(Part 2) The Cost of Legacy – How we got here, where we’re going, and why it matters

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If you haven’t read last week’s column, I suggest looking at it now. This week we’re going to build on what we learned last week from the past year and apply it to the present.

So what lessons did we learn last week while analyzing how Legacy came to its current state?

1. The market is NOT a bubble.

This was already the prevailing theory, but last week we were able to conclusively prove this case. Tracking Ebay prices back to December 2009 we are able to clearly see the increase in demand for Legacy staples. While the later price jumps set by Star City Games may or may not have correctly guessed the “true” price, it is clear that there is real demand driving the prices.

2. The market is still growing

As easily seen on, prices on major cards like Force of Will are still growing. The price growth has slowed or stalled somewhat, but the majority of format staples are still rising, though they appear to be near a short-term peak. Barring reprints or a change to the amount of Legacy events hosted, cards like Force will continue to slowly appreciate much as they did before 2010.

3. The single biggest factor in Legacy prices is the StarCityGames Open Series.

Using Force of Will as our guide (since it is the premier Legacy card), we see that the creation of the Legacy series had much more of an impact on its price than did its high-profile victory in Saito’s GP-winning deck. People often ask what will “kill” Legacy. It’s not proxies, it’s not scarcity, it’s the number of Legacy Opens that are hosted each year. As such, any changes that SCG announces should be considered the most important factor in regards to Legacy prices.

Where we’re going

With demand growing at a much slower pace now than a month ago, I think it’s safe to say short-term demand for cards like Force will peak right after Grand Prix Providence, the only Legacy GP of the year, which will end on May 29. I think it’s likely we see staple cards like Force and Wasteland peak within the first two weeks of June. They will then level off before beginning to slowly appreciate. This will continue until outside factor impacts the market, such as more/less Opens or bannings.

What this means to you

A few things. First, don’t let someone trade you Legacy staples at inflated prices because “it’s only going up.” The huge price correction is done with; so don’t get taken in by $100 Forces. After being out of stock and selling Force for $90, SCG now has 61 in stock at $79.99., and you can pick up Moderately Played copies for $60 apiece. Wasteland has already leveled off. Keep this in mind when valuing Legacy cards.

Secondly, it means the time to “buy into” Legacy cards is pretty much past. I’m sure you’ve all picked up a lot of the staples already, but if you did so merely to resell them, you should be looking to unload them before the end of May.

How to profit from Legacy going forward

There are a few different things affecting the current Legacy market. The first is obviously the recent price run-up. The second is the printing of New Phyrexia, and in particular, Mental Misstep. I’ll save the Misstep for another week, since there’s still time before the card actually impacts the metagame, so today we’re going to focus on finding some cards still actively gaining value.

For reference, we’re going to look at prices from about a year ago, May 1, to determine how much some of the heavily-publicized cards have risen since then, and then we’ll use that information to identify some potential gainers.

Force of Will

May 1, 2010 - $37

April 26, 2011 - $63

Change – 70%


May 1, 2010 - $22

April 26, 2011 - $53

Change – 141%


May 1, 2010 - $9

April 26, 2011 - $13

Change – 44%

Rishadan Port

May 1, 2010 - $18

April 26, 2011 - $31

Change – 72%

Aether Vial

May 1, 2010 - $9

April 26, 2011 - $13

Change – 44%

Sensei's Divining Top

May 1, 2010 - $6

April 26, 2011 - $12

Change – 100%


May 1, 2010 - $11

April 26, 2011 – $17

Change – 55%

I chose these cards because I felt like they are all heavily played cards that see pretty constant play despite metagame shifts, and I omitted Tarmogoyf because the recent rotation from Extended has jacked with his price (though his recent gains are in line with Force). I also excluded cards that are currently in Standard or Extended, as they are too volatile to use this method to evaluate.

The goal is to find a range of increase that we can predict for cards across the board that see about the same amount of play. If we convert those numbers into a percentage, we come out to an average increase of 75%.

While these numbers aren’t perfect at predicting exact price shifts, especially with the huge run on Wastelands, we can still gleam a few things from this set of cards. Every card on this list registered at least a 40% increase in price over the last year, and only two cards registered below 50%.

