Rotation Prep Pt. 4: Core Set 2021

The first three rotation articles are in the books and the final one awaits us! If you missed any of my coverage on the other three rotating sets, you can start from the beginning by clicking here. Core Set 2021 dropped in the heat of the global coronavirus pandemic last year, and it was admittedly difficult for me to remember what cards the set produced. I refreshed my memory and have a few I really like moving forward, mostly because I think they could dodge reprints for a while (famous last words, I know). I also share a card I’d shy away from, but not because of reprint risk. Read on to see more!

Ugin, the Heavily Reprinted Spirit Dragon

Ugin being a powerful colorless Planeswalker means it fits in any deck that wants it which translates to a lot of player demand. It helps, too, that Ugin is among the most well-known characters in MTG history.

I still remember when the Core Set 2021 spoilers were happening and Ugin appeared on the packaging. It was then that I realized they (WotC) had already decided to reprint a premium version of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon despite having just printed the War of the Spark: Mythic Edition version one year earlier. I feel for all of us who chased that first premium version thinking it would be the “best” Ugin version the game had to offer.

The price on the Mythic Edition copies initially spiked because Ugin was being put back into Standard as well as now legal in Pioneer. But spoilers continued and we eventually learned about the Borderless and Showcase versions, the former being eerily similar to the Mythic Edition in aesthetics.

This hasn’t rendered the Mythic Edition copies worthless, and they’ve surprisingly held a price tag of $120-140, however that price is stagnant and now heavily depends on collector influence. I do think as we get further away from Core Set 2021, Mythic Edition copies could stand to be the biggest percent gainer of any version of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, but that is largely predicated on no more “premium reprints” coming in the near future.

The ‘MTG finance’ in me says loading up on copies of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon (pack non-foils) is probably a pretty reasonable if not unspectacular pick. There was a time to get these for $17-18, but at $22-23 it is still a decent acquisition and you know you’ll always have strong outs for the card given its demand. If you still think you might want to play a copy in the future and don’t have one, now is a good time to buy. Otherwise, I’d suggest waiting again until it sees its next reprint (maybe in Double Masters 2 next year?).

Another Dragon, this time with Terror in its name…

Terror of the Peaks is arguably one of the most powerful dragons ever printed. It has a multitude of uses and fits into a variety of commander strategies. It should continue to increase steadily until its first reprint.

I regret not buying more copies of Terror early in its release days. There was a time where this was $10-12 for pack non-foils and not much more for the Extended Art version. At $19-20, it feels bad knowing it was almost half that, but I also don’t see this card getting any cheaper until it sees a reprint. Dragons as a general rule are one of the most popular all-time tribes in commander (heck, the format was originally named after dragons). Knowing this fact alone means you can probably play buylist arbitrage and make a decent profit moving Terror from one vendor to another. Furthermore, I love the Extended Art foils long-term, and could see these push into triple-digits by April 2022 (they’re currently around $70). For transparency, I recently cashed my Extended Art non-foil in for $40 and turned that into a $70 foil version.

There isn’t much overseas arbitrage to be had with Terror of the Peaks which I generally view as a signal this card is only going to go up. WotC, reprint this one fast please!

Triple the Damage, Triple the Fun

Fiery Emancipation is, by itself, a win-more card under most circumstances. But it validates certain strategies that previously didn’t have enough stopping power to viable in commander, notably burn.

The mono-red player in me absolutely loves Fiery Emancipation, and some of the plays this card has let me pull off in my Torbran deck are truly remarkable. The most notable thing about F.E. is that it is, on its own, a bad top-deck and a win-more in most situations. However, in the right strategies, it can completely validate the deck and become the centerpiece to winning games. At $20, this is in many ways a mono-red staple that I feel won’t be as common of a reprint because of the 3R mana cost. It is also an outlier in terms of being a Mythic, and it doesn’t really add much value to a draft environment. Thus, this feels reasonably safe to me outside of some shock-value Secret Lair or a potential showing in Double Masters 2.

I’m not going in heavily on this card, but like Terror of the Peaks, I upgraded the pack foil I pulled from a pack last year into an Extended Art foil recently. I feel the EA foil should retain its value well even in the face of a reprint, however I do fear the Secret Lair scenario which could knock the EA foil off the “best premium version” pedestal. My advice on Fiery Emancipation is similar to Terror of the Peaks and Ugin – if you need a copy or want to explore playing with it in the future, now is a really reasonable time to buy. Otherwise, perhaps just wait until its first reprint comes around.

Garruk’s Uprising, a Mono-Green Stompy Staple

Anyone who has played commander with me before knows I love casting big, stompy creatures. Garruk’s Uprising created redundancy to Elemental Bond, and I love it…

Ok, so Garruk’s Uprising just caught a reprint in one of the Adventures of Forgotten Realms: Commander precons. But the showcase version has continued to climb, notably the foil version. The foil versions (both pack and showcase) were available shortly after Core Set 2021 for $0.50, and I can happily say I bought a dozen copies, most of which have already worked their way into my commander decks.

Given this just received the reprint, foil Showcase copies could take a while to appreciate from their current $2 price tag, but I do like them long-term. WotC has a pattern of reprinting new cards twice within the first 12 months then leaving them alone for years. If that holds true here, keep this one as a card to revisit in 2023. In the meantime, be sure to pick up 1-2 copies for yourself and ride them in your biggest green stompy decks! (hint: it is excellent draw power for Werewolves).

Avoid Grim Tutor, Here’s Why

I love tutoring for whatever I need, but the combination of Demonic Tutor reprints and the number of tutors built into the command zone has rendered Grim Tutor mostly irrelevant. Save your money and spend it elsewhere!

Grim Tutor is the first card I think I’ve ever actively written about to denounce as a spec, or in other words, recommend staying away from. It brings up a good point for me to consider moving forward which is helping people avoid bad purchases just as I would also advise on the good ones.

In the case of Grim Tutor in particular, I just cannot see this card retaining enough demand to push its price up. There are so many better options now in commander, mostly being printed directly into the Command Zone by way of abilities on legends. We also continue to get more options from WotC design which allow us to dig through our decks more efficiently (think Winota, Valakut Exploration, etc.). And finally, we’re at a high-point for card draw in the commander format which is relegating tutors to only the fringe-situations where a must-have card is needed for a combo.

Per the last line, it is important to also point out that Demonic Tutor has been reprinted four times (Mystery Booster, The List, Strixhaven: Mystical Archives, and Ultimate Masters) in the last three years. It is a direct upgrade to Grim Tutor, and its price trajectory shows the continued demand very well.

Yes, you can make the case Grim Tutor represents a budget replacement option, but realistically, players will either splurge and buy Demonic or they’ll go with the cheapest budget tutor route and buy something like Diabolic Tutor or Beseech the Queen instead.

This dead zone where Grim Tutor currently lives is one I don’t want to be apart of, and I would actually consider selling any copies you currently own in favor of upgrading to a Demonic Tutor. My estimation is you’ll get better bang for your buck both in games and if you go to trade the card in down the line.

Wrapping Up

That’s all I have for this year’s rotation recap series! I hope you enjoyed the content, and I hope any specs you choose to act on follow the way of a successful return. For more of my content, continue to keep your attention here on the Conviction Gaming website, or you can follow my real-time information shared via Twitter.

I love doing this, and I love it even more when I hear from you. Please feel free to reach out via DM, comment, tweet, or wherever it is best for you to get ahold of me. I enjoy all feedback, whether you are telling me I got one right or to let me know I got one wrong.


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.

Leave a Reply