menu

Insider: Cautious Investing with Modern Masters & Legacy

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

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:

That’s a lot of Force of Wills that no one can play with because they are being held hostage by a major vendor. The same observation can be made with Lion's Eye Diamond:

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.

Buy Nothing?

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.

Sigbits

  • 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.

-Sigmund Ausfresser
@sigfig8

28 thoughts on “Insider: Cautious Investing with Modern Masters & Legacy

  1. There were five copies of Voice of Resurgence in the finals yesterday, and a repeat top-8 deck (Aaron Barich’s Naya Aggro [which wasn’t Naya Blitz]) won the whole thing.

    1. Jeremy, thanks for the add! Voice of Resurgence is here to stay. Of course, I saw that SCG restocked 50 Elemental tokens at $1.99 and CFB restocked another 20. So these tokens aren’t likely to spike soon, but the more Voice sees play the better these tokens are.

  2. Sigmund, older cards are rising in value due to MTG inflation. Let’s say I have been playing for 3 yrs and I now own a substantial standard MTG collection. What would I target next? EDH or legacy staples? How would I get them? I could put cash or trade my standard at buylist prices. Most likely a bit of both. This is happening all the time.

    Legacy prices have a constant positive drift.

    1. So you think people are entering into Magic, getting expensive Standard cards and trading these into Legacy? For what purpose? Beyond the 1 copy needed for EDH decks, why would a newer player want to trade Voice of Resurgence into Force of Will? In fact, I’m thinking the next logical step after Standard will be Modern soon enough. No sense in going after Legacy staples if there are fewer Legacy tournaments. But with a Modern Pro Tour and PTQ season and continued support from WOTC, I can see Modern becoming the new Legacy in the future. In this case, Modern would get more of the MTG inflation effect.

      If this was the case, then Legacy cards will deflate if Magic doesn’t continue to grow? As much as I love the game, we can’t expect it to grow forever. Demand will eventually reach some sort of saturation.

      1. No I don’t think it’s everyone who plays standard at all. You have a fixed older card pool and slowly growing player base (for EDH + Legacy). People trickle out of just standard into eternal formats and this puts a positive drift on eternal cards. I don’t think these are competitive eternal players, I just think it’s a slow trickle of casual players buying older cards.

        I agree re the transition from Standard to modern. but I think the cards you showed are going up due to EDH not legacy (duals etc).

  3. I’m curious why you didn’t link any of these Legacy price increases to EDH players. A lot of Legacy playables are found in EDH decks, like the two cards you mentioned, Polluted Delta and Underground Sea. The above poster makes a valid argument that new Standard players would eventually discover older formats and branch out into them, but I think current players on a budget that play EDH are also buying these cards one and two at a time. The safest Legacy cards to invest in, in my opinion, would be ones also found in EDH decks.

    In any case, I thought this was an excellent article, and one of the best posted on here in quite some time.

    1. Jason and Karthik,

      You both make very fair points. I continuously forget that so many Legacy cards also show up frequently in EDH. This oversight is mostly caused by my own refusal to play expensive cards in EDH. 🙂 To me, EDH is a format in which I can play all my fun cards and get away with it. I forget that there are many competitive EDH players who need Duals and Fetches for their deck to be tier 1.

      If it’s EDH and casual play driving up Duals and Fetches, then there still must be a ceiling, no? If not, then I can still argue that a declining Legacy format may relinquish sufficient quantities of these older cards to alleviate the increased casual demand? For example, when/if I sell out of Legacy, there will be 4 people’s worth of Dual Lands back into the market for EDH. Should enough people follow suit, this number could become relevant.

      How about Force of Will and LED? These aren’t as critical to EDH right?

      1. As a casual player I find immense joy from playing old super powerful cards, like gaea’s cradle or mana drain. I don’t play anything competitively but it doesn’t matter. It’s just fun to play with powerful cards – I don’t even have to win with them. I think a lot of casual players are like this.

        I don’t think there really is a ceiling for reserved cards. I think they will really struggle when magic dies as a game.

        When legacy players unload their cards, I think card prices will stabilize a lot, but eventually prices will rise again.

        As far as I see it, do I want to buy a tarmogoyf or a gaea’s cradle for my casual decks? Snap pick, I’d pick the gaea’s cradle. Tarmogoyf has nothing cool about it…

        1. When playing I mostly want to see my strategies work, often this implies I’m winning, but it’s not a requirement for me to have a good time. In fact the games where my decks were working but got trumped somehow tend to be more memorable.

