Hello and welcome back for another High Stakes MTGO article!
Halfway through this past week several major announcements were made. As usual every time big changes are revealed by the WotC MTGO team they are taken as if the end of the world was coming. This has happened about half a dozen times. We've survived before, we'll survive this time again, and it's probably too early to definitely conclude anything anyway. I'll briefly give my personal and modest opinion on these changes in the Q&A section below.
With the release of Kaladesh on MTGO only three days away, everyone is getting ready for a new Standard. For speculators this is a very busy period (even more so now if you are trying to respond to the big announcements). Buying opportunities are everywhere---sets rotating out of Standard, boosters, full set specs, and more generally, prices heading into a short but marked depreciation period. Due to increased demand for tix during the release event period, prices across all formats---mostly in Standard and Modern---are generally anticipated to deflate a bit.
While the above price trend is largely considered to be the norm, this past week I found that many Modern staples were actually going up, at least until last Thursday. Some Modern cards even reached their record high price for the past year or so.
After fluctuating between 10 and 15 tix for about a year until last May, the price dynamic of Noble Hierarch changed as it climbed above 20 tix this past July, before reaching 30 tix two weeks ago. After soaring to 22 tix in August, Golgari Grave-Troll clearly survived the Dredge hype and rebounded to a new all-time record high at 25 tix. Disrupting Shoal, a position I sold a few weeks ago at 5.5 tix during the previous peak, just ventured over 9 tix (before crashing a bit)---a price that card hadn’t reached since August last year.
This doesn’t mean prices won’t drop this week and the following during Kaladesh release events, but it shows that good selling opportunities with Modern can happen about any time. For sure though, the big changes announced last Thursday cooled everything down a little bit and I'm not sure we'll see more cards breaking their long-term ceiling right now.
I was hardly able to keep up with all the potential buying opportunities but now it appears that I should also be watching for selling opportunities and trying to anticipate the potential consequences of last week's news. I might be tempted to sell Modern positions that have reached a decent price just to free up some tix for better targets. Although they are deep in the hole, I’m also thinking about selling part of my Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) boosters and full sets to put those tix to work somewhere else with better chances to do something now.
With all of this, let's review what happened for me this past week. The snapshot of the portfolio is right here.
Buys This Week
This card is not complete junk; several writers and players have mentioned it for both Modern and Standard. In addition to being a low-casting cost artifact playable in any color combination, Prototype synergizes pretty well with Kaladesh vehicles and, obviously, with anything able to empty your or your opponent's hand quickly.
Emptying your hand is not something very complicated to do these days with cards like Bomat Courier and Collective Brutality. It may also be a good thing if you are looking to activate delirium. At ~0.15 tix the risk is near zero and I’m gladly adding this bulk spec to my portfolio.
Spirits were almost a Tier 1 deck in the previous Standard environment. Almost nothing from the U/W version is rotating out of Standard with Kaladesh coming in the mix. Spell Queller has also made a few appearances in Modern. Enough reasons for me to bet on this blue-white Spirit now rather than later.
When looking for Eldritch Moon (EMN) singles that may have a chance to see play in the next Standard metagame, or that already have a spot in Modern decks, I started to think buying full sets might just be the best course of action. Buying targeted singles make a lot of sense when only a few of them are underpriced and/or have a strong potential in a given set. If too many singles from the same set feel like good targets you might as well go for what represents the best basket you can get for these singles---a full set.
EMN full sets remind me of Oath of the Gatewatch (OGW) ones right before the release of Shadows over Innistrad (SOI). The price of OGW full sets reached its lowest point weeks before the release of SOI and actually never dipped during the SOI release events. In less than a month OGW full sets increased their value by more than 50%.
EMN full sets never got as low as OGW ones did and 90 tix is clearly not as low as the 76 tix I paid for my OGW full sets back then. On the other hand, the paper value of EMN full sets is also higher than OGW full sets were. If EMN full sets can land anywhere near OGW full sets, the profit margin will still be very good. I just think the OGW full set scenario will happen again.
One last thing I might do with these EMN full sets is short-selling Liliana, the Last Hope. That's something I haven't done for a while and it could be the right situation to do so in few weeks. Liliana has been hanging up high since the release of EMN, but 25 tix, even for a mythic of a second set, is not easy to sustain. If she doesn't show up strong at Pro Tour Kaladesh she might come down quite a bit, probably closer to 15 tix.
