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Insider: A Map for Coming Months

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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.

Modern Movement

It’s no secret that I’m very bearish on the most expensive Modern staples. This includes cards like Tarmogoyf, Thoughtseize (chart from mtgstocks.com), Dark Confidant and Vendilion Clique.

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.

Standard Season

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.

Sigbits

  • 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.

-Sigmund Ausfresser
@sigfig8

21 thoughts on “Insider: A Map for Coming Months

  1. I believe the impact of MM will be mostly psychological. Wizards announces the set, shows Goyf and people start fearing their Modern staples will drop in price and start selling when MM comes near. If many people are selling the price will drop regardless of how many cards MM adds. They could release a single case of MM and still heavily influence the market this way. In the end Wizards accomplishes that many Modern singles that used to be off the market because people held them for future decks will become available again.

    What I believe we should be on the lookout for is cards that drop too far. What if Thoughtseize is spoiled as an MM rare reprint and it drops to say $25 leading up to the MM release. We should then probably pick up copies in preparation of the next Modern season and reap the benefits when it jumps up again because MM did not add enough cards to really make an impact.

    It seems to me that we can expect cards like this to widely bounce around in price during this year and we should expect to be able to buy low around the time of the MM release. I know I will be on the lookout for deals like this.

    If anybody ever comes across a Summer Edition Elvish Archers, let me know!

    Angels are a very popular tribe in general. I picked up a set of platinums on the cheap when I noticed the rise. I see no reason why it shouldn’t stabilize or go even further. Same for Battlegrace Angel, happy to get copies from shops that undervalue it right now.

    I have a hard time moving Standard cards, so no comments there from me.

    1. I agree that psychology alone will hit Modern card prices initially. I’m curious to see how sustained the price impact will be. If Thoughtseize drops to $25, a bunch of speculators buy 100’s of copies, and they go back up to $50, is that what Wizards wants? I have to imagine they want Modern to be affordable long term…not just during the off season. It’ll be an interesting time ahead, and I am ready to do some major buying!

      I’ll watch for the Elvish Archers. What do you think of Bruna long term? Is she popular in the casual crowd?

      1. I’m not sure that what happens is always what Wizards wants ;). The problem is their own success, while the player base grows there will always be a short supply of older cards and they can never keep up with this with reprints as Modern keeps growing with every new set. There will be a point when Modern is too large to feasibly keep the price down of anything but the biggest offenders. Even if the player base stops growing that doesn’t mean all those cards come back on the market, older cards are likely to remain more rare than new ones. I mean, it even gets more rare to see Chronicles cards these days…

        I doubt every $25 Thoughtseize would be picked up by speculators, some players will get their sets too. I think they would prefer it low during the off season over never low at all. I don’t think always low would be possible unless they take extreme measures like printing it at common. That would only help for Thoughtseize, but it’s not a solution for the entire format.

        TL;DR: an affordable Modern format is not feasible in the long run in my view.

        Popular enough as an EDH general or in enchantment focussed decks. I imagine there could be some parallels drawn with Kaalia. Very much a build around general, printed in smaller volumes, also an angel. I’m sure Kaalia will remain the more expensive card, but, I wouldn’t expect Bruna to remain at 10% of her. The difficulty is that it may take years before she starts seeing any kind of meaningful rise. I have a hard time seeing her much beyond $6, I think if you really want to get these and put them away for a very long time you should get foils. Incidentally, I opened 2 foils in as many boxes, traded them for 100 & 130 crap rares.

  2. really the play remains shocks imo. you pick em up under 10$ to flip into a wave of interest in modern following MM release. the shocklands will always be a part of a modern player’s mana base. it’s boring, but hey.

    until then hope for another round of cheap verdicts, decays, revelations and/or D shamans. look to rotation for your INN liliana, cavern and snapcaster and enjoy a balanced gatecrash draft.

    1. Very good point, Mathieu. Agree that Shocks are solid go-to’s during all this change. I will continue to buy them at $6 and trade for them a little higher. And they all go in a separate binder I leave at home – not for trade. Scars Duals are also in that category 🙂

      1. Me too, however I’ve found that since they are still standard legal..I always keep one playset of each RtR one in my binder (and currently all my gatecrash ones..as I haven’t stockpiled them yet)..sometimes you find players who need them for the FNM/tournament deck and they are good trade bait for the rarer stuff as lands are always seen as stable.

  3. Casual staples have EXPLODED since the beginning of the year. Platinum Emperion, Battlegrace, Baneslayer, even stuff like Caged Sun is just going crazy.

    Better economy, tax returns, larger player base? All of the above, I think, and unlike Modern spikes these are all sustainable increases in my opinion.

    1. Absolutely agree. Casual staples are way up. Kaalia I’ve noticed has also gone up, along with other random casual staples. There will be a time when Bruna can be $5. I really think there’s upside on her and almost no downside at sub-$2.

      1. You definitely convinced me on Bruna. Bought a couple playsets for $4 a set. If I can get them at that price, I will probly pick up some more. Seems like a fine long term investment.

  4. I don’t think the player base had evolvo so much. Last year we have 2 modern PTQs in Portugal. 1 with around 130/140 guys and the last one with 180 (the biggest PTQ portugal had ever seen and the other was realy big).

    This year we just have 1 wich had 128.

    Not so much new faces. Maybe 20%. What really changed was the decks they played. Last year people didn’t know if this was for real or like 4 blocks extended. Most guys played a deck they have almost all the cards or a cheap one.

    This year lots of people started to build a large modern collection.

    This is all the help I can give you about modern prices 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment – this is a very reasonable assessment. As players start to “trust” Modern as a format they are more willing to invest in the cards. As more players make this leap, demand rises.

      But can Modern be like Legacy, in that the cards stay valuable all year ’round? I remember with Extended cards would spike for a couple months during PTQ season and then would drop right back down again. No one played Extended outside of PTQ season…no one. I’m curious to see if Modern has momentum in the off-season (which will be indicated by how much prices drop now).

      1. The format is young and had a lot of changes in banned cards. I think modern needs some new things to be like legacy:

        Diversity: don’t be so meta game intensive. We need a lot of different kind of decks to be good so everyone can have a deck they like. Not rock-paper-sisor like it was this season.

        stability: less bans and shakes on format/decks (not saying the last bans were wrong or right).

        A good payout circuit like SCG so people have a reason to have 2/3k% of modern cards on his collection.

        Be fun: This comes mainly with diversity and a bit of stability I guess.

        Or the easy one: 2 degenerated standard years. This was what made the last legacy boom

        1. Absolutely agree. Maybe they SHOULD reprint Jace in Standard after all? 🙂

          I don’t think your checklist is “completed” yet for Modern – hence why I think prices will be dropping now.

          1. me too :). I predict a drop between 30 to 50% with modern masters. I don’t believe any card will maintain their price. The ones not reprinted will follow the trend, just a bit less.

            If people have good decks for cheaper prices, demand on the not reprinted will lower

              1. Well it will be a coinflip tbh.

                Will MM attract more magicplayers to modern? If so, the demand will rise and so do the prices.

                Then again reprints means more stock, more stock = price drop. Still the cost per booster of MM will be higher and a box contains 24 boosters if im correct (heared this from a shop owner). So i dont see a 50% drop tbh more like 20-25% if the interest in modern is low.

    1. Definitely true, aregand. Still waiting for this to happen though. In the meantime, not sure if there will be sustained demand during the off season.

  5. While i think platinum angel has casual/edh appeal, part of the price jump may be due to a lot of newcomers playing U-Tron(although it only includes one copy).

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