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Unlocked Insider: The Current and Future State of Modern

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Modern season has finally arrived, and now all of our cool cards will spike and we’ll be able to make some big money. $100 fetchlands are back and everything else is coming along for the ride.

Yeah, this isn't rebounding soon.
Yeah, this isn't rebounding soon.

Wait, what?

This graph is not alone. Across the board, Modern staples like Restoration Angel or Birthing Pod are actually still dropping in price. How can we explain this, since the notion of “card prices going up in season” has always held true before?

I have a theory. And while it starts with some bad news, it gets better before the end, I promise.

The Run-up

It began with Modern Masters. Demand for Modern cards began to spike. The MTGFinance subreddit also took off and pushed some truly random cards up in price, and like that we were off to the races with Modern prices.

Things finally came to a head in Richmond when fetchlands hit $100. I talked last week about how this was an important mental turning point for people, and it would seem that this sentiment extends beyond just the fetches.

I advised getting rid of fetchlands at the $100 Richmond peak, but I sure didn’t expect the rest of Modern to follow suit and trend downward. This is the first time in modern Magic history that we’ve seen card prices go down in-season. I’ll repeat that: This has never happened before. PTQ seasons used to be very predictable. Extended staples would blossom in the first few weeks of the PTQ season before falling off at the end and for the rest of the calendar year.

The takeaway from the trend this season is that demand for Modern is being driven not by the hardcore PTQ grinder crowd, but by the larger Magic community. That includes players who want to go to a Grand Prix because it’s the big Magic convention that comes around every few years but don’t want to drive across state lines to hit up multiple PTQs.

So I’ll make a bold claim that’s been gnawing at the back of my mind for a couple of months now, even though I’ve pushed it off because it goes against all precedent: Modern prices are not going up anytime soon.

If PTQ season isn’t enough to even stop downward trends, what is enough to make Modern prices rebound? We’ll get to that in a bit, but the important thing for now is the question of how to handle our Modern stock for the next few months.

Like many of you, I have piles of Restos and Pods and Scars fastlands and Kitchen Finks. Four months ago, even amidst the run-up of cards across the board, I thought Modern season would lift all of these. That was the clear time to sell as prices would skyrocket.

Except it hasn’t happened.

Now, maybe it will. Maybe I’m wrong and the market is simply lagging a bit. But I seriously doubt that at this point, and I’m more convinced every day that goes by and MTGStocks doesn’t change.

Sell now.*

Prices on these staples aren’t going up in the next few months. On the contrary, they’re headed lower as we get out of PTQ season and into the rotation waiting game. We’ll see plenty of movement on Standard cards in that time, and all anyone will be talking about is how their cool new deck is insane after rotation or how awesome the mechanics are.

The one thing they won’t be talking about is Modern. And prices are going to feel it.

Now for the *

There won’t be a freefall. The bottom isn’t sinking beneath us. But the tide has stopped rising, and that means we won’t be seeing the growth we want. Prices will continue to drift downward without tanking, and it’s probably not a great idea to sell off your entire Pod deck with the expectation of it being half the price six months from now because I told you it was time to sell.

No, what I’m talking about instead are those borderline Modern specs. The Serum Visions. The Inquisition of Kozilek. The Kitchen Finks and Tectonic Edges.

The reason comes down to opportunity cost. You will be able to reacquire these cards in six months at prices lower than current numbers(^), so there’s nothing wrong with taking your profits and having that money available for the typical rotation plays.

And if you haven’t, you should most definitely sell your fetchlands.

Now the ^ and the Future of Modern

I don’t want all that to come off as doom and gloom; it’s simply how I see the market right now. So let’s move onto some happier news.

First, Modern is not dying. The format is great, Wizards continues to support it, players continue to play it and that’s not changing. But it is in a lull for the next few months, until the next catalyst for growth comes along.

Which is where the ^ comes in. In terms of newfound growth, there are exactly two things that will make this happen. The first is the announcement/release of Modern Masters 2. I think we can be reasonably confident it’s going to happen, and I’ve always pinpointed summer 2015 as the time period where that is likely to happen.

The second is obvious, and possibly connected: the reprinting of fetchlands.

This could be in Modern Masters 2. It could be in a Standard-legal set. I don’t know where or when it’s going to happen, but if they do to fetches what they did to shocks (and I expect them to), Modern will explode again. That’s when you pick up all those specs again, because stuff like Restoration Angel or Path to Exile or Spell Snare or Razorverge Thicket will be along for the ride.

Going off of what Aaron Forsythe said of my podcast, Brainstorm Brewery (Sig covered it well here), I expect that to come sometime next year. If they surprise us and it’s in the fall set, then I’m sorry in advance for telling you these cards will be cheaper in six months. But hey, at least I included a ^ to hedge!

Anyway, we’re all speculating here of course; I’m simply confident in how I’m reading the market and know that I’m right there alongside you.

An Action Plan

Here’s how I plan on handling Modern cards at my store for the next year.

  • Try to actively sell the current crop of Modern staples that are at a medium-term peak over the next few months. Don’t buy more aggressively.
  • Come rotation when everyone else is worrying about Standard, I want in on Modern staples again, which I believe will be at a lower price point than currently.
  • When the next catalyst comes, aggressively buy staples across the board.
  • A year from now (or longer, if Wizards is that slow)? Profit.

