Author Archives: Anthony Balbo

About Anthony Balbo

Introduction to Magic: I first heard about MTG in elementary school. Some of the kids would play it at recess. I watched a few games and didn't like it. It looked like a complicated game that adults would enjoy. Fast forward to middle school; I had just cashed out of Yu-Gi-Oh! and a bunch of my friends were playing Magic at this point. So, I picked up the Apocalypse-block "Whirlpool" theme deck and asked them to teach me how this game worked. I played through Mirrodin and sold all my cards just before Betrayers of Kamigawa came out because I was dumb and 14. I picked it back up again casually in college and started keeping a serious collection after the Gatecrash prerelease. I try to maintain a working knowledge of most formats, and I bring at least one deck of each type with me so that I can enjoy a game with anyone, whether they play standard, modern, or even Tiny Leaders. As much fun as I have playing the game, the purest thrill for me comes in the resolution of a trade well-struck. Having recently taught several new players, I fully agree with my elementary school self. Magic is a complicated game that adults would enjoy. But it is also much more than that. About Me: Though I have other hobbies, Magic takes up my time such that it often appears to be my only interest. When I'm not walking the planes, I also enjoy writing, drawing, and cannonballing seasons of television in single sittings. I split my time working in acrylic fabrication and freelance graphic design. I also write another blog where I rate and review hard ciders (

Reading the Bones – Origins Rares Speculation


Every season, LSV does his color-by-color review of the upcoming set as pertains to a limited environment. While these are always a good read, I’m always more interested in the follow-up geared toward constructed play. Sure, it’s important to know which cards are good in draft, but for those of us who also play constructed, it’s good to know what’s good (or valuable) to walk away with. As such, I’ve gone through the rares of Magic Origins with a similar lens. It seems foolhardy to guess actual numbers, so I’ll be keeping it nice and vague.

Planeswalkers: keep those. Everyone is talking about how great Gideon is, but from a speculation standpoint, they all have the potential to be played (at least in standard).


Archangel of Tithes
This card feels strong. Really strong. It has effecient stats for its cost and will likely see play. Feels like a keeper to me.

Starfield of Nyx
I still don’t know what to make of this card. At face value, this is a five-drop enchantment that has a slim chance of affecting the board the turn it’s played. At its worst, it’s turning your banishing lights into vulnerabilities. I don’t have high expectations for this card or its price.

Hixus, Prison Warden
Hixus has a neat effect, but as the rare featured in the white intro pack, his price is never going to stay at anything higher than a dollar.

Gideon’s Phalanx
This card costs seven mana. Sure, it puts 8 power onto the board at instant speed, but it’s already outclassed by Secure the Wastes and Empty the Pits. I have a feeling the Spell Mastery will be trinket text, as no one wants to play a seven-mana defensive spell.

Hallowed Moonlight
Hang onto this card. It is extremely playable. Oh, you’re playing Deathmist Raptor? That’s fine. Oh, you’re flashing back Lingering Souls? Fine by me. Trying to cheat out an Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn? Neato. I’m essentially going to counter that and draw a card. In white. (This is probably my favorite card in the whole set).

Knight of the White Orchid
I wasn’t playing during Alara, so I’m not sure if this card was good then, but from an evaluative standpoint, the flamboyant lion rider comes bearing only upside. It will likely see standard play, so they feel like a hold to me.

Kytheon’s Irregulars
A vehicle to tap your opponent’s biggest creatures without having to tap itself seems very strong, and its stats are nothing to scoff at. Speculatively though, I’m not positive this limited bomb will be a huge moneymaker.

Relic Seeker
What a great card for all the sweet equipment in standard! Like… Um… Godsend? He’s holding Godsend, right? This is an efficient creature and all, but relying on hitting your opponent for his ability will likely be a drawback on the price frontier.

Sigil of the Empty Throne
I can’t tell you how quickly I’m going to pair this with Myth Realized. This is already a $4 card, and it historically hasn’t been expensive. So, pricewise, I wouldn’t expect greatness.

