Change is in the air – and not in an airline sense. Rather, Magic is going to enter a time of flux in the days to come. It may not be drastic at this point, but with Modern PTQ season at an end, there is likely to be some shifts in the MTG Market. But what kind of shift can we expect? More importantly, what will the magnitude of these changes be and how will they impact our market?
These questions are difficult to answer. It’s easy to say that Tarmogoyf will drop in price because Modern PTQ season is ending and it is the one card confirmed for Modern Masters. I’ve also mentioned how the time to jump in on staple Return to Ravnica cards such as Abrupt Decay and Supreme Verdict (chart from mtgstocks.com) is nearly passed.
But for this week’s article I’d like to peel the onion one layer deeper to try and analyze what the magnitude of changes imply for the game of Magic. A drop in Modern staples of 50% and a drop of 10% may mean something very different – especially for the long-term health of the game. The increase in Return to Ravnica prices will also be very telling.
Allow me to explain further.
My negative outlook on Modern is based on the economic principle of buy low/sell high. One only needs to glance at the chart above for two seconds to understand that Thoughtseize and other Modern staples have recently jumped and are sustaining highs throughout Modern PTQ season. But with so much uncertainty in Modern Masters’ impact, I cannot anticipate these prices will hold.
But the percentage of the drop is in much contention. I maintain the drop will be sizeable, while many others suggest the printing of Modern Masters will ultimately increase Modern card prices. Even if the true outcome lies somewhere in between, my interpretation of players’ emotions towards Modern will be completely different.
Just because PTQ season is over doesn’t mean Modern disappears for months (it’s not Extended, after all). Some stores do run Modern at FNM’s, and since Modern is a mainstay of the Pro Tour,, there will be continuous focus there as well. The question I seek to answer: have Modern prices spiked strictly due to greater numbers of PTQ grinders, or is the format appealing to newer players?
I wish to know this because it will help me predict how Modern prices will shift in the coming months. If demand for Modern staples were strictly driven by PTQ grinders trying to grow their card pool for the first ever Modern PTQ season, then I expect prices to drop drastically as Modern Masters approaches. If, on the other hand, many new Magic players are dabbling in Modern, then the printing of Modern Masters may reduce barrier to entry sufficiently so that the number of Modern players actually increase.
I suspect the truth will lie somewhere in between, although I still maintain there will be a short term drop in the coming months. This is because no matter the scenario, the supply is about to increase significantly while demand will drop at least in the near-term. Demand may increase in time, but this will only happen because prices will drop, reducing the barrier to entry. Prices have to drop in order for more players to want to play Modern – it’s the whole premise of Modern Masters.
Net: I don’t think short term price directions are a mystery, but the degree of these changes will hint at the health of Modern as an FNM format. The more new Modern players there are, the more Modern prices can sustain their heights.
The next PTQ season is Standard, and the format is very diverse these days. I find myself itching to build a Standard deck despite my distaste for the evanescent nature of the format. The concept of building an $800 deck which may halve in price just a few months later sickens me and goes against my philosophy of the game – hence why I love Eternal formats much more.
Since the format is healthy, I anticipate large turnouts at these PTQ’s. Once again I pose the same question: will the usual PTQ grinders dump Modern and pick up Standard staples, or will we see an influx of new players trying to make it big? Both occurrences have a short term positive impact on the market, but the latter seems more sustainable to me.
Standard doesn’t quite fit the same mold as Modern, regardless. With almost-weekly Star City Games tournaments, it seems like every season is Standard season. Adding PTQ’s on top of this will definitely increase demand.
What I wonder is whether the demand increase will live and die with PTQ season, or if new players continue to pour into the game and buy into Standard. In the former case, card prices jump for a few months and then settle back down again. In the latter case, card prices continue their steady rise and don’t see a major hit when Standard PTQ season ends.
My suspicion is that there are many new Magic players trying out Standard. I base this on the fact that Standard and Casual card prices have shown a slow and steady rise recently. Supreme Verdict was one example mentioned above, but there are others. Perhaps the best examples are the mana-fixing lands which have been a mainstay of Standard for four years running (chart from mtgstocks.com).
I have no clue how many copies of this card exist across its four printings – all I know is that there are many! Yet since January this card, along with the other check-lands, have each seen a steady price increase. This chart is very different from that of Thoughtseize, which leads me to believe the driving force behind the price movement is different. Instead of a sudden spurt of demand from a PTQ season, Drowned Catacomb has seen a steady increase in demand.
It’s possible that the ample supply of these lands may be dampening the response in price. But ample card supply hasn’t prevented other cards in Modern from spiking, such as the recently popular Ajani Vengeant (chart from mtgstocks.com).
The price jump depicted above is much more discontinuous and suggests erratic behavior, such as massive buying from speculators. The price jump in the likes of Thoughtseize is also drastic and was likely driven by PTQ interest.
The price increase in Drowned Catacomb, however, seems much more subtle and, in my opinion, sustainable. PTQ players didn’t drive it nor did speculators. It’s much more likely that the number of Standard players has simply increased.
My Action Items
If I truly feel this way about market trends, I should put my money where my mouth is, right? In fact I already have – I’ve sold my top Modern staples and I’ve been steadily buying into Return to Ravnica. Abrupt Decay has already jumped in price, and I likely won’t be acquiring these much more. Supreme Verdict’s rise has been smaller thus far, so there still may be opportunity there. I also picked up a few Sphinxs Revelations since I feel these have bottomed as well (chart from mtgstocks.com).
I suspect I have just a couple more weeks to grab more of these cards before they jump more significantly, driven by PTQ grinders and new Standard players alike. The key difference is that these price increases are likely to be stable, whereas the sustainability of the Modern price jumps is an unknown quantity. If you ask me, I’d much rather be in the steady risers until this whole Modern Masters thing settles down.
- Unless you are tuned-in with the market, you may not be aware of how expensive Summer Magic cards have become. I have one card from the misprint set of ’94: a NM Gray Ogre. It’s even graded, which I think is kind of funny. A quick search on eBay and I see similarly graded Summer commons that no one wants to play with still sell for over $200! If you ever come across some Summer cards, I’d encourage you to take a closer look and compare prices online – you just may stumble across someone out of the loop on these price increases.
- You know what card is reliable as an indicator for the health of casual Magic? Check Platinum Angel. I never see this card at tournament tables, yet the card has been on a steady incline for the past few months. This despite the fact it was printed four times! I guess new players really like the concept of not losing games!
- Speaking of Angels on the rise, does anyone know why Battlegrace Angel has more than doubled in price over the past six months? I have never seen the card played in Modern and it’s not Standard legal. Must be those casuals yet again driving up prices. Seeing this makes me want to buy into Bruna, Light of Alabaster. Bruna is a Mythic, legendary angel from a third set with sweet artwork that retails for under $2. One of these days I’m going to buy a stack of these because I see no way these can drop further in price.