Insider: Early Bottom for Avacyn Restored?

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Last year, cards from Scars of Mirrodin (SOM) block hit their post-rotation bottom on MTGO in the first half of November. Speculating using the redemption strategy on MTGO means targeting mythic rares as they scrape their price lows, and then riding out the gains as prices tick up due to the steady demand from redeemers. It's been a stable and predictable way to make profits.

With last year's pattern in our back pockets, this gave us a rough guide for when to anticipate a price bottom on the (now-rotated) sets from Innistrad (ISD) block. But, in the past couple of weeks something strange has been happening.

Recent Market Moves

The mythic index from Avacyn Restored (AVR) is up to 6.0 from 4.7, a substantial 28% gain. The mythic index from ISD is up to 6.7 from 5.7, almost a 20% gain. The Dark Ascension (DKA) mythic index has nudged up to 2.5 from 2.3, a 9% gain, though this is a small enough change that we could ignore it. This type of price activity is unusual for cards that are leaving Standard and is worth investigating further.

Another look at prices from last year on the SOM block mythic rare indices at tells us that between the release of M13 and the release of RTR, the trend on the SOM, MBS and NPH mythic rare indices was flat or down. This is what we would expect to be happening this year for ISD block. Observing the marked change in pattern confirms that something unusual is happening.

The question to consider is, what could account for these recent price increases? Clearly it's not a burst of product being opened as we have Cube draft and throwback Ravnica queues to keep people interested, not to mention the relatively novel M14 limited environment. Obviously there's been a round of buying, but who is responsible?

It's possible that enough speculators are pursuing the redemption strategy that prices have bottomed earlier than they have in the past. When enough of the market are speculators or are acting like speculators, then any obvious opportunities to profit are going to disappear quickly. This possibility is consistent with observed market activity.

Next, it's also possible to think that the growing popularity of Modern and older formats is contributing to the recent buying. Modern staple Liliana of the Veil recently dipped to just over 40 tix, but has since soared back to 57 tix. She's showing no signs of a rotation price slump as of yet, suggesting that expanded interest in the format might have altered the price patterns that have typically been seen in the Fall. The recent price increase for Disciple of Griselbrand from AVR also confirms this possibility.

These are the two most likely reasons for the recent bump in prices. They are not mutually exclusive, i.e. they might both be occurring at the same time and contributing to an altered pattern. The question before speculators now is whether it's time to get invested.

The MTGO-to-Paper Ratio

Using the MTGO-to-Paper ratio is my first step for analyzing the market from a broad perspective. The ratio is the price (as quoted on supernovabots) of a digital set plus the redemption fee, divided by the sum of the TCG low prices for the given set.

Generally speaking, this can determine when prices are not well aligned between MTGO and paper. When prices are not well aligned, something's gotta give.

 October 3, 2013
Set Ratio Nova TCG Low
Innistrad 1.20 121 105
Dark Ascension 1.58 40 28
Avacyn Restored 1.26 103 86
Magic 2013 0.94 72 82
Return to Ravnica 0.94 148 163
Gatecrash 0.95 104 136
Dragon's Maze 1.34 85 82
Magic 2014 0.77 104 167


Looking over the most recent data, the first thing that jumps out is that DKA carries a high price on MTGO relative to paper prices. This suggests to me that DKA does not have good prospects for profiting from future demand from redeemers.

The next thing to consider is that the cheapest online set relative to paper is still M14. This makes sense as we are coming out of a period of relatively heavy M14 drafting. RTR and GTC are also relatively cheap.

Next, both AVR and ISD do not look like they are "on sale" relative to paper. The trend for paper prices on the rotating sets is down, and history suggests that this trend will continue into November. In the face of declining paper prices overall, demand from redeemers for these set should be low. The strategy of buying up mythics in order to sell to redeemers in the future won't work if there's no demand there. We need a relatively low online set price in order to attract demand from redeemers.

