2024 may have only just started, but already the MTG markets are moving once again. Considering this appears to be one of the fundamental forces in the universe, we can hardly say we’re surprised by this. That being said, however, the first major price spike of 2024 is far from what we’re used to. Rather than Commander, Modern, or even Pioneer moving the MTG markets, 2024 has started with Standard stealing the show.
With copies being snapped up left, right, and center, prices of Standard staples have climbed considerably already. In theory, this is great news for Standard, as people are actually playing it on paper again. At the same time, however, this market movement may push Standard one step closer toward its demise…
Jace, the Perfected Mind
Released in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, Jace, the Perfected Mind hasn’t received a lot of love since its release. Seeing some play in Commander and Modern mill decks, this new variant of Jace has hardly rocked the world. Within Standard, however, they’ve recently seen a major surge in popularity.
Appearing as a key piece within Domain Ramp decks, here, Jace does what they do best; mill. Between their second and ultimate ability, Jace excels at piling on the pressure and denying opponents their best cards. Within a control deck, this is obviously a potent strategy, however, Domain Ramp decks don’t typically rely on Jace alone.
With huge threats like Atraxa, Grand Unifier stealing the show, Jace is often a niche choice in Domain Ramp. Nonetheless, they’re still played enough to be responsible for this latest price spike. Furthering this renewed demand, the upcoming season of Regional Championship Qualifiers is Standard.
Previously, a few weeks ago, Jace, the Perfected Mind would sell for around $3.50 on TCGplayer fairly recently. As the tournament season has drawn closer, however, the price has climbed now up to $6.74. While this is a concerning trend of growth, thankfully players can pick up Phyrexian Language versions of Jace for cheaper. Available for just $1.84 on average, players really don’t care for this unique variant.
Running from January until March, these RCQs have created a number of bizarre spikes as players build their decks. Toward the end of 2023, this was a major theme, as players were ramping up for the qualifier season. As events draw even nearer, it’s highly likely that we’ll see even more unusual price spikes in the same vain.
Good News and Bad News
While this price spike has definitely been helped by the upcoming RCQs, these spikes nonetheless show Standard’s strength. Since people are buying cards, that must mean that people are actually playing Standard again! Even if it’s just for this tournament season, this is what Wizards has been pushing since way back in May.
To make matters even better, this is supposedly just the tip of the iceberg for Standard in 2024. Alongside the RCQs being Standard, Wizards is also bringing back the Standard Showdown events. Returning alongside the release of Murders at Karlov Manor, these events should hopefully propel Standard back into the spotlight. At the very least, it should get people playing Standard on paper again.
Since Standard was once one of the great formats on paper for MTG, this seems like a great move. Unfortunately, however, the renewed interest and event expansion of Standard isn’t all good news. In fact, more people playing Standard might actually make the format worse as prices will continue to rise.
Currently, if you want to buy a top-tier Standard MTG deck, you may have to shell out upward of $500. While there are some budget options around, the best decks do cost top dollar thanks to prolific staples. In theory, these can be used in other formats following rotation, however, the start-up cost is nonetheless obscenely high.
Should Standard return to its former glory and start moving the markets on a regular basis, budget options may completely disappear. Ultimately, this could do a lot more harm than good. Since this detail will cripple the format’s growth, however, $1000 Standard decks may not be a real concern.
What Wizards Needs to Fix
To put it very bluntly, if Wizards of the Coast wants Standard to succeed, the format needs to be much more accessible. Some of this will come through increased events, however, price is definitely the more important factor. After all, not only is Standard competing with other formats, but it’s also up against MTG Arena.
Compared to dropping $500 on a paper Standard deck, MTG Arena is an incredibly compelling proposition. With enough time to earn Wildcards, you can effectively play for completely free. Even if you want to dive right in today, Wildcard bundles are a bizarrely affordable steal compared to the high prices of Standard.
At just $150 for a deck containing 43 rares and 7 mythics, it’s next to impossible to justify paper prices. Thanks to this, it’s safe to say that something really needs to be done, sooner rather than later. To help Wizards decide what to do, recently MTG players have been offering their helpful suggestions. Reddit user u/Multievolution, for instance, urged Wizards to make Standard precons again.
Just like preconstructed Commander decks, these decks could make Standard significantly more accessible, while also cutting prices. To really achieve that goal, however, Wizards would have to be incredibly aggressive with reprint equity. By reprinting staples like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse not just once, but time and time again, Wizards could efficiently cut costs.
In magical Christmas land, this is exactly what Standard needs. Simultaneously lowering costs and improving accessibility, people may actually want to play Standard again. Unfortunately, however, we do have to consider the reality of the situation. At the end of the day, Wizards of the Coast is a business.
The Sad Reality
Ultimately, while we would like it to change, it makes sense for Wizards not to reprint everything into the ground. By doing this, or rather not doing this, expensive reprints are able to sell sets on their own. Hell, Wizards is able to sell literal reprint-only sets such as Double Masters 2022 by doing exactly that.
Considering how much money these products make, it’s incredibly unlikely Wizards will actually save Standard. Even if Wizards did create Standard precons they’re likely not going to include four copies of each staple. Instead, just like the Commander decks, they’ll likely have only one or two cards of worth amongst Draft chaff.
At the end of the day, of course, we would like Wizards of the Coast to save Standard properly. Thanks to the price point being a stickler, however, we can’t ever see this becoming a reality. Hopefully, Wizards can prove us wrong and surprise us in the future, but we’ll just have to wait and see for that.