Insider: [MTGO] Investing in M15 Rares on MTGO

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On my Nine Months of Portfolio Management report about the M14 rares, I was comparing the core set to a fourth large set, being released in July barely two months before the new block comes up and Standard rotates.

After being heavily opened and drafted for only two months, core set supplies dry up as players turn to the new large set coming up in September-October. Consequently, the total supply of core sets is rather low compared to Return to Ravnica or Theros cards. For instance, sets are drafted as RRR or TTT for five months, then a year and a half with the other sets of their corresponding block.

Nonetheless, people are opening a lot of core set packs in a low demand context--the current Standard is about to rotate and a significant part of the MTGO population is not really trying to accumulate Standard cards without knowing what's next with the fall set.

Not really helping to increase to total supply, core sets are also known to rapidly bore drafters.

Historically, prices of most core set rares fall until the end of September and are therefore primed to rebound as rares are incorporated into new Standard decks, ramped up by the Pro Tour results, with a relatively low supply for a large set.

In M14, only Mutavault, Chandra's Phoenix and Imposing Sovereign actually increased in value between the end of M14 release events and the release of Theros.

Today, using M14 rares prices history, I'll discuss the strategy I intend to apply to investing in M15 rares.

Reviewing M14 Rares

The Top Rares

No more than a dozen of M14 rares were worth 1 Tix or more between October 2013 and May 2014. All these rares were part time or full time member of tier 1 Standard decks and I consider them to be top rares. Interestingly enough, all of them were less expensive before the Theros release than in the following four to five months.

Here is the list of these rares:

M14 Top Rares

Scavenging Ooze was the only one that never really took off and tightly fluctuated around 6 Tix to reach a maximum of 8 Tix in April.

Aside from the Ooze, all these rares saw several hundreds percent increases between their lowest and their highest: +350% for Lifebane Zombie, +650% for Chandra's Phoenix and +400% for Mutavault. And some insane +1600% for Imposing Sovereign and a record +4500% for Tidebinder Mage. The Mage was a 0.05 Tix junk rare before reaching 2.5 Tix after Mono Blue Devotion won PT Theros.

To be fair, it's unlikely you have hit these numbers since it is pretty hard to buy cards at their absolute lowest and sell them at their absolute highest. Nonetheless, even selling 30% below their peaks, these percentage are still pretty good.

Another very interesting fact about these eleven M14 rares is that, according to MTG Goldfish graphs, all of them, with the exception of Tidebinder Mage, never touched the bulk rare value of 0.05 Tix before Theros release, Imposing Sovereign being the cheapest at 0.2 Tix by the end of August. Only Ogre Battledriver didn't reach 0.05 Tix before October 2013 and finally finished as a bulk rare.

This is very interesting because it tells me that waiting until mid-September to pick up the core set rares that are still above bulk rare value is an excellent indicator of potential future gains. Even if you have to lose some equity on rares that would be already on the rise, such as Mutavault, Chandra's Phoenix and Imposing Sovereign last year in M14, sifting core set rares this way is most likely to leave you with the premium rares, the ones that have really high chances of increase in value past the release of the fall set.

Applying this strategy retroactively to M14 rares, you would have picked ten winners and only one loser (Ogre Battledriver). You would have also missed Tidebinder Mage. Overall, it would have been largely beneficial.

Bulk & Near Bulk Rares

Beyond these top rares, some bulk or near bulk rares could have yielded a little profit if they had been bought at 0.05 Tix or below. Historically, almost all of them would have represented a loss of Tix. However, if you want to hold the next Tidebinder Mage, you may have to pick up some bulk rares and hope for the best.

Among these bulk rares, Dark Prophecy, Liliana's Reaver, Mindsparker, Path of Bravery and Domestication could have been easily bought at 0.05 Tix and sold later on with a small profit or at least enough to break even.

If I had to pick up bulk rares last year in September, I would have probably picked up Haunted Plate Mail, Trading Post, Awaken the Ancient, Ogre Battledriver or Pyromancer's Gauntlet.

These positions would have been near pure loss. Not a big loss, however. I would have probably been able to buy 50 copies for 2 Tix or less. And if it costs me 10 or 15 tix of bulk rares in exchange of the 80 Tix of profits I make with my 50 copies of Tidebinder Mage, that's a bargain I'm willing to take.

Needless to say, if all my bulk rare bets end up negative, it only takes a fraction of the benefit from the top rares to cover this loss.

Taking Position on M15 Rares

Although I started to write this article before Pro Tour M15 and finished it barely knowing the top 8 decks, my overall strategy remains the same. Although Necromancer's Stockpile, Goblin Rabblemaster and Obelisk of Urd may have been played at the PT, I'm not going to touch any of these right now. Maybe you were able to quick flip them for few extra Tix.

Goblin Rabblemaster jumped from 0.8 Tix last week to 4 Tix this past weekend. Good for him. It will inevitably go down, and sooner rather than later. Remember they are played in Standard decks that will no longer exist in two months, when we still are in a release events period where supply flow is strong.

