Things are starting to get exciting again in the world of MTG finance. Everywhere you look there are suggestions of what cards to pick up in anticipation of Standard rotation--many from Return to Ravnica block and M14.
Supreme Verdict is now the main board sweeper of the format. Detention Sphere is enchantment-based removal that can eliminate indestructible gods. Obzedat, Ghost Council is getting attention thanks to some articles on SCG’s site. Chandra, Pyromaster is being tested en masse due to her recently “discovered” power level. The list goes on.
Not only are these cards getting hyped up, but their price targets continually rise. The QS forums are jam packed with price targets and people are buying like crazy in the hopes of making some easy profit come Standard rotation. This must be the easiest time of the year to profit from Magic.
Or is it?
A Reality Check
While everyone gets excited about the money they’re going to make once Standard rotates, I have taken a more conservative view of the market. Cards are getting bought up left and right, fueling the hype that drove prices higher in the first place. Obzedat, Ghost Council is the most recent example of this phenomenon.
A well-timed article combined with a higher buy price and this card is off to the races.
Many expect this card to be a dominant force in the new Standard. And it very well may be. Along with all the other cards I’ve mentioned previously. And the shocklands. And Abrupt Decay. And Jace, Architect of Thought. And…you see where I’m going with this?
I’m just beginning to wonder if every one of these cards can actually be great at the same time? I’m not trying to suggest these cards are necessarily mutually exclusive. It just feels like there is an awfully large pool of cards suddenly on the climb.
These recent price increases aren’t driven by increased play (in most cases–-Chandra, Pyromaster may be an exception). They are simply driven by the anticipation of increased play. People remember these cards being strong in Block, and so they expect them to be good when Standard rotates.
The theory is solid, but I am uncomfortable with how much people are banking on it.
Jace, Architect of Thought is a fine planeswalker--I fully expect him to be tested ad nauseam come rotation. But now that he’s already nearing $20, do people really expect a ton of upside buying here? It’s one thing to buy a set to play with--it’s another thing to be speculating on a $20+ planeswalker. Not many planeswalkers get much higher, and it feels like people are neglecting this fact.
This is my first caution. But I have more to say.
How Expensive Can a Set Be?
Then there’s Deathrite Shaman, Abrupt Decay, five shocklands, Supreme Verdict (which people expect to approach $10), Detention Sphere, and many other money cards in the set. Oh, and don’t forget the $1 uncommons many are expecting, such as Azorius Charm.
Could this possibly become the most valuable set of Magic ever? One may leap to this conclusion, but I would be remiss not to bring up a couple factors that generally balance out a set’s value.
First of all, if the EV of a set becomes high enough, retailers will rip open packs for the singles, which increases the supply and puts downward pressure on the price.
Next, there’s MTGO redemption. As long as Return to Ravnica remains redeemable, there seems to be another way of keeping the balance of supply and demand reasonable.
Finally, there’s the simple fact that Return to Ravnica was opened in large quantity. We’re talking the most popular set of all time here--I assure you there are lots of copies of all these singles available. If the player base continues to rise this factor may be overcome, but this cannot be assumed.
All I can advise is that everyone proceed with caution. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, this is an exciting time in MTG finance. I haven’t even touched upon other formats such as EDH and Modern. People are throwing money all over the place looking to buy the next hot card for profit.
Before letting emotions take control, I urge you to make your own judgment of what a card’s price trajectory will likely be.
Will Chandra, Pyromaster really see more play than Gideon Jura did when he made his first appearance in Standard? I don’t remember Gideon Jura climbing much beyond $30, so speculating on Chandra above $20 seems quite risky.
Likewise it’s important to remember what board sweepers have been valued at historically. I remember Terminus in the $12 range, but this card was also heavily played in Legacy for a brief time. Supreme Verdict is strong, but it’s only a one-of in Legacy and it’s not really a card at the moment in Modern (it's not in Jund or Melira Pod). Also the color requirement may become awkward in a format with suboptimal manabases.
Of course, some of these high price targets will in fact bear fruit. Some strategy has to be successful in the new Standard. But I'd be surprised if every card people are speculating on becomes dominant in new Standard. Some of them just may not get there.
Since we don’t know which ones those are, my approach has been to trim my positions while people get emotional. No one wants to miss the key card, so they buy a bunch of everything. While prices increase, I sell some of the cards I feel have less upside from here. Detention Sphere is a handy removal spell, but at $3+ I don’t really love the upside. So maybe I should sell a few copies.
If you disagree, that’s fine. But make sure you consider what cards you do think are incorrectly hyped and then make some guaranteed profits while you still can. It can be thrilling to hold out for those 200% gainers, but profit is great even if it isn’t maximized. Let someone else sit on the risk and pray that their cards break Standard. In the meantime you can begin focusing on the next buys.
Sigbits – Rotating Cards of Note
- There sure is a lot of support for Snapcaster Mage even days before it leaves Standard. Every time a few more become available on SCG’s site (sale price of $15.99) they sell out within minutes. If you are patient, you may find these a tad bit cheaper, perhaps during the winter holidays. But I suspect they won’t drop far on average.
- I am surprised that foil copies of Liliana of the Veil have dropped in price. A couple months ago I was ecstatic to win one of these at auction for $172. Then SCG slapped me in the face by marking theirs down to $170 for NM and $149 for MP! It’s not their fault though, as I’ve noticed copies on eBay selling for a little cheaper as well. I wonder if these have much room to drop before gaining traction and moving higher.
- Geist of Saint Traft was marked down significantly on Star City’s website as well, and for a while these were actually in stock and very cheap. But they're out of stock now, and I believe the price has gone up slightly too. Now they’re sold out at $14.39, and I suspect these won’t go much lower despite not being played in Modern Jund. That being said, if you have the bankroll I like foil Liliana and Snapcaster better.