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Insider: The Curious Case of Impending Reprints – Edited

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M:tG finance is pattern recognition.

Some calls that the Magic finance community makes seem downright prescient at times; akin to some manner of sorcery. However, there is no money to be made long-term in guessing or gambling (the house always wins, after all). We aren't in the business of consulting crystal balls.

What we do isn't sorcery, but closer to an enchantment--permanent, sustainable, dependable. Turn after turn we get the same effect and we learn to rely on it. The problem is that a minority of a minority of Magic players are interested in Magic finance for more than 15 minutes at a time.

The Magic Finance subreddit is finally big enough that people from outside the finance community are finding it and using it as their personal Yahoo Answers page.

"Hai guise, I opened a foil Mana Confluence in a pack. Shud I sell it or put it in mai bicycle spokes."

They've never cared about finance before and after their question is answered they won't again. Let's be clear, I'm not condemning that kind of attitude. Far from it. The finance community is sustainable because it's a niche within a niche. It persists because most people are bad at it, and only involved in the finance community without their knowledge.

They keep stores in business by paying too much for singles. They help booster cases sell at the prerelease by overpaying on preorder singles because they want to play with the cards now. They buy cards for the price they are the exact moment they realize they need them because that is how "need" works.

I am glad most people don't care about finance. It's fun and addictive and the game would suffer if too many people peeked behind the curtain and decided it is more fun to be on the other side of the buy mat. But not caring about finance creates a pretty big blind spot for people wherein they don't realize things are cyclical.

But the times, they are a changin'.

Notable Exceptions

M13 was an expansion set for the card game of ours. It came and went mostly without incident, but the set caused a bit of a stir when a card was spoiled that had a particular keyword ability.

Nefarox spoiled exalted as a keyword and immediately people began to question whether Noble Hierarch, a card flirting with half a bill, was on the reprint slate. Arguments began to form online with some saying that this was the perfect opportunity to reprint the plucky Druid and others saying its shard-colored identity was a discouraging factor. The price of Hierarch moved around a bit as people tried to predict what manner of wacky shenanigans Wizards had planned.

On a related note, Plummet was the very, very last card spoiled for M13. Could it be because they wanted the speculation to go on? Well done, Wizards, if that's the case. The spoiling of Nefarox heralded exalted cards in two colors only and Hierarch's price rebounded. People who lost money or arguments were gun-shy for next time.

And Today...

We had a new Nefarox...

...but the debate was the same.

Chord of Calling in M15?

Some said, "Well obviously, yes," while others mocked them by saying, "and two years ago exalted meant obviously we were getting Hierarch," and the fight went on until it was settled rather conclusively.

chordofcalling

Well that's conclusive.

People rushed to buylist their copies that they held onto after the announcement of convoke. Interestingly enough, I took my cue from the dealer community. Buylist prices really didn't go down all that much on Chord, so they either weren't paying attention or they weren't all that convinced that Chord was getting a reprint.

Buylist prices are down precipitously in the past 24 hours, but if you're hoping to ship before they go down on paper, good luck with that. I don't expect buylists to honor the pre-announcement price. You gambled and lost. What we can hope for is ubiquity in Standard to buoy its price a bit.

I said on the free side that Thoughtseize was a pretty bad corollary, but for the hell of it, let's look at a price graph for Thoughtseize anyway.

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Edit- I'm including the Theros graph here as well.

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We have a minor dip when the card was spoiled in Theros and it rebounded, only to later do its best impression of Bitcoin prices.

Will Chord see as much play in Standard as Thoughtseize? If it doesn't, expect the price trajectory to be even more of a bloody massacre, and also remember there are more copies of Lorwyn Thoughtseize out there confusing prices than copies of Ravnica Chord of Calling.

So what is different this time?

Well, Wizards has a very new attitude about reprinting things to keep Modern accessible. Hierarch wasn't a priority reprint target, printing stuff for Modern wasn't a priority at the time like it is now, and everything Hierarch reprint deniers said at the time was true. It would be clunky to reprint a shard creature in a core set with no shard cards apart from Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. There were no other exalted cards evident in colors other than white and black.

This time, there were fewer reservations about Chord since green exalted spells were evident, and a good number of them reprints from Ravnica to boot. Not only that, but the best argument this time was mostly, "Yeah, well last time they didn't reprint Hierarch when we thought they would," which is a flimsy shield against reality.

What do we do now?

Chord still has a long way to go down. People will want copies immediately, so try to ship them to players before the supply goes nuts.

Interestingly enough, people who don't like the new foil bling on the card may want the old-border copies. Currently, Lorwyn Thoughtseize commands a 100% price increase over Theros. With fewer Chords out there, we could see an even better premium.

It's too late to benefit by shipping hastily and I don't expect dealers to honor the price on their online buylist by the time your copies arrive, especially with so many people shipping. Save the postage. If we'd known when people were still at GP DC, they could have shipped copies in person, but no dealer is liable to accept copies now. I wonder if the spoiler was updated late Sunday night for this reason.

So what else is behaving oddly?

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That's an increase. In fact, Apocalypse copies of Shivan Reef are up 16% since after the announcement of the card's impending reprinting. 9th Edition copies are up 4%. This is odd behavior.

