Modern PTQ season has finally arrived! After months of anticipation, followed by a shift in PTQ schedule, then another few months of waiting, we have finally arrive at the most exciting season for Magic.
In fact, I would go as far to say this will be the most exciting PTQ season for MTG Finance.
For months I’ve stared at cards in my binder thinking “I should sell these cards… but it’ll have to wait for Modern PTQ season”. Many Modern format staples will increase in price as demand ramps up this summer. I’ve already noticed some slight shifts in cards like Snapcaster Mage.
Shock Lands have leveled off and are finally showing an inflection point. Man-lands and Scars Lands should also see a jump in demand over the next couple months. And, of course, goodies like Restoration Angel and Tarmogoyf will remain hot.
And Then There Were Fetches
I am really struggling to come up with a sound recommendation on Zendikar Fetch Lands. The price trajectory looks very similar to Snapcaster Mage, but their futures could diverge significantly if the rumored reprint comes to fruition.
But how likely is a reprint? The answer really does depend on the time horizon in question. 2014? 2015? Before next Modern season? Before Standard rotation? These are all possibilities with varying levels of likelihood. Let’s take a step back and see what data we have to-date.
Going all the way back to this article published May 27, 2011:
Much of the appeal of Legacy is that the format does not rotate. However, as Legacy becomes more and more popular, the relative supply of these cards as compared to the size of the audience that wants to play with them is only going down. This makes the format less and less accessible to new entrants over time.
Many of you have recognized this, and called for a non-rotating format that does not contain these cards.
This paints the backdrop for most of my Modern finance decisions. Recognizing that WOTC wants to maintain an Eternal format without significant accessibility issues means to me that they will do what they can to keep prices down. Naturally, this is horrible for investing. This is the whole reason why I invest in Legacy, Vintage and Sealed product while speculating on Standard and Modern. Reprint risks are real, and I wanted to begin my argument with this reminder.
Fast Forward To This Year
The Modern announcement is certainly enough to give pause when it comes to buying into Modern heavily. Building decks and slinging spells is a must because the format is a blast, but as for speculating and investing in Modern staples? This carries significant risk.
But does this mean Zendikar Fetches are inevitably going to be reprinted? I personally think it’ll happen eventually, but there’s an alternative being discussed: Onslaught Fetch Land Reprints!
If Zendikar Fetch Lands seem expensive, the ally colored Fetches are just plain outrageous. I can pay $100 for a Polluted Delta or I can buy groceries for a month. We’re talking significant investment here. What would lead me to believe Onslaught Fetches are more likely to be reprinted than Zendikar? An article published on the Mothership on February 3rd of this year talked about the balance between ally-colored lands and enemy-colored lands.
Development was interested in having scry dual lands. Over the last five years, R&D has made a big shift in how we think about ally and enemy colors. While we still like some cards that help allies or hurt enemies, we've shifted our thoughts about the mana for two-color decks.
Back in the day, we always made ally dual lands easier to acquire than enemy ones. The thought process was that ally colors should be easier to play as it matched the flavor of the color pie. As time has marched on, we realized something important. Restricting enemy dual lands just meant it was harder to play enemy colors and that it limited what players were able to play.
That was making the game less fun and for what trade-off? To slightly further the flavor of allies and enemies. We decided it wasn't worth it and now are more conscious to try and get all ten color pair dual lands. This was just my lengthy way of saying that development wanted the block to have all ten scry lands.
This quote tells me Wizards is interested in having balance between enemy colors and ally colors to enable all decks to have a robust mana base. In Modern, things are a bit lopsided with Fetches. Enemy colored Fetch Lands exist, but not ally-colored ones? Something seems out of place when comparing current reality to the quote above. I could see Wizards prioritizing a remedy for this imbalance first before reprinting Zendikar Fetches.
Of course, either way any Fetch Land reprint will cause the Zendikar fetches to drop simply because players can optimize their Modern mana bases with the ally-colored Fetches, dropping demand for Zendikar versions.
Brainstorm Brewery: The Interview
On April 25th, 2014 the cast of Brainstorm Brewery had a very special guest to interview for their 98th episode: Aaron Forsythe.
I know I was late to the party, but having an opportunity to listen to a Finance podcast with the head of Magic’s R&D department was enough to grab my interest. The team did a tremendous job and I’m now a Brainstorm Brewery fan for life.
The most relevant part of their interview is quoted here:
Marcel (Brainstorm Brewery): Big question is - Fetch Lands. People are complaining about these in Modern and you did such a great job with the Shockland reprints that the availability is everywhere. People can't complain about getting their Shocklands; if you don't have your Shocklands, you're not prepare for the format. But Fetchlands? People didn't quite see that. Is it the same thing for you guys? Did you not see this happening? The demand of Modern? And eventually I'm sure that we are going to get one, if you don't want to say when, is this a concern for you guys?
