Insider: M13 Release Impacts on the MTGO Market

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Looking over historical price trends, one notices that the price bottom for the cards from Mirrodin Besieged (MBS), as represented in the MTGGoldfish chart of the MBS index, is the end of July 2011. New Phyrexia (NPH) has a similar chart. That last week of July coincided with M12 release events, a time when prizes for sealed events are quite generous.

The attractive payout structure pushes the demand for tix higher as they are the only means to play in sealed deck release events. Ordinarily, limited events accept a combination of boosters and tix as entry, but not in this case. The attitude of most MTGO players is such that they are enamored with the idea of ‘going infinite’, ie, not having to pay to play.

Combined, these effects broadly depress prices for singles, as the quickest way for players to gather some tix is to sell singles into the market, typically to bots. This, along with the shift towards M12 as a draft format, gives a reasonable explanation for why these indices hit a low during core set release events.

Spot the Trend



Further examination of the chart shows that after the observed low at the end of July, an uptrend begins, which is defined as a series of higher highs and higher lows. For MBS, the trend is intact until January 2012. And for NPH, the trend lasts until May of 2012.

After the upward trend is broken, both MBS and NPH begin a downtrend where a series of lower highs and lower lows are reached. This downtrend is ongoing at the moment, as players eye the Fall rotation. It will continue until approximately October, when Scars block and M12 rotate out of Standard.

This observed pricing trend is useful to speculators. As a general rule, when considering the timing of taking positions in the latest sets, the core set release event period is the best window of opportunity.

As M13 release events begin firing, any of the best speculative targets from Dark Ascension (DKA) and Avacyn Restored (AVR) should be purchased. Each of the following proposed targets carries two ratings, one for risk and one for return. Here ‘Risk’ is the chance of suffering a loss on a medium time horizon (3-6 months) if purchased at the suggested prices while ‘Return’ measures the potential gain if things work out as predicted. When considering taking a position, it’s prudent to always consider risk first.

Top Picks

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

(Risk: Low to Medium, Return: Medium to High)

This Planeswalker sees sporadic play in Standard at the moment and has found a price floor of 14-15 tix. As players try to crack the metagame of Fall Standard by trying out strategies both new and old, expect a resurgent interest in this card. Both Elspeth Tirel and Garruk, Primal Hunter saw huge spikes in price during October of last year as the metagame sought to establish itself. Expect Sorin to see similar price action as players test out W/B tokens in the new format.

Usually a key predictor of the Fall Standard metagame will be the decks from Block Constructed. However, this year Lingering Souls and Intangible Virtue were banned in Block so the successful Block decks we have seen online are not entirely representative of what we can expect in the Fall. The true power of token decks is probably quite high an,d for this reason, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is under priced relative to other Block staples such as Bonfire of the Damned and Huntmaster of the Fells.

As a strategy, Tokens might take people by surprise in Fall Standard. As a good speculator, don't be surprised.

Downside protection on buying Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is offered in the run up to the release of Gatecrash in early 2013. That set will have the Orzhov guild returning, so any powerful W/B cards will have extra interest at this time as deck builders anticipate using the new cards in Gatecrash. Acquire this card for 14-15 tix during M13 release events.

Restoration Angel

(Risk: Low to Medium, Return: Medium)

This card has powered up Delver variants in Standard as well as Birthing Pod decks in Modern. This card is a staple for both formats.  The price has settled into a range of between 6 and 8 tix lately, but we can expect a small dip in price during M13 release events. The start of the Modern PTQ season in January 2013 offers downside protection on this position -- if the price remains stable or falls once rotation hits, then higher demand during the PTQ season should provide the best opportunity to exit this trade.

Acquire this card for for 5-6 tix during M13 release events, either through posting to the classifieds and picking up copies that players are dumping or through the bots. This price range is a high level to stake out a position in a rare, but recent examples of rares hitting 10+ tix include Stoneforge Mystic, Kalastria Highborn, and Birthing Pod.

As of Aug 8th, this card is priced at over 9 tix, so if it doesn't get down closer to 6 tix, steer clear. 7 to 9+  tix is too high to speculate on for an in print rare.

Gravecrawler/Geralf’s Messenger

(Risk: Medium, Return: Medium)

Both of these rare zombies have seen their prices hover between 3 and 5 tix since the start of June. Typically they have moved together, with Gravecrawler holding a slight premium. They form the backbone of any aggro zombie strategy in Standard, and the current builds will be largely intact come rotation of Scars block and M12.

