This week I want to shift gears and focus on a different Magic finance topic. I recognize beating the “buy Reserved List and Vintage staples” drum repeatedly can have diminishing returns. Even though this is where I personally allocate most of my MTG resources, I understand it’s not for everyone.
Luckily, I became inspired while shopping at my local grocery store and browsing their MTG section. Every time I visit a Target, Walmart, or comparable big box store (in my particular case it was Meijer), I like to browse what MTG products they have for sale. Even though their pricing is far from favorable, it’s interesting to observe what’s selling and, more notably, what isn’t.
This week a particular product caught my eye because it has been on the market for two years now and still isn’t completely sold out:
I was shocked to see both a red and a white Commander 2014 deck still for sale at my Meijer---admittedly Meijer’s price is slightly above MSRP, at $42.99. Seeing these in stock prompted me to check eBay to see if there was an opportunity to flip the sealed product. There wasn’t.
But I remembered another trend I’ve been following on MTG Stocks’ all-time high page for a while now. It seems some Commander 2014 cards are hitting all-time highs day after day as the sets become older and harder to find. It is these observations that I wish to discuss this week, with possibility for profit in the making.
Don’t worry---there will still be a few Old School call-outs. I can’t resist mentioning the format completely. At least, not when I suspect a few cards are unsuspectingly spiking while most are likely unaware. But I tie it all together with a theme of “awareness,” so hopefully there’s something for everybody!
Let’s Start with the Numbers
Here are the values for each Commander 2014 deck according to TCG Player’s lowest price, shipped.
- Blue: $25.45
- White: $40.97
- Red: $41.20
- Black: $42.95
- Green: $51.79
- All Five: $133.95
Right off the bat we see a couple of interesting trends. First, I would never have guessed that blue was the cheapest deck and green was the most expensive. This alone surprises me. Second, the set that received the most hype upon launch, white (due to Containment Priest), is now the second cheapest.
Lastly, I’m amazed at how much cheaper a full set of five decks is relative to buying one individually. I’m tempted to grab a full set myself, but not until I finish this analysis.
Next, using TCG Mid I’ve tabulated the values of all cards worth more than a buck from each set and then summed up the numbers by deck. Then I compared these prices to the complete deck prices to see, by percentage, which deck is selling at the best discount. Here’s what I came up with:
Net, it appears buying a complete black deck offers the least amount of discount versus the singles within. Meanwhile purchasing the blue deck for just $25.45 offers the most value relative to TCG Mid pricing on the singles contained within. Unsurprisingly, purchasing all the decks at once gives you the best value overall.
Why am I suddenly so interested in Commander 2014 decks? Frankly, it’s because a couple of cards have been repeatedly hitting all-time highs and this has become a noteworthy trend. Ghoulcaller Gisa has been my favorite to track because she has terrific consistency with the flavor of Shadows over Innistrad.
Notice how this card has rocketed higher over the past nine months. In fact, she’s now the fourth most valuable card from Commander 2014 after only Wurmcoil Engine, Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury and Containment Priest. Speaking of Freyalise, she has also shown significant upward momentum since January.
These aren’t the only cards bouncing in price---not by a long shot. Check out Titania, Protector of Argoth, Teferi, Temporal Archmage, Thran Dynamo and Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath. All of these cards have risen in price measurably since their lows in early Spring 2016. There’s no reason to expect these cards to drop back down again.
Even though Containment Priest has drifted lower now that her launch hype has died, she still sees appreciable play in Vintage. She bottomed in April this year and has been on a rebound ever since.
I genuinely believe the demand is finally outpacing the supply, which suggests this movement is likely to continue. As long as the unique Commander 2014 cards aren’t reprinted, they will definitely become harder to find.
The best part about these moves is that they’re probably not driven much by rampant speculation. I’d argue the growth in Commander 2014 card prices is related to actual demand by EDH and casual players. Therefore, there’s no reason to expect a massive sell-off or “race to the bottom” by sellers. Quantities are likely to dry up little by little, offering solid returns over the mid- to long-term.
I’d be doing a disservice to all my readers if I didn’t at least mention the potential risks to this idea. First, we need to address the most obvious source of reprints: Commander Anthology.
This box set is going to re-introduce the green Commander 2014 deck, “Guided by Nature,” to the market with additional supply. The good news is that MSRP for the four Commander Anthology decks will be $165, meaning the decks will average $41.25 each. The bad news is the green Commander 2014 deck was the most expensive, meaning prices will be suppressed noticeably next summer when the set releases.
