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M15 Feedback

By: Cliff Daigle

So when Magic 2015 was spoiled, I told you all some long-term price behaviors that I expected to see over time. A week after that, I checked in with those cards. With Khans having been out for a month and M15 being a format that almost no one is drafting, let’s see where these cards are at.

I like to check in with how those predictions are going, and evaluate what’s been good and bad. This is the process: No one is right 100% of the time, but there’s lessons to be learned from the successes and the failures.

Ajani Steadfast – I said to pick up at $5 or less, and he’s at $13 after a high of $20. He’s on the trajectory. I do like him as a casual pickup for the decks with lots of planeswalkers…once he gets to a low enough point. He has seen a little Standard play, and that might be enough to keep him near $10.

Garruk, Apex Predator – My goal is going to be to pick him up at $10, but he’s currently at $15. I think I’m going to revise this a bit: I like picking him up at $15, because he seems like something to evaluate in Abzan decks. He’ll never be a four-of, but showing up in a few sideboards might nudge his price back north of $20. If that happens, the spike might be big, because casual players have already taken a lot of these out of rotation.

Jace, the Living Guildpact – Sultai is not a popular enough clan to warrant playing him. His price looks like it will continue to drop, despite a ‘discard opponent’s hand while you draw seven’ ultimate. We’re seeing lots of Murderous Cut and Dig Through Time, but the one card is just too slow. I had higher hopes for him.

Liliana Vess – Current card seeing a little play, with lots and lots of printings behind her. I’d be surprised if she fell much further (She is a 1-2 of even when played) or rose much higher (There’s a ton of back product, all the way back to being a Lorwyn rare) so there’s little value to be gained here currently. Totally in line with expectations.

Nissa, Worldwaker – Well, I was wrong. Very wrong. I said “I do not expect big things out of her price” and it turns out she’s the heavy hitter of the set. She’s more than twice the price of her nearest competition! This is because she was the most popular upon release, combined with a never-very-large inventory. Her price is going to stay high for the duration of her time in Standard, because of the high initial price and the memory of that. I would be surprised if her price went below $25 before the end of next summer.

Perilous Vault – I said I’d like this card below $10, and here it is. It’s been all the way down to $4, before seeing play at the PT and the GP. I maintain that it is an excellent casual card, but seeing the level it can get to, I think I’m going to be very patient and wait till rotation, picking these up under $5.

Sliver Hivelord – I said it would get to about $7 as people got their single copy for Sliver EDH decks, and here we are at $7 and change. It had a chance to be a player in Standard over the summer, but with rotation, it’s a casual-only card and one that won’t go up for a while.

The Soul CycleSoul of New Phyrexia is indeed about double the others, and has gotten to half its previous price of $10. The benefit to this Soul is that it’ll go into any casual deck. I feel it’s even good enough for Cube, as untapping with it invalidates so many strategies! Soul of Innistrad has a chance to go up, as a millable source of card advantage, but the rest seem destined to fall to near-bulk prices.

The Chain Veil – I was too optimistic. I knew it wouldn’t be much, but while I said it would be closer to $4 than $10, I didn’t see it being a buck. Just too specialized. Notable, though, that the foils are all the way at $11, a classic indicator of a card’s casual appeal.

Ob Nixilis, Unshackled – I said it would never be more than a couple of dollars, and here it is at $1.50. I do have to report that it’s just as good in Commander as I had hoped!

Scuttling Doom Engine – This is interesting. It’s $4 despite getting no publicized play. Maybe it’s a big card in rogue brews. Maybe it’s an easy addition to all sorts of casual artifact decks. Maybe someone is stockpiling them in anticipation of the world figuring out that this was printed as the anti-Elspeth card. I thought it would be lower than it is, so I haven’t tried to trade for any yet.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth – It’s seeing professional-level play, so the power is there. The Abzan decks especially like it, allowing fetchlands and Temple of Plenty to tap for black. Not to be overlooked is the damage it saves from painlands as well. It’s going to hold at $5 for a while and start creeping upwards over time. I plan on trading for some of these and just setting them aside for a long while.

Waste Not – I told you to dump it at $7, saying it was a $2 card. I was dead on, as it’s at $2.32. It will take a powerhouse discard spell to bring it into Standard play, and if the card is good enough for Standard, it won’t need this to help it out.

Hushwing Gryff – It hasn’t really moved from being $3. Siege Rhino only sort of cares if someone played this against you on turn four. Satyr Wayfinder gets in play before the Gryff. There are some neat abilities to counter, but this is more a Commander card.

