The Impact of No MagicFests in 2020

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The date: March 2nd, 2020.
The time: Early morning

It was precisely then when my first COVID-19 article about its impact on Magic was published on Quiet Speculation’s site. At the time, I was exploring the topic merely as a thought exercise, hypothesizing what would happen if this virus’ spread worsened. Looking back just 3 months later, my predictions are staggeringly clairvoyant.

In that early March article, I mentioned the possibility of COVID-19’s community spread throughout the United States and the possibility of MagicFest cancellations. Last week that possibility became reality: all major Magic paper events, including MagicFests, have been cancelled for 2020.

This is a tragic blow to paper Magic. But it doesn’t spell doom and gloom for paper prices. Many cards are hitting all-time highs even as we speak, according to MTGStocks.

This week Sig dives deeper into his prediction, why it became reality, and what may be next for card prices.

The Called Shot

Here’s the perceptive prediction I made before the U.S. effectively shut down:

“Lastly, I wonder what would happen if more MagicFests were canceled. If the situation gets worse before it gets better, this is not so far-fetched. I’ve begun to wonder—some vendors rely heavily on restocking their inventory by posting aggressive buylists at MagicFests. Tales of Adventure and 95 Games come to mind.

As long as the economy can recover in a reasonable amount of time (within a year, let’s say), I could envision a scenario where major vendors have a difficult time keeping stock of tournament and casual staples. Without as many MagicFests, these vendors may be forced to restock in other ways. They may have to buy more aggressively at the MagicFests they do attend. Or maybe they’re forced to purchase cards online from other sources. The limited liquidity could actually lead to a temporary spike in prices.

This scenario requires a perfect storm of events to occur, but I do wonder if it’s possible.”

A perfect storm of events needed to occur for supply to dry up and prices to spike, and this is precisely what occurred. COVID-19 spread, all major Magic events have shut down, and vendors are struggling to keep stock of cards. This has led to many significant increases in card prices—especially in the cEDH category.

In the meantime, Wizards of the Coast isn’t stopping the hits! Their latest Commander product is sure to be a success, catalyzing even greater interest in the format. As always, any new Commander deck built by a player has a near-zero percent chance of being disassembled, removing its contents from the market for years.

Double Masters Will Deliver a 1-2 Punch

Commander 2020 is a hit, and that will catalyze newfound demand for certain cards. Then, there’s Double Masters…

We recently saw the announcement that a new reprint set—Double Masters—is scheduled to launch on August 7th this year. This is likely going to be one of the most exciting masters sets ever released. Every booster pack will contain two rares and two foils! They can slap an MSRP of $6.99 on there, but I anticipate these will be selling for much higher on the secondary market, unless the reprints Wizards chooses are horrendous.

So far, booster boxes are pre-ordering for $390 on TCGplayer, or roughly $16.25 per booster pack. That’s a 130%+ premium to MSRP! Players expect this set to be packed with value, meaning the cost of the product on the secondary market will be much higher. With this unfolding, I wonder if the set will be too expensive to be opened en masse, failing to drop singles prices as intended.

Oh, and there’s also a VIP version that will sell for who-knows-how-much.

I’m also thinking this new set will deliver many much-needed Commander reprints. Look at the cards we’ve had spoiled so far from the set:

Which of these reprints are popular in Commander? Nearly all of them! Doubling Season is one of the most popular Commander staples. Mana Crypt is as expensive as it is strictly because of Commander—it’s banned in every format and restricted in Vintage! Kaalia of the Vast is a popular Commander general (ranked #36 on EDH REC). Atraxa, Praetors' Voice is even more popular in Commander (ranked #2 on EDH REC). Even Blightsteel Colossus sees some play in Commander, appearing in 6233 lists on EDH REC (I know this value can be misleading, but it’s safe to say the card gets some attention from Commander players).

Do you see the trend I see? It’s like Wizards of the Coast knows that kitchen table and small-group Magic is going to be the norm for paper throughout the rest of 2020. Whether they were even more clairvoyant than I, or if they are just trying to strike the Commander iron while it’s hot, they are definitely serving the portion of the community most likely to want to purchase this product.

This will mean even more Commander being played, more decks being built, and price increases galore. Reprinted cards will see a temporary hit of course, but they could rebound quickly (especially the mythic rares). Cards not reprinted could climb even further. With no MagicFests for vendors to restock inventory, prices will climb even higher.

Cards to Watch

Anything older, that hasn’t been reprinted in a while, and screams “Commander” are the cards you’re going to want to keep an eye on. So many cards have already increased in price, so it’s hard to find sleepers with the potential to pop. Rather than try to make definitive recommendations, my strategy here will be to mention a handful of options in rapid-fire fashion and recommend potential speculators do some research of their own before jumping in. Keep in mind any cards not on the Reserved List could be reprinted in Double Masters, so proceed with caution and make sure you diversify.

