Welcome back, readers!
For those who don't know, the EDH Rules Committee decided to temporarily unban cards from the Un-sets (Unglued, Unhinged, and Unstable). This raises some interesting finance questions.
These sets were meant to be super casual and fun, and they can definitely make for an interesting game. However, the announcement caught everyone by surprise, and it felt like a gimmick proposed by Wizards to help sell Unstable packs (since typically the cards are nearly worthless except for the lands). Supposedly this isn't the case and the committee came up with this idea all on their own, but I'll remain a wee bit skeptical.
That being said, there was some significant financial movement in some of the better un-cards. We've seen cards like Johnny, Combo Player, Frankie Peanuts, and Jack-in-the-Mox jump by over 100% since the announcement. So there was definitely some opportunity for gains.
The challenge, however, appears to be that this legality comes with a countdown. They are only legal until January 15, which means you have to move them quickly. Players will likely be unwilling to pay the new prices for long (if at all), as the cards' usefulness has an expiration date. This isn't to say that some casual play groups who hadn't been playing with them won't continue to allow them past January 15th—but major tournament organizers and many stores will likely revert back to them being banned.
It seems that this decision wasn't that well thought-out, as a lot of people came up with combos using Chaos Confetti and/or Blacker Lotus that involved destroying other players cards. They've since stated that these combos aren't legal (despite the fact that all cards necessary to pull them off still are). Normally the rules committee seems to think cards through and give many the opportunity to see play and prove whether they are problematic or not; but with these types of combos it honestly seems like they weren't even considered.
So what does this all mean financially? There are a few conclusions I take away from this development.
The committee is willing to make changes at arbitrary times (i.e. this wasn't expected). This knowledge can be critical if a new card comes out that proves itself extremely powerful in Commander (like, say, Paradox Engine). If something proves problematic to the format, one can't assume their copies are safe until the next banned/restricted update.
So if you are carrying around one or more copies of a card that looks like it might get the axe, you are better to unload them sooner rather than later (even if the price continues to rise somewhat thanks to the power level). After all, once it's banned it'll tank in price and become much harder to unload. It's often better to take a smaller guaranteed profit than to wait and hope to time the market.
Long-Time Ban Reversals
The committee is willing to look at cards banned since the beginning (if one can call it that) to review. It does seem like some cards are unlikely to ever get unbanned. The dexterity cards come to mind. Though it's worth pointing out that they are allowing some of the Unglued/Unhinged dexterity cards like Landfill or Orcish Paratroopers, so the headaches associated with cards like Chaos Orb will get to be enjoyed by players until January 15th.
The fact of the matter is that very few people (I don't of know anyone) ever dreamed this would occur. If the rules committee is willing to do this, then perhaps other cards banned since the beginning might end up unbanned (at least for a while).
It's extremely difficult to find the "original" ban list, since there were two separate entities that drove the creation of EDH/Commander, and for a while both operated with their own banlist. But cards that have been banned for a very long time might be worth a second look.
One particular card of interest to me is Coalition Victory, which hasn't been legal since the format took off. It says, "You win the game," so it's powerful and appeals to casual players, but is restrictive enough that it honestly feels like it might be near the grey area.
I'm not saying to go out and buy a bunch because I think it's getting unbanned, but that if you have copies, maybe pull them out of trade binders. They are worth almost nothing currently, and an unbanning would cause them to jump to several dollars. Prior to this announcement I wouldn't really bother with that because the committee hadn't shown a willingness to unban a lot (especially cards banned very early on), but now it's worth considering.
The Rules Committee may try to unban more cards with "trial periods." This is kind of a carryover from the previous point, but having a set deadline means that any damage an unbanning might do to the format can be rectified in a timely manner.
So consider this another factor when looking at cards that have been banned in the format for a long time as speculation targets (maybe something like Biorhythm since we have it attached to a creature already and that didn't break the format).
It's hard to know what kind of gains we'll see on cards that fall into this category. We saw the un-cards shown above jump, but it's doubtful the new price will stick; especially if most playgroups move back to the way things were pre-announcement, which means gains may be rather limited.
We may see a rift form between the Wizards and the EDH Rules Committee if players are upset about this change (even if it is short lived). I've heard from a lot of our local players that they will not play Commander with Unglued cards or allow them in games, despite their "legality." People as a whole tend to prefer routine over change and this is a huge one.
I myself fall into the "no un-cards in my games" camp, but I do imagine there are plenty of kitchen-top players who are thrilled to play all the weird cards that WotC came up with.
The question is whether this rift would cause a growth or contraction in the playerbase. I fear it might cause the latter, as players who fall into the local minority will feel unwelcome or unwanted at the table and thus stop showing up. There is definitely such a thing as too many formats, as many companies have found in other cases. When you specialize a product too much, you end up alienating too many customers and the product fails (even if it does make the actual target audience happy).
We will likely see a shift towards house rules that are made up by the majority of players at most stores. The challenge here is that house rules are only relevant at that one location. This may force players to "pick" a store rather than to float to a few different ones, as constantly changing one's deck(s) to meet each store's house rules would likely prove cumbersome.
Obviously, this could be good for the stores whose rules are enjoyed by the largest number of "floaters," but bad for stores whose rules don't appeal to these types of players. This may also mean that Commander side events at GPs and other large events may see a drop in attendance as players fear not knowing what the rules for a given event are and/or don't want to keep modifying decks to meet the rules.
If the unbanning proves to be unpopular and the Committee goes back to banning silver-bordered cards, then there will be some backlash from the players who A) bought them at the newly inflated prices; and/or B) enjoy playing with them and feel like the committee is taking away their fun.
We've seen time and time again the vitriol WotC receives from players when they ban a card for these reasons, and we're looking at a large slew of cards as opposed to one or two. Wizards currently maintains the one-vs-one list on MTGO, but they have taken a hands-off approach to normal multiplayer Commander. If this decision proves too unpopular, we may see WotC take control over the banned list entirely as a way to appease players, especially if the unpopularity hits their bottom line.
This is an unprecedented move by the EDH Rules Committee that has definitely had financial implications. It will be very interesting to see what lasting changes this decision has on Commander.
I'm particularly intrigued by the idea of trial periods. I believe that could be one of the more interesting options to come out of this, and it could lead to a lot of price spikes. I am curious what your thoughts are on this change, so please leave them below in the comments, as I'd really like to get a feel for the general consensus.