In my opinion, you could approach this in two different ways. You could steer clear of the green C14 deck altogether due to the imminent reprint. You may decide to pick up a couple copies of the blue C14 deck instead given its extremely low price on TCG Player. Each set has cards that are on the upswing and the blue deck is no exception.
Or you could instead buy a set of all five decks from TCG Player for $133.95 and immediately sell the green deck to eliminate the risk. “Guided by Nature” complete decks have been selling on eBay in the $37 range. If you can find a local way to out this deck to avoid fees and shipping, you’ll likely come out slightly ahead. But everyone should know about the Commander Anthology reprint by now so it may be difficult for you to move the deck.
You could also just buylist as much as possible from the green deck---a quick glimpse at Trader Tools indicates you could buylist the five most expensive cards for around $20. It appears Card Kingdom is paying best on most of this stuff, and their 30% trade-in bonus could make this an attractive out. But it’s admittedly not optimal.
Lastly, you could buy a set of all five decks from TCG Player and then wait until next Spring to sell the green deck in the hopes that prices continue their upward trajectory a little longer. This may be the best way to maximize profit.
With all options considered, it really comes down to how large the Commander Anthology print run will be. If the print run is modest, the impact on the green deck’s value will be small, making the set of five decks an extremely attractive way to pick up diversified exposure to unique singles from this set. A larger print run will hamper prices on the green deck, but overall you’ll still do well sitting on the other four decks in the series.
Honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong either way. Just don’t expect to double up overnight---this kind of investment requires years of patience. Even though I don’t see Commander 2014 decks hitting levels that the original Commander decks sell at (starting at $500 on TCG Player), the recent pricing trends in singles from the decks tell me it could be a worthwhile endeavor.
Wrapping It Up
I promised some Old School Magic dialogue and I’m a man of my word. You see, it’s not just Commander 2014 singles that have quietly been hitting all-time highs lately. I’ve also noticed some other surprising cards notching highs day after day. For example, take a look at the price chart on Unlimited Royal Assassin:
This card is neither black-bordered nor is it on the Reserved List. But it’s playable in Old School, which makes all the difference.
Beta Drain Life has also spiked recently---I use this card myself in Old School, so I can vouch for its playability. It doesn’t matter that this is a common. It’s useful and, in absolute terms, extremely rare. Mono-Black is a very popular entry deck for Old School (it’s how I started as well) so it’s no surprise to me that this card has been surging lately.
I guess the moral of the story is that you should pay attention to the trends that matter most to you. If Commander is your format of choice, make note of the cards on the move on a regular basis, so that you know when a trend is taking shape.
If Old School is more your speed, then it’s definitely critical to monitor pricing trends accordingly by watching MTG Stocks on a daily basis and by tracking available stock on TCG Player. You’d be amazed at how many Alpha, Beta and Unlimited cards are at near-zero stock on TCG Player. It only takes one or two new entrants into the Old School format to cause a price spike.
From there, make your acquisitions accordingly. If price trends are moving higher with no foreseeable pressure to the downside on the horizon, it’s probably best to pick up what you need immediately rather than wait. Today, it looks like Old School staples and Commander 2014 singles meet this definition. Therefore, that’s what I’m watching closely, making strategic buys where it makes the most sense. I’d encourage you to do the same.
- While I like to think I have enough familiarity with Old School Magic to explain price jumps in stuff like Beta Drain Life, I’m afraid I am drawing a blank on Arabian Nights Ali Baba. I know tapping walls is useless in 2016, but I didn’t really think it was an important ability in 1993-1994 either. Nevertheless the card is up to $7.99 on Star City Games and they have just a couple copies in stock. Go figure.
- I can’t say I understand Raging River either. Don’t get me wrong, I love the card’s flavor. It offers solid entertainment value during kitchen table play as well. But now the card is completely sold out at Star City Games across Alpha, Beta and Unlimited, and I noticed Unlimited copies recently spiked on MTG Stocks. Can’t explain this movement; I guess it’s on the Reserved List so there is that?
- I used to think Enchantress's Presence was a bulk rare. But that was years ago. Now the card is nearly sold out at Star City at $7.99, with foils at $29.99. This card really picked up some momentum, and it consistently shows up on the all-time high list at MTG Stocks as a result.