Outlook for Booster Prices
Previously it was expected that Dragon's Maze (DGM) boosters would flood the market due to the tix-only release events, the switch to DGM for Constructed prizes, and the skewed prize distribution for drafts. This provided strong motivation for buying Return to Ravnica (RTR) and Gatecrash (GTC) boosters in the previous 6 weeks. The underlying trends that would depress the price of DGM boosters would simultaneously support prices for RTR and GTC.
The change to Constructed prizes has adjusted the outlook for booster prices. Fresh supply of RTR boosters will now come from two places. Constructed Daily Events and Premier Events will award RTR, GTC, and DGM boosters. RTR boosters will be awarded from 2-person Constructed queues that are not Momir or Pauper. This should provide a steady supply of RTR boosters into the secondary market. This suggests it is doubtful that prices for RTR can reach 4+ tix in the short term and instead will settle into the 3.7 to 3.9 tix range.
As for GTC the fresh supply from Dailies and Premier Events should slow the expected price increases. This introduces some risk that there is not enough time for these to reach a profitable level. If full block drafting remains popular over the next two months, then prices should increase steadily. But, the release of Modern Masters (MM) will provide something else for drafters to do and this could interrupt the process. Also the release of M14 in August will definitely slow down RTR block drafting, at least temporarily.
With the release of MM and M14, the optimal selling window for RTR and GTC looks to be June and July. There will be another chance to sell in September when players have grown bored of core set draft. After that, the release of Theros will relegate RTR block drafting to an afterthought for a number of months. If you are holding boosters by the end of September, expect price weakness for a number of months as players will be most interested in Theros limited and Fall Standard.
As for DGM, prices will probably not fall as hard as was originally expected, but the skewed prize distribution means that drafters will typically have a few packs of DGM in their accounts, keeping demand low. There might be a short-term opportunity to pick these up at the end of release events once the tix-only events wrap up, but upside will be small.
Release Event Trends
Have a look at the two charts below. They are reproduced from mtggoldfish and track the prices of dual lands from Scars of Mirrodin (SOM) and Innistrad (ISD).
The index for the fast lands from SOM suggests that they bottomed during New Phyrexia (NPH) release events, represented on the chart by the NPH expansion symbol. This is no surprise as the Sealed Release queues are tix-only and offer strong prize support. This encouraged lots of Limited play and the selling of cards into the secondary market to get more tix, which in turn temporarily depressed prices for all cards from SOM.
The same effect is observed for the dual lands from ISD, which bottom out during Dark Ascension (DKA) release events (similarly represented by the DKA expansion symbol). Both indices stabilize afterwards and then start an uptrend with the release of the core set in August. Buying the SOM and ISD land indices was a profitable, low-risk trade as they both saw higher prices in the subsequent Fall.
This pattern strongly suggests that the absolute bottom for the shocklands of RTR and GTC will occur right now, during DGM release events. Have a look at the following charts.
Looking at the chart for the RTR shocklands, the price bottom seems to be about 3 tix for this index. The price rose higher after the switch to GGG drafting in February, but DGM release events have brought fresh supply into the market and the price has been falling back to around 3 tix.
The chart for the GTC shocklands is still trending down. Based off of historical patterns, the next two weeks represent the bottom for the shocklands of Ravnica. Real estate is one of the most reliable speculative vehicles in Magic and I don't expect this year to be any different. Buying shocklands now with an eye to Fall Standard is a low-risk and profitable strategy to employ. Although I encourage readers to buy all the shocklands, I tend to weight my basket towards the under-used and thus low-priced shocklands.
The prevalence of green-based strategies powered by Thragtusk and Farseek suggest that Temple Garden and Stomping Ground both have lower upside than the other shocklands. It's quite possible that the aforementioned green spells are not included in M14. If that turns out to be the case, the reign of green as one of the top colours in Standard could be over come the Fall.
Although I expect most shocklands to rise into the 4-6 tix range after Standard rotation, if a card like Stomping Ground goes from being the most played dual land on MTGO to the least played, the upside on this card at current prices will be low, with even some possibility of a loss depending on the purchase price. This is not to discourage speculators from stocking up on green shocklands, but to understand that changes to the Standard metagame may affect their value in ways that are difficult to predict.
This is a brief rundown of what I am buying, selling and watching in the market.
- I've started selling RTR boosters. With prices at or near 4 tix and the unexpected supply coming from constructed events, there's less of a possibility of these going to 4.2 or 4.3 tix. Getting 3.8 to 3.9 tix for them seems reasonable given the changes to the Constructed payouts.
- Most of the GTC shocklands are priced at under 3 tix and represent good value. I have been buying these.
- Lightning Angel saw price increases this week after it featured in a Day One undefeated deck in Modern Constructed at GP Portland. Although not a groundbreaking development, it seems like a solid metagame choice and could see a price spike during the next Modern season. I'll hold onto my copies and will scoop up more if it falls into the 0.2 to 0.3 tix range again.
- Boros Reckoner touched 5 tix this week and is one of my favorite pick ups for the Fall.
- The adjustments that were made to Constructed payouts has added some risk to continued buying of GTC boosters, so I have stopped buying these. I'll be paying attention to the prices of GTC boosters this weekend. If the price firms up, this bodes well for further gains over the coming weeks. I'll be looking to sell them during June and July, prior to the release of M14.
- Some of the DGM rares look like they have value. Council of the Absolute looks reasonable at or below 2 tix, and [card Catch]Catch//Release[/card] is one I think has potential, currently priced as a bulk rare. Block Constructed will have a spotlight on it this weekend at PT Dragon's Maze in San Diego, so if there is some new deck technology developed by the pros, we could see a breakout card or two.
- Last week's pickups such as Restoration Angel and Thragtusk have stabilized in price. There are still a number of PT Theros Qualifiers to be held on MTGO during June and July with the format being Standard Constructed. I'm confident there will be one more price spike on these cards.