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Insider: Modern Drift and Power Shift

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Each week I sit down and write my article based on a single relevant topic. Often these articles relate to sudden price shifts of certain cards or analyses of recent tournaments. Researching what’s moving and shaking in the world of MTG Finance yields inspiration for the seeking writer. Thank goodness there are dozens of sites dedicated to this game, because there is always something to talk about.

This week is no exception – but there’s a twist. My research has inspired me to write on two separate topics. Since each topic alone may not be sufficient enough for a full article, however, I’ve decided to merge the two topics into this week’s column. The two are unrelated, but both are relevant right now and if one does not meet your interests, perhaps the other will. I can only hope.

Modern Pullback

The first topic on my mind this week relates to the Modern format. A few months ago, prices of Modern staples were exploding, enabling many cards to hit record highs. It appears the market overreacted because many of these same staples have pulled back notably off their highs.

Last week I showed a chart for Snapcaster Mage, and it had a very clear downward trend over the last month or so. This curved shape is not unique to Snapcaster Mage, though. In fact, many Modern staples are following a similar trajectory:

Thicket
Misty
Pod

Notice how the price curve on these cards spike to an all-time high earlier this year, only to drift downward since at varying rates? The trend is quite consistent.

Shortly after Richmond I unloaded a good deal of my Modern stock despite nay-sayers exclaiming this was a reckless decision so far in advance of Modern season. As it turns out, the decision wasn’t horrible, as many buylists have dropped significantly to reflect this recent decline. I was able to buylist my set of Snapcaster Mages for $27 each, and now the top buylist is a significant percent lower.

There was an error retrieving a chart for ’Snapcaster

As someone who enjoys analyzing financial trends, my natural inclination is to identify motivations for these price drops. With Modern staples, I can think of a number of driving forces.

First, the reprint fear is something speculators live with on a daily basis. Before Modern existed, I remember very few discussions about potential reprints. The phenomenon has happened from time to time, but the potential was not a driving force for investing. I actively acquired Legacy staples ranging from Force of Will to Carpet of Flowers and everything in between without even thinking of reprint implications.

Now that WOTC has created this in-between Modern format designed to be Eternal but affordable, the “R-word” gets thrown around almost every day. Even last week someone got wind of potential Convoke cards in M15 DOTP and immediately people are fearing a Chord of Calling reprint.

At the time of the Modern spike, Modern season was still a few months away. With so much unknown about future products, perhaps people were risk-averse and sold based on potential reprints.

A second factor could simply be the decline in Modern interest. Everything came to a head back at GP Richmond, where the largest constructed MTG tournament ever took place. No changes to the Banned & Restricted list last time around created no news for the format. Perhaps the stagnation and decline of Modern staples reflects a natural shifting of interests.

Finally, perhaps the trend is simply related to factors external to Magic. It is possible the summer leads to a small decline in prices simply because people are less engaged in Magic. Schools are out for the year and people are finding alternate activities.

All of these factors could be playing a role in price declines. But this should change soon.

Well, two of the three factors above will change, anyway. Summer is still here, but Modern PTQ season is just two weeks away! This will mean players will become eager to test decks at FNM’s, more Modern talk will take place, and hopefully we’ll start seeing a bounce in card prices. I fully expect such a bounce is coming, and while I can’t say a cash buy on Modern staples will always be profitable, trading for some of these repressed singles could yield reasonable gains when we enter the thick of Modern season.

Just make sure you unload them when they hit their local maxima because there could be another large sell-off at the end of this Modern season. Modern Masters 2 will be a thing, and other reprint potentials means the fear that drove prices down over the last few months will be magnified.

By this fall I hope to have virtually no Modern cards in my binder. But as we head into Modern season, staples seem like solid pick-ups.

Speaking of Solid Pick-Ups

Admittedly there was no easy transition from the Modern season topic to this one, so I am grasping at straws here.

But has anyone noticed how difficult it is to acquire Power lately? I’m seeing less and less of these cards available for sale. Last week I tweeted an observation that Star City Games had exactly four Moxen in stock – as of today that number is down to three. Two graded Mox Sapphires and an MP Mox Ruby.