What was I most wrong about? Nissa. I underestimated her immediate effect on Standard. I overestimated the supply. She will be a somewhat-played card for her duration. Never too heavily, mind you, but she will show up. There is a case to be made that the more Siege Rhino is played, the worse a 4/4 trample land looks. Time will tell!

The other thing to note is that M15 has very low-value cards. It’s not as bad as Dragon’s Maze, with one big find and everything else just sort of there, but with only four cards over $10, one of the best values in M15 will be Stoke the Flames, a surprise uncommon. The lesson there is that four damage is good, especially when your creatures help you pay for it.

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Get While the Gettin’s Good

By: Travis Allen

Perhaps the most common question I’m asked is “when should I sell [some card]?” It’s a reasonable question. You’ve got spare copies that you’ve been saving for a rainy day, say Sylvan Caryatid, and you want to know when you should get rid of them. The goal is simple enough to understand; maximize your profit while avoiding unnecessary risk. While there’s no clear algorithm that will tell you exactly when to sell, there is a heuristic I use when making the decision myself. I’ll provide you with my methodology today. First, two mistakes that are easy for anyone to stumble into when making decisions about selling cards. 

One of the biggest traps of speculating on Magic cards, or even more general investment avenues such as the stock market, is not knowing when to dump a good. There are a few psychological factors that play into this, such as the “sunk cost fallacy.” I can demonstrate this concept with an example from my own recent history. I purchased about $100 worth of Advent of the Wurms a ways back when they were still about $3. As it became clear they weren’t going break out and that I should out them while I could, I instead gripped onto them tighter, assuring myself that someone would definitely bust the card and I would make my money back. Because I had paid the $3 each for them, I didn’t want to sell them for less than that. Instead of taking the $1.50 each or whatever it was I could have gotten for them, I instead held on, waiting until I could at least break even. Here we are today, with the best buylist for my thirty-some copies being $.25.

When you’re considering whether to sell cards, you must divorce your decision from the amount you originally paid for them. If the best time to sell is today, then you should sell today, regardless of what sort of profit or loss you’re looking at. For a better understanding of the topic, I recommend checking out the wiki page.

Another trap when speculating on Magic cards is greed, plain and simple. When Fist of Suns first spiked in early January copies went from $2 to $12. If you had been lucky enough to have some in your possession when the spike occurred, you should have rushed to market. If you were greedy you would have listed the cards for the full $12, hoping to extract maximum value from the sudden surge in demand. Over the span of weeks the price slowly dwindled with a lack of results. If you kept trying to squeeze as much out of them as you could you would have never actually sold any. The card has now settled at $5, which means that if you manage to sell your copies you’d see a much smaller return than if you had just listed them at $9 or $10 immediately after the spike and gotten another fool to buy in. Instead of quickly shipping cards during the wave of hype, being greedy and hoping for maximum profit would have ended up costing you a good $3-$5 profit per card.

Managing to get ahead of a price spike is an excellent feeling. Watching TCG sell out of Master of Waves while you stroke your twenty playsets that you got for $6/card would have been euphoric. Getting in ahead of the spike is only half the battle though. Knowing when to get rid of your copies for a profit can be even more difficult than guessing the next big thing.

Hype-driven spikes aren’t the only times where we fail to sell out when we should. Impending rotations, promises of reprints, and the recognition of price ceilings are all indicators of the time to sell being now. Let’s take a look at some things to keep in mind when considering whether you should sell your copies of a card.

Choo Choo! All Aboard the Hype Train!

When deciding whether you should sell a card, ask yourself if it just saw a massive spike in price. If the answer to that is yes, then you should almost definitely be selling. “But Travis, what if that snake alchemist brew ends up being tier one and blah blah blah.” No, stop it. If a card spiked, ship your copies fast and hard. Nearly every single time a card sees a huge jump due to a breakout performance the price drops significantly from its peak in a matter of days. Master of Waves dropped from a peak of $25(!) to $10 in about two weeks, even though the best possible scenario of Mono-Blue being a tier one deck materialized. Think about that.

Everything went exactly right for Master of Waves. He was a four-of mythic staple in a tier-one Standard deck that dominated the format for months, and still the $20+ price tag was unsustainable.

Take a look at the price graphs on Aluren. Or Boros Reckoner. Or Fist of Suns. They all drop-off from their frenzied height. Exceptions to this are few and far between, and shouldn’t be used as evidence not to sell during a hype phase.

aluren

Remember that we’re trying to be the best Bayesians we can be. A major part of that is not thinking absolutely, but rather probabilistically. If a $1 card hits $10 overnight, you have to think of the future in terms of probability. Which is more probable? That the card continues to climb past the $10, or it drops to half of that within a week? Well, which is more likely – that a $1 card has been so severely undervalued that the real price is north of $10, or that it’s really a $5-$6 card and the market just hasn’t corrected yet? 98% of the time it’s the latter. When a card sees a sudden meteoric rise, it’s simply so much more likely that the card drops significantly rather than continues to gain that it’s 100% right to sell. The one time you sell too early you won’t even have to feel bad, because the last nine times you sold out during the hype you made a killing while the card eventually bottomed out at half of the hype price.

