Magic finance, like tournament Magic, is a game where proper sequencing and making the most of opportunities is the difference between glory and its opposite. Everything is contextual; a play or a trade can be good or bad as defined by the instant in which it is made.
"Bolt your Elvish Mystic." Awesome on turn one, not so much on turn eight. "I'll trade you four Parallel Lives for a Bonfire of the Damned." Ridiculous deal a few years ago, and the polar opposite today.
The key to Magic finance is choosing the correct opportunity to make a move on the right cards depending what the circumstances are.
The phenomenon called "the summer lull" is and has been an opportunity for savvy Magic financiers to pick up a ton of cards for cheap over the summer months when interest for cards has sort of bottomed out, leaving the values low. However, this time around things have played out a little bit different than usual.
Typically, Standard cards tend to stay low all summer long and don't start to rebound until after the release of the first set of the Fall block when people start needing them for their decks. The release of Magic Origins and the Pro Tour have sort of thrown a monkey wrench into the order of things.
First of all, Origins has turned out to be an absolutely amazing set for MTG financiers. As far as sets go, the prices have been really high--as the demand is large and the supply of packs actually cracked is much lower.
The set is chock full of Standard staples: Hangarback Walker, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and many others lead the way as high-impact, high-demand format staple cards.
The set is good and fun to play with which has kept casual and tournament players locked into attending events all summer long and helped to stave off the summer lull. Having a Pro Tour in the middle of the summer for a good new set also helps to eliminate the lull because it shows players a whole new set of exciting decks, which in turn they want to build and play at FNM.
The most notable way that I can tell the Summer Lull is at an end are the prices on Khans of Tarkir fetchlands. We are only at the beginning of the summer and they have already peaked...
When we look at a comparable card like Thoughtseize (a multiformat staple reprint money card) we realize that it was much lower at this point last year with regard to its trajectory. Thoughtseize started high at $20 and then bottomed out last summer around $7 and then slowly crept back up in value over the course of last year.
Fetchlands started in the high teens, dropped down into the low teens before the summer, and have done nothing but gain value, maxing out in the high twenties already in mid-August!
What does this tell us? Well, it means that people are not in a "Sell, sell, sell!" mode but rather that demand for these popular cards has remained relatively high. It means that whatever evidence of "lull" we've already seen will be rebounding quickly.
My Take of Khans Fetches
I've been saying that Khans fetchlands are too low in value basically ever since the set came out. I know my cards and I can tell you that $15 is not a sustainable price on a Polluted Delta no matter how many got cracked last Fall... The price will rise and rise hard. Thus far with the fetchlands it hasn't been so much a game as a free roll to pick up every single one because prices were clearly too low.
We have finally reached a moment where the finance game on these cards becomes interesting. I'm not so enticed to trade for Polluted Delta with a $30 price tag. In fact, for the short term I think the Khans fetchlands are teetering on the edge of being a "sell." My version of a "sell" is very particular--I would trade them specifically for "old cards" on the Reserve List or very popular and liquid Modern cards.
Here is one scenario that I see playing out in the next few months:
Q: New Zendikar comes out and doesn't have enemy fetch lands? What happens?
A: The price of Khans fetchlands stay high and continue to creep up slowly.
Q: New Zendikar comes out and has reprints of the enemy fetchlands. What happens?
A: People will be scurrying around to pick up the new ones and happy to trade away the old ones in order to get Zendikar fetches. Especially in the circumstance where they have extra Khans fetches they're not using and need Zendikar fetches for their decks.
The later scenario is a strange one because it has lots of little spiraling side effects. For instance, I'm sure the first question that my mock scenario brought to mind is: "Wait, but won't the Zendikar fetches come out of the gate cheap?"
My answer to that is, "Well, relatively cheap considering how expensive they were." A regular rare cycle of a land can't come out of the gate at prerelease weekend higher than $20. The economics just don't work like that. So, yes if Misty Rainforest is in the set it'll be $20 week one.
Here is why I think the Khans fetches are likely to be a short-term sell in this scenario. What person wouldn't want to trade a Wooded Foothills for a Misty Rainforest both in the long and short term?
I think that because the price on the new fetches will be relatively fixed, if they are reprinted it very likely drags the price of the Khans fetches down right with them--at least for a minute or two in the short term. I think it would then be extremely likely that both cycles of fetches creep back up as more sets come out.
I noticed that Dig Through Time followed the same type of trajectory as the fetches and didn't dip over the summer. I think this tells us that Dig Through Time will ultimately end up being one of the solid "money cards" from the set. I'm actively trying to pick these up. I can certainly see a world where this card doesn't need to be banned in Modern at some point down the line--if that happens, look out: $50 card.
All of the Dragonlords are basically dirt cheap. I'm a buy on all of them. They are plain and simple too good to be so inexpensive. The long-term Commander market on most of them will ensure that your money stays well invested.
Planeswalkers are a buy. With Hero's Downfall rotating out in the fall there is a very good chance that there is no efficient way to kill planeswalkers. To the newer players reading this that came in with Theros block: You are spoiled!! Planeswalkers used to be annoying to deal with!!!
Both of the Sarkhans, Narset, Sorin, and Ugin are all cards that could have a much stronger place in Standard when the best deck loses its best answer to them.
While the Summer lull may be on its way out there are still plenty of good deals to be had--just not on the top end, grade A, cards. I still like the little wedge creatures (Mantis Rider, Siege Rhino, Savage Knuckleblade, etc.), and many of the $1 mythics (Empty the Pits, Hooded Hydra and Temporal Trespass).
Keep and eye on these cards. They feel too good to be too cheap forever.
Enjoy the sun and the deals while you can--a Battle for Zendikar is on the horizon.