningless bulk pick. Foils on the otherhand have big upside (think $7+) until they find their way into a Masters-style set. This card will be around for a long-time given just how good it really is alongside Wilderness Reclamation.

The only real downside risk I would point out is if Uro ends up banned in Pioneer or Modern.

Wrapping Up

Reprints are turning the world of speculation upside down right now, and it is prudent to be aware of this before making a decision to invest in specs that cannot be flipped within a few short weeks.

The one plus is that we only have one more known set for 2020, Commander Legends, before we can potentially loosen up a bit and buy some stuff in anticipation for Spring 2021. We got some 2021 product announcements during the Zendikar Rising release announcements, and we know we are going to Kaldheim next which is highly anticipated to be a snow-based plane (and could narrow the window of reprints). All things considered, I’m taking a much more passive approach to speculation moving forward. If I get back into selling, my strategy for flipping MTG cards will shift heavily into arbitrage (leveraging MTG BAN tools), collection buying and starting my own buylist. It is the only prudent way to be picking up cards right now, and even then, you have to know your outs and be prepared to flip fast. Know your limits: if you don’t have time to sort/list/package a lot of orders, be cognizant and cautious to what you accrue.

Ultimately, sitting on stacks of non-RL inventory with the reprint policy nowadays is punishing, and we have to adjust accordingly.

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