Playability Saturation

Instead of seeing dramatic spikes, some cards experience slow and consistent growth. A good example here would be Jace, Architect of Thought. He bottomed out during the summer between Ravnica and Theros before jumping back into the spotlight after fall rotation. Aside from a very brief spike to $40+ (which may be a data problem; I don’t ever remember seeing him that high), he hung around $20-$25. This was absolutely the right time to sell. Some people may have held on hoping to break $30, but why would that have been a bad idea?

jaot

First we need to consider what formats care about a particular card. While Jace was doing excellent in Standard, his demand elsewhere was nearly nonexistent. Modern, Legacy, Vintage, EDH – nobody other than the Standard crew was looking for copies. Meanwhile, he was already all over the place in Standard. Mono-Blue was running multiple copies. Sphinx’s Revelation decks had the full playset almost without fail. Even off-the-wall brews had a few copies. At that time, I would say that Standard was saturated with JAoT.

There simply wasn’t any room left in Standard for Jace to see more play. Every deck that could possibly be interested in Jace already had them, and there was no other format placing demand on the card. There were only two realistic outcomes: the price sustains, or the price drops. Faced with those two options, you certainly want to be selling.

When you’re looking at a card you’re considering selling, ask yourself: how much more play could this see? How much more untapped demand could exist for this card? When you look at a card like Eidolon of Blossoms or some of the Theros gods, the potential seems huge. They’re powerful cards that could play well in both Standard and casual, and the prices are very low. There’s room to grow. However when you look at Elspeth, Sun’s Champion’s price tag of $32, do you still think the same thing? Do you realistically believe that there’s enough gas left in the tank for her to break $35 or $40? Have other fall set Standard-only mythics had price tags that high?

Consider what demand exists for the card. Think about how much play its seeing in the formats that may want it. Think about how much other cards from similar sets cost at their high point. Think about how much more the card could possibly rise. In a case such as Elspeth’s, the answer becomes clear. Yes, she could manage to eek out a few more dollars, but it’s considerably safer just taking the locked-in profit now and moving on to something with much more potential.

Hello and Goodbye

This factor is particularly salient today, only weeks after Khans release. Card prices are always high after a set release. They’re especially high after a fall set release. (People are excited about what the future holds. This is in comparison to a set like Journey Into Nyx, where the format is already pretty well-developed at that point.) They’re even HIGHER right after the fall Pro Tour, because all the new toys are on display and the frenzy is at its peak. Let’s see exactly what I’m talking about.

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Right now the top thirty or so cards in Khans of Tarkir are worth roughly 20-25% more than the top thirty Theros cards. Keep in mind that the senior set is supposed to be more expensive than the junior! Theros boxes have dried up and MTGO redemptions are over. The stock available can only dwindle. Meanwhile, the drafting of Khans of Tarkir is just beginning. The amount of Khans that has been opened so far is only a small fraction of the total amount that will eventually be cracked. Prices in this set are inevitably going to crash from here. An in-print sent with this much demand is entirely unsustainable. $18 Polluted Deltas? $17 Windswept Heaths? No way this keeps up. Remember, Zendikar fetches were $8-$15 in Standard, and typically a lot closer to the low end of that scale.

At this point in time, a few days past the KTK gameday, you should be selling anything with the Khans set symbol on it. Keep only the exact cards you need to play with and ship the rest. Yes, even that card. Yes, even fetches. Nearly every single card on that list is going to lose value over the next two months. Why would you want to be holding onto toxic assets?

There are two exceptions. You should keep cards you want to play with. You don’t need to sell every single card from KTK. Feel free to keep fetches for decks you want to play or to continue using your Sidisis at FNM. After all, the whole point of all of this is to finance our habit. The other exception is foils. While most will come down, not all will. Dig Through Time foils in particular I’d probably hold on to. They may lose a little bit of value over the months, but not enough to really warrant selling or trading them. Remember that Abrupt Decay foils are now $70. I don’t think DTT is getting there tomorrow, but it definitely seems like it’s going to have an impact in every format, which bodes very well for foil prices.

