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The Myth of Mythics

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Hello everyone! It's been awhile, I know, but some time life just takes over and writing is the last thing you want to do. However, I am now taking over the Friday financial spot and will hopefully be able to find 4 topics a month that aren't rehashed or common sense. Consider this the Making Money with Magic Advanced Class.

I think there is a lot of crap that is just thrown out at you in the disguise of financial advice when in fact, you are just being entertained and not being taught anything. I have heard everything from obvious fake trade and deals where it makes the author look like a genius to a writer on a "major" site tell his audience to just pitch bulk commons and uncommons instead of saving them to sell off in bulk later on. It was one of the most idiotic things I have ever read, especially since you can make a TON of money on bulk, but I digress, that is not the topic of this week's article. This is all about Mythics and the argument that they are bad for magic and why I think that they are in fact good.

Mythics were brought in during Shards of Alara to add more flavor to the game. Since then, we have had $1 mythics and we have had $80 mythics and everywhere in between. I hear a lot about people saying they want mythics out of the game because they are making the game too expensive but I think they are making the game cheaper!

The last rare to go big while in Standard was Tarmogoyf, granted he had two main things going for him: Third set print run and fit into most decks in all 4 competitive formats. They created the perfect storm for this monster to explode in price and to maintain a similar price to this day. Since then, some rares during Lorwyn-Shadowmoor block have gone around $20-$30, but nothing to the height of Mr. Goyf. Then, once Shards block hit, everything we knew about rares changed. The biggest hitters that saw $10 during that time was Maelstrom Pulse, Noble Hierarch, and Knight of the Reliquary. Ranger of Eos was flirting with it, but was only at that level for a week or 2. These were played in either the most popular deck by far (Jund) or played in all 4 competitive formats (yes, even Vintage). Currently, in type 2, the only rare to break $10 is Stoneforge Mystic with his ridiculous showing in PT Paris as well as finding homes in Extended and Legacy.

Mythics on the other hand can blow up at any second and reach significant prices, far higher than any rare will hope to reach. Jace, the Mind Sculptor went from $35 to $60 to $80 since his release. Gideon Jura has gone from $30 to $40 down to $20 and now has started to climb back up to $30. Mox Opal started at about $30, went all the way down to $10 or so and has now gone back up to $18ish due to Boros and Tezz decks popping up. Mythics are a fickle bunch in reality and a few choice examples illustrate how expensive they can get. They are performing one important function though and that is keeping rare prices down.

Imagine if Jace was a $50 rare, like Tarmogoyf was during his reign. He would be a lot more accessible to people due to such a large amount being available. However, he would be put on the rare sheet with the likes of Stoneforge Mystic and Celestial Colonnade along with the other mythics in the set. This would create fewer of those cards being printed in the long run. I could easily foresee Colonnade being a $10+ card with its play in Extended and Type 2. Stoneforge Mystic would potentially break $30 due to him seeing a large uptick in play. The Scars of Mirrodin lands, especially Seachrome Coast and Darkslick Shores would all see a huge spike in price, and go from $3-$4 each to upwards of $10-$12.

Another point to note are the Zendikar Fetchlands. If there were no Mythics, there would be far fewer of the lands available. They would go from an easy $8-$9 on eBay to upwards of $15-$20. The Onslaught fetchlands would also see a rise in price due to there being fewer Zendikar Fetches to replace them.

Let's look at an example, GerryT's U/W/R control deck that won the SCG DC 5k last weekend:

Current price for Rares/Mythics in the Maindeck (Using rough eBay averages):

1 Sword of Body and Mind - $10
1 Sword of Feast and Famine - $16
4 Stoneforge Mystic - $15
3 Gideon Jura - $20
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor - $80
4 Day of Judgment - $2.50
4 Arid Mesa - $8
3 Celestial Colonnade - $4
2 Glacial Fortress - $2
3 Scalding Tarn - $8
3 Seachrome Coast - $3

Total: $557

This has been the norm for Type 2 Tier 1 decks for awhile now: huge price tags. Let's compare it now to my best guess at what prices could look like without any mythics around to keep rare prices in check:

1 Sword of Body and Mind - $8
1 Sword of Feast and Famine - $13
4 Stoneforge Mystic - $30
3 Gideon Jura - $20
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor - $50
4 Day of Judgment - $5
4 Arid Mesa - $15
3 Celestial Colonnade - $8
2 Glacial Fortress - $5
3 Scalding Tarn - $18
3 Seachrome Coast - $10

Total: $599

The difference is $42, which is about a 7.5% increase of cost of the deck. Buying from a site like Star City would only amplify the difference between costs since their prices are a lot higher than eBay at the moment.

Mythics have clearly been the most important change to the Magic Finance game since probably eBay was created, and that isn't even a hyperbole. They have changed the way cards are available and priced forever. Rares that go above $10 will now be the exception, not the norm. I would rather have people complain about the price of 2-3 cards than complain about 10+ cards that are overpriced due to availability.
Join me next week when I explain how to go infinite on MTGO, and this one won't be for the weak-hearted either. Start saving those pennies now!