Sapphire

A couple years ago I was able to acquire a HP Sapphire for under $400. Now this card could easily trade at $1000 (if only I had kept mine). And the trend is continuing. While Modern staples have largely pulled back lately, Power is on a tear. And with so few copies available on the open market, any increase in interest will drive prices higher.

Even buy lists are starting to gain traction and follow prices higher.



I know the Power 9 is a group of iconic, expensive cards from Magic. Most new players probably couldn’t trade their entire collection for a piece of the Power 9. As a result, this section of the article may not be relevant for all readers, but I want to emphasize this trend to drive awareness of what is happening.

Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that this trend is being driven by a small group of investors looking to control the market for Power.

Tweet

Could this really be happening? Is there a small organization of people attempting to buy up enough Power to virtually control the market? It sounds like conspiracy (and not the new MTG set kind), but the rumor is certainly consistent with recent price trends. Even if this is all malarkey, the fact that Vintage Masters is driving more Vintage discussion will be a thing regardless.

I’m acting on this by putting my money where my mouth is. While I don’t expect I’ll have the resources to acquire all of the Power 9, my hope is to pick up a few played Unlimited pieces for some exposure to this market. It wouldn’t surprise me to see every part of the Power 9 over $1,000 in the next five years, and I definitely don’t want to be priced out of them completely if I can avoid it.

Summing It Up

As I opened this article, my mind is constantly bouncing back to two dichotomous MTG Finance trends. Modern staples have been drifting downward while Power 9 has been on a rapid rise. The two events are completely unrelated except for the fact they are both related to MTG Finance.

This is why I continue to love this hobby – where else can you have such a diversity of trends, experiences, and connections playing a game while still making money? I’m truly blessed to be involved in this game and to have such a strong community to enjoy it with.

And with many new adventures ahead as new products are released, I believe there’s still plenty of money to be made from the game. Here’s to a profitable Modern PTQ season and an exciting Fall Block!

...

Sigbits

  • When Temple of Malady was first released, it was selling on eBay for $5.50 to $6 and retailed for $8. Now just a couple weeks later the price on these has already drifted upward and SCG is now sold out of both foil and nonfoil copies at $19.99 and $9.99 respectively. I can see nonfoils being relisted at $11.99.
  • Eidolon of Blossoms is clearly a bust so far. The price on this card has tanked hard since being spoiled. But the card has seen some life of late, and copies have been getting more expensive over the last week. SCG has only 7 in stock and their price of $1.99 is actually in-line with TCG Low when shipping is included. I expect a bump to $2.99 from SCG very soon.
  • Does Herald of Torment see play outside of Standard? For some reason SCG is out of stock on foil copies at $6.99, which is already greater than the usual 2x premium for foils. Not sure what the driving force is here, but it's certainly noteworthy if you could trade for a couple.

15 thoughts on “Insider: Modern Drift and Power Shift

    1. Good to know! You think this is a long term trend of sorts? I may do the same. Or how sweet would a collection be? 1 of each foil!

  1. If I look at the EU prices of modern cards, I see them slowly going up.

    my theory is that both markets have now time to reach a balance.

    Locally, Modern is very hot, and people are trading all they can for their modern cards!

    1. It’s very possible that both markets are approaching a natural equilibrium. But with Modern PTQ season just around the corner, I know Modern cards will go higher – especially since all the reprints in advance of the season are a known entity.

  2. What about the new power- cards nearly as scarce and needed for Vintage and\or Legacy. Time Vault, Mishra’s Workshop, Bazaar of Baghdad, Library of Alexandria and Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale seem like easy inclusions. Candlelabra of Tawnos? These are basically following the same trend as the P9.

    1. This is very true and a terrific add! I think there’s always something to be said about the icon-status of Power. But anything in the triple digits on the Reserved List could easily qualify. Tabernacle, Moat, and Candelabra have the added advantage of being Legacy playable.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. I’m not sure that I buy the ‘conspiracy’ argument for power disappearing. While it is theoretically possible, there may be a more parsimonious explanation. I haven’t read everything on the site so please forgive me if I restate what others have already said.