There will be a card or two in Khans of Tarkir that rises in price from where it is now. Maybe it will be another Ascendancy, or Ghostfire Blade, or Crater’s Claws. I’m not sure which card will be $5 more than it is today. What I do know is that the total amount of value lost from Khans will be far greater than the small amount a single card gains.

Think of it this way. If we add up the value of a single copy of the thirty most expensive cards in Khans, it comes in somewhere around $275. Two months from now, that number will be much closer to around $225. As a whole the set will lose a large chunk of value. Now maybe Ghostfire Blade jumps to $4 from bulk, but unless you are prescient you can’t be sure that will happen. So which would you rather do: trade away all your excess Khans cards, ensuring you don’t eat a huge drop in value on the set as a whole, or hoard all of your Khans cards because two or three of them are going to rise by a few bucks? Getting rid of any excess product you have right now is a 100% guaranteed win.

Nothing to Lose

So far I’ve told you when to sell your cards. Now I’ll tell you when not to sell. This is even murkier territory. Holding onto cards carries inherent risk because you never know what’s actually going to happen. You can mitigate that risk though, and even get involved in virtually no-risk scenarios if you know where to look.

One of the worst things you can do is sell your senior set cards during late summer just ahead of rotation. Our most recent example of this would have been Theros block product during July and August. During those months the summer doldrums are at their most severe and prices are fairly low across the board because of it. Even Elspeth was a full $10 cheaper over the summer than she is today, in spite of the fact that she was one of three or four cards that entirely defined the Theros block PT.

During those hazy summer months there’s basically no real incentive to sell your cards. The absolute floor for a card’s price is typically found during the summer, which means you can’t really lose holding onto a card during that time. If four months ago you made the decision to hold onto Elspeth until October, two things could have happened. One, she could see minimal play in Standard once Khans came out. If this were the case, her price would have stayed relatively stable, with only maybe a marginal and slow loss. The other option is that she continues to be a force in the new Standard and her price rises accordingly, just as we’ve seen it do. Either way, holding onto Elspeth was virtually a zero-risk proposition.

Hold onto your Standard-legal cards through the summer. They won’t be any cheaper in October than they were in July, and it’s far more likely that most of your stock has risen in value, sometimes dramatically. You may even get lucky with random cards breaking out due to a shift in the format after rotation, ala Desecration Demon.

These same rules apply for Modern cards as well, although we’re holding onto them a little longer than Standard cards. Peak Magic prices seem to be around January and February. This is when you’ll want to move any Modern cards you’re looking to get rid of. Again, most Modern staples are at their lowest through the summer and fall. It isn’t until after the first of the year that they start to gain steam. Unless you’re terrified of a reprint, hold onto those Snapcasters and Restoration Angels until February. Today Scalding Tarn is $52, and was $60-$70 before the Khans fetches were announced. But back in March they peaked at a whopping $130 for a few weeks. Part of this was due to GP Richmond I’m sure, although that event wasn’t solely responsible for that much of a change.

At the end of the day, there are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding whether now is the right time to sell your goodies. Did the card just see a huge spike because of some break-out deck? How much more expensive could this card reasonably be, and how likely is it that happens? Given the time of year, is it more likely this card is closer to its floor or its ceiling?

Hot Tips for the Week

  • Hold onto your Thoughtseizes. If you just read everything above, you should have already come to the same conclusion. There’s pretty much no reason on the horizon for that card to lose value over the next two to three years. At worst the price stays stagnant and at best they double up (at least). Look at what has happened with multi-format-staple Abrupt Decay.
  • It bears repeating: sell any excess fetches.
  • Delver of Secrets was only a $5 foil or so while it was in Standard. There’s no way Treasure Cruise or Monastery Swiftspear maintain those foil prices. Wait before you buy in.
  • Any Modern cards you need you should be acquiring now. I’ve barely been around real Magic games for the past two months and I’ve already spoken to several people getting into Modern because of the fetch reprint. We got shocks two years ago, Thoughtseize a year ago, fetches today, and Modern Masters 2 is on the horizon for next spring. Once attention shifts back towards that format, prices will move accordingly.
  • Speaking of Modern, Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are the new hotness in old formats. Both of them want lots of small spells to fill you up your graveyard. Thalia happens to be excellent at hosing decks attempting to do that, and she’s slipped down towards $3 again. This is a great pickup in trade.

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Foraging for Truffles: Cheap Shocks

By: Guo Heng Chin

What does a person who bought Bitcoins in October 2011 have in common with a person who bought a playset of every Zendikar fetchland during the same time? They both took a nice long ride on the Treasure Cruise. Well, one has probably made quite a significant sum of money while the other just bought himself into Modern at a fraction of the price a 2014 entree. Ah, the perks of being an early adopter.

