This week, an unexpected announcement from WoTC indefinitely shut down all MTGO events larger than eight-person queues. This was a response to the instability in the client which had caused large events such as last weekends MOCS and PTQ to crash.
Brian Kibler played in the Saturday MOCS event and was booted from the event just prior to the event crashing. Afterwards, he came out with an article strongly condemning the state of the client.
The instability in the client has been brewing for the past year as the developers struggled to maintain two clients simultaneously. Indeed, functionality in the Beta client had been put on the back burner as they attempted to make it more stable. The old client was supposed to be the stable one. But it looks like maintaining the old client, while at the same time developing the Beta client, was too big a task for the current development team at WoTC.
It would be easy to connect the dots on Kibler's post and the suspension of large events on MTGO. However, this week's announcement was probably brewing for a while as large events had been crashing for some time.
The suspension of large events will give the developers breathing room to make substantial fixes. No timeline has been given for the reintroduction of large events on MTGO, but an update has been promised by the end of the year.
With no Daily Events, Premier Events, PTQs or MOCS to play for, the utility of singles has taken a big hit. We've seen the effects firsthand over the past two days. Since Tuesday morning, Standard prices have tumbled. Collected below are aggregate Supernova prices for Standard sets from the past two days.
|Set||Tuesday Price||Thursday Price||% Change|
With any large market disruption, it's a good time to do some analysis to consider how the impacts will ripple through the MTGO economy.
Drafts and Boosters
With eight-person drafts still functional, this will be the primary activity on MTGO while large events are suspended. Demand for boosters should be relatively stable. Importantly though, without grinders selling their pack winnings from Daily Events into the market, one of the sources for cheaper boosters has been removed. All currently drafted formats should see booster prices increase as the overall supply of boosters heads steadily lower.
The other side of the coin is that drafters will see lower prices over time for their singles. With no large constructed events, demand for singles will only come from redeemers. The steady supply from drafts will erode prices on MTGO and eventually in paper too.
Currently the draft format of choice is triple Theros (THS) draft, almost exclusively due to the novelty of the format. Once players get tired of the format, prices of boosters and opened singles will start to become more relevant to players when selecting what sets to draft.
This will eventually place demand on boosters from Return to Ravnica (RTR) block and M14. I'm expecting RTR and Gatecrash (GTC) boosters to approach 4 tix by the New Year, and M14 won't be far behind. Dragon's Maze (DGM) boosters will probably see muted gains, suppressed by the lopsided draft prizes.
The strategy of speculating on boosters has been well established in the QS forums. It's a highly stable speculative strategy with well understood price movements. In this moment of market turmoil, speculators with some of their portfolio in boosters will have better returns and more capital available for scooping up depressed singles. Boosters should be a part of every MTGO portfolio for the stability, steady returns and liquidity that they offer.
With the suspension of larger events, demand for constructed singles has disappeared and prices are tanking. At some point though, Daily Events will be back, and when they return the value of constructed staples will jump accordingly due to their utility in various formats. The trick for speculators is trying to figure out when we're near the bottom.
Without any clarity on when Dailies will return, timing the bottom will be tricky, and making a mistake and buying too soon will tie up capital or result in a loss.
At this point, it seems certain that Daily Events won't come back before the New Year. After that, Born of the Gods (BOG) will be released in paper at the end of January, and so getting online release events organized for BOG seems like it will be the early target for WoTC. Whether or not the MTGO developers can meet that challenge remains to be seen.
Right now I feel it is still too early to determine whether there is any value in speculating on singles. I would not take a position in any cards from the Standard sets, except for junk mythic rares (as redeemers will be the one source of demand for singles). As we get more price data over the coming weeks, sets will find new equilibrium prices. Once these become clear, it will be time to start buying.
Consider Modern and Pauper
Another interesting case to consider are Modern singles. Without larger events, demand for these will be weak, suggesting price gains are months away at the earliest. Notably though, cards like the Zendikar fetchlands had already dropped a lot in price during THS release events after coming off of their August highs. Seeing continued large price drops seems unlikely as the players who sell their cards for tix probably haven't had time or the tix to buy back into these.
The 'weak' money in Modern staples has already been flushed out in October, leaving most staples in the hands of dedicated players who will hold onto their play sets or bot owners who have a longer-term perspective. Cautious buying of Modern staples over the coming weeks seems like it will be safer than trying to time the bottom on Standard singles.
Lastly, concurrent with the suspension of large events, Pauper Constructed eight-man queues were added to MTGO. This means that the demand for Pauper staples might actually increase, even with the loss of Pauper Daily Events.
If you are looking for a short-term spec, consider the scarcer cards from the more popular archetypes. Cards like Rolling Thunder, Chittering Rats, and Ninja of the Deep Hours. Check out more ideas for speculating on Pauper singles by looking through QS writer Ryan Overturf's work, which can be found here.
For those who had recently been looking towards ISD Block for speculative purchases, these sets haven't moved much in light of recent events. This makes perfect sense as they had already seen price drops due to rotation, and most of their value is tied to paper prices through redemption.
The short story is stay calm and don't sell any cards from ISD block or M13. At this time, they are not really value-priced either, so don't go out of your way to buy ISD block cards right now. Consider them a solid hold that should move up in price as long as redemption remains open.
Unusual events should force every speculator to reevaluate their current portfolio and plans going forward. Hopefully the ongoing market crash has not made a significant impact on your portfolio and you are looking forward to the upcoming buying opportunities.