There might be a good opportunity to sell these before rotation, so keep your eye open and don't just file these away for October. Holding for rotation will not be a mistake, though, as the early stages of a new Standard format are often filled with aggressive strategies, so expect to see Zombies taking it's place in the metagame right off the bat.

If possible, pick these up for around 3 tix, though as of Aug 8th they are both above 5 tix, which brings an unacceptable level of risk.

Value Play

Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded

(Risk: Low, Return: Low to High)

This card has been in a steady down trend since AVR was released. With a restrictive casting cost and few practical applications at the moment, this card has fallen to an all time low for a single printing in-print Planeswalker.

When you start to talk about the cheapest mythic Planeswalker ever, it's time to pay attention.

With the price so low, it will quite literally have difficulty going lower. Buying this card might never yield any profit, but at worst it will result in a small loss. On the upside, if it finds a home, it could rise to 6-8 tix. Buy this card as a low risk gamble for between 2.5 and 3 tix.

Unfortunately, the recent spike in the price of Bonfire of the Damned and Temporal Mastery has dragged upwards the price of all AVR mythics. As of Aug 8th, Tibalt is hovering closer to 4 tix.

Value Trap?

Wolfir Silverheart

(Risk: Medium to High, Return: Low to Medium)

In comparison to Tibalt, this rare is at a critical juncture of price and playability. It is good but is it good enough?

Wolfir Silverheart has been sitting in the 1.5 to 2 tix range and copies of it are all over the top decks of ISD Block Constructed. If things break right, it could see a price of between 3 to 4 tix. However, as a rare (as opposed to a mythic) it could just as easily settle into a range of 0.5 to 1.5 tix.

And with Jund decks being over represented in ISD Block Constructed, this card has little going for it at the moment.

The Dark Horse


(Risk: Medium, Return: Low to High)

For much the same reason that Wolfir Silverheart is priced too high, this card is priced too low. Tokens being nerfed in Block means that this enabler isn't in high demand at the moment on MTGO. Stick a few of these under the mattress for Fall Standard.

Pick them up for 2 tix or less and on the upside they could hit 5+ tix. Expect Tokens to be a part of the metagame in the Fall. This guy will be in the thick of things as another pseudo anthem effect.

Summing Up

The case has been made here for a few cards with varying potential.

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad carries the best risk/return ratio of the cards considered here. After Pre-Release weekend for M13, prices softened on many cards but there are a few in demand cards for Standard that have hit new highs, such as Restoration Angel and the DKA zombies.

Keep your eyes open for prices to slide over the first weekend of Release events and get your tix ready to snap up any opportunities. Remember, don't over pay for these cards as a higher price increases risk and reduces potential return.

Matthew Lewis

Matt Lewis currently lives in Ottawa, Canada and is a long time player and PTQ grinder who now speculates and plays exclusively on MTGO. He's always ready to discuss ideas and investment strategies, so drop him a line in the comments, the forums or on modo, username mattlewis.

View More By Matthew Lewis

Posted in Free Insider, MTGO

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16 thoughts on “Insider: M13 Release Impacts on the MTGO Market

  1. I'm pretty big on wolfir silverheart so i want to discuss more about this card. First of all, I'm not quite sure what this phrase means ''this rare is at a critical juncture of price and playability''. Are you referring that since its mainly played in block, this card will see less play once RTR hits and the block format changes? If so, I feel like that is rather hard to predict and its usage in block will give us a good clue to its usage in standard post rotation.

    Also, what do you mean by jund being over-represented? Isn't a deck's playability a good sign for the cards contained within? Or could you be referring to tokens being reintroduced negatively affecting this deck's position in the metagame?

    Looking forward to your response. Cheers! 🙂

    1. In your second paragraph, you are correct in reflecting that tokens being a possible deck in Fall Standard will have a negative impact on Jund. As you also suggest, Fall standard is difficult to predict. We just can't know how powerful the block tokens deck is compared to Jund, but we can surmise that it is pretty good based on cards being banned in block. The last cards to be banned in block were affinity related cards from Mirrodin block.

      Also, prices on Jund staples such as Huntmaster of the Fells and Wolfir Silverheart are more elevated than they otherwise would have been in a block format with tokens. This is where the value trap comes from, and I would put Huntmaster in this category too.

