Happy New Year! It feels like 2017 started just a few short months ago, yet here we are starting down the path of 2018, a fresh new year. It would seem 2017 was a bit of a split year when it comes to MTG finance. On the one hand, Standard really floundered thanks to the oppression of Energy. Modern apparently stagnated while supply on many Modern staples jumped higher thanks to reprint sets. Legacy and Vintage continue to chug along but those formats haven’t grown in ages.
Then we have the other hand. The land of the casual player. Commander, Cube, Old School, Collectors, and kitchen table Magic all exploded in popularity. This brought us some wild price movement, making for quite the lucrative year if you had the right exposure.
So where do we go from here? Will we see more of the same trends in 2018, or will the money move elsewhere? Could Standard and Modern make a comeback? In honor of the New Year holiday, I’m going to make a few 2018 predictions for MTG finance.
Not long ago Mark Rosewater ran a Twitter poll gauging the interest in the upcoming return to Dominaria in Standard. It would appear the vast majority of Maro’s followers are indeed excited for Standard’s return to Dominaria—even players who are newer, and haven’t enjoyed the world of Dominaria the first time around, are showing some excitement.
I’m curious about your feelings on Dominaria, the spring set.
— Mark Rosewater (@maro254) December 27, 2017
This is encouraging news. We will also be welcoming the departure of the energy mechanic from Standard once Kaladesh rotates out of the format. This will eventually lead to a format filled with Dinosaurs, Pirates, and Dominaria! This should attract casual players and nostalgic players while hopefully refreshing the Standard metagame. As a player who focuses solely on older cards, I can confidently say this set has the potential to rekindle my interests in Standard.
I’d never play the format, mind you, but I could be convinced to watch some SCG Opens and GPs on Twitch if people will be battling with the Weatherlight crew. Fingers crossed.
With an improved Standard metagame and a successfully executed set, this could be the jumpstart Standard needs to make it financially relevant again. Wizards has been printing Standard sets into the ground lately, so a very strong demand profile is needed in order to make Standard cards financially interesting. I won't be so bold as to guarantee this will happen. But if Wizards can hit a homerun with our return to Dominaria, we may see Standard increase in relevance in 2018. Let’s face it, it can’t get any less relevant.
Legacy Pro Tour
Pro Tour 25th Anniversary is going to bring us a rare chance to see Legacy played on the professional stage. I haven’t played Legacy for a couple years now, but I still look forward to seeing players cast Brainstorm and fetch dual lands to try and thwart their opponents. It’ll feel like the good old days when Star City Games broadcasted Legacy at their Opens.
This could bode very well for Legacy. We’ve already seen a resurgence in dual land prices after some large online vendors upped their buy prices on the group of cards.
If Legacy sees the jump in popularity that I anticipate from the Pro Tour—and that jump doesn’t have to be huge—then we will surely see higher dual land prices in 2018. Other Legacy staples on the Reserved List will also see a jump in price. Think $150 Lion's Eye Diamonds are expensive? Just wait until they’re $200. Or $250. The same can be said for any four-of staple on the Reserved List: City of Traitors also comes to mind.
Can non-Reserved List cards also see a jump in price? Absolutely, but it’s too soon to target these with confidence just yet. We’re about to have another reprint set in Masters 25, and I am confident we’ll see a few big-ticket Legacy reprints in the set. Rishadan Port seems the most obvious, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see another Force of Will and Jace, the Mind Sculptor reprint in this set as well. Such reprints will certainly drop prices on these Legacy cards despite a modest increase in demand from the Pro Tour.
Net, as always, I’d recommend sticking to Reserved List cards when you can. Plenty of opportunity will be out there for non-RL cards too, though; we just need to watch these more closely to avoid getting burned by reprints.
Further Disappearance of Alpha Cards
Pop quiz: How many Alpha cards are completely sold out on TCGplayer as of right now? Answer: 36. That’s 12% of the entire set, sold out! It appears collectors are mobilizing to finish their sets while interest in an all-Alpha format is on the rise. Given how sparse these cards are, there really are only so many players who can enjoy such a format before there are simply no cards left with which to build decks. It’s not even a matter of being priced out. There just won’t be copies for sale on the market that someone wants for their deck.
So now let’s look ahead to 2018. Given the current trend, how many Alpha cards do you think will be sold out on TCGplayer twelve months from now? If I had to guess, I’d predict we’ll see twice as many Alpha cards sold out in 2018 than there are today. Roughly 75 on the low side and 100 on the high side.
Think that’s crazy? Perhaps, but I’ve been selling a few unneeded Alpha cards on eBay this past month and they have been selling. Psychic Venom, Evil Presence, and Bog Wraith are examples of seemingly uninteresting cards that have all been moving for me at good prices on eBay.
