A few weeks ago, Wizards spoiled some of the MTG finance community’s plans to profit handily on the coming Modern season--they postponed the season by almost a year.
My initial reaction was to expect a delay in price increases on many Modern staples. This would be driven by demand shifting later to match up with the new PTQ schedule. Basic supply and demand concepts led me to this conclusion. But apparently I missed something, because many Modern staples have increased significantly since the announcement was made!
This week I want to look at which cards are seeing price movement now and which ones appear to be waiting. I’ll do my best to provide some theories as to why certain cards are moving better than others. Finally, I will discuss plans moving forward now that some price trajectories have progressed sooner than anticipated.
Many cards not printed in Modern Masters fall within this category. In fact, many speculators (including myself) did expect these to go up in price, only we were thinking it would happen during last PTQ season. After seeing the delay in Modern PTQ season this time around, I fully expected to have to wait much longer to see some investments pay out. Certain cards are bucking this trend.
Consider Worldwake manlands for example. All of these are on an upward trajectory, but Celestial Colonnade and Stirring Wildwood appear to be increasing further still during the past month, when I would have expected them to take a breather on the PTQ season schedule change.
I know these manlands see some play in Modern, but has Modern been growing this much in popularity? Are there enough Modern FNMs out there to justify the steady price rise even though Modern PTQs won't show up for over half a year?
How about Melira, Sylvok Outcast? This card was under a buck for nearly its entire life, even as the Melira Pod strategy rose to become one of the strongest in Modern. But it wasn’t until recently that this card started seeing a serious bump in price.
Blinkmoth Nexus is another card seeing a recent rise in price. This causes me to pose the same question as before: is Modern really spreading in popularity this much, despite a delay in Modern PTQ season?
Not Everything Is Moving Up
If the above price movement is strictly due to an increase in Modern popularity at everyone’s local hobby shop, then other Modern staples should also be rising. But some surprising cards aren’t participating in the rally.
Consider Tarmogoyf for starters:
Notice how Goyf's value has completely stagnated and even slightly declined since July? Did the jump earlier this summer already take into account all increase in demand? This was my suspicion--that the rise in demand due to a popular Modern PTQ season was already priced in. Perhaps this is why this card hasn’t moved lately while other cards (which previously had not risen as much) are on a tear.
Another surprisingly stagnant card is Inquisition of Kozilek.
Everyone thought this card would become $10, but it just hasn’t happened. Now with Thoughtseize suddenly becoming more affordable this may never happen. But the fact of the matter is that even before Thoughtseize was spoiled, Inquisition has been price-stagnant for months. If Modern demand was truly increasing, I would expect this card to participate in the rally.
How about Scars of Mirrodin fast lands? Surely these will increase in price as the Modern format grows in popularity, right? Apparently not…
I know these lands are not as ubiquitous in Modern as fetches and shocks, but I still expect them to bump up in price a little. Filter lands became very expensive lately, but these haven’t even followed in trend, let alone price! Even Razorverge Thicket, which is seeing the most play of the five fast lands, is still stagnant in price.
Understanding the Disconnect
Why are some Modern cards suddenly spiking while others are left in the dust? In my opinion, one factor alone is not the cause. Instead, many variables are likely having an impact.
How recent a card was printed is definitely significant. Cards from Future Sight and Ravnica like Horizon Canopy and Chord of Calling are older and rarer, so I understand why they’d move more readily. Meanwhile Scars of Mirrodin is still fairly recent.
Another factor may be related to deck popularity. When Reid Duke played a unique Hexproof Modern deck at the 2013 World Championship, many players took notice. The deck was also fairly cheap at the time, and I suspect it’s a lot of fun to play.
Hence the deck gains in popularity, people want the cards to build the deck, and voilà, instant price jump. It’s no coincidence that the July 31st, 2013 date coincides nicely with the recent price jump of cards in Reid’s deck, such as Horizon Canopy.
The recent rise in popularity of Reid Duke’s deck explains a lot of the recent hype, but not all of it. A white-green deck gaining traction cannot explain why Celestial Colonnade has been an interest on mtgstocks.com many times in the past couple weeks. Reid’s deck also has nothing to do with Blinkmoth Nexus.
Are there other factors, then, which dictate why certain cards get their deserved “pop” in price while others remain flat? Maybe fear of reprint is a potential factor? I know I personally refuse to own Tarmogoyfs and Dark Confidants right now because I am confident more will be printed. I had the same feeling with Thoughtseize, which paid out nicely.
There are likely other factors as well. But at the end of the day shouldn’t all Modern-playable cards see a price increase going into Modern season? Barring cards currently rotating out of Standard, all Modern cards will see increased demand in the coming months. I just don’t understand why some cards are seeing increased demand now, while others are waiting on the sidelines.
Concluding with a Challenge – Spellskite
Throughout this article I’ve been completely transparent. I’ve admitted that some of these incongruities in Modern card prices have intrigued me. While some trends are obvious, such as cards in Reid Duke’s World Championship Modern deck, others are puzzling.
I’ll conclude this week’s article with a case study that embodies my point: Spellskite.
Spellskite is a powerful card in Modern these days because it helps keep so much in check. The Kiki Pod and Splinter Twin strategies suffer greatly against an opponent’s Spellskite. And with so much removal in the format, this creature ensures you can do what you need to without fearing an Abrupt Decay or Lightning Bolt.
Spellskite's utility was proven during last PTQ season. The result--it spiked to over $10 throughout the season. Then the card dipped a little as the season ended. What confuses me is how much the horror’s price has dropped even further in recent months.
This movement is opposite of many other Modern staples and I’m not sure why. Isn’t Spellskite still amazing and versatile in Modern? Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Birthing Pod are from the same set and they’ve been increasing lately, so why hasn’t Spellskite? Even Torpor Orb has been on the rise lately–-same set and also mostly a sideboard card.
Perhaps Spellskite just hasn’t had his moment yet. It’ll come--of this I am fairly certain. The same goes for fast lands and all the other Modern staples which haven’t budged in price for a while. And it’s with this expectation that I set my latest purchases towards cards which haven’t moved recently, but should be moving right along side all the other great Modern cards.
Besides Spellskite, here are some other cards which haven’t moved lately. While this is not always the case, I suspect for these cards it’ll just be a matter of time…
- I seem to recall that I used to be able to buylist Magus of the Moon for $5-$6. Now this card sells on TCG Player in this range or even a little lower. But there were three copies in the runner-up SCG Legacy Open decklist last week. In fact I’ve noticed that a turn one Blood Moon effect has risen in popularity a good deal in Legacy. The fact that Magus is Modern-legal and hasn’t been reprinted gives the 2/2 hate bear some serious upside.
- I really like Basandra, Battle Seraph. She’s a sweet legendary angel from a Commander set. Although her demand is mostly from casual players, SCG’s $3.49 price tag feels pretty low. In fact it’s lower than every price on TCG Player. I’m sitting on a few extras waiting for her price jump to come–-it may take a while, but I’ll be patient.
- Abrupt Decay is on life support. Despite being playable in Standard, Modern and Legacy, this card is only worth about one fourth its peak. Foils have also suffered a little bit, although their prices have been more robust overall. Since this is a newer card, I anticipate the wait on it to be a bit longer. But considering its versatility in Modern and Legacy I suspect this removal spell will have its day yet again.