If you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple weeks, you may have missed all the drastic moves in Kaladesh Inventions. In all, six different Inventions jumped by at least 45% in the past seven days, with Pithing Needle taking the headline.
That is a considerable move in these cards considering their high base! It’s easy for a card like foil Force Bubble to jump 370% simply because its base was only a buck. But for a card to be $49 and jump over 100% means a $50 move!
Granted, I doubt copies have sold at these new prices. The few speculators looking to get out quickly are still testing the market by gradually listing copies at elevated prices. Given the low supply of these Masterpieces, this trend is likely to continue.
But this creates some uncertainty. Should you jump in? How low will prices retract before a new, stable price is identified? Are there other Masterpieces likely to make similar moves? This week I want to break down the driving forces in this controversial market to conclude the right actions to take from here.
Buying Masterpieces: The Positive Factors
Multiple factors are driving the sudden surge in demand for these rarities. The primary catalyst is most likely Mark Rosewater’s “Metamorphosis 2.0” article published a month ago. Within he indicates a dire message for Masterpiece aficionados:
There you have it. From now on there will be fewer Masterpieces, and from the looks of it we’ll be taking off a good number of months before we see more. With so much uncertainty in the market (i.e there’s no telling when Masterpieces will return), we’re basically in a “what you see is what you get” scenario. Not much more product is being opened from Kaladesh block so whatever is on the market is likely to be it for a while.
I once argued that people should unload any Masterpiece cards from any set hand over fist. This was based on my hypothesis that the same money was essentially competing for all these varying high-dollar cards. The more that got printed, the more people would have to pick and choose their priorities. I saw this as a major headwind for this market when the reality was new Masterpieces every set.
Many of the Expeditions had been suffering in price for months and I think this rampant printing of Masterpieces was a proximate cause. Hence why some of the most desirable lands dropped nonstop since their spike upon release. This trend could now reverse given the significant reduction in Masterpiece frequency.
Another positive factor driving Kaladesh Inventions prices is the simple lack of supply on the market. I don’t have any hard data to report, but I have a sneaking suspicion that far more Battle for Zendikar block was opened vs. Kaladesh block. And by the time you get to Aether Revolt, there is a sure lack of box-opening that took place.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning the specific Commander allure for many of the Kaladesh Masterpieces released in the block. Commander players are known for seeking out foils and other expensive versions of cards for their decks. Naturally some of these players are prone to salivate at the beauty provided by the Inventions. Combine that with the ubiquity of some of these cards in EDH and you have a recipe for a robust market.
According to EDH REC, over 35,000 decks run Chromatic Lantern and over 50,000 decks use Lightning Greaves. Contrast this with the 13,000 decks that use a given fetch land such as Misty Rainforest and you begin to see why Inventions outshine the Expeditions. Sure, Expeditions have Legacy and Modern demand as well. But after witnessing these Invention spikes I’m inclined to believe most of it is driven by EDH speculation.
Now why did I use the term “EDH speculation” and not “EDH demand?” Well, let’s shift gears toward the more controversial negative factors surrounding this Masterpiece craze.
Buying Masterpieces: The Negative Factors
A considerable amount of demand for Kaladesh Inventions is stemming from speculation. I wish this was all natural demand stemming from EDH players’ interest to build the flashiest decks they can. But recent price movements have gone well beyond just this. Consider the Twitter conversation I read through last night:
I am going to keep this portion of my article neutrally toned. It is not my intent to pass judgment on the MTG finance community. I reference this dialogue because I think it accurately depicts what is transpiring in the Masterpiece market. People are recognizing the scarcity of these cards and their attractiveness in EDH, and gobbling up copies speculatively as a result.
Jarowimy puts it well: they have the copies they want for EDH but they may as well pick up some extra, right? Others chime in supporting the strategy. The result is summarized best by a different Tweet from Mr. MTG Finance himself, Jonathan Medina:
This isn't so complicated. The rise in the #MTGFinance meta-culture has created another sector of demand "spec-demand" which raises prices.
— Jonathan Medina (@MedinaMakesGame) July 7, 2017
This is happening over and over again. It wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of the Inventions that sold in the past 14 days went into speculators’ hands and not players’. Or maybe it’s both?
Commander porn pic.twitter.com/DH6Xjm1jfV
— Jim Casale (@Phrost_) July 7, 2017
The fact that prices are being propped up by speculator demand is concerning to me. While these could be fine long-term holds, the short-term price will face headwinds as speculators look to bleed copies back into the market at a profit. In a way, it’s almost like a game of chicken. Speculators are likely to hold onto their copies as prices go higher and higher. But eventually someone will blink and list a bunch of copies for sale—then the undercutting will begin, leading to a retraction in prices.
