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Insider: The “Big Picture” of MTGO in 2014

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Today I take a break from the day-to-day grind of speculating to do some big picture thinking. This is my outlook for the next couple months.

April

At the end of March, Cube will return to MTGO, along with with one week of Mirage-Visions-Weatherlight (MVW) queues, followed by one week of Scars of Mirrodin (SOM) block queues. See the full details on the mothership. Generally speaking, there's no cookie cutter way to speculate off of these events. The trick is to identify a good price on a card you like, and then start buying if that price is reached.

This time around, I'd be on the lookout for Modern staples from SOM block in particular. Interest in Modern doesn't show any signs of abating, as many of the staples have hit high prices in both digital and paper. This suggests that any dips in price should be seen as a buying opportunity.

Players tend to overestimate the impact of these drafts on prices. So, in (erroneous) anticipation of the market being flooded, they sell their own copies with an eye to rebuying at a lower price.

This means that the dip in price speculators should look for will occur in and around the SOM block drafts, but will not be a result of the queues themselves. The buying opportunity occurs because players are flooding the market with their playsets, not the recently cracked cards from the flashback draft queues.

The short list of Modern cards I'd look to pick up include Spellskite, Mox Opal, Dismember and Inkmoth Nexus. A longer list might include Thrun, the Last Troll, Surgical Extraction, Karn Liberated, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, and Torpor Orb.

After these cards drop in price, there will probably be a short-term bounce back as players try to reacquire their playsets. Again, this is a difficult proposition to time well as the MTGO market tends to move quickly. Deciding in advance which cards you are interested in and at what price will help you navigate any market fluctuations.

Keep in mind that we'll also be heading into a period of continued Modern demand as players start testing that format. The release of the third set of Theros (THS) block will still be weeks away from shaking up Standard, so the Modern format will probably see some new price peaks at that time.

Although it doesn't look like there will be online PTQs, Modern seems to be going from strength to strength. Until we see a real weakening in interest, don't bet against higher prices.

May

The big event in May will be the release of Journey Into Nyx (JOU). It will be released on MTGO on May 12, followed by the Pro Tour event in Atlanta Georgia. The constructed format the pros will be testing is THS Block Constructed. All the details can be found on the mothership at this link.

Block Constructed is well attended on MTGO as it is often one of the cheapest formats to start playing. It would pay the attentive speculator to get familiar with THS Block Constructed in advance of the release of JOU.

Knowing what makes the format tick might yield insight on which cards from JOU will make a splash at the Pro Tour. And with JOU being a third set and only available online for a week by the time of the PT, there is strong potential for large price swings based off of what happens in Atlanta.

As for what we do know is coming in JOU, we know for sure that the last two of the scry land cycle will appear, as well as the remaining five demigods.

When the Born of the Gods (BNG) demigods were beginning to get spoiled, speculators started bidding up the price of the RTR block guild leaders, such as Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. The heavy coloured mana requirements in these permanents were seen as a good way to power up the new demigods.

This time around I would expect a similar response, so I would cast my eyes towards the guild leaders that might see play in conjunction with the new gods. I'd start with Aurelia, the Warleader.

This card has a lot going it for as a spec. It has casual appeal, which has kept the price above junk. It also saw some play in the big Naya builds from Standard of last year. Over the summer, this card might dip down into the 1.0 to 1.5 tix range in advance of rotation.

With that downside in mind, buying at the current level in anticipation of the hype around the release of JOU should give an opportunity to take short-term gains based off any speculative activity. Upside will be further magnified if Aurelia appears in a top deck. Longer term, i.e. out past Fall rotation, I'd expect Aurelia to eventually get to the 2 to 3 tix range based solely off of demand from redeemers.

June

At the end of Spring, the long anticipated appearance of the Power 9 on MTGO is set to happen. Although they've previously been playable in the powered version of Cube draft, this time players will be able to slide these cards into their collections.

The exact method of their release is up in the air, but the delivery mechanism will be Vintage Masters. This set will have prerelease events from June 13th to 16th, with the full release scheduled for June 16th. Check the announcement here.

All indications are that Vintage Masters will be modeled after the successful Modern Masters, a release designed to tame prices, get cards in the hands of players, and be a fun draft format.

If WOTC can develop a draft format that players enjoy, then any rare or uncommon reprints we see in this set will take a nose dive in price. The Power 9 will start at a high valuation and might never come down, but for the rest of the set, lower prices on all but the most played mythic rares are in order.

For speculators, the best course of action would be to sell down any staples that did not see printing in a Modern-legal set.

For instance, I'd expect to see Rishadan Port in Vintage Masters. Port is from a set that doesn't fire a lot of drafts when available, so it will perennially be a pricey staple. Putting it in Vintage Masters will solve the problem of having to use Mercadian Masques draft queues to get product into the market. WOTC has demonstrated that draft queues are their preferred method for keeping prices in check, but if players are not willing to draft the set, the process is moot.

WOTC needs a set that is both fun and contains value in order to get product into the market. Packaging up the expensive cards from the worst draft sets seems like a logical move.

This is also a reason to expect something like Wasteland in Vintage Masters. Although Wasteland is probably priced too high, including it in Vintage Masters could kill the value of future Tempest block queues, a relatively popular flashback draft format.

I think WOTC will be careful not to cannibalize too many of the popular draft formats in order to get players interested in Vintage Masters. In that regard, the Power 9 should do most of the heavy lifting, and then there will be a look towards some of the less popular draft formats in order to get cards into players hands.

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