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Insider: 2014 in Magic Finance

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2013 has been a really interesting year in Magic finance. There have been some great financial developments along the way (calling a lot of this year’s biggest gainers has been a point of pride for me), as well as some personal highlights, from a great first year of marriage to the continued success Brainstorm Brewery has found.

Financially, we’ve seen both easy-to-predict cards (Jace) and harder-to-predict spikes (Nightveil Specter), but overall there’s been a ton of opportunity in the market.

So, what will 2014 hold?

1.) It’s a Different Market

In the past, we as a QS community have been really the only ones speculating and buying up copies of cards. That’s changed in the past year in a big way. From the MTGFinance subreddit to even more financial articles going up around the Internet, it’s been a banner year for MTGFinance.

The major effects, for us, have been how quickly cards can spike. Phyrexian Obliterator and Disrupting Shoal prove this. Shoal, in particular, has no reason in the world to spike from $2 to $10. Exactly two people in the world have played the Delver/Bear aggro deck, and it’s never won anything larger than a MODO 8-man.

But, because one pro and one good player endorsed the deck, the “finance community” (oftentimes these days known as “greater fools”) jumped all over the card. And because it’s from an old set it spiked like crazy. The only possible way it can maintain $10 is if the deck becomes a real thing. If it does, I doubt Shoal goes to $15 or $20, so if you did get in cheap there’s no reason not to sell now.

What it goes to show, though, is how little it takes to move the market on these older cards, even if it’s just the greater fools buying in after a little momentum takes hold.

2.) Fundamentals Still Matter

Despite the point above, we saw time and again in 2013 that you can’t just blindly move the market forever. It still takes fundamentals for a card to sustain a price gain. It’s why Aluren dipped back down hard, it’s why Obliterator dipped, it’s why Shoal will and it’s why Splinter Twin hasn’t.

Likewise, we can draw some lessons from Jace, Architect of Thought. The card saw a lot of Block play, and we identified it as a good target for rotation. It took some time for that prediction to turn out, but it did eventually and made us a lot of money, because it had the fundamentals to back it up.

3.) Everyone Thinks They’re a Financier

In a way, this isn’t bad. I know there’s not as much low-hanging fruit when everyone gets into the finance game, but on the other hand it means more people to buy the cards we identify early. Remember, the best way to make money is not to buy a card when the price is already spiking, it’s to identify it before the spike and buy in then. That’s something we have a good track record on here, so that works out fine.

But I bring up this issue for a larger point. Thanks to tools like MTGStocks, everyone can easily follow the finance game and participate in it. And while it may be annoying that some people might think themselves newfound “experts,” it also means more people are paying attention to the finance side and in theory learning how to play the game by spending less money. That means more people playing Magic longer, and that’s a good thing for us all.

4.) Modern Will Explode

So since the last Modern season ended, we’ve had a pretty long layover. But in that time Modern Masters hit the scene and was hugely popular, and the game as a whole has grown.

These two factors, along with a vastly increased supply of shocklands, will all combine to make Modern a much more affordable format. It doesn’t hurt that it’s shaken out to be a little more than just Jund Jund Jund.

More players playing Modern means that some of those long-term specs we’ve had like Birthing Pod and Scars of Mirrodin fastlands will likely take off. It’s really a convergence of all the factors Wizards has put in place, and I think it will result in a relative explosion for Modern at more than just the GP level.

I also think Legacy will continue its malaise. Basically every big spec these days is related to Modern, and Legacy has taken a back seat to that. The format isn’t dying, as the continuing increase on Wasteland shows, but the growth it will experience will pale in comparison to Modern. Plan your activity accordingly.

5.) Fetchlands Won’t Be Reprinted

My reasoning is this. Wizards has put the following things on record:

  • They don’t love fetches in Standard because of the amount of shuffling they create.
  • They design sets one year in advance.
  • They wanted to determine how successful Modern Masters was before going forward with anything else similar.
  • They want to actively reprint Modern cards.

Which means that we’ll likely see Zendikar fetchlands in a non-Standard set. It also means that any sort of Modern Masters 2 wouldn’t have been decided on until after GP Vegas (which I Top 32’ed, yay!). That means they wouldn’t have even decided to put Modern Masters 2 on the calendar until last fall, at which point the Summer 2014 set would have already been decided on.

The earliest they could slate it for would be Summer 2015, so I suspect that’s when we’ll see fetchlands reprinted. In the meantime, expect them to continue to climb higher.

2014 Upon Us

So after a busy 2013, that’s how I see 2014 unfolding. Let’s hope it’s as great a year for Magic as this past one has been!

Enjoy the holidays, and thanks for reading 🙂

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

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Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in Norman, Oklahoma (also known as the hotbed of Magic). He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at QuietSpeculation.com and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net. He can best be reached @Chosler88 on Twitter.

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10 thoughts on “Insider: 2014 in Magic Finance

  1. Nice article, Corbin! Thanks for the look ahead.

    I really feel like they have to find a way to reprint the fetchlands or do something crazy like reprint Stifle in Modern, because otherwise the prices of the fetches will reach absurd levels for a cycle of rares in the post-Mythic era, and slowly choke off the whole format when it could be growing. Why would they want this to happen? It seems very bad for business to me.

    1. I don’t think Stifle is needed in Modern when players have access to Squelch, Trickbind, and Shadow of Doubt.

      Corbin, what are your thoughts on if the ON fetches will be reprinted?

    1. @qed2: I think that’s very unlikely. They are powerful, but they don’t enable denegenate decks like Ponder or Blazing Shoal do, nor are they oppressive like Umezawa’s Jitte or Stoneforge Mystic.

      I actually think when Zendikar II hits, it will be the Onslaught fetchlands. After all, Wizards has stated that it’s kind of awkward to have only the enemy-colored pairings in Modern.

  2. While I don’t doubt this is true…this statement “They don’t love fetches in Standard because of the amount of shuffling they create.” is such crap. They had Ponder in standard and lots of decks played it. They created the “rebel archetype” which caused a lot of shuffling and had no problem bringing it back in Time Spiral (though it wasn’t nearly as prevelant as it was in Mercadian masques). I understand it adds a little bit of time to each game, but the same could be said of wrath effects (and the whole “control” strategy really). I’m still betting they’ll reprint the Onslaught fetches so that Modern players aren’t forced to run off-color fetches because they are the “only option”. Most decks that can run the fetches already run the max # you’d want to run so having the Onslaught ones to the mix would only let people play with the fetches they’d ideally want….and it would sell the crap out of any set/block they put them in.

  3. Some decks having a few shuffle effects is one thing, basically every deck playing 4-8 additional shuffle effects on top of those is a significant additional time sink.

    1. And yet they are ok with standard U/W control decks with 1-2 win conditions. I’m not disagreeing that shuffle effects add time to a match…I just think it’s hypocritical to use “additional time for matches” as an excuse but have control style decks viable in a format. I can play mono red burn in legacy (with 12 fetches) and still have my matches end faster than most of the standard decks today. Modern has the fetches and I don’t see them complaining about time issues there.

  4. They banned Sensei’s Divining Top explicitly because it slowed down games, so there is precedent for this. I don’t think they’ll be banned but I think an MM2 reprint is infinitely more likely than a core set or block set reprint.

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