This is not Chalice of the Void or Engineered Explosives, and it won't be 25 tix anytime soon. However, Shackles hit an all-time low just this past week. Everything being a cycle in Modern, I'm going to bet that this artifact can at least go back in the 8-10 tix price range in a near future. A higher price could easily be possible if stars align since the original printing is Fifth Dawn and its only reprint is as a mythic in Modern Masters.
This land was a powerhouse in token decks in Standard and even sees play in other deck archetypes. It can be played in any color combinations, doesn't enter the battlefield tapped, is non-legendary and combines rather well with a sea of Servos. This card has been quite stable around 1 tix and if its price dropped further during Kaladesh release events I'll probably be adding a few more playsets to my stock.
Sales This Week
The last of my Caves found a home for about 0.3 tix a piece. This closes my third Magic Origins (ORI) painland position. I had hopped to break the symbolic bar of 1000 tix of profit for a single position. Nonetheless with a profit of 883 tix this is my biggest profit on a single spec besides boosters and full sets. I'm now down to the Battlefield Forge. I'll probably just forget about them until R/W Eldrazi becomes a thing in Modern.
The BFZ foil mythics are, sadly, my only BFZ specs that are flying. Not all of them doing great but that's fine and I was only expecting a ~30% return on average. Here I'm selling some of the best performers to free some tix for incoming buying opportunities.
On My Radar
Aside from taking a much closer look at all the big changes the MTGO team dropped this past week I'll be completing my buying shopping list as we are entering the KLD release events period. I'll save some tix to once again try a large quickflip operation during PT KLD, and then I'll be watching what comes out of this Pro Tour. This time again I'll be focusing on selling all the big winners during the Pro Tour hype.
Questions & Answers
So we got some big, to say nothing of dramatic, changes on MTGO: changes to redemption, entry fees and prize structure, and the introduction of treasure chests. Big changes were made in the past and by now the world supposedly should have collapsed about a dozen times before---turns out we are still here, I'm still speculating, and I'm still writing about it.
Other people may have written and commented about these changes and many of them have probably spent way more time than me thinking about the subject. I'm only adding my modest two cents here; I hope I'm not too far off.
A Shorter Redemption Period
Starting with Kaladesh (KLD) the redemption period will be much shorter and, most importantly, will stop while sets are still in Standard. That's quite a change! Until the redemption time ends I think prices will behave similarly to before. After that, prices are likely to crash with, for instance, mythics not played in competitive decks falling as low as 0.01 tix.
With only demand from players driving prices and with Standard being the format driving the most demand on MTGO, I would expect prices to see bigger price swings with a potential bottom at 0.01 or less for any singles. Speculatively speaking, buying a card at 0.2 tix would involve more risks as it would be easier than ever to lose 95% of the value of such a card.
We might also see more spectacular spikes from cards jumping from 0.01 tix to 2 tix for example. Mythics will still be the cards with the most potential in that configuration since they could be valued at 0.01 tix one day and 10 tix the next.
Kaladesh Release Events Changes
This one is harder to read through without deeper thinking on the matter. For comparison, the introduction of Play Points, also supposed to doomed MTGO by the way, was commented in all possible ways and it appears that this change was positive in the end.
Everything that affects entry fees and prizes structure also affects the secondary market, prices of boosters, etc. It's hard to know the overall effect since everything is interrelated. It would be foolish from me to try to venture a conclusion. I guess I would be cautious about speculating on KLD boosters for now.
So basically these are another random way to get cards, including expensive staples and the Kaladesh Inventions. Most important is the list of curated cards. The 635 card list includes just about all of the most expensive cards on MTGO, from Rishadan Port to Black Lotus to Tarmogoyf to the Zendikar fetchlands. Several of the cards on that list already took a hit.
Is it justified? Most likely not, just like every other time the world was supposed to come to an end. It's hard to estimate the short- and long-term impact of these chests on the MTGO economy, although I strongly believe it won't be as terrible as some may think based on the panic sales we just saw.
Could this be comparable to the Expedition lands in BFZ and OGW? If so then what happened to the ZEN fetchlands for instance could be a guide. The fetchlands lost some value at the release of BFZ, and then in January 2016, hit their all-time high since the release of the Khans of Tarkir fetchlands.
If anything these panic sales are, this time again, most likely creating buying opportunities for wiser and more patient speculators. At minimum, even if buying isn't appealing considering that prices may drop further during KLD release events, selling is probably not the most appropriate reaction either.
Thank you for reading,