Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Budget Year In Review

2009 has been one of the most incredible years for budget players ever. M10, and Zendikar were two sets which had higher then average values, so buying and opening packs really made sense. The entire year also brought about several uncommons, with unexpected value, and created several trade opportunities which were not to be missed.

Path to Exile, Hellspark Elemental, Vampire Nighthawk, Valakut- the Molten Pinnacle, and Ant Queen were all given out as promo cards this year, and still maintain excellent value, despite the extra quantities in circulation. Each of these is in key decks right now, and should see at least casual play for years to come.

This was a tough year for commons. The introduction of Mythics, and the resulting extra packs that were opened, have virtually brought the death of the chase common. There simply is too many packs opened for any given common to have much maintain much in the way of extra value. Despite all this, there were a few stand outs in the common arena. Qasaile Pridemage, and Relic of Progenitus both fetch a small premium, and are seen in decks across virtually all formats. Wild Nactal, had an unexpected impact, bringing Zoo back as a deck format nearly own it's own, and proved they were willing to print things better then Kird Ape. Plated Geopede may still be the sleeper common for the year, as landfall has the potential to be abused, and this is certainly one of the best commons with the ability.

Bloodbraid Elf, Putrid Leech, Ravenous Trap, Elite Vanguard, Gatekeeper of Malakir, Goblin Ruinblaster lead the pack in uncommons. Each of these brings more to the table then you really expect from a fifty cent card. Bloodbraid Elf, and Putrid Leech all but gave birth to the Cascade and Jund decks which are still defining standard, and causing ripple effects in Extended and beyond. Ravenous Trap is fitting Dredge back into a corner, and Dredge will have to find a way to respond, if it is to stay as a leader of the pack in Legacy and beyond. Elite vanguard is an old friend in a new skin. They gave Savannah Lion a relevant creature type, and lowered it's rarity, making it more accessible. Gatekeeper is the sword point of black card advantage, pushing the limits of efficiency. Ruinblaster is the goblin of the year, and we have not even begun to see what we it can do.

Vampire Hexmage by far had the most price impact of any budget card in 2009, not with it's own price, but with what it did for Dark Depths. This little friend pushed old DD from the fifty cent rare box, to $25 dollars almost over night. I know I trade my excess depths for my current Legacy deck. Anytime you can swap 4-5 cards for an entire deck, you have done well in the budget arena.

While we are on the subject of lands, lets talk about some you are going to want to keep, not trade away. The Enemy Fetch Lands are teh must have rares of 2009 in one simple shot. While these may not seem like budget cards at $300 a play set (20 cards in all), I highly recommend getting these, as they do represent excellent value, and are not likely to go down in value, and will be playable in virtually every format for as long as they are legal.

A number of rares came out over the course of 2009, which represent a great value. Banefire, Knight of the Reliquary, Inkwell Leviathan, Merfolk Sovereign, and Rite of Replication should all be picked up when possible, for what ever decks you see them in. While we are on the subject of rares, several of them were reprinted this year, and brought the price of the cards way down. Coat of Arms, Howling Mine, Hypnotic Specter, Pithing Needle, Twincast, Underworld Dreams, are each down roughly 50% (and in some cases more) from their highs. Now is the time to pick these up, if you have not already. On the flip side, several cards were reprinted this year, and either held, or went up in value. It may be time to shake out he old storage boxes for excess copies of  Lightning Bolt, Duress, Terminate, Overrun, Pyroclasm, Serra Angel, Whispersilk Cloak and make some trades with them.

The last group of budget cards that drew attention in 2009, is something I've dubbed the "Lifer Suite". The printing of Punishing Fire, began a movement of resurgence in several cards built around allowing your opponent to do something counter intuitive, gaining life. It along with Grove of the Burnwillows, Swords to Plowshares, Kavu Predator, and Invigorate, combine nicely forming a tight synergy. The colors lend them selves nicely to a Zoo deck, and form the budget basis for my own Legacy deck. For the Black player there is Grollub, and for the blue mage, Phelddagrif and Questing Phelddagrif also make nice additions. This makes a nice budget option for Legacy, as you can buy this entire suite for less then what a single Goyf costs.

The truth is it's pretty tough to pick  "a budget card of the year", since all of these will be seen for years to come, but if I really had to, I'd say Path to Exile. this card showed that Wizards isn't afraid of the long abandoned Swords power level, and that they were willing to bring that level back to the modern game. In many ways this card is better then it's ancestor, and helped to push basic lands back into relivence. It imediatly became a power uncommon, rising to the $5 price point and beyond, and is likely to stay there for many years even if significantly reprinted.

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