    Many members on this site (and other sites) have discussed buylisting into multiple pieces of power. This was made possible by the huge increase in the ‘value’ of the secondary market over the past couple years when fetches went from $30 to $100. Many players jumped when they realized that they could sell one or two modern re-printable fetches and buy an ABUR dual. This triggered the rise in duals that we saw last month. At the same time, the more savvy investors were able to unload their fetches for moxes. It is crazy to think about, but you could have sold a playset of misties and tarns for ~$600 and bought a decent condition Mox. My theory is that whenever you have a market which grows in value significantly, as did the MTG secondary market thanks to the increase in the value of Modern cards, you’ll see a trickle-up effect where the expensive cards get more expensive.

    Regarding the availability of power, has it ever been widely available online? Have there been ~500+ pieces of power available at one time? If not, then >50 people looking to purchase full sets of power would deplete the available supply. Also, there it little to no incentive to sell any power now, save a financial emergency, as waiting a month will allow you to list and sell your cards for a lot more money. Perhaps there was a conspiracy, but it could also have been a lot of people who had the same good idea at the same time and were a bit ahead of the curve. I would argue that the depletion of power is a direct effect of the modern price explosion. The addition of so much value to the secondary market lowered the effective cost of luxury goods (power) for those who were already heavily invested in the secondary market.

    1. Sam,

      I think your argument is absolutely true. I firmly believe in the trickle up effect, driving prices of power and the like significantly higher. As Aregand said, even Pseudo-Power cards like Tabernacle, Bazaar, Library etc. have all been on a rapid incline too. Surely the rising tide is raising all ships.

      I only speculate on the conspiracy portion because of some conversations I’ve had/seen over the past couple months. I hear about a massive buyout of Power from SCG at a recent event, then I hear consistent rumors on Twitter, then I notice SCG has virtually no Power in stock (though I’ve been alerted that ABU Games has a decent stock). After hearing a rumor three or four times from different sources, one starts to believe said rumors know what I mean? By no means am I stepping out and calling shenanigans and conspiracy, but I could easily believe the possibility.

      Vintage Masters driving up interest in Paper Vintage could also be a culprit here. But savvy speculators could be hoarding a few extra pieces of Power in anticipation of further increases – perhaps not a concerted effort to control the market but a group of wise investors hoping to make significant returns on their investment?

      1. Yeah, maybe someone with rather deep pockets (>100k) looking to corner the market bought most of the available power and then players picked up the rest. I wonder how much power was on the market at any one time during the last year. Also, the price of power was pretty much stagnant for the past several years, which likely contributes to the unwillingness of those holding extra power to sell it right now.

        I would have bought some power myself, but I don’t have anywhere to play vintage, nor have the bankroll to pick up a full set. Re your article, great read.

        1. Sam,

          Thanks for the kind words! So far I have picked up all of 1 MP Mox Pearl. My bankroll is not as large as others, and I have a bunch of funds tied up in sealed Booster Boxes right now. Hoping to get a move on those soon though, and I hope to pick up a couple more Moxen. That should be enough exposure for now.

  4. I don’t think there is any particular “group” of people that are “Debeersing” the P9. I acquired 14 pieces in the past 2 months, but only after I heard so many people saying that they are looking to complete their P9 set in the last 3-4 months. The release of Vintage Masters on MTGO is definitely driving interest in paper. Plus a lot of people, me included, are older and have more disposable income or would like to consolidate their collections into these iconic pieces. Furthermore, the price increases on Modern, and subsequently Legacy, staples have also allow people to buy these easier.

    And Aregand is right, I am also looking at Time Vault, Workshop, Bazaar, Library, Mana Drain, and Mana Crypt as other major pieces that will see a bump sooner or later.

    1. I had a P9 playset of Unlimited and have been slowly trying to upgrade to Beta. I suspect others are doing similar. Also with such a small volume available I wonder if a slightly higher percentage was sent for grading or some sellers just pulled cards waiting to see if they would go up. All factors ever how small or few could contribute.

      1. Especially to this market, where so few copies are readily available on the market at any given time. I am certainly motivated to pick up a couple pieces of Power now simply out of fear that these get even more expensive and price me out altogether. I won’t be able to play with them, but I still think they are smart investments and I am happy to have Vintage be a part of my portfolio.

      2. Good luck with the upgrade! I completed this quest about 2 years ago and just recently got everything graded. Too bad the Emerald came back a 6 (don’t know how) so I’m in the market to upgrade that one.

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