Rotation Prep Pt. 3: Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths

Welcome to the third article in my four part series covering the rotating Standard sets from an MTG finance perspective. Check out my respective reviews of Throne of Eldraine and Theros: Beyond Death as well. This rendition of coverage is going to be a shorter article than Theros: Beyond Death because Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths didn’t have as many individual cards I was excited to cover for finance purposes. Being the first set with the keyword: Mutate in it means there simply isn’t enough support yet for a lot of these cards to be relevant in commander. Keep this in your back pocket for when WotC inevitably revisits Mutate in a future set, though.

Ikoria is one of my favorite sets in MTG history because of its unique, flavorful take on a Jurassic World-esque plane. The monster crossovers we got, such as Beast Elemental Dinosaur (Illuna) and Cat Nightmare Beast (Nethroi), were firsts of their kind in MTG history. It really sold the lore of a plane where big, scary monsters bred and developed a new ecosystem.

The aforementioned new mechanic called Mutate was also a slam dunk flavor win. It was never good enough for competitive constructed play, but commander players (myself included) enjoy playing decks that bring something new to the table. The mechanic was a homage to Bestow, but with the foundational support already in Ikoria, I believe it deserves a second look in a future set (bring us back to Ikoria, WotC!).

There are several homeruns in the set for commander, none more than Nethroi and the interaction it has with Scourge of the Skyclave (yes, this is me getting a shout out on The Command Zone). This is something I have yet to try to pull off in commander, but it is the type of magical “Christmasland” play I’d love to work toward in the future.

Time to cut the fluff, though, and get into my MTG finance review!

Triomes, Buy ALL the Triomes…

The timely Fetch and Shockland reprints have paired beautifully with Triomes to make three or more color mana-bases extraordinarily consistent. I always see the phrase “when in doubt, buy real estate” and in the case of Triomes, it couldn’t be more accurate.

By EDHREC’s standards, Triomes are already approaching the 20K club in terms of decks including them, and while that isn’t necessarily a singular-actionable point, it’s certainly worth noting. Zagoth is the leader of the pack, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise with Muldrotha still being among the most popular commanders in history. I am partial to Ketria because Temur is my favorite color combination, and I firmly believe Kalamax will continue to be a popular commander for those wanting to explore their Voltron-spellslinger side. All five of these make for obvious choices as specs because of their popularity, difficulty to reprint outside of Secret Lair (they’re Ikoria specific names), and cross-format playability (each of these see some fringe play in every non-Commander format as well).

My investment advice on these is that there’s no real wrong time to pick them up. If you need copies as a player, you should have bought them yesterday, and you’ll feel that way again tomorrow. I bought one of each Extended Art foil back when I felt Ikoria reached peak supply in late-2020, and all five have already appreciated by 30% or more. There is plenty of room for these to continue to grow until a reprint, and they sell so fast that even if you can find them in trades or at 70% of TCG low you’ll stand to make a quick buck.

One final thought is that I see these being reprinted in a Secret Lair or a Collector Booster/Expedition style in a couple years when WotC inevitably returns to Ikoria again.

Drannith Magistrate, a cEDH Rockstar

Drannith’s Magistrate is another addition to the mono-white Stax armory, and it is one of the more underrated cards in recent memory. Let me start by saying this card isn’t fun to play against, and you shouldn’t be seeing it show up as your average casual table. It should be mostly reserved for tables where power-level isn’t of concern, and where winning is a priority. That said, Drannith’s Magistrate is the most played card in Commander from Ikoria based on EDHREC which bodes well for its price trajectory. As cEDH continues to gain steam in the U.S.A. and overseas in places like Japan, Drannith’s Magistrate will continue to see its supply tested, and prices could rise.

I am speculating on Drannith’s Magistrate, although my entry price ($6) was much lower on Extended Art non-foils than where it currently sits ($9). I’m a little less comfortable recommending this as a spec right now, but I am confident this card isn’t getting cheaper until it sees its first reprint. My advice is to keep an eye out for arbitrage opportunities, and if the price does retrace at all back to $6-7 on the Extended Art non-foil, scoop a few up. My hold time is already at four months and I expect to be able to exit around $15 on TCG Direct by April 2022 (my total hold time will be roughly 10-12 months for an anticipated 100% profit).

The Ultimatum Cycle

The Ultimatum cycle calls to my casual heart, and after playing both Eerie and Ruinous in game, I am now a big advocate for a few of these as long-term speculative picks.