In retrospect, the rise and rise of the fetches seemed fairly obvious. They comprise the key components of the Modern manabase. However, back in October 2011, the idea of the freshly-rotated Scalding Tarn costing more than $50 apiece sounds far-fetched. Modern is but a fledgling format and its debut Pro Tour infested with turn three combo decks left many skeptical about the format’s future.

Wizard’s subsequent laissez-faire bannings did little to instill confidence in the format; the concern that your favorite archetype might be axed in the next round of bannings is legit, albeit overblown (you didn’t really lose any money investing in Jund components prior to Bloodbraid Elf getting quashed by the banhammer).

Nevertheless, Modern thrived as a format and is today cited as a favorite format by many players – casuals, amateurs and pros alike. It boasts a healthy and diverse metagame, and there is enough room for a wide array of tier one decks which rotate around with the flux of the metagame. A little bit like Legacy really. And some Modern decks now costs nearly as much as Legacy decks too. A little price to pay for Modern’s explosive popularity.

Shocklands have been widely discussed as an October 2014 rotation pick up long before their rotation. Nobody want to miss the ship on shocks. Is now the best time to complete your playset of every shockland? The answer is an astounding ‘Yes!’

However the question runs deeper if you are interested in shocklands as an investment; is it worth investing in a few extra playsets of shocklands? Could shocks appreciate enough to warrant parking money in them long-term? What is the risk of a reprint repressing shockland prices?

Today’s article will discuss those questions and dissect the pros and risks associated with going long on shocks.

Are Steam Vents the Next Scalding Tarns?

A chief regret of many long-time players I know is liquidating their fetchlands when Zendikar rotated out back in October 2011. Or not getting their hands on $15 Scalding Tarns back in early 2012.

Shocklands are in the same situation as fetches were in back in October 2011. While I suspect many players would have wisen up and hold on to their shocklands, there are still plenty of opportunities to get shocks. As of writing, shocklands can be acquired for less than $10 apiece, except for Sacred Foundry and Breeding Pool. With no new supply of shocklands, they are unlikely to go any lower.

Data from both offline and online Modern tournaments in 20141 show four shocklands in the top twenty list of most ubiquitous cards in Modern. Note that I used the term ‘ubiquitous’ as opposed to ‘most played’ as the list ranks the cards based on the percentage of decks that run them. Steam Vents is the third most ubiquitous card in Modern, found in a whooping 34.8% of Modern decks this year, with only one other land being more ubiquitous, that is Misty Rainforest which occupies the top spot in the list.

   

Stomping Ground comes close, placing sixth on the list, seeing play in nearly one third of Modern decks this year, while Overgrown Tomb and Temple Garden stood at thirteenth and sixteenth respectively.

However, it is unlikely that shocklands will attain the stratospheric heights of the fetches for a few reasons. First, more copies of fetches are played compared with shocks in decks that run them. The most ubiquitous fetchland, Misty Rainforest is played an average of 3.1 copies in decks that run it, while the second most ubiquitous fetch, Verdant Catacombs is played a whooping 3.8 copies in decks that run it. The lowest ranking fetch in the top twenty list, Marsh Flats, is ran on average 2.5 copies. Compared with the fetchlands, the most ubiquitous shockland, Steam Vents, is the only shock that averaged more than two copies (2.8) while the remaining shocks on the list averaged less than two.

Shocklands are only played in Modern, while fetches see play in virtually every format it is legal in. Lastly, Return to Ravnica significantly ramped up the number of shocks available in the market. I might be wrong as many once thought it impossible for Scalding Tarns to hit $50, but it went all the way to $90 before petering down to its current $50, but taking into account these factors, it looks unlikely.

Nevertheless, that does not imply that shocklands any less good a long-term investment.

Pros of Going Long on Shocklands

Modern is here to stay and is a thriving format. Modern’s existence will ensure that shocks will always be in demand. Return to Ravnica will fade away further and further into the recesses of our memory and the number of shocklands in the market will remain static while demand for shocklands increase.

Christmas in the Middle of the Year

Modern Masters 2 is hinted to come out mid-2015. That weekend of May 30th-31st with three simultaneous Grand Prix (format yet unannounced) being held across three different continents reeks of an epic release of a highly-anticipated product (it would be the first time Wizards is running three Grand Prix on a single weekend). Regardless of whether it will be released during that weekend, the eventual coming of Modern Masters 2 would pull in another wave of players into Modern similar to what Modern Masters did last year. And new Modern players will need their shocks.

Shocklands are vastly underpriced right now. This could be attributed to the lull in Modern prices due to the format no longer being an essential ‘PTQ format’ and the fact that Khans Standard is hogging the limelight now. The Modern Pro Tour in February 2015 could bring about a price correction.

