Insider: MTGO Market Report

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Comparing MTGO and Paper Prices

Two weeks ago I presented a chart that provided a rough guide for identifying value using a ratio of digital-to-paper prices. Revisiting this chart with updated data can give us an idea of what is happening in the market from a broad perspective. Notably, none of SCG's prices have changed in this time, meaning that any changes to the ratios have come from the MTGO side of things. I've eliminated looking at the sets released prior to Scars of Mirrodin to more clearly focus on sets with higher speculative potential.

Set MTGO to Paper Ratio (Aug 12th) MTGO to Paper Ratio (Nov 14th) MTGO to Paper Ratio (Nov 29th) Supernova SCG Trend
Scars of Mirrodin 0.38 0.45 0.50 $63 $125 Up
Mirrodin Besieged 0.4 0.39 0.49 $49 $100 Up
New Phyrexia 0.61 0.57 0.75 $82 $110 Up
Magic 2012 0.37 0.36 0.43 $65 $150 Up
Innistrad 0.54 0.51 0.49 $136 $275 Flat/ Down
Dark Ascension 0.46 0.64 0.77 $116 $150 Up
Avacyn Restored 0.53 0.76 0.70 $175 $250 Down
Magic 2013 0.33 0.5 0.54 $135 $250 Up
Return to Ravnica N/A 0.39 0.34 $119 $350 Down

First Glance

One of the striking features of this update is that the most recently rotated sets have all appreciated in price in the last two weeks. This indicates that the post rotation bottom has already occurred for these sets. Underpinning these price increases is the value of these sets to redeemers.

But a closer look reveals that New Phyrexia (NPH) now has one of the highest ratios at 0.75. In the short history of this metric, no set has held a ratio higher than 0.77 meaning further prices increases are probably limited for this set. Once the digital version gets closer to the paper price, the value of redeeming sets is reduced, mitigating the speculative potential of NPH.

Meanwhile both Mirrodin Besieged and Scars of Mirrodin look like they have further price increases in their future with relatively low ratios of around 0.5. Opportunities for speculating on these sets are not much different than what was originally suggested in my article two weeks ago, so have a look there for ideas on what cards to speculate on.

On the other side of things we have the continued fall in price of a digital version of Return to Ravnica (RtR). This is a predictable event as drafting and limited play has continued apace, keeping the supply of cards on the market high.

The ratio for RtR of 0.34 is close to the ratio observed for Magic 2013 back in August. At that time, there was exceptional value in buying Magic 2013. This suggests that buying RtR today also represents good value. However, the ratio for RtR is probably not done falling. There are still a number of weeks to go before the release of Gatecrash and the switch to the GGG draft format, so RtR has probably not bottomed in price yet.

Risky Sets

Avoid Innistrad block and Magic 2013. The ratios on these sets are bouncing up and down depending on shifts in the metagame. There is no clear, exploitable trend that can be detected. This means that making a broad purchase from these sets is much riskier than, say, buying a basket of mythics from MBS. Specific cards might represent good speculative opportunities (though I have looked closely and not come up with any recently), but from a complete set perspective you should avoid Innistrad, Dark Ascension, Avacyn Restored and Magic 2013.

Each of these sets has only about five months to go before prices start collapsing due to impending rotation and a fall in demand from redeemers. Note that even though Innstrad block does not rotate out of Standard until October of 2013, we can expect prices to start falling for these sets by the spring. The window of opportunity for speculating on specific cards from these sets is much shorter than for a card from RtR, which has at least 16 months to go before it starts to show it's age.

If a speculative mistake is made on a card from RtR, there is plenty of time for something to change in the Standard metagame that would bail out a position. In comparison, cards from Innistrad block and Magic 2013 only have a few months left before underlying market forces start pressuring prices downwards. Fighting against the market is a tough way to make a few tix as a speculator, so avoid these increasingly risky sets.

The MED Events

Upon the announcement of these events, prices on cards like Force of Will tumbled quite a bit as players sold their copies into the market. They anticipated that the MED events would push new supply onto the market and prices would fall as a result. But I don't think it quite worked out the way that people expected, including myself.

Outside of the drafts for MED I, aided by the lure of cracking a Force of Will, very few of the other MED drafts fired. In fact, I didn't detect any MED II or MED III 64 player drafts firing at all. Players were simply not interested in drafting these sets.

MED sealed queues on the other hand, started off with a bang. These only accepted tix for entry, for which you got one pack of each set in order to build a 30 card deck. Initially the cost of entry was a discount compared to secondary market prices on packs. For instance, MED I was priced at over 10 tix just prior to these events. This encouraged players to join these events in the hopes of cracking valuable cards while also enjoying reasonable prize support in packs.

