Fall Standard rotation is a time of great upheaval in the most played constructed format and a great time to buy up Modern staples on sale. If you read this column regularly, you know I also advocate buying mythic rares from the rotating sets.
Due to the effects of redemption, these cards tend to hold value while the non-mythic rares plunge in price. The drop in price of the set as a whole sets the stage for gains to be made as redeemers steadily remove cards from the MTGO economy in order to profit on price differences between paper and digital.
In the past, prices have bottomed on rotating sets somewhere near the end of October. This year was a little different. Avacyn Restored (AVR) bottomed in mid September (though late October prices were not much higher). Dark Ascension (DKA) did end up bottoming in October along with Innistrad (ISD).
In addition, prices never really went "on sale." Compared to past years the bottoms on the rotating sets were shallower.
For example, Scars of Mirrodin was going for about 56 tix in November of 2012. Today, Mox Opal alone is priced at around 50 tix.
With set prices not bottoming out like they had in years gone by, it was hard to recommend blindly buying mythic rares.
Let's examine how this has played out since October.
Presented below are daily price changes in percentage terms for ISD from Supernovabots and from TCG using Mid prices. All prices are based to the October 9th price, ie the October 9th price is 100%. Generally we see that the paper price for ISD has been sluggish, trending down with a recent change, possibly signalling further increases.
In contrast, the digital price for ISD has been trending higher. If you look closely, you can also see the drop associated with the suspension of DEs back in November. This effect was not very big though and didn't last long.
Let's come back to this chart while we examine the other rotated sets. On its own, this chart seems to confirm that demand from redeemers does in fact drive digital prices higher over time. However, it's best to examine all the evidence before drawing a conclusion. If each of the sets that have rotated is acting in a similar way, our hypothesis will be strengthened.
The chart for DKA is quite similar to the chart for ISD. Again, the theory that redeemers will drive digital prices higher appears confirmed.
There has been some recent price weakness for a digital DKA set. With a stagnant paper price, it appears as if digital prices can only go so high. Let's check in on the last set of ISD block.
Now we are getting somewhere. Looking at this chart, we can see a clear bottom for paper prices in the middle of November, with a strong price move higher which is still ongoing. Unlike ISD and DKA, the price of a paper AVR set is higher today than it was back in October.
MTGO prices have been following suit, with a strong growth pattern that appears likely to continue. Higher paper prices combined with demand from redeemers looks ready to drive prices on digital AVR mythic rares even higher.
Set Prices and the Digital-to-Paper Ratio
Let's look at how the sets compare through lens of the digital-to-paper ratio. This is calculated as a simple ratio of Supernova prices to TCG Mid prices, with $5 added to the digital price to represent the redemption fee.
These values are taken from the same data set as the above charts, meaning they cover the range from the first week of October 2013 to today, January 9th 2014.
Based on the ratio, the ISD Block sets are all roughly in line with each other. From this perspective, one set does not represent good value over another, and each of the sets' ratios is closer to its high than its low.
At this point though, it looks like further gains for ISD and DKA will be driven largely by playability rather than redemption. With stagnant paper prices for these sets, redemption activity is probably lower than it would be if paper prices were growing.
For ISD, the gains in price can largely be attributed to Liliana of the Veil, which has moved up about 20 tix in price since the second week of October. Most of the junk mythic rares are lounging in the 0.75 to 1.5 tix price range.
For most of the ISD mythic rares to start making gains, an expansion in paper prices encouraging redemption would be necessary. Fortunately, Modern PTQ season is not far away, so it might be time to see Liliana poke over the $50 mark. Once she is on her way to $60, there should be some interest from redeemers.
I am decidedly uninterested in DKA at the moment. There are fewer Modern and Legacy staples in this set than ISD or AVR, and so future price increase for a paper set of DKA is not certain at the moment. We've already seen the price of DKA come down in recent weeks, and like ISD, the price of junk mythics has been pretty sluggish. I'm not counting on further increases from this set in the near term.
On the other hand, AVR is seeing growth in paper and corresponding growth on MTGO. Griselbrand is on track to break through 30 tix shortly and even a mythic like Misthollow Griffin, available for about 0.6 tix at its low, is now above 2 tix.
In hindsight, AVR has clearly been the best choice out of the ISD block sets for speculation based on an redemption strategy. It also looks set to head higher in paper, meaning digital prices should continue to rise. If you are holding mythic rares from AVR, keep riding this trend out as the gains are set to continue.