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The cost of Legacy – how we got here, where we’re going, and why it matters

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We’ve got all of New Phyrexia spoiled, and the response has been quick. The entire set was spoiled on Tuesday, and by Wednesday there were multiple columns devoted to it already, including on this very site. It’s pretty nice to see such a quick response from the community, though I do echo the sentiments of many who say they wish we could wait until the prerelease to actually see the cards.

I promise I’ll get to the spoilers in the next few weeks, when I make my official calls on the new cards. But this week and next, I want to look at a different hot-button issue with the community right now – The explosion of Legacy prices. Rather than turn this into a rant like so many of the articles about it I’ve seen, I want to trace the problem to its roots.

The goal of this is two-fold. First off, this week I’m going to look at how we got here, this will serve to catch everyone up who has caught only bits and pieces of the debate (or has no idea what I’m talking about). And next week, by establishing the pattern that led us here, we can hopefully use it to track similar patterns in the future, allowing us to foresee a coming price spike, and therefore profit from it.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Dec. 11, 2009 – Star City Games begins Legacy Open series

The first Open weekend that started it all. Pat McGregor takes down the title with Aggro Loam, while Owen Turtenwald takes second with Lands. 12 Force of Wills litter the Top 8 of the tournament. Force averages a price of $21 a copy on Ebay. Star City will go on to host 15 Legacy Opens in 2010, setting attendance records along the way.

Feb. 5, 2010 – Worldwake is released on the market

While this doesn’t directly impact the Legacy market, the printing of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and its subsequent rise to unparalleled prices ignite interest among the Magic community for “beating the market” to a card in order to save money.

February 2010 – Kelly Reid and Jon Medina examine the trend of Legacy prices

In this article, Kelly Reid examines prices of Legacy (and Extended) staples such as Tarmogoyf, which had begun to climb in price (‘Goyf was fetching $100 from major sites at the time). Dubbing cards like ‘Goyf and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale the “New Power,” (an idea I revisited here). Medina also uses his blog MtgMetagame to advise investing in Legacy. Kelly and Jon are the first to publicly identify the rising tide of Legacy and suggest investing into the format. By this time, Force had climbed to nearly $30 apiece on Ebay.

April 29, 2010 – Jon Medina starts “Pack to Power”

With Force of Will now quietly up to $36, Jon Medina introduces the Pack to Power series on ManaNation. The quest to trade from a Bear Umbra to a piece of Power 9 fascinates the Magic community and turns Medina into an MTG financial star almost overnight. A whole new group of Magic players (including this author) begin to become more heavily involved in “value” trading, creating a previously unprecedented audience for Magic-related financial content.

July 2010 – DoublingSeason.com launches

Capitalizing on the success of Pack to Power and Kelly Reid’s personal finance blog Quiet Speculation, Kelly, Jon, Doug and a group of other like-minded writers launch Doubling Season, the first website to focus exclusively on financial content. Catching onto the trend, Star City Games quickly hires Medina away from DS and includes him in their premium content. Other major sites such as Channel Fireball quickly follow suit and increase financial coverage. This leads to the closure of DS and the formation of the modern Quiet Speculation. Prices of Force of Will and Wasteland are up more than 25% since January.

August 1, 2010 – Tomoharu Saito wins Grand Prix: Columbus

With demand for Legacy staples already growing, Saito takes it to the next level by taking down a field of 1291 players at Grand Prix: Columbus with UB Merfolk, of course rocking four Forces. The event solidifies the demand for Legacy inside the United States. Another result from Columbus is the appearance of Caleb Durward’s UG Madness deck, also known as Survival Vengevine. The deck exploded in popularity after the event, creating the first major run on a Legacy card, pushing Survival of the Fittest from $15 to $40 over the course of a few months. The deck’s ubiquitous appearance in future Legacy Top 8s eventually leads to its banning.

