Sealed Product and New Standard Rotation

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In 11 years of writing weekly articles, I have yet to experience any dramatic writer's block. This is partly a testament to Wizards of the Coast’s constant evolution of the game of Magic. If Magic remained stagnant, even for a few months, I would run out of topics.

Fortunately, the only constant in Magic is change.

This week, the change I'm covering is the major transformation of Standard. In the past, Standard sets rotated out of the format after two years. With this announcement, sets will now remain in the format for three years! What's more, as a part of this change, there will be no Standard rotation this fall at all. Another full year of Standard life is a fifty percent increase. It also means another full year of Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Invoke Despair, and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki.

Is This What the Player Base Wanted?

I’m not sure this is going to deliver against Wizards’ objectives. While it bodes well for anyone who has invested in or speculated on Standard cards, the health of the format may not see the measured improvement predicted.

Alas, I am no expert in Standard so I won’t speculate too much on this aspect. Instead, I’ll refer you to David Schumann’s article from last week. David does a fantastic job diving into this topic, as well as covering some of the financial implications and his predictions for what it means for the format in general. I’m not going to re-hash his article.

I will repeat for emphasis my agreement that singles offer more potential as a result of this change. Cards that were on the verge of rotating will now have another year in Standard, and an expanding card base could open doors for new archetypes. This means either popular cards will get more popular and harder to find, or new cards will suddenly rise in popularity. Either way, it should lead to some interesting price increases.

Rippling Effects in the Sealed Market

One thing David did not cover in his article, which I'll discuss today, is the potential impact on newer sealed product. In fact, I had already noticed some upward momentum on certain draft booster boxes from Magic’s more recent sets even before the announcement.

Check out the TCGplayer market price one-year graph for Innistrad: Midnight Hunt draft booster boxes.

These booster boxes were left for dead late last year—I purchased a booster box of the set back in November for $72.99 shipped (plus tax). Now at $86, this set has already seen a 17% increase in value. Granted, I can’t realize any profit yet because of shipping and fees, but it’s promising to see the momentum in the positive direction.

I suspect that, with an extended shelf life in Standard, these boxes will offer more potential upside over the next year. If individual singles from the set increase in price, it could drive increased box openings of the set, reducing the supply of said boxes.

Midnight Hunt isn’t the only set that has seen a rebound. Check out the graph on Dominaria United, or should I say, “the Sheoldred lottery.”

It’s true that this set’s draft booster boxes haven’t rebounded as much as Midnight Hunt. On the other hand, Dominaria United boxes never dropped down as low as $72. These bottomed in the $86 range, and have since rebounded $10. Checking my order history, I see I purchased a draft booster box of this set in November 2022 for $90.94 plus tax.

Honestly, if Sheoldred, the Apocalypse remains legal in Standard, I could see it hitting price points not seen in Standard since the days of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Should this happen, DMU booster boxes could easily surpass $100 while still legal in Standard.

Lastly, the price of Streets of New Capenna booster boxes remains the cheapest of the bunch, but these are also well off their lows.

I’m expecting these boxes to cross $80 soon, with the potential to approach $100 while still in Standard if the set can offer a bit more to the format. Currently, SNC’s biggest contribution is the tri-lands. Hopefully, the set can offer more at some point during its Standard shelf life. If not, then we’ll have to wait for Commander cards like Halo Fountain and Bootleggers' Stash to gradually climb in price.

Bucking the Trend: Neon Dynasty

One set is bucking the overall trend discussed above: Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. NEO booster boxes haven’t bounced at all.

My hypothesis here is that the set’s draft booster boxes never got as low as some of the others—currently, it is bottoming out in the $91 range, $20 higher than the bottoms of Midnight Hunt and Streets of New Capenna. It's Perhaps because Neon Dynasty never showed any booster box pricing weakness that we’re not seeing a notable bounce.

I’m keeping an eye on these all the same though. NEO offered a fantastic draft experience, and cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, Farewell, and the channel lands offer enough upside to potentially lift box prices while still legal in Standard.

Forward-Looking Statements and Accountability

Even though I’m not writing on behalf of a publicly traded company, I still feel obligated to make some sort of forward-looking statement disclaimer. Those who follow the stock market and company earnings reports are probably familiar with this lingo. It’s basically a disclaimer used whenever a company is making written or oral statements about projected financial performance, execution of vision and growth plans, etc.

In my case, I’m using this as my unnecessary caveat around predictions for sealed product. I think the extension of Standard rotation from two years to three years will lead to higher booster box prices, particularly on sets released in that twoish-years-ago range, whose shelf life in Standard just got extended another year.

Namely, this includes AFR, MID, VOW, and NEO booster boxes. I don't expect these to double in price or anything like that. I just have an inkling that extended life in Standard will lead to some higher singles prices and a lengthier time period of demand for these sets in general.

For accountability, I’m going to list the current TCG low pricing for each of these draft booster boxes to track trends over the next 6-12 months. We’ll see if this pans out at all.

AFR: $91.85
MID: $86.19
VOW: $77.52
NEO: $91.75

I don’t think these are going to jump 50%, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them rise by another $10-$20 throughout their lives in Standard.

Wrapping It Up

I should also disclaim that, while I don’t have much interest in flipping Magic singles these days, I still have a small pile of booster boxes for investment. Naturally, this biases my point of view.

That being said, I do think this change to Standard rotation timelines bodes well for booster box demand. I don’t know if it’ll lead to dramatic profits, but I do think there is some potential here, even after accounting for shipping costs.

Consider, booster boxes from just a few years ago, such as War of the Spark, and Dominaria, already sell for a significant premium over their price points while in Standard. Dominaria in particular has flirted with a $200 price tag. That could provide a reasonable profit for those who bought in when the set was relatively new.

The trend of increasing box prices is likely to magnify a bit under the new Standard rotation rules. For this reason, I remain optimistic about holding a smattering of boxes for the long haul. I can’t pretend to know which sets will be the Innistrad and which will be the Dragon’s Maze, so instead of concentrating on one set I choose to diversify—one box each of many sets should be a way of spreading risk around.

This, along with my recent focus on Magic original art, is what keeps my interest in Magic, fueling more article ideas for the foreseeable future. Here’s to another 11 years without writer’s block!

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