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Insider: Studying The Zendikar Fetchlands

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Theros (THS) Standard has got off to an interesting start. The first two weekends of SCG events have produced a few early swings in the metagame. But with the professionals biding their time until Pro Tour Theros (this weekend in Dublin), it's doubtful that we've seen the best decks Standard will eventually offer.

In the digital realm, THS prerelease events wrapped up on Monday for MTGO users, and we're only a few days into the wider release of the latest set.

Market Madness

Suffice it to say that interest in THS Limited and Fall Standard is capturing the majority of player’s attention right now, in both paper and digital.

It's a moment like this where the market might go a little mad; for the newest cards, for the newest brews, for a pet deck that might shine briefly in an evolving metagame. When the market is going a little mad, it's best to be level-headed and act accordingly.

What I see at the moment in the MTGO market are players giving up their Modern singles in order to play in THS release events and complete their Standard decks. Modern season has been pushed back from its usual Winter start to the late Spring, but the way the market is acting at the moment implies that Modern might never be played again. Obviously that’s not the case, but the myopia is obvious.

The Zendikar Fetchlands

There are plenty of examples of Modern staples that have been falling in price in the last two weeks, but the fetchlands are the first stop for anyone interested in playing in Modern. Looking at recent prices for the fetchland index (courtesy of mtggoldfish), the price peaked at 20.4 tix on September 29th, and it currently sits at 14.3 tix as of October 10th.

So far, that's a drop of 30%. If this were the Dow Jones Industrial Average there's no question this would be front page news and there would be talk of a bear market and possibly an economic recession.

When considering any steep and sudden drop in price, we have to ask why that might be occurring. If there’s a valid reason for the drop, such as an impending reprint or a card being banned, then the market is acting rationally. If there’s no obvious reason, the market might be acting irrationally. Studying historical price trends might help us discern whether or not this is ‘normal’ behavior, even if it is a bit mad.

Past Crashes and Rebounds

fetch land index

Looking at the above mtggoldfish chart one can see how the fetchland index has fluctuated during set releases. Compiled below are the various prices in tix, the percentage drops and the percentage gains.

Price peaks are the highest price point in and around a set release, whereas price lows are the lowest price after release. Then there are the rebound peaks. These are designated somewhat arbitrarily, but they correspond roughly to the highest price point in the weeks after the price low. They are denoted in the table and charts by the letters A through D.

Notably, the Gatecrash (GTC) drop occurred during Modern season, but also when Zendikar-Zendikar-Worldwake (ZZW) queues were accompanying Cube draft. These are countervailing forces but the percentage price changes are in line with other historical events so I still feel it’s worth including in the data.

Zendikar Fetch Land Index

Set Release

Peak

Low

Rebound Peak

% Drop

% Gain

RTR

6.3

4.6

10.3 (A)

-27%

124%

GTC

10.5

6.1

10.8 (B)

-42%

77%

DGM

10

8.3

16.9 (C)

-17%

104%

M14

16.8

12.7

20.4 (D)

-24%

61%

THS

20.4

14.3

??

-30%

??

Historical Average

-28%

92%

Drawing Conclusions

The first thing to notice is that this type of activity has occurred for the last four set releases, excluding Modern Masters, which for obvious reasons did not have an attendant drop in the fetchland index. The current price drop of 30% is in line with historical drops.

With no obvious reason for the current price drop, I conclude that the recent price activity in the fetchland index is a normal sell off during release events as players scrounge for event tickets. This should be taken as a strong buy signal with an expected short-term rebound peak to come. In terms of time length, past rebounds have ranged from 4 to 10 weeks.

As for assessing the risks of this position, reprint risk is low in the near term. The return of ZZW queues with the next iteration of Cube draft won't be until the end of January at the earliest. There's the chance that an online "Classic Masters" compilation set is released in December, along with the Power 9, but this is purely speculative.

The other risk is that interest in Modern wanes for a few months and that prices remain depressed. I consider this a low risk based on the historical price patterns observed above, which strongly suggests that Modern is growing in popularity as MTGO user numbers increases as well.

The market is currently placing low value on the Zendikar fetchlands. Anyone looking to get their play sets for a good price might not be able to do better as we are seeing rising price lows over time. Speculators looking to make a short-term profit could be well served by buying as well.

This is an appropriate time to take a breath, lay down some tix, and buy a few Scalding Tarns. If prices start increasing in the near term, be more cautious. A large price increase would reduce the short-term appeal of this speculative position.

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, Finance History, Free Insider, Magic Card Market Theory, Modern, MTGO, PredictionsTagged

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3 thoughts on “Insider: Studying The Zendikar Fetchlands

  1. Nice analysis as always.

    Definitely a good time to get these on the cheap, as well as modern staples. Some have hit bottom and are about to rebound; others are still dropping.

    One warning, for people wanting to speculate/flip, modern is still much smaller (although growing) than standard, and the buy/sell spread reflects this. Selling in particular can be challenging. Going on the classifieds to buy/sell helps pick up high ticket items without the massive rake. Fetches are more liquid than most other modern staples; some cards can be very difficult to move, especially out of season.

  2. I’d also like to point at my favorite spec from modern masters, Aether Vial, which i bought at 1.49 and they rose to a woopie 6 tic just 2 weeks ago; i should have sold then, because now they are hovering between 2 and 3 tic, following the modern-release-massacre…

    It also feels like the speculator motto could be (or make this rule 1 of the Speculators guide to profit)(no Ferengi pun intended) “during release buy everything but the released set”.

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