Talk about information overload! Who has been keeping up with all these Modern Masters spoilers? It’s interesting to note how Wizards of the Coast is doing their best to keep this set balanced from a value standpoint.
In other words, every pack won’t contain a $10 rare. Or even a $1 rare for that matter:
For each of these disappointing reprints, there is one more valuable card in Modern which won’t be reprinted. On the one hand, I’m actually glad Wizards didn’t make Modern Masters a set of the 227 most valuable cards in Modern. Sealed product would have been even more cost prohibitive and the Limited environment would have been garbage. I’m confident Wizards made this reprint-set a fun format to draft.
So What’s Next?
As of writing this article, only 72 cards have been confirmed on MTG Salvation. I suspect this number to be much higher by Tuesday. Until then, there is no certainty a given card won’t show up.
Even then it will be inevitable that some cards will not be listed in Modern Masters. I see no sign of Mutavault yet, nor Noble Hierarch. To me, the biggest card missing is Thoughtseize. We will have to see if all three of these cards remain absent from the set as spoilers continue to roll in.
It may be tempting to hop online and buy the internet out of all the Modern playables which did not see a reprint. My advice: refrain from doing this. Speculating on expensive cards in Modern simply because they are not seeing reprint is incredibly risky. There is nothing to stop Wizards from putting the “overlooked” cards right into M14 or even Theros block.
Sure, a card like Thoughtseize could climb through the roof should it not be reprinted. But Wizards has been fully aware of this card’s high price and equally high utility in Modern and Legacy. I am confident we’ll see this one before next Modern PTQ season. And even if I’m wrong, will it be worth the risk?
Speculation and quick flips can be a fine strategy for some people. I am just stressing the high level of risk with buying into cards not in Modern Masters. You may be able to catch momentum in the market and harness some of the movement for a quick profit. But to me the potential downside is much greater.
Expected Value of Sealed Modern Masters
The fact that Skeletal Vampire and (arguably worse) Greater Gargadon are in Modern Masters tells me something more about Wizards, beyond their attention to the Limited format. They are not willing to print an overpowered and overpriced set. I can respect that.
But there may be an impact here on sealed product prices. Currently Modern Masters Booster Boxes are available for preorder on eBay for $250. This price has been creeping up from the $200 I observed a couple weeks ago. Is momentum still upward? This is tough to say.
How would you feel if you paid $30 to draft Modern Masters (since these are selling way above MSRP), only to open Greater Gargadon, Skeletal Vampire, and Molten Disaster? You may have a solid Rakdos deck drafted, but you would not be making much value out of your packs. You may also be inclined to avoid the Tarmogoyf lottery in the future.
My initial reaction to these spoilers, after “no Thoughtseize yet?” is “these boxes should settle in price”. There appears to be sufficient bulk in this set so that packs cannot be opened willy nilly to open value. And no matter how much you hype up the set, there’s no way someone can artificially inflate preorder prices of these singles. There is no perceived shortage of supply of most of the rares, and no one is going to pay $1.99 for Molten Disaster.
Because the preorder prices on Modern Masters singles are somewhat restricted by the price of their counterparts, there may be some motivation for dealers and stores to refrain from opening packs to sell the singles. This is especially the case while sealed product is so high. They would just as soon let the players gamble their money and open these packs. Should this happen, more sealed product may be available on the market. As a result, I would expect prices on booster boxes of Modern Masters to decrease once the set is released.
Then again, my argument that people won’t want to gamble so much money to open a Tarmogoyf is not wholly true…
Shifting Gears to SCG’s Double Standard
We’ve had another Legacy-less weekend at the SCG Open this past weekend. This is really so disappointing. The current Standard format is largely boring and unevolving. Sure, there were fifteen copies of Voice of Resurgence in the Top 8 (although it looks like none made it past the quarterfinals). But the energy for spectators to watch live coverage of Standard just isn’t there.
I still cannot fully understand SCG’s move to less Legacy on Sundays. Their attendance argument makes sense, but it’s incongruous with their recent price hikes on Legacy staples. What are they accomplishing by selling Force of Will for $100? They certainly aren’t selling a lot at that price judging based on how many they present in stock:
So many copies in stock… not selling.
