Khans of Tarkir was the most sold set in Magic history. As we all know, the inclusion of allied fetchlands and consequent introduction of these cards to Modern bolstered sales substantially. With the announcement of Zendikar Expeditions and the hype surrounding them, we can expect that Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) will also be a wildly popular set.
With Khans, the fetches were in the regular rare slot, and as such they consumed most of the value of the set. With BFZ, many boxes won't contain even a single Expedition, but the the lottery aspect will still cause players to buy product and consequently drive prices down in a more general sense. It would take a pretty disappointing set outside of the Expeditions to diminish the hype from the Expeditions alone, and as such I expect price trends for BFZ to closely resemble those of Khans. If you look at Khans prices now, you can see this means there won't be a lot of value in the set.
So How Do We Profit?
While prices of cards in Khans are low now, that wasn't always the case and soon enough we will see how much the prices can recover from the damage of being featured in the game's most popular set. What we do know for certain is that the fetchlands have long-term potential, and indeed they have already started showing healthy gains.
There are other cards that are poised to gain value from Khans, but we'll have plenty of time to think about long-term holds from BFZ. What we learned from Khans was that even in a set where the value of the set is projected to tank, there is still the potential for some great quick flips. Let's take a look at some of the early winners from Khans and how we might be able to capitalize on this data for BFZ.
Sarkhan pre-ordered in the $15-20 range, and saw early success in Standard in the hands of Kevin Jones. There was a window where this card fetched $35+, which might be hard to believe when you consider that the card is doing nothing right now and is currently worth about $5. Holding onto these guys has been a bad position ever since the initial spike, but for a brief period there was money here.
This makes me think that there's money to be made pre-ordering the new Gideon as a quick-flip.
By now we should be able to look at Gideon and understand that he is a very powerful card. Much like with Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, it's not uncommon to see great cards win in a new format even if the deck they find themselves in doesn't end up being a pillar of the format. I'd be a little shocked if we didn't see at least four Gideon in the Top 8 of the first SCG Open after BFZ launches, even if they round out a horrible deck.
The point is that this card has a lopsided impact on games relative to other cards and that a single week of success early on drives hype. If and when this happens, expect a spike.
Completed listings for Gideon on eBay show a number of sets going for $20 a piece, with some lucky bidders ending closer to $15 a piece. If you can land a couple sets near that $15 mark, I expect you'll be able to nearly double-up on this card in the short term.
These cards were all solid short-term gainers when Khans launched, with Dig Through Time exploding from $1-2 to $10. The common link here was that all of these cards were minimally Modern playable, with bannings pushing Dig straight out of Modern and the banning of Treasure Cruise functionally removing Jeskai Ascendancy from the format.
Eventually, a reprint of Siege Rhino and bannings caught up with these cards with regard to eternal demand, but even still it's important to note that these cards were seeing Standard success in addition to eternal play. It's unclear if there will be much in the way of Modern playables in BFZ, but even if they do show up it's important to note that in-print Modern staples don't see nearly the bump that older staples do. Even the Modern staples will see a decrease in price initially before a great time to buy in emerges--usually around when the card rotates out of Standard.
These cards were great buys on pre-order, but the most profit was made by those looking to flip them, not hold them for Modern. The bannings and reprint confound this point, but I think we all understand that supply came crashing down on Siege Rhino before it was ever reprinted.
These guys saw their gains exclusively from Standard, and we can see from their price graphs how that panned out for them. Both cards started off at $1-2 and saw huge gains to the $5-7 range. The potential to profit was there, if only briefly.
I don't think it's wise to try to pick the next Rider or Ancient before it happens. I believe that these are the types of cards you want to see spike, and then sell from whatever product you've opened or cherry pick from stores that haven't adjusted their prices yet. Otherwise you could end up investing in cards like this:
Savage Knuckleblade pre-ordered a bit higher than the above cards, but that's because people were so sure it was going to be a hit. It still might pick up, but people who are going to profit off of this card are buying them now in preparation for rotation, not to try to hit on an early penny stock from a very hyped set.
For BFZ, my plan is to mostly ignore the singles market. The exceptions are I like buying Gideons right now, and I'm going to pay attention to early gainers and try to pick them up and flip them immediately. I'll keep my eyes out for other generally undervalued cards, but as we all know those are becoming rarer all the time.
Lastly, I would hope that we all understand that the Expeditions are going to be great long-term holds. I'm still not sure what kind of prices we can expect on these cards, but I can't imagine they'll avoid a drop in the short term after the set launches. Then, much like Khans fetches I would recommend getting your hands on a bunch of these.
I would guess that they'll be pretty expensive even after they come down, but if you have a pile of money that you're sitting on I can think of a lot of worse ways to invest it. Clearly they're terrible picks for diversifying your portfolio and liquidity, so I guess these will mostly be a rich get richer type investment.