Insider: MTGO Market Report for April 12th

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The MTGO-to-Paper Metric

Returning to this metric is a great way to get a feel for what the MTGO market is doing in a broad sense. For those who are unfamiliar with how it works, it's a simple ratio that takes the Supernova bots sell price for a complete set, and divides it by Star City Games complete set sell price (all prices current as of April 12th, 2013).

Although the metric is itself meaningless, and Star City Games prices might not be representative of the 'true' price of a set, the ratio is still useful. Considering how the ratio moves over time can guide us on where prices might be headed. I introduced the metric back in my August 17th, 2012 article and have periodically returned to it, so if you want to read up on it some more, dig through the archives.

The thing that underpins the utility of this metric is redemption. When cards are cheap to acquire online, redeemers will buy up cards in order to convert them to paper and capture the price difference. When cards are expensive online, online sets represent little value to redeemers, which removes a key component of demand.

As a general guideline, when the ratio is in the 0.3 to 0.45 ticket range, this represents a good buying opportunity. In the 0.45 to 0.65 range, there might be a few cards that are still individual buys, but overall this level of the ratio indicates the set does not represent good value. At levels of 0.65 or higher, caution is the recommended course of action and it might be time to broadly sell cards from these sets.

Set MTGO-to-Paper Ratio (Feb 14th) MTGO-to-Paper Ratio (Mar 14th) MTGO-to-Paper Ratio (Apr 12th) Supernova SCG Trend
Scars of Mirrodin 0.56 0.74 0.77 $96 $125 Up
Mirrodin Besieged 0.6 0.66 0.72 $72 $100 Up
New Phyrexia 0.84 0.9 1.03 $113 $110 Up
Magic 2012 0.52 0.61 0.58 $87 $150 Flat/Down
Innistrad 0.48 0.59 0.52 $143 $275 Down
Dark Ascension 0.62 0.77 0.75 $113 $150 Flat/Down
Avacyn Restored 0.64 0.71 0.64 $161 $250 Down
Magic 2013 0.52 0.56 0.52 $130 $250 Down
Return to Ravnica 0.44 0.57 0.79 $158 $200 Up
Gatecrash 0.39 0.35 0.32 $95 $300 Flat/Down


Checking in with the ratio for specific sets, we can see that Scars of Mirrodin (SOM) block has seen recent price strength. The ratios are all above 0.7 with New Phyrexia (NPH) having a very high ratio of 1.03, indicating almost no value for redeemers.

When paper set prices are lower than digital prices, any price strength must be coming from shifts in the online metagame. In this case it looks like Modern is establishing itself on MTGO as a format that players will play out of season, with R/G Tron being a popular choice. This has pushed up the price of Karn Liberated. Also in NPH, Batterskull has bounced back in price, most likely due to renewed interest in Legacy tied in with GP Strasbourg.

Looking at the ratio for Innistrad (ISD) block, these sets are seeing price weakness as players begin to look out towards rotation in the Fall. At some point prices will drop enough that redeemers will get interested in buying ISD block cards, but we are months away from that. We'll wait for the ratio to drop much lower and for rotation to be much closer before starting to buy ISD block mythics and rares.

The online price of Return to Ravnica (RTR) has been relatively constant in recent weeks, but the recent drop in SCG's price for the set has pumped up the ratio to a very high level. This is a strong signal to me that RTR as a set is just about fully priced. With the ratio at a high level, the price and value of RTR is determined solely within the MTGO economy, and is currently not well tied to paper prices at all. This level of the ratio is what we might expect to see in the Fall, after Theros has been released.

In the short term, the high price of RTR should encourage more RRR drafting which will bring prices down. Next, the switch over to DGR Limited will provide a further increase of supply. It would be unwise to speculate on the pricier cards from this set at the moment. Sphinx's Revelation recently hit a high of 47 tix and I don't expect this price to hold over the next two months. Increased supply from drafters will help, but the metagame shakeup from the release of DGM might also reduce the utility of that card. The recently spoiled Sire of Insanity might break up the party that the Azorius X-Spell has been throwing the last few months.

If RtR doesn't represent good value, then what about Gatecrash (GTC)? The ratio for this set is near the low of 0.33 that Magic 2013 saw back in the Summer. That turned out to be a very good buying opportunity as cards like Thundermaw Hellkite and Thragtusk were both under 10 tix at the time. However, with GTC being the first set with the new, higher redemption fee, we should revise downwards our expectation on how low the ratio could go. I'd expect the ratio to fully bottom out during Dragon's Maze (DGM) release events, but current prices still do represent good value and I have started more broad buying of GTC cards.

