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Insider: Frontier is Here

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The biggest Magic finance news of the past week has been the price spike of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound.


From a low of $23 at the beginning of December, its price steadily grew to $35 by Christmas before shooting up to over $46 by the following Tuesday. On Magic Online, where Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound’s price actually fell from 20 tickets down to 16 in December, the price saw a corresponding spike to nearly 30 tickets.

There has been an influx in new demand driven by the Frontier format, which has garnered much discussion in the past few weeks. It’s not clear how much of this interest is due to the lackluster Standard format or complaints about Modern, but Frontier has certainly started a discussion about the possibilities of a new format, and it’s seeing a growing movement of players championing the idea. The format is gaining in popularity, and it appears more local stores are holding events around the globe, and even some pros have now weighed in on the format in their articles and on social media.

The Result?

We have began to see the price of other cards in the Frontier format grow alongside Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound.


Hangarback Walker has followed a similar trajectory, starting around $2.25 in December before creeping up to $3 by Christmas, and then spiking up to $5.


Anafenza, the Foremost, which was settled around $1.75, spiked overnight and more than doubled in price to over $4.00.


Dig Through Time was down to a low $1 in November, but it’s now $2 with a trajectory pointing upwards.


The prices of other Frontier staples have begun to creep up too, and a look at the top gainers in each set shows a growth of over 10 percent for staples including Thunderbreak Regent, Deathmist Raptor, and Siege Rhino. Other staples, including Kolaghan's Command, Goblin Rabblemaster, Soulfire Grand Master, Collected Company, and Rally the Ancestors, have also each seen significant growth of 7 to 9 percent.

What’s interesting is that most Frontier cards have been trending downwards since their departure from Standard, so most of these cards were at their all-time lows before Frontier increased demand for them and started moving prices up over the last couple weeks. There’s a lot of potential upside and not much room to fall, so it’s clear why Frontier is an enticing prospect.

The prices of entire sets contained in the Frontier card pool are increasing, and everything is pointing to them only becoming more valuable as time goes on. Now looks like the best opportunity to acquire complete sets, maybe even foil sets, before they start to creep up even further in price. Alternatively, a look at the price of sealed product doesn’t show these sets having experienced any growth yet, so there might be some value to be had by buying undervalued sealed product as an alternative to singles.

Arguments for Frontier

Consider that Patrick Chapin mentioned the possibility of an eventual Magic Origins-forward format, which he said makes sense due to the name, and because it eliminates what he sees as the biggest problem with Frontier: fetchlands.


Chapin argues that shuffle effects in general take away from the game being fun and, more importantly, viewable, which is a key factor for the game moving forward into the 21st century – if it wants to compete in the e-sport realm. That is the direction the game is moving with things like the new team dynamic being added to the Pro Tour in 2017, so WotC would seem to have an incentive to remove shuffling from competitive play. Chapin suggests that a Khans of Tarkir-forward format would be best with fetchlands banned, and even mentions an idea of every card that shuffles being banned. This would also solve the problem of delve spells like Treasure Cruise, which he contends would need to be banned otherwise. While he sees the best solution to a new non-rotation format being Magic Origins-forward sometime in the future, he does concede that the will of the player base may bring things into motion sooner. As an investor, it’s important to realize that there is likely to be some sort of new format in the future, and that event can be prepared for now.

Magic Origins seems like it might be the ideal new non-rotating spec, because it isn’t restrained if Frontier does go fetch-less, and it contains some high-powered and unique cards, and is in relatively low supply. Khans of Tarkir is filled with staples, and assuming Frontier maintains its trajectory and includes fetchlands, then it has a lot of long-term upside, but there’s certainly some risk of much of the set losing value, including delve spells that are candidates for banning.


One concern with speculating on Frontier or any new format is the potential for reprints. Wizards has made it clear they aren’t shy about reprints – there are still hard feelings about the Reserved List, so make no mistake that they will reprint cards that they are able to. I suspect we will only see the pace of reprints increase as they come up with more creative ways to sell cards and grab more opportunities to monetize.

Planeswalkers like Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound are fantastic representatives of the brand and could be great promotional cards, and things like the Modern Event Deck Series show that a Frontier deck-in-a-box could be a reality. That said, history shows that Wizards tends to be rather reserved about reprints in Modern Masters and Eternal Masters, so I am not too worried about the Frontier floor falling out due to reprints.

At this point, investing in Frontier comes with a lot of uncertainty, but there are huge rewards available for whoever gets it right. What are your thoughts on the future of the Frontier format? What do you think are the best specs for Magic’s next non-rotating format? I’m eager to hear what you have to say in the comments.

--Adam

3 thoughts on “Insider: Frontier is Here

  1. If Frontier becomes a legit format, I will have learned that much of what succeeds or fails among the MTG community is based on the financial limitations of the player base. Modern became popular because it was truly cheaper for players to build one Modern deck that didn’t rotate vs. a somewhat less expensive Standard deck that would dramatically change with new set releases. Frontier appeals to many because decks at the moment can be built for less than Standard or Modern decks. Of course, WOTC would have to step in and support it for it to truly take off as a format or else it will end up being a fringe casual format.

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