Allosaurus Rider isn’t a bad card. Yes, it costs 7 mana to cast. But, it can have pretty high power and toughness, due to the fact they are based on how many lands you control. That’s OK. But you can also put the Rider into play by exiling 2 cards from your hand instead of paying its mana cost. That’s all well and good. It’s pretty awesome in a casual game, right?
Well, not only would it be bought out once, but in fact, it would become bought out a second time, as well. The reasoning behind the second price spike would be clearer than the first. We will first look at the reasons for why Allosaurus Rider became a $15 card suddenly overnight the first time.
Eldritch Moon and Allosaurus Rider
Eldritch Moon spoilers held a couple of answers to the first price spike. The first is a mythic rare from the set with a mechanic new to the set.
Decimator of the Provinces (10)
Creature - Boar
When you cast Decimator of Provinces, creatures you control get +2/+2 and gain trample until end of turn.
Basically, this was a “fixed” Craterhoof Behemoth. In some ways, though, this card is better. It’s all about Emerge. What Emerge essentially does is let you sacrifice a creature and reduce the Decimator’s casting cost by the converted mana cost of the sacrificed creature.
By “casting” Allosaurus Rider with removing two 2 Green cards from your hand, you then only have to pay 3 Green Mana to Emerge a Decimator of Provinces. That’s pretty nasty.
But there was an even better one, and it's yet another Eldritch Moon card.
Because you can search out a creature with converted mana cost X or less, you can get any creature of converted mana cost 9 or less and put it straight onto the battlefield. And in Modern, what better choice is there to get than…
That’s right. A turn two Griselbrand.
Now how consistent is this combo? I have no clue. But that is, well, pretty good. Obviously, there are other things you can do with Eldritch Evolution. Still, you can't imagine too many people beating a turn 2 Griselbrand.
If an entire deck around this strategy emerged and became relevant, it would be pretty awesome. Grishoalbrand, a Modern deck built around Goryo’s Vengeance, Nourishing Shoal, and the Through the Breach, has been a fairly consistent winner in Modern. But Eldritch Evolution gives a whole new engine to build around. Allosaurus Rider seems like a silly target, and you probably won’t always have a copy in hand at the beginning of the game, or by turn two. As with any combo deck, there’s going to be variance. But this is the beginning of what could be a new archetype.
Of course, Allosaurus Rider didn't remain a $15 card. Decimator of the Provinces ended up being a pretty fringe card, sadly. Other Emerge cards did fare better, though. On the other hand, Eldritch Evolution has proven to be pretty useful in Modern. But despite the obvious combo with Allosaurus Rider and Eldritch Evolution, the seven-mana Elf just proved to be too inconsistent to be worth running in the deck. After a reprinting in the Duel Decks Anthology and falling from grace as soon as people realized he just didn't belong in Modern competition, Allosaurus Rider fell back to being a $2 casual card once again. However, things would not stay that way.
The second price spike of Allosaurus Rider came much later in May 2019. This time, the spike went as high as $20! While it would settle fairly quickly, to a TCGPlayer market price around $7, the card that caused the Allosaurus Rider to become a buyout target was much, much better. A sorcery spell called Neoform from War of the Spark would prove so good that it spawned an entire competitive Modern deck called Neobrand!
Neoform is a two-mana sorcery (1 Blue, 1 Green) that has an additional cost of sacrificing a creature. But, when you sacrifice that creature, you search your library for a creature with a converted mana cost of one higher than the creature you sacrificed. This means if you put an Allosaurus Rider into play, then cast this on it, you can go search your library for Griselbrand. It’s actually just like Eldritch Evolution, but a bit more restrictive in what it can search. The trade-off is that creature gets an additional +1/+1 counter placed onto it when it hits the battlefield.
What makes Neoform better than Eldritch Evolution is actually two-fold. First, Eldritch Evolution is three mana and Neoform is only two. So, Neoform can be played much easier and more quickly. Also, the +1/+1 counter is actually quite relevant when it comes to Griselbrand. Because Griselbrand has the Pay 7 life ability to draw seven cards, you can actually swing for 8 damage with lifelink, gaining back that 7 life plus one. The actual key to winning with this deck is to keep your life total up with Samut’s Sprint and Nourishing Shoal to keep up your life total. This way you can draw out your deck, which is why Laboratory Maniac is in the deck. But, you can also starting beating down with Griselbrand as early as turn one, which is what makes this deck so scary. It also helps that the deck plays a copy of Lightning Storm, which can finish off your opponent. Technically, the deck can win on turn one, which is what makes it so scary.
The Neobrand deck can be surprisingly consistent thanks to a few tricky mana producers. The deck plays 4 Chancellor of the Tangle in the deck to try to consistently start your first turn with at least one green mana in your mana pool. It also has 4 Simian Spirit Guide to get you free red mana. Manamorphose helps you mana fix - and draw a card - and one Wild Cantor gives you a way to get that one color of mana you need in a pinch.
The Neobrand deck is actually good enough that it became a 5-0 deck on Magic Online and even made second place at a Star City Games Modern Invitational Qualifier. Will this combo deck last in the Modern format? It’s hard to say if one or more pieces - such as Simian Spirit Guide - will eventually be banned, but as of this writing, Neobrand a viable combo deck in Modern. Allosaurus Rider is a key part of the deck’s combo, too, so it will maintain some value as long as the deck is viable.
What we can learn from price spikes like this is that you just never know when a card will be printed that will make some obscure card sell out across the internet. Basically, if a card has any way that it can be abused, like with the alternate casting cost of Allosaurus Rider, it will eventually get its day in the sun. Sometimes, the spike is short lived, but other times, there is a viable interaction that permanently lifts the card’s value. In the case of Allosaurus Rider, Neoform suddenly made the card Modern-relevant, and for that, this Elf Warrior will not be soon forgotten.