For further context, in November of last year on Supernova, SOM got down to 56 tix, MBS hit 39 tix, and NPH came down to 63 tix. Only DKA is at a comparable online price, but the low paper price for that set suggests there is not much opportunity to profit.

The Next Step

Overall, it's not clear to me that there is currently any opportunity in purchasing ISD block mythic rares in order to capitalize on future demand from redeemers. If nothing changes over the coming weeks, my advice would be to be selective about which cards to buy from ISD block, focusing on those with application in Modern or Legacy. After the market swings of the past ten days, the redemption strategy does not look like it will be profitable to undertake.

Matthew Lewis

Matt Lewis currently lives in Ottawa, Canada and is a long time player and PTQ grinder who now speculates and plays exclusively on MTGO. He's always ready to discuss ideas and investment strategies, so drop him a line in the comments, the forums or on modo, username mattlewis.

View More By Matthew Lewis

Posted in Finance, Free Insider, Magic Card Market Theory, MTGO, RotationTagged ,

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4 thoughts on “Insider: Early Bottom for Avacyn Restored?

  1. Great analysis, as usual. It always makes more sense with this ratio/value table.

    It would be interesting to know what are the values and ratios of ISD and AVR without the singularities that are Liliana and Griselbrand. When Liliana jump from 40 to 57 Tix with all others mythics having a cumulative value of roughly 40 Tix Lilina dictates the ISD value.

    More or less same thing with Griselbrand.

    Do we care that indices are up when it is mostly due to 1-2 mythics? almost every other cards follow the rotation out trend. Should we just focus on every other cards and forget about Liliana and Griselbrand? And so wait till November as usual to pick up Geist, Olivia, Past in Flame, Resto Angel, Sulfur falls and other mythics?

    1. Things get a bit unclear when you try to drill down into the index and look at how individual cards are moving and affecting things.

      For ISD, it does look like Liliana is responsible for most of the move. Moving up by 17 tix moves the index up by just over 1 tix. But the AVR move has been all the mythics, not just Griselbrand.

      Picking up mythics for redemption, considering Liliana’s high price, is debatable. The trick is, if paper prices keep rising, then there will be pressure to redeem ISD, raising demand for junk ISD mythics.

      To summarize,

      Picking up Modern playables is a good call from all ISD block sets, one I am and will be pursuing.

      Targetting ISD mythic rares is reasonable, but not a slam dunk. It gets better if you believe that paper Liliana will be heading up in price over the coming year.

      DKA mythic rares should be avoided. Prices are low online, but even lower in paper. Redemption demand might be very depressed.

      AVR mythic rares have bumped up quite a bit, and I’m not certain paper prices will be rising to support further redemption demand. I would not be actively buying and in fact I have been selling into this price increase. I was picking up the mythic Angels in September, and I’m happy to take 0.5 to 0.8 tix profit per copy a month later on these. I could see speculating on AVR mythics going badly, but I am watching these.

  2. Matt,

    To comment on the quick flooring of AVC/quick rise – it looks like it’s really because of the mythic angel Avacyn and its casual following keeping the mythic category afloat. Nothing really to do with the constructed staples as I dont see any of the miracle cards in modern, only legacy, and tamiyo, and the other mythic angels only have a casual/commander following. (exception of sigaarda as fringe legacy play)

    However, I do recognize there are a lot of rare staples in the set – resto, cavern, and vexing devil that might be rising in anticipation of modern season. Overall thought, I’m not sure if there’s a rush to pick up these staples now per se due to the mythics rising. But I am aware of modern ptq season coming up as well.

    Let me know your thoughts!

    1. Yes I agree, it’s hard to attribute it to competitive buyers. We’ve also seen price increases on things like Cratehooof Behemoth and Sigarda.

      I don’t feel there’s a rush to pick up Modern staples. As players scrounge for tix during release events, this is when prices typically bottom. That’s when you want to be a buyer. Theros is just getting released online, so we’ll be able to have a sense for things over the next couple of weeks.

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