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Insider: A Shocking Turn of Events

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My name is Sigmund and I have a problem. In fact if I review the “Money Where My Mouth Is” thread in the QS forums, it appears many of us have this problem.

We are all sitting on way too many shocklands.

Now that normally would be a terrific thing, but a number of factors have been working against the value of shocklands, leading to an unattractive price curve. Many of these lands have a shape similar to this one:

Garden

This was supposed to be a sure thing. In September shockland prices began their steady rise and this was supposed to continue for months. I was expecting all-time highs by February. Clearly Wizards of the Coast had other plans.

The Bad News

The perfect storm was brewing. We lost important mana-fixing lands in both the Innistrad and the Core Set check lands. This means that supporting a deck of three or more colors became dependent almost solely on shocklands. Thus demand was likely to spike dramatically. What’s more, Modern season was supposed to be starting in the near future, driving demand up even higher.

Combine that with the fact Return to Ravnica block won’t be opened nearly as much now that Theros is released, and the trajectory for shocklands was looking spectacular. Being savvy MTG speculators, the QS community moved accordingly. We all acquired aggressively–-if we pooled all of our shocklands, I’d wager we could sell them all for a BMW 3 Series or comparable car. Or at least, we could have if the unexpected hadn’t occurred.

As it turns out, Wizards of the Coast didn’t want Modern season to come so soon. Maybe they want more time to review the banned list before the next Modern PTQ season. Maybe they are planning to launch Modern Masters 2 before the season. Or maybe they just felt like shaking things up to set the speculator community back.

Whatever the motivation, Modern season has been delayed significantly. This means the expected demand for shocklands from the PTQ grinders will have to wait.

Then Theros launched, and this happened:

Nykthos

It comes as no surprise that Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx can become incredibly powerful in mono-colored decks. Imagine that-–devotion is best when fewer colors are played. While the revelation made me significant coin thanks to the spike in price on the graph above, it also had a negative impact on shockland values. In mono-colored decks, shocklands are strictly worse than their basic land counterparts.

Now there’s a glut of shocklands due to the quantities printed and opened in Return to Ravnica block and the demand just dropped significantly. Hence we have the price drop negatively impacting our portfolios.

So What’s The Good News?

For now there isn’t a whole lot. With Theros becoming a major success, shocklands will at least be opened in much fewer quantities. The supply should largely be at a peak. The problem lies primarily in the lack of demand. But this may yet be overcome.

First, we have the upcoming Born of the Gods release. Rumors I’m hearing entail some multi-colored gods. This could mean multi-colored devotion and this could bode well for shocklands. If decks of three or more colors become popular again the demand for shocklands should increase.

(from http://www.examiner.com/article/theros-block-speculation-the-enemy-color-minor-gods)
(from http://www.examiner.com/article/theros-block-speculation-the-enemy-color-minor-gods)

If this fails, then we will simply have to wait for Modern PTQ season. Wizards postponed the season once, but there is virtually zero possibility they do so again. When Modern season does inevitably roll around demand will finally get an increase. The Modern metagame is heavily populated with multi-colored decks relying on fetch-shock land pairings for mana support--Affinity possibly being the exception in the list of Tier 1 decks.

Meanwhile…

“Hurry up and wait.” I hate this saying. But it’s fitting here don’t you think?

We are all sitting on this major investment which isn’t panning out in the short term. So the options are either sell now for a loss (breaking even at best) or sit around and wait for these to finally get some love. I doubt they will drop in price when they rotate out of Standard–-they are way too popular in Modern and even EDH. It’s likely these do what the Zendikar fetchlands did.

Misty

The Zendikar fetchlands declined little if at all when they left Standard. Then they increased in price steadily as Modern gained traction. If we expect Modern to remain strongly supported by Wizards (and hopefully we get a third-party SCG Open-like circuit of Modern tournaments in the future as well) then the same trend can be expected. Thus there is still plenty of upside on shocklands.

But I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the risk: reprints. Wizards wants Modern to be an affordable Eternal format. They have already demonstrated their dedication to this goal by giving us Modern Masters and reprinting shocklands, Mutavault and Thoughtseize in Standard. With a few exceptions, these reprints have reduced prices effectively. And it's only a matter of time before Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant follow the same trend. Consider yourself warned.

Thoughtseize

Shocklands could easily be reprinted yet again, further damaging their price. Do I think this is likely? Not in the next couple years. I personally feel Wizards will target fetchlands when they next think about what lands to reprint. (Perhaps as a selling point for M15? Having fetches and shocks in Standard for three months wouldn’t be that terrible.) But the prospect of shockland reprints is not impossible.

