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Modern Horizons: Investment Opportunity or Trap?

Pioneer continues to make headlines in the world of Magic. Players and speculators alike are both watching events closely, monitoring the unfolding of the metagame and identifying the cards they most want to purchase.

Even though I’ve largely avoided Pioneer speculation, even I have picked up a few copies of Oath of Nissa. This card is appearing in a few different decklists and at $3.50, the entry point was attractive enough to take a shot. I wasn’t really quick enough to pick up any of the other hot Pioneer specs, unfortunately. With so much uncertainty around the upcoming Pioneer B&R announcement, I wasn’t too eager to go deep.


Instead, I’m wondering if we should be paying closer attention to a particular bucket of underappreciated cards. These cards were at one point the talk of the community. Many believed their prices had bottomed, and speculated accordingly. Now, after the Pioneer announcement, many of these cards are finding their all-time low prices.

What set am I talking about? None other than Modern Horizons.

Horizons: A New Low

There was once a tremendous amount of hype around Modern Horizons. The set was a gold mine, and one could not do wrong to speculate on these unique cards. Every time one showed up in a new Modern decklist, the card would spike. That’s how a card like Giver of Runes spiked from $5 to $13 in short order.


However, the landscape for this set has changed dramatically thanks to recent events. Modern, which was once the favored format for many who were tired of Standard but couldn’t justify buying into Legacy, could be facing a decline in popularity. Pioneer is the talk of the town—unfortunately, that leaves out most cards in Modern Horizons.

The result: Modern Horizons demand is bottoming out. While “MSRP” on booster packs remains in the $7 range, consider this retweet from Card Kingdom out of Command Fest:

Amazing pricing on Alliances boosters aside, check out that Modern Horizons booster pack price tag! It’s still a little more expensive than Standard boosters, but it’s shocking to see such a premium product sell at this discounted of a price. If you purchase an entire box from TCGPlayer, you could pay even less—the cheapest price there right now is $194.85 and falling.

Then you have the expected value of the set, as calculated by MTG Stocks. Check out that declining graph—it looks like it is most recently taking a new leg lower, notching all-time lows.

While things look dire for the set, I have to wonder…is there any opportunity in this trend?

A Case for Speculating

Rather than chasing Pioneer buyouts in a world of so much uncertainty, it may be wiser to speculate on discounted Modern Horizons cards. These cards are better understood in terms of their utility. Despite the current Pioneer hype, it’s doubtful Modern disappears from the tournament scene altogether. After all, we still get the occasional Legacy tournament, right? And the Modern player base has to be far larger than Legacy’s.

Which Modern Horizons cards are most attractive? I can think of a few groups of cards that should maintain a robust demand profile despite Pioneer headlines.

First, there are the Commander staples. How about something like Altar of Dementia, a $1 rare that is listed in nearly 10,000 lists on EDH REC. Mill is always a popular strategy amongst casual players, and the card was only printed in Horizons, Conspiracy, and Tempest. Along these same lines is Eladamri’s Call, which is also sub-$2 and played in around 10,000 EDH REC lists. Everyone loves their tutors, right?


Other cards with Commander and casual demand include the slivers, such as The First Sliver, and the two Swords. These cards have prices well off their highs, yet will always have a steady stream of demand from formats outside of Modern. Therefore, these cards should be immune to Pioneer’s surge in popularity. One day the demand will soak up the supply and prices will stabilize.

If you really wanted to avoid losses, you could speculate on Commander playables that are also near bulk. My personal favorite is Genesis, of which I have about 150 copies and counting. Every time I make a trade with ABUGames or purchase from Card Kingdom, I grab the eight copies of Genesis they have listed because their pricing is so low. This used to be a $12 card. Obviously that high price was due to scarcity more so than demand, but $0.35 seems way too low for this card. Don’t forget, Modern Horizons copies pre-sold for $6.99!


Another basis for speculation is if the cards see play in Legacy and Vintage while also being a prominent force in Modern. Perhaps their popularity in Modern is robust enough to withstand a slight recession in Modern cards. I’m thinking of staples such as Wrenn and Six, Force of Negation, and Urza, Lord High Artificer. These are all still priced robustly, though I’ve noticed a small divergence in sell prices and “market” prices that could indicate a pending drop.

