Since Expeditions were announced, I have been intrigued by the financial implications of their existence. There were so many questions about how they would affect the other cards in the set and what their price trajectory would look like. This is a topic that has drastically impacted the financial landscape of Standard.
Let’s start with the note I wrote to myself tagged to the buylist I manage every week.
“Mental note – Expeditions may make these prices tank so be careful with buy prices. If we see our inventory high with certain cards, we need to lower the buy price, especially at the low end.”
This note has been on my buylist since before the set was released and I added it to the Oath of the Gatewatch buylist as well. Think about it as a post-it note that I see when I pull up the buylist and that will put you in the right frame of mind.
Was this hesitancy necessary? I would say an emphatic yes to that question. My evidence to support the claim is Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. These are the only two valuable cards in the set and they can still be purchased for under $20 each.
After those two cards you have Drana, Liberator of Malakir and Ob Nixilis Reignited who can double the price of the pack you purchased. Then, you are left with about ten cards that equal the price of a pack. All the rest of the cards in the set are worth less than the cost of a single pack. So, if you hadn’t noticed, the Expeditions have truly had an impact on the financial state of Battle for Zendikar.
Even with how the price of singles has tanked, I was still wondering today if opening cases of Battle for Zendikar could be a profitable endeavor or not. The reason for that thought was due to a price analysis of the Expeditions that I was doing. Rather than doing a quick summary of the process, I thought I would go into a little more detail.
What I found was something of a pattern emerging with the Expeditions. These lands are breaking up into groups according to their price. At first I thought that the lands from each set would follow a similar pattern. As it turns out, the two patterns fit into each other and do not mirror each other.
This ends up being unfortunate for the Oath cycle because they didn’t reach the price peak expected of them. Obviously players want fetches and shocks more than filters and random lands, but it was hard to predict the magnitude of the difference before the new crop was released.
In each category, I will show you which lands are included, their current price, and where I think prices will go.
For pricing cards like these, I always use a number in between TCG Mid and Low. Often times the low value is due to a damaged card but not always. Unlike with other cards, the low value represents what the card actually sells for.
This is a pricing strategy I use when I’m dealing with rare cards like this because players are often only looking for one copy of a card. For Standard cards you need a play set so the low value typically doesn’t work well.
Tier 1 ($150 - 250)
This tier consists of all the blue fetches plus Verdant Catacombs and Wasteland. I think we all predicted that the blue fetches would be the more desirable lands from Battle for Zendikar and that Wasteland would be the tip of the iceberg for Oath of the Gatewatch. The blue fetches should see even more gains in the future because they will be sought after by so many players.
Wasteland is the card I would be wary about from this category. With a set foil printing in Eternal Masters forthcoming, I think we could see the other Wasteland foils decrease in value.
It is possible that the new copies will just increase overall demand though. That is what happened with the other foil printings of Wasteland, but there should be more foil Wastelands from Eternal Masters than the other printings. It also has alternate art so that could factor into the price as well.
Let’s not forget about Verdant Catacombs as well. The green-black fetchland is still highly played, which is why we find it in this top category. Players love their Rock-style decks, and Verdant fits perfectly into that strategy as well as many others, like Infect. Verdant won’t keep pace with the others in this category, but it won’t be far behind either.
Tier 2 ($100 - 125)
The main feature of our second category is the other half of the fetchland cycle. I found it quite thought-provoking that more of the Oath Expeditions were not in each of the top two groups, but that goes to show you how valued the fetchlands are over other lands. Due to its abundance of play in Modern, Steam Vents also lands itself in this category. As the most played shock land, this is not surprising.
The other land found here is Horizon Canopy, due to it drastically high set foil value above $150. This unique green-white land finds a variety of homes in Modern, but is out of favor right now due to the dominance of Eldrazi. Death and Taxes style decks are quite popular and this land is a staple in the Modern versions.
This is also one of the lands I would expect to be most hurt in the future. A reprint seems inevitable in the long term and if there’s a set foil lower than the original printing, that should help mitigate the price discrepancy.
Eye of Ugin is hanging on barely to its group here, but with the downward trend it may be in the next tier before long. I suspect that players are foretelling this land's impending doom at the beginning of April. Even if it doesn't get the ban hammer and Eldrazi Temple does, the viability of this card's main deck in Modern will disappear quickly.
If we see this land drop even further, I would highly recommend it as an investment. The Legacy Eldrazi deck is real and quite viable in that format. Investing in a low-print foil like this is exactly how you take advantage of the demand for Legacy foils.
I for one love playing Eldrazi and although jumping onto a popular deck isn't my typical drink of choice, in this case I'm definitely on board. Who knows, I may actually pick up the Legacy cards and give that format a shot again.
