After a hectic winter in the world of MTG Finance, things finally settled down this past spring. In fact, some trends settled down so significantly that many of the previous price spikes – particularly in Modern – were on the decline. Fetch Lands were hit particularly hard over the last couple months.
Modern season was supposed to reverse this downward trend, but the decline has continued. Corbin wrote a terrific piece last week on why that may be, and he provided very sound advice in the article.
Then this happened:
Digesting This News
My initial reaction: FINALLY! People have been rumoring how Star City Games would incorporate Modern into their weekly series for over a year now. Despite the fact that everyone knew the decision was inevitable, no one could have placed an accurate timing on the event.
News of SCG’s Modern support will alter my MTG Finance strategy a bit going forward, and it should impact yours as well. There’s a very powerful reason behind $100 Wastelands and Force of Wills, and it’s not the Reserved List. In fact, these are Uncommons so they can’t even be on the Reserved List.
The reason is the Star City Games Open. Providing weekly opportunities for grinders to make serious coin playing Legacy has generated significant impact to demand. With most Legacy staples being old enough to drive, the low supply matched with rising demand has led to the “Legacy boom”, as I like to call it.
It’s exactly why we see curves like this one:
And buy prices like these:
To assume SCG’s Modern support will not have any impact on the MTG market is naïve. I believe there are some opportunities ahead, but we have to look in the right places and maintain the right expectations. Allow me to explain further, format by format.
Who really cares about Standard here? This announcement has little to do with the most popular (yet most boring?) format. Star City Games will continue to host their Standard Open on Saturdays, meaning they’ll still get the same turnout as before. Except now if there are players interested in entering the Modern event on Sunday, perhaps they’ll make the trip for the full weekend and grind out the Standard event as well. Impact will be minimal.
That’s not to say I don’t like Standard cards as money-making targets, by the way. Temples are still solid pick-ups, although the easy money window on Temple of Malady is pretty much closed. Thoughtseize is also my favorite target in Standard heading into rotation. Everyone knows this card is an Eternal staple, and I suspect these will disappear from trade binders once they’re no longer opened at FNM’s.
It goes without saying the Modern speculation game shifts dramatically on this news. While Modern cards have all jumped significantly since the format’s inception, I anticipate a permanent circuit of large-scale Modern events will keep the format interesting all year round. And while I am not sure how long it will take, I suspect the eventual live coverage of Modern events will take interest in this format to the next level.
If it’s not clear in the above paragraph that I’m fairly bullish on Modern staples, then let me state it here: I am bullish on Modern staples.
But not all staples interest me here. Zendikar Fetch Lands will remain the last thing on my mind as I still anticipate a reprint. Other cards recently reprinted don’t attract me much either – Event Deck cards like Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Inquisition of Kozilek are destined to drop. In fact, my LGS has already reduced their price on the Modern Event Deck from $74.99 (MSRP) to $59.99 in an attempt to move these more quickly. If the entire deck, sealed, sells for $59.99, you’d better believe the singles in the deck will decline quickly.
Instead, my focus will remain on tried-and-true staples. Scars Lands are still on my radar although I’m done acquiring these now that they are off their all-time lows. Shock Lands may also finally show signs of life – that being said, we still have to weather their rotation from Standard, so it may be another year or so before these jump.
Other cards worth noting are the usual suspects: Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, etc. All of these Modern staples have pulled back despite the beginning of Modern PTQ season. I expected a modest uptick in prices on these staples over the next month or so (although nothing significant enough to merit paying cash on them). Now I wonder if the uptick will be more noteworthy and longer lasting.
I’m inclined to observe trends very closely from the sidelines, buying in only when momentum turns upward. Until then I’m content to sit on my current holdings and see what unfolds.
Oh dear oh my, this doesn’t bode well for Legacy. To be fair, I think the impact in the near term is minimal. Dual Lands will not suddenly tank because of SCG’s Modern support. Given the choice between Legacy and Modern, I’d wager that players who own Legacy decks would still prefer to cast Brainstorm instead of Sleight of Hand.
