It’s honesty time: I am a bit burnt out by Magic’s rendition of social media lately. Magic players are notorious for complaining, but it seems like the disgruntled dial was turned to eleven these past few weeks. Whether it be about hall of fame voting, alleged cheaters, counterfeits, Nexus of Fate, or an array of other thorns in people’s sides, there’s always something to complain about.
This week I’m bucking that trend. I’m going to share a couple glimmers of optimism. In some cases I’ll provide counter-arguments to the topics mentioned above. In other cases I’ll simply share some reasons to be optimistic. Perhaps this will fly in the face of all the negative folks out there so we know there is at least one pocket of positivity in the corner of the MTG universe.
Counterfeits = Higher Prices
Let’s start with a thought experiment—I recognize this viewpoint will be controversial so I ask you to put aside your biases to merely consider my line of reasoning.
Imagine a world where counterfeits are more prevalent. They are still detectable by hands-on evaluation, but they start to appear in TCGplayer and eBay orders a little more frequently. What would you do in this world?
For me, I’d probably cut back on shopping from peer-to-peer websites. I would restrict my buying on eBay and TCGplayer to shops with significant feedback numbers only. I would probably do more purchasing at major vendors such as Card Kingdom and Star City Games, and I would definitely step up my trade-in action with ABUGames to take advantage of their sweet trade credit numbers. This kind of approach would ensure my purchased cards are scrutinized by a major vendor—one who will back the authenticity of their cards and would provide terrific customer service should a counterfeit be sold through their site.
Others would likely follow suit. This would result in greater demand for cards at major retailers. You think retail prices are a lot higher than “market price” today? We could see significant increases in that gap. A card like Liliana of the Veil has a market price today of around $85-$90 and Star City Games has NM copies listed at $90. This isn’t a large differential at all. But if counterfeits became a major concern, we could see TCGplayer prices listed at $75-$80 and SCG up in the $100-$110 range. There’s a premium to be paid to be guaranteed that authenticity.
Then as retailers sell their copies, they’ll need to up buylist prices. As long as you know your copies are legitimate, you will be able to get more for them from a buylist. This, in turn, could lead to a rise in your collection’s value.
I’m not saying counterfeits are good for the market. Obviously it’s problematic. But as long as they don’t completely overrun the market—or as long as they remain detectable as they are today—then an influx of counterfeit cards could cause your collection’s value to increase as demand for guaranteed authenticity increases. Just some positive food for thought.
Summer Slowdown = Buyers’ Market
Is it just me or has MTG Stocks shown fewer and fewer gainers lately? I checked this morning and the list of cards that rose by at least $1 and 2% was minimal. Also, I’m seeing the same cards show up time and again; I can’t count how many times The Wretched has been on this list, even though I’m pretty sure its price has been stagnant for months now.
The reality is prices have dipped back down a bit. This is evidenced by Card Kingdom’s recent pullback in buylist numbers on their site. Remember when they had practically every Revised dual land on their hotlist because they were virtually sold out of all of them? Now buy prices are much lower and there are ample copies available for purchase. Not only that, but I believe prices have pulled back a bit—there are affordable copies if you’re okay settling for heavily played condition.
Does this signify the end of MTG finance? Hardly. In fact, I’d argue this is a tremendous positive for the hobby. It means people who at one point felt they were priced out of Legacy have another chance at picking up the cards they need for their deck. What’s more, many other buylist prices have stuck at a higher number, meaning players can trade their profitable picks into dual lands and the like. I loved seeing Legacy at the most recent Pro Tour, and the fact that Legacy cards aren’t skyrocketing further tells me it’s safe for Wizards to do it again. Let’s hope it happens sooner than later.
In the meantime, this is a great time to be buying cards. Take advantage of the sell-offs as people cash out this summer. Acquire strategically using those eBay coupons and TCGplayer kickback deals. If dual lands aren’t your thing, pay attention to other areas that may have softer demand. Remember when Gaea's Cradle was $500 and everyone was fed up with Reserved List speculation? Now there are HP copies selling for under $300—still not cheap, but perhaps just affordable enough for Commander players looking to step up their game. It’s also worth noting there are now 106 sellers of the card on TCGplayer, meaning supply has returned to the market in full-force. No more shortages is a good thing!