Playing a workshop style deck has been on my to-do list for a while now, and Eye of Ugin plus Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth functions so similarly to Mishra's Workshop that you can hardly tell the difference. I'm sure other players have been waiting for this style of deck to be better positioned in the meta for a while as well.
Tier 3 ($60 - 75)
Despite there being a drastic difference in the playability of the different shock lands, they are all here discounting the most popular one. Over time, I would expect this group to spread out in price. Some of the less sought-after ones will stay in this range, while the more ubiquitous ones should definitely increase.
Of the shock lands, I would have expected Breeding Pool, Overgrown Tomb, and Stomping Ground as well as possibly Sacred Foundry to be sold at a higher rate than the others in the group. All four of these are major parts of the mana bases of the most played decks.
Breeding Pool is a feature of Infect and Scapeshift, Overgrown Tomb shows up in all of the midrange decks like Jund as well as Abzan, and Stomping Ground and Sacred Foundry help all the aggressive decks like Zoo and Burn. For these reasons, I would invest in these dual lands above the others in the group.
Due to the nature of the Modern format where mana bases are built around fetching the appropriate shock land, the fetches themselves will always be more valuable because they see play as four copies whereas the shocks can be included at a lower rate.
After the fetchlands, Ancient Tomb seems to be one of the best cards of the total group. Similar to Wasteland, the Sol land gets a ton of play in the same formats that make it so valuable. We see both of these regularly showing up in Legacy, Commander and cubes.
I expect this to be one of the lands that grows the most over time. Not only does it have amazing artwork, but it will be sought after for players porting their Eldrazi decks over from Modern to Legacy.
Tier 4 ($40 - 55)
We’re nearing the bottom of the barrel but we still have a solid $50 group left before we arrive there. In this group we have only Expeditions from Oath. Surprisingly, the blue filter lands are in the same group with most of the rest of the cycle.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Oath Expeditions suffered from lower demand. Even though Oath contains some cool Expeditions, the filter lands are much less sought after than fetches and shocks. Why pay a lot of money for a land you will use less often? So, many more players are selling their Expeditions than holding onto them for the second half of the group.
As far as this specific cluster is concerned, the filter lands are cool, but unfortunately they don’t see much play in constructed formats. I do expect demand from casual and Commander players to drive the sales of these lands though. Just as in all the other groups, I do think there is room for growth.
Some of the filter lands, like Twilight Mire, have set foils that are equal to or greater than the price of their Expedition counterparts. With any lands like that, the price should grow to overcome the set foil pricing due to the perceived higher prestige attained by owning these Expeditions.
The exception here is Mana Confluence. In my opinion, it would take many additional factors for the price of Mana Confluence to increase.
In fact, this recent Standard rare could decline further in price before it plateaus. There are times when a Modern or Legacy deck might want four copies of this land, but the option for less painful lands like Gemstone Mine will always be there to hold Mana Confluence back.
Tier 5 (Under $40)
Lastly we reach the bottom of the barrel. Other synonyms for this group are dregs, leftovers, garbage, imperfections, scraps, and salvageable parts. These are the Expeditions that leave you feeling depressed that you cracked one of the worst extremely rare cards that have ever been printed. It’s amazing how opening a $40 card can feel so bad.
Our last group of the day contains all five battle lands along with the two least-played filter lands as well as the lands that could have been easily replaced with something else.
Of the cards in this group, the two oldest lands are the ones that surprised me. Kor Haven and Dust Bowl are both expensive set foils that exceed the Expeditions by nearly double their price. For this reason, I evaluated their initial price much higher, assuming that Commander players would change over to these foil versions. We could still see some growth for these two lands for this exact reason, but it may take longer.
As far as the rest of these misfits go, I’d be hard pressed to advocate buying in. There is some merit to buying more copies of the lowest-value cards to gain more profit overall. That’s why dealers are buying Khans fetches so aggressively and not making much effort to acquire copies from Onslaught. However, it’s doubtful that an uncommon or an underutilized land will increase much over the next few years.
Pay a couple dollars more and grab a card from the groups above and you should see higher gains than buying from this group.
For collectors and Cube enthusiasts like myself, there will always be an audience to purchase cards from this group. The main point is that the demand will be much lower for these than any others and this is highlighted by their current price.
The moral of the story is that most if not all of the forty-five cards in this cycle should have a value trajectory that points upward. Don’t go out of your way to purchase the slower rising options, but if you open one, I would be hesitant to move it for a couple years.
From a financial perspective, this cycle is definitely intriguing. We can learn a lot from what happens to these cards. I won’t be surprised when Wizards utilizes this model again and understanding the Expeditions will be key to making the most of the second time around.
Until next time,
Unleash the Force!
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