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Insider: Modern Masters 2017 Repercussions

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Modern Masters 2017 spoilers are now completed and the sentiment from many players is pure ecstasy. With so many valuable reprints, it's easy for players who were struggling to get into Modern or playing lower-tier decks to look at this set as the greatest of all time. After all, the spoiler list is almost a checklist of every valuable Modern card.

Previous Modern Masters sets have added a decent number of Modern staples to the supply, but not enough to really crush prices (as evidenced by the fact that the top Modern Masters reprints have tended to rebound for the most part). The key factor, though, is that the previous MM sets had a lot of chaff in them. I did an article comparing the two previous sets before, and found that a good number of rares in those sets weren't heavily played (or even at all) in Modern. But this one is different.

We're seeing a much higher percentage of playable rares, but we're also seeing a much higher print run. The original Modern Masters set was extremely limited (many smaller stores only got eight boxes), and even the larger stores ran out very quickly. But Modern Masters 2017… My LGS alone is getting 120 boxes and I'm seeing lots of sellers/stores claiming 100-200 boxes. This doesn't even count the really big boys like Star City Games, Channel Fireball, Card Kingdom, etc.

BoosterBox_Chronicles

Not to be Chicken Little here, but this set is looking a whole lot more like Chronicles than it is like Modern Masters 2013. For those who forgot or were too young to remember, Chronicles obliterated the prices of the cards included. It led to the creation of the Reserved List to calm fears from stores and collectors who had watched a lot of valuable cards they owned drop to worthlessness.

That isn't to say the markets are going to freak out and everything is doomed. Wizards certainly knows what they're doing, and they're unlikely to repeat a debacle on the level of Chronicles. But there are a lot of parallels between these two sets, and it's fair to to say we can expect a larger impact than what we saw with the first two Modern Masters sets.

Local Supply Increases

Let's do some math here. There are 53 rares and 15 mythics in the set. Say there are three LGSs within a 30-minute drive from you, and that each gets 100 boxes (on the low end here). We expect around three mythics per box (replacing the rare).

Thus in your area you'd see 300 boxes * 3 mythics per box = 900 mythics. Assuming an even distribution, this totals about 60 copies of each mythic, or 15 playsets each.

Now for the rares. Again assuming three mythics per box, that's 300 boxes * 21 packs per box = 6300 total rares. With an even distribution, that's 118, or a little under 30 playsets, of each rare.

That might not seem like a lot, but consider that each is a reprint, so there are already copies available in the local area. Now you're adding a whole lot more to that local supply.

Can your local playerbase absorb 30 playsets of Blood Moon or Goblin Guide? The reason this is important is because if a lot of areas answer no (which I think will be the case), we'll have a huge surplus on a lot of these cards. Surpluses mean price drops; huge surpluses mean huge price drops.


Playerbase Demand

The overall Magic playerbase, while considerably larger than it was 10 years ago, is still a tiny fraction of the population. The current estimate for total number of Magic players is somewhere in the 21-23 million range. Per Hasbro's earning report in 2016 there are 1 million registered DCI players (these are the ones I would expect to spend more on the game, especially a high-ticket item like Modern Masters boosters).

Guestimating by population, if we assume half of these players are located in the North America, then we expect around 0.000086% of the population to be registered players. If your local population is 200,000 (a pretty decent-sized city), then you might have around 172 players.

So how many of those 172 players want to play Modern? How many don't already have the cards necessary? These questions will greatly affect what the prices of cards in this set will do.

Recurring Reprints

The other factor that needs to be considered is that WoTC currently releases a Masters set every year (last year was Eternal Masters). We don't know if they'll be releasing a Modern-themed one specifically every year, but the next one isn't far away. This implies that, from here on out, Modern prices may be kept heavily deflated compared to previous highs.

So this begs the question: if I'm a store owner and my profit margin is much higher on singles than on sealed product, do I want Modern prices kept perpetually low? Obviously, no, I don't. It's less likely that these sudden cheaper prices bring in tons of new players buying cards.

