It wasn't that long ago that Will Wheaton spoiled the Expeditions found in Battle for Zendikar with WoTC creating their first true "ultra-rare" chase cards. Recently WoTC announced that they will start printing these chase cards in every set moving forward. They will always be foil and in English. Their rarity will be typically 1 in 144 boosters (or 1 in 4 boxes).
So far WoTC has chosen a good mixture of cards in these "bonus" sets, and as expected the ones whose other version(s) held a higher price have tended to be the most valuable. For the most part these tend to be the eternal playables. Eternal players are more likely to foil out decks than Standard players, who understandably are less interested in investing extra money into cards that will drop considerably at rotation.
What will the effect of Masterpieces be on Magic finance? As we only have two sets to compare numbers with it's difficult to draw incredibly accurate conclusions. However, we can still look for some trends.
Battle for Zendikar
This is the first set with what will be called Masterpieces moving forward (the Expeditions in this case). For some reason WoTC decided to put basically all of the Modern-relevant cards in this set (the shocks and the fetches). Being both the first set with Expeditions and the one with a lot of highly desirable, valuable foils meant a lot of packs got cracked.
This in turn means a large number of cards from the set in the supply and thus lower prices. If we look at the TCG Mid values of the set we have:
- Gideon, Ally of Zendikar - $17.85
- Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger - $12.17
- Ob Nixilis Reignited - $5.27
- Drana, Liberator of Malakir - $4.75
- Prairie Stream - $3.18
What we immediately notice is that the most expensive card in the set is under $18, and the #3 spot is barely above $5. Compare that to Shadows over Innistrad (another Standard-legal first set of a block):
- Archangel Avacyn // Avacyn, the Purifier - $19.5
- Nahiri, the Harbinger - $18.97
- Relentless Dead - $9.89
- Arlinn Kord // Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon - $9
- Sorin, Grim Nemesis - $7.36
The BFZ top five has an average value of $8.64 whereas SOI has a top five average value of $12.94---a difference of 49.7%. To be fair, Shadows seems to have more powerful cards overall (and Nahiri's price is heavily influenced by eternal demand), but that's still a very significant difference. It's also important to notice the huge drop-off as you move down the list.
We can also look at Eldritch Moon's top five:
- Liliana, the Last Hope - $44.36
- Emrakul, the Promised End - $20.2
- Grim Flayer - $19
- Tamiyo, Field Researcher - $11.45
- Ishkanah, Grafwidow - $9.98
EMN has a top five average value of $20.98 (the highest by far of any currently legal Standard set).
If we compare BFZ to EMN then the BFZ values do look extremely depressed, but again BFZ is a relatively low-powered set. Outside of Ulamog in Modern Tron decks, none of the top five sees play in any competitive decks outside of Standard.
Oath of the Gatewatch
This is the second set with Expeditions in it, though it honestly felt like WoTC put all of the Commander and non-Modern eternal staples in this one (I know that the filter lands do see some Modern play, but they aren't four-ofs in any decks). Being the second set it was also drafted less than Battle for Zendikar so there is likely fewer of each card in the supply. Here's a breakdown of the top five:
- Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet - $22.92
- Kozilek's Return - $11.25
- Chandra, Flamecaller - $9.04
- Nissa, Voice of Zendikar - $7.46
- Thought-Knot Seer - $5.91
The average value of the Oath top five is $11.31 which is considerably higher than BFZ and within 15% of Shadows. It's also important to note that Kalitas is seeing a lot of play in Modern GBx midrange decks (whether Abzan or Jund).
It's difficult to make any decisive statements about whether the Expeditions truly drove down the price of Standard during BFZ block. As we see, BFZ itself was a relatively weak set, so drawing conclusions with only that as a data point isn't a good idea. OGW (a higher power level set) doesn't really appear to be too far out of line with SOI, but all of them are out of line with EMN.
If you want to draw any conclusions from this limited data I suggest you conclude that EMN must be a very under-opened set because it still has a lot of valuable cards in it and demand is clearly not being met.
Premium vs. Premium
If the effect of Masterpieces on the Standard environment is inconclusive, we can still look at how they'll affect other "premium" copies of cards. I originally looked into this back in January. Prices have obviously changed somewhat in the almost nine months since I first published that article, so let's see what has changed.
|Expedition Name||Expedition Price (Sept)||Expedition Price (Jan)||Change|
|Eye of Ugin||68.51||$169.98||-$101.47|
What we've seen is a good number of the Expeditions dropping in value from January until today, despite the fact that we haven't been opening BFZ block en masse for the past six months.
What about the original set foils?
|Expedition Name||Original Foil (Sept)||Original Foil Price (Jan)||Change|
|Eye of Ugin||35.68||$59.95||-$24.27|
And again we see a lot in the negative, showing that these Masteripiece printings bring down the value of even the original foil versions. Foil prices have traditionally remained pretty steady, even when the cards themselves were reprinted with new foil versions.
Lastly we look at the current price of the reprinted foil versions:
|Expedition Name||Reprint Foil (Sept)||Reprint Foil Price (Jan)||Change|
|Eye of Ugin||19.97||$46.99||-$27.02|
Every single one is negative except for Forbidden Orchard with an average drop of 23.86%. Granted a lot of that was due to there being a new foil Wasteland option from EMA and Eye of Ugin getting banned. If we eliminate those two outliers the average drop was still almost 12%.
While I'm not confident saying that any foil reprint copies of a given Masterpiece will drop by 12%, I can fairly confidently claim that they will drop in value some. What this means to me is that if you have a reprinted foil version of a Masterpiece you'd be wise to trade/sell it now before these hit and drop the value on it. In fact 28 out of the 44 original foils lost value, so the odds say you're better off unloading those too.
Lastly, 37 out of 44 of the Expeditions lost value over time. This is likely because people thought they were rarer than they really were, or because so many people were looking for them that they ended up dropping in value after players got their copies. If you pull any Masterpieces you're better off trading/selling them off ASAP as well.