Welcome to the MTGO Market Report as compiled by Matthew Lewis. The report will cover a range of topics, including a summary of set prices and price changes for redeemable sets, a look at the major trends in various Constructed formats and a "Trade of the Week" section that highlights a particular speculative strategy with an example and accompanying explanation.
As always, speculators should take into account their own budgets, risk tolerances and current portfolios before buying or selling any digital objects. Please send questions via private message or post below in the article comments.
Below are the total set prices for all redeemable sets on MTGO. All prices are current as of November 14, 2017. The TCGplayer low and TCGplayer mid prices are the sum of each set's individual card prices on TCGplayer, either the low price or the mid price respectively.
All MTGO set prices this week are taken from GoatBot's website, and all weekly changes are now calculated relative to GoatBot's "full set" prices from the previous week. All monthly changes are also relative to the previous month's prices, taken from GoatBot's website at that time. Occasionally, full set prices are not available, and so estimated set prices are used instead. Although both Aether Revolt (AER) and Kaladesh (KLD) are no longer available for redemption, their prices will continue to be tracked while they are in Standard.
Play Points and Treasure Chests
Wizards is continuing to experiment with the Magic Online economy this week, as you'll be able to buy Play Points for the first time ever. On top of that, Play Points will carry a bulk purchase discount from the Magic Online store, which has never happened before to my knowledge. Check out the full announcement here.
Bulk discounts are something sorely lacking since MTGO went live. To this day, there is no opportunity to buy a box of boosters at a discount to the price of the individual boosters. Although there are other discounts available in the MTGO economy, this is a jarring difference from retail in the real world.
With the advent of free-to-play games like Hearthstone, its clear that Wizards is trying to lower the price of Magic Online where they can. Last year, they dropped the tix-only entry fee of drafts from 14 to 12 tix, effectively dropping the equilibrium price of boosters from 4 tix to 3.3 tix. Interestingly enough, if you buy the 1200 Play Point bundle for $100, this is the same fraction discount of about 17 percent.
I suspect this change will have minimal impact on the MTGO economy, and it might even be a net positive. Play Points are not tradeable and can only be used for event entry, which severely limits their potential impact. It's almost impossible for this change to introduce first-order market distortions, although we might see lower booster prices on the secondary market as a result. After all, if the cheapest way to draft is through Play Points with a bulk purchase discount, this will lower the equilibrium price of boosters. But since you do need to pony up $100 for the discount, it's not clear that the magnitude of the change will be large. Not everyone can afford to drop $100 at a time in order to play Magic Online; most players are used to only paying for the next draft.
When it comes to playing Constructed, you'll still have to pony up cash or tix in order to get a deck together, and this is where a potential positive impact could occur. Overall, cheaper ways to play Magic Online will encourage more play, which is effectively going to drive a growing economy. If more players are taking up Constructed, demand for singles will go up and this is the easiest speculative environment, the equivalent of a bull market.
The other big change announced is a new exclusive slot in Treasure Chests, as well as the addition of full Standard sets in the curated selection. Adding full sets is a fantastic change to the Treasure Chest system. Previously, old and obscure cards with low availability were included due to their high secondary market prices, which helped to keep a lottery aspect to cracking them from a Chest. But since they were in low demand, the price of these cards would fall rapidly after being introduced in Treasure Chests. Rishadan Port is the poster child for this effect, as it carried a price of over 200 tix last year at the release of Kaladesh and now sits at less then 80 tix.
Putting complete Standard sets into Chests means that the lottery aspect will always be there, and the value of winning that lottery will be relatively stable. Standard is a format with stable demand, and the price of a Standard set is largely a function of that. By their actions, it looks like WotC has recognized an inherent problem with Treasure Chests in that they were mining reprint equity that would get rapidly depleted. Adding complete sets means that they are shifting some of that activity into the more accessible vein of Standard.
Standard and Standard Boosters
All Standard sets dropped in price this week in both digital and paper. With Iconic Masters (IMA) on the way, this looks like the market wants liquidity and is getting ready to shell out some cash for the new product. The reality of the Standard format being dominated by the energy mechanic is also weighing on prices, as pet strategies get tossed out for ones that can compete.
With IMA on the way, look for a dip in the price of Standard boosters. Although there's very little opportunity in Amonkhet (AKH) and Hour of Devastation (HOU) boosters, a dip below 2.8 tix for Ixalan (XLN) boosters should be considered a good buying opportunity. As usual, boosters are a grindy speculative strategy that requires time and effort for small, incremental gains, but if you've got some spare time and tix this weekend, I anticipate a wave of selling in order to fund IMA drafts. Prices will normalize in a few weeks, and selling in the 3.0- to 3.2-tix range is anticipated. There's some uncertainty being introduced with the sale of discounted Play Points, so those who are risk averse or new to speculating should not try out this strategy. Ordinarily, I would say it's a guaranteed bet, but it's good to be a little more cautious when Wizards introduces changes to the MTGO economy.
The four sets that have rotated out of Standard all posted zero price movement in the TCGplayer-mid weekly change column, which is encouraging to see. It's only a matter of time before they put in a price bottom, and this looks like it has the potential to be just that. Next week, we'll look for increasing prices to help confirm the change in trend. On MTGO, the bottom was in weeks ago and we are seeing another round of price increases on these sets, except for Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) which saw a two-percent decline.
Checking our the chart of prices around Standard rotation, Eldritch Moon (EMN) is following the path that Journey Into Nyx (JOU) took, finding a price bottom in a littler earlier, but generally rising rapidly after rotation. JOU ultimately peaked in January of 2016, and it looks like the bulk of the gains for EMN are baked into the current price already. Selling EMN in the next six weeks looks to be correct at the moment.
Oath of the Gatewatch (OGW) is not rising as quickly, but the uptrend is clearly in place. This set has a little more room to run and I am not looking to sell in the near term.
On the large set front, Shadows over Innistrad (SOI) and BFZ look very anemic in comparison. Their prices are largely unchanged in absolute terms. They definitely appear to be following a price path similar to Khans of Tarkir (KTK), one that is relatively flat but sloping upward. At this point, a price of 30 tix is still possible for both sets, and they will bear further watching over the coming months.
Trade of the Week
For a complete look at my recent trades, please check out the portfolio. This week I started buying Infernal Tutor, which is a staple of Legacy in decks built around the Storm mechanic. Interest in Legacy is at a low ebb, but that will change in early 2018 with two Grand Prix events in the spring that feature Legacy Constructed. MTGO is still the best testing ground for any Constructed format, so the plan is look for increased demand for Legacy staples over the next six months.
Infernal Tutor has regularly cycled up and down between 20 and 50 tix over the last few years, and was as high as 50 tix as recently as last April. These do show up on the curated card list, so old price floors are no longer valid. I've been a cautious buyer at the moment, but I'll continue to watch for lower prices over the coming weeks to expand my position.