Portfolio Update

This is a brief rundown of what I am buying, selling and looking out for in the market.


  • I've mostly sold down any rares from RTR that hit attractive prices, so there's been not much selling from RTR this past week. Prices seemed to have come off a bit for RTR rares.
  • Prime Speaker Zegana and Aurelia, the Warleader are two cards from GTC that I picked up during release events at reasonable prices and so I have sold these down with an eye on possibly rebuying during DGM release events.


  • Frontline Medic in the 1-1.4 tix range and Gyre Sage for 0.75 tix or so. Both cards are probable Standard staples out of GTC, so I intend to establish positions of at least 50 copies over the next few weeks. Current price expectations around these cards are anchored since we're in a period of GGG drafting. Once GGG drafting stops, prices should rise.
  • The GTC versions of Watery Grave and Godless Shrine have both come down closer to 3 tix, so I have started buying these. I am avoiding the higher priced GTC shocklands at the moment, but at around 3 tix, any shockland should yield profits come the Fall.
  • GTC junk mythics in the 0.5 to 1.0 tix range have piqued my interest. Hellkite Tyrant, Deathpact Angel, Borborygmos Enraged and Lazav, Dimir Mastermind all seem like good value in different sections of that price range. There will be a supply push of junk mythics during DGM release events, and so I will finish up my buying of these at that time. I don't actively look for these cards, but I do pick them up when I see them at cheap prices.
  • Intruder Alarm is a card I have been picking up when I find cheap copies. It might find a home in Modern with Beck/Call from DGM and is from two lightly-printed sets. With any semblance of decency, this card will see a very strong price spike.


  • GTC boosters have drifted down in price and I'd expect this trend to continue. A drop in GTC booster prices during DGM release events would suggest a good buying opportunity.
  • Mythic rares from SOM block have dropped in price somewhat, so I have stopped selling these for the moment.
  • Legacy staples have seen price strength recently, including Lion's Eye Diamond reaching an all-time high and even Force of Will has bounced back from it's recent depressed price level. The interest in Legacy has probably stalled price drops on cards like Tarmogoyf, despite the looming reprints coming in Modern Masters.
  • Duskmantle Seer has just popped up above 5 tix on Cardbot, probably due to the recent Sam Black article and video. These featured an aggro BUG list with 4 Duskmantle Seer at the top of the curve. I've stopped buying this one and will look to sell if it gets closer to 10 tix over the next couple of weeks. Otherwise, I will hold for the Fall.

12 thoughts on “Insider: MTGO Market Report for April 12th

  1. Thanks Matt. Great analysis, as usual.

    WRT to junk mythics: “I don’t actively look for these cards, but I do pick them up when I see them at cheap prices.” What does this mean, in practice? Do you search them on bots, or keep an eye out on classifieds? Or when buying *other* cards from sellers do you take a look and see if they own any of these and make an offer?

    What is a good price to target Intruder Alarm at? Seems like the card has already risen in price since Beck//Call was spoiled.

    1. Thanks for reading!

      In practice, when I am out there buying Watery Grave or Duskmantle Seer, then I will throw a few junk mythics in my basket to check their prices. Then I buy the ones that are in my price range. In this way, I am not actively going out and buying junk mythics, but just adding them into other transactions. This way, I build up my position over time, don’t over pay for them, and I don’t waste too much time tracking their prices and finding copies to buy. I just pick them up when I see them at prices I like.

      Junk mythics are low risk but low return. I don’t want to spend too much effort buying and selling them, so this practice reduces the amount of effort it takes to buy them.

      As for Intruder Alarm, picking up a playset or two at current prices seems fine to me. I found a few for 0.69 tix, so you might stumble on some discounted copies if you look around. The big caveat is that I have no knowledge if this card will be useful in Modern. I’m interested in this card because it’s not that expensive, might see application, and is lightly printed.

  2. I would suggest using the MTGOTraders complete set price instead of Supernova. Supernova’s set price at the top of their pricelists only includes rares and mythics.

    As for paper set price data… I would take an average of the latest sold eBay listings. Take the last 7-10 sold listings, scratch the highest and lowest values, and average the rest. Especially for the newest set (right now, Gatecrash) as those prices are the most volatile.

    Top post as always! Thanks!

    1. If I calculate it in this way, I currently get 0.38 for GTC, (paypal set price from mtgotraders is $99.10, and a completed ebay listing for GTC is $262). So, my ratio is actually not far off in terms of absolute value.

