Welcome back, readers!
Last Friday Masters 25 (A25) officially released and we're seeing stores run drafts and sealed events left and right. The cards are finally hitting the market and prices are dropping. It's important to remember that when there is virtually no supply of something, any demand can cause dramatic price increases; the same as when little demand for something is met with a sudden influx of supply.
We see both of these right now with the release of A25. Before the set is actually released, there is a good bit of demand and no supply, so prices are extremely inflated. As cards start hitting the supply side, prices start to drop. From a percent standpoint, they will drop the most in the two weeks after release.
This is one of the few times when the lowest listed price is the one we really want to focus on because it indicates the true demand side. The median price will shift downward at a slower rate than the low price, for two reasons. One, because there will be people who listed cards initially and don't want to change their price based on what the cards are actually selling for.
Two, there will be people who are hoping for a price reversal—if the cards drop too quickly, it's definitely possible to see a minor spike as the market corrects itself.
Either way, when a set first releases, the price I'm most interested in is the low, as that's the closest to what the market will bear initially.
What we've seen so far has been pretty dramatic. The prices below are taken from March 18 and March 20.
Looking over this list, there are a grand total of 11 possible (non-foil) cards you can pull that are above the MSRP of the pack. Of those 11, three are on the cusp of falling below this threshold. That is not a good sign for MTG financiers, as there will still be plenty more packs cracked in the coming month and prices are likely to continue dropping.
The good news, as we can see by comparing the two lists, is that the prices appear to be stabilizing somewhat (at least for now).
The card I was most excited to see reprinted has also seen a massive price plunge (which I predicted on the Discord channel)
I have a few interesting takeaways from all this.
1. As the card prices fall, there is less incentive to crack packs. Sure, you'll always have the people who just enjoy that for the fun of it, but it gets harder and harder to justify buying a pack (or box) when the EV keeps falling.
What we expect to see (and we already have) is a massive initial drop in card prices as product starts getting opened and everyone races to unload their cards as soon as possible. After card values drop, the rate of pack cracking also begins to drop. This in turn means that the cheapest copies of the cards will get bought up, but additional cheap copies may not enter the supply and thus the prices will stabilize.
2. The worse the EV of the box, the less of a hit the key staples will take. As players shy away from opening packs, the staple cards are the first to have the cheapest copies bought up and then have their prices stabilize. You may even get a slight jump if the prices stabilize, and players who were holding out in the hopes of getting them at the very bottom suddenly realize it has passed and they need to get them now.
We can see evidence of this with the price of cards like Azusa, Lost but Seeking, which is not only a solid Modern card but a Commander staple as well.
3. The cards that take the biggest hit are stuff like Vindicate—cards with multiple printings that were valuable at one time due to scarcity, but which don't have enough time to rebound before another glut of reprints hits the market. Of course, this is great news for casual players who have limited resources to spend on these once-powerful cards, who can now scoop them up at a fraction of their old price (and in turn don't care that the price may not ever go back up).
4. There is a lot of room for speculation when format staples from sets like these plummet. There is a lot of risk with this speculation, especially given WotC's propensity for reprinting more and more. However, you can pick up a good number of specific targets at rock-bottom prices, and if they do dodge a reprint, they may recover some.
My best example of this type of opportunity is with Tooth and Nail from the original Modern Masters set. It dropped to around $5 for a while before slowly making its way back to the original price of $15-plus. I picked up 16 copies of this card at $5 because I distinctly remember how difficult it was to find the originals back when I first started playing Commander.
5. There are a few first-time foils you want to keep an eye out for, especially when drafting. Plenty of players will ignore foils that don't seem good in draft and come across as less than amazing. Specifically, I'm looking at cards like Arcane Denial, Ancient Craving, Blue Elemental Blast, Red Elemental Blast, Ash Barrens, and Myriad Landscape. All of these are commons or uncommons that may or may not make it into a draft deck, but the foils have strong multipliers on them.
6. There is always a lot of excitement over the big-money reprints, but as I mentioned above there were plenty of $5-$10 cards that got reprinted and their prices got slashed. I expect to see the originals start to shift downward in value as well, especially for the Commander cards. The more casual a format is, the more likely players are to want the cheapest copy (instead of the original, which is a desire we often see in Vintage/Legacy).
However, it's important to remember that the original's value (prior to this reprinting) was decided on by market forces; so there was clearly enough demand to set that price originally. Now, obviously, we have a lot more supply—but one would expect that as the pack-cracking rate diminishes and the prices stabilize, we'll likely see the new reprints rising and the old originals slowly falling until they reach close to an equilibrium point.
This isn't to say that the original and the A25 reprint will be worth the same. But it makes sense that people who weren't willing to pay the old price may open up their wallets to buy the reprint—and they'll start at the bottom and work their way up.
As I've stated before, as both a speculator and collector I'm concerned about WotC's gung-ho approach to reprinting. However, I still see opportunity to speculate if you do so wisely.
I would caution about going incredibly deep on any one card, because of this reprint risk. But many Commander staples (especially) have taken a huge hit on their price, and these types of cards often get absorbed by the kitchen-table players at a faster rate than you might expect. I have already started picking up some extra copies of my targets and I'll continue to look for them in trade binders, especially when I need a couple bucks to even out a trade.