I tend not to follow recent sets of Magic these days—my interest in keeping up with the game itself has waned significantly over the past few months. After diving heavily into Magic Arena for about a year, falling in and out of love with the historic metagame, I decided to take a hiatus from the platform.
For this reason, I am intimately familiar with Ikoria and Zendikar Rising but couldn’t name more than a card or two from Kaldheim and Strixhaven.
Of course, I still follow the Magic community closely via my Twitter feed, so I noticed a bunch of pretty cool spoilers lately. As it turns out, Modern Horizons 2 is a set filled with older reprints, cards with classic frames, and a bunch of throw-back references. I never would have guessed that Wizards would have made a card based on the famous chef quoted on Alpha rare Granite Gargoyle.
Because of my interest, I did a quick search to browse the set and see what cards are selling for. After a brief search on MTG Stocks, I am confident this set is extremely overpriced.
How Many $20+ Cards?
According to MTG Stocks’ market pricing, which pulls from market prices on TCGplayer, there are nine cards from the original Modern Horizons set worth more than $20. Force of Negation and Prismatic Vista are both rare, and the other seven cards are mythic rares. MTG Stocks also offers an Expected Value feature, and currently the market-calculated EV for a booster of Modern Horizons is $8.17.
Now let’s skip ahead to Modern Horizons 2, the new set that releases on June 18th. From that set, guess how many cards currently have a market price over $20. The answer: 27! That’s right, there are currently 27 cards that have market prices north of $20.
Don’t get me wrong, this set is sweet. Some of the reprints are of some high-value cards, including the enemy-colored fetch lands and Cabal Coffers. But I just don’t see 27 cards sustaining prices over $20 once the set releases. A few months from now, that number will probably reduce to about one-third, probably to around ten.
What’s more, of those 27 cards, 11 are rare and 16 are mythic rare. That means about 41% of the cards selling for over $20 are currently rares. Compare that to the first Modern Horizons breakdown, where just 22% (two out of nine) of the cards worth over $20 are rare. This comparison really makes Modern Horizons 2 seem overheated to say the least. There’s no set EV calculated yet for the set, but I have to imagine it is way above $8.17 offered by the first Modern Horizons.
An Additional Factor at Play
There’s a secondary reason I expect the set EV of Modern Horizons 2 to sell off dramatically in the coming months. The first Modern Horizons had no special print variants—you either pulled the regular card or its foil. And with one foil per booster pack, foil prices from the set didn’t merit the same elevated premium as other sets.
With Modern Horizons 2, I still don’t fully understand what you can open in a booster pack. I believe it varies depending on the kind of pack you open. When I visited Scryfall to browse spoilers from the set, I noticed there are a multitude of print variations that exist:
- Regular printing
- Alternate-art borderless cards
- Showcase cards
- Old-frame bonus sheet
- Extended art cards
On top of this, I expect at least some of these cards also come in foil, or etched, or some sort of shiny variant. As a result, in Modern Horizons 2, you can open a Misty Rainforest with many different looks.
I hypothesize that this print variation proliferation will reallocate some of the sets value away from standard printings and towards the more premium (rarer) variants. We’ve seen this happen before—Wizards releases a set with certain special, ultra-rare cards, and those cards end up “subsidizing” the value in the rest of the set. For players this is terrific, as the base entry to obtain the cards for play is reduced.
But if you live in MTG finance world like I do, then these special variants bode ill for the value of the regular printings of the set. We’re already seeing this unfold in pre-order prices:
The market price for the Modern Masters 2017 Misty Rainforest is about $60. That’s the ballpark price for the Modern Horizons 2 base copy (I expect this to drop quite a bit…probably to $35-$40). The version with the retro frame has a market price of $131.99 (though listings are already below that…this number will also drop). Then you have the extended art version, which is selling for around $90 for pre-orders. Lastly, there’s the retro frame, foil etched version, which currently has a market price of over $300!
This will lead to a scenario where the foil etched printing, being the rarest and most desirable, will maintain an elevated price point. Other special printings will also command a premium. The base printing…I expect that one to drop the most.
Reapplying this across the rest of the set, you can see where I’m going. If so many of the set’s value is locked up in these special print variants, it subsidizes the value of the base card printings of the set. The set’s EV can only go so high; if it exceeds some threshold (assuming no shortage of product), vendors will simply crack open more packs to create singles inventory to sell. The more they do this, the greater the supply of the normal printings, the lower their price goes.
