Reflections on This Year and Next

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As I sit down and ponder over my computer, considering possible topics for this week’s article, I can’t help but acknowledge that this will be my final article of 2020. Good riddance. This year was pretty much awful on all fronts save a scant few. The pandemic has introduced a great deal of stress into life, especially for extroverts like myself.

Despite all the hardships this disease introduced into the lives of billions of people, I will try to remain emotionally resilient as I look ahead to 2021. With this positivity in mind, I’m going to write a personal piece this week describing three things I’m happy about from 2020 and three things I look forward to in 2021. Don’t worry, loyal readers. Some of these thoughts will still relate to MTG finance because Magic was a bright spot for me this year.

Three Positives from 2020

I still remember the fateful Thursday in March. The leader of my department called an emergency meeting for everyone. We were all sitting together in the large conference room when she announced that, effective immediately, everyone would be working from home except for a small group of critical employees. This was to last through the end of March, when we would return to the office again.

Then the return was postponed until May. Then early June. Then after Labor Day. Then after New Years’ Day. And, most recently, our return to the office was postponed until May.

In airline-delay fashion, our return to the office was pushed back time and again. All this time, I was thankfully allowed to work from home. I am very blessed that my job is largely virtual and that I can do 99% of my job from my home office—all I need is my work computer and an internet connection. This is the first thing I am thankful for in 2020. I am fully aware not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Some people (including my siblings) still have to go into an office/school to work. Others lost their job altogether. I am extremely lucky that I still maintain my full-time job and can do it completely from home with minimal disruption.

Now that I’m working from home 100% of the time, I suddenly have more free time on my hands. Or, more accurately put, I have more time where I need to find entertainment for my children. In reality, while my “free time” may be marginally increased, the free time is not continuous in nature; I don’t suddenly have a 90-minute block of time where I used to commute and could now pursue anything I’d like. Instead, I have small pockets of time when my kids are distracted and I can steal a few minutes to myself.

Enter the second thing I’m grateful for from 2020: Magic Arena. Thanks to the online platform, I can once again engage in my favorite hobby, even on a competitive level! Granted, I can’t play my favorite formats on Arena, but I’ve learned to love the Arena Cube, Drafting, and even Historic.

There’s an MTG finance benefit to engaging in Arena too. For the first time in nearly a decade, I am familiar with the Standard metagame and the finance movers and shakers. I know how powerful Shark Typhoon is, for example, so I am aware that its price trajectory has been strong.

I recently opened a Shatterskull Smashing // Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass from a Zendikar Rising booster pack. Instead of instantly buylisting it for some value, I decided to hold onto it because I see how widespread the card is played in Standard and Historic. This informs me of the card’s utility, and I can make finance decisions accordingly. Once Throne of Eldraine rotates, I believe some Zendikar Rising cards will have a chance to really shine in Standard.

The third positive that came out of 2020 was the strength in Magic card prices—particularly in Old School cards and Commander staples. Some may deem rising prices as a negative, but in general, I believe this underscores the health of the game as a whole. I’d much rather prices be rising because the game is alive and well rather than tanking as players leave the game to pursue other interests.

Does this mean some cards I would like are suddenly more expensive? Sure. But I’m willing to accept this because the cards I do own are climbing in step. So while that next purchase will cost me a bit more, I have more value to work with from the cards I already own. For this, I am thankful. As I look at the value of my collection, the dream of funding my children’s college costs (or at least the majority of them) with Magic is becoming more and more possible thanks to the strength of this game.

Looking Ahead to 2021

It’s easy to take the easy route here and cite the vaccine and a return to some semblance of normalcy being the first thing I look forward to in 2021. Of course that counts. But I’m trying to think more creatively here so that there’s a tie to Magic. So I’m going to start with the base assumption that at some point in 2021 we will start to interact in public again.

Under this assumption, I believe we may see the return of large, in-person Magic events in the back half of 2021. If this comes to pass, it will have a significant impact on the game as a whole. Demand for newer cards, such as Standard-legal cards, will increase dramatically as more players have opportunities to play paper Standard. Meanwhile, far fewer packs of the newest sets have been opened—there are far fewer drafts taking place in paper. This could lead to jumping prices in Standard staples. The new cards that also double as playable in Commander are especially attractive.

While I don’t really deal in new cards all that often, I will be paying attention to their trends once in-paper events resume. I believe this will lead to some price appreciation as, at least temporarily, demand outstrips supply. Despite the numerous Twitter complaints we’ll see about the cost of Standard, all in all, I see rising prices as a positive for the hobby as (again) it’s an indicator of strength.

The next thing I look forward to in 2021 is the relationship between inflation, Fed policy, and asset prices. Sprinkle on top tax refunds and government checks, and we have a recipe for asset appreciation. I wrote about this last week, so I won’t dive into too much detail here. I’ll merely mention that I believe asset prices across the board will climb in 2021 as a result of all the factors mentioned. Let’s not forget the all-time highs Bitcoin is currently seeing. Last time Bitcoin went on a rampage like this, we saw Magic prices (particularly Reserved List cards) spike. We could see this again in 2021.

Lastly, I look forward to elevating my game in the streaming and video recording space. I recently purchased a gaming laptop and for Christmas I received a nice headset. At this point I have most the hardware I need to create an effective stream or YouTube video. Now the challenge is just prioritizing them. I hope to use the newfound pockets of free time to start a drumbeat of content creation in video form for viewers to explore. If this is something that may interest you, the reader, please leave a comment below and mention the type of content you’d be most interested in: MTG finance chatter, drafts on Arena, Historic/Standard ladder play, Old School Deck Techs, or any other Magic related topic. I’m open to suggestions as I try to grow a modest following in the space.

Wrapping It Up

I believe 2020 will go down in history books as one of the most despised in human history. One hundred years from now, students will study the pandemic and its impact on society and the economy in their history books. They’ll read about how the world came to a temporary halt, millions lost their jobs, and yet the stock market notched an all-time high again and again.

The impact of the pandemic on Magic won’t even bee a footnote in the history books. The game is too small, and the only place one will be able to read about it years from now will be in Hasbro’s quarterly earnings reports. But those of us who enjoy the game today are fully feeling the impact via how we interact with the game and how prices have been impacted.

I’m trying to remain positively focused as I look back at the last 365 days of my life. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by how drastically life has changed due to this pandemic, but it does me no good to dwell on the negatives (the things I have lost). I’m instead trying to focus on what I have maintained or gained thanks to COVID-19 in an attempt to keep a positive attitude. I have maintained my job and gained free time for which to enjoy playing Magic virtually. I’ve also gained some value in my collection thanks to price appreciation.

As I look ahead to 2021, I am again trying to maintain an optimistic attitude for the sake of my mental health. In addition to paper Magic events, I’m trying to approach 2021 with a curious mindset because I suspect prices will be volatile. This means MTG finance will remain relevant and worth following next year. And, of course, that means I hope to be gainfully writing here and producing content for my followers through 2021. I guess in some ways, the more things change the more they stay the same!

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