Lastly, there are the rare lands of Modern Horizons. You have Prismatic Vista at $30 and the five Horizon Canopy lands. These will all experience sustainable demand in time, but are suffering from soft demand in the short term. Eventually these will be a buy—you just need to pick the price you’re comfortable paying and be content to wait a while.

A Case for Caution

My advice on all of these potential specs is to stay on the sidelines a bit longer—I think these will be cheaper in a month than they are now. In fact, that probably goes for all Modern Horizons cards beyond the bulk. A card like Force of Negation seems like it’ll be a timeless staple, but even this card has dropped 5% from its highs and will continue its declines. The most in-demand staples will still fall.

The thing is, Pioneer is just now ramping up. The format is in its infancy, and players and speculators alike will continue to shower the format with their attention (and dollars) for months yet. Modern Horizons cards will one day be an attractive buy, mark my word. There’s enough going for this set to sustain a premium once the supply has had a chance to bleed off a little bit.

This is underscored by the list of all-time lows showing up on MTG Stocks’ site. Check out these Modern Horizons cards notching their all-time lows over the weekend:

That’s a list of cards I would be thrilled to open from a Modern Horizons booster pack. Yet each one is rapidly selling off. How low can these go, I wonder?

If you want to get more aggressive, you could focus on foils. Foil supply is sure to be far less than their non-foil counterparts, and this may lead to an earlier stabilization of prices. Commander staples, for example, should carry a higher foil premium regardless of Modern’s popularity.

But be careful—foils also carry with them a higher buy-in. Modern Horizons has been around long enough now that the high foil multipliers on Commander staples are already in place. There are no hidden gems out there any longer, so you’ll still need to wait for demand to outpace supply before prices can rise further.

A popular meme comes to mind, and it was so fitting that I couldn’t resist its inclusion.

That about sums it up.

Wrapping It Up

Overused memes aside, Pioneer is going to do a toll on Modern prices. This has already manifested itself in Modern Horizons’ weakness, and will likely continue for a couple months. If Pioneer takes off, then Modern prices could become very soft. Don’t forget, we had so many reprints of cards in Masters sets—if demand were to soften, prices could tank significantly.

During this time of uncertainty, there may be some opportunities. Modern Horizons cards that see most their demand from other formats will eventually become attractive buys. This week I highlighted a few of my favorites.

But I’m not buying anything just yet. It’s too early, and Modern Horizons cards are just now making all-time lows. This will likely continue for some time, yet. Other Modern staples will likely pull back drastically as well. Even Fetch Lands—one of Magic’s blue chips—have drifted downward over the past few months. These won’t hit their lows, mind you, but they still have plenty of room to fall.

While we wait, we watch. Keep an eye out for deals, maybe acquire cards here and there using ABUGames credit, and be patient. There’s an opportunity here, given enough time. And you won’t have to deal with Pioneer hype and speculator competition, an added benefit!

Sigbits

  • There has been some interesting turnover on Card Kingdom’s hotlist of late. I noticed Gaea’s Cradle made its return to the list, though its buy price is far off the highs ($215). Still, this card will always have a robust demand profile. Perhaps the recent sell-off is an opportunity to acquire that copy you’ve been waiting on.
  • Here’s an obscure one: Eighth Edition foil Urza’s Power Plant is now on Card Kingdom’s hotlist with a $66 buy price. I’m not sure how that compares to other sites, but it does seem out there, especially given the recent fade in Modern’s popularity. Perhaps these would be noteworthy cards to unload in case Modern continues to falter?
  • Vampiric Tutor has been on Card Kingdom’s hotlist for some time now. They currently offer $47 on Sixth Edition copies, $51 on Eternal Masters, $48 on Judge Promos, and $44 on Visions Why they pay more for white-bordered copies than Visions copies is beyond me, but there you go.


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Sigmund Ausfresser

Sigmund Ausfresser

Sigmund first started playing Magic when Visions was the newest set, back in 1997. Things were simpler back then. After playing casual Magic for about ten years, he tried his hand at competitive play. It took about two years before Sigmund starting taking down drafts. Since then, he moved his focus towards Legacy and MTG finance. Now that he's married and works full-time, Sigmund enjoys the game by reading up on trends and using this knowledge in buying/selling cards.

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