          I even believe the reserved list cards likely wouldn’t suffer much if Wizards stopped releasing new sets. Yes, there’d be a quick drop, but, people will be incredibly nostalgic for the game and that should make prices go back up. In fact, at that point every card becomes a reserved list card (the ones on the list are just more rare). I know that I am buying anything rare should Magic come to and end and putting them away for a rainy day.

          I have sets of both, but yes Cradle every time.

      2. Those cards are NOT limited to competitive EDH. Many casual EDH players are ok buying a single Dual for a deck.

        Many EDH players have many different decks, your full playset of Duals might not be enough for 4 EDH players (they might satisfy 2 EDH players that are like me but don’t yet have extensive collections). Also there are likely many more EDH players then there are Legacy players. Obviously if Legacy players would start selling en masse it would have an impact on prices, but that’s going to be a gradual process and those cards will get scooped up pretty quickly. Unless it’s a really quick move away from Legacy I doubt you’ll see much of an impact.

        I have seen both Force and LED see play in EDH, but yes, they are not as often played as Duals. Force is more likely to see play than LED dure to the general concensus against playing combo decks.

  4. Also Dallas Saturday attendance 441 for Sundays 247 -56% . Nashville last week was 453 for standard 201 for legacy 44 %. I would think the increased sales of legacy cards would help make up for some of the decreased attendance of a Legacy event. They probably didn’t sell much more Standard cards on Sunday as those players all mostly carried over their decks from Saturday. It may just be that one day of Magic is more time than most are willing to play.

    1. Players only wanting to play one day of Magic is probably a big reason. I am not sure if SCG takes into account, however, players like myself who would only show up on Sunday to play Legacy, and who have no interest in playing Standard. I would think the potential to get new players (and potential buyers) to an SCG open site would make up for the perceived drop in attendance from Standard to Legacy.

    2. You are absolutely right. But then I would propose a new experiment to Star City Games. Pick a region with strong Legacy following (I’d suggest maybe the midwest) and run Legacy on Saturday and Standard on Sunday. This is really the best way to evaluate the health of the format.

      1. What about a Legacy / Legacy weekend ? Or Legacy / Modern ? Maybe they could partner with WOTC for Legacy and Vintage Championships too. Or quarterly Legacy /Vintage Weekend. I don’t think Legacy is dead but has plateaued. Standard has plenty of support and not having a couple of weekends without it would be good I think as the metagame progresses/ matures to quickly sometimes.

        1. I think there would be a decent number of people who would love Legacy/Legacy or the like. But in reality, we have to respect that Standard is still the most popular format. That’s why I propose a Legacy/Standard weekend. It doesn’t alter the cards that SCG needs to bring to the event and it still ensures a similar level of money spent. To be honest, I see little reason why SCG shouldn’t attempt this. If they were really afraid of losing business, they could run a sizable Standard side event on Saturday for people who aren’t interested in Legacy. But I would wager that a Saturday Legacy event would bring almost as many players as Saturday Standard.

    3. I really like aregand’s point regarding Sunday sales. Having Double Standard means SCG is likely selling less singles to players in the tournament. It’s just easy to make a few small tweaks and submit the same deck for Sunday’s tournament when both days have the same format.

  5. With 4 rares left to spoil, I have these #s all based on high Quiet Spec buy price.

    Average Mythic: $20.63

    Average Rare: $6.12

    Here are the implied pack values before uncommons and commons, with various “haircut” assumptions for the effect of new supply on card prices:

    0% Haircut for Mythics, 0% Haircut for Rares: $8.51 buylist value per pack

    10% Haircut for Mythics, 50% Haircut for Rares: $5.36 buylist value per pack

    25% Haircut for Mythics, 50% Haircut for Rares: $4.94 buylist value per pack

    30% Haircut for Mythics, 60% Haircut for Rares: $4.23 buylist value per pack

    So although it’s packed with good cards, it’s not like you can buy a box for $240 and immediately crack it for value.

    It now looks like the black rare slots are filled and the lack of Thoughtseize is very surprising and I can only guess that a reprint will still be coming in the next few months.

    The few exclusions and lands aside, WotC was not messing around here. It was almost like they sorted the eligible cards by dollar value and just hit everything. Here are some of the more notable exclusions. In at least two cases (Venser and Fulminator), the cards spiked after the start of 2013 and maybe escaped targeting.