Tragic Arrogance
This card feels very interesting. Immediately, it has very high interest from the EDH crowd, and it will likely see some sort of play in standard once people figure out how best to use it. I’d say hang on to this one.

Vryn Wingmare
Nonlegendary Thalia traded first strike for flying. You all know that nursery rhyme, right? This will see play in standard, much to the dismay of control players. I have big doubts about it in modern because of the sheer efficiency of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben herself. Seems like a card to pick up for the standard price bubble though.


Disciple of the Ring
She seems full of potential just because you don’t often get a creature like this with modal abilities. I’d be cautious on guessing her price, as she reminds me of a certain mythic Flamespeaker from Theros.

Day’s Undoing
This is another card that’s just dripping with potential. I expect someone to abuse this, be it with quicken effects, or something unexpected. I’d pick up at least a playset of these.

Alhammarret, High Arbiter
One of the things that makes Meddling Mage playable is that she costs two mana. Big Sphinx, however, costs seven. Sure, his ability could be construed as a form of protecting himself, but once again, the rares from the intro packs are almost guaranteed not to make you money.

Talent of the Telepath
Of all the new cards, this might be my favorite instance of Spell Mastery: if you have Spell Mastery, it doubles the effect. I’m confident this will at least make the sideboard of control decks. I’m imagining that hilarity might ensue if you hit an opponent’s copy in the mirror. I’d hang on to at least a few copies.

Displacement Wave
Scaleable cards like this are often used very beneficially. This will always hose an aggro deck, but the sorcery speed gives me pause on speculating price.

Harbinger of Tides
You know that merfolk deck people sometimes play in Modern? They all want this guy. He’s efficiently costed, and he can come down at instant speed without you having an Æther Vial online. Not only that, but last time we were on Zendikar, there were merfolk. Pick up as many of him as you can.

Jace’s Sanctum
I’m not positive this will see standard play. It does have large appeal to anyone who plays blue in EDH. Likely not going to be expensive.

Mizzium Meddler
This guy is neat. The single-use Spellskite with flash. I can see him being appealing for budget players who don’t have $20 to shell out for the real thing.

Soulblade Djinn
With a name this badass, I will be personally insulted if this guy doesn’t command a fortune.

Thopter Spy Network
I’m not sure on this card. It might be a little expensive, mana-wise, but if an artifact deck emerges, giving them all curiosity and replenishing the air force will be a powerful effect. Could be worth picking up for speculation.

I personally don’t like this card. It doesn’t protect itself, it costs 5 mana, and usually, when I’m targeting something, it’s dying. I don’t have high hopes for the Willbreaker.


Titan of Erebos
I love that my favorite god got a shout out in Origins. Not only that, he’s pretty good. I’m optimistic on this guy’s price.

Demonic Pact
You can make all the deals with the devil you want, I still don’t see this ever being an expensive card.

Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
This fellow is where the “intro pack rares are worthless” mantra falters. Yes, he is the face of the black intro pack, but he’s actually pretty cool. 6/6 for 6 with flying and upside? I think he may see play, but his availability will cause his price to suffer.

Dark Petition
“I’ve got an idea: let’s put Demonic Tutor and Dark Ritual on the same card! Flavor win!” Unfortunately, the major appeal of both of those cards is that neither requires the startup cost of having 5 mana. For that cost, I can play Sidisi, Undead Vizier and get the tutor attached to a significant body. Pessimistic on price.

Despoiler of Souls
This freaky little horror has the potential to be a rock star. He’s an efficient attacker that keeps coming back. And, if you’re missing the glory days of mono-black devotion, you can pair this guy with a Titan of Erebos and for a few months, baby, you got a stew!

Gilt-Leaf Winnower
We’ll have to see how the elf decks shape up. This guy will either be too expensive (doesn’t get hit by Collected Company), or he’ll top the curve nicely. I do like that he affects the board the turn he comes down. Cautiously optimistic on price.

Graveblade Marauder
I can see this guy and Blood-Chin Rager/Arashin Foremost being best friends. B/W warriors wants this guy, but I’m not sure that’s enough to command a high price.