Another factor to note is that each of these cards are played as 4-ofs. This means every time a new player picks up Merfolk they need 4 copies of each of these cards, which causes their price to rise faster than something like Umezawas Jitte that is played as a one-of.

Taking all of this into consideration, I feel comfortable saying that we can reasonably expect the format staples to be up at least 40-50% in the last year, and probably a minimum of 20% for cards that aren’t played as 4-ofs.

Armed with that information, I’ve found some cards that are currently undervalued and are good pick-ups moving forward in the format.

Engineered Explosives

May 1, 2010 - $14

April 26, 2011 - $10

Change - -28%

While its price last year was also reflected by its play in Extended, Explosives is a catch-all answer cropping up in more and more Legacy decks. The card dropped off after its rotation from Extended but is at the highest its been this year, and has recently started to rise more quickly. It also represents a Commander-playable card, a format that is on the upswing that figures to continue through the summer.

Lions Eye Diamond

May 1, 2010 - $28

April 26, 2011 - $36

Change – 28%

I’m jumping the gun a bit here because this pick also represents the coming of Mental Misstep. Some high-profile Legacy names have suggested that Dredge and other combo decks will shift toward LED-fueled routs to dodge the Phyrexian free Counterspell. But even outside of that, LED is still climbing much faster than staples like Force and Wasteland, so it represents a good pickup. Just be aware of the banhammer, as LED is constantly being mentioned as being on the chopping block.

Dark Confidant

May 1, 2010 - $14

April 26, 2011 - $14

Change – 0%

Another victim of rotation, making year-ago comparisons unhelpful. Bob is up 25% since the beginning of the year. Since we can reasonably expect him to rise about 40-50%, this means there is still some growth potential here. In addition to the “regular” price correction expected, drawing extra cards for free hasn’t gotten any worse recently, and isn’t going to. Pick these up.

Mox Diamond

May 1, 2010 - $37

April 26, 2011 - $33

Change - -10%

While Diamond has been on the rise for the last month, it’s not unlikely that it continues to do so for a while to come. With so many two-mana spells worth ramping into on Turn 1, we can expect the Diamond to hold its value moving forward.

Umezawas Jitte

May 1, 2010 - $18

April 26, 2011 - $15

Change – 16%

Another card distorted from Extended, but Jitte is up 25% on the year, just as we would expect from a card run usually as just a single copy. But there are still other reasons to pick up Jitte. Stoneforge Mystic continues to show up in more and more Legacy decks, and I think it will continue to see play as the metagame moves forward.

Another reason to pick up Jitte: Wizards has for years now been pushing creatures, and Legacy (and all formats) have become more creature-dominated than ever before. Jitte is a pretty good answer in a creature-centric format.

That’s all the suggestions I have for you today, and this is clearly by no means an exhaustive list. The purpose of this series was to show you how to evaluate the market and find these opportunities for yourself, rather than simply give you a list of cards to buy. I would say it’s about “teaching you to fish,” but we all know how well that turned out for the last writer to try that.

Let me know what you thought of this two-week series, I appreciate any feedback.


Corbin Hosler

4 thoughts on “(Part 2) The Cost of Legacy – How we got here, where we’re going, and why it matters

  1. I like it, I would also mention possible commons and uncommons that have seen price shifts remember picking up 100 copies of a card that increases 2 dollars is the same as picking up 10 copes that increase 20 dollars. Safer gambles and can honestly create larger profits since they are easier to pick up.

  2. Yes, however, it's harder to move a hundred commons or uncommons, which means that the time spend making that money is greater, so your value is–usually–lower. Best to leave the volume purchases to the big stores.

    Not that small stores can't get in on stuff like that, but individual traders may find it hard to move a hundred cards that likely are role-players that will rise or fall based on geographic location and popularity of a given archetype. Additionally, those cheaper cards are more volatile when it comes to rounding off values in trades.

    That's one reason why I don't mind consolidating some value in traders–trading up, essentially–and a good many players will even feel like they're getting too much even when they're trading "down." One of the interesting things mythic rarity does to the format is increase those price disparities, for better and worse.

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