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Insider: The Vintage Masters Free Fall

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This week's Insider article was unlocked, and focused on drafting Vintage Masters. If you are looking for a quick guide to the format, check it out here. We also wanted to make sure our Insiders got some quality financial information on what has been a seismic shift in the MTGO economy so this is a bonus Insider supplement.

When they first hit the market, the Power 9 (P9) were under-priced and quickly gained in value. Things swung in the other direction as the market overheated. These price swings, driven not by real demand but by speculation and "fear of missing out," reinforce the importance of doing your homework and being prepared with target prices.

If you timed the market right you could have doubled your money and gotten out before Vintage Masters drafts exploded and dropped the floor out from under the market. On the other hand, if you sat this one out I don't blame you--there is a great deal of uncertainty in the market and I spoke to more than one savvy trader who lost tix because prices fell faster than expected.

It has been pretty remarkable to see--I don't think Wizards was looking to create this kind of volatility.

Based on my last article here, I argued  we should be prepared for a steep drop, especially on rares. However the VMA drop has been faster and steeper than even Modern Masters.

Jace is 17 tix. Tundra is 12. Savannah, a dual land that sees play, is under 5.

Lion's Eye Diamond, which was recently the most expensive card in Magic Online, can be purchased for 14 tix. I could go on...


When things stabilize there will be some really good buying opportunities. But where is the floor? We are in uncharted territory because we don't know the viability of Vintage and Legacy as online formats and because there is no redemption to soak up excess supply.

In addition, the number of MTGO users this week skyrocketed and drafts were firing like crazy. Yesterday Matt Lewis noted in the forums a total of 7,500 users in tournaments--that's 50% more from what we saw during JOU release events.

As of Friday, 11pm PT, here were the Power 9 prices from Goatbots (note: not all are in stock)

Black Lotus: 150/190 (0 in stock)
Mox Sapphire: 80/105 (0 in stock)
Time Walk: 80/105 (2 in stock)
Ancestral Recall: 78/98   (1)
Mox Pearl: 78/98   (1)
Mox Jet: 77/97   (1)
Mox Ruby: 74/94   (2)
Mox Emerald: 71/91   (2)
Timetwister: 43/58   (3)

One hour after I posted those prices they were already out of date--in one hour they dropped by 10% again. But since then they appear to have stabilized at that price for now.

Where Do We Stand?

  • Total buy price for P9 is 630 tix. That's lower than the our estimated range based on the EV calculations. The "equilibrium" prices based on what it takes to open a full set of Power 9 and accompanying mythics and rares approached $2725. If Power accounts for between one third to one half of the total value of the set the P9 should go for between 900 to 1350 tix.
  • This suggests that the Power 9 are currently underpriced, though it is too early to make that judgment since there are a lot of variables at play. There is very low supply on these cards and the market could decide overnight that they are worth more than current prices.
  • Sustaining high prices requires demand from players and collectors. So far demand for these VMA cards has been weak (in part because prices keep falling; potential buyers say to themselves "why buy now when you can buy later?" Wizards has said they will continue running the set until September.)
  • The EV of VMA fell hard and is now pretty awful, but there's no sign players are slowing down their drafting. Eventually people will lose interest and move to other formats, since 25-tix drafts that offer little hope of paying for themselves get frustrating. In the meantime, each draft floods the market with new supply.
  • Based on how many events are firing it would be possible to calculate how many P9 have entered the market. I haven't tracked that data, but it would sure be interesting to know. But record numbers of users appear to be online.
  • As we saw last week, Modern Masters bottomed out after about 72 hours; many cards continued to slip, but most of the drop happened early on. I would expect a similar pattern here.
  • At some point, I am expecting a "bounce" in the P9, similar to what we saw with top-end mythics like Tarmogoyf and Vendilion Clique in MMA. These P9 cards are quite scarce. We may also see a bounce in key mythics from VMA.
  • In the long run, these cards will regain much of their value (someday each of us is going to look back and say "I remember when I could have bought a Black Lotus for 150!") I expect that today's prices will seem like a very good buy in the long term, but they could go lower still. I have picked up a few good pieces at what I felt were good prices but have yet to fully "buy in".
  • Affordable prices on reprinted Legacy staples is good for the growth of Legacy on MTGO, and could lead to continued growth of Legacy staples that were not reprinted (e.g. Wasteland, Onslaught fetches, etc).

What to Do?

  • Keep your powder dry: As we predicted last week, prices on rares seem too good to believe, but should continue to fall for the next few days. Next weekend would be a good time to buy in.
  • Limit your drafts: These things have become highly negative EV. You are bleeding tix if you enter them. If you really enjoy the format, go for it. But be careful not to overextend.
  • Watch the spreads at sites that show you buy and sell prices, like Goatbots. Wide spreads suggest uncertainty. Narrowing spreads suggest that the price of a card is being established.
  • Don't sell if you don't have to: The spreads are wide enough that it makes sense to hold unless you get a good offer (e.g. in the classifieds.)

Thoughts on the Market More Broadly

  • We are entering a liquidity crunch as people sell off boosters and singles to pay for VMA drafts. Each draft consumes a lot of resources, but they continue to fire.
  • Boosters have taken a hit as people are selling off for VMA. Theros is below 2.5 again. I sold some of my stash when it reached 2.85, but am still holding most of my supply. This is a tricky one, since if they revise the payouts to favor JOU (which is in even worse shape at 1.86) then THS will drop further. At the same time, the long term trajectory for this booster should be sound.
  • Last year, MMA marked the swan song for rotating cards. They never regained their value. Prices are low, but it's probably not getting any better.
  • Certain Modern and Legacy cards could be value picks, despite an overall downward trend during VMA release events. Life from the Loam is attractive at 1.7 (down from 4.5 in early May.) Past in Flames continues its flashback slide and is quite attractive at 13.8 (down from 20s). Gitaxian Probe has been on a yo-yo between 1 tix and 0.5 tix; currently it's looking back at 0.5 and a pretty good pickup.
  • Thalia, mentioned last week, has bounced back from 2 tix to 3 tix. If you picked up Tectonic Edge at 0.6 you have seen a double up there. Torpor Orb is up from 3 to 5. These may be good sells.
  • The v3 shutdown is still looming. Be careful to manage your portfolio and don't get holding a bunch of cards you aren't playing or actively targeting for speculation, since there is a good chance of a significant market pullback in July.

Now Time for a Contest

Who can guess the price of a Black Lotus on July 1?

The rules:

  • All entries must be posted in the comment section below. For example: "Thoughtlaced: 150". You can only use whole numbers and can't guess a number that someone else has guessed.
  • All entries must be received by midnight Pacific Time (US) on Monday, June 16. (Just to be clear, that's Tuesday morning at 3:00 for ET US and early morning Tuesday for Europe)
  • For the purpose of this contest, the official price is the price listed on MTGGoldfish for July 1. Whoever is closest to that price will win.
  • The winner will receive a pack of Vintage Masters from me and acclaim from your fellow speculators.

35 thoughts on “Insider: The Vintage Masters Free Fall

  1. As of Sunday morning goatbots buy prices are down to 540 for the full Power 9. It’s getting down into an attractive price range. Follow the forums for updates.

  2. One other way to think about large buy/sell spreads is as a signal for low volume. Standard staples tend to have small spreads due to lots of competition and a popular format. The converse holds too I think.

    mattlewis: I got 99 tix but not a black lotus!

  3. Waiting for the floor on THS block and looking to cash in on set redemption, as I think the sell off has THS, BNG, and JOU at 30% undervalue. Then maybe some dual lands.

    beaneau: 106

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