When Eternal Masters first launched, many desirable eternal cards took a beating on price. The sudden shock of added supply took its toll and crushed the EV of the set. A surprise second print run didn’t help, and before long sealed boxes of the underappreciated set started selling for less than MSRP.
I remember it was around that time that I decided to grab a Mana Crypt for personal use. The card had just dropped to $70, and some MTG financiers were insisting the card would drop no lower. Well, that didn’t exactly pan out.
It turns out the card bottomed below $60, and I could have saved $15 or so if I had waited a bit longer. What interests me most, though, is the amazing recovery the card has experienced since bottoming last year. Now Mana Crypts sell for $100 and buylist for $77! This is a strong recovery, rising 28% from its lows.
This type of pattern—steep selloff, bottoming, and recovery—is becoming quite common in a world where Wizards of the Coast reprints cards left and right. And it’s this very pattern I want to study further this week.
Stage 1: The Selloff
The selloff stage is the most painful portion of the curve. It’s where a newly reprinted card’s price plummets as newfound supply floods the market. We see this all the time, and most recently with Masters 25 reprints. Even something with a strong demand profile like Jace, the Mind Sculptor can’t avoid the devastating effects of a reprint. It pre-sold for around $150 and now can be found for $100.
Something with less robust demand, such as Imperial Recruiter, will suffer even greater losses of value. The original printing of this once-$300 Legacy staple has a long ways to drop, still. But the reprinted version will only drop steeply at first and then will bottom out just like other playable reprints. The steepness of the curve may vary, but the shape will look very similar when the dust settles.
Everyone knows that reprints hurt the price of cards. That’s the point of them! They also know that if they hold cards that get the reprint treatment, those cards drop in value. The only way to avoid such trends is to sell before the reprint is announced. There’s not much of interest in this part of the curve unless you’re trying to get out before maximum damages are incurred, so I won’t linger long in this section. Just know that this is what generates the opportunities that arise in the second and third part of the curve.
Stage 2: The Bottoming
This is far more exciting. As a card hits its bottom, the price finally stabilizes and copies can be safely purchased without much downside. The duration of the bottom can vary from card to card, but every reprinted card with a demand profile will eventually bottom. In the case of Eternal Masters Mana Crypt, it took about six months for the card to finish its trough.
Since it takes time for a card to bottom, we can’t look at recent reprints to find examples. No Masters 25 in this section. Perhaps something from Iconic Masters or Commander 2017 would be bottoming around now. So let’s examine a couple cards to see if they may be in this stage—if they are, they could be solid pickups.
With infinity reprints, Lightning Greaves may not have a ton of upside. But it doesn’t have downside either—at least, not until it gets reprinted again. The Commander 2017 version of the card launched at $5, dropped to $3, and is now worth about $3.50. I would consider this one “bottomed,” and it will trend higher in the coming months. I could see it easily reaching its previous $5 high, but a reprint would reset the process all over again. Still, can one ever really have enough Lightning Greaves?
Now we’re talking! I overlooked this creature at first, but it looks like the perfect example for this section of the curve. At launch, this card sold for $7 and it bottomed at around $2.50 just a couple months ago. Because the card was only reprinted once in Commander 2017, there aren’t a ton of copies out there.
If Vampires remains popular in Commander, I could see this card rebounding quite nicely throughout 2018. Barring an unlikely reprint, this is a very safe time to speculate on Captivating Vampire.
I couldn’t find many more reprint targets in Commander 2017, but Iconic Masters is filled with them. It looks like most cards from this set are bottoming as we speak. Flusterstorm isn’t nearly as popular in Commander as Mana Crypt, but it does see Legacy play and that should help buoy demand.
The card’s price has been absolutely destroyed from reprint, going from $60 to $17! It may be dropping further too, judging by the still-declining curve. But this can’t go all that much lower and it should be bottoming out soon. Keep your eyes out because once supply starts to drop rather than rise, this could start an extremely gradual climb back toward $30.
Consecrated Sphinx is the 24th most popular blue card in Commander according to EDH REC, showing up in 119,000+ lists. It has seen only this one normal reprint (I don’t really count the Invocation), and the reprint in Iconic Masters was done at mythic rare. It dropped from $21 to $12 before bottoming, and the curve appears to be inflecting upwards. Unless it's reprinted again, this card will only climb going forward.
