Release Queues Change Again
Although the MTGO economy tends to be predictable on the whole, this is a function of the costs and prizes of the events people play. WoTC has shown a willingness to tinker with these factors, particularly for release events. Shifting these factors create changes in the economy which can give strong signals for what a speculator should be doing.
For the Theros (THS) sealed deck release queues back in October, WoTC modified prize payouts and entry fees for unspecified reasons. It's probable that the generous nature of these events was a holdover from years past and that the continuation of them was more a product of history than of sound business.
Previously these types of events cost 24 tix to enter, and paid out 13 packs to the winner (a record of 4-0), eight packs to all the players that finished 3-1, and three packs to the players that finished at 2-2. For THS, they were reduced in cost to 20 tix, but prizes were scaled down as well.
The outcry against the new entry fee and prize structure was loud. And it seems like the popularity of the release queues took a big enough hit that WoTC has revisited the changes and tried a new configuration for Born of the Gods (BNG). See the full announcement here.
In the table below, I've summarized the changes for Born of the Gods (BNG) and the last two sets. The 'Cost Per Booster' is the total entry fee divided by the sum of the boosters opened in the event and the boosters awarded as prizes. The 'Cost Per Awarded Booster' is the total entry fee divided by the total prizes.
|Fees and Payouts||M14||THS||BNG|
|Total Entry Fee||384||320||416|
|Cost Per Booster||2.45||2.42||2.62|
|Cost Per Awarded Booster||6.30||8.89||6.60|
With the THS queues, it looked like WoTC was attempting to shift value to the average player and away from the grinders. But with their unpopular nature the price of THS boosters remained high, when they would have normally been flooding the market and dropping in price. There was even a short-term spec opportunity to buy THS boosters during the prerelease events and resell them a few days later after the supply dried up.
The updated entry fee and prize structure for BNG sealed seem like a less drastic attempt at flattening the prize structure and lowering the attractiveness of these queues to grinders. I think that people will once again play these events in large numbers.
The key metric is nine packs for going 3-1. At that rate, and assuming you can get 3 tix for a BNG booster, a player can temporarily go infinite by stringing together 3-1 finishes. The attractiveness of the old queues was the ability to resell the prizes in order to play over and over, while building up your collection of the new cards.
With this new structure, they've come back closer to the old queues, but not all the way back. They are slightly worse value than the M14 and earlier release queues.
With the return of popular events which take in tix and award BNG boosters, the price of BNG boosters are going to tank hard and quickly. There will be no short-term rebound like we saw for THS. Sell BNG boosters as you get them unless you need them for drafting.
It's quite possible that they will stabilize in the 2.8 to 3.0 tix range. Keep watching prices when we get into the second week of release events. The trend should be apparent by then.
Tix will again be at a premium with these release queues, which means constructed staples from Modern and Legacy should see price erosion as players scrounge around for tix. Keep your eyes peeled for cards that seem to get very cheap without a recent reprint. This is the sign that the market has gone a little crazy, with low prices perfect for those hunting for value.
Pro Tour Valencia will also occur in the first week of release events. The constructed portion of this event will be Modern, so if you can identify a card from BNG that impacts the Modern format, it will see an increase in price the weekend of PT Valencia. I have a sneaking suspicion we might see the odd copy of Mogis showing up in Spain.
Cube and ZZW Queues
Cube will be returning for two weeks leading up to the release of BNG. There will also be Zendikar-Zendikar-Worldwake (ZZW) queues. Both of these events will have an impact on the MTGO economy speculators should be ready for.
First, Cube will discourage people from drafting THS. This will reduce demand for THS boosters and provide one last good opportunity to pick them up.
The THS booster spec has been widely discussed, modeled after previous booster specs on sound economic principles. As long as the payout for Constructed Daily Events switches from awarding THS boosters to BNG boosters, then supply of THS boosters will begin to fall even as demand is maintained. Eventually prices on THS boosters will rise closer to 4 tix as the available supply dwindles.
If you are new to speculating, I highly recommend doing some research in the forums and in my past articles on this type of spec. It's low-risk and liquid, ideal for those getting into the MTGO market.
Next, the return of ZZW queues will crash the market on Modern staples such as Scalding Tarn and the other fetchlands. It will be the last great buying opportunity for these cards in advance of Modern season this year, so be sure to get some tix ready to scoop these up.
If you are interested in Legacy, cards like Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor will also be value-priced. However, these will probably be on sale for a while so don't rush to load up on too many. The market for Legacy on MTGO appears to be growing, but Modern is still larger.
As usual, it looks like being liquid in advance of a set release will be profitable. Having tix to spend when everyone else is looking for them is a great position for a speculator to be in. And don't forget to have some fun with BNG!