Follow my rationale here and please do comment if I’m flawed. Star City Games, the largest Legacy tournament organizer in the Western Hemisphere, has made it clear by their actions that some Legacy tournaments are not paying out acceptably. Therefore, they are reducing the number of Legacy events they’re offering each year. Thus, demand for Legacy – especially in the regions getting an alternate Sunday event – would likely decrease.
After all, I’m not going to buy that last Underground Sea for my Legacy deck if I know the local SCG Open this year is going to be Standard-Standard.
With this decrease in demand, we would expect prices to temper. But instead the opposite has happened – they’ve increased yet again.
We’re not talking pennies here, either. Underground Sea has increased about 20% according to the mtgstocks.com curve. Why would these Dual Lands increase in price if there are fewer opportunities to use them? With the price hike coming so recently, I find it difficult to believe it’s directly related to increased player base. Did Dragon’s Maze really drive that many more players to Magic? If it was truly demand driven, wouldn’t the curve be less steep and begin rising around Return to Ravnica, like Polluted Delta did?
I guess I can’t provide any hard evidence, but I am beginning to wonder if Legacy is in a true bubble. People talk about price memory – no one is willing to sell their Force of Wills for less than $50 because that’s what they all paid for them. This argument holds true but only to a point. That’s like saying gold will never sell for less than $1600/ounce again because so many people paid more than that for their gold. Any Wall Street investor or goldbug could tell you the fallacy behind this rationale (chart from http://www.bullionvault.com/gold-price-chart.do).
Reactions may be incredibly delayed, but bubbles always burst. I’m not suggesting Legacy is dying. There’s a strong enough player base so that the format will remain strong. I’m merely commenting on the irrationality of the latest price jumps.
“Price memory” is driving bubble-like behavior. Should SCG decide they wanted to move their Legacy holdings more quickly, they could easily drop their prices and flood the market with new copies, thus dropping prices further. The cycle would continue until the “Invisible Hand” sets the new price. This outcome is more likely than some people would like to admit – and with each non-Legacy weekend, the odds of a Legacy price pullback increases a tiny bit more.
Ok, so I’ve sat here and written about how buying Modern is bad now, buying Legacy is bad now, and Standard is boring now. It seems like I’m advocating a buy-nothing strategy. This isn’t exactly the case.
Standard will be rotating soon. With that rotation, cards from Return to Ravnica will become stronger and more in demand. I am still supportive of acquiring Shock Lands, although their prices are slightly less favorable already. Abrupt Decay and Supreme Verdict are still fine trade targets. And I’ve even warmed up to Jace, Architect of Thought.
Outside of Standard, there are plenty of Modern cards worth acquiring which aren’t in the spotlight. Birthing Pod is a ban-risk, but the card is still cheap enough such that purchasing a few presents some upside. Worldwake Manlands – specifically the blue ones – have moved well lately, and Modern season should amplify this. And while Mox Opal is getting all the attention after the Legendary rules change, Inkmoth Nexus should see a price increase as well.
Net, there are plenty of places to look to – but they are more geared towards safer investments rather than hyped speculation. If you enjoy the rush of speculation, feel free to buy the most valuable Modern card not in Modern Masters. You may make handy profit if you’re quick enough, but please keep the risks in mind. Likewise, I’d avoid investing in Legacy beyond what’s needed for decks at this point. Upside is limited and downside is apparent. There are plenty of better opportunities out there.
- Remember the Wurm tokens created by Wurmcoil Engine? I remember how they buy listed to SCG for $3 at one point. I am beginning to believe the Elemental tokens created by Voice of Resurgence may follow a similar price trend. These are sold out at SCG at $1.99 and I’ve seen copies on eBay sell for an average of $2.50. Knowing how obscure these are, and how little Dragon’s Maze will be opened, this seems like a safe way to invest in Voice of Resurgence with less downside risk.
- Misdirection has been getting some buzz on Twitter lately, and I recently bought a foil Japanese copy from eBay on a whim. Star City Games has just a few regular copies and two foil English copies in stock, and I could easily see a sudden price increase there.
- Thespian's Stage is another noteworthy card coming out of the recent rule changes. The card now combos well with Dark Depths. Is this strategy viable in Legacy? I doubt it. Is this strategy viable enough to increase the card’s price? You betcha! Copies are up to $1.99 on Star City Games and mtgstocks.com has also indicated a recent price increase.