1) City of Brass and Mana Confluence

Color fixing is a mainstay of Commander, as players push into 3-, 4-, and even 5-colored decks. Recently City of Brass from Chronicles spiked on MTG Stocks. Other printings could follow suit. Mana Confluence was already more expensive, but its singular printing could give it real potential to pop.

2) Demonic Tutor

We’ve seen just about every popular tutor jump in price lately: Vampiric Tutor, Worldly Tutor, and Enlightened Tutor are a few to name. But how about the OG tutor, Demonic Tutor? Sure, it’s been reprinted a bunch, but have you seen the available stock on TCGplayer? I am seeing around 200 listings across all tournament-legal printings (keep in mind, this includes high-dollar versions like the judge promo and Beta printings). The “cheapest” printings of this card could rise as high as $50 in the right environment—Commander players are always looking to tutor their favorite cards in that giant 99 card deck!

3) Volrath's Stronghold

What do you do in Commander if your key creatures are killed? Recur them, of course! Volrath's Stronghold is a valuable, uncounterable way of retrieving creatures to recast. The card is pigeonholed a little bit due to its black activation cost, but there’s still plenty of demand out there. Oh yeah, it’s also on the Reserved List.

4) Any Trending Card on EDH REC

I’ve never studied the “Trending Cards” on EDH REC before, but it could be a valuable resource when tracking movers and shakers in the world of Commander. The top 10 list currently includes:

  1. Jeskai Barricade
  2. Cryptolith Rite
  3. Swarm Intelligence
  4. Parallel Lives
  5. Rolling Earthquake
  6. Wall of Denial
  7. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
  8. Drift of Phantasms
  9. Muddle the Mixture
  10. Good-Fortune Unicorn

These could all be worth a closer look, with foils being a primary focus.

5) Sliver Queen

The popularity of slivers ebbs and flows with product releases. Could slivers have a theme in Double Masters? Maybe. But it really doesn’t matter. In the long run, Wizards knows they can bring slivers back in a set to help sell product. Every time this happens, Sliver Queen spikes. After bottoming at $100, it’s on the climb again and I think a $200 price point is in its (not-too-distant) future.

Wrapping It Up

When I wrote my first article about COVID-19, I wasn’t even sure if the pandemic would spread throughout the United States. In the back of my mind, I hoped cases would be confined to New York and Washington states. Clearly, our country’s destiny lied elsewhere.

Now the unthinkable has become reality: all major Magic paper events are cancelled for 2020. This is unfortunate when it comes to demand for cards popular in 60-card formats. But clearly Commander play isn’t slowing down, and many vendors are having trouble stocking up on staples. As supply dries up, prices have been on a rapid climb. Throw in things like government checks and a gradual re-opening of the economy, and you have a recipe for further price increases.

Wizards is also adding fuel to the fire by releasing popular Commander-themed sets. Commander 2020 is obvious, but Double Masters also appears to have a Commander spin to it (at least so far). Both these products will motivate more Commander deck building, leading to further pressure on market supply.

Many cards have already jumped significantly in price—perhaps many of the ships have sailed. But I’m convinced there’s more upside if you know where to look. This week I tried highlighting some of my favorites.

Full disclaimer: I have not purchased any of the cards I listed except for a single Sliver Queen. For me personally, I’ve been focusing on picking up cheap Alpha and Beta cards from ABUGames on eBay, while also scoping out key Ikoria cards I want to buy while no one is playing paper Standard. Perhaps this is what I’ll cover next week, after we see the banning announcement from Wizards.

2 thoughts on “The Impact of No MagicFests in 2020

  1. Just a note to say I love reading your articles every week and the insights they bring. However, I do want to mention that the $6.99 MSRP you mention is for Magic Online only, WOTC no longer uses an MSRP for paper. Otherwise another great article.

  2. Arabian Nights is almost completely sold on Card Kingdom. I knew earlier in the year that something like that might happen, but I didn’t expect the set to be almost completely gone by now. I think people were on the same page when they saw the pandemic as the perfect buying opportunity. To me it’s further proof of how strong the market is despite of things. I’m very happy to have snatched City in a Bottle back then when I did. I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality of the mint. Unless there’s a significant flaw I’ve failed to notice, I’m almost certain that this is a 9.5 grade and a potential 10. It definitely looks like it hasn’t been touched and seems like Card Kingdom is using gloves to handle them. If that turns out to be the case, that’s three or four times the value of what I paid. I think paper Magic will be fine.

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