Insider: Predicting Vintage Masters on MTGO

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Vintage Masters (VMA) is on its way. Very little is known about this set as of yet, just that the Power 9 is coming to MTGO in June. It's also been stated that these fabled cards will be given the treatment they deserve when they are released, i.e. they are going to released as the 'royalty' of magic.

From the speculator's perspective, I've been thinking about some specific predictions about VMA. Here I've broken them down into 'Strong' and 'Weak' predictions. 'Strong' predictions are ones that I am confident in and that I am willing to act on. 'Weak' predictions should be treated more like possibilities; something to keep in mind but not necessarily to act on.

Strong Predictions

This one has some straightforward logic to it. If the Power 9 are going to enter the MTGO market as the royalty of magic, there's going to have be a balancing of prices among cards considered non-royalty. Roughly speaking, I think it's safe to expect the Power 9 to occupy the upper tier of online prices.

The line I'd draw to make this distinction is roughly 100 tix. Any card approaching this upper tier, such as these two nonbasic lands, should be expected to see a reprint in order to knock down their price.

As for shifting Wasteland from uncommon to rare, just keep in mind that old uncommons are roughly equivalent to rares from the post-mythic era. There is also precedence for this shift. See Consuming Sinkhole, Force of Will and Mana Drain as prime examples of an uncommon getting the upgrade in rarity when they are brought to MTGO.

  • Staples from Mercadian Masques block will be reprinted.

Although this overlaps the first prediction due to Rishadan Port, I think it's worth pointing out why Port is such a pricey card on MTGO. The way that most cards get injected into the MTGO market is through drafts. Invasion block was the first set available to be drafted on MTGO, but for Mirage block up to Invasion, each set had to have a special online release.

Generally this means that cards from Mirage block, Tempest block, Urza's block and Masques block are all available in a lower supply than they would be otherwise. That's why cards from these sets can command some of the highest prices.

Mirage block and Tempest block were both designed with Limited play in mind. Both are reasonable draft formats, albeit with some unbalanced cards and colours. Urza's block continues in this spirit and is home to the many mistakes that triggered 'Combo Winter' in what was then known as Type 2 (today's Standard). However, for Limited play, all three of these blocks have merit in their own way. On MTGO, the nostalgia factor should keep these as semi-regular guests in the flashback draft queue.

Masques block is a bit of a special case. This block was an attempt at lowering the power level of cards, in reaction to the overpowered nature of the previous block. The weakness of the creatures from Masques block makes for a rather dull limited environment with many ground stalls and long games.

WoTC even eschewed releasing these sets individually on MTGO and packed each of Mercadian Masques, Nemesis and Prophecy into one collated booster. When this block returns as a flashback draft, it's not well attended.

Thus, due to less than enthusiastic response of players to this block, these cards are harder to inject into the online supply than the other older blocks. It's the lack of uptake in flashback drafts that will make VMA a good opportunity to fix this supply imbalance by inserting Masques block cards into a more compelling draft format.

  • The original dual lands will not be reprinted in this set.

These are obviously big components of both the Legacy and Vintage formats. In paper, they carry a price tag to match. On MTGO they are relatively available and affordable, and are roughly one tenth the price. These are not the hurdles to playing these formats and do not need a reprint for the balancing of prices. As I've suggested above, WoTC might even try to balance prices around these cards.

  • Rares and mythic rares that are Modern staples will not be reprinted in this set.

Although VMA will be modeled after Modern Masters (MMA), any overlap in card selection that risks cannibalizing future sales of MMA or MMA 2 will be avoided. This means that the Zendikar fetchlands will not be reprinted here, as well as Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, and Vendilion Clique.

This card was widely available to players with the release of From the Vault: 20, so there's no compelling supply issue with this card. Everyone who wanted to own this iconic card had the opportunity to do so at a reasonable cost.

Weak Predictions

  • WoTC is going to underestimate the demand for the Power 9.

This is a broader prediction, but I think there will be substantial demand for the Power 9. Early on in the release of VMA, I expect this will result in the market exploring the very top end of the demand curve, with Moxen going for 150+ tix and foil versions going for 300+ tix. The super-mythic rarity will help to allow this and I think WoTC will err on the side of caution with the relative rarity of the Power 9.

The result is that the uptake of VMA drafts will be quite strong, at least early on. But with no redemption to remove supply from the market and the niche nature of Legacy and Vintage as constructed formats, the prices on non-Power 9 cards in VMA will crash.

Both of these cards will have been released as MOCS promos this spring, Force of Will for the second time in 16 months. It looks like WoTC wants to reserve the ability to award high value reprints through this avenue. The addition of these cards to VMA won't be necessary to spur interest in the set, so it makes more sense to hold them in reserve for future MOCS promos or other reprints.

A Note on Theros Block Boosters

Last week's article took a look at how the payouts from events had been affecting the price of Theros (THS) and Born of the Gods (BNG) boosters. The takeaway from that article was that payouts had been depressing prices on THS boosters and raising prices on BNG boosters. This effect did not go unnoticed by WoTC (aka the MTGO Central Bank). With an eye to stabilizing prices, they made slight tweaks to the prizes of some events.

These changes will contribute to a positive outlook for THS boosters. This effect will probably be small; I don't think there's a good short-term opportunity on THS boosters from this change, but I think it's safe to say we won't see lower prices on THS boosters until the release of M15. The profitable gains in price will probably only come after the release of Journey Into Nyx, but if you want to time the bottom, this is your moment.

As for BNG boosters, I expect these to drift down in price until they find a new equilibrium. They might not drift very far though. Settling in the 3.2 to 3.3 tix range seems entirely possible by the end of April.

6 thoughts on “Insider: Predicting Vintage Masters on MTGO

  1. I really hope you are right about port and wasteland, I just built death and taxes except for these cards in worries that if they did reprint the lands the rest of the deck might see an increase in price.

    Do you think there is money to be made on cards in Legacy that are less likely to be reprinted? I know that this would be difficult to know, so I guess what I am asking is if cards that are not reprinted will increase in value because of a larger demand from vintage masters?

    1. There is money to be made on Legacy, and there will probably be a boost in interest due to VMA, but Modern and Standard are much more profitable. This is mostly due to more interest from players leading to more competition among the bots for singles. I would first pay attention to these formats. Legacy and Vintage will continue to be niche formats for the near term, so it’s best to speculate on cards that overlap all formats.

  2. I’m curious: What do you think is the likelyhood of a City of Traitors reprint? Or Ancient Tomb? There are just so many valuable lands that I can imagine them printing in VMA but they won’t all see a reprint.

    1. Tempest block cards are going to be a little tricky I think. While I feel strongly that Wasteland will be reprinted to bring the price down, I also think that they won’t want to destroy the value of Tempest block draft by reprinting a ton of cards like the ones you’ve listed. I think we’ll see quite a few Vintage playables from that block not get reprinted in VMA. Like, I couldn’t imagine Oath of Druids showing up in VMA, as the card does not play well in limited and is a little weird in the abstract.

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