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Insider: Using MTGO to Predict Paper Price Movements

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Modern offers great opportunity for speculation. The vast cardpool offers a cornucopia of options to choose from, and history shows that cards have the potential for extreme price spikes and enormous gains. The sheer size and depth of the format and the market, however, leads to information overload, and selecting specs can feel like throwing darts at a wall.

I like to look towards the Magic Online Modern market to gain insight on what might occur in the paper Modern market. Magic Online players are quick to identify trends and assimilate new information, so if anything is happening in the Modern world, it’s sure to make a blip on the MTGO Modern radar.

I look for cards with prices on the rise, especially cards that have spiked sharply in price over a short time frame. Some price spikes happen online before in paper, and this early warning signal could allow for acquiring paper copies before a spike takes hold. I also like to look for cards that have steadily gained over a longer period of time. If a card has been rising online, but has been holding steady in paper, perhaps a price increase is overdo.

The price movement of a card does not exist in a vacuum. I compare price changes to those of other cards. If I can draw correlations between the movements of various cards, I can identify trends. It’s also important not to make decisions on price information alone. When I take notice of a card, I’ll investigate further into why it may have increased in price, by studying the metagame, tournament results, Magic articles, and even social media.

It’s important to realize that a card rising in online price doesn’t necessarily precede a rise in paper price, and in some cases it could be the opposite, with a lagged MTGO card catching up to a paper spike.

Today, I’ll discuss recent Magic Online Modern price trends that might tip off paper growth for specific cards in the near-future.

Azorius Rising

U/W Control has been on the rise as a competitive Modern archetype. It boasts a strong matchup against grindy midrange decks like Grixis, Abzan, and Jund, an extensive removal suite to combat aggressive decks, and a powerful sideboard with some of the best hate cards in the format.

Some U/W Control staples have seen impressive growth in the past week:


The MTGO price of Supreme Verdict has nearly quadrupled in the past two weeks, but the paper price has remained steady.


The price of Stony Silence spiked two weeks ago, and has continued to slowly grow higher since. The paper price has remained steady all summer long.

Among the U/W Control staples are a few creatures which are seeing extra upward price pressure from the recent success of a new Modern archetype, U/W Blink:


The price of Wall of Omens has increased ten-fold in the past two weeks, but the paper price has been steady for months.


The price of Sun Titan has doubled in the past two weeks, but the paper price has steadily fallen for years; there are many copies in print, but it’s likely due for a bump.

An integral part of the U/W Blink strategy is Emeria, the Sky Ruin.


The online price has increased more than fourfold in the past two weeks. The paper price had been on slow and steady decline, but in the last month steadied out, and now show signs of growth. If the U/W Blink deck takes off, then so will its price. With Battle for Zendikar bringing landfall back into the equation, there is additional potential upside.

Merfolk in the Major Leagues

Merfolk had been a fringe player for the entirety of its lifespan in the format, but in the last couple of months has proven itself as a real contender and potential tier-one archetype. Its staples have been big winners on MTGO in the past week.


Mutavault is a must for Merfolk, and the card has seen around 50% growth in the past two weeks. The paper price saw a 50% increase in price at the beginning of summer, so perhaps MTGO is simply catching up, but the MTGO price under 7 tix still seems like a bargain compared to the paper price of $15 and the all-time MTGO high of over 30 tix.


Cursecatcher has tripled in price in the past two weeks. The paper price spiked by 33% in June, and has slowly grown since. I expect the price of both to slowly grow indefinitely, barring a reprint.


Kira, Great Glass-Spinner bottomed out below 1 tix before nearly doubling, but the MMA printing is still half the price of its all-time high over 3 tix. The paper price has slowly gained since it was printed, and at $10 I expect it will gradually move towards the $20 pricetag the BOK version commanded before reprints.

Modern Masters Staples

Some of the nuts-and-bolts Modern staples that hold the format together have seen impressive gains as of late, and I noticed that cards from Modern Masters 2015 and even the original Modern Masters are on the rise:


Dismember is highly splashable and thus played in a wide variety of archetypes. The online price grew by over in the past week, but the paper price has been stagnant at $1 for months. The paper price of the NPH version was once $1.50, and I expect to see similar 50% paper growth to that price in the coming months.


The price of Spell Snare nearly doubled in the past two weeks, but the paper price has been stable for two months. The card will continue to grow upwards until another reprint.


MTGO MMA2015 Remand has nearly doubled in price in the past week, but the paper price has been in slow and steady decline all summer. It’s overdue for upward movement.

Takeaways

No card is an island, meaning no card exists by itself in a vacuum. Card price movements have to be taken in context, and my analysis this week reveals that cards often move together in groups.

It’s interesting that cards may share similarities but not necessarily move in price at the same time, so if you can identify a trend among a group of cards, it’s possible to get ahead of the market before a card rises. For example, Darkslick Shores gained 47% on Monday, which is unsurprising given the rise of Razorverge Thicket and Blackcleave Cliffs that began over a week earlier.

-Adam

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