Welcome back, readers!
Let’s say you drop two balls of different masses from the same height in a vacuum. Newton’s Second Law of Motion states that force equals mass times acceleration. The end result is that both balls will land at the exact same time because the gravitational acceleration is independent of the mass of the object.
Fun fact, you might say, but what does this have to do with Magic: The Gathering finance? Well, unlike said ball-dropping experiment, all card price drops due to reprint are not the same.
Tracking Recent Reprints
To get an idea of this, let’s look at some recent reprints. We’ll look at how they affected the original card’s price and where the reprint price is at now.
You can buy an original Portal: Three Kingdoms version of Imperial Recruiter for around $138. Prior to being spoiled in Masters 25, this card was sitting well around $350, which equates to a 60% drop in value. Masters 25 versions can be purchased for around $25-$26 dollars.
Now we don’t typically see this big of a drop on the original versions of cards. However, the key factor to remember with Imperial Recruiter is that Portal: Three Kingdoms was a very underprinted set (limited to only a few countries), meaning it was extremely rare. Any new supply was likely to reduce its value by a considerable amount, which is what we saw.
We saw Wurmcoil Engine reprinted in the Commander 2014 product. It did see a dip after that reprinting down to around $13.50, but has since recovered back to the pre-reprint price (with the lowest copies being around $18.50).
There are several differences between Recruiter and Wurmcoil, though. Wurmcoil sees play in most of the Modern Tron variants, which are still powerful and popular. Meanwhile, Recruiter is predominantly a Legacy card, and even then it doesn’t see a ton of play in the format (finding a home mostly in Imperial Painter decks).
Keep in mind that Wurmcoil was actually reprinted again in one of the Commander Anthology’s (though that print run was likely very low), so its rebound is all the more impressive, but not unexpected given its utility in Modern.
Comparing these two cards, we know that format playability (as well as desirability of the format as a whole) can play a major role in how much of a hit a reprint will cause to a card’s value. However, there are likely other additional factors (some obvious, some not as much).
The rarity of a reprint will likely play a major role in the price drop one would expect to see. The more common the rarity, the more the price is likely to drop, which makes perfect sense for any given print-run size. This is why many speculators here on QS tend to focus the most on mythics for new sets—there are a lot fewer of them compared to any given rare, so the price ceiling is obviously higher.
There is also the question of when it was last printed. As the player base has grown steadily, it makes logical sense that print runs have grown with it (though we can’t know at what rate). Thus the more time that has passed since a card was printed, the more likely it is to be “rarer” than any given newly printed rare.
Astute readers might have noticed a trend. All of these mentioned have to due with scarcity, which as always goes back to good ol’ supply and demand.
A Look at Guilds of Ravnica
Knowing this bit of knowledge can help us avoid overpaying on recently reprinted staples. The most important of these are the shocklands in Guilds of Ravnica.
We have already seen prices of the Return to Ravnica block shocks drop by around 20% on average since Guilds of Ravnica was announced. However before RTR block shocks were reprinted, the original Ravnica shocks were all between $20-$40 (before the set name Return to Ravnica was announced). After the announcement they started to drop—at RTR’s release most had dropped to under $20, after a few months most dipped as far down as $15-$18.
I bring this up because I expect the Guilds of Ravnica shocks to continue to drop as more of the set gets opened. We saw the average price of the shocks from Return to Ravnica block drop by 46% from their initial release prices.
Now, thanks to RTR block, the shock price ceiling was dropped considerably. So I don’t expect as dramatic of a fall as the last go-around for Guilds of Ravnica. However, the fact that the initial prices for Guilds shocks are mostly between $6-$8 dollars means that we could easily see them drop to sub $5 if the set is opened in large numbers.
|Shockland||Initial Price||Lowest Price||Price Change||Percentage Price Drop|
Knowing all this we should consider picking up the following shocks when they bottom out;
It’s also important to pay attention to which set the reprint occurs in. We saw Gatecrash shocks maintain about a 20% premium over their Return to Ravnica brethren despite typically seeing less play in Modern. While RTR had lots of Standard and/or eternal staples in it, Gatecrash was far less impressive (and Dragon’s Maze was abysmal). Less Gatecrash was opened, and conversely fewer Gatecrash shocks were added to the supply.
So we want to keep a careful eye on Ravnica Allegiance. If it proves to be less popular than Guilds of Ravnica, we will want to look more carefully at those shocks.
Total Distribution of Shocklands
Below is a chart of the current shockland distribution. In a three-block set I assigned a point value of 1, 2, or 3, with 3 being the most opened set, 2 being the second most opened, and 1 being the least opened. Not surprisingly they go in order of first set in the block to last set in the block (thanks in large part to draft formats).
This chart doesn’t include Ravnica Allegiance. While we expect them to reprint the remaining shocks, as that information is still unknown at this time we will leave them off the list. Assuming the remaining shocks are reprinted in Ravnica Allegiance, and the set is equally popular to Guilds, each of those shocks would earn 2 more points.
Note that even in that case, four shocks will still have fewer overall points than the others (with Breeding Pool having the fewest of all).
This helps identify the shocks that will have the smallest supply, and thus—even not knowing the metagame—the most potential upside when it comes to speculation. Keep in mind that if Ravnica Allegiance is more popular than Guilds of Ravnica, we would likely need to add either 3 points to those shocks or subtract 1 point from all the Guilds of Ravnica shocks.
These have consistently been the cheapest of the shocks (along with Blood Crypt), despite the fact that they see heavy play in Modern. According to the most-played Modern cards on MTG Goldfish, both Temple Garden (#31) and Overgrown Tomb (#38) outrank Breeding Pool (#45), Watery Grave (#49), and Godless Shrine, which are all more expensive.
This is especially telling because both shocks contain green, the most played color in Commander, which further increases demand.
The only non-shock reprint of note is Chromatic Lantern.
I do like speculating on this card a good bit. While it was never a bulk rare by any means, it did sit in the $2.50 range for almost a full year while RTR was Standard-legal despite being an obvious Commander staple. We see the current Guilds of Ravnica version already sitting around this price (and it was just released) so I’ll expect to see the price drop a bit more. I doubt it will drop below $1.50, but if it did I would pick up 20+ copies myself.
While it might seem like you’d want to start picking up shocklands from Guilds of Ravnica since they appear so cheap, there is a large possibility that they continue to trend downward and reach a sub $5 pricetag (possibly even $4 for Temple Garden).
Thanks to their ubiquity in Modern and Commander, there is definitely a price floor we can expect these not to break. I’d likely guess it to be around $3. However, the inverse is true as well—with yet another mass printing, the price ceiling has dropped considerably for shocklands. I’d put the maximum around $10 for any of them, unless the Magic playerbase grows dramatically (which would likely take a while).
We typically see prices of the newest set at their lowest 2-3 months after release, so I’d consider holding off any speculative Guilds of Ravnica reprint purchases until November/December.