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Jason’s Archives: An Embarassment of Wealth

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Greetings, Spectators!

Admit it--there's way more Modern Masters product out there than you thought there would be.

Wave After Wave

I got a lot of conflicting information from trusted sources regarding Modern Masters and it made it really hard to figure out what to do. Luckily for me, I played it safe and it worked out for me.

Most people just like playing this children's card game, and if your LGS is like mine, they used nearly 100% of their product to run drafts. That meant we got to run pod after pod all weekend, open a ton of product, and people sold to me to bankroll their future endeavors. I listed all of it on eBay last night and half of it has sold already. I feel like there is a short window before prices start to tank a bit, so I advocate turning over your MM product very quickly. Everything that doesn't sell on eBay in the next five days is getting shipped to dealers at Origins in Columbus this weekend before today's buylist price becomes tomorrow's retail.

Hit the Hardest

First up on the "greatest hit" list are the cards I feel will take the biggest hit and which will make me the saddest. Foil commons and uncommons, casual and competitive both, are set to tank, and tank hard. There are a few exceptions that I will get to later, but foils are in big trouble.

Cards like Lightning Helix, Spell Snare and similar competitive cards have bloated foil prices. They are from out-of-print sets in which there weren't a ton of foils printed. With such a high percentage of foils in this set, expensive foils are about to get an influx of copies and this is going to hurt the price a great deal. Add the number of newly-printed cards to the number of existing copies and you see the supply is headed up while demand may not increase nearly as quickly.

If you can get close to the old price for competitive foils, do it. However, the clock is ticking. I watched a foil Spell Snare a friend got in a draft go from $35 when he opened it to the $18 I listed it for on eBay last night. This speed of a decrease in price is atypical, but I think it's a harbinger of future depression.

One exception we'll see is common and uncommon cards with new art. The foil Trygon Predator in Modern Masters looks a lot better than the old one to many people, so you can consider it a novel card and not add the number of new Trygons to the number of old Trygons. The reasoning is simple when you consider the psychology of someone who's picking up foil cards. They are foiling a deck to make it look good, and you can't do that by mixing and matching. If they prefer the new art they need X copies where X is the number they play in the deck/cube and however many copies of the old art they had is irrelevant.

One caveat is that Modern Masters is only printed in English, so while eventually the influx of foils is going to depress the price of a card like foil Trygon Predator eventually (it inevitably will, just not overnight like Spell Snare) it won't affect the price of a Japanese foil Trygon Predator at all. Trade and invest accordingly.

Not Spared

EDH was a good thing for those of us in the finance community. Durdly rares that were too slow for Standard or Legacy, and which would just have sat in our binders for the rest of our lives, suddenly not only left our binders, but were sought after and worth non-trivial amounts of money!

Unfortunately for us, Modern Masters contains a lot of EDH cards that used to be worth much more, due to the influx of new copies. I think anything at or under $5 is headed toward the $1 mark. Cards like Meloku the Clouded Mirror and Countryside Crusher that were flirting with actual value and had the trajectory to eventually become $5 cards were strangled in the cradle and we'll never know what might have been. Cards like Stonehewer Giant are on a downward trajectory. If you can get out of this stuff for a reasonable price, I would.

Rationale

I'm basing this off of pricing trends I've seen on eBay. I've said before, I feel like eBay is the closest we have to a free market. Whereas a major retail site can charge whatever they want (a popular retail site listed Modern Masters cards for the exact same price as the older ones) an auction-based economy is going to more accurately reflect actual supply and demand. The pricing trends on eBay indicate two things.

  1. Modern Masters cards, almost categorically, are on a downward trajectory.
  2. There is more product out there than we anticipated.

Early estimates were that Modern Masters would add somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-10% of what's already out there. However, the market has already responded and sent the prices much more than 10% lower on some cards, and the 5-10% estimate is going to be wildly inaccurate for foil cards.

Several LGS owners have confirmed a second distribution wave (although likely not a second print run), and a promise from WoTC that leftover product from GP Las Vegas (like there will be any!) will be redistributed. We're not done seeing product hit a market that's already nearly saturated with cards like Dragonstorm and Life from the Loam. (Stahp. Printing. Loam. Srsly guise).

I was kind of getting the indication that the best way to win with Modern Masters was not to play, and market trends (albeit one market) seem to bear that out.

That said, I am registered to play in the Main Event at GP Las Vegas. The pre-registration for this event is so great that if no one else signs up and plays, it will be the second largest North American Grand Prix ever. That's just pre-reg.

