It’s a well-known fact that Magic: The Gathering, once a relatively unknown and unpopular card game, has now become more popular than ever before. This is evidenced across multiple metrics. Most notably, the players have just set a record for largest Magic tournament ever.
This massive influx of players has driven many incredible pricing phenomena, from the inevitable such as the increase in Zendikar Fetch Lands to the bizarre, like the increase of Hall of the Bandit Lord (chart from mtgstocks.com). Price spikes are the norm and I come to expect one at least weekly, if not more often.
But this article isn’t intended to be a rehash of another Hall of the Bandit Lord discussion. Instead I want to look more broadly at shifting prices. My goal: to identify if any groups of cards or products have not participated in the recent MTG rally. This indicates to me that new players would not be flocking to those formats, strategies, etc., and that these categories are possibly going obsolete.
Rather than explaining further, I’ll illustrate with an example.
Here’s a card I have not talked about in quite some time and for good reason. Looking at the price chart from mtgstocks.com, we see that Force of Will doesn’t really shift notably in price. Instead the card remains in the $65 to $68 range, hardly a noteworthy percentage when you compare this with the likes of Hall of the Bandit Lord.
My proposed rationale should not come as a real surprise. New players are not joining the MTG community to play Legacy. The price of entry into the competitive format is at record highs, and this likely deters newer players from trying to play the format. What’s more, first hand accounts (including my own misconception years ago) suggest that new players assume games of Legacy are won within the first two or three turns. If that were true, the format would be much less enjoyable!
To me, this trend is rather alarming. Consider the facts: Wizards has created a new “eternal” format, Wizards says the new format is now a Pro Tour and PTQ format, Wizards explicitly states that Legacy cannot be a Pro Tour format due to lack of card availability, and Wizards announces release of Modern Masters to drive up the popularity of the format.
To me, this signals a time of stagnation for Legacy. Some cards that don’t have other homes will gradually decline in price – this is especially the case for cards currently out of favor, such as Natural Order.
Many will argue that Dual Lands will not see a price trend similar to the above. EDH, which has increased in popularity recently, should continue to keep those prices elevated. I’m not prepared to refute that, though I suspect a major event such as SCG Opens converting from Legacy to Modern at least part-time, will have a negative impact. Still, Legacy cards that don’t see significant play elsewhere are in line for a pull-back in price – especially those not on the reserved list.
Standard Booster Boxes
I absolutely love investing in sealed booster boxes. When a newish set is printed with many valuable cards, especially with eternal playability, I take notice and try to pick up a box or two at the right price. Boxes from smaller sets which are drafted least are also very attractive pickups.
Despite the massive influx of new Magic players, this hasn’t had an impact on booster boxes of current Standard sets yet. But the key word here is “yet”. Look just one block removed from Standard and you start to see what may become the future for current Standard booster box pricing. The following prices are retail from Star City Games, but are likely to only increase moving forward.
Here we see the trend I mentioned before – namely, that boxes from the smaller, less drafted sets tend to increase in price faster. Boxes of New Phyrexia have been on a rapid rise, and even Mirrodin Beseiged boxes have moved in price. Scars of Mirrodin, however, remains left in the dust.
The same trend exists in older blocks as well. Future Sight boxes are a fortune, and while Rise of the Eldrazi boxes are incredibly expensive, they don’t even compare to the way-underdrafted Worldwake (Okay, I suppose Jace didn’t help matters).
Even though more boxes are being printed and opened to meet increased demand, supplies of Standard booster boxes still dry up within a couple years. If we eye the trend indicated above, the best set to buy currently would be Avacyn Restored. The set has a ton of casual appeal, lots of Angels, some Legacy and Modern playable cards, and it was a third set. In fact, the retail price on Avacyn Restored has already separated itself from counterparts Innistrad and Dark Ascension – they are $109.99. Within two years I suspect they will be where New Phyrexia is today: sold out at $159.99.
Unlike Legacy, which seems to have stagnated, more players likely means good things for booster box investments to come. If a set is an utter failure, I could see this type of buy be unsuccessful. But with the homeruns Wizards of the Coast has been printing lately, I would be shocked to see booster boxes of Avacyn Restored retail for under $100 on Star City Games ever again.
Modern caused many crazy price spikes. As more players entered Magic, they too wanted a taste of PTQ glory. That combined with rampant speculation has led to a very profitable PTQ season. But just because Modern is coming to an end does not mean profitable days must too go on hold.
Standard PTQ season is next, and the format is currently well balanced. This will likely lead to a healthy season with increasing demand of many staples. If the player base continues to grow, even cards from Return to Ravnica will appear short in supply, causing the price of some cards like Sphinxs Revelation to increase appreciably (chart from mtgstocks.com).
I would encourage readers to re-evaluate their Standard portfolio and shift focus towards that direction for the coming months. Many profitable opportunities will present themselves, and remaining focused and engaged within the MTG community will maximize chance for success.
Just don’t forget about Modern altogether. If there is a massive sell-off in anticipation of Modern Masters, be sure to have your mouse ready to click and purchase all the bargains that may present themselves. You’ve been warned.
This past weekend I attended a PTQ, and some buy prices from the vendors were quite surprising. While Standard buy prices were abysmal, dealers were still crazy for Modern cards, despite nearing the end of Modern season, Modern Masters looming, etc. Here were some noteworthy ones:
- Even though I had already sold them, I saw one vendor paying $45 on Dark Confidant and $50 on Thoughtseize. Either that vendor had a major Modern scene or they were looking for a world of hurt. Many were snap-selling at these prices and with high risk of reprint in Modern Masters, who can blame them?
- It continues to amaze me how much I can get on Umezawas Jitte. These frequently sell for between $17 and $20 on eBay, and yet some dealers will pay me $18 on them. While this doesn’t mean there’s serious profit to be had, it does indicate that trading for Jittes may provide you with an outlet of ridding other cards for cash without losing too much on your margins.
- One dealer offered me $5 each on my moderately played Spell Snares. I accepted in a heartbeat. While slightly more may be possible selling online, I know that a possible reprint in Modern Masters could be devastating to the card’s price. And after fees, shipping, and condition are taken into account, I felt the price offered was perfectly acceptable.