Infinite Obliteration
I really like this card. It’s nice and proactive, and it doesn’t need to live in just the sideboard. Would pick up.

Is it Damnation? Nope. Does it take care of most problems? Yes. I would get at least a playset of these.

Priest of the Blood Rite
Five mana for seven (five of which is airborne) power isn’t bad. In magical Christmas land, we’d have flicker effects at instant speed in standard. All we have is Gift of Immortality, which just isn’t the same. This card isn’t a money-maker,

Tainted Remedy
I’m a big fan of this card. Totally nerfs an opponent’s lifelink (and not yours) and makes Siege Rhino a sadder, more symmetrical play. It probably won’t be worth much, but a one-sided Rain of Gore isn’t anything to scoff at.


Avaricious Dragon
This card is exactly what red decks want: a curve-topper that draws extra cards every turn. I can see this guy and Thunderbreak getting along nicely. Would keep these.

Abbot of Keral Keep
This is a strong card, and it would be without the prowess. He feels like a sleeper winner to me.

Pia and Kirin Nalaar
Chandra’s parents are efficiently costed up until their ability. Unfortunately, they fall right back into the intro pack slump.

Exquisite Firecraft
“Can’t be countered” is probably the least exciting Spell Mastery bonus out there, but I can see it coming up. This feels like fairly efficient burn (for a standard meta). Worth picking up.

Chandra’s Ignition
Meh. This could easily be a green card, but they made it red instead. Nonplussed.

Embermaw Hellion
Why do effects like this always end up costing 5 mana? He could end up being cool since his effect applies to any red source, not just your instants and sorceries. Probably not going to be expensive.

Flameshadow Conjuring
This has EDH written all over it.

Goblin Piledriver
I shouldn’t need to tell you to pick these up.

Molten Vortex
I love the design on this card. It’s costed at the bare minimum, and it turns flooding out in red into a burn engine. This feels like a winning card to me.

Scab-Clan Berserker
This will be a good card, especially once Coursers and Caryatids are gone. I think she’ll be a sleeper.


Woodland Bellower
This feels strong. Even if you’re just tutoring out an Elvish Visionary, that’s still a big advantage and a great value. Expect this guy to be played.

The Great Aurora
Finally, that board wipe all those mono-green control decks have been waiting for… I don’t like anything about this card. It costs 9 mana for a total gamble. I don’t even want this in EDH.

Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen
This is the other legendary that, like Kothophed, will probably see play but will remain relatively low in price due to availability.

Animist’s Awakening
Unlike The Great Aurora, this is a card that every green EDH deck wants. The spell mastery is pure upside and the thinning of your deck can lead to some real advantage. I’m definitely picking up at least an EDH playset.

Evolutionary Leap
Again with the interesting card design! This is almost guaranteed to give every combat some sort of benefit for you. I can see this being played in most green decks.

Gaea’s Revenge
Sideboard against control? Yes please. This reprint already commands a staggering $1.50, so I wouldn’t count on it being pricy, but I can see its value in the standard meta.

Herald of the Pantheon
Where were you during Theros? Hiding in R&D, because Courser of Kruphix for GG is pretty busted. This will be a house until Theros officially rotates. Ride that bubble.

Honored Hierarch
This guy gets a lot of flak, but that’s mostly because he’s not very good. I’d rather play Leaf Gilder and not have to worry about Renown shenanigans. Pass.

Managorger Hydra
At the same CMC as group EDH’s favorite bull, Taurean Mauler, the hydra trades in jiving with tribal decks for good ‘ol trample, making it a real threat. Can’t say for sure if he’ll see standard play, but there’s definitely a market for him.

Nissa’s Revelation
I really like how the art shows a creature known for its CMC of 15, as if to say “look at how good this can be!” 7 is a little steep, but I wouldn’t totally discount this card.

Outland Colossus
Super-efficient stats, but I’m not sure that catapults this giant from limited bomb to standard playable. Unless you can reliably give him trample, I’d ignore him as what will likely be a $1 rare.


