Welcome back to Whinston’s Whisdom on the ever informative Quietspeculation.com. Today, I want to guide you through pricing trends that apply to certain subgroups of cards, and how you can use these trends to predict how a card’s price will change in the future. I’ll be examining how these cards are viewed on release, and how that changes throughout their lifespan.
1) The underrated role-player
Example: Stoneforge Mystic
A role player fills a specific need in a deck. It doesn’t create a new archetype around itself, and isn’t great when not in conjunction with other cards, but still plays an important part in a deck’s success. Stoneforge fits this description because it requires a deck to be committed to equipment, yet if that is the case, it is very powerful. Let’s take a look at Stoneforge’s life to this point:
On its release, Stoneforge was greeted as a good but not stellar card. At the time, the only worthwhile equipment to fetch was Basilisk Collar, and while this was good, it wasn’t enough to turn heads. As such, Stoneforge remained a card only for white based aggro rather than the big stage
--Price spike #1:
At Pro Tour San Diego, LSV and other members of his team utilized Stoneforge Mystic with Basilisk Collar and Cunning Sparkmage in the “Boss Naya” deck, named after Tom “The Boss” Ross. After the results from the PT came in, the Mystic’s price spiked.
Between PT SD and the release of Scars of Mirrodin, there wasn’t much for Stoneforge to do. It was still good with Sparkmage to serve as a machine gun, but no new playable equipment was printed, causing it to remain at the same price for an extended period of time.
--Small peak with high potential:
At the release of Scars and the printing of Sword of Body and Mind, speculators and players saw that Stoneforge would gain in playability. While its original peak was small, because the new sword was good but not amazing, many saw the printing of the first sword as a trend, heralding more swords down the line, and increasing Stoneforge’s potential.
--Price spike #2:
And finally we come to the modern day, with Stoneforge sitting high after its success at Pro Tour Paris in the Caw-Blade UW deck piloted by Ben Stark and many others to great success. The printing of another playable sword only increased the amount of value Stoneforge could generate.
So what does this path show us? Always be on the lookout for a card that can be a roleplayer in popular archetypes. While it may not be good at the moment, all it takes is a few good tools before it becomes good, opening up an avenue for profit.
2) Underrated flagship
Example: Jace, the Mind Sculptor
A flagship is a card that defines an archetype as a whole, not just a variant. Without a flagship, that archetype could not exist because it would not be able to compete. Primeval Titan in Valakut or Bitterblossom in Faeries are also good examples of this. And on to the life of everyone’s favorite ‘walker…
Before Jace’s release, debate ran wild about whether he was good enough to see play over his 3 mana infant sidekick. Even those who expected him to be excellent valued him at $40-50. Hindsight is 20/20, so I think it’s safe to say that we were all pretty wrong.
At PT San Diego, Pat Chapin piloted his UW Control deck with Jace to a top 16 finish. Though the list didn’t disseminate very quickly, it still got around and soon everyone was clamoring to build it, sending Jace’s price upwards a significant amount.
--Steady increase until price becomes stable:
After its spike, unlike many other tournament staples, Jace didn’t sink back down. Instead it continued to rise steadily as its playability was discovered in other formats, especially eternal, until it reached a high price of $100. at the moment, I feel that this price is stable, and Jace will not see too much more of a rise in price in the future.
And what does this teach us? A potential flagship should never be underestimated. Even if the archetype is not currently powerful, it still can be in the future. I’ve made my own mistakes on this front. I underrated Tezzeret, despite him being a flagship, saying he was not worth more than $20, and look at the U/B control decks coming out of Paris! Flagships may be fickle, but they are always powerful and expensive.
Example: Sarkhan Vol
This pretty much speaks for itself. An overrated card is over priced on release and quickly falls after it never puts up any numbers.
The driving force behind overpricing, hype is a fickle and dangerous foe. No one wants to miss the next big card, so they buy everything they can hoping to get lucky. This leads to ridiculously high prices on some not very good cards. Sarkhan started at $40+ apiece, just from the hype surrounding him.
Despite the hype, Sarkhan never put up a decent result, let alone a win at a major event. All the tokens decks at the time were either G/W or B/W, so Sarkhan just didn’t fit in with their strategies, and so was ignored.
--Rapid price drop:
After everyone saw that Sarkhan wasn’t good enough to make the competitive cut, he quickly fell in price.
The lesson? Don’t buy into the hype. Hype is the rationality killer, and never brings about good things. Letting the instincts of others determine your own actions is a recipe for disaster and financial heartache.
4) The diamond-in-the-rough or the rediscovered gem
The rediscovered gem is usually an older card that becomes competitive and playable with changes in the format, either unbannings or the printing of new, synergistic cards. Rather than tracing the lifespan of any of my examples, I just look at how each of them fit the definition of a rediscovered gem.
Time Spiral: perhaps the most basic of rediscovered gems, Time Spiral rose in price after it was unbanned in Legacy, adding another format in which it could be played. Though it has yet to put up any results, just the fact that there is a whole new market of players looking for it causes the price to increase.
Dark Depths: gained in playability with the printing of a new card, Vampire Hexmage, that opened up the possibility for a turn two 20/20, obviously a powerful combination. When looking at a new set, evaluating which previously printed cards improve with its release will allow you to pick up the cards that not everyone is thinking about, and avoid getting caught in a tide of other speculators all rushing for the same card
Power Artifact: this one is much like Time Spiral in that it involves unbannings, but in a more subtle way. With the unbanning of Grim Monolith, Power Artifact experienced a price increase because it was a part of that two card combo, somewhat like a combination of Dark Depths and Time Spiral, due to it involving an unbanning of a different card, but one that still made an impact on Power Artifact’s price.
Predicting a rediscovered gem is difficult. Obviously, staying up ‘til midnight on the night before banning and unbanning announcements go up is a good way to get a leap on seeing which cards will shoot up, but before then, it’s very hit or miss. I wouldn’t recommend buying up older cards that only have a small potential to be big.
That’s all for looking at trends in card pricing, so let’s move on to our tip of the week…
Buy buy buy. Both these cards played important roles in taking Gerry Thompson to the top slot in the most recent SCG Open in Washington DC. Gerry played a W/U/R Caw Blade variant, utilizing the Red to have better matchups against aggro and the mirror. Inferno Titan and Collar are both key parts to the post board strategy, so I recommend trading for them.
The comment contest will continue for another week as once again there was only one person who submitted a full response, but by the next article a definite winner will be chosen. Remember, comment under the article or tweet me (nwhinston on twitter) with one positive comment, one constructive criticism, and one future article topic.
Don’t hate, innovate,
Nwhinston on Twitter
Arcadefire on MTGO
Baldr7mtgstore on ebay