This is precisely what I expect will happen. I myself have already “blinked.” While I didn’t make any large-scale purchases, I did pick up a few Masterpieces and have already sold one and listed another for sale on eBay. But is that what you should do? Hmmm…
I’ll admit it’s very difficult to see through the fog and into the future. If you’ll grant me poetic license for a moment, “The Dark Side [of MTG finance] clouds everything” – Yoda. I can’t predict the prices EDH players are willing to bear as speculators look to squeeze profits out of their cards. I also can’t anticipate when enough speculators will “blink” and start undercutting each other fervently for a sale. Perhaps it never happens given how rare these are?
Personally, I’ll stick with my tried-and-true strategy. If I can sell cards for profit, I do so. Occasionally I hold onto certain pieces of my collection despite their appreciation; these are usually part of a deck or they represent nostalgia I continue to enjoy. I’ve done very well on my Juzám Djinns, for example, but I don’t sell them because I continue to play them in Old School.
But for these Masterpieces, I have no intent on playing them. I only bought a few, but I’m already itching to unload them to put my profits to work elsewhere.
This high-turnover strategy ensures I minimize damage from reprinting and long-term headwinds such as speculator atrophy. After all, we only need Wizards of the Coast to release some fancy new Judge Promo Chromatic Lantern and suddenly the Invention printing has competition. For all we know, WOTC can get really lazy and just give out Inventions as Judge Promos in the future—they recycled the Phyrexian Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, after all, and this is destroying its price.
While I think a Judge Invention is unlikely, I’m not one to take on excessive exposure to this risk out of complacency. If I can move my Inventions at higher prices, I will. Then I’ll reassess the market. Perhaps there are other Inventions worth acquiring that haven’t spiked yet. As always, I seek to rinse and repeat. No one ever went bankrupt selling for a profit.
Wrapping It Up
Remember when the only way to get foil Wastelands was to drop hundreds of dollars on the Magic Player Rewards version? Then Wizards printed a Judge Promo in 2010, and then another in 2015, and then gave us foils in Eternal Masters last year. The repeated printings of premium Wastelands really took the wind out of the sails of these as specs for the long term.
I believe the same could very well happen with these Masterpieces. Wizards of the Coast realizes how popular they were and they know that with the right frequency, these can really supercharge sales of a given set. Do I think the Kaladesh Inventions will be outclassed overnight? Certainly not. But I’d be inclined to say that you shouldn’t stick these in a shoebox for five years and expect to come back to significant gains. That’s a possibility, but it’s far from guaranteed.
In the short term, you’re facing a different kind of dilemma: that of the speculator. With speculators drumming up FOMO (fear of missing out), the market is giving this knee-jerk reaction that is causing an even greater spike in prices. Everyone wants to make a buck and these Masterpieces are showcasing blowout gains on MTG Stocks day after day, driving even more attention to them. I wonder if this eventually fades and more copies enter the market than there are EDH players willing to pay these new, higher prices. If that happens, we’ll see a sizable pullback in pricing, negating much of the potential profits.
That’s why I’m looking to sell. Not all at once. Not desperately. I have prices in mind that I’d be happy to take, and if I can get them I’ll cash in and move on. Doing this ensures I am profitable on the Masterpiece endeavor without being left in the dust when a race to the bottom does begin.
In the meantime, be careful with the rhetoric you read on Twitter. Remember the motivations members of the MTG finance community have to drum up even more demand for cards they’re heavily invested in. Tread carefully, don’t be greedy, and you should do just fine navigating the market for the highly desirable cards.
- When I sort the Kaladesh Inventions by popularity on TCG Player the top match is Arcbound Ravager. This could very well be the next one to spike. SCG has only four in stock with an elevated price tag of $84.99. But there are a handful of copies below $80 that would need to be cleared out first in order to see a sizable price jump. Perhaps if you are taking some profits on your spiked Inventions, you could look to double-dip into this one if you’re feeling bold.
- Sindbad? Really?? Why is this uncommon from Arabian Nights now sold out at $14.99 on Star City Games’s site? Why is the cheapest copy on TCG Player $18? Well, market price is still only $6.25 so perhaps copies haven’t been selling at the new price and we’re seeing manipulation at play. But when I see Card Kingdom slap an $11 buy price on the card, I start to become a believer that demand is real. Anyone have any theories?
- As someone who is in in the market for Underground Sea, I can tell you that the market has been quietly moving on this and a few other dual lands. I’ve seen the number of sellers on TCG Player drift down lately, approaching seasonal lows. Star City Games has just 11 copies in stock themselves, with NM going for $399.99 and MP $299.99. More incredible is the fact that SCG remains sold out of Unlimited copies with a NM price tag of $699.99! This is approaching the same price as a piece of HP Power!