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Insider: “Expedition Effect” on a Smaller Scale: Commons and Uncommons

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It's no secret that Kaladesh is one of the more powerful sets we've seen in the past couple of years, at least in the context of my articles. We only had about half of the cards spoiled when I wrote last week's article, and I wasn't even close to lacking commons and uncommons to write about that at first glance looked strong enough to see Standard play. While I'm not expecting there to be a whole lot of casual picks from this set, I want to talk about what's going to be henceforth addressed as the "Expedition Effect." The brief version is that the existence of the Masterpiece Series — or Expeditions — will suppress the prices of non-Masterpiece cards in the set, because the value of an in-print booster box is a fixed constant. While Corbin Hosler addressed this in a TCGplayer article and SaffronOlive wrote about it on MTGgoldfish, neither really got into the nitty-gritty of how these changes will affect the prices of commons and uncommons.


It's pretty well-known that Battle for Zendikar is a dry well of picks, for the most part. We have Transgress the Mind and Drana's Emissary as the leading picks for consistent buylistable value, while Expedition Envoy and Zulaport Cutthroat have strong casual ties that will keep them in demand for years to come. After that though, it gets pretty weak. Hedron Archive and Stasis Snare are clear outliers — while still pickable, they don't normally have the high buy prices that appear in the Trader Tools spreadsheet pictured below. Notice that only one store is paying that amount for a playset of Stasis Snare; the others don't want to pay more than a dime a piece. All in all, BFZ only has 18 commons and uncommons that are worth shipping at $.10+ each. That's just as bad as Eldritch Moon, but at least most of the dimes from EMN were common. With Battle for Zendikar, you have literally zero commons worth shipping at $.10 a piece or higher, showing the incredible amount of product that was opened.

snare

 

bfz

If you decide to Blueprint your Battle for Zendikar bulk by alphabetizing and shipping as a lot to Card Advantage, it doesn't get much better. While Thomas and co. will gladly accept your BFZ commons en masse, it's still not looking great for what was expected to be one of the greatest editions of all-time. The plus-side of buylisting to Card Advantage is that with the most recent September Blueprint update, Card Advantage will take your BFZ tokens and emblems, something that I haven't seen any other stores on Trader Tools take advantage of. If you happen to have fifty 5/5 Elementals from Omnath, Locus of Rage then you can get $1.50 for your effort, covering part of the shipping costs with what others consider to be trash.

bfz-blueprint

Hidden in these rows and rows of spreadsheet data, there's another factor that some argue kept BFZ from floating just a little higher than it otherwise would have been. While the value of both foil and non-foil full art lands was absolutely crushed by the megaprinting of this Fall 2015 set, you can still find vendors like Card Advantage reliably paying a nickel per full art land. With 36 packs per box and a guaranteed full art land in every pack, that's almost $2.00 of reliable and constant value that people can still expect to find in a BFZ booster box. While that's something we didn't and won't see at regular intervals in other blocks, I don't think that $2 is enough to suppress the value of BFZ commons and uncommons further than what they would have been without full-art lands taking up a niche in the expected value of a box.

With all of that being said, I do still think there's value in purchasing BFZ bulk at $3 per 1000, or $3.5 if you really have to haggle and compete among locals. The fact that the set is bone dry can work in your favor, with spikier players ignoring Drana's Emissary and only pulling out Transgress the Mind. I would expect most BFZ bulk to be unpicked because of this, leaving you dime collectors out there to have full reign over the leftovers that spikes didn't want to touch. While Battle for Zendikar bulk is weaker than most other Standard sets, it's still bulk. Bulk is bulk is bulk, and a savvy Craigslister can still get $7 per thousand depending on how cutthroat your local area is.


 

So what's the final verdict on cards that I want to pick out from Kaladesh at the prerelease? I'm not expecting many of these to be worth anything, similar to BFZ. However, it's still nice to get your playsets early before you start having to pay retail on the day of the event. Here's a comprehensive list of cards that I predict to see on the Blueprint by November.

You'll notice that other than Cathartic Reunion and Servant of the Conduit (a potential Modern Dredge staple and a shot in the dark at Standard playability), there are zero commons on this list. I don't really expect to see any commons being buylistable other than to the Blueprint, but I'd rather wait until the Kaladesh blueprint comes out before picking any junk commons and stashing them away to take up space. The above list of mostly uncommons covers most of the cards I would expect to see in a Standard Open the week after release, but only the invisible casual market can truly tell us where the demand is pointing a couple of months from now when buylists free up to accept Kaladesh bulk.

End Step

While my Cartel Aristocrats co-host Travis Allen already talked about this on our podcast Monday, I want to mention again that Restore Balance was played by Ari Lax in a SCG video last week. He only dropped a single game against Tier 1 decks and mentioned that if he were going to play in a competitive event, that would be his list. Travis and I are both very deep on the card; it's a Time Spiral rare with incredibly low supply, low reprint risk, and could pop into the double digits with just a little more publicity. The closest corollary is Living End, which also hit $10 and made a lot of people money. This isn't a "buy them out now" announcement, but it's certainly a "you should probably pick up your playset if you looked at his decklist and thought 'huh, I kinda might eventually want to build that.'"

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Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.