But shocks were $20 – $25 back prior to the announcement of Return to Ravnica, surely with the huge influx of supply they would not be able to return to those prices?

There was a large number of shocklands pumped into the market, but the Modern player base has exploded in recent years. Modern is a Pro Tour format and Wizards is pushing it to become the de facto competitive format for players interested in a non-rotating format. Nine out of the fifty-four Grand Prix slated for next year are Modern. We are seeing Modern Grand Prix in places where non-rotating formats were traditionally unpopular like South East Asia. Modern is also gaining more traction in the StarCityGames circuit.

Plus keeping Modern thriving represents continuous opportunities for Wizards to capitalize on Modern reprints, a.k.a print $100 bills.

Risk of Going Long on Shocklands

The other edge of the blade in Wizard’s dedication to support Modern is the risk of reprints repressing the price of shocklands.

The risk of shocklands getting reprinted within the next few years are slim, due to their unique flavor. Wizards would be hard-pressed to fit names like “Breeding Pool”, “Steam Vents” and “Hallowed Fountain” in sets outside of Ravnica. The Onslaught fetches have more generic names which could allude to any sort landscapes, hence their reprint in Khans of Tarkir, but the name of the Ravnica shocks are associated with the flavor of their respective guilds.

Core sets are traditionally where cycles of lands get reprinted, but with the core set being discontinued after Magic 2016 (released in July 2015), the chances of shocklands being reprinted within the next few years are even less pronounced.

It is also unheard of for Wizards to reprint whole cycle of lands in supplemental products. They could shatter this trend by reprinting shocks in a Modern Master-style product, but that entails sacrificing ten rare slots and I doubt their ‘devign’ team would suffer that.

With a minute chance of impending reprint within the next few years, the risk with going long on shocks is pretty low.

Supreme Verdict, a.k.a. Is it a Good Investment?

The supply of shocklands looks abundant in relation to demand at this point in Modern’s growth, but there is no guarantee that it would be so in a few years when the number of players keen to enter Modern far surpasses the supply of shocklands.

Demand grows exponentially, catalysed by events like the release of Modern Masters. Is it unrealistic to expect a shockland to fetch at least $20 price tag sometime in the future of Modern’s growth curve? Rather, I think the question is ‘when’. Even $20, which is a 100% return on most shocks, is a conservative prediction. The blue-pedigree shocks like Steam Vents and Breeding Pool might not even struggle to hit $25 – $30 especially when they are played in multiple copies across tier one decks.

The best shocklands to invest into right now is the underpriced Steam Vents. It is currently the most played shock in Modern, and although its paper price does not reflect that, Magic Online Steam Vents are already the most expensive of the shocks, nearly double the price of the cheapest shocks. Tier one mainstays like Splinter Twin, Scapeshift, Kiki Pod, Jeskai Control, Jeskai Tempo and the newly-elevated UR Delver all run Steam Vents, so it comes as no surprise that Steam Vents are the most expensive online.

Hallowed Fountain is currently one of the cheaper shocklands, the only shock with a fair trade price below $8, but it has the potential to be ranked amongst the most popular fetches. The introduction of Flooded Strand and Polluted Delta, plus powerful card selection like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise into Modern might be the tipping point to push UW or Esper Control into the hallowed halls of tier one archetypes. Indeed, UW Flash Control is already make a pretty decent showing on Magic Online’s Modern Daily Events. Hallowed Fountain might be a good choice of shock to pick up too.

While the other shocks are equally good holds, their price ceiling could potentially be lower. I use the term ‘price ceiling’ with trepidation when I am referring to Modern staples as they continuously defy expectations.

The treasure cruise is sailing fast for foil shocklands. Back in April this year, foil Return to Ravnica versions of most shocklands could be obtained for around $25 per copy. Today you’d be hard-pressed to find the foil copies of the popular shocks for under $45 and the less popular ones for $35.

Shocklands are the archetypical slow-growing, but secure long-term investment vehicle. Being a fuel that most Modern decks run on, the demand for shocklands will not only be perpetual, it will likely increase in the year to come. Shocklands are underpriced right now, it would be wise to get on the boat right now, and if you are short on funds to invest, pick up Steam Vents.

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Guo Heng grew up playing Magic and is currently a competitive player in Malaysia. His foray into Magic finance started out when he realized that buying extra playsets of undervalued cards help pays for his Magic habit. Rather than hunting big games, Guo Heng enjoys hunting undervalued games instead. Catch him @theguoheng and www.facebook.com/guoheng

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Khans Tarkir ABZAN Art

What’s Your Standard Deck Worth?

