Someone who recently read my first MTG Price article messaged me the other day and asked me a question about it. It gave me an excuse to re-read it, and this anecdote is only really relevant to the story because it reminded me of the time I said people only read finance articles because they want to make more money.
I hope you're not looking to me to make you money, folks. I've said it time and time again--this is not a finance article.
I don't believe me when I say that, either.
Only 50% of Modern Cards Have Spiked This Off-Season
In a normal year, we would have had to wait for Modern season to roll around for cards played in Modern to spike, but that hasn't been the case this year.
I remember thinking I was really slick buying Grove of the Burnwillows for $15 because I figured their adoption in Legacy would make it a $25+ dollar card during Legacy GP season (1 event) and I made $9ish in profit per card selling them on TCG Player. Little did I know that the $25 I got was a little over 50% of what I could have gotten. Grove is at $40+ and is selling out.
Now, people are saying "Well, it's a four-of in Modern Tron" but is Modern really that much of a price driver in the off-season? I think it will take a while for copies of Grove to make their way back into the hands of sellers on TCG Player, which is the primary driver behind price decline. A competitive group of individual sellers undercutting each other leads to a race to the bottom and keeps prices lower.
However, people are noticing that TCG Player is easy to buy out and a TCG Player buyout has lately served as a signal to the rest of the market that there is a run on the card, leading all of the other sites to raise their prices, irrespective of how many copies were for sale on TCG Player before the buyout.
We used to be dismissive about buyout conspiracy theories because we assumed it would take tens of thousands of dollars to do it and it was very risky. For every Star City buyout of Misty Rainforest there was a buyout of Aluren to point to.
It doesn't take tens of thousands of dollars to buy out TCG Player. Someone bought all the NM copies of Sygg, River Cutthroat over the weekend and I bet it cost them less than $300. Buying Sygg at $2 a copy and waiting for someone whose opinion is valued to say on Twitter that the card will hit $10 is a great way to make a few grand in a short period of time.
It will take a year for the people who bought in at $10 to try to sell on TCG Player, first at $8, then $7, etc. Sygg will probably be a $5 card in a year as we see these precipitous spikes settle between their pre-spike and plateau price, usually at about 50% of the plateau.
Your strategy in the Modern off-season is to buy the stuff you want to play with now. If it hasn't spiked yet, it probably will, unfortunately. People are figuring out that spending a few hundred bucks is all it takes to buy a small number of copies on TCG Player because someone will notice and post it to Reddit and they'll buy out the rest of the internet for you.
I'm not advocating doing that, I'm advocating buying Modern staples that have not spiked yet, because every card is poised for a similar spike. With Summoner's Egg, Fist of Suns, Norin the Wary, et al. going up, cards are spiking irrespective of playability and longevity and the classic analysis we used to put into card spikes no longer applies.
The finance community can only write so many "For the love of Heliod, people, Card X is a terrible spec" articles that the buyers don't read before we realize that the landscape is changing. If Master of the Wild Hunt can spike because of a five-mana uncommon, all bets are off. The only reason Etched Champion hasn't spiked yet is because Travis Woo hasn't built a deck with it.
Get your staples NOW. Get extra copies if you want. People aren't waiting four hours to see if Fist of Suns is going to win a single game Day 2 of a GP, you think they're going to wait all the way until Modern Season?
Ironically, the best specs right now are the cards that have always been good specs. The "ZOMG Norin the WARY!" crowd was also the "I don't know, Restoration Angel was a promo and it is only a three-of in Pod. Probably a bad spec," crowd.
Pick up stuff you always knew was a good pickup, but do it sooner rather than later. Stuff is spiking 50% earlier than it normally does, and in 50% of the time.
50% of All Pro Players Are Now on Team Channel Fireball
Star City must have done something worse than normal. Buying all the Trostanis on the internet a few days before Brimaz was spoiled seemed shady to me, but no shadier than usual. But there was a mass exodus from Team SCG.
Apparently SCG "failed to reach an agreement" so either CFB wrote a bigger check, which is hard to believe, or SCG realized they didn't need to field a team for publicity anymore because of the success of their Open and Invitational Series.