Legacy trends are much more gradual and steady in general. You see the occasional buyout spikes, of course, but most financial behavior in Legacy occurs in consistent, long time-horizon steps. Therefore I see no short term drop in staples. But I would be remiss to not consider long term impacts.
Let’s fast-forward five years and assume Star City Games is still supporting Legacy and Modern on Sundays. You probably still have the same 300 players grinding out the Legacy Opens as before, playing with $400 Underground Seas and $150 Force of Wills. But any newer player who did not previously own a Legacy deck can now enjoy large tournaments on both Saturdays and Sundays simply by building a Modern deck.
In fact, I fully expect most new players to make a smooth transition from Standard to Modern. Legacy, on the other hand, is inaccessible to most new players. With the Modern option, they really can disregard the format altogether if they desired.
The result: eventual stagnation in Legacy. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean Legacy staples, especially those on the Reserved List, will drop. On the contrary, Dual Lands will only become rarer in the future. Legacy stales also popular in casual formats like Cube and EDH will even thrive.
Just because Vintage is a ghost format outside MTGO doesn’t mean Power is getting any cheaper. The chart on Library of Alexandria doesn’t look terrible considering it's not played a whole outside Vintage.
And when you add EDH playability into the mix, long-term prospects of Vintage staples gets even better:
Even with the continued potential for upside, we should be more particular about what Legacy staples we sit on for the long term. Dual Lands are fine. Perhaps Sneak Attack becomes less attractive. We already saw what happens to Legacy cards when they’re reprinted, as Stifle and Exploration were in Conspiracy.
Net: If a Legacy card isn’t on the Reserved List and doesn’t see much play outside of Legacy, I’d sell. If it is on the Reserved List and sees additional play, then it’s a fine card to hold even if Legacy stagnates.
The only way prices on Dual Lands drop is if SCG stops supporting Legacy altogether. Given they have tends of thousands of dollars in Legacy staples, I don’t see this happening in the near term.
More to Come
This news was released to the public very recently. Most people haven’t even fully digested what it means, and thus no movement can be detected quite yet.
My advice is to keep the above assessment in mind while monitoring trends very closely. If we start to see cards like Snapcaster Mage and Scars Lands showing up on mtgstocks.com Interests in the coming days, it means the market is reacting positively to the news. That, combined with the onset of Modern PTQ season, should mean Modern cards will hold values in the months ahead.
While Legacy may lose some Sunday focus, the format will remain healthy in the short term. Don’t panic-sell your staples, but don’t ignore the market either.
The format that really shouldn’t be ignored right now is Standard. While unaffected by this news, rotation is nearing rapidly and the window to acquire Theros block cards at their local minima is closing. And while obvious choices like Temple of Malady and Courser of Kruphix are already expensive, other Temples, Thoughtseize, and some of the gods remain cheap and worth considering here.
The spring lull in MTG Finance may finally be coming to an end. When Khans of Tarkir is released, Magic may once again be more popular than ever. Plan accordingly, and you’ll have healthy appreciation in your MTG portfolio as 2014 closes.
- It’s rare to see Star City Games maintain the highest buy price on a Standard card. Yet they currently have this honor for Temple of Malady – they are paying $8 for NM copies and they only have a handful in stock with a sticker price of $14.99.
- Remember when I said Star City Games only had a few Moxen in stock, and that they were due for a price bump, but then they added over a dozen Moxen back to their stock and they didn’t increase their prices? Well, those all sold in about two weeks and they DID finally increase their prices!!! Want a NM Mox Ruby from SCG? It’ll now cost you a grand. “That’s OK,” you say. “I only need a MP copy to play with.” In the new world of Vintage, that will now cost you $799.99!!! Oh, and by the way, SCG only has 3 Unlimited Moxen left in stock!
- It’s been two weeks since I talked about Vintage price increases. I should mention that Mana Drain is sold out at SCG with a price tag of $199.99. Expect that one to jump. Bazaar of Baghdad had been restocked, but is once again sold out at $399.99. And even though SCG had a MP Black Lotus for sale three years ago for $999.99, they now are sold out of the card altogether and the NM Unlimited price is listed at $3499.99!