Weighing all these risks and potential rewards, we need to make our own personal choice. I’m probably going to wait until Modern season to see what kind of price increase we get. If I can out these profitably–-even for a fraction of a percent--I may take advantage. If the opportunity doesn’t present itself, then I’m likely in it for the long haul. Two years from now these should see some recovery, much like filter lands and blue Worldwake manlands have seen.

I just hate sitting on such a large investment knowing the short-term returns won’t be there. I feel like my opportunity cost is quite high on these, but selling for a loss also feels wrong. It’s like owning McDonald’s stock and watching it do nothing while the rest of the market hits all-time highs.

MCD

Alas this is the risk we take when investing. Sometimes even the blue chips like McDonald’s and shocklands falter. Rather than look at the price of entry, we need to focus on the price of exit. What are you> going to do with your shocklands?

Sigbits

  • How badly have shocklands dipped? Well, Hallowed Fountain is now down to $9.99 at retail. It is interesting to note that foils haven’t dipped in the same way as their non-foil counterparts.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mutavaults have gotten expensive. SCG is sold out of M14 copies at $24.99. Next stop on the price increase train is likely $29.99.
  • As it turns out, M14 contains a lot of value. In addition to Mutavault, we have stuff like Chandra, Pyromaster now retailing for $29.99! One card that hasn’t seen a price bump is Scavenging Ooze, which is still retailing for $11.99. My expectation is that this one gets its price bump come Modern season. Yet another slam dunk investment getting interfered with by the shift in PTQ season schedule.

22 thoughts on “Insider: A Shocking Turn of Events

  1. I’ve been preaching all along that regular shocks are a terrible investment. Buying into something that everyone else has is a recipe for disaster. This is not the stock market, it’s the MTG market and in the end you need demand to really justify the price of an overprinted card.

    I don’t think they’ll reprint shocks again for another 5+years. They’ll reprint shocks when supply gets scarce and the prices will be $20-25 on these cards.

    Meanwhile, the prices of foil shocks will go up by a large margin. The only play I see here is to acquire some foil shocks. You are buying them for mostly EDH + some limited modern use.

    The best play right now is to look at eternal cards played in EDH. EDH is going to get a huge boost from commander 2013, but the place to invest is not the new commander cards… it’s the old ones that haven’t been reprinted. I’m looking at you duals, cradle, fetches etc.

    1. Shocks have definitely come back to bite us but I don’t think it was always a terrible investment. I believe the recent changes outlined in the article are shifting the projections significantly.

      I’m on board with EDH’s increase in popularity thanks to the new Commander product. On the other hand, I have a difficult time getting behind $100 Cradles and $150 Underground Seas. Being on the Reserved List helps, but I wonder if new players are really going to be acquiring such expensive cards if they’re content to play with newer cards in Commander.

      Some Dual Lands have actually gotten cheaper lately. But we all know that won’t really last.

    2. I don’t know many commander players who are willing to trade for the high end fetches (Strands/Deltas)…most of our guys view fetches in commander as nice-to-have’s…but they’d rather get their doubling seasons, tooth and nails, karns, sol rings, command towers, tops instead of perfecting the mana base…when games go longer (by design) then having a perfect mana base is less critical.

  2. The big problem with shock hoarding is for those who kept acquiring shocks well after their price floor from earlier in the year. I have a good amount of shocks, but I don’t feel like I’ve really “lost” anything at this point, as the majority of them were picked up around the price floors or were parts of cash buys / larger collections where the price was even lower.

    There is still some hope for shocks as the Temple cycle gets filled out and more multicolored cards are printed in Theros block.

    I’m not sure Hallowed Fountain is a great example of low retail prices, being the shock printed in the most recent event deck.

    M14 really does seem to have a lot of value. I wonder if the EV is high enough to keep an eye out for cheap boxes or at least make it the set of choice for event/draft prize packs.

    1. Good point on Hallowed Fountain – I forgot it was in an Event Deck. I should check to see how other Shocks have moved in price at retail in a subsequent article.

      I am still holding some hope for shocks based on the reasons you cited. Also, M14 is very interesting from a value standpoint. Core set boxes don’t usually run higher after they go out of print but with so many eternal playable cards, M14 could be an exception?

  3. Great article. This one was waiting to be written. I think, with a Standard PTQ season to come and a new set to shake things up, that multi colour decks will find some time to shine. It’s hard for me to imagine that Devotion strategies will be getting more help in Born of the Gods.

    I mean, look at Mono Black Devotion. This deck is probably as close to being as good as it can be. It’s already got great discard, the best targeted removal, good creatures that power up devotion, and a very good mana base.There’s no real weak points, so any new parts will be marginal improvements at best. You can make a similar argument for Mono Blue devotion.

