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Insider: Recent Movements In Legacy

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A few weeks ago I reviewed the latest movers on mtgstocks.com and concluded that Casual staples were on the rise. As part of the article, I also discussed how I use Force of Will as my primary metric for Legacy’s health, and that the chart on most Legacy cards had been stagnant for many months.

Well, so much for that…

Star City Games is largely behind this spike because they’ve upped the ante significantly on the blue Legacy staple. Their current buy price on NM copies is $60 and their sell price is $99.99!

Now what does this mean for Legacy? What other Legacy cards have been impacted? What’s going to happen next? Unfortunately I don’t have all the answers to these critical questions. But with the high prices of Legacy, this sort of movement can have profound impact on our portfolios and I intend to at least provide some ideas for this time of change.

Other Legacy Moves

At first glance it seems this all started with Lions Eye Diamond last month. Star City Games made another bold move by bumping their buy list price on the pseudo-Black Lotus to $60, much like they did on Force of Will afterwards. The result was a significant jump in price:

Lions Eye Diamond is on the reserved list and it is a strong Legacy staple. Many have accused the artifact of being degenerate since it is abused to act like Black Lotus in the right decks. Despite this, I still question whether or not the price jump was truly merited. Of course, if Star City Games deems this as a $100 card, it shall ultimately become so. But is this price fixing or is the price of LED destined to reach such a level regardless, and Star City Games is merely helping it along? More on this later.

Even before the jump of Lions Eye Diamond, there was the massive jump in Onslaught Fetch Lands. Take a look at the chart for Polluted Delta as an example:

This card had been comfortable with a $50 price tag for quite a while, but the recent influx of players has driven this card’s price up towards $80! While Polluted Delta and other Onslaught Fetches are all Legacy staples, they also have a prominent position in EDH as well. Perhaps this jump wasn't so much Legacy driven as it was driven by the increase in player base. I mean, if it was at all Legacy driven, then the price of Underground Sea should have also jumped, right? Wait a second…

Take a look at the number four interest from mtgstocks.com from this past Sunday:

This may have been a fluke. That was my gut reaction, until I noticed that Star City Games is paying $125 for NM Revised copies of the popular Dual Land! Card Kingdom pays the second most on the card, a full $15 less than Star City Games. And don’t look now, but NM copies of Underground Sea are sold out at Star City Games at $199.99. Conclusion: yes, these price jumps are driven at least somewhat by Legacy.

The Why and The How

I recently saw Tweets describing how Legacy Staples such as Dual Lands have a $150 cap on pricing, and that the format has stagnated. I myself have been skeptical as to the health of Legacy and, in turn, the sustainability of these elevated card prices.

Here’s some food for thought: everyone agrees Vintage is a stagnant format. The prohibitive cost of Power has severely restricted the number of players who can enjoy the format without proxies. Despite this, Vintage staples are consistently on the rise. I’ve seen retail prices on Black Lotus steadily increase over the past two years. And mtgstocks.com clearly indicates an upward trend on Vintage Staple Bazaar of Baghdad.

Sometimes I wonder if Vintage players consider the possibility of price stagnation, only to witness upward trends like these. It seems even a format with virtually no room for growth can still experience some price growth. Therefore I conclude that there really is virtually no “price ceiling” on Legacy. As long as the format is supported card prices are destined to rise over time.

What Next?

The question of format support weighs heavily on everyone’s minds. What if Wizards ceases to conduct Legacy Grand Prix? What if Star City Games ends Sunday Legacy tournaments altogether? What if…

Recent data suggests this is not likely. Grand Prix Strasbourg was a solid success, and I expect the American Legacy GP to have equally encouraging turnout. Thus, Wizards would be wise to continue their twice-a-year Legacy GP’s for the time being. As for Star City Games, it would seem rather counterproductive for them to increase their buy and sell prices on Legacy Staples if they were considering an end to Sunday Legacy tournaments. On the contrary, it seems like they are ramping up for sustained growth.

As speculators, we cannot know definitively what may be coming next. All we can do is hypothesize based on the information presented to us.

My personal take: everyone knows how I’ve been debating a massive Legacy sell-out these past few months. I was moments away from jamming my Legacy binder into my backpack for my trip to Strasbourg last week. I figured a Legacy GP would have been the best time to move my expensive Legacy collection. As it turns out, my last minute decision to hold onto the cards was the right one. Legacy collections around the world are growing significantly thanks to these recent price hikes, and I’m pleased I can participate in the rally.

Because of these recent pushes by Star City Games, combined with my rekindled joy from playing Legacy, I have decided to stay put for the time being. Don’t get me wrong, I still trimmed a significant portion of my Legacy staples, for better or worse. I had some cards which I never used, and their respective deck archetypes had fallen out of favor. Counterbalance is a good example. The printing of Abrupt Decay has really handcuffed this deck’s viability, although it still sees play.