      Both cards are powerful and have seen a lot of play, particularly in block. This has driven prices up. If their playability in Fall Standard is reduced compared to block, then we should expect a slow price decline as players realize these former all stars are just not as good as they were.

      The critical juncture is this mix of current playability and a price that is not too expensive. If Wolfir Silverheart were less played, then it would be easy to say it's too expensive. If it was cheaper, then it would be easy to say it's a good investment. As it stands, it's played enough but is somewhat expensive so it's in a range where it's upside and downside risk are close in my opinion.

      I hope this helped to clarify my thinking, feel free to ask more questions!

      1. are there examples of cards that have fallen in price due to the transition of block format? or is this a more unique scenario due to an untested quantity in tokens

        1. I couldn't find a good comparison to Wolfir Silverheart to serve as an example.

          Generally cards from the most recent block receive a bump in price at rotation, but I wouldn't rely on this except for staples such as dual lands and other cards that have proven themselves in Standard or are mythics priced at their floor. It's the nature of investing on mtgo, unless you spend time to buy directly from people, you have to surrender the buy/sell spread to the bots.

          With this in mind, let's look at what might happen. Wolfir Silverheart wil probably go above 2 tix in October, to 2.5 to 3 tix. If I bought in today at market prices, a jump to 2.5 tix mean I just about break even. A jump to 3 tix means I turn a small profit. For me, I want it to go to 3+ tix because then your are close to making 1 tix on each card. If I could reliably buy these at 1 tix today, then I would be on board with Wolfir Silverheart as a good speculative investment.

          I've done my work, I've made some predictions based off of it, and I've put my money down on Sorin. If Wolfir Silverheart breaks out as a top card in Fall Standard, then it'll probably push to 5 tix. At that point, my analysis will have proven to be incorrect. I look forward to seeing what happens!

  2. Too bad this article is a week to late to be up to date.
    This kind of article should be published the week before release events start, not the week after it.
    Because it's really good information (and a good article), and now we can evaluate your predictions as being true.

    So next year, a little bit earlier!

    1. It's actually worse than a week out of date, it's closer to two weeks out of date!

      Something changed with the pre releases of M13 that makes the thesis of this article basicaly incorrect. WoTC lowered the prices of pre releases to 25 tix which allowed enough product to come onto the market that people got interested in Standard again. This started pushing prices up on all Innistrad block cards that are currently played in Standard earlier than expected.

      Previously, my top pick had been Restoration Angel, but it's price started increasing sooner than I anticipated, I think due to this change to the pre releases. The DKA zombies saw something similar happen. Sorin was largely unaffected due to not being played to any great extent, and so I had to rejig my top pick.

      Thanks for the constructive critcism; I recognize that the timeliness of this article is poor and I will work hard to write more timely articles in the future.


    2. Thanks for the feedback! I agree that we should have published this last week. It was a matter of scheduling (now fixed) that complicated that–Matthew was on top of things. as he wrote this while on a biweekly publication cycle.

      After this week, however, Matthew has his own weekly column, which will allow his content to stay timely.

    1. They are both hard to judge and I haven't thought about them much. If they approach their respective price floors of 8 and 13 again, then I would be more interested. As it stands, they are powerful cards which don't currently have a home in Standard. Most likely they will see some bump up in October as brewers get to work.

      I like Tamiyo better than Entreat. We've seen a 5cc planeswalker from a 3rd set/large set go up to 40 tix before in Gideon Jura. Tamiyo will fit into a control deck, but will it be a 3 of? Maybe. It's almost a certainty that Tamiyo will make an appearance as a useful piece in a control deck this year.

      Entreat is much harder to judge. And I don't like to gamble on cards that I don't know very well.

  3. Entreats game swinging ability is on par with bonfire and it’s not red! It will find a home in tokens (maybe) just so hard to cast from the hand in comparison to bonfire.

    1. Casting cost makes all the difference in this case. With the guilds of Ravnica on the horizon, anybody who wants to should be able to squeeze bonfire into their deck. The same cannot be said for Entreat the Angels.

  4. ^^^^ High Road.

    Exactly what I expect from the writers on this site, thank you. Matt's call % hits well above the market and his analysis always makes sense. I am still very novice in digital, but by following his advice over the last year+ I have made well over my subscription with almost no loss.

    I also like that you explain the theory behind your picks, it helps me understand the influences so I can determine if a play is right for me (risk, investment cost, time of hold, etc).

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