The Crash and the Bounce
The events of the past two weeks have seen some unusual volatility in the MTGO market. Standard set prices dropped by around 10% in reaction to the suspension of Daily Events (DEs). On top of this, the IRL value of collections has taken a hit as the buy price of tix dropped from $0.95 to $0.90 at MTGOtraders.
Since the initial drop, prices have stabilized or bounced back. Timing the bottom correctly would have been profitable in the short term, with cards like Voice of Resurgence dipping to 23 tix on November 15th, today priced at 27 tix.
However, market timing is notoriously difficult to take advantage of, especially in the short term. Let's stick to our Voice example. Even if you managed to buy a few copies at 23 tix, the net return would be about 1.5 tix after accounting for a bot buy/sell spread of about 10%. (Goatbots is currently offering 26 tix per copy, so slightly higher profits may be possible).
This is the type of transaction that can quickly deteriorate into a loss if the timing is not perfect. And this is the primary reason why I avoid these types of short-term trades. It was almost certain that prices would bounce back, but the change has barely covered the bot spread.
On top of this, there is still a large amount of uncertainty surrounding the future of MTGO. I suspect we are entering a period of stagnant Standard prices, with redemption propping up prices when they drift low enough.
Set Prices in November
In the chart below, I've plotted prices of all Standard sets in percentage terms relative to November 1st. Prices are taken from Supernova. The idea of this chart is to show how prices were developing in the lead up to November 13th (the day DEs were suspended) and then how they have moved since that day.
In the first half of November, prices on Standard sets were mostly moving sideways, with Theros (THS), Return to Ravnica (RTR) and Gatecrash (GTC) on a somewhat negative slant. Prices took a tumble on the 13th, and mostly bottomed on the 15th. Since then, THS has drifted lower as Limited play on MTGO has been largely uninterrupted, and the other sets have all bounced back to a degree, though all are still below their respective November 1st price.
Contrasting with the price weakness of the Standard sets are the Innistrad (ISD) block sets and M13. The same chart is reproduced below for these sets.
Here, the overall slant of price was positive in the first half of November, and then the only set to see a significant drop after November 13th was ISD, and even that drop has since been erased.
The overall positive trend and the lack of a response to the suspension of DEs suggests strongly that the value in these sets has little do with with their playability on MTGO, and mostly comes from their value to redeemers.
In the back of my mind, when I think about ISD block and the potential for future profits, I have to think that prices on these cards will start moving up the closer we get to Spring and the Modern PTQ season. This is where the redemption link will propel the average price of ISD block mythic rares higher. When probable in-season prices are taken into account, the future gains for ISD block sets are sure to be positive.
At the moment, ISD is being offered as a flashback draft and it's seeing quite a bit of uptake relative to RTR block draft and M14 draft. There will be some temporary price weakness in cards from ISD as a result. With a long-term positive trend in place for ISD block and M13, don't hesitate to pick up a few copies of cheap mythic rares when you find them.
Thinking about Thoughtseize
As THS demonstrates the strongest negative trend among Standard sets, it's important to keep this in mind when evaluating the speculative potential of any card from THS. If the card is priced above junk, then it has room to go down. If it's a rare, and it's priced significantly above junk, then there's lots of room for it to fall further.
Let's think about Thoughtseize in this context. What is the long-term potential for this card? It's one of the most played cards in Standard in a popular archetype, and it's also heavily played in Modern. The power and utility of this card cannot be questioned. However, it is a completely understood card. No brewers are trying to break Thoughtseize because everyone knows what it does and how useful it is. In the stock markets, they say it is 'priced to perfection', meaning it has mostly downside risk and little upside.
Fortunately, two recent cards give us a great perspective on the potential price path for an all-format staple printed as a rare in a Fall set. Both Snapcaster Mage and Deathrite Shaman fit the bill. Here are their charts (courtesy of MTGgoldfish) while they were being drafted.
Snapcaster Mage saw high prices in its first few months of being opened online, but then saw a steady downward trend right up until triple Avacyn Restored replaced Dark Ascension-Innistrad-Innistrad as the current draft format. At that point, it found an equilibrium price in the 5-6 tix range.
Deathrite Shaman follows a bit more of an interesting path, as the power of the card in formats with fetchlands was not fully appreciated when it was first released. It was also temporarily not opened in draft as the format switched to triple Gatecrash in February. But, by the time Modern Masters and then M14 were released, like Snapcaster Mage, it had settled into a price range of 5 to 6 tix.
With Thoughtseize from THS, we can already see that it's reached a price range of 5 to 6 tix, with months of being heavily opened in draft to go. Although the Lorwyn version of this card reached lofty heights this past summer (30+ tix!), do not for a moment think that that a price over 10 tix is in this card's future while it is in Standard.
No one with any sense should be accumulating this card at the moment. The period to be picking these up will not arrive until Journey Into Nyx is released and the last big push of supply hits the MTGO market.