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Insider: Virtually Infinite – Navigating Set Releases & Updating EMA Specs

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This is the fourth in a series of articles for the player, collector, and speculator seeking to benefit from the coming release of Eternal Masters (EMA). It’s been a few weeks since we checked in, and Shadows over Innistrad is hitting Magic Online. Let’s take stock of our Legacy positions and look at the road ahead.

You'll recall we recommended buying Reserved List specs after EMA was announced, and then recommended doubling down on a handful of targeted “gateway” cards a few weeks later. How has our basket of Reserved List specs fared so far?

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A few home runs (City of Traitors and Shallow Grave) and a nice return across the board. Some Standard and Modern positions have done better in percentage terms, but these are really nice percentage gains for cards over 5 or 10 tix (which is important if you don’t want to be buying and selling dozens of cards to make a few tix---as noted, this series is better suited to those who want to buy and hold, rather than make short-term flips.)

The exception, of course, are the specs from Vintage Masters (VMA) which were mostly flat or down. Why didn't they benefit in the same way? This data suggests to me that there is significant slack in VMA cards, since the set was heavily drafted.

This is especially true of the dual lands, each of which has essentially four printings: ME2/ME3, ME4, Promo, and VMA. The VMA version is the least attractive to collectors and has the greatest supply.

The dual lands are iconic cards with price memory, but that oversupply is hard to overcome. They will see gains, but there are better opportunities for your tix. And when it comes to VMA specs, caveat emptor.

A couple of the “gateway” cards I recommended in the last article have done nicely but we have room to grow on each of these. The real demand will pick up once EMA hits the store and people start to build decks.

Sales This Week

This week I took the opportunity to liquidate Wasteland and Force of Will. I expect a steady decline in these prices, starting with SOI and heading through the end of EMA drafting in mid-June. I even ditched my playset of Wastelands, and will play non-Wasteland decks in Legacy. Wasteland is rare, and I expect the floor to be between 10 and 20 tix, depending on whether they extend EMA drafting as they did with VMA.

Force of Will is a mythic, but has already been reprinted and hit 10-15 tix. I also ditched my playset of Daze, which I see as a likely reprint in EMA.

As Matt notes, you may also want to consider liquidating Ancestral Vision and other high-price cards from Time Spiral. These drafts are next in the flashback queue and will drop in price once people realize that. If you don’t need them for a few weeks you can put those tix to work now and buy them back later.

For some players, Tarmogoyf will be an attractive candidate to sell. The timing will be tricky, since it should dip but then bounce back quickly, and beating the spread will be a challenge. There will only be one week of drafting---the expectation of new supply will be much greater than actual new supply. Roughly six times as many packs of Time Spiral will be opened as Future Sight packs.

Navigating the Shadows over Innistrad Release

Wizards made some major changes to the SOI release, but I expect the general trends to be the same: downward pressure on all singles across MTGO as people liquidate old cards to feed new drafts and league entry fees. In general, prices of older cards and boosters drop 10% during each set release and then slowly climb back to their previous positions. You can read my primer on navigating release events here.

SOI singles will start high and plummet within hours of the set release. My advice is to sell everything you draft as soon as possible.

On Friday and Saturday everything will be overpriced, so as soon as your draft is up, make ‘em all tradeable and cash out---even 30 minutes can mean you’ve left money on the table, especially with uncommons and commons.

By Sunday cards will have reached something of an equilibrium, but still have a ways to fall. Stay away unless you need to play with a card now or have a strong read that a particular card is undervalued by the market. Yes, some cards will rise but you are swimming upstream against one of the strongest market forces on Magic Online.

Here's some of my advice on how to handle release events in general, adapted from a previous article:

Day 1: Draft as much of the set as you can. For the first couple days, the EV of drafting will be extremely high, and you are likely to make tix even with a 50% or lower win rate. This “release window” is one of the few times you could justify playing 4-3-2-2 queues instead of Swiss since the opportunities to rare draft and to play more drafts outweigh the extra prize pack that you get in Swiss. Even better is to play 8-4's if you think you have a good feel for the format.

Rare draft like a mofo. When drafting a new set, I always keep open a browser window with a price list. My preference is GoatBots because they show both buy and sell prices and include money uncommons in addition to rares. When I have a question about a card’s price, the answer is but a Ctrl-F away.

I am often surprised by how much random rares are worth during the first few days of drafting, and you are bleeding value if you don’t pick them up.

Sell everything immediately. Basically, you want to unload any commons, uncommons and rares as soon as they hit your binder. These cards are a wasting asset and will continue to drop as long as the set is drafted. Mythics can sometimes be a different case, and experience a mythic bounce.

You can use MTGO WikiPrice to find the best seller, but an alternative is to just make everything tradeable and open up a trade with one of the major buyers. Other good options that won’t show up on MTGOWikiprice include MTGOTraders, TheCardNexus, Cardfiend, AcademyBots, Clanteam, and Dojo Bots. Remember, time is money during the early stages, so don’t spend too much time shopping your cards around---prices will drop hour by hour.

The SOI Booster Play

There should also be an opportunity for short-term booster specs. SOI boosters will quickly head to 4 tix, so if you see them at 3.6 or less snap them up. This is a quick and easy 10-15% profit for every ticket invested, at a low opportunity cost and high level of certainty.

Everything is on Sale

The next few weeks surrounding the SOI release, combined with the Pro Tour excitement, marks a good opportunity to stock up on off-the-radar spec targets. This includes a number of the cards and sets recommended by Sylvain and Matt as well as BFZ and OGW boosters.

It also includes our portfolio of Reserved List cards. Many of these cards may take a dip over the next two weeks. It's a good time to be targeting any of the heavily played Legacy cards on the Reserved List since people will often forget about these in the excitement of the new set, the Modern ban list changes, and the Pro Tour. Keep an eye out for some under-the-radar cards that have been mentioned in this series, and profit.

-Alexander Carl
@thoughtlaced

4 thoughts on “Insider: Virtually Infinite – Navigating Set Releases & Updating EMA Specs

    1. Thanks Matt. My main takeaway was that the cards with the lowest supply climbed the highest after the EMA announcement. Wish I had gone even deeper on City, Shallow Grave, and Firestorm.

      City also benefited by the breakout of Eldrazi in Legacy.

    1. Thanks Gabe for flagging this. That section is adapted from a previous article and I forgot to change that detail. Enjoy the pre-release!

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