Some of you may already know that when I brew decks, I have a tendency to play either mono-color or five-color, and rarely anything in between. When the Ultimatums were spoiled, they immediately garnered interest from me, notably Ruinous, Eerie, and Genesis.

I feel all five are more powerful than the other half of the cycle, originally printed in Shards of Alara. As a lover of reanimator strategies and dragons in particular, Eerie Ultimatum was the first of the cycle to find its way into one of my decks. I can’t begin to explain how satisfying it is to cast it with a graveyard full of dragons, but I suppose you can probably imagine.

From a finance perspective, I’m already speculating on all five of these in some capacity. For starters, I have anywhere from 2-4 foil Extended Arts of each card, and one of each in my personal collection as well. My entry price is somewhat irrelevant now because like Drannith’s Magistrate, I bought them in late-2020 during their near-lows. They’ve appreciated 30-50% since then, but I expect Ruinous Ultimatum and Eerie Ultimatum in particular to still have legs higher. I also see Genesis Ultimatum as being the sleeper of the five, and I like it as a result.

My advice is to buy the Extended Arts of these, whether in foil or non-foil. There are a few reasons for this, but none more important than how beautiful the Extended Art of each card is. As players see the Ultimatums resolve in games, the combination of beautiful art and high-impact on the game will continue to draw attention to trying them out. I anticipate this will buoy organic demand and the prices on the Ultimatums will naturally creep higher as a result.

Another reason I like the Extended Art version is because I see any of these as being reprintable in a Commander precon, and equally important is I can’t see the Ultimatums making for a good seller as a Secret Lairs. Thus, I expect the Extended Art of these cards to remain the premium version for the foreseeable future which would create a bigger separation and multiplier from the pack non-foil version over time.

My entry prices vary on each card and I am not recommending all of them as specs. Below are the specific cards, versions, and target entries and exits (including hold time) I would suggest:

  • Ruinous Ultimatum:
    • Extended Art non-foil: buy at $6; sell at $12-13 (hold time of 6 months)
    • Extended Art foil: buy at $12; sell at $20 (hold time of 6-8 months)
  • Eerie Ultimatum:
    • Extended Art non-foil: buy at $6; sell at $11-12 (hold time of 5-6 months)
    • Extended Art foil: buy at $13; sell at $20-22 (hold time of 7-9 months)
  • Genesis Ultimatum:
    • Extended Art foil: buy at $5-6; sell at $10-12 (hold time of 5-6 months)

Bonus Mention, Did You Know…

Talk about a “picking bulk” card! Tips like this emulate our motto at Conviction Gaming… think like a brewer and buy like a financier!

… Bastion of Remembrance is worth $2.50! This is an excellent uncommon from Ikoria, but it’s hard to believe how valuable it is already. I double-checked to see if it was a big winner in a non-Commander format, but nope! This card is pricey purely off Commander demand. I am not advising a spec here, but be sure to pick your Ikoria bulk if you haven’t already because you might be sitting on some rare $2 bills in there!

Wrapping Up

There we have it! Ikoria is in the books and we’re down to Core Set 2021 as the final rotating set for me to review. I’m a huge fan of the Ikoria set and you may have noticed I intentionally left out the Godzilla crossover cards as specs. That’s largely because I feel there is some speculator activity on these cards already, and despite these being exceptionally collectible, some of the prices have felt a bit manipulated to me.

If you are able to get your hands on sealed Ikoria booster boxes, remember each one contains a box topper with a Godzilla crossover card in it. I love the sealed draft boosters because of this, and you can still find them hovering around $100. Sealed boxes and the box toppers should (highly likely in my opinion) continue to increase in price as we get further away from the set being out of print. If you have one, resist the urge to open it!

If you enjoyed this article, please be sure to check out my reviews of Throne of Eldraine and Theros: Beyond Death via the links at the top of this page, or by returning to the Conviction Gaming home page. You can also catch more of my specs at the end of each Brewin’ With Conviction podcast episode, and you can always find me posting live information on Twitter.

As always, I’ll leave you with our tagline, think like a brewer and buy like a financier! And when you are in doubt, I’m here to help. My DMs are always open!

Thanks for reading!

Chris Martin is the co-founder of Conviction Gaming and co-host of the Brewin’ With Conviction podcast. He has been playing MTG since 1998 and is an avid EDH player with a knack for MTG finance.

You can find him on Twitter @ChiStyleGaming.

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