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Insider: Analyzing All the Buyouts

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My optimism for MTG finance continues to grow. The past couple months brought many fun, speculation-driven profits based on the reprints of Modern Masters 2017 and the contents of Amonkhet. While cards that spike on such speculation often don’t pan out, they still represent opportunities to make a quick buck. With enough speed and agility, one could really make money on any of the numerous buyouts we’ve had so far in 2017.

However not all buyouts are created equally. Some represent legitimate shifts in demand, suggesting prices will remain elevated for some time and possibly rise even higher. Others require the Greater Fool Theory to generate any financial gains from being involved. While I don’t mind making money in either case, I much prefer putting my resources into the former, because it minimizes risk.

But how do you know if a jump is legitimate or not? When cards are disappearing from TCG Player at a rate of four per minute, it’s easy to let emotions kick in to dictate purchasing decisions. In order to be best prepared, we need to go through the exercise of analyzing previous movements in order to develop strategies for what’s to come.

This week I want to review recent price spikes, sharing thoughts on whether the card’s new price will stick or if there are certain characteristics that spell doom.

Top Movers of Last Week

Let’s start with the cards that jumped over the past seven days, according to MTG Stocks’ Interests page.

Interests
(Click to expand.)

 


Both printings of Lotus Bloom jumped significantly last week. The Modern Masters version took the top spot for rising the most, nearly 200%. This hype is driven by the spoiling of As Foretold out of Amonkhet. Immediately after casting the enchantment you can play any suspend card without a converted mana cost. Lotus Bloom was an obvious target, especially since it already sees competitive Modern play in the Ad Nauseam deck.

I don’t think this stays at $27.50. But $15-$20 seems very possible; it’s been over four years since this card’s last printing, and the print run for the original Modern Masters was pretty small. With the card legitimately seeing Modern play already, this sort of spike is the type to get behind. I wouldn’t rush to buy copies at this new price thinking I could flip them immediately for profit. But because of the card’s scarcity and demand profile, picking this up upon the spoiling of As Foretold was a brilliant move.

Less inspiring were the number two and number three cards.



Both of these also jumped on the spoiling of As Foretold for the same reason: free casting of suspend-only spells. But unlike Lotus Bloom, these two cards haven’t really seen any Modern play. This speculation requires As Foretold to somehow break these cards enough to elevate them to playable in Modern, and this is a much taller task.

I actually picked up a few Wheel of Fate because they had the lowest entry price (and therefore lowest risk). But with these jumps, I’m inclined to cash out already. The odds of further upside seem low. Expect a race to price bottom in the weeks ahead.


Legacy speculation, something we don’t see nearly as often nowadays! The card has already gone through a couple buyout iterations. Every time this happens, the card sells off gradually afterward but settles at a higher baseline. This is happening because the card is so old and only has the one printing—as a result, when it spikes there aren’t as many people with copies lying around itching to take advantage of the higher price.

This will happen yet again, I’m sure. Anyone who was able to buy at the pre-spike price is going to make good money, and the downside risk was very small due to the card’s age and price stickiness. I expect this to settle in the $25 range, but it’ll take weeks to get there. And of course, there’s always that minuscule chance the deck does break into Tier 1.5 in Legacy.


If I had to guess, I’d say this card was moving due to play in Commander. According to EDH REC, Planar Gate shows up in just over 1100 decks. That’s a significant amount of demand for a Reserved List card printed in Legends. The card isn’t that useful in Old School MTG, so I believe EDH is the extent of its utility.

With that in mind, it’s pretty much guaranteed this card climbs higher. Commander cards have a tendency to disappear into people’s decks, never to return to the market again. This is the only card on the list that I’d say “buy” right now if you need a copy. This won’t get cheaper.


This is an uncommon from Odyssey, which means they’re buried in bulk boxes across the country. The card sees play in Legacy, but never as a four-of. I think this is more of a metagame call, and therefore temporary. Even though Odyssey was printed a long time ago, I have to imagine players will gradually be more and more motivated to dig these out of bulk as the price climbs. I’d cash out at these levels, though this card won’t be considered “bulk” ever again.


One theme of Amonkhet revolves around aggressively-costed cards that put -1/-1 counters on your creatures. This is a clever way of balancing a card’s power while pushing the envelope a bit. I like the design space a lot.

Once these cards became spoiled, Melira became an obvious target for her ability to prevent -1/-1 counters from being placed on your creatures. This should behave very similarly to Lotus Bloom, in that it has newfound synergies with Amonkhet while already being played in Modern. I don’t suggest you buy fifty copies at $9, but if you don’t want to sell yet because you are waiting for more upside, I wouldn’t blame you.