Alhammarret’s Archive
This card is just beckoning “Play Sphinx’s Rev! Do it!” This might find a home in UW tron in modern, and definitely in most EDH decks, but I’m skeptical about this in constructed.

Pyromancer’s Goggles
Red only got one mythic, but it got this too. Again with the 5-mana thing. The repeatability of the effect makes this a strong card, but it’s a little pricy mana-wise. At mythic, I’d hang on to this.

Hangarback Walker
Sometimes, I like a little Halo 2 while I’m playing magic. This guy is neat. He’s like Scuttling Doom Engine‘s cooler younger brother. Seems usable. I’d pick these up.

Helm of the Gods
Efficiently costed as possible, I can see this being played in some Boggles brews as a reliable way to push the damage over the top, as well as something that sticks around after the creature dies. Not sure there’s a place for it in standard, but I know a pretty GW angel from Innistrad who would be happy to wear this during an EDH game.

Mage-Ring Responder
Lot of sevens in this card. That means it’s good, right? This card has bulk rare written all over it.

Orbs of Warding
Witchbane Orb that costs 1 extra to give you Absorb 1. It’s a little expensive at 5, but I think this will see play (maybe even in modern sideboards) as it completely hoses token decks.

Sword of the Animist
I can just see that scene where Nissa pulls the old “my walking stick has a secret sword” trick on someone. I like this card, and it’ll be even better if we see the return of Landfall in Battle for Zendikar. Very efficiently costed. Would play.

This set was very interesting to review from a future financial standpoint with the change of putting all of the non-planeswalker legendary creatures as the flagship rares of the intro packs. Made for a strange price calculation. As you can imagine, it’s much harder to predict the impact on a constructed meta (and thusly a financial standpoint) than it is to evaluate the effectiveness of the cards in a standalone set within a limited environment. Of course, I could be completely wrong on some of these, just like the people who instantly wrote off Treasure Cruise as unplayable. Did I miss anything? Leave your responses in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,


Temporal Trespass

Temporal Tresspass_Clint Cearley

It is April 28 and we are in the thick of Dragons of Tarkir as the dominant set. By dominant, I mean that when you go to buy a pack, or collect your winnings from an event, this is the set you’re most likely to choose. I’ve enjoyed DTK so far. It’s an excellent set. It has made for an exciting draft setting, and an equally spicy standard environment. My concern, however, is time.

Dragons of Tarkir was released on March 27th, a short two months after the release of the previous set, Fate Reforged. DTK will continue to be the dominant set until Magic Origins on July 17. The reason for Dragons’ early release is twofold; primarily, the Tarkir block sets were released as large-small-large, and an earlier release allows for more time with a large set before the release of the following set. The second reason is the more problematic of the two and that is the release of Modern Masters 2015 filling the May release slot normally filled by a block’s third set.

Despite the high likelihood that MM2015 will be an excellent set, its release will very likely distract from the current dominant set. Who is going to want to draft DTK when you could be drafting MM2015 instead? Players’ attention will be split, especially those who play both standard and modern. So, while on paper it feels like we get extra time with DTK, in practice, we will likely be getting a less-than-satisfactory amount of time with it.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, as the third set of a block is normally small, and players are eager to move on to the next set. However, because of the restructuring of the release paradigm, DTK will continue to be an important part of standard even after Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged rotate out. My guess is that by the time Origins comes out, if players haven’t completed the playsets they meant to while they were distracted by Modern Masters, they’ll be looking to acquire them after the fact. I can’t say for sure whether that makes investing in DTK a good idea or not, but from my experience with the set thus far, it has a wide range of cards that will offer a variety of exciting builds when combined with the upcoming sets.

While I keep opening prize packs and draft packs, hoping for more of the chase mythics like Deathmist Raptors or Dragonlord Atarkas, or even solid rares like Thunderbreak Regent, I can’t help but think of the level of demand for these cards when the packs are no longer being opened as widely. This notion might also be reinforced by several of my LGS’s decisions to stop breaking down boxes, limiting the immediately available supply immensely. Because of this, I imagine people will be looking to online sellers or PucaTrade. So, keep this in mind when considering trading your DTK rares.