However, without many of the draft events firing, the prizes from the sealed queues flooded the market causing pack prices to tumble. As a result, the costs of entry became too high relative to the payout and the sealed queues slowed down considerably over the weekend.

The end result was to see a short term bottom on Force of Will on Friday night of the events with a sell price of 84 tix. If you were quick and had the available tix, buying on Friday night could have yielded a small short term profit of 8 tix as the current buy/sell prices on Supernova bots has rebounded to 92/100 tix.

Power Nine on the Horizon

With the Power Nine getting a dry run in the upcoming Christmas holiday cube draft on MTGO, the future for speculating on Eternal staples from the MED sets looks good. At the bottom of this page, WoTC appears to confirm that the Power Nine will be released on MTGO in some collectible and playable form in 2013. Buying staples such as Underground Sea and Tundra at this time is a logical course of action to follow for those interested in speculating on Eternal formats or for those who want to play Vintage in the future.

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.

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10 thoughts on “Insider: MTGO Market Report

    1. That’s a fine compliment! Thanks so much. This mtgo/paper ratio is very handy and almost painfully obvious once you start looking at it. I feel this kind of top down guidance mitigates a lot of risk. As a real world example, it’s like you know what types of stock are poised to rise and all it takes is a little further research to find the best buys.

      1. Agreed it is a very useful metric. I wish I was in the states so shipping/duties didn’t kill the profit out of getting Sealed sets. Also, I used to be in Ottawa as well, do you ever do paper trading or events or purely MODO?

        1. I’ve just moved to Ottawa in the last year, and haven’t done any physical play. I’ll be down to GP Toronto in order to play, but it’s more to catch up with some old friends as I used to be a PTQ grinder in TO, circa 2000-2003.

  1. Matthew i was wondering you wrote “Buying staples such as Underground Sea and Tundra at this time is a logical course of action to follow for those interested in speculating on Eternal formats or for those who want to play Vintage in the future.” . But dont you think that if they try to get p9 in modo they will try to add other cards like Underground sea too (again ) ?

    1. I think increasing the supply of cards from the MED sets is something that will definitely occur again in the future. However, WotC is pretty cautious about the volume of cards they release, and they have basically promised that MED I-IV will never appear in the store again, meaning cards will only show up in events like the ones we just saw. So, I think it unlikely that we’ll see a flood of vintage/legacy staples from sets like MED.

      Basically, I feel that buying now is a good idea because prices have dipped as a result of the MED events. And once the power 9 come to MTGO, there will be a tremendous amount of hype and fanfare around that, stoking interest in all Eternal staples to some degree. I’d suggest that today’s prices on the original blue dual lands should be considered a floor, and hence a low risk bet for gains this year.

      There is one caveat. It’s possible they decide to release the power 9 in a new MED set as mythic or super mythic rares. If the dual lands are included here, that would crash the prices. But all the signs point to WotC being comfortable with the overall cost of Legacy/Vintage as it stands right now. I think they are happy to have dual lands at 20ish tix.

      Currently they don’t recognize the cost of FoW at 80+ tix as being too problematic, but that might change in the future.

      Lastly, if I had 20 tix to speculate with, I would not buy a Tundra. I’d buy 5 consecrated Sphinx. The returns from redeemable sets are just much more secure and predictable, even though I feel like there is an opportunity on the dual lands.

      1. Technically nothing. See my above comment for a more elaborate response. Ultimately WotC are demonstrating a very cautious approach around reprints, giving plenty of advance notice. As an example, they were warning about reprinting modern staples many many months before actually announcing Modern Masters. If they are going to reprint duals in large quantities, I’d expect a similar signal.

        The MED events are not a large influx of dual lands or cards in general. My back of the napkin calculation suggests that less than 300 copies of Force of Will came onto the market, and probably an equal number of each dual land.

  2. Just wondering about my Champions of the Parish; I’ve been waiting almost a year now to see them climb to 2 tix but I’m still waiting… so I guess best course of action is to wait for boros (gatecrash) and then sell, whatever happens ? Get rid off them before spring ?

    1. If you go here,

      You can see that Scars of Mirrodin peaked in value at the end of March, and then started a decline which has only just finished. The month after Gatecrash is released should be the window when any old positions from Innistrad block get dealt with.

      So, yes, you are correct. Get rid of them before the spring. The trend is not favorable after that point.

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