Monitor the market closely on this one because it won’t take long for the market to determine whether or not Amonkhet synergies are real. If they’re not, Melira will drop in price (though not back to $5 again).

Honorable Mentions

Here are a couple more spikes from this year that merit addressing.


Preacher, Falling Star, and Colossus of Sardia are all cards that were bought out speculatively due to their age and rarity. Speculators are starting to reach pretty deep into the well to find Old School playables worth buying. I’m not too excited about all three of these. That said, Preacher and Falling Star are Reserved List cards from 23 years ago. Thus, they won’t pull back all the way to their old prices.


Single printing? Check! Playable in multiple formats? Check! Printed before the recent Magic boom? Check! This card is one of the best places to park money into throughout 2017. It just missed its chance to be reprinted, so I don’t expect we’ll see this before 2018. The recent surge in Ad Nauseam strategies in Modern has generated significant demand for the black instant. I’m 100% behind this card, and think there’s even more upside from here.


Here’s a card that is moving on legitimate Old School demand. Psionic Blast is played in many Old School builds. Permanent removal in blue is difficult to come by, so many players default to Psi-blast as a reliable way to destroy Serra Angels or push through that last few damage to win the game.

I like this for a long term-hold, and I wouldn’t fault you for buying your playset now either. Just be aware that you’re buying after a sizable price increase.

Wrapping It Up

I could not asked for a better start to 2017 in MTG finance. We’ve seen a ton of price increases, enabling profitability from many formats. Modern metagame shifts, Legacy speculation, and Old School buying has all taken place in healthy doses. The success of Modern Masters 2017 has surely sparked newfound interest in Modern and the spoiling of Amonkhet thus far has generated a lot of synergy speculation sure to capture the interest of any MTG financier.

For these trends to continue, I really hope Amonkhet does enough to shake up Standard. You may have noticed Standard cards were absent from the list above—the format as it stands is virtually solved, and there is little room for innovation. We can only hope that the introduction of new cards in Amonkhet will be enough to shake up the format.

If that should happen, it will generate even more opportunities to profit on metagame shifts. These profits will help people keep enough powder dry to acquire other cards, and the cycle will continue. We can only hope this is the case.

In the meantime, let’s take a step back, assess all these price spikes, and make sure we’re selling into them appropriately. There have been so many exciting buying opportunities lately that it has become easy for me to forget about the selling part. I need to make sure I maintain sufficient liquidity so I can continue to take advantage of new news and price moves. I’m going to use my observations above to guide me in what I sell and what I keep. Hopefully they help you as well!

Sigbits

  • The other day I received an email alert that Star City Games had restocked foil Hardened Scales. I clicked the link immediately to see how many copies they had and at what price. Disappointingly they had only one copy re-listed, though it was at the old price tag of $3.99. Needless to say the card has since sold and they’re once again sold out. Perhaps next time they’ll up their price when they restock.
  • It’s awesome to see Wheel of Fate jump on As Foretold speculation. However I don’t think there’s much more upside from here—$4 is likely the ceiling for now. Star City Games has dozens of copies in stock in this price range, so it would take another wave of speculative buying to break the $4 barrier. I’m a seller at this level.
  • After being sold out for what felt like an eternity, Star City Games finally has a healthy stock of Library of Alexandria. In fact they have so much stock that I think the price won’t be moving upward for quite some time. Star City has 11 copies for sale currently, which may not seem like a lot. But these copies represent over $6,000 in inventory for SCG. I doubt they’re eager to buy more copies. This is in fact consistent with the card’s price graph—after spiking in 2016, Library of Alexandria has drifted downward since. It even stepped a little lower over the past couple weeks. This will be dead money for quite some time.

3 thoughts on “Insider: Analyzing All the Buyouts

  1. WotC is announcing a new 1V1 commander format w/ the release of Amonkhet. I’m curious if they’ll keep LoA on the banned list, or if they’ll forget all about it and let it slide :). Right now it’s playable only in Highlander so it’s uses are very limited, but give it a chance to see play (somewhere… anywhere!) and I’m sure the demand will resurface.

    1. Is this official? I haven’t seen mention of this format anywhere on social media! But maybe I missed it all completely. How is there not more MTG Finance chatter about what to buy for this format? This could mean Commander Grand Prix!!

      1. Nah, Carl is referring to an upcoming change to the MTGO 1 vs 1 Commander format. He believes this will have a strong influence on paper Commander too, but the judge is still out on that. There is a discussion on Rhystic Tutor on the forum that addresses this.

        Library would never get unbanned in paper Commander because it would be a way too ubiquitous expensive card that is also incredibly strong. The perceived barrier to entry in itself would likely keep them from unbanning it in this case even if its power level could perhaps be borderline acceptable.

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