Expect a glut of Modern Masters to hit after 3000+ people all open sealed pools, play side drafts, free Mini Masters events and run roughshod over established prices. Wear chainmail under your clothes, kids. It's going to be a bloodbath.

Someone I Like Wins Something

But first, Standard.

SCG Open St Louis Standard

The Aristocrats won in Standard. I ain't even mad! I have been bullish about this deck ever since it first broke out, but you probably already knew that. This deck went full midrange and jammed two Obzedat, Ghost Council, which is unusual but not unprecedented.

If I had to guess about the price future for Obzedat I would want to weasel my way out of it. It all really depends on whether a midrange deck in those colors exists in a future devoid of Lords of Innistrad and souls that linger.

Will Esper control be the future of the format? Will Obzedat be a good enough finisher with Ætherling, Blood Baron of Vizkopa and that M14 lifelink Angel I don't know the name of and can't be bothered to look up--fine, I looked it up. It's "Archangel of Thune"--vying for the same slots? Obzedat is a card that has more to lose than it does to gain if you ask me, so I'm staying away. I could see him getting a bit more play because he can do serious work, but I'm not betting money on it.

I think the glaring spotlight in the board is fun. It not only helps a bit against Bant Hexproof, it also lets you get in with an unblockable alpha strike, and this deck can make use of both of those abilities.

Esper Control and its Ætherlings

The Esper Control deck managed to make Top 8 but lost in the first round. It's tough to beat straightforward aggro decks after an entire day of playing tight, so take that into account.

I'm interested to think what the future of this deck will be after rotation given the enormity of what it loses to rotation. If an Esper control deck is possible moving forward, I imagine it may be radically different. Given decent countermagic and no more Cavern of Souls but also no more Snapcaster Mage, control decks will play differently. Ætherling is likely to make a big splash, and given the spread is in the negative numbers--some people are selling him for less than the highest buylist values I've seen. That's insane--I expect him to make an impact because dealers do, too.

U/W/R Geist managed two Top 8 finishes. The deck is strong, and has a faster clock than control decks with almost as many control elements (though it mainly uses them to maintain tempo), and I think this deck is a solid choice.

No Junk Aristocrats, which bums me out. I like that deck a lot--probably as much as the Act 2 Aristocrats builds we see. I'm going to miss Blood Artist when it's gone, but at least I still have Legacy.

Two Jund decks in the Top 16. Jund will never not Top 8, probably. These are stock-looking lists. Midrange is going to have no idea what to do when it loses literally every creature it's playing right now to rotation. RTR block gave us a ton of creatures and no one seems to care. Expect post-rotation Standard to very closely resemble the Block GP format much more than it has in past years.

One surprise is how Reanimator was shut out of Top 8. Getting 9th and 10th seems to indicate they either drew or lost early and couldn't draw into Top 8. Generally, 9th place is someone who drew early in the day and then lost and has to win out the rest of the day. Seeing Reanimator in this slot seems to indicate that the hate people are packing gives it a hard time. This seems to indicate it's working. This could impact how Deadbridge Chant-Scavenging Ooze-Deathrite Shaman will work going forward, although the rotation will eliminate Ground Seal, which is basically the only hate card that's maindeckable.

Legacy is Better

And that's in general, not just because my buddy Chris Andersen took it down. I followed his progress via periodic facebook updates and was a little surprised he had such an easy time of it with Tezzerator. Basically the only instructive thing I got out of him was "Lodestone Golem got there," which reinforces a general feeling of "their spells being expensive is bad for them" that has me 100 copies deep on Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

Tezz and/or Karakas

I honestly don't know what to think about this deck. The QS forums are full of people who are ready to bet their wad on Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas each time the deck wins an event and maybe the deck is better than anyone gives it credit for. This deck either makes no waves or wins the event, so either it's luck-based or it's under-represented.

I think at the very least, foil Tezzeret is due to go up, but the amount of room the non-foil has to grow is lower and that means buying into him for growth is cash-intensive. I generally don't like to buy a card for $10 hoping to sell it for $12 (or $15 to sell for $18 in this case, I guess) but if this card never gets reprinted it could climb higher than I'm willing to concede it could right now.

Planeswalkers have the added appeal of collectiblity on top of playability and that gives them a little juice when it's time for the price to go up a bit. Tezz already had no trouble returning to his pre-rotation value, so if you want to speculate on this guy, I won't try and talk you out of it.