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8 thoughts on “The Myth of Mythics

  1. While I appreciate the thought and presentation of this article (I like the price comparisons), the numbers are completely speculative. The series on Mananation about Mythics and their fungibility featured better data on deck prices (as it compared archetypal lists in the pre- and post-mythic standard metagames).

    I would also contend that Sean Morgan (the author of said articles) provided more compelling argumentation of his point than "I think they are making the game cheaper!" followed by what he thinks it might cost to build a deck if there were no mythics.

    I'm fully convinced that the perception of the rising cost of playing Magic is not that the value of an individual deck is getting higher, but that the availability and cost of specific cards is making them difficult to acquire through trade. While this may be good for Wizard's business and it may sell more boxes (thus increasing the supply of the average rare versus the number of players attempting to build tournament-worthy decks with playsets of Jace or Tezzeret) it makes players more reliant on centralized secondary markets like ebay, Star City Games, or their local shop (if the local shop even sells singles).

    This means that while the value of a Magic deck hasn't changed much, the direction of the cashflow (or the cardflow) has become much more upstream, rather than localized eddies within playgroups. In other words, where previously I might have been able to swap 300 dollars worth of cards around a group of players to get the other half of the cards I needed for my control deck, now more of that needs to go to Wizards, or to their authorized retailers (who are also resellers of singles).

    Wizards will never willfully end the practice of printing Mythics because it creates a giant power vacuum that sucks money into their pockets. Players will protest because they are having to pull their credit cards out of their wallets more often than their unplayed Magic cards out of their binders where things like Hellkite Igniter (or even decent rares!) are left to rot.

    /end rant

  2. I have to say I agree with Sean A LOT. That is to say I love the articles on here but this article being (unreasonable) speculation in my opinion. I have debated writing an article for a while now myself regarding Mythics and why they make me hate standard Magic. I personally have most of the Mythics printed and I do my best to purchase them when I feel comfortable with the price. That is to say I don't just hate them.

    What I have an issue with is how they make the game less fun for the casual player. In the same token the prices in this article I just don't agree with. To say fetches would be priced like Shock Lands were during Ravnica, I don't believe they would be that high. Stoneforge being 30 … maybe but she is 20+ right now not 15 so there is an extra what $20 right there.

  3. This does make a trade binder much more difficult to take advantage of (essentially making ok rares worth $1 and no I will not trade you my playset of Copperline Gorge for $4 towards a $100 Jace) . It makes the casual player want to purchase less product not more. Now those extra Sacred Foundry's I could pull an extra of that and trade it but not a Glacial Fortress. It isn't worth the return.

  4. The huge problem with mythic rares isn't that they make the game more expensive (they don't) but that they make casual trading far more difficult.

    In the old days, if you did a draft each week and opened a few other packs, you'd be pretty much guaranteed to have a binder filled with $5 – $10 cards. When you wanted to build a new deck, there wasn't anything *too* expensive, so you could pretty much just trade around and brew whatever you wanted.

    Now, however, you can go weeks without opening a card worth more than the price of a pack. And forget about trading up for flagship mythics – unless you're incredibly pushy, chances are you have to give up one of your golden tickets in order to get one from someone else. That basically means that you have to be a sensational trader or else you're stuck buying them from stores or online.

    That, IMO, is why there are a ton of trading articles out there now while for the first 15 years of the game it was largely ignored.

  5. I think what was missed is that this was mostly an "Opinion" or speculation based on my past experiences with the top end rares in Standard. There is no reason to not believe that the current SOM lands would not behave unlikely older dual-color lands and Jace is behaving eerily like Tarmogoyf was when it spiked up. While it was short, I do think that I made my few points clear. There is not reason to make this a complex argument when it comes down to simply supply/demand. If mythics were rares there would be more supply of them, and less supply of the current rares.

    @Wade: Why would not think high in demand fetchlands would be as high as Ravnica shock lands? These even have the benefit of being played in all formats where the Shocklands were only hot in Type 2 and Extended.

  6. @Stu : I believe these lands are good and I believe the Ravnica lands are the best Rare duals every printed and that ever will be printed outside of the original TRUE dual lands. I basically feel like the colors are not the most expensive ones. Hallowed fountain saw a $17-24 price for most of the time it was legal vs. Overgrown tomb really never went higher than $15. This is a land that gives you a permanent 2 different colors of mana for the rest of the game. ALSO key point here they counted for basic land types so they were also searchable by almost any land search spell that was legal at the time and even now. Imagin them with Path (heck ya path my creature). I just feel that they wouldn't reach that high of a price. Don't get me wrong I love them but they are only useful to resolve half the issue. Shocks solved a lot of problems.

  7. Really it comes back to what you say. They are played in every format right now and they aren't seeing Shock prices…. I don't really see how they could be getting any more play than they already are (Boros 12x anyone) and they did typically come in the same quantity per box as Shocks did (2-4, 3 being usual). I think if you look at what shocks truly did for you vs what fetches or ever pain lands ( ah I miss those too, crappy M10/11 lands) that's more where the price difference comes in. Just my opinion. Again not trying to take away from your article.

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