Welcome to the first edition of Touch of the Eternal!
The focus of this series is with regard to speculation on the Eternal formats.
As many people know (or if they don't here's the first thing you'll want to remember), Eternal staples rarely lose value. The reason for this is that typically the Eternal "staples" are the cards that are the most efficient versions of what they do. For example, Swords to Plowshares is arguably the best removal spell in existence.
There are plenty of other removal spells (Path to Exile, Terror, Doomblade, Dismember, etc.), but the reason that Swords is the one used so much more in Legacy/Vintage is simply due to the fact that the collective conscious believes that trading 1 white mana and giving your opponent life is the best trade you can do for the permanent removal of one of their creatures (not named Misthollow Griffin).
Because the "staples" are the most efficient cards at what they do, Wizards tends to not reprint them or print things better as it would warp their Standard format (which is what makes them money), thus the staples are basically considered "too good to reprint" in mass form.
This knowledge is what allows them to hold their value. These cards really only take a hit when one of three things occurs:
- they get banned (check the Black Lotus Project on Surivival of the Fittest over the last two years),
- they get reprinted (see Lightning Bolt),
- or something better gets printed.
We as speculators and traders can take advantage of that. I will almost always trade Standard staples for Legacy/Modern staples when people offer them to me. I understand that in the short term the standard staples may go up a bit more, but in the long run, I'm buying "gold" in the fact that the cards I'm trading for have a "set" price.
Now Wizards goes and throws a wrench in that plan by announcing Modern Masters. Now those Tarmogoyfs, Dark Confidants and Vendilion Cliques we thought were safe are going to get reprinted. Looking at the Shocklands, this causes concerns regarding large price drops as demand typically remains the same or goes up slightly and supply increases drastically.
Good news on that front. Wizards has already stated that supply won't be increasing drastically. Modern Masters will be a limited print run, i.e. don't expect to be able to keep buying boxes three months after it's released (unless they are heavily marked up).
More good news! Due to the size of the set and the fact that it is very likely that the Legacy staples will be Mythics, meaning that even when people are cracking boxes hoping to get a new Tarmogoyf or whatnot, the probability does not favor them, nor will supply increase as much as in a typical set.
For those interested, here's the math to opening a Tarmogoyf (the only spoiled mythic we know for sure). Special thanks to my friend Stephen Dupal who did it for me:
Start by finding the odds of zero Goyfs in "n" packs:
(1 - 1/120)^n = 0.25
n = 166 packs --> 166/24 = 7 boxes
Thus one must open seven boxes in order to have a 75% chance of opening a Tarmogoyf.(Mr. Roulette dealer I'd like to throw it all on double 0's please.
This means that if you have Tarmogoyf's, don't just unload them shortly before Modern Masters' releases, as chances are pretty good that there may only be another 2-5,000 Goyfs added to the total supply. This same logic can go for any Mythic in Modern Masters. Given the fact that Modern Masters is Wizards' way to "re-invigorate" Modern, expect demand for all the Mythics in the set to go up, thus implying the price of the originals shouldn't feature much of a negative change.
While not directly related to Modern Masters, the fact that Wizards wants to push an Eternal format (though sadly, not Legacy) means that the mana base for the format will be lucrative in the long run. I'm looking at you reprinted Shocklands, as we've already seen Zendikar Fetchlands.
It's also a wise idea to look at any cards that create a potential "pillar" of the format: Second Sunrise, Pyromancer's Ascension, etc. These are the cards that will jump/drop the most due to each respective deck's current status. These are also the cards in which speculators tend to love, as careful analysis of a spoiler can often help pinpoint when these cards or others may become very valuable See Helm of Obedience shortly after RTR released, courtesy of Rest in Peace.
Sum it up!
It is important to stay informed on the spoiler for Modern Masters. I'm only going to call "hold" on Mythics, expecting limited price drops followed by gradual price increases as more players enter the Modern/Legacy formats. Uunless, of course, you can flip the cards quickly and easily, in which case it would be best to sell as they will have a price dip as more enter the supply.
Regular rares, however, I advocate a "sell" before Modern Masters is released and a buy after Modern Masters has been available for a couple months. This strategy should be the most lucrative.
Reading over one of Mark Rosewater's recent articles, he gives us the knowledge that Wizards R&D looks several years in advance. This implies that the Zendikar Fetchlands may have been a stepping stone for the Modern format.
If that is the case, it seems likely that they will reprint the original Onslaught Fetchlands to:
- telp offset the cost that the blue fetches have already spiked up, and
- sell more packs.
The next question would be which set do you reprint them in? My original thoughts were that they'd reprint Tarmogoyf in Dragon's Maze to help sell a set, given it's coming after RTR and GC, each including five Shocklands apiece.
But since Tarmogoyf is in Modern Masters, it's unlikely they will reprint him in a Standard set, thus Onslaught Fetchlands could sell the set themselves. It would also tie the "perfect mana" that Wizards has been pushing as of recently.