I would expect Llanowar Wastes to go up, and it did, from $2ish to $8. Remember how I--accidentally, let's be honest--said to buy Wastes and Coast a few weeks back? I didn't anticipate this, but I hope a few of you did. Reef going up from above $8 is indeed odd since its price was probably inflated due to overstated Modern demand. Do we expect the lands to be so ubiquitous in Standard once the Ravnica shocks rotate?

All of that really depends on Khans of Tarkir, because we're going to have the biggest block focusing on mono-colored devotion. Not only that, without "cheater" cards like Boros Reckoner and Nightveil Specter, devotion will be an all-in proposition.

Is the $8ish we see for Ravnica shocks--printed twice, used heavily in Modern due to their fetchability (Spell check refuses to admit this is a word) and in EDH and cube for the same reason--really a good predictor of a card like Yavimaya Coast with little Modern applicability, tepid EDH demand and four printings?

If you have Wastes, dump for as close to $8 as you can, because I think that's ludicrous. I expect these to be much closer to $5 when they plateau. $2 into $5 is still solid, but I don't think the price trajectory of Ravnica shocks is a good predictor of painlands. I'd dump any I had and wait to pick them up again for cheaper if I wanted to play with them.

Something That's Bothering Me

I truly believe what I'm saying about painlands, but something is bothering me. People seem to be okay paying $8 for a stupid Llanowar Wastes.

Let's be honest--there is no reason for Shivan Reef to be anywhere close to $10. It gets play in a Modern deck that frankly not a ton of people are playing and there are three printings' worth of the stupid things lying around. This entire situation is reminding me of another curious case.

Untitled

This card still appears to be inching up on TCG Player and is pretty firm at $20 on Star City.

The gentle decline you see is people gradually lowering their expectations of Food Chain. It was a fun card to spec on when they spoiled Misthollow Griffin and the deck is fun but it has managed one SCG Open Top 8 in three years.

EDH demand wasn't enough to keep this from getting over $5 despite how good it is in Prossh, Skyraider of Kher and Maelstrom Wanderer decks. Casual demand is non-existent. No one who was playing this deck before that one measly Top 8 is playing it now.

Yet when I suggested this would go back down right away after the stupid blip from that one good finish at an event with 112 players, people went so far as to suggest that I fundamentally did not understand the concept of supply and demand.

You know what's keeping this price up, in my view? The only difference between Food Chain's spike in 2011 and the one in 2014. Individual sellers on TCG Player.

While copies of this were forgotten in boxes and dredged out after the initial spike, copies were concentrated heavily in the hands of stores. When they didn't sell because no one is building the stupid Food Chain deck, the price trickled downward. Prices are stickier now because with so many individual sellers, a lot more decisions need to be made before a price collectively goes down.

While 100 copies on SCG will go down together when SCG lowers the price from $18 to $16, 100 copies in the hands of 40 different sellers won't go down as quickly. People forget they have one copy for sale. They don't see anyone else moving their prices. And the fact that the cards aren't moving means no one is reminded about the card.

Copies being diffused among so many dealers has created less of an impetus for prices to come down once they're up, and Food Chain is a particularly old card. When someone does break down and buy a copy for EDH, they buy the cheapest one, driving the average TCG Player price up a bit.

This is my belief. I think the situation is a bit more complicated than people who dismissively claim supply is capped and demand is forcing prices up. I don't see a demand, and I see a 33% spread on the card, which indicates no one is out of stock.

SCG and other stores are in no hurry to lower prices because they are high everywhere and it took two years for the price to level off at twice its pre-spike price and it's been a matter of months now. We're in for a long haul, and EDH demand may increase in the meantime to buoy the price. I'm afraid situations like this are the new normal.

So what does that mean for painlands?

I think once a ton of individual sellers all list their two or three copies of Llanowar Wastes for $8, there will be a slow race to the bottom, but if you think for a second that Star City is going to price theirs at a penny less than TCG High, you're insane. This feedback loop threatens to keep the price high irrespective of actual supply and demand.

The market was too saturated by copies of shocks to maintain a crazy price like $20, but people seem okay playing $10 for a land card they need, and Khans may stretch manabases, making people lean on painlands. Will M15 sell enough to keep the market supplied with painlands? It took shocklands being put in boosters for an additional set to really calm those prices down.

Could we see painlands maintain $8 plus? I don't have any evidence for it, just a vague fear that what we saw with Food Chain could influence how prices behave in the future. I feel like the painlands are $5 cards. Whether the market agrees with me remains to be seen.

7 thoughts on “Insider: The Curious Case of Impending Reprints – Edited

  1. Great article, Jason. I feel Painlands are all silly expensive now. I understand that Standard demand will be very high, but I have to believe supply will keep up. Plus, you know, the fact that these have been printed four times!

    As for buy listing Chord, I was a late-to-the-party buylister – just submitted my set to ABU Games for $22 (NM) and $18 (Pld). My few data points on ABU tell me they will honor this buy price. They had all day to react to the news so if they are still paying $20 for this card then that should reflect what they’re truly thinking it is worth. If they are unable to react to spoilers within 12 hours given that the internet is ubiquitous, then they need to invest in better price management. But hopefully they honor the price.

    And in reality, Ravnica Chords WILL probably stay at like $20 retail because of the old frame/print run. I’m not an aesthetic guy so I’m happy to play with ugly, new copies that cost me $8. 🙂

  2. Thanks for always taking the time to extrapolate on your thoughts and points, I’ve found your articles extremely helpful and insightful.

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