I said it once and I’ll say it again. There will come a time when you will be in the market for an Alpha card for a collection or deck and there just won’t be any reasonably priced copies on the open market. Sure, there will be that random $500 PSA 9 copy of Alpha Evil Presence on eBay. But a copy you could realistically purchase for a deck? They just won’t be available for sale.
That day could come in 2018 if trends continue the way they have been. I’d watch stock very closely, especially at any “secret” sites you shop at. I’d also recommend adjusting your settings on MTG Stocks so that the Interests page shows you Alpha and Beta movement. The volatility can be a nuisance, but it will help keep you on top of trends and give you a leg up in buying cards that are suddenly drying up.
Old School and Pauper: Easy Money in 2018
Old School has been a very lucrative investment for any who got involved before 2017. Hype around Reserved List buyouts has fueled the fire even further, leading to an explosion in prices throughout the year. Now we have useless cards like Spiritual Sanctuary buylisting for over $10 due to this hype.
Is this sustainable? Can this trend continue in 2018? I would wager it will. So as always, any Reserved List or Old School card you want for your collection or deck should be prioritized. Hard stop.
Not only that, I also predict that some low-end budget printings of Old School-playable cards will start to move in 2018. Specifically, I’m referring to Collectors’ Edition cards (which have already moved recently) and foreign black-border printings. In the Old School Discord, many players are reaching for these alternatives to build an affordable deck with which to enjoy the format. It’s only logical that the next lower tier of cards gets a bump, as long as the format remains this popular. And of this, I have no doubt.
I also want to acknowledge Channel Fireball’s recent push for paper Pauper tournaments. If side events at Grands Prix fire with dozens or even a hundred Pauper players, it could start to apply upward pricing pressure on key Pauper staples.
My favorite target is Oubliette, which has already seen a bump in buy price over the past couple weeks since the Channel Fireball Pauper news.
As for other targets, I am afraid I may come up dry here. Not because there are no targets, but because I don’t know the format all that well. Fortunately, we have the internet! MTG Goldfish summarizes the Pauper metagame quite nicely, and we can use these lists to identify older commons that are in short supply. These may not be huge moneymakers, but they are definitely bulk picks and may be worth grabbing on the cheap from your LGS to sit on for a few months as the Pauper hype unfolds.
Wrapping It Up
In hindsight, 2017 was a bit dicey when it came to MTG finance. Investing in the wrong space could have led to some disappointing returns. Meanwhile, focus on Reserved List Old School cards and Legacy staples was a huge financial boon for the year.
I expect the positive trends of 2017 will continue into 2018. That is to say, Reserved List cards will climb higher as Old School grows as a format. Alpha cards seem especially attractive given their extremely low print run and disappearing supply. But there may be some positive turnarounds for a few financial dead zones in 2018 as well.
Standard may get a boost when we return to Dominaria. Modern may even see some appreciation again thanks to the Pro Tour that will showcase the format. Perhaps if nothing else, Wizards will ban or unban cards to refresh Modern, and this will certainly have financial implications.
Even Legacy will get fifteen minutes of fame when it shows up on camera at the Pro Tour this summer. Expect popular Legacy staples to get hot, but watch out for reprint pitfalls. If you want to buy into the trend now, I’d look no further than dual lands. These will always have a strong demand profile and maintain liquidity. If you want to buy into some other Legacy staples that aren’t on the Reserved List, just make sure you tread lightly and diversify to avoid getting destroyed by a reprint.
All in all I expect a lucrative year for Magic in 2018. It keeps me very excited about the game and its financial component. Let’s hope these predictions come true so that we can continue to enjoy this hobby while saving or making a little bit of cash along the way!
- Juzám Djinn. What more can be said about this card? Tarkan predicted this would be a $1000 card someday, but I certainly did not expect it to hit this mark in 2017. Yet here we are. ABU Games’s buy price on NM copies is $800. Star City Games’ sell price is $999.99 but they of course have none in stock. SCG will have to up their price soon enough, as will Card Kingdom and other major vendors. $1500 retail seems to be the right price for NM copies as we head into the new year.
- Star City Games is completely sold out of Oubliette at $29.99. Whether this was the case simply because collectors and Old School players are scooping these up, or if the recent Pauper news is driving demand, is unclear. But one thing is certain: these will climb higher in 2018 unless they see a reprint—a possibility but very unlikely since Oblivion Ring seems to be the way WotC decided to go with this kind of effect.
- Star City Games will also need to up their prices on CE and IE Power. For example, they’re completely sold out of all five Moxes from these collector sets. But their prices ($200-$250) are not far from Card Kingdom’s buy prices for the same cards. These need to increase by around $100 to be more consistent with market pricing, and that will likely happen in 2018.