    From this sort of top down perspective, and with the knowledge to expect minor gods to be multi coloured, I think we’ll see the pendulum swing back towards dual and tri colour decks. Even now, I have been testing a jund build online that has impressed me with it’s power level. There’s still upside and time for the shocks to go from being just an ‘ok’ spec, to a good one.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Matthew! I really hope you’re right – I dread a format full of mono colored decks. How boring and linear would that be?!

      The next two sets of Theros block just HAVE to spice things up a bit. But if it takes too long for Shocks to get love again, there will be some downward pressure from Standard rotation – this is a ways away, but I don’t want to neglect the timelines we’re working with here.

  4. I do agree that everyone isn’t going to be running out and buying duals etc, but it just takes a small percentage of new players to do so to help these pick up in price.

    I like cards like doubling season etc a lot too. Hot foils are another place I think will grow with commander.

    For shocks, I’d stick to foils, but even that is not really something that I expect to surge in price. People just use too few of these in modern and those who foil for commander want Ravnica foils….

      1. Lol I look forward to the article! I may take Shocks out of my “not for trade” binder and move them into my trade binder in a separate section, with primary focus being to trade them towards foils.

    1. Robert,

      I flipped some of my Oozes quickly for short term profit but I am still sitting on about 20. It’s true these have gotten cheaper and therefore more attractive. I don’t hate them as a play, but I also can’t advocate buying tons. This could be a good one to trade into for the time being, supplementing with a few purchases on eBay when listings are super cheap (which does happen every once in a while).

  5. I’ve started auctioning off some of my Shocks for crap rares, so far I’ve gotten 120 for a Garden (!!!), 80 for Fountain and 70 for Tomb. As I get about $0.32 per crappy in credit (or $0.24 cash) I’m doing absolutely fine with these.

    My reasoning for starting to move them now is that I was noticing more interest in them, combined with me needing a while to move them all and prices for most being at a level where the minimum I would expect to get is 70 crap rares, which at the rates I am getting is well beyond what I was aiming for with them (which is doubling up). Moving forward I aim to include new copies of those that traded in the auction until I run out.

    I have a feeling that waiting for Modern season is still a decent move, so I am not going to discount them.I just know I’ll likely need a while to move them all so I’ll rather get started. Should I run out I can probably pick up a few more and keep converting them into crap rares.

  6. 4% of my total investments are shocklands, and I feel fine about not being able to sell those right now. They have a good chance of going up in the long run. I have another 4% on fetches, and I agree with what Sigmund says about a possible reprint. I’m taking chances here.

    I believe it’s a good time to sell Mutavault. There’s no reason that it will stay at its pre-M14 prices, which were around $25, after rotation 2014. Most Modern decks don’t use it, and M14 is probably being printed even more than Morningtide. Of course keep a playset, you’ll definitely need it this year. Thoughtseize, on the other hand, sees a tremendous amount of play across all formats, even more so than Snapcaster Mage. Of course it’s also got even bigger supply.

    1. Yuka,

      I sure hope Shocklands do eventually pay out. I want to say the size of my shockland position is nearly 10% in my MTG portfolio. I went fairly deep here by my own metrics. Hopefully Fetch Land reprints will take some of the heat off Shocklands and allow them to stabilize a little higher in price. On the other hand I’ve sold all my unused fetches.

      I have listed my set of Mutavaults on eBay. I wish I had more as this ended up being a terrific bet. But I’m eager to take my profits and move on. Also agree with your assessment on Thoughtseize and Snapcaster Mage.

  7. They pay really, really well. I understand they have regulars in their shop who absolutely love buying random rare packs from them. Having tried a few of their random rare packs before starting to send them bulk I can see why: I found a Ravager and Tooth in there, both EX.

    This shop is willing to negotiate on the cards I get from them, so quite frequently I get slightly more and they are also sometimes behind on price spikes. Also I’ve got a deal with them that any card they sell over X gets me $0.48/$0.32, about 1/4th to 1/3rd of the bulk I get in gets these higher rates. For other cards they frequently give me credit close to TCGPlayer low or even higher, apparently they like using ABU as a price indicator.

    I’m incredibly happy to have found this shop, but no, sorry, I won’t be sharing which shop it is as I’m pretty sure it will get flooded. I will say that it pays to thoroughly research where to move your bulk. I know I’ve seen others mention they get better than average rates in the US as well.

    In these parts it is uncommon to see shops offer bulk rares as low as you’ll find them on TCGPlayer and due to shipping cost it wouldn’t be worth it for me to buy them there. It does however indeed happen that I can buy bulk rares below what I’ll get for them, I tend to fill out orders that way. Always nice to have a few random cards in there to somewhat hide a spec purchase.

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