By: Jared Yost

Something I’m interested in seeing is the value of Standard decks over time, especially in light of the combination of the new setup of blocks/sets and the Standard rotation changes made by Wizards. These changes are happening once Khans block fully enters the Standard card pool and the final core set is released, which is much closer than players realize. What this means is that players will have to budget for Standard accordingly, since block rotation will occur every 18 months rather than every 24 months.

In order to track Standard deck values over time, I would like to see the current Standard decks that exist and then recreate this article in the future on a quarterly basis in order to keep on top of trends for existing and new Standard decks. It would be best to see the information on a quarterly basis to coincide with new set releases, where hype is highest and paying attention to the prices is most important.

Also, I hope by doing this that I point out to players which Standard decks are the cheapest competitive decks of the format, and which decks may feature cards hyped from a set release. My theory is that expensive decks now could be driven down in overall price due to the influx of the new set as players draft it and open boxes. I want to see if I can refer back to this article in the future and see more expensive decks now than in the future.

If there is interest, I could also write similar articles in this series about Modern or even Legacy decks to show players which decks are currently the cheapest to play and which decks increase or decrease in price over time. For now though, I want to keep the scope to Standard because the most widely played format is going to have the most price swings and will need the closest watch to determine the fluctuations of prices.

Scope of Analysis

The scope will include the following to determine a deck’s value:

  • All decks that have been recorded on TCGPlayer (http://magic.tcgplayer.com/standard_deck_hq.asp)
    • For my own sanity’s sake, I am going to take the average of the first five decks that I find that match to an archetype on MTG Top 8, preferably using the decks of the archetype that got 1st place or were PT finishers. I will not use decks that aren’t ranked in the averages, but I will use all decks in the overall count in order to assess the popularity of the deck. There are 19 deck archetypes out there and trying to average each deck of all singular archetypes into one general price is too much work for only slightly more precise averages. Thus I stick with five.
    • Decks will be non-MTGO decks that placed at in-person events like Pro Tours, GP’s, State Champs, etc. since the data is from TCGPlayer and they do not track MTGO. If there is interest, I can track the price of MTGO decks as well in a future article.
  • All prices reflect TCG Mid Pricing
  • The term “deck” for this analysis includes both main and sideboard cards
  • Finally, I realize that there are budget-based decks beyond what is recorded on TCGPlayer and that’s fine. What I am trying to aim for in this article is that if you are playing an extremely budget based deck at an FNM or other tournament, there are other options out there that have already proven themselves as a viable archetype that probably aren’t much more expensive than your deck. Especially if you are willing to sacrifice NM condition and go for cards that are SP or lower.

With my scope out of the way, let’s see which decks are the most and least expensive in Standard right now.

Data Set – Khans Standard Deck Prices

Deck Average Cost Copies Listed on TCGPlayer
Abzan Midrange $708.74 98
Jeskai Tempo $444.77 77
Mardu Midrange $649.46 37
Temur Midrange $537.52 26
RG Midrange $554.87 22
GR Devotion $461.41 19
Monogreen Devotion $475.52 19
GB Devotion $464.10 16
Esper Control $458.40 12
Rabble Red $150.23 11
Sultai Midrange $565.57 10
Monoblack Aggro $254.34 8
Naya Midrange $695.00 7
Mardu Tokens $533.20 7
Naya Superfriends $713.76 6
BW Aggro $309.07 6
Mardu Control $552.85 5
Abzan Reanimator $453.42 5
Jeskai Burn $430.57 4
*Jeskai Combo (Lee Shi Tian) $407.57 1
*Abzan Aggro (Thiago Saporito) $530.06 1
*UB Control (Ivan Floch) $369.64 1
**Sultai Dredge (Christian Seibold) $444.96 1
**Boros Tokens (Brad Nelson) $371.64 1
**Jeskai Control (Justin Cheung) $557.36 1

*PT Khans Top 8, only appearance
**Place highly at PT Khans outside Top 8, no other appearances

Notes about the data set:

  • The copies on TCGPlayer represent the amount of players who are listing their deck – this does not reflect the number of Top 8’s that the deck has received.
  • Average cost represents the average cost of five winning decks (first place), as available – if there were fewer than five winners I picked the next highest placing decks of the archetype for the average. All averages were based on decks in Top 8’s.
  • I included the rest of the Pro Tour Khans Top 8 decks in the analysis, which did not show up in the TCGPlayer top played deck archetypes, to see where the rest of the PT Top 8 was on the budget scale.
  • I also included a few other PT recorded decks that were in the TCGPlayer database in the analysis that did fairly well at the tournament to see where they landed on budget.