Nexus of Fate = Standard Boon
Remember when Nexus of Fate ruined Standard forever? Yeah, me neither. I’ll admit it was awkward when players at the Pro Tour couldn’t find copies of this Buy-a-Box promo on-site for their decks. But barring that singular instance, what kind of damage has Nexus of Fate really done? I’d argue it has done more good than harm!
For example, I think it’s actually healthy to have some number of valuable cards in Standard. I’m not advocating we go back to the days of $100 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Clearly a triple-figured price tag is problematic for Magic’s most prevalent format. But having a few $20 cards and even one $30 card makes the collectible and trading side of the game interesting.
Think about it: when every card is a few bucks and decks are dirt cheap, the game loses a bit of its luster. The play aspect may be fine, but there is a collectible and trading component that suffers in such an environment. What’s more, having expensive cards fluctuate in price creates a dynamic that rewards savvy speculators—not that we need to reward this population, but it provides another avenue of demand for cards, which is always a good thing.
I’ve heard others joke that Wizards of the Coast could include $20 bills within booster packs and players would complain about how they’re folded. This notion is not lost on me. In fact, Wizards of the Coast essentially did just that! They gave players $20 bills for buying a booster box of Core 2019. Guess what? People complained. Frankly, I think that’s a shame because providing a guaranteed $20 card with a box removes some of the variance when cracking sealed product. The downside risk is limited when there’s a guarantee included. Personally, I would purchase more product if such guarantees were maintained—not less.
Overall, I applaud Wizards for Nexus of Fate because it motivates LGS sales, reduces “feel-bads” when cracking sealed product, and provides a little extra juice to MTG finance. The only people who don’t win in this situation are the players who need a playset within a few weeks of the set’s launch, when supply is artificially depressed. This is a small population, and I believe there are ways Wizards can avoid this scenario in the future to ensure even this group of individuals doesn’t suffer from what ended up to be a brilliant idea.
By the way…Nexus of Fate is under $20 now and there are about 200 copies for sale on TCGplayer alone. I don’t think we have to worry about it anymore.
Wrapping It Up
I want to conclude this week’s article with a bit of irony. When I hop on social media and see viral complaints about Magic, it tends to get me down. The melancholic tone reminds me of how poisonous the internet can really be (aside: this is why I’ve gravitated more toward the Old School community lately).
But rather than feel pessimistically about the community’s negativity, I can distort my interpretation in a way that makes even the complaints appear positive. You see, one reason people are so vocal about their unhappiness with these decisions is because they are all so passionate about the game itself! If people were feeling disconnected from the game, they frankly wouldn’t care enough to share their opinions. Instead, the opposite is true. The game of Magic is so intertwined with people’s lives that they feel compelled to voice their concerns adamantly on social media. In a way, the volume of these complaints is a contrary indicator: the more complaints, the healthier Magic is as a game.
So I’m going to wrap up with a bout of optimism. We already heard from Hasbro’s latest earnings report that Magic is back to growth after a couple speed bumps. And while prices are softening this summer, I see plenty of strength in our future once the fall arrives. I’ll remain optimistic, keep focused on strategic acquisitions for my collection, and consolidate as I see new opportunities arise.
Until then, let’s try to stay focused on the positive because we can all agree on one thing: this game is pretty amazing.
- Okay, I know I just wrote about ABUGames’s aggressive store credit numbers, but some cards have gotten even wackier lately! For example, numbers on Unlimited Power shot up even more than they were just last week! Now a played Unlimited Mox Ruby can fetch you $2660 in store credit! Played condition Time Walks will fetch you $2565 in credit. This is unprecedented. Guess what: I don’t think we’ve seen the peak yet for 2018.
- Speaking of Unlimited, Card Kingdom continues to gradually up their prices on Unlimited. They’ve been short on stock of the most in-demand cards from this set, and they’re finally adjusting accordingly. In addition to Power, they’ve upped buy prices on Chaos Orb ($900), Savannah Lions ($120), Word of Command ($120), Howling Mine ($108), etc., etc. The list goes on.
- Here’s something I haven’t mentioned in a long time: Star City Games’s buylist! They actually upped some of their Old School buy prices, and in a few cases they are actually best in class. Card Kingdom cooled off on The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale lately, but Star City is offering a best-in-class $2250 for Near Mint copies. Beware, though, their played prices drop off steeply from there.