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Insider: Run, Baby, Run!

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“It’s been a great run, buddy. Seriously, I know you still have the stuff of a champion, but we just can’t renew your contract unless you take a pay cut.”

“But, Coach!?!”

“... No buts, Tiago. That’s just the business we’re in.”

Time is ticking down on the release of Magic 2013, and new changes to Standard are imminent. The time to act is now. Snapcaster Mage is going to be falling steeply in the very near future. What does ‘steeply’ mean?

Paper Chart

(from blacklotusproject.com)

MTGO Chart

(from mtggoldfish.com I chopped off the hyper-inflated portion that happens during Pre-Release)

Snapcaster in Paper is already on the decline. At first, I attributed this to a banning scare. I heard from various sources both in person and across the Twitterverse, that people “in the know” were dumping their Snapcaster Mages. I was insistent there would not be a banning, and there wasn’t. PHEW. I expected buylist prices to rebound. They haven’t. Star City Games has Snapcaster Mage at $19.99 sale list, with 8 playsets in stock as of this writing, and their buy price is at $8. ChannelFireball.com still sells it at the same price, but buys at $10. Clearly we have a large spread in Buy/Sell here, no matter how you see it. Logically, this would tell me that they really don’t want any more stock or they are expecting a big decline and they don’t want to be stuck. So, if he’s not banned, and he’s a monster in Standard, why do we fear his decline?

First, of all, many of us here at QS, and many others elsewhere, predicted a high price for Snapcaster Mage early on, but most of us expected him to fall to the $15 retail price within a few months of release. We’re now 9 months in, and it’s clearly started to fall. Some of this comes from the reasons we expected last Fall. Packs are open. Drafts are done. We’ve reached the tipping point where this non-Mythic Rare has flooded enough supply out there to meet the demand of not only Standard players but Legacy, EDH and Modern as well.

But there’s more. WotC admitted that Snapcaster Mage is too powerful for Standard. I knew that wouldn’t mean a brand-damaging banning, but rather metagame shifts and new printings. Well, we’ve got ‘em. Ground Seal is a real card. Tormod's Crypt is a real card. While other hate already exists for Tiago, we’ve added more fuel to the fire, while also ensuring that enough survives rotation after Nihil Spellbomb and Surgical Extraction rotate from Standard.

Wizards is pushing the format hard away from blue dominated aggro decks, and encouraging the aggro decks to play the other colors, as seen in cards like Rancor. Snapcaster’s new home will be in U/B and U/W control decks, flashing back things like Duress, Tragic Slip and possibly Timely Reinforcements until it rotates. But the days of Snapping back an [card]Unsummon[card] are soon to be over.

We’ve also seen a complete nerfing of the strategies that have kept Snapcaster Mage in the limelight. The Core Set is not even providing a new cantrip at U, but rather Index (I mean, can a brother get an Opt even?). Not only was Mana Leak not reprinted (no surprise there), we don’t even get a Cancel (while it rarely sees play, we will still have Dissipate)!

While Rewind is a real card, casting it via Snapcaster Mage is no easy feat. Narrow hard counters like Negate and Essence Scatter are fine, but not enough to keep an aggro-control deck like Delver afloat post-rotation. Snapcaster Mage will certainly still see play, don’t get me wrong. But on a totally different scale that what we’re used to. I actually wrote a blog post on my personal blog about how Mana Leak is really the monster that made aggro-control so powerful in blue.

The people who were “In the know” weren’t betting on a banning (if they were, they were just lucky) they were betting on massive scale nerfing. While I’m not surprised to see R&D drop a Nerf-hammer rather than a ban-hammer, I’m bummed I didn’t pick up on this a dollar ago, rather than holding out hoping they’d bounce back after the non-ban. They still hit an easy $16 on Ebay and even as high as $19 at times, but the quantity selling at those prices are dwindling. If you can find any outlet to get rid of these at reasonable prices, I would do so. Otherwise, to EBay with them promptly. Since they still sit at hefty StarCityGames and ChannelFireball retail pricing, I’d be using that pricing scale to guide trades as you try to dump these at your big pre-releases around the corner.

Notice the charts of both the Paper and MTGO pricing. MTGO pricing has been fairly stagnant, while Paper pricing has begun the decline. Typically we see the MTGO market move a bit quicker, but there’s another animal at work here. The online price hit its equilibrium much faster as draft packs flood the market much faster in comparison to the demand for constructed, and Legacy playability is not a huge factor on modern-era Rares on MTGO. Typically we see Standard playable rares sit around 60-70% of their paper price on MTGO, so that being said, I think by Fall’s rotation, we’ll see Snapcaster potentially as low as $10, and buy prices around $6. I’ll be looking to re-buy at that time and stash for the long haul.

I’m really interested to see how my Summer calls pan out once we see how formats shift after the new set, so I’ll be updating those as time passes. Any M13 cards we haven’t addressed yet you’d like to see some detailed analysis of next week? I plan to pick a few cards to create some detailed projections on their lifecycle.

6 thoughts on “Insider: Run, Baby, Run!

  1. While this is a well thought out article, that bit about MTGO pricing as relative to paper pricing is just 100% wrong. The MTGO market place is so different to paper due to ridiculous amounts of drafting and a dead legacy scene that no comparison can be made. Sure, for standard only cards like Seachrome Coast 60-70% seems to be accurate, but for multi format staples with near infinite supply online, drawing a linear correlation is practically impossible

    1. i addressed that as the reason why that hasn't held true thus far, but why i think it will ultimately revert back to that amount.. i'll work up something more detailed on this. fair critique.

  2. Great article, Chad! Agree 100% that Snappy is due for a pull-back. I sold mine for $17 each just before the banning announcements and despite the fact that he survived, I still see his power dwindling post rotation. Notice how there are no U cantrips in M13? 🙂

    I can't speak for MTGO, but if supply is truly "infinite" as Noah points out, then when the Standard metagame shifts the demand should drop, thereby dropping the price. Maybe not in an identical way, but the same trend. Seems logical to me.

  3. It'll be interesting to see what happens. I've been a buyer of Snapcaster Mage on MTGO at the 5 to 6 tix level in anticipation of seasonal upward swings in price. I agree with Noah Winston regarding the connection between MTGO prices and irl prices. Understanding that they are different objects with different fundamentals is the correct starting point. Next that they are loosely connected through redemption and somewhat more connected through the constructed metagame.

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