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From the Vault: Annihilated

By: Jared Yost

Research is Important

From the Vault: Annihilation has been released to the MTG masses at large and it certainly has moved the market in one way or another. Even in ways that defy common sense.

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I crossed off the name of the vendors here so that they don’t get a lot of flack for posting Ravages of War at absurdly high prices because I believe they have a right to post the card at whatever price they feel the market will pay. We, however, do not have be idiots and actually pay this price for a card that still has a very high chance of being reprinted. Wizards has been all about the Portal Three Kingdoms (P3K) reprints ever since including some of the legendary creatures from the set in FTV: Legends. They proved that they were willing to go all out and not just include them in a FTV product when they reprinted several of them in the Commander 2013 decks. I would avoid this card entirely for the time being until the hype for not being included dies down.

Obviously Ravages of War was due for a spike because it was not included in the FTV: Annihilation. We can all agree on this point. Yet what is the true cost? Being able to have another Armageddon in all but name is great for both a player’s cubes and their Commander deck. Stores and players noticed that many copies had already been grabbed off the market and decided to make a last run to collect the remaining few and then try to sell them at a premium. Due to the low print run they could accomplish this if we are not careful. Since so few are for sale only seeing one or two prices could be very deceiving as to the true worth of the card. Cliff just wrote an article on Friday that touches on this very point and the current Ravages of War spike highlights his point perfectly. Just head over to eBay and the real story starts to reveal itself.

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Just last Thursday two non-English versions sold for less than $200. In the previous months, English versions had trouble breaking $350 per copy. Listing an English version at a price higher than $3000 is highway robbery. Do not fall into this trap, please do your research before picking up a card for your cube or Commander deck if the price seems absurd to you.

Missed Opportunities

From my perspective, not including Ravages of War in this recent FTV was a huge oversight from Wizards. Not only did they miss Ravages of War, which would have been my number two guess at the most likely to be reprinted in the set, but they also failed to reprint Damnation (my number one guess before release for inclusion) and All is Dust (my number three guess). These three cards in my opinion best represent a theme of annihilation, destruction, and devastation.

In retrospect though, I can respect Wizards’ decision. Armageddon is an iconic card that carries with it unmeasurable quantities of Magic nostalgia. Not including it would probably have been weirder than having Ravages of War (which is frankly a card that not many players have ever seen). Not every decision Wizards makes can be financially focused. This sometimes gets sacrificed for flavor and historical relevance.

Also consider that Damnation is probably going to be reprinted soon as well. With Commander 2014 on the way and the new Standard rotation coming in the future it is only a matter of time for this card as well. In addition, All is Dust already had a reprint through being a GP Promo so I think it was fair to skip out on it for the FTV.

Even though I was disappointed that not even one of my top three choices made it into the product I can’t fault Wizards too much for excluding them. This was an ambitious set to put together, and no matter what choices were made a ton of players were going to be unhappy.

Current Status

The past is the past and we can’t change that since the set is out in the world. We need to work with what we have to see if there is any opportunity. Here is what we are looking at for FTV vs non-FTV prices for the cards so far:

Card FTV Price Non-FTV Price
Rolling Earthquake $13.97 $182.49
Burning of Xinye $7.74 $149.98
Cataclysm $6.45 $10.62
Armageddon $5.90 $3.88
Smokestack $5.47 $7.99
Wrath of God $6.95 $7.44
Living Death $4.95 $2.71
Terminus $3.85 $3.40
Child of Alara $3.45 $5.34
Martial Coup $3.10 $4.39
Fracturing Gust $3.35 $5.85
Upheaval $2.35 $2.48
Virtue’s Ruin $1.85 $6.26
Firespout $1.85 $1.19
Decree of Annihilation $1.35 $1.23

 

No surprise here that the P3K reprints are the most valuable. The most surprising part of this FTV is the lack of value compared to past FTV releases.

$14 is not much value if you’re talking about the headlining card of the release. Nicol Bolas, Berserk / Sensei’s Divining Top, Ulamog, Grove of the Burnwillows, Mox Diamond / Aether Vial, Jace – see a pattern here? All these cards are worth at least $25 retail now which means they were probably worth substantially more upon their respective FTV release. Rolling Earthquake is barely even half the value of the lowest priced of these cards.

Don’t get me wrong, giving the Magic community a version of the card that isn’t $180 is great for the game. It will get more people interested in picking up copies and could spur further interest in P3K along with any reprints they want to include in the next Commander decks. The only issue is that you are stuck with buying the FTV copies because the P3K versions haven’t moved much yet and it does not look like they’ll budge due to sheer rarity.

It is funny to see here that the FTV: Annihilation reprints hardly even brought down the price of the original P3K Rolling Earthquake and Burning of Xinye. Their original English printings barely even dropped 10% upon the reprint. This could be attributed to the market catching up with the increase in supply. If not, then it would surprise me greatly to realize that just the rarity of the set alone could be the factor here. I could be severely underestimating just how rare the original print run is to find since I was expecting a much higher drop in value of the original printing. Clearly the FTV price reflects accurate market demand, since the new version of Rolling Earthquake is only $14 which is about average for cube / Commander viable cards.

A $14 headliner doesn’t bode well for the future of the FTV: Annihilation product. Especially since many vendors are only selling the set as a whole for $45-$50 total. Many of the cards weren’t even on people’s radars. Upheaval, Firespout, Virtue’s Ruin? Did anyone even think to want these in here? They could have at least given Child of Alara art that doesn’t make it seem like a giant crying baby. The only cards that I would watch out for are Smokestack and Cataclysm in addition to the P3K red spells due to new art and first time foiling. These definitely have the potential to go up in the future from eternal demand. Other than these cards I’m not really expecting the rest of the set to do too much for a while.

Based on the prices I’m seeing this looks to be the most unpopular FTV release yet, which is unfortunate since there was so much potential that could have been here. I touched upon this a little bit in the previous section so I’m not going to continue to harp on about the point. Yet based on the current prices the demand isn’t there like for other FTV’s. At least not yet. Maybe this will be a good buy for $40 looking back a few years down the road. Only time will tell. At this point, I would suggest staying away from the box set as a whole and instead pick up any singles you want. The singles are all very cheap in the set compared to past FTV releases and they have a good chance of going down even further once more of these sets are cracked.

All