Many shiny M12 toys have unknown landing prices. Is Lord of the Unreal for real? Is Phantasmal Image for image? (Yeah, that didn’t work.) Some, however, are already at the bottom, dovetailing nicely with the best time ever to pick up the counterparts from the soon-departing M11. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of what’s available for cheap and what you can do with them.
I’m using ChannelFireball’s prices for two main reasons: they have 25 cent rares; and they don’t give a preorder bump to rares they anticipate to be junk the way other stores are known to do. There still is a preorder bump, as a week after a set release seems to be a pivotal price reduction point for CFB, but that tends to be based on the first few tournament decks to show up rather than a plan for specific cards. For this review, I’m looking at the rares from M11 and M12 that were new to each set and are either 25 or 49 cents. (At CFB it goes up from there to 59, 79, and 99 cents, basically with 50 cent increments after that.) I’ll start with the M12 stuff and work backwards. You, like me, might be surprised by what’s cheap right now.
M12: 49 cents
Doubling Chant – Down here for having neither tournament nor Commander applicability unless you’re Relentless Rats.dec (and there is a Savra-led one of those in my group), the Chant could have its moment in a few decks. It’s a Nissa Revane-type effect that should finish games quickly if done at the right time. I have a green/blue deck with ridiculous amounts of creature-based ramp with the stylish finishing move of Simic Sky Swallower/Gaea’s Revenge/Khalni Hydra bringing more with some combination of Retraced Image/Pack Hunt (which can target the Revenge!)/Assembly Hall. It’s big slow dumb power but with hard-to-kill guys and the chance to drop two of them around turn 7, which is deadly to many a player. Doubling Chant is the type of card that would look lovely in there, largely because it doesn’t target any of the creatures you want to get. I assume that turn 7 Gaea’s Revenge with Retraced Image for a second one is made worse by a turn 8 Doubling Chant getting your other two. (Gaea’s Revenge is $1.49 right now, by the way – stock up if you heart green!) Seems fun to me.
Garruk’s Horde – Maybe Doubling Chant is getting these? The best use seems to be at the top of a curve of utility creatures (another green-blue theme). The Horde is incredible with Momir Vig; MV was limited ever so slightly by wanting you to find green-blue creatures to maximize the effect, but the Horde lets you skip the blue part and cast green fatties ad infinitum. If that’s your thing (and it’s mine), then go for it.
Monomania – I’m not sure what to make of this one yet. It seems to be solid for reanimator decks as well as anyone who’s tired of Reliquary Towers and Venser’s Journals letting the blue mage keep too many thoughts in the hand. A blue-black tempo-control decks seems perfect for Monomania; use Unsummon/Into the Roil/Aether Adept to keep the opponent’s hand full for a stunning turn 5 discard. That’s more a duel play than a multiplayer thing, but it could be fast enough to deal with an annoyingly fast player in your group. I might actually go build that now – I love tempo decks and Aether Adept as part of that, and this gives you a reward for all those tempo cards.
Personal Sanctuary – The lineage of this card includes semi-useful cards like Mark of Asylum and Light of Sanction; now that we’re at an of-less variant, does it have different uses than just putting in red things that normally would damage you but now are very good (Pyrohemia/Orcish Artillery)? I suppose if you’re a Fastbond player you could do absurd things with this, but if you’re a Fastbond player in casual then you don’t need my help…
Sphinx of Uthuun – They missed a golden opportunity by not having ol’ triple-U cost 4UUU. I’ve learned not to dismiss a 4+-power flyer in any deck ever – that’s flat-out a good game plan regardless of what else is occurring. The Sphinx can end games quickly with its card advantage and its flying power. I’m not in love with the card or anything, but if you didn’t have one of these in a deck that wanted one, then it’s cheap enough for you to rectify that. My Animar deck probably gets one.
Warstorm Surge – They’ve moved us from Pandemonium (everybody hurts) to Electropotence (glory at a price) to this (if you donate 5R, we give you this free tote bag of pain). I’ve been a fan of Electropotence-Splinter Twin decks for awhile and recently rebuilt mine around Immolating Souleater (you can respond to the “equal to its power” trigger with pump), taking advantage of my lower life total with Keeper of the Flame or protecting it with Fortune Thief. Since I’m using a 2-drop that pumps, Electropotence is better for me since I can get the combo out on turn 5. I don’t know all the ramifications of Warstorm Surge being a slower card; it seems harder to combo with, but that might be from how I tend to use that realm of cards. In any event, the creature is still dealing the damage, so you can turn your Giant Scorpions or Acidic Slimes into death machines without paying any extra mana.
M12: 25 cents
Arachnus Spinner – I’ve had a tribal Spider deck before for its own sake. Now there’s the closest thing to a Spider lord we’ve ever had, and it locks down small creatures. That’s quite important for a tribal Spider deck, since Spiders don’t usually have trample, so it’s annoying to have them chump blocked. Outside a tribal deck, this might be good enough as recurring removal. A 5/7 reach is good in most formats, and coming with an Arrest, as weird as the Arrest is, is a bonus. I love this card’s flavor so I’m biased in its favor, but as the price isn’t going any lower than this I might as well pick some up, and so might you.
Mind Unbound – I wrote some about this one last week. Blue Commander decks could do fine with this. 60-card decks seem dangerous, but the card makes me want to play Inexorable Tide with it and do something over-the-top. I don’t know what – the ever-classic Rites of Initiation? – but the power’s there.