Aaron Forsythe: Yeah. I mean, they did take off kind of out of the blue it felt like. Pretty recently. And obviously our turnaround time on doing anything is not instantaneous. So any plans that we have to put more Fetch Lands out there will take some time to execute on. But we are definitely aware of, you know, what cards people need to build decks to play Modern and what cards they're after. So we are going to do what we can.
Mr. Forsythe has confessed two valuable tidbits of information in his response. First, that they were not anticipating a sudden spike in Fetch Land prices. Working for a major consumer goods company, I can certainly understand the concept of long lead times when developing new products. Agility is important, but it isn’t every large company’s strong point.
But the second factoid worth extracting is that Wizards will continue to focus on making Modern an accessible format. They are willing to take the necessary measures to ensure every player can run the manabases they need for their Modern decks, and if Zendikar Fetch Lands are becoming prohibitively priced, I’m confident Wizards will find a way to improve upon this. It may just take time.
Another Interview: Mark Rosewater
On May 18th we finally heard something about this year’s fall set: Khans of Tarkir. We learned about Sarkhan Vol’s home world during this announcement, but, more importantly, we got a teaser towards the end of the video.
First off: there’s something that people have been asking us to do for quite a while, that we’re finally bringing back after a long absence in Magic… and there’s something that people have been asking us to do that we’ve never done that for the first time we’re doing in Khans of Tarkir.
What could this teaser possibly mean? Fetch Land reprints is certainly something people have been asking for, but they haven’t really been absent from Magic for that long. A reprint of Onslaught Fetches would be more in line with “brining back after a long absence in Magic”, but I don’t believe this is related either.
In fact, I really don’t think Wizards is agile enough to have included Fetches in Khans of Tarkir based on Aaron Forsythe’s interview. I theorize Mark Rosewater is referring to something completely different.
One Last Reference
Finally, on May 30th, Sam Stoddard wrote an article summarizing what Wizards was thinking about when creating Journey Into Nyx.
Buried within this article is one last tidbit of information that may reveal something about upcoming reprints.
DH 8/16: Question for the general population: Is this supposed to be "Pay 1 life, T: ..." instead?
KD 8/20: Per Dave and Erik: Now pay life rather than deal damage, to match the land cycles we are most likely to reprint.
ID 8/29/13: Glad we settled on pay life.
Guess what lands also have “Pay 1 life” in their rules text? Fetch Lands! They are sure likely to reprint those based on all the data presented above, and this last comment pretty much seals the deal, right? I mean, what other land cycles could they reprint with “Pay 1 life” in the rules text?
A Wild Theory
Here’s a riddle for you: What Land is part of a cycle, has “Pay 1 life” in its rules text, and could possibly qualify as something players have been asking about for a while, AND may be financially relevant enough to have been on Wizards radar for at least a couple years?
Onslaught Fetch Lands could qualify for this riddle. But I’m not so confident they’ll appear in Khans of Tarkir. It would seem imbalanced to have only ally-colored Fetches reappear, and having Zendikar Fetches and Onslaught Fetches reprinted in the next Block doesn’t sound likely based on Aaron Forsythe’s admission to being surprised about Zendikar Fetch Land prices.
I present to you one alternate theory:
Why not Horizon Canopy? I suppose it only recently became expensive, but it’s a Dual Land part of a cycle with “Pay 1 life” in its rules box. Plus, I’ve been asking for the rest of the Horizon Canopy cycle to be printed for years now after playing this one heavily in Legacy. This may be just as unlikely to show up as Fetch Lands, but I still think the theory merits consideration.
Besides, the fact the card was in Future Sight means a reprint in a future set is always a possibility…
Theories and Conspiracies
In reality, all of this is speculation. But that’s our hobby, right? We get a thrill out of speculating on what the future of Magic holds with the end goal of profit in mind. And while I’m much better at predicting reliable trends (such as the fact that Theros Scry Lands are all about to go up in price), it’s fun to try and predict future reprints as well. Such actions do impact the value of our portfolio after all.
My advice to you remains conservative: sell any Fetch Lands you aren’t using over the summer, while demand is at a peak. This has remained the same for months now. But I propose a new suggestion worth at least thinking about: sell your extra Horizon Canopys as well. Why not? They appear to have peaked and since settled in price. As such their short term upside is severely limited. By fitting the land reprint riddle somewhat, I see a risk to downside as well.
Only time will tell with certainty what WOTC has planned for us. All we can do is be as informed as possible. And speculate.
- Star City Games is certainly ready for Modern season. They have dozens of staples in stock including Foil and Nonfoil Snapcaster Mage, Liliana of the Veil, and Tarmogoyf (though no Future Sight foils). I’m going to follow their lead and sell what I can from Modern this summer.
- What don’t they have much stock in? Temple of Malady, the only Temple they are currently sold out of completely.
- It’s been amusing to watch Reserved List card Apocalypse jump in price over the last couple weeks. Star City Games is currently sold out of this one as well. With a current price tag of $2.49 it’s all but certain they relist this one higher when they finally do get a few copies. Clearly someone is enjoying this card enough to merit buying it. Being on the Reserved List, I suppose you could do worse with your speculating.