High Dollar Reprints
The other thing about Modern Horizons 2 that seems to stand out to me is not just the presence of reprints, but the number of high-dollar reprints in the set. Here’s a list of some of the heavy hitters:
- Misty Rainforest
- Scalding Tarn
- Verdant Catacombs
- Marsh Flats
- Arid Mesa
- Cabal Coffers
- Imperial Recruiter
- Mirari's Wake
- Patriarch's Bidding
- Solitary Confinement
Each of the reprints above have base printings with market values currently north of $10; many of these have values over $20. The cycle of fetch lands, in particular, brings five high-value reprints into the set, at rare.
With this many desirable reprints, can all these cards maintain high price points? I understand this is a premium set and draft booster packs currently sell for about $8.75 on TCGplayer. But the set’s EV simply can’t remain so high, or else all these boosters will simply be cracked. This will flood the market with greater supply, and these reprints will all see their prices tank. I suspect Cabal Coffers will remain fairly high, being a highly desirable mythic rare reprint.
The fetches will also maintain strong demand, though I expect all their prices to drop by 30-40%. Imperial Recruiter, Mirari's Wake, Patriarch's Bidding, and Solitary Confinement will all get hit particularly hard. I predict their price to drop in half at the lows.
One Last Aside
Tangentially related to my article this week, I just want to point out how confusing Magic sealed product shopping has become. When I started playing, you had just two choices for sealed product: a booster pack or a booster box. If it was a large set, you could also buy a tournament pack of 60 cards, or a box of tournament packs.
I searched for Modern Horizons 2 on TCGplayer to look up pricing of sealed product, and here were my options:
I believe a Draft Booster Box is like a standard booster box from days of yore. Collector boosters are fancy, high-dollar boosters. Then there’s set booster, which is in between I guess? Then there are displays and boxes, the bundle (aka “fat pack”), and the good old draft booster case. The options are endless, and it is admittedly confusing to an older player like myself who isn’t used to all the print variations.
I’m not sure if all this SKU proliferation is healthy for Magic, but I guess they’re tailoring their product to their diverse player base. Some just want the cards to play, so they buy the standard draft boosters (also good for drafting obviously). Others want a shot at the higher value cards in the set, so they’re attracted more to the premium products. I understand this delineation, but it’s just a little overwhelming to me when I want to look up a product’s price.
Wrapping It Up
This article ended up being quite negative in tone. In reality, I’m very excited for Modern Horizons 2. While I don’t actively purchase new product these days, I may dabble in a booster pack or two (my birthday is coming up, after all!). A chance to open an enemy fetch land is enough to entice me, but some of the classic throwbacks like Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar are pretty sweet as well.
But my interest in the set ends there. From a financial standpoint, I believe nearly all the cards are currently pre-ordering for far too much. It’s fairly typical when a new set is spoiled—pre-order prices are high. After the set’s release, there’s a cool-off period as supply floods the market. Modern Horizons 2 will not be an exception to this rule.
I just feel like Modern Horizons 2 will suffer a pullback a bit larger in nature than your typical set. Prices seem very high, and there are so many cards pre-selling for over $20. Comparing this to the number of cards in the first Modern Horizons selling for over $20 (currently just nine), its obvious prices need to cool off a great deal. What’s more, with all the print variations available in the set, I believe the standard printings of cards will have their price subsidized by the more premium versions. This means prices will fall even further.
If you’re eager to pick up some of these cards, my advice would be to wait. Or, perhaps open up sealed product on day one, sell the overpriced singles as quickly as you can, and then buy back what you really want after a couple months.
Don’t forget, Wizards is constantly churning out new products. Modern Horizons 2 is receiving all the hype right now, but three months from now we’ll have other products to be excited about. Modern Horizons 2 will fall out of the limelight, and in doing so the prices will fall. That’s a wise time to start shopping.
And I definitely encourage shopping. There are a lot of great cards in this set. They will have value and they will appreciate slowly over time, after the initial sell-off. When the bottom is in, it’ll be a prime time to pick up the best, most iconic cards in the set for the long term. Despite my lack of interest in new Magic sets, rest assured I will be watching the market on these Modern Horizons 2 cards closely and will try to highlight the opportunities when they arise.