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Insider: Updating MTGO Redemption

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Redemption is one of the pillars of the MTGO economy, providing an essential link to paper magic. This connection helps support the value of cards in the digital realm and provides a low-risk strategy for consistent profits. This strategy is best pursued in and around Fall rotation when cards lose a lot of their utility by no longer being playable in Standard.

Understanding how redemption affects digital prices is foundational to speculating with digital cards, so if you are new to this column, please read up on it here.

The digital-to-paper ratio of set prices is a simple metric that gives a guide to how under- or overvalued a digital set is relative to its paper equivalent. Because sets are redeemable, economic theory suggests that when an online set has a relatively low price, then redeeming sets should be an attractive option. Eventually, the ratio should rise as the spread between digital and paper sets shrink. Combined with some common sense, MTGO speculators can use this information to guide purchases.

The New Ratio

Although the ratio has done a venerable job in the past, its composition was not without (valid) criticism. The update to the ratio incorporates two changes. One, complete set prices from Star City Games will no longer be used in favor of a compiled TCG Player low prices. For each card in a set, the TCG low price is added up and the total will be used to calculate the ratio. Hopefully this change will provide a more realistic price for the value of a redeemed set. Thanks to forum member WeQu for providing this data.

The other change is to add in the price of redemption. For Gatecrash (GTC) onwards, each set will have $25 added to the digital price of that set to represent the increased redemption fee. Older sets will have $5 added to the digital price, the old redemption fee. Digital prices will continue to come from Supernovabots. Although 'Nova doesn't price in commons and uncommons, these are typically close to worthless on MTGO.

It will take some time to gather sufficient data to get a feel for the new ratio values, so starting now in advance of Fall rotation seems prudent. Presented below are the first two measurements, where Ratio = Nova/TCG Low.

 

June 11th June 19th
 Set Ratio Nova TCG Low Ratio Nova TCG Low
Scars of Mirrodin 0.81 $94 $122 0.87 $99 $120
Mirrodin Besieged 0.78 $49 $69 0.76 $48 $69
New Phyrexia 1.10 $113 $107 1.10 $115 $109
Magic 2012 0.79 $82 $110 0.79 $81 $109
Innistrad 1.19 $158 $136 0.98 $131 $139
Dark Ascension 1.51 $71 $50 1.36 $61 $49
Avacyn Restored 0.98 $118 $126 0.93 $111 $125
Magic 2013 0.80 $92 $121 0.74 $86 $124
Return to Ravnica 0.85 $118 $144 0.84 $114 $142
Gatecrash 0.87 $73 $113 0.83 $71 $115
Dragon's Maze 1.00 $83 $108 1.02 $81 $104

 

Early Thoughts

Starting with Scars of Mirrodin (SOM) block, we have a range of values in and around 1.0 for the two sets that are still redeemable, SOM and New Phyrexia (NPH). The online price of both sets rose over the course of the winter, and now they are essentially on par with paper prices. From the redemption angle, one should not be looking towards SOM block for value from this point on.

It's also important to note that Wizards ran out of Mirrodin Besieged (MBS) in the spring and since we were beyond the guarantee date, they will not be printing more sets. At this point, the online price of MBS no longer has a connection to paper prices, so only the utility of the cards to casual players and in constructed formats matter.

MTGO is still largely a place to get in a quick draft, so once the link to paper is severed, prices tend to fall for most cards. However, MBS has a few rares such as Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, Thrun, the Last Troll, Inkmoth Nexus and Sword of Feast and Famine. These should keep the set price from sliding too much.

Innistrad (ISD) block is next in line and this is where the highest ratio values are found, including Dark Ascension (DKA) at 1.36. These sets are all on their way out of Standard and prices have been coming down. There might be a bump in the ratio with the last few online Standard PTQs to come in the next month, but the trend is down. DKA in particular seems like it's ready for a continued slide in price as only it and NPH hold an online price higher than the TCG low price.

RTR vs. GTC

One of the more interesting aspects of the new ratio can be seen when comparing Return to Ravnica (RTR) and GTC. After including the higher redemption fee for GTC, they have almost identical value in terms of their relative prices as represented by the digital-to-paper ratio! This suggests that they both represent the same value at this time, which makes sense. Both are large sets, both have five shocklands each, both have been drafted for roughly the same amount of time, and both are still being actively drafted in the online limited queues.

On the other hand, Dragon's Maze (DGM) has a much higher ratio value, probably due to the newness of the set. Continued drafting over the coming weeks should bring the ratio number down. Overall, it's safe to suggest that RTR and GTC currently represent better value than DGM as a set.

Looking Forward

Last year the digital-to-paper ratio correctly identified three different good buying opportunities. Magic 2013 was the first, with very low online prices relative to paper heading into Fall rotation, followed by the bottoming out of SOM and MBS in November. The ratio is my primary metric for identifying value. Keep paying attention to this column for future updates as we get closer to the most profitable time of year for MTGO speculation.

7 thoughts on “Insider: Updating MTGO Redemption

  1. Thanks for the update Matt. I thought redemption was over for the whole SOM block, not just MBS. Given that info, I tried looking into some last minute specs from NPH, but I didn’t interesting opportunities. It will be best to wait after redemption is over to look for some price decrease in those sets.

    1. I agree, from a redemption angle, SOM and NPH don’t offer much at the moment. If there’s a decline in something like Karn Liberated in Aug/Sept, this would signal a good buying opportunity based on NPH redemption ending in November and the start of the next Modern season in December.

      Right now, I am looking for the best time to exit my recent plays on Thragtusk, Restoration Angel and Geist of Saint Traft and also looking at how MM has been affecting prices.

    1. Well, simple prices are metrics. But they don’t tell you much on their own! In the past I’ve toyed around with the ratio of EV of boosters versus booster prices a little, but I haven’t developed it very much.

    1. I chose TCG low as it should represent the most liquid price. In other words, if you really wanted to sell today, what price could you hope to get? When it comes to this ratio, where the units are basically $ over $, the information comes from a set’s ratio when compared to other sets’ ratios. The values themselves don’t tell you anything on their own. Using TCG mid would give different values, but not necessarily better information.

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