In reality there are a ton more cards in Iconic Masters worth examining now. These are all bottoming or nearly bottoming and should march higher going forward. Mishra's Bauble, Ancestral Vision, and Aether Vial are all solid pick-ups based on their bottoming behavior.
Stage 3: The Recovery
This is where the money is made! After bottoming fully, a reprinted card will start to rise monotonically as supply is absorbed into the market. Eventually the reprint’s effect is muted as copies are acquired by players and stuck in decks, never to hit the market again.
Let’s take a look at some examples of cards that are in the recovery phase—while perhaps these cards have less room to run compared to those in the bottoming phase, they will require the smallest amount of wait time to see price appreciation because they’re already in recovery.
I was going to use this Iconic Masters reprint in the previous section, but I noticed that Horizon Canopy had already bottomed and started its rebound. After plummeting from $75 to $33, the card has already rebounded and is now approaching $50.
I wish I had written this article two months ago because this would have been a tremendous pickup I could have flagged. Alas, the card still has some room to run and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it back near $70 six months from now.
Another Iconic Masters reprint, Cryptic Command just can’t seem to stay below $30. It’s been reprinted a few times, and it always seems to drop to $20, bottom there, and then rebound. This time the recovery got a boost thanks to the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and ensuing speculation.
I don’t know if it’s worth speculating on this one though, since it has already recovered 100% of its losses and may take a while to hit higher prices. Perhaps if Jace does gradually warp Modern (which hasn’t happened yet) then Cryptic Command could surge higher. But I’d wait for tournament results to indicate this before jumping in at $30.
Going back to Eternal Masters, there are a bunch more examples we could examine. Karakas appears to be more in Stage 2 than Stage 3, just recently bottoming. But it has begun its recovery, rising from $35 to $40 since February.
It may never hit its release price of $105, but Karakas is popular enough in Legacy to merit a $50-$60 price tag in time. If you’ve been waiting to get copies of this card for personal use, I’d say now is the time to jump in. You’ll be paying more in six months, that’s my guess.
Sylvan Library is a prime example of the trend I’m highlighting this week. Take a look at that textbook smile-shaped curve. The card initially sold for around $28 at launch, bottomed at about $15, and is now approaching $20. Given the utility of this card (25,000+ decks on EDH REC), this card will only climb in price going forward until it’s reprinted again.
Other good examples of cards in Stage 3 of their recovery include Toxic Deluge, Chrome Mox, and Enlightened Tutor. Each of these had bottomed months ago and is climbing relentlessly in price now. They all have further upside, too, as long as they dodge another reprint.
Wrapping It Up
I’ve been focused very heavily on Reserved List cards lately—it’s where the vast majority of my MTG investments lie. But I should not continuously ignore the opportunities given to us speculators by WotC reprints. They cause pain in the short term for those holding the reprinted cards, but they offer tremendous opportunity as they bottom and then recover in price. This three-stage trend occurs time and again, and it’s definitely worth discussing.
There are many opportunities out there with these reprinted cards. Eternal Masters and Iconic Masters sets are filled with them as cards bottom and begin their recovery. Hopefully some of the curves flagged in this column can highlight some targets worth your consideration.
There’s enough data out there from previous Masters sets that highlight these trends time and again. In each case, profits could have been made as cards go through all three stages. And despite all the uncertainty in MTG finance, one thing you can count on is that Wizards will continue to reprint cards and give us the chance to buy cards at lower prices.
- Dual lands were on the top of Card Kingdom’s hot list for weeks. Maybe even months. Then suddenly out of nowhere, Drop of Honey popped back into the number-one slot. Now it’s buylisting for $420, probably an all-time high. Say what you will about the Reserved List, but if one of these older cards sees any demand from Legacy it seems the sky is the limit!
- City of Traitors is another Reserved List card that Card Kingdom suddenly wants more of. They have the card on their buylist now for $115. That’s a pretty hefty price tag and it is likely driven by Legacy demand, yet again. It’s refreshing to see Legacy driving card prices again.
- Let’s not forget the recent jump in Modern interest, likely thanks to the shake-up from unbanning Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. For the first time in quite a while it seems Dark Confidant is relevant again in the format. Card Kingdom has a buy price of $60 on original Ravnica copies. MTG Seattle is paying even more: $66. Four months ago the best buylist price for this card was $37. It was just $28 in January of last year, so $66 is quite the increase!