Scrambleverse – I got one at the M12 release over the weekend. I didn’t put it in my deck. (Incidentally, I built this pool’s version of the green-white beatdown I placed sixth with at the prerelease and…placed sixth again.) This is a very powerful spell, but I didn’t figure out how until looking at it for this article. The trick to this one is that we’ve grown accustomed to how Warp World works that we file this in the Weird 8-mana Sorcery Bin reserved primarily for Warp World. What you want to build with this is the complete opposite of a Warp World deck. Warp World wants you to overpermanent everyone to victory; Scrambleverse wants you to underpermanent. If you have few nonland permanents as you Scrambleverse, then the spell basically gives you 1/n of your opponents’ nonland permanents, where n is the number of opponents. Even if you’re getting random permanents, that has tons of upside. How you survive with few nonland permanents, I don’t know. That’s up to you. But don’t be like me and dismiss this for not being Warp World. It’s closer to red’s Blatant Thievery if you do it right.
M11: 49 cents
Brittle Effigy – The early answer to Eldrazi ramp decks in Standard. I sideboarded it in my Grand Architect deck when both decks were relevant, and it was serviceable. Its uses seem to be limited in multiplayer, but it might have value to colors that normally don’t get the effect.
Dark Tutelage – Sometimes in Vampire decks, this card was way better than it got credit for. Vampires had the lifegain to offset this card, and that’s the right tack so far as I’ve seen. I have an aggressive black metalcraft centered around Phylactery Lich, equipment, and Bleak Coven Vampires (with Stabbing Pain, even – it’s actually good there), and this is my principal way of keeping up with cards. The Equipment theme wants plenty of lands, and so does this. If you’re running a deck with low-cost cards with high mana activations, then Dark Tutelage can fill the same role. It isn’t Dark Confidant, but it’s also 1/40 the price for being more than 1/40 as good.
Leyline of Anticipation – I guess Vedalken Orrery’s being an artifact gives it the nod to most people. I still think a deck with this and Sunblast Angel would have been good in Standard. The Standard in my head is a fun and odd place.
Leyline of Vitality – An anti-red Standard sideboard card for awhile, I haven’t known what to do with it outside token shenanigans. As I don’t do those much, my playset’s been sitting around for too long. I love the card but I’m short of ideas for it.
Obstinate Baloth – This one surprised me. In an early-ish M11 draft I opened this and Primeval Titan and traded them to a nice competent player for 43 rares (many were Shards of Alara block rares that were both junk and rotating, but still). Now they’re cheap and available to be just a good green creature for your deck. It has much of the same functionality as Seedborn-favorite Loxodon Hierarch. You can’t go wrong there.
M11: 25 cents
Ancient Hellkite – I hesitate to play this one outside mono-Red, and even then I’d rather have other Dragons, but if your collection and budget are stretched for Red finishers, then he’s acceptable. Over the last few years Wizards has done a great job of ensuring that anyone who wants serviceable finishers can get them cheaply; when I started playing that wasn’t true. Timmies can get their decks up to speed for cheap. It’s important.
Angelic Arbiter – Like Ancient Hellkite but whiter and griefer-er. I more or less detest playing against this. If you’re in my playgroup and reading this, Angelic Arbiter actually costs 25 dollars.
Conundrum Sphinx – Never got its Standard due but has synergy with many blue things. It’s one of the cheapest Sphinxes as well. It’s already a casual hit from what I’ve seen, but if you wanted one it’s cheap now.
Cyclops Gladiator – Also never got his Standard due. For casual, I note two things: it’s got a widely relevant creature type (Warrior) and is one of the best creatures in the other type (Cyclops); and it’s the creature Magebane Armor clearly was meant to go on. I also have fun with the Armor because it makes the Gladiator a 6/8, which then leads me to think he’s 6’8” and great in the paint since he kills blockers. Dunk that mace, man. Dunk that mace.
Destructive Force – One of the first Standard hits of M11 in lockstep with Primeval Titan. That always seemed like a weird deck to me, and the switch to Valakut Titan confirms that it might not have been that great. But it’s here if you want it. I’ve wanted to do something cool with this card, but I’ve got nothing other than comboing with Roiling Terrain.
Hoarding Dragon – I can’t think of why a Kaalia Commander deck wouldn’t want this. It’s one of the cheapest good Dragon bodies while fetching artifacts, and from what I’ve seen most Commander decks would like to fetch an artifact. I have no idea if this will one day be a Commander staple in its color, but even if it doesn’t you could get good value out of it.
Leyline of Punishment – A shocking fall for a well-hyped card. It has multiplayer uses, but it’s not so open-ended that I can offer better ideas than yours.
Mass Polymorph – Another Standard card with 15 minutes of fame. I’m stunned by how many are on here. It had the misfortune of being in Caw-Blade colors, leaving it underdeveloped by the pros. Don’t be fooled; this is nuts in a deck built around it.
Necrotic Plague – It was bad when it was released. IIRC it was this price then. It hasn’t moved. Nor should your mouse move over the Buy button.
Stormtide Leviathan – By the pro consensus this would be a Legacy reanimation target if not for Merfolk power. I’ve written about my S-Leviathan deck before; I’m a sucker for huge blue sea creatures, so I love playing this and even having it played against me. I understand if you feel the same way about this as I do about Angelic Arbiter, though, or even
Vengeful Archon – Who also is immeasurably annoying. I’d rather not talk about this one. Archon tribal’s getting dangerous, though.
Wild Evocation – This one’s been at 25 cents a long time. You’re getting no special deal now. They’ll be around for awhile in case you’re the remaining person who wanted to build this and hasn’t.
While some of the cards on the list are plain bad, a significant amount of them were contextually powerful enough for reasonable Standard play, and now they’re available for the cheapest they’ll ever be. As a budget-conscious casual junkie addicted to building tons of decks, I have to keep tabs on cheap rares to know how many new things I can build. These might have junk rare prices, but as a whole they’re far from junk. Get them while you can. You’re not out much even if you don’t like them.