That’s where my head is at right now. What about you?

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

16 thoughts on “Unlocked Insider: The Current and Future State of Modern

  1. I admire your bold claims. Sometimes my articles are too wishy washy but yours is clear and actionable. For this, I applaud you. (Oh, and also appreciate the mention 🙂 )

    Here’s the constructive part: do you think it’s possibly too soon to claim Modern isn’t going up? Modern PTQ’s have JUST begun. They’ll be going on for months. Maybe local Modern FNM’s will pick up because people will want to test. Maybe more people will talk about Modern because it’s their ticket to the next Pro Tour. I just wonder if it’s too early to say there will be no PTQ spike.

    Also, I expect SOME cards to go up at least. Not fetches. Maybe not the ones that overshot on the high end a while back. But there may be some that do move. I still think Fast Lands can fall into this category because they’re not very expensive yet.

    Wishful thinking may be clouding my assessment here, but I don’t think I want to just bail on Modern just yet. I may wait a month. I don’t think things will drop in the next month, that’s for sure. Demand is only increasing now and supply is definitely flat.

    That’s my initial reaction to your article. I definitely think Modern is a sell this season, but I was aiming towards the middle of the season (call it end July) rather than the very beginning. Interested in hearing your thoughts on my slightly modified approach.

    Thanks,

    Sig

    1. Yeah, I think there’s a few weeks of a window to wait and see if things begin to reverse. But historically prices have been trending up at this time of the season, not down. Hard to see that changing.

  2. I think its possible that the heavy spec on modern may have damaged the market somewhat. When people who weren’t in modern already saw fetches at $100, they balked and said “I guess I’ll wait until they reprint the fetches before I start playing modern.” For me, legacy was just out of reach for years until I started making a serious income. I think a lot of the staples in modern are being held by people like us, and that its actually driving demand to play modern down because people just think the prices are absurd. If the market starts to flood with people selling their staples rather than holding them on spec, and prices come down, we might see an uptick in demand. Whether that means the prices will go back up again is another question. Anyway, its definitely troubling that this month was supposed to be our dancing days, and instead we’re left watching downward trends. Something went seriously wrong with our prediction of the market, and I think it might be that we forgot to factor in ourselves.

      1. Yeah, I wouldn’t say I’m upset about it. Merely interested in the extent to which speculators are economists, we should factor our own influence into our predictions of the market.

  3. This is my first “season” since I have been seriously starting to spec and I have to say Corbin I applaud you for writing this article and it shows you have some moxie. It felt like the calm before a storm with modern season approaching and I kept hearing your “10% for the other guy” advice in my head and dumped my fetches and staples. Now let see if the storm unleashes or fades into the horizon. My vote is “gentle steady rain until rotation”. 🙂

    Also great work on the BSB Podcast and your all writing, thanks for your time and hard work.

  4. This article scares me just a bit. The reason? It just sounds right! LOL. I, like Justin^ am entering my first season of speculation on a format. I have an entire Pro-Binder full of Man Lands, Shock Lands, Fast Lands, Pods, Restoration Angels, etc. that were acquired in the hopes that they would spike right about now. And they haven’t. This isn’t scaring me at all though. I mean, look at the cards that I just rambled off. How could it ever be a bad thing to have 360 of these lying around after having picked them up at what I still feel are bargain basement prices? My theory on it is this: While this binder of spec that I have is a lot of money tied up in cards that aren’t moving right this second, they still make up a relatively small portion of my overall investment. I can sit on these cards, feeling pretty secure in their long term value, and not have to pick them up again when the next catalyst hits. This will help me to avoid the rush of MTG finance folks trying to grab these all at once. I really, really, really hope that you are wrong about this, but I just don’t feel like you are. Great article, great to see a writer speak it out loud, thank you!

  5. I actually was making a similar prediction a couple weeks after all the modern cards spiked. At the time I had been a little disconnected with magic community but still followed trends on the internet.
    I asked a few local finance savvy guys, like myself, what they thought of the early spike. They assumed it was everyone trying to get ahead of the game. From that i made the statement that when PTQ season hit there wouldn’t be another spike. Everyone disagreed with me saying the trend is only up up up. I tried to point out how modern decks were reaching legacy pricing and the the spikes may be mostly players and speculators buying cards which means less demand and more supply when the season starts.
    Everything i said fell on deaf ears. The only cards to sell in there minds were fetches due to the 100 dollar “mind” break point. I was a bit timid myself but still trusted my gut enough to sell off some cards i felt were well over priced and in danger of a reprint in a core set. Ensnaring bridge was my first card i picked just cause it feels like it could easily be in a core set. birthing pod due to possible banning of it, or key part to deck, celestial colonnade price just seemed to much for play it sees, and fetches of course.

  6. That the printing of more fetches will cause modern staples to go up (at least those that aren’t simultaneously reprinted — so this matters more if we see fetches before MM2) is a very nice point. I’ve sold much of my modern specs over last few months, but I’ll be looking to selectively pick things up again after this modern season.

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