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Insider: Three-Month Outlook for Winter

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December

At the moment, we are just starting the Holiday Cube and the Mercadian Masques flashback drafts. Next week, Urza's block will be the flashback draft format of choice.

In general I am a bit slow to advise picking up Legacy staples from these sets for speculative purposes, chiefly because of the larger buy/sell spreads that the bots employ for older cards. Not every bot is well stocked on the old sets, so the competition is not as fierce. This leads to higher margins and a harder time for speculators to make a buck.

However, if you are a player and are thinking about acquiring a play set, it's the perfect time to get cards like Daze or Gaea's Cradle. If you have some time (or can employ a bot), post a buy ad on the weekend for the cards you want and you should be able to get some at a low price.

You'll save a few tix doing it this way versus buying from the bots. Prices tend to bottom on the weekend alongside the biggest push of drafting, so don't wait in the belief that there will be good deals on Monday or Tuesday.

January

Once we get to the new year, players will be keenly focusing on Standard as the PTQ season kicks off (in paper at least). The current iteration of Standard has been somewhat stale and is dominated by devotion strategies.

The card that shows up regularly in devotion strategies of all colours is Mutavault. It's the M14 rare that refuses to take a price cut and it's safely been the highest priced card from M14 for over a month.

The release of Born of the Gods (BNG) might shake up Standard enough to knock the price of Mutavault down, but for the moment devotion strategies make up a majority of the decks to beat in Standard. With that in mind, it's reasonable to expect continued high prices on Mutavault in the short term. This should translate into M14 being a consistently higher value when compared to the other currently available limited formats, Return to Ravnica (RTR) block and Theros (THS).

With no flashback drafts or Holiday Cube to keep players occupied, M14 Limited should see one last burst of interest before BNG spoilers start rolling out. In January I will be selling down my stock of M14 boosters in anticipation of continued high singles prices, and thus continued demand for M14 boosters draft or sealed deck.

Once BNG is released, Standard will be shaken up and will most likely pivot away from devotion strategies. January is the perfect time to be maximizing on the value of M14, either in singles or in demand for boosters. Don't be left holding the bag on M14 boosters before the end of the month.

February

Born of the Gods (BNG) will be released in paper and then on MTGO on February 17, 2014. For Theros (THS) release events, WoTC rejigged the pricing and prize structure for the 16-person, on-demand sealed queues, which had a fairly substantial impact on the MTGO economy. The change acted to restrict the amount of supply coming into the market in comparison to the old sealed queues.

It also supported the price of THS boosters packs. If you had bought THS boosters during prerelease events, they were easily flipped for a small profit during THS release events due to this change in structure.

In Mike Turian's article this week on the mothership, he talked about this change and the fact that it was poorly received by the MTGO player base. I'd expect further tweaking to the queues so we might not see a repeat opportunity in terms of a quick flip on BNG boosters. This strategy is worth keeping in mind though. Pay attention to the announcements and I will analyze the changes in the forums as we get more information.

Most importantly though, THS boosters will stop being awarded as prizes for Standard events after the downtime on February 19th. Once supply cuts off, the price on THS boosters will stabilize and that will be the price bottom for these. After that, supply of THS boosters will steadily erode as players get up to speed on the new draft format.

Eventually that will push prices up closer to the equilibrium level of around 4 tix. This process could take anywhere from one to four months, but it's a slam-dunk investment due to the low risk, high liquidity and steady returns.

As long as the fundamentals don't change, which includes a prize distribution for draft skewed toward BNG, drafters will consistently need THS boosters in order to fire up a Born of the Gods-Theros-Theros (BTT) draft. As the available supply dwindles, prices will creep up towards 4 tix.

Currently THS boosters sell for around 3 tix, and with the small buy/sell spreads of the booster market, it's not unreasonable to expect to get 3.7 to 3.8 tix for THS boosters down the road. This is about a 25% return on a very liquid asset. Be sure to have some tix ready to move into these in early February, although the probable bottom is right around the start of release events on February 17th.

March

As BNG release events wind down, it's likely that a number of Modern staples will be on sale. This will be the last good opportunity to stock up on Modern singles prior to the Modern PTQ season of 2014.

In recent months I have been writing and theorizing about the cause of the periodic price fluctuations on Modern cards at the time of release events on MTGO. It's my belief that this is a predictable pattern based on demand for tix, both from players and bots.

