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Insider: Three Months of Magic and MTGO

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There's currently a pause in top-down events such as release queues or other important announcements from WoTC. Modern season is over, and Standard is iterating, with Junk Reanimator holding the top position at the moment. Take a break from doing any card-by-card analysis to consider what is to come over the next three months. When the market is reacting in fear or greed, speculators should be acting with courage and discipline. Having the big picture in mind helps deal with surprises or unusual situations sucessfully.

April

This month is the calm before the storm. The focus has shifted away from Modern towards Standard, but many Modern staples are not yet priced at attractive levels. It'll take a few more months away from the Modern season before prices fall enough to start establishing positions. Also, the upcoming release of Modern Masters (MM) looms over all cards printed prior to ZEN block. And it's not yet clear how WoTC will release MM on MTGO. The uncertainty about what will be reprinted in MM and more importantly how it will be reprinted means there is no reason to consider buying any Modern staples at the moment.

Spoilers for Dragon's Maze (DGM) should start in the second half of April. Pay attention to the chatter and analysis. Without the ability to buy pre-sales on MTGO (which are typically not worth it in paper anyway), what we are looking for as speculators are cards that can revitalize out-of-favor archetypes or spawn new ones. Look towards interactions across formats. Cards that are printed with Legacy or Vintage implications often fly under the radar long enough for them to reach MTGO before prices reflect their impact. Deathrite Shaman is the recent example of this.

May

Dragon's Maze will be released in paper on May 3rd, suggesting a May 13th release for the digital version. Cube draft should return, so pay attention to what packs Cube will award as prizes. Last time it was Zendikar (ZEN) and Worldwake (WWK) packs, along with the associated ZZW draft queues. This triggered a big sell off in all ZEN and WWK rares, which resulted in a strong short-term buying opportunity. Something similar might occur so when the exact boosters awarded as prizes are announced, consider the implications and go from there. Talk about the impacts in the forums and see what opportunities crop up as a result.

The second half of May should bring MM spoilers. In this case, be on the lookout for what is not spoiled or not to be reprinted in MM. There should be widespread weakness in all pre-ZEN block Modern staples, but it's possible WoTC will make a mistake and not reprint a staple or two. This would be the time to gather a list of targets, and scoop them up as soon as they are confirmed not to be in the set.

June

Modern Masters is to be released in paper on June 7th, 2013. Because there will be little extra coding or testing of cards required for the digital release, it's quite possible we see a simultaneous release in paper and digital. As mentioned above, how this set is released online is the most critical aspect. It's quite possible there will not be a 'print run' in the paper sense. If MM drafting is popular, it might mean a significant price crash for Modern staples. Further analysis and observation will be required, but any time there is a significant market disruption, there is usually an associated buying opportunity for brave speculators.

Once the dust has settled on the release of MM, it's time to consider the transition to Version 4.0 of the MTGO client. Currently you are able to use the client of your choice, Version 3 or Version 4. WoTC is endeavoring to make improvements to Version 4 with an eye to making the full transition away from Version 3 in July. If history is any guide, this will not go well.

The release of Version 3 was a disaster. Significant functionality of that client was not ready in time for its launch, even with MTGO going completely offline leading up to its release. This might have been OK if the client itself was any good, but the poor quality of the user interface on top of the lack of functionality turned out to be a disaster. This botched update to the client created a significant market crash as players abandoned the online version of MTG.

Fast forward to today, and most functionality has returned. Crashes occur, but not like they did in the past. The success of Duals of the Planewalkers and the New World Order of Magic design has driven the MTGO user base to record levels, despite the still-terrible user interface.

If history repeats itself and WoTC moves forward with a half-baked update to their client, another market crash could be coming. Keep this in the back of you head over the coming months. It might be worthwhile to be more liquid than usual leading up to the date Version 3.0 goes dark. Having extra tix on hand will be prudent.

Portfolio Update

This is a brief rundown of what I am buying, selling and looking out for in the market. Some of this is repeated from last week, but a few things have been updated and I've fleshed out some of the reasoning to a greater degree.

Selling:

  • Rares from RTR that pop up on MTGOtraders' hotlist such as Temple Garden, Abrupt Decay, and Angel of Serenity. RTR is temporarily inflated in price and will come down somewhat after DGM's release, so selling in-demand cards right now is a fine idea. The metagame might shift and buying back in June is entirely possible. For more detail on my RTR mythic rare positions check out my April 2nd post in this thread.
  • Any excess cards from ISD, DKA, AVR and M13, though I am down to scraps at this point. The first cracks in the price of these are starting to appear. Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells has dipped below 20 tix for the first time since December 2012, and Bonfire of the Damned is skirting a six-month low.
  • Mythic rares from Scars of Mirrodin (SOM) Block. I'm now about halfway through selling these. Between the comments section and the forum, a couple questions have arisen regarding whether I think SOM block mythics are good buys. I think this comes from last week's article which showed how Zendikar (ZEN) block mythics appreciated in price leading up the end of their redeemable period. ZEN block had a ton of cards that have appreciated in price for paper versions, such as the fetchlands and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. This drove the digital price higher too while they could be redeemed. I don't think similar price increases are happening to SOM block cards. I'd suggest SOM block mythics will not follow a similar pricing pattern to ZEN block mythics in the months leading up to the end of its redeemable period. Thus, SOM block mythics do not represent good value and speculators should not consider buying them when following a redemption speculation strategy.