Whatever happened, Roughly 50% of all known pros are on Team Channel Fireball, now. If this seems crazy, remember that the other 50% of Pros are on Team MTGMadness and most people in the United States haven't heard of that team.
50% of Born of the Gods Mythics Are Spoiled
And so far there is only one good one. Either they are saving the best for last, or this set is going to be total dildos. If this set does turn out to be dildos and we don't see another good mythic, I want to bring something to everyone's attention now.
When I went back and tried to figure out how the finance community got Voice of Resurgence so wrong, saying it wouldn't maintain its $20 preorder price, I realized that at least 50% of the reason Voice is so expensive is that it was in a terrible set.
If people are paying $100 for a redemption set of Dragon's Maze, 50% of what the value is in the form of a Voice of Resurgence, and this has kept the price high. If there were other cards worth money in Dragon's Maze to take some of the pressure off of Voice, the price could go down, but that isn't the case.
With 8/15 mythics in Born of the Gods spoiled, Brimaz will not be able to stay as low as its $20-$25 presale price.
This is a rarity and I hope you appreciate what it means when I am say this--I would order a set now for $80-$90 on eBay if you plan to play with these. Unless we see very good mythics in the last 50%, Brimaz is going to be artificially inflated. This is your second chance to buy Voice of Resurgence for $20, something I talked you out of before.
If the rest of the set is good, it's less imperative. Still, I won't make the same mistake again. It's possible Brimaz is $5 in a month and I'm making an entirely different mistake, but I think my logic here is sound.
If one card is 50% of the value of the set, it's going to cost 50% of the set's value. Voice of Resurgence is getting slightly more affordable but it took forever and with no more redemption of Dragon's Maze, supply is effectively shut off.
Pay attention to spoilers, we only have 50% of the mythics to go and there's no way Spirit of the Labyrinth can maintain its $7 presale price, let alone pick up the slack for the rest of the set.
Keep reading, this article is only 50% over.
Grand Prix Sacramento
Was Limited. I guess this 50% of the article is going to be 50% easier to write.
SCG Open Columbus
I didn't go to Columbus this weekend because reasons. I did so much traveling over the holidays I wanted to spend a weekend recovering at home, and while it was relaxing, I probably should have gone to hang out. I do, after all, have merch to distribute.
Others did make the trip to Columbus to half-heartedly battle it out in a lame-duck Standard format that is begging for multicolored cards. Sitting on Mutavault? You should sell those things, man.
The real question in my mind is whether Michael Kenney's big Boros deck is a real deck outside of this weekend and whether it will want the new, mythic phoenix from Born of the Gods. Chandra's Phoenix pairs better with Chandra, a card that fell off a bit and which I am glad to see back. The new Phoenix is a Browbeat, and I don't like Browbeat, at all.
The deck as it stands seems powerful and benefits from a format with removal that is a tad clunky, something Born of the Gods aims to fix, at least for black. All in all, this appears to be the best Magma Jet deck we've seen.
Even this two-color deck is jamming two Mutavault, because reach is important and you won't need all of your mana late once you stick a big monster and a 'walker. This doesn't promise to buoy anything major, but could be a venue for the new phoenix if I'm wrong about its playability.
Kent Kitter's second place R/W Devotion deck was quicker but fell in the finals. This featured more temples, no Mutavaults and more devotion. Hammer of Purphoros here is solid. Could a deck like this want Xenagos? Three colors may be tough, but Xenagos seems like a better hammer, although hammer's second mode seems like a better Mutavault, albeit more mana-intensive.
I have seen a lot of Mizzium Mortars and Warleader's Helix, and the new Phoenix could stuff those cards effectively. Still, black will likely have no trouble dealing with it, and the new Echoing Decay will help with Assemble the Legion tokens, if only for a turn.
The second and eighth place decks might be a good venue for Xenagos in his godly form. With a ton of ramp and big fatties, we could see hydras doubling down the turn they come down.
Mistcutter Hydra seems powerful against the field and potent with Xenagos, and more likely to affect games you weren't already winning than the cute crap people have discussed doing with Kalonian Hydra. Polukranos plus Xenagos should usually do it--no need to get cute when you can just play with cards you were going to use anyway. Xenagos may be another card that won't drop much from his presale price.
