Recently, I was thinking a lot about the next year or so of upcoming sets. I was trying to foresee possible trends and patterns when a song came on. It was "Perhaps Vampires is a bit strong but..." by the Arctic Monkeys, and it hit me. Vampires. It was so obvious but I overlooked it. After all, with a lineup as compelling as next year's, another Innistrad set this year was more of a footnote in my to-do list. I haven't been excited with Standard releases recently, and next year's lineup seemed so much more interesting. Apparently, I wasn't alone. It took months after the announcement of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt for werewolves to see the attention they deserve, and not until after spoiler season started. Let's go over some mistakes the market seemed to make during the time period before Midnight Hunt, and let's look at some ways to be proactive and avoid that with vampires and Innistrad: Crimson Vow.
How Did Nobody Plan Ahead?
It seems like people didn't have the foresight to realize that the set that was branded as Innistrad: Werewolves, was going to have a heavy werewolf theme. This is demonstrated by the price of the card Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells. The price showed no movement whatsoever for months and months, despite the fact that we knew Innistrad: Midnight Hunt was coming. In fact, there was no movement until the day previews started on September 2nd. The case is the same with Mayor of Avabruk.
It's as if everyone forgot about the set from the moment it was announced until the day spoilers started coming out. A classic "cross that bridge when we get to it" mindset was very much at play. Modern Horizons 2 coming out a good two and a half months earlier may have had something to do with that.
The Liquidity Problem of MH2, and Why Cash Is King
The release of Modern Horizons 2 had a profound effect on game stores and players across the country. With increased prices, stores were dedicating large amounts of resources, and often buying on margin to fill the demand that the set was generating. For a good period of time after its release, stores experienced heavy demand for sealed product, as certain chase cards were scarce, and pretty consistently sold off the shelves as soon as they were opened. I remember dozens of players at my local game store (LGS) alone driving hours and hours just to find a single copy of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer.
This constant demand for more and more MH2 left stores without much resources to afford anything else. And this demand lasted several months, leaving both stores and consumers looking for liquidity.
Retail 101: Inventory Turns
For the uninitiated, an LGS sustains itself on the principle of inventory turnover, defined by Google as "the number of times that a retailer sells and replaces its inventory". The LGS makes very minuscule profits on individual items but sustains itself by selling lots of product and having a high turn rate. With each new set that comes out, the LGS has to dedicate a portion of their time and money to stocking that release, and will thus have lower cash reserves to allocate to other things. If the demand for a set is low enough, that money may even end up locked down in a hard to move asset. Usually, for a new set the demand stabilizes out very quickly after release, and one or two restocks is sufficient to satiate consumer demand. With MH2, demand was so high that most stores needed to go all-in on every restock they could get. As those rolled out, for weeks, maybe even two months after release in some places, stores were dedicating a large amount of money, time, and effort to stocking MH2.
Failure to Look Ahead
Because of the major amount of time and energy that was required to take advantage of the interest in Modern Horizons 2, people were not able to look ahead to future opportunities. They were focused on the easy money in front of them and didn't have time to think of the future. Modern Horizons 2 had a massive impact on everything. From metagames, to card prices, to the financial well-being of our beloved local game stores. This affected our mindsets in a way, severely downplaying everything else that was happening, or was to come in our immediate future. It's a major reason why Adventures in the Forgotten Realms was such a failure. People were still getting their minds and their wallets off of MH2, and by the time they looked up, it was already time for previews for the new Innistrad set. Taking time to analyze what we may have missed, even from sets before the release of MH2 is probably a good idea going forward. We seem to have collectively missed a lot of things, and a second look may be revealing.
How You Can Be Ahead of the Curve
The major mistake we all made was not thinking ahead. We had information ahead of time, ample information to make qualified speculations, and did not take advantage when action was necessary. There were a few who made their moves early, but so many of us did not. Before Innistrad: Crimson Vow is here, take advantage of the time and information you have right now. Pick up some specs, move some inventory, plan ahead. Vampire commanders are a good start. Here are some great examples:
Edgar Markov's Coffin // Edgar Markov's Coffin is a highly sought-after Commander. if you've got some, hold on. They can always get higher.
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose seems pretty low, and looks like a safe buy.
Try to look around for any cool interactions, but don't neglect generic tribal support. There are many options for it, including the classic Coat of Arms, or the more recent Vanquisher's Banner. Just don't make the mistake of not thinking about it now.
Passive Thoughts Equals Passive Action
We live in a world of hustle and bustle. It's hard not to get into the motions and go on autopilot. Every situation requires finesse. We may pay special attention to heavy hitters, but the bread and butter are still just that, the bread and butter. Forgot those and all you are left with is a bunch of ingredients. Passive thoughts about the future mean sub-par results for the future. As Malcolm X said, "Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."