Buying:

  • Duskmantle Seer and Aurelia's Fury if I can find a good price. Both cards seem like good value and don't seem like they will be increasing in price in the short term.
  • Nightveil Specter seems like good value in the 0.10 to 0.15 tix range. Ordinarily I avoid speculating on non-mythic rares, but occasionally a card jumps out at me as good value. This is one of those cards; see this thread for my reasoning.

Watching:

  • The Zendikar fetchland index. When this bottoms, it will be time to start buying these up.
  • GTC boosters have drifted down in price and I'd expect this trend to continue. RTR boosters dropped to 2.6 during GTC release events and a similar drop in GTC booster prices during DGM release events would suggest a good buying opportunity. However, after this thought experiment, I'd revise down any expectations on the bottom for GTC booster prices.
  • RTR boosters have ticked up in price, and the current buy/sell spread on Supernova is 3.43/3.54 tix. This trade looks to be on solid footing as the fundamentals of prize support and demand from drafters will support the price going forward. In the short term, WoTC has announced a special tournament for next Friday where you get to play against members of R&D. The prizes are RTR boosters, which should cause a short-term dip in prices and/or a widening of the spread. These are still a buy if they get back down to 3.33 tix per booster. Long term, I'll be looking to sell these for 3.8 to 3.9 tix after DGM's release.
  • Obzedat, Ghost Council has drifted down and seen a drop off in play in the top decks of Block Constructed. I'm still bullish on this card in the long term, but it looks like there will be some price weakness in the short term.

18 thoughts on “Insider: Three Months of Magic and MTGO

      1. …And you mention abrupt decay too… And night veil specter… Am I missing something?? Perhaps your definition of speculation is different?

        1. You are right, what I wrote is not consistent with how I speculate. What I should have written is ‘non mythic non staple rares’. Cards like death rite shaman, abrupt decay, supreme verdict and the shock lands are cards I will happily speculate on.

    1. I usually let past events guide me when thinking about a probable future bottom. Last year, the absolute bottom was during AVR release events, but there was another short term bottom during RTR release events. This is understandable because to play in the release events players need tix, so keep your eyes out for the price on fetch lands to fall during DGM and THS release events.

      If there’s a drop in price during DGM release events, this would be a good short term opportunity as I’d expect MM to stoke interest in Modern.

        1. I’m taking a more conservative approach to speculating on the ZEN fetches.

          I didn’t have any to begin with (not much of a Modern player, yet) so I bought one of each last night. Maybe I could have waited for the price to go down some more, but I knew I wanted at least one of each for EDH decks. What this also does for me is give me the ability to do price checks going forward so I can see what bots are offering to buy these cards (for those bots that don’t post their buy prices.) I logged the price I paid for each one and I will keep track of their values going forward. In a week from now, I’ll buy one more of each and log those prices again. And, again the next week, and so on.

          Doing this will spread out the risk over time and it should all eventually average out. As prices go down, I can buy more and bring the average cost per unit down. When prices go up again, I will sell off one or two and scratch the cheapest unit from my log and count the gain as credit toward paying for the most expensive one. Eventually, the goal is to have a playset and it will have paid for itself.

          1. I agree that spreading out your buys is a great way to accumulate cards. Being approximately right when speculating yields tidy profits. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      1. That should mean that focus stays with Standard in the Fall as it normally does. No Modern PT is good news for speculators interested in modern staples.

  1. Excellent article! I normally don’t read yours (not because I think you are a bad writer) because I thought that the logic behind buying/selling on MTGO would be different than with paper, but this had so many good tips that applied to both! I will definitely read your articles from here on out.

    Quick question: I bought my paper AoS s at 6$ a pop and sold them to a buylist at 9.50$. I would like to rebuy, and from what you are saying, it seems like after the release of DGM is a good time to do so. What price do you think they will fall to, if they ostensibly reach $15 before DGM?

    Also, thank you for the idea of making a spec list for possible non-reprinted yet eligible Modern cards. That had never occurred to me.

    1. I think for paper speculating, accumulating staples such as Angel of Serenity during the summer is a good move. I do admit though that I don’t actively speculate in paper and you should consult others before taking any positions. Thanks for reading, your comment was very gracious.

  2. This article is spot on, Matt. Thank you.

    I like the point you make about ZEN block mythics appreciating right up to redemption cut off. JTMS and the fetchlands are definitely statistical outliers in terms of MTG finance. One of the first sets I ever redeemed was WWK so I could get a paper JTMS for my collection on the cheap.

    I’ve been cobbling together data on mtggoldfish to create indicies for ZEN block mythics (since they don’t post ZEN block mythic indicies) so I can run them against SOM block mythic indicies in an attempt to find any additional trends that repeat year over year. I will share in the forums when I gather enough data. (Side note: Maybe I should email the fine folks who run mtggoldfish and ask them to post ZEN block mythic indicies?)

  3. how to approach spoiler season migth be something you can write about…It’s for sure something i could and would love to learn about. I try to improvize from what i see, but coming there prepared should = more $

    again good article Matt!! ty

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