    Thoughtseize

    Mutavault

    Noble Hierarch

    Damnation

    Crucible of Worlds

    Venser, Shaper Savant

    Grove of the Burnwillows

    Glimpse the Unthinkable

    Glen Elendra Archmage

    Fulminator Mage

    Chord of Calling

    Bribery

    Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

    Primsatic Omen

    Mycosnyth Golem

    Extraplanar Lens

    Reflecting Pool

    Regal Force

    Horizon Canopy

    Scapeshift

    Chalice of the Void

    Goryo’s Vengeance

    Painter’s Servant

    Sower of Temptation

    Filter Lands

    At the moment, I don’t recommend buys here unless a card is being played actively. Maybe Chord of Calling is reasonable.

    1. Jason,

      Great analysis – thank you very much for this summary! I agree with you on your advice. I can’t suggest any movement on the cards you’ve listed above. Some are likely to benefit, but WOTC knows what they’re doing. Some of the others are likely to see reprint in one way or another.

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. I believe Grove, Tomb and Horizon canopy were all in FTV Realms. Pool has also had two printings, so their exclusion makes sense. Crucible has also been reprinted once. So to me, Hierarch, Thoughtseize and Mutavault are the big exceptions. Thoughtseize could still show up in M14, as it is not broken by any means. It’s really good, but not off the charts.

    1. It sure would help sell M14 to have Thoughtseize in it. After Ravnica block and Modern Masters many will be out of cash so they need to put some good cards in there. Slivers won’t be enough.

      1. I really like Thoughtseize in M14 to help sell the set. Currently all we have are Ooze, Slivers (cough cough), and a nice Mythic Angel to sell the set. Thoughtseize would go a long way.

  7. I think that the Legacy bubble we see is coming from players scared of investing in Modern due to MM reprints and looking for places to put their money. I do expect a scaling back of the Legacy prices once players see the full MM list, get an idea of the size of the print run (I still think it’s bigger than everyone thinks), and feel safe investing in modern again.

    1. Kyle,

      This is a reasonable assessment. I for one have not been investing in Legacy through all these changes. Sure, the reserved list cards are safe from reprint but they aren’t safe from market fluctuations. And contrary to popular belief, these cards can definitely drop in price at some point in time. Demand just needs to drop enough to trigger a small panic and people will sell.

      I for one will be focusing on Modern investing soon enough. The risk of reprints are high, but likely as we approach Modern season we will have a better idea what will be a safe card to place a few bets.

      1. I think the onslaught fetchlands are definitely getting reprinted soon. But dual lands have been undervalued for a long time. If vendilion clique is $50, then even plateau is worth way more based on edh playability alone.

        I think cards like show and tell will fall if legacy is not very popular anymore. However, if dual lands fall at all, I’ll be aggressively buying them .

        1. Agree on ONS fetches and on Legacy-only cards like Show and Tell.

          For Dual Lands, I just don’t see these going up forever. If Magic fades in popularity, will people still be paying $150 for Underground Seas? I would wager not. Dual Lands are really nice, but they aren’t as symbolic as Power. They do fluctuate in price and while most of these fluctuations have historically been on the upside, it is certainly feasible that they could drop as well.

  8. Sigmund….if you had quantity(5 or more) of the majority of the mythics and rares already spoiled would you buy into the hype for mm?Seeing your point of possibily pulling crap from your 24 packs i can’t see the value unless you keep you box sealed and can buy it for under $200.As been said your chances of pulling a specfic mythic is 1/180 packs i can’t see it worth the gamble your comments please

    1. Terry,

      I cannot support buying into any cards spoiled for Modern Masters. The increase in supply cannot work in your favor, and while quantities are unknown the risk is too great. Even cards NOT in Modern Masters but are prone to reprint (looking at Mutavault and/or Thoughtseize) carry additional risk moving forward. I have confidence WOTC will do what they can to make Modern an affordable format.

      If you can find sealed boxes under $200, by all means buy them all and sell them on eBay yourself for reasonable profit. Some stores can justify opening packs and selling singles, but I anticipate EV of packs to drop after the set is released much like all new sets.

      Good luck to you, and thanks for commenting!

      Sig

  9. Hi, in a few days we will know all the reprints. How about a follow up article about what is not reprinted / under the radar that could see a surge. Like Goryo’s Vengeance / Through the Breach if not reprinted for example . You probably have it half written already.

Join the conversation

Want Prices?

Browse thousands of prices with the first and most comprehensive MTG Finance tool around.


Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.