Before I begin this week’s article, I want to take a step back and acknowledge that I have been writing for Quiet Speculation for roughly two years now. In light of the recent holiday, I just wanted to give thanks to the QS staff, writers and most importantly, the subscribers. While it’s true this site couldn’t exist without editors and writers, this site would be a waste of time if we didn’t have such an engaged, energized community. For this I thank you all.
Has anyone else noticed the recent resurgence of price jumps lately? Just last month I was writing about how MTG finance was becoming stale. Now every time I check mtgstocks.com I notice interesting movement. This morning it was Forced Fruition, which I can only imagine is being bought out for the same reasons Wheel and Deal spiked one week earlier.
In case you’re wondering, I do not plan on buying into this one. Don’t get me wrong, I did a quick search for any remaining cheap copies. But unlike the case of Wheel and Deal, this buyout was very thorough. TCG Player, eBay, and Amazon were all virtually bought out.
I could acquire $3 copies on Card Shark, but at this price point I begin to doubt what upside remains. I bought into Wheel and Deal because I could find copies still in the $1.50 price range. In the case of Forced Fruition I’m going to stay on the sidelines.
Modern Spikes: What’s Going on Here?
As you all know, Modern PTQ season has been delayed. Man, that is a shame. That means all my Modern investments won’t go up for another six months or so. I mean…wait a second…what the heck?!
Are you serious???
Why are these Modern staples jumping now despite the delay in Modern season? I understand these cards are likely to go up eventually, but it's odd that so many players and/or speculators are taking interest now. Other than local FNM’s there are not even many competitive Modern events available to play in. So why the sudden spike in demand?
A Theory, Nothing More
As MTG speculators we like to be on top of things. Often times the most profit can be had by being one of the first to embrace a card’s potential growth. We all knew that Splinter Twin was the cornerstone of a successful tier-one Modern deck. We also knew that this same tier-one Modern deck could be slowed down significantly by Spellskite. Thus the recent price jumps come as no surprise.
The first people to recognize how cheap these two Modern staples were made the highest profit. But if this was so obvious, why didn’t the spike in price take place earlier? Why did Spellskite even drop in price at all? Why didn’t it just go higher and higher?
In my opinion, the rationale is tied to Standard. Yes, Standard. Allow me to explain.
When Dragon’s Maze launched, it was greeted with a lukewarm reception. What’s more, the impact this set had on Standard was minimal due to the maturity of the format.
Everyone knew Innistrad would be leaving in a few short months, causing a sudden increase in demand for many Return to Ravnica block cards. Then when Theros launched and Standard rotated, the RtR block spike occurred.
With Standard rotation we saw speculation all over the place. Planeswalkers jumped after seeing tournament play at major events, removal spells became more costly, etc. Clearly cash was pouring into the format as everyone wanted their chance at some profit. Hopefully they sold in time.
Now that Standard has once again reached equilibrium, many are turning their focus elsewhere. The quick, easy money from Standard rotation has already been made. Recent selling activity in the cards above and others has led to an increase in cash among the MTG finance community.
With this recent jump in cash stores, I propose that many speculators are now turning their attention towards Modern. They recognize the disadvantages of holding cash (high opportunity cost) and they want to put their funds to work. Because Modern demand is an inevitability, why not start investing now?
This could have led to the recent spikes we’ve been seeing.
What to Do About It?
I see two forces at work. First, we know that Modern season doesn’t actually start for months. This means that genuine demand from actual players may not have arrived just yet, implying prices could go even higher.
Second, Born of the Gods could shake up the Standard format significantly, leading to shifts in demand. Some Standard cards may jump in price when this happens, yielding multiple profitable opportunities in the near term (while Modern cards sit around and wait for demand).
If my theory is correct, we may see small price pullbacks in recent Modern interests once Born of the Gods is released. People may take some profits on cards like Phyrexian Obliterator and Splinter Twin to invest in the right Standard cards for a quick flip.
But this pullback could be temporary. Surely a month or two after Born of the Gods is released Standard will once again stagnate. What’s more, Modern PTQ season will only get closer and closer. Eventually interests will shift completely to Modern, sending prices even higher.
Therefore if you need funds to speculate on Standard in the coming months, I cannot fault you for taking some Modern speculation profits off the table. On the other hand if you can afford to sit on them, Modern staples should yield a healthy payout this summer.
I plan on holding any Modern cards I firmly believe will remain relevant during the Modern PTQ season. This means deck cornerstones like Splinter Twin, Birthing Pod and Inkmoth Nexus will not leave my binder.
I do wonder if selling speculative cards like Phyrexian Obliterator could be the play. I may miss further upside, but I also take profits now without risking a drop should the mono-black devotion strategy not pan out in Modern. Food for thought.
So Much for a Quiet Holiday Season
There’s always a bull market somewhere. I firmly believe in this statement, and although it is typically used to refer to Wall Street, it may also be applicable to MTG investing.
If a format stagnates, perhaps it’s inevitable that speculators turn their attention elsewhere for opportunities. After all, the Single Card Discussion forum within this site always contains new ideas, many of which are worth pursuing.
It just goes to show you that a community of speculators will always chase the bull market. So much for a quiet holiday season.
My advice to you comes in three parts. First, make sure you observe market trends closely to detect any shifts as I have noticed above.
Second, consider acquiring Modern staples which haven’t seen as much of a price bump yet. Their time will come.
And finally, begin to strategize about your Standard portfolio three months from now. Do you want to play the nonbasic land strategy again by acquiring cheap temples? Do you prefer buying Standard cards that will eventually see Eternal play? Or do you like to buy cards right before they spike when a new set is released?
Either way, take this time to identify what your strategy will be after the New Year. Many opportunities will present themselves in the coming months. The more prepared you are, the less likely you’ll get distracted by stuff like Forced Fruition and Wheel and Deal. Focus on the cards that really make sense and you won’t be disappointed.
- Foil Celestial Colonnades have jumped in price significantly over the past year. Earlier this year I purchased a couple copies from Star City Games at around $6 each. Now SCG only has a couple SP copies in stock at $19, and TCG Player appears to be completely sold out of the set foil. Copies are even difficult to find on eBay. Perhaps moving into foil Creeping Tar Pit is the next play here?
- SCG is selling Commander 2013 copies of Baleful Strix for $14.99. Don’t be fooled--this card just isn’t worth this much anymore. Copies are selling for $7 on TCG Player and eBay. Quite the spread, I must say. That being said, if you can trade using SCG prices at your LGS, this could be a fun one to buy online and trade locally. Just be aware that this card’s retail price will eventually go lower.
- You know what hasn’t been talked about as much recently? Zendikar fetchlands. Have these finally reached a plateau? I see Scalding Tarn retails for $55 and foils for $200. Regular copies can be had on TCG Player for about $10 less, at around $45. This seems like a healthy cash-retail spread, and I suspect fear of reprint will keep speculators at bay on this one.