I expected to see a lot more of the Japanese style W/B decks with a human base and Xathrid Necromancer everywhere; we just see the midrange style decks with the Blood Barons. With all the good removal black is getting in Born of the Gods, don't expect Blood Baron to fall out of favor.
Obzedat is all but replaced and could really plummet in price to a point I am comfortable picking him up, although that point is around $5. Don't laugh--we had ample opportunity to scoop Trostani at that price and now she is way up, buoyed by the only good card in the set (so far).
Black Midrange seems like the play going forward--tons of crowd control removal and resilience to their removal in the form of Blood Baron. You don't want to be futzing around with Xathrid Necromancer when they can Blowfly Infestation the board.
Matthew Canada and his Mono-Blue Control were pushed to 6th place, but he managed Top 8 at least; more than we can say for Mono-Black.
U/W/R Control? Apparently SCG should have kept at least one of their former players around to help them name decks. This is U/W and has the option of boarding in a few Dark Betrayal.
The W/B Humans build got 9th. Down but not out. Don't expect the deck to be playable when Born of the Gods is out, though.
Five Mono-Black Devotion decks in the Top 16, but none in the Top 8. Is that a signal? Is the deck really too good to be dealt with? Maybe black players aren't yet ready for Knight of the Last Breath for their turn two Pack Rat. If that is the case, expect the strategy to bounce back. The removal black is getting is stupid.
That does it for Standard. I would divest from Mutavault and Xathrid Necromancer and invest in stuff that is expensive already. I expect green-red to be even more of a thing given how good Xenagos looks, at least compared to the other gods.
50% done with this half--just Legacy to go.
So Nemesis Blade is being called "True Delver" in the hands of Brad Nelson who actually finished 16th. 16th is really good if you're not Brad Nelson. If you are, people are disappointed. Don't be. The deck is good, and it pushed Stoneforge to $30 and that's a lot of work.
The best blade deck on the day was third place's "Supreme Blade" deck, using Supreme Verdict for crowd control. Winning through a Jace mill as often as Batterskull from the look of it, it's a card advantage-intensive deck that can lock the board down with myriad sweepers. No True-Name here; it doesn't have protection from Verdicts, yours or theirs.
Pet Deck of the Week could go to Reanimator, but it's been cropping up a ton lately. The deck doesn't run anything more recent than Disciple of Griselbrand but its popularity of late is hard to ignore. The deck is getting tuned nicely, and I won't call it a "pet" deck the way I may have a year ago.
Scott Muir's Stax deck takes that prize, making me smile and earning him 15th, which is better than Brad Nelson and therefore pretty good.
Would I be remiss if I didn't mention Western Michigan's own Ken Crocker in 7th? Probably not. Ken decided that "True Blade" didn't jam nearly enough Lightning Bolt. It's Legacy, guys. Jamming a little red is the easiest thing in the world and it opens up your sideboard a bit.
Blade decks were everywhere. I hope you got Stoneforge before it spiked. With nearly 50% of the Top 8 running it, this card is not likely to get cheaper soon.
I didn't skip Adam Fronsee, I just think Sneak and Show is a douchebag. Not the guys who play the deck, the deck itself. It's a douchebag.
If Sneak and Show were a guy, it would be a guy named Chad with a popped collar A&F shirt and sandals and a sideways hat drinking a Natty Light and talking about how he felt up a drunk chick at an O.A.R. concert. Don't play with the Chad of decks.
Edward Pfender jammed the Jund Depths deck we kind of expected to run the tables and was the only one in the Top 16. I hope to see more in the future.
Is Blade pushing out other fair decks? What is here is telling, what is not here could be equally telling. No Merfolk. No Goblins. No Jund. No ANT.
No Death and Taxes. That may change--with a $7, 3/1 hate bear promising to stop everyone from drawing extra cards, Hate Bear decks may have the dude they need to stop unfair decks from Brainstorming and Pondering their way out of trouble. I don't know whether Spirit of the Labyrinth can maintain $7, but I know Legacy wants it. I don't expect the card to affect Modern or Standard all that much.
That does it for me this week. Join me next week where we'll have more spoilers and more Standard results to pretend to care about. Until next time.