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Insider: Gatecrash, Redemptions and Bubbles

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There has been a lot of news in the last week, and no shortage of discussion topics on this site. This week I want to hit each of these individually and offer my thoughts, as there’s a lot of relevance here.

Let’s start with the easy one.

Gatecrash

The top eight from the first Standard event (the SCG Open in Atlanta) looked a lot like what we expected. We saw appearances from the expected parties in red-based aggro and the Boros version with Champion of the Parish.

All of that was expected. What I didn’t expect was for Boros Reckoner to go to $13 retail. I called this a good pickup at the $3 it was on preorder, so hopefully you took my advice and made some money, but I expected it to go to $6-8, not $10+. I attribute this mostly to the limited number of copies available, and I expect this to fall to those levels I mentioned in a month or two, making this a sell right now.

Champion and Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha form the basis of the Naya Humans deck that won the event, and this will hopefully increase the demand and price on both of these cards, which I’ve been targeting over the past month.

The Event Decks, however, aren’t going to help in this regard. They lower the ceiling for Champion, and that’s not all. The hits keep coming in the form of Rancor, Strangleroot Geist, Wolfir Silverheart and Thragtusk again!

Frankly, this sucks. Not for Thragtusk, which I assume you all sold a few months back at its peak, per the consensus advice of QS, but for the other stuff, especially the uncommons. Rancor was/is legitimate money and I still have a big pile of Strangleroot Geists I picked up in a collection a while back, and was hoping they’d pick up in popularity again.

The Event Deck cools off what I was hoping would be an opportunity in the form of Dungeon Geists. This spirit had fallen way down but with Esper Spirits top-eighting there could be a resurgence. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a fine pickup if you believe in the deck, but it does mean the ceiling will be lowered.

And with the other Event Deck, add Clifftop Retreat, [card Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]Thalia[/card], Boros Charm, Silverblade Paladin and Champion to the hits. Again, while I don’t expect massive price drops from these, the ceiling is lowered quite a bit since there’s a lot of value in these Event Decks.

Anyway, with all of that in mind I’m basically in a holding pattern until the Pro Tour. This event will be the major driver of prices and the metagame for the next month or so, so be ready when the Pro Tour rolls around and keep a close eye on things.

Redemptions

If you haven’t heard, Wizards is raising the cost of set redemptions from $5 to $25. That’s a huge change, and one that people are none too happy about.

Because Wizards releases so little information to us, it’s hard to know exactly how much of the market is filled with redemption cards. But courtesy of Ted Knutson and The Card Nexus, we know that close to 2,000 sets are redeemed every week, or the equivalent of .25 million packs a week.

That’s insane.

Those numbers are huge, and this is going to make a real difference in prices moving forward. Yes, the price of all cards in paper from new sets is going to rise some, but remember my motto about finding opportunities instead of obstacles.

Rather than focus on the increase in price on Standard stuff, which is difficult to gauge with so little information, I want to focus on finding the positives here, and there is a major one. I’ll leave the MTGO-specific things to our crew who knows that system better than I, but I’m excited about how this affects casual cards.

The perfect one to start with is Mind Grind. Here’s a card that isn’t likely to be played in Standard but, based off things like Glimpse the Unthinkable, we can assume will be popular casually. While cards like this in recent sets have had some success (Parallel Lives), the effect is much less prominent than it was 4-5 years ago because so many more hit the market through redemptions.

Remove this, and all of a sudden getting in on those Mind Grinds at a buck in trade changes from a $2-3 prospect in a couple of years to something closer to $6-7. Again, with so little information available about print runs, I’m spitballing a little with the numbers here, but the theory behind it is sound even if the math isn’t exact.

Watching the price of Gatecrash singles three months from now compared to Return to Ravnica should give us some more data to work with, and I plan on revisiting this topic then.

The Modern Bubble?

Are Modern prices in a bubble right now? As Sigmund mentioned in his article earlier this week, a lot of downward pressure is coming to the Modern format in the next six months. The season will rotate, Modern Masters will increase supply and I assume we’ll see some more targeted reprints.

So what does that say about the high prices we’re seeing right now?

For the most part, I think the presence of at least a small bubble is all but certain. Fulminator Mage, for instance, is a card I advocated for since last year so the price increase isn’t unexpected to me. But there’s no way it should be $20. Insane and sometimes inexplicable rises like that have been way too common in the last three months, and they're probably not sustainable moving forward.

That said, I believe a lot of the demand is real and not solely the work of speculators. This isn’t an Aluren situation, it’s one where increased demand is being supplemented by rampant speculation, and I don’t think it’s going to hold.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t still some good targets. Spellskite, for instance, is a card I’ve been hot on for a few months and it’s finally making a move. You can still get these at $5 in trade, and it’s a solid bet going forward. But that’s a 100% increase, not 500-600% like Fulminator Mage. It’s also been a somewhat incremental growth rather than an overnight explosion. I think this will be the best heuristic for distinguishing between the real bets and the speculation-driven bubbles.

I have a sell call on pretty much everything that could be in Modern Masters. And for that matter, most of Modern in general. Prices are going to come down across the board after the PTQ season ends and Modern Masters releases. Then we’ll have a window in the Fall when the next major set comes out to get back into Modern staples, at which point I’ll be moving back into the format hard.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

6 thoughts on “Insider: Gatecrash, Redemptions and Bubbles

  1. Love the article, Corbin. I agree with everything mentioned here. As for Boros Reckoner…yeah that card isn’t likely to hold its $13 price tag. But I don’t think it’ll hit $3 again for quite a while.

    Also bearish on Modern, as you pointed out. Trying to sell where it makes sense…especially all those overpriced Modern staples hitting all time highs.

  2. Why do people keep throwing around this $20 pricetag for Fulminator Mage? It’s been $10 for at least a week; there were even copies on StarCityGames available for about $10 over the weekend.

    Also, where is this “2000 sets redeemed per week” number coming from? You attribute it to Ted Knutson, but the only number I can find from Knutson is in an SCG article where he said “I’ve heard rumors from reasonable sources that during boom times it’s up to 150 sets a week”…a little different than an average of 2000!!!

    1. Look at the twitter conversations between the Next Level Spec account (operated, I believe, by Knutson) and the Card Nexus.

      And I was mostly talking about the spike to $20, and the fact that nothing reasonable explains even a short spike to that price.

      1. A thought on some of these spikes…They can be a boon/bane to us speculators. I myself unloaded a playset of Fulminator Mage’s at SCG Atlanta at $15 per. The “trick” is to honestly ask yourself WHY is the card suddenly spiking in value. The difference between a good and bad speculator is honestly that the good speculator actually thinks about his spec target instead of just buying into it.

        1. Yup. As long as you are always reasoning things out, even though you may mis-reason sometimes or have bad info, your results will pan out much better in the long-term.

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