If I have operating costs totaling $1200 a month and I make 45% profit margin on singles, then I would rather have to sell 100 $27 cards than 400 $6.75 cards. The effort required to sell (and buy) 400 cards is obviously much higher. That doesn't mean we'll see cards lose 75% of their value, though I honestly think it's possible for some of the more casual stuff like Basilisk Collar.

I'll also concede that it's likely easier to sell cheaper cards. However, the fact is that you have to sell a lot more of them to make the same total amount of money, and this may not work for many store owners.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this set seems to be a short-term home run, but long-term could have serious impacts on the format and community. While these reprint sets are great for newer players, they can harm stores (or people with large inventories).

There's a term in economics called "loss aversion." Lots of research has shown that people view the negative of losing something as more impactful than the positive of gaining the same thing. Basically, if the pain of losing something had a measurable scale, its number would be higher than the joy of gaining the same thing on the same scale.

A lot of players and stores lost a lot of money with this set. Previous Modern Masters sets included much fewer money reprints, so the loss you took on some cards getting reprinted was likely counteracted (and overshadowed) by the gains you took on acquiring new cards much cheaper than you could previously.

This set, however, was filled to the brim with valuable and semi-valuable reprints. If you read my last article comparing the previous two versions of Modern Masters, specifically at the rare spot, we had only 21 that had seen some Modern play in the original MMA set and only 15 in MM2. Compare that with this newest Modern Masters and my count is at 28—more importantly, many of those 28 were above $5 prior to this printing.

David Schumann

David started playing Magic in the days of Fifth Edition, with a hiatus between Judgment to Shards. He's been playing Commander since 2009 and Legacy since 2010.

View More By David Schumann

Posted in Finance, Free Insider, Modern, Modern Masters 2017Tagged , ,

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15 thoughts on “Insider: Modern Masters 2017 Repercussions

    1. You are correct here, luckily, that was just a typo when I was typing up my article, the 200,000* 0.00086= 172 is still correct. Thanks for catching this though I’ll get it edited.

  1. There are significant problems with your reasoning in this article. The first is the assumption that only DCI registered players want these cards. This set includes chase mythics that basically every magic player wants. Also, the finance community freaked out about the last two modern masters sets saying “this is the death knell for magic investment.” Instead Instead, the reprints spurred more excitement for players that otherwise couldn’t get into modern, and many prices went up. Failing to account for the growth of the player base in response to added supply is a mistake.

    1. I don’t disagree that there are plenty of cards that do appeal to the more casual crowd in this set. However, the assumption that the playerbase is suddenly going to explode because of this set is far more flawed (I think) than my assumption. The previous modern masters sets did spur playerbase growth (I won’t deny that), however, playerbase growth was already accelerating when MM2013 came out so to claim that MM2013 was causation is flawed logic. I would also argue your statement that the chase mythics are cards “every magic player wants”, I will admit that every magic player can likely find cards they like or want in the set but certainly not “every mythic is for everyone”. I would also argue that the “many prices went up” aspect was heavily due to the print run size of the previous MM sets, with them being small enough that the new playerbase growth demand clearly outpaced the additional supply. However, this print run is many many times larger, thus the additional supply will be many many times larger. I am not nearly as optimistic about the playerbase growth created due to this set compared to the large glut in supply. But I do appreciate your feedback (I think any useful criticism) is important and spurs our thought process and evaluation of a situation.

  2. I appreciate your perspective, David. This kind of content is so valuable to those who want to conserve or even make money with this hobby. I would so much rather read this than some Redditor who says, “Wizards was the worst until MM17, now Imma buy a case cause you can’t lose on this!” I feel bad for stores because having a singles revenue stream is getting more complicated with all the reprints affecting prices. Hopefully Wizards can succeed at bringing more players into the game.

    1. Thanks. I actually wouldn’t have had much issue with the set, until I found out the print run was massively larger than previous ones. Adding a bunch of good cards to the supply isn’t a bad thing if it’s done with forethought of how that addition will affect local supply’s. I do think the set would be really fun to draft, but thanks to all the hype (and MSRP) I don’t think I would honestly get my money back at $35 a draft (given even SCG only has 15 rares/mythics worth above $10 which is MSRP on the pack).