Based on M14 rares historical data, I plan on waiting until mid-September to make any large move on rares. Only spoilers from Khans of Tarkir having significant and obvious interactions with a M15 rares would make me buy sooner than mid-September.

M15 Top Rares

In my opinion, the following cards are likely to constitute the top rares of M15, meaning they should be valued over 0.2-0.3 Tix by mid-September and would be a must buy then. Off course, these are only my prediction and I'll adapt to whatever this list actually is by mid-September.

Potential M15 top Rares

My strategy will be the following:

  • Mid-September, I'll buy all cards that end up in this top rare list in order to maximize my chances of positive returns and pretty much nullify the possibilities of negative overall profit.
  • I will try to buy an equal amount of Tix of each of these rares up to a limit of 100 to 150 Tix (this amount depend on your bankroll size). Also, I would not buy more than 100 copies of cards, even if I could easily buy 200 copies because the buying price of a given rare is 0.3 Tix (which would make a total of 60 Tix for 200 copies). The reason is that selling high volumes of one given card is tedious and very hard to sell at the top price.
  • I will be ready to hold on to these cards until March-April 2015. After this date, I will be inclined to sell the rares I would be left with, and further opportunities for these rares to spike will be very rare. If a rare doesn't find a deck after several metagame changes and two new sets, it is unlikely that the third KoT set changes everything.
  • Concerning the selling price, 3-5 Tix range seems to be a decent target. Only few core set rares go over 5-6 Tix. Mutavault and Thragtusk were big outliers, and Lifebane Zombie and Phantasmal Image were the only other recent core set rares to reach 10 Tix. If I buy a rare at 0.3 Tix, I'll be very happy to flip it for 2 Tix two months later. Watching the popularity of new decks and how many decks include a new M15 rare may help you decide if you should sell or hold.


Beside these top rares, other M15 rares are likely to be part of some Standard (or other formats) decks but might be priced bulk rare before the end of September. These cards have a good potential but may end up as bulk rares before the end of September. If they hit 0.05 Tix or below I'll be buying 50 to 100 copies of these.

Near Bulk Rares to Watch

Feel free to modify this list according to your own preferences.

Bulk Rares

Finally, bulk rares or bulk rares to be. Some may already be found at 0.05 Tix or below. Very few bulk rares become playable enough that they integrate into popular decks and see a significant price increase. Last year Tidebinder Mage proved us that it is possible.

I would not buy any of these rares at more than 0.05 Tix, and you can probably find them at 0.03 or 0.02 on Goatbots, for instance. Selecting some of these bulk rares is really up to you. Buying 50 copies of a 0.02 Tix card  will only cost you 1 Tix. If one of your bulk rares makes it to 1 Tix, it will cover the investment for all your bulk rares. If this is an interesting gambit for smaller bankrolls, it is like to be a waste of time for bigger bankrolls considering the time invested to buy/sell hundreds of cards for a minimal gain.

Bulk Rare Worth Considering

Concluding Remarks

Similarly to the experiment I made with the M14 mythics last year, I will be "blindly" buying all the M15 rares that are priced over bulk rares in Mid/End-September. If the conclusion drawn from the M14 rares data holds, I will have in my basket way more winners than losers.

I will also pay attention to what I called near bulk rares and probably be buying several dozen copies of these. I'll wait until they hit 0.05 Tix or below. And if they don't drop that low, they will simply be considered top rares.

Finally, I might consider acquiring some true bulk rares, although I'm still undecided if investing in pure bulk rares is worth my time. I guess this question depends on the size of your bankroll.

What do you think about this approach? And what are your predictions for the potential top rares by the end of next September?


Thanks for reading,

Sylvain Lehoux

7 thoughts on “Insider: [MTGO] Investing in M15 Rares on MTGO

  1. Great article. makes me glad i”m paying for premium. One thing I noticed is that most of the rares that “breakout” are 4cmc or lower. I’m going to be doing my buying with that in mind (with the exception of doom engine). It’s just too hard for a card to take up slots reserved for planeswalkers / other haymakers

    1. Hi Yale,

      Thanks for the comments! You’re right about the casting cost, the higher the harder to be played, Doom Engine would be an exception if it retains a high value later on.

      Thragtusk was one of a kind to be that popular with a 5cc. If Doom Engine was created to deal with Elspeth and if Elspeth remains a major Planeswalker post rotation then Doom Engine may have a shot.

  2. Excited to try this strategy when September rolls around. Always tempting to buy in too early, but it’s clear you’ve done the homework and I think you have the timing right.

    1. I’m also exciting about this approach. If the pattern observed in M14 holds in M15 it means that we have to very predictable way to generate Tix with core sets and both with mythics and rares.

      Only time will tell but I’m pretty confident about this. Once again buying a basket of 10 to 15 cards is our best insurance against any big losses. In M14, 10 / 11 rares have yield great profit, even with a lower ratio M15 rares should be profitable.

      The only decision here is estimating the best time to sale. No all card spiked at the same period and not with the same magnitude. When a card rises from 0.2 to 1.5 it’s hard not to sell and to imagine that it could go up to 3-4 Tix.

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