Death and Taxes continues to do work. All of the lands that can go in it aren't done going up, so if you were going to wait and pick them up later to play with, don't. It couldn't hurt to speculate on Legacy lands right now, especially those that see play but haven't gone up yet.

Karakas is seeing less play in sideboards against Sneak and Show but that doesn't matter since D&T will pick up the slack and it runs a whopping four copies. I thought I was getting away with murder outing these at $75 in trade at Gen Con a year ago--things change fast! Don't expect the judge foil Karakas to mitigate the spike much with a popular deck jamming a play set.

Stifling Developments

Turns out it IS a thing. I knew it wouldn't be long before someone tried to run Varolz, the Scar-Striped in a Stiflenought deck, but I didn't expect it to get 9th at its first event.

It gives the traditional Stiflenought deck a facelift by cutting a lot of chaff and adding the benefit of the two best recent additions to Legacy--Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay. Couple that with the Daze-Brainstorm-Stifle package and you got a stew, baby! I am scooping every Varolz I can get my hands on at the moment.

RUG Delver is the herpes of Magic, isn't it? All it took was a flying nacatl to turn the mediocre Canadian Thresh deck people were getting creative with--Grim Lavamancer and Trinket Mage to get Basilisk Collar--into a stock 75 that everyone and their brother would call "the best deck in the format" for a year. I'd like to see this deck die, but once you drop two grand on a mana base, it's not super likely you'll change decks on a whim. Be prepared to beat this deck, or stay home.

If it weren't for St Louis doubling down on Delver douchebaggery we'd have had eight unique decks in the Top 8. Not bad for a format Wizards has officially decided is on its own. Let's keep Legacy going for a few more years, what do you say?

Worth noting is that a team from Michigan composed of Ari Lax, Matt McCollough and Alexander John very nearly won the GP in Providence. But so what? It was Limited. Joking aside, I'd have loved to see a team from Michigan win the GP that TSG and Aaron Forsythe both said would be the biggest Grand Prix this year. I'd be interested to see if more people pre-register for Vegas than played in GP Providence. I should have made TSG bet us dinner on it.

GP Gothenburg was Limited as well, so I guess we're out of events to talk about.

Stick a Forked Bolt in Me, I'm Done

That's all for now, kids. Don't do anything I wouldn't do. Actually, I wouldn't play Constructed so you probably shouldn't base your life decisions on what some guy on the internet says. You can do stuff I wouldn't do. I'll allow it.

12 thoughts on “Jason’s Archives: An Embarassment of Wealth

  1. Is it possible that the print run is actually the size we thought it was or smaller, and the eBay numbers are the result of most of the product getting into the hands of people who planned to flip it all along? I’d wager the percentage of MM currently being sold as singles is way higher than with a normal set.

    1. No, because every store I talked to said their distributors told them they could order quite a bit but not to expect to get even half of what they ordered. While a few stores in my area go shafted by Diamond and ARC, people who go direct distribution from WOTC reported getting all they ordered, plus \”extra\”, were promised a second wave and I expect a million cases to hit the market at GP Vegas. I don\’t think the people who planned to flip cards all along selling them on eBay accounts for the profound drops in price, but we don\’t have any hard data yet, only trends.

  2. i bought 2 boxes and a friend of mine bought 6 of them, we plan to stock them for 2-3 years. its already too late to open them IMO. we just gonna wait the rebound of Modern.

    love this article, but i don’t understand why you sometimes you hate certains archetypes (like delver in legacy or like jund in t2). From a financial point of view, you shouldn’t really care about the decklists that you like or not… you should care about the feel of the players base about those archetypes. especially when you don’t really play that much like you said. the more people like an archetype, the more they need the cards to make it.

    Knowing that the vast majority of player in my area prefer to play “fair” deck makes me trade for staple that are play in those deck more than other. the more deathrite shaman i have, the better it is!

  3. One of the two stores are getting a “second wave” in my area, but he’s getting so little it’s hardly worth mentioning. The second wave is way smaller than the 1st wave. (the other owner never heard about getting a second wave, and I trust he knows what he’s doing).

    I don’t know why you think the price for sealed MM is going to go down. The store that sold theirs at retail for drafts went through 15 boxes of product in one day and sold out. The other store at $12/pack is doing steady business; had a pod fire for FNM, and lots of other people expressed interest in drafting in the future.

    Drafting this format is insanely fun, and that will keep pack prices high. Just look at what boxes of Innistrad go for to see what a great draft format will do for the price of sealed product.

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