I also recently bailed on the Natural Order type decks. The card itself has dropped significantly in price because of the lack of success Natural Order decks have had lately:

While a turnaround is possible, I’m beginning to question whether or not Natural Order can be a sustainable Tier 1 deck in the long term. With so many counterspells in the format, the risk of getting 2-for-1’d is great and may not be worth taking. Selling staples like these can free up some cash to help me focus on speculative plays with more upside potential… like Modern Masters reprints!

Net, my attitude towards Legacy has shifted in the past couple weeks. This was driven by firsthand experiences as well as upward pricing trends from major retailers. Perhaps this is a short term move in anticipation of the Legacy GP in America. Perhaps this is a long-overdue increase driven by a growing player base. Either way, it’s evident that the time to bail on this lucrative format has not arrived… yet.

I only hope I will be able to pinpoint a good time to sell before it’s too late… if it ever becomes too late.

Sigbits – Legacy Movers

I’ve already touched upon a few Legacy movers of late, but here are a few others.

  • How much play does Nether Void see? Almost none, right? Yet Star City Games has moved their buy price on NM English copies to $125! Good thing I have no need for this card, or I’d be pretty frustrated by this seemingly baseless increase. Sometimes demand can be artificially triggered by simply highlighting to people how small the supply base truly is.
  • Chains of Mephistopheles has also jumped, although I’m surprised to report that ABU Games is paying the most on this one - $90.20 for NM copies. This is still a very impressive price jump for a card that usually occurs as a 1-of in few Legacy decks. Take note of this move as well.
  • While Polluted Delta has always been the King of Fetchlands, second-in-command Flooded Strand has been on the move as well. The card shows up on the interests page of mtgstocks.com for the past week, and the card has been steadily approaching $60. My problem with these is their vulnerability to reprinting. Tread carefully if you’re speculating here.
  • The price chart for Batterskull is rather amusing. The card tanked after rotation, got no love in Modern because of the banning of Stoneforge Mystic, but then rebounded as scarcity kicked in. As a mainstay in the Esper Stoneblade deck, I can see Batterskull approach similar pricing to Umezawas Jitte in due time.

  • One more card, and it’s one that is finally starting to reflect inevitability. Check out Tarmogoyf’s recent price trend. Since a reprint is guaranteed, the downward pricing trend has begun at last. For a while it seemed like rising in price was all this card could do. Glad to see reality kick in, and I am still hopeful I can acquire Modern Masters copies of this guy for half it’s current price level in due time. We’ll see!

-Sigmund Ausfresser
@sigfig8

9 thoughts on “Insider: Recent Movements In Legacy

  1. Sigmund,

    Great article. I’m with you on the Natural Orders…the other major issue is that the threats you get are restricted to pretty much Progenitus and now Craterhoof Behemoth.

    1. David,

      Thanks for the comment and for the build! Progenitus is still pretty good, but I think he loses out to Emrakul. That’s why Show and Tell decks are stronger – plus no need to sac a green dude in the process. Glad I unloaded the Natural Orders myself.

  2. Good article again, Sig. I would have liked to see some data on attendance at SCG legacy events (if possible?) to see if demand might actually be increasing. My gut tells me no and that this recent increase is Starcity moving the market because they can.

    To provide an experience from the other end of the spectrum, I’ve sold off the majority of my legacy staples within the past month. I don’t have the time to play or learn the legacy format and I just didn’t like the potential risk of the format being tied solely to the success of SCG events. While it does sting a bit to think that my 8 FoW’s are worth much more today than I sold them for a month ago, I’m still content with my decision. Then again, I only play limited and EDH anymore so I don’t have the need to hold cards for anything other than pure speculation.

    1. Jim,

      Thanks for the comment and the recommendation. My gut is in the same place – I don’t think there’s been a surge in SCG Legacy attendance lately. So I’m not sure what is driving this upward trend. Could it be that we are approaching the US Legacy GP and SCG wants to stock up?

      I am still on the fence with selling out myself. My next opportunity to do so will be at GP Providence in June. I don’t use the cards much, but I do really enjoy playing Legacy when I do actually play. So I’m not sure if I want to give up on it altogether. At the same time, I don’t want to keep cards for only one deck. Too much risk the deck becomes obselete (what if I had kept Counter-Top???).

      1. Completely understand. If I actually played the format or enjoyed it, I’d most likely keep my Legacy cards. It’ll be interesting to watch all of this unfold over the next year or so and see if this was the beginning of a market rise or fall.

        On a somewhat related note, I’m surprised no one has stepped up to host some big Modern events on a continual basis like SCG or tcgplayer does for standard/legacy. Seems like there’s a huge market opportunity there, especially with MM on the horizon. Hmm…..

        1. This does seem like a good opportunity…I think the bigger issue is interest…I know locally the modern tournaments have the poorest attendance…if you’re going to put the money into hosting a big event..why not just do standard?

          1. We should do a QS tournament circuit! We have enough members that we could cover a long list of locations. And if we could get Doug and Kelly to fund the events (while keeping a small portion for ourselves as organizers) it could work…haha.

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