This is the precise moment to be liquid and able to take advantage of deals and depressed prices. Ignore the fancy new toys in BNG, and stock up on some fetchlands or other Modern cards that have fallen (temporarily) out of favor.

Lastly, the end of February and into March will be the time to unwind any old positions in RTR block cards, such as the shocklands. BNG Standard will be developing and the relative utility of cards will be in flux.

For example, those Temple Gardens and Hallowed Fountains which are currently languishing in your collection (mine too) might get a shot in the arm from BNG and the release of the Temple of Plenty and Temple of Enlightenment. With THS boosters and Modern staples likely to see continued gains, don't be caught holding onto depreciating assets like RTR block cards at that time.

Matthew Lewis

Matt Lewis currently lives in Ottawa, Canada and is a long time player and PTQ grinder who now speculates and plays exclusively on MTGO. He's always ready to discuss ideas and investment strategies, so drop him a line in the comments, the forums or on modo, username mattlewis.

View More By Matthew Lewis

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10 thoughts on “Insider: Three-Month Outlook for Winter

  1. This has been to most helpful article for a new member such as myself to completely understand and follow.

    Providing a clear plan of action, qualified with facts and stats, makes this article’s suggestions very approachable. These actions are easily implemented with expectations laid out.

    Thank you very much for this quality morning read.

    1. Thanks Jacob! I try to do these periodically, so have a look at my archives to see other examples of a 3 month or 12 month perspective. Most of my speculating is from a top down, economy wide perspective. I want to be riding the big trends and buying when cards are ‘on sale’. It’s a bit boring and slow, but it’s easier to implement than trying to catch the hottest spec from a GP or PT result.

  2. Again and again when reading finance articles, the same theme is found: “Stock up on Modern singles.” However again and again I am left thinking that Modern as a format is large. What are the singles in question? Are we talking fetchlands or are we talking Scars of Mirrodin dual lands – or both? Are we talking Modern Masters cards? Help a brother out! What are the Modern Singles in question that are worth stocking up on now?

    1. Well, I would stick to the most played cards, but try to diversity by set and archetype. Diversifying by set means that you won’t suffer if there’s a flashback draft that nukes the value of your portfolio. Diversifying by archetype means you can ride out changes in the metagame.

      First and foremost I would begin with the Zendikar fetch lands, but you want to be buying these on the dips. Typically this occurs in the weeks after a new set is released.

      So, after the fetch lands, I will buy Scapeshift, Dark Confidant, Vendilion Clique, Inkmoth Nexus, Goblin Guide, Horizon Canopy and Grove of the Burnwillows, to name a few. The trick is to identify a good time and a good price to buy these at. Of the above cards, only Scapeshift and Dark Confidant (MMA version at the moment) present good value. The rest are almost worth selling.

      Note, many of the ISD block mythics will probably see gains for playability in Modern and due to Redemption. Look to cards like Griselbrand, Liliana of the Veil, Olivia Voldaren, Geist of Saint Traft, and Huntmaster of the Fells. Cards like Vexing Devil, Restoration Angel, and Thalia might also see gains come Modern season.

      Hope this helps! I don’t try to do anything fancy, just focus on the most played cards and try to buy them when they are on sale.

  3. A quick list of Modern worth picking up now (based on their price being fairly low compare to their highest potential):

    – Goryo’s vengeance

    – Scapeshift

    – Valakut

    – Kiki-Jiki

    – Most, if not all, of the MMA played cards that have been seen in any Modern deck (Kiki, Gifts ungiven, Aether Vial, Summoner’s Pact…)

    – Nettle Sentinel

    – Linvala

    – Emrakul

    – Bag of chips Chicken-Herbes de Provence flavor

    – Manamorphose

    – Master of the Pearl Trident (under 1 Tix, as it is rising now…)

    – Coralhelm Commander

    – Deathrite Shaman, Thundermaw Hellkite, Olivia Voldaren might be considered as well I think

    1. As always, Sylvain and I are basically on the same page.

      I’d add Prismatic Omen as one that is flying a bit below the radar right now.

      Thanks for pitching in!

    1. Thanks Alexander! I’m a big picture kind of guy and I’m trying to apply what I’ve learned over the last couple of years. It couldn’t happen with out the feedback of the forums and the comments.

      1. Hey – thanks for the single tips. That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. I recently traded a Tundra for a binder. I assessed I’d be able to flip the binder and buy back a Tundra with some credit to spare. Turns out I was right. After buying a new Tundra back, I should have about $70 to play with. So these are great tips!

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