December 2010 – Star City Games hosts $50,000 Invitational and announces 2011 improvements

The force that was the Star City Games Open series culminated in a $50,000 tournament to end the year, firmly establishing itself as a Series for everyone in the game to pay attention to.

Around this time, changes are made to the Series for 2011 – including additional payouts and double the number of events, making for a total of 30 Legacy Opens in 2011. With more players taking notice of the Series, and more Legacy events being hosted, demand for Legacy cards doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. Force of Will ends the year up more than 50%.

January through March, 2011 – Open Series attendance grows

With the increased schedule of events, some expect attendance at Star City Games Opens to level off. Instead, attendance continues to grow and Star City Games begins to run out of stock on many Legacy staples.

March 15, 2011 – Star City Games updates Legacy prices

Seemingly out of nowhere (to those who weren’t paying attention or reading QS), Star City Games makes major revisions to its Legacy buylists, buying up cards at the prices they were sold for just weeks previous, and other websites soon follow the trend. The move comes on the heels of nearly every financial writer telling their readers they were running out of time to invest in the format at reasonable prices. Force of Will suddenly runs from $45-50 on Ebay and continues to rise. The sudden run-up in prices causes many to ask if the higher prices are real, to which the most influential Magic finance writers (and even I) confirm that the higher prices are here to stay.

April 6, 2011 – Sean Morgan calls Legacy prices a “bubble”

The article that started a firestorm. Attempting to draw parallels to real-world events such as the housing collapse, Morgan predicts the collapse of the Legacy market. The truly interesting discussion comes from the comments section of the article, where most of Morgan’s financial colleagues refute his claims. More importantly, the article draws frank comments about the demand for Legacy cards from SCG Director of Sales Ben Bleiweiss. Force of Will is nearly double what it was a year prior, and Wasteland has almost tripled.

That brings us up to the present. Next week I’ll delve into what we can expect in the future from the Legacy market, and what information we can learn from it besides “Buy Legacy cards now.”

Let me know if you liked or hated this piece and if I missed any important events from the past year-and-a-half.

Thanks,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

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Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in Norman, Oklahoma (also known as the hotbed of Magic). He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at QuietSpeculation.com and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net. He can best be reached @Chosler88 on Twitter.

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6 thoughts on “The cost of Legacy – how we got here, where we’re going, and why it matters

  1. As opinions were asked, I didn't particularly like or hate this piece. It however doesn't really feel like premium content to me. I think anybody could have figured out this chain of events and most people who keep only half an eye on what's going on with magic finance wise should know this stuff. A few recommendations, perhaps some Legacy cards that still seem to have a price that's too low would have improved it greatly (umezawa's jitte comes to mind, given what the swords are doing, though that is already rising as well).

    I understand this article could be seen as an into piece for next week's article, but wouldn't it then have been better to release it for free to maybe draw in a few people who want to see what follows next week? I really think this would have been a very nice article to release for free as a teaser and I would recommend to consider doing that anyway.

  2. Good article. I only began playing Magic recently and its only because of QS that I am aware of these events sinced so many of them occurred before I started playing. It can be difficult to keep a pulse on everything that is happening in the magic arena. Thanks for keeping us informed of the past, present, and future.

  3. @Pi – Thanks for the suggestions, I appreciate the feedback. Releasing it as free content would be a reasonable option (but that isn't really my call). However, as Steve shows, not all our Insiders are financial experts already. As a team, we try to strike a balance between the in-depth financial information for those who follow the market closely like yourself, and those who are a bit newer to the game. Next week should hold more of what you're looking for.

    @MTGVeteran – I agree, and the major reason I wanted to write this piece is that I haven't seen all of the relevant Legacy information in one place before. It's my hope that this can serve as a tool to answer the question "Why are Legacy prices so high?", which is something I've had a number of people ask me over the last few weeks.

    @Steve – Thanks! Welcome to QS (and Magic!)

  4. @Medina – Thanks for linking me this! I went through some of your archives because I knew you were ahead of it, but couldn't find that post. I've update the article to reflect this.

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