  3. What is your estimate on the print run of MM3 compared to MM2? What is your estimate on the print run of MM2 compared to MMA? How much of the print run do you estimate was assigned to the Grand Prix events for MM2 and MMA, including side events?

    1. Unfortunately my LGS owner can’t seem to recall how many MM2015 boxes he got. We both know it was more than original MM but the number isn’t exactly known. So unfortunately, I have to work with incomplete data. That being said I know for a fact he got 8x MM2013 boxes and 120 MM2017 boxes which is a 15x increase. While I don’t know if I’d equate the print run sizes exactly by this number it does indicate a MUCH larger print run than the original. The original print run was small enough that most local playerbases could absorb the small increase in supply to most of the modern playable cards without permanently obliterating their prices. But the math I did above shows that a MUCH larger amount of product would require a very “hungry” local playerbase, a ton of new players entering the format, or heavily deflated prices…I’m still of the belief it will be the latter.

  4. Enjoyed the read. If you were able to get 50 boxes at a blended rate of $180, what would you do with them? Also, if it’s not to late to fix, repurcussions is misspelled in the title.

    1. If I could get 50 boxes at $180…I might honestly pass. But I don’t have a reliable out for sealed product. The boxes seem to have dropped back down to the $220 range. If you were to sell them on TCG or eBay they would take there 10% ish cut and your shipping cost would likely be in the $8-$10 range (here in the US). This means that all said and done you make around $10 per box which equates to about a 5.5% profit margin. While this isn’t a bad margin in some industries, if the price of a box drops to $210 you are suddenly only going to break even really. You are also investing $9000 to do this with the hope of making $495. I’d rather hold that money to buy collections or at the very least wait a few months for the mm2017 card prices to reach their likely lows and Target specific singles with the goal of unloading them before the next MM set hits.

  5. Great read!

    Why would you assume half the Magic players live in North America? It accounts for about 15% of the world’s land mass. Population wise North America is about 8% of the world. Obviously Magic is not played equally often everywhere, but it seems like a strange assumption that half the players live in North America. I would not be surprised if the real number was closer to 25%.

    1. Well land mass isn’t all that relevant when you consider that Russia is the worlds largest country (by land mass) yet the population is only 143 million. My assumption is more based on the focus WoTC gives to the continent regarding GPs and other major events. If the US only accounted for about 25% of the total MTG player base then I would expect more GPs to be held in other locations, but you are correct in that it’s difficult to prove. If that assumption is incorrect then the local playerbase would be even smaller and this print run would likely hurt the card prices even more (as there would be less demand).

      1. That’s why I brought in population, I agree that land mass seems less reliable.

        Fewer GP’s in other parts of the world may have different causes. People might not travel as easily (you are more used to long distance travel in the US), or there might be more local shops (as it’s more difficult to have big shops in a small country). There might be other events, like the SCG series, or the balance between casual and competitive players might be different. There could be more language barriers that make organizing an event that reaches neighboring countries a challenge or it could simply be advertising those events in other countries that makes it more difficult (most people speaking English is definitely an advantage for the US). It may also simply be that Wizards is making the same assumptions you are.

        I can’t say for sure whether any of these would be true, just saying that half sounds like a lot.

        This site shows 48 Grand Prix if I counted correctly and 19 of them in the US, with Las Vegas skewing things a little. This would make it 40%, 37% if we count Vegas as a single event. It would appear that even by your own reasoning half would be too much?

        I don’t really mean to attack you too much on this, the lower number would definitely support your article even better. I just want to point out the US focussed reasoning because it can lead to incorrect conclusions and because I see it often.

        1. You bring up a very valid point though. I probably do view the MTG world through Rose colored glasses because I’m based here in the US. I will personally put additional thought into the realm of non-US Magic because this is a worldwide game and it is important to keep in mind. I definitely appreciate your feedback on this one.

          1. It doesn’t help that QS is US focused in general and it’s of course always tempting to reason from your own experience. I’m sure I do it too.

            I suppose Magic players likely clump together, meaning that your local population of 200k may either have far fewer or far more players. This still works for calculating the number of playsets that should enter circulation in such an area on average, but as finance minded people we are likely the result of a more crowded area (because otherwise who would we work with?) and therefore our own experience might be somewhat tainted.

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