Data Set – Graphical Representation

Ten Most Represented Decks on TCGPlayer – Average Cost, Ordered by Deck Price

image00

Remaining Standard Decks and High Finishes at PT Khans – Average Cost, Ordered by Deck Price

image01

Data Set Analysis

Not surprising is that that the Pro Tour winning deck Abzan Midrange is now the most expensive deck in Standard right now along with being the most popular on TCGPlayer. I believe the prices of several cards in the deck, specifically Siege Rhino, Wingmate Roc, and Sorin, Solemn Visitor are driven by the hype of the win. I expect this deck to go down in overall price over the next few months as the Khans pieces of the deck decrease in price.

Surprisingly, out of the top five most played decks of the format the Jeskai Tempo deck is significantly cheaper than the other top four decks even after the Mantis Rider, Goblin Rabblemaster, and Dig Through Time spikes. However, looking further into the deck we can easily see why. The archetype plays many solid commons and uncommons that the Abzan Midrange and other midrange decks replace with planeswalkers, which are typically among the most expensive mythic rares in the set. Most of the Jeskai Tempo decks only play two copies of Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker as their planeswalker with the occasional deck playing one or two copies of Chandra, Pyromaster along with Sarkhan. The other midrange decks are playing six to seven planeswalkers, which significantly drives up the price of the deck especially if the walkers are Sarkhan and/or Sorin. Keep this in mind if you’re trying to build a competitive Standard deck on a budget – Jeskai Tempo is currently a mid-budget deck that should get cheaper as more Khans product is released and is one of the more dominant decks of the format right now.

In terms of budget decks, there are several options available right now that are around $400 or less. The first that pops out to me is the Jeskai Ascendency combo deck and UB Control deck that both placed in the Top 8 of PT Khans. These decks can currently be had for $408 and $370, respectively. I’ll give you a guess as to what these decks have in common. That’s right, neither deck plays Planeswalkers in either the main deck or the sideboard. This allows the decks to be more to akin “budgetary” decks than the other decks that are showing up on TCGPlayer.

A true budget deck based on the results is Rabble Red, coming in at $150, and Monoblack Aggro coming in at $250. If you are playing Standard, it seems like the minimum amount you will need to spend to remain competitive is about $200 for one of the cheaper aggro decks. However, what surprises me is that Floch’s control deck is among the five least expensive decks in Khans Standard! For about $150 more you could build yourself a competitive control deck if you hate being on the aggro plan all the time and your budget is limited.

To summarize, the five most expensive Standard decks currently are:

  1. Naya Superfriends    $713.76
  2. Abzan Midrange        $708.74
  3. Naya Midrange          $695.00
  4. Mardu Midrange        $649.46
  5. Sultai Midrange         $565.57

I’m certain a few of these decks, like Abzan Midrange, contain several cards that are driven by hype right now and that their average total prices should come down over the next few months. If you can, avoid playing these decks for now even if you don’t have a limited budget since you should eventually be able to play them for cheaper if you wait for more Khans product to be released.

The five least expensive Standard decks are:

  1. Rabble Red            $150.23
  2. Monoblack Aggro    $254.34
  3. BW Aggro               $309.07
  4. UB Control              $369.64
  5. Boros Tokens         $371.64

These are the decks that should allow you to remain competitive at FNM while not burning a huge hole in your pocket. There is even a control option in here, UB Control, if you can’t stand playing aggro decks. Or maybe you just like the color blue!

Middle of the road decks (between $450 and $480) include:

  1. Monogreen Devotion    $475.52
  2. GB Devotion                 $464.10
  3. GR Devotion                 $461.41
  4. Esper Control               $458.40
  5. Abzan Reanimator       $453.42

*Honorable Mention – Jeskai Tempo $444.77

These are the decks that are competitive and generally more consistent than the lowest priced budgetary decks, since they contain more powerful mana fixing or a few more planeswalkers than the budget decks. Keep in mind, Jeskai Tempo is not strictly in the middle five decks however is actually cheaper than all of them and is in many players’ view more a powerful archetype. There are two blue decks here, so again there are options for those players looking to avoid spending $500 or more on a Standard deck while still being able to play blue.

Last Thoughts

Let me know if you like this type of article. I enjoyed writing it and I hope you liked seeing most of the current deck archetypes and what the prices were. This will show you what you can play for all budget levels. Hopefully this will give new players and existing Standard players a starting point for choosing a deck from a financial standpoint after a Standard shakeup. Standard can be expensive, however many overall deck prices should go down over the next few months as more Khans product is added to the market.


 

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