Hi, everyone, and welcome back for another High Stakes MTGO article!
After a no-buy week, this past week was more balanced, with a few purchases and sales concerning both Standard and Modern. I'm still buying Modern specs at a clip, although I'm trying to grab positions with low chances of a reprint in Modern Masters 2017. I'll elaborate more on this topic in the Questions & Answers section below.
This past week I closed the biggest single position I had in my portfolio: Battle for Zendikar full sets. Considering the unexpected comeback of the value of BFZ sets, I'm almost having regrets here, but I'll live with it. Still on the topic of BFZ, I have also finished selling my booster position—although in this case the loss was far worse percentage-wise.
Without further introduction, let's see what I did this past week. The latest snapshot of my portfolio is here.
Buys This Week
A little round of reinforcement for these four cards. These are all positions I was still holding while their respective sets were flashback-drafted, or positions I purchased right after said flashback drafts. Still, prices are lower now than they were then, so I thought adding more copies of each to my stocks wouldn't hurt.
Rare land cycles are among the cards safest from a reprint in MM3. It wouldn't be totally impossible for a reprint of just one card from a given cycle, but that's extremely unlikely given Wizards's past decisions. Needless to say, there are about twenty valuable land cycles out there to choose from for reprints, so it would be very unlikely for the exact cards chosen to be Cascade Bluffs or Windbrisk Heights.
Reprints aside, I'm comfortable gathering more copies of these two cards, considering the speculative potential in case they become played again in trendy Modern decks. I may have to be patient, but since flashback drafts are behind us and reprints are not a concern here, I'm okay in this position.
There's a little bit more at stake with Living End, though the risk-reward situation seems decent to me. Living End periodically comes into the spotlight in Modern, with a top price of 10 tix reached several times over the last year and a half. Adding more copies around 2 tix sounds like a good long-term bet.
Cavern of Souls is not part of a land cycle, and definitely wouldn't surprise anyone showing up in MM3. However, there are only a handful of lands reprinted at rare and mythic rare in Modern Masters sets. With Avacyn Restored flashback drafts just behind us, this might be the only opportunity to grab copies of the Cavern under 30 tix for a while.
I'm taking the same position as Matt Lewis here. If Cavern of Souls hits the 35-40 tix price range before MM3 spoilers begin, I'll most likely sell. If not, I might gamble a bit and hope to dodge a reprint. Note that if Cavern of Souls doesn't get reprinted, it will likely find its way back to 40-50 tix, as players will be much more confident about the price stability of this multi-format staple.
Sales This Week
The black-white creature land from BFZ is getting some traction recently, cycling closer and closer to the 3 tix bar since the release of Kaladesh. Still, this land is not played in any of the top decks in the current Standard metagame.
As with my other BFZ positions, I was looking to sell this one as soon as I could break even, which is what I've done. My selling price isn't too bad given the price history of Shambling Vent—it's just that my timing on the purchase was poor, as with my other BFZ positions, which meant the buying price was too high.
There you go. I finally closed this giant position that has been dead weight for so long. I thought for long that I would lose a large chunk of tix on this full set spec, partially for having bought these too early in the season, and partially because of the low number of attractive cards in BFZ. At some point the value of a BFZ full set was almost 20 tix under my buying price, whereas now a BFZ full set is flirting with 80 tix.
The new block structure brought a lot of changes that required trial and error on the speculative front, and I paid my dues here. Of course, I wish I had anticipated the still-ongoing rebound BFZ saw after the release of KLD, in which case I wouldn't have sold 15 sets at 46 tix each back in October. All in all, I lost about a thousand tix with my BFZ full set spec, but it could have gone much worse.
BFZ really sucked up a lot of my tix, booster spec included. Here too, I'm done with it—no more BFZ boosters in my portfolio. That's undeniably the biggest loss (-47%) I ever had with a booster spec, but I'll live with it.
Spellskite was a solid, if modest, spec picked up during New Phyrexia flashback drafts. My goal here was 16 tix, and I'm happy I met that goal before getting into potential trouble with MM3 spoilers.
This card could probably see another month or so of slow growth, before Modern interest fades away or it makes an appearance on the MM3 spoilers list. Either way, my investment goals were met here and I leave any extra tix for the next speculator.
On My Radar
Still focusing on Modern for the next few weeks, I'll be looking for Modern staples that have the least chance of being reprinted in Modern Masters 2017.
As it seems, the spoiler season for Aether Revolt has started. There isn't always a good speculative use to make of spoilers in Standard, but it can sometimes lead to momentary spikes. Being the first to buy and then sell into the hype can lead to some nice profits. If you have a good read of the current or future metagame in Standard, new cards from Aether Revolt could be a signal to buy under-valued cards from the previous five Standard sets. That, however, is not a job I'm very good at.
Questions & Answers
Finding Safe(r) Specs Before MM3
Since its inception, Modern has always been a speculative machine. It is almost too easy to find speculative winners, whether established Modern staples (and there's about a truckload of them) or under-the-radar cards just waiting for a Grand Prix or Pro Tour appearance on camera to take off. In many cases the uncertainty was "when," not "if."
Then the Modern Masters series kicked in. A lot of cards, including several expensive staples, took a hit, as they were suddenly reprinted in massive quantities compared to their original set run. We also learned from MMA and MM2 that almost any eligible card can be in the set. Worse, being already reprinted in a previous Modern Masters set doesn't spare you from being in the next one.
Now that MM3 is only three months away, trying to speculate with Modern positions can be like playing a hot potato game—you really don't want to hold the potato when the spoiler season starts. Nevertheless, if the two previous Modern Masters sets are any example, there might be one category of cards with much lower chances of reprint: rare land cycles.
A reprint of an entire cycle of five lands at rare is simply extremely unlikely. One reason for this is Wizards has incentive to save these land cycles, especially those that produce two colors of mana and are currently expensive, to help sell regular sets. Ravnica shocklands and Onslaught fetchlands both got reprinted recently, and it's only a matter of time before we see a new printing of Zendikar fetchlands, Scars of Mirrodin fast lands, allied-colored painlands, or the Worldwake creature lands. But, most importantly, I don't think in Modern Masters 2017.
What about rare lands that aren't part of a cycle. Only four lands have been reprinted at rare in MMA and MM2: City of Brass, Blinkmoth Nexus, Academy Ruins and Eye of Ugin. So the likelihood of a reprint for any given land is very low, even if there are several good candidates including Cavern of Souls, Mutavault, Horizon Canopy, Grove of the Burnwillows, Pendelhaven, and Inkmoth Nexus.
In conclusion, if you want to gamble a bit and try to dodge the reprint bullet, I think some good opportunities can be found in Modern rare lands. In addition, the reward could be multiplied when the majority of players and speculators learn the cards can't fill the holes in the spoiler list. At that point they might get a nice price boost, as did several cards when they were confirmed out of MM2.
Thank you for reading,