      But, the value of the ratio comes from observing it over time and comparing it between sets. Calculating the value as you suggest yields a given number, but I don’t have a good way to determine if that value is high, low or somewhere in between. Experience with the metric and doing some analysis is where the value in it comes from.

      The fact that it’s not very scientifically constructed doesn’t really matter because the number in and of itself has no context and is meaningless. It’s how the number changes over time during the lifespan of a set that matters (ie set release into widespread drafting into being redeemable into 2nd year of Standard into rotating out of Standard). Watching it in this way gives it context and thus meaning.

      1. I get what you mean about using broad strokes and looking at the big picture. I’m with you there. It’s all about the life cycle of the set from release, to rotation, and redemption.

        I guess what I’m saying is that it’s important that the data you use on both sides of the ratio is biased in the same direction. I try to get the most conservative or “honest” values I can find, but that’s just me.

        Also, do you factor in redemption fees to your ratio? Do one with and one without? That would be useful to see if/how the increased redemption fee is effecting GTC’s trajectory.

        1. That’s true about bias, I hadn’t considered that. I’ll have to think about that some more.

          As for redemption fees, basically my plan is to try and figure out what the new benchmarks are for ratio values for GTC and all sets afterwards. Adding $20 to the online set price would be one way to try and adjust the ratio values for better comparisons. I might incorporate this ‘fix’ to give better comparisons until we get more data on set prices with the new redemption fees.

          Adding $20 to the nova price of GTC pushes the ratio up to 0.38, which is still on the ‘good value’ side of things.

      2. I follow what you’re saying; that movements in the ratio are useful, and the ratio itself (independent of movements) IS useful. But in the article:

        “As a general guideline, when the ratio is in the 0.3 to 0.45 ticket range, this represents a good buying opportunity.”

        In your article you haven’t mentioned the changes in price.

        But this is how I understand it: When the ratio falls, it implies that more people will be buying cards to redeem. So if a fall in the ratio DOESN’T have a corresponding rise in online prices, it’s a good time to buy.

        With this in mind, another suggestion: next time you write about the ratio, put an “up” “down” or “flat” for prices. I would look them up myself, but supernova doesn’t give us historical data.

        Do you follow what I mean?

        I’m not completely sure if I’m on the right track, I’m going to just click “Post Comment” and read it back later.

        1. Let me see if I can clarify things.

          Changes in price are embedded in the ratio, so adding in how set prices are moving might not be adding anything useful. Usually SCG prices are fairly constant, and the ratio is being driven by changes to digital prices.

          A fall in the ratio with no rise in prices online implies that paper prices at SCG have increased. This increase in paper prices should make the set more valuable to redeemers which implies that online prices should rise. This effect should be true in general, but in reality small changes wouldn’t make much of a difference.

          Do this thought experiment for illustrative purposes. Suppose that a large number of paper Sphinx’s Revelation were destroyed, making it a very valuable card, let’s say it jumped to $200 per copy temporarily. In this case, demand from redeemers for online sets would increase and drive up the price of digital sets as they tried to make a profit on the increased price in paper of RTR. Eventually, due to redemption, prices between digital and paper would reach a rough equilibrium as paper prices fell (due to increased supply coming from redeemers) and digital prices rose (due to increased demand from redeemers).

          Note, that if prices spike online, there is no corresponding mechanism to translate cheaper paper copies to digital, so digital prices can ‘decouple’ from paper prices. But if paper prices are rising, digital will follow. It doesn’t work card to card, but it does work set to set.

          You can get a feel for historical set prices using the indices at mtggoldfish, here’s SOM for instance.

  3. So, I have a question…I’m only playing paper right now, but checking a few of the chase rares of a foil innistrad set i see snapcaster at 15.00, gest at 50.00, and lilly at 50.00, lands at 5.00 ea. not sure on all the other jank, but with foil lilly at 200.00 would it be possible even wih the 25.00 fee to make money redeeming a foil set?

    sorry if I’m way off, like I said I dont do much on mtgo.

    1. Just remember that to get that foil Lilana in paper, you need a complete set. This drives up the price of online junk foil mythics. So, where you might be making money on converting a foil Lily to paper, you’ll be losing money on foil Essence of the Wild, for example. This is why junk foil mythics routinely go for 10+ tix online.

      Redeeming sets for profit is doable, but living in the USA is key to avoid duties and to keep shipping costs low. Also, you need a way to keep your costs down which usually involves running a bot and building a client base. You’ll also need a good way to ship the paper sets. In general, if it looks profitable to do, someone is doing it already.

      Lastly, the redemption fee for Return To Ravnica and all sets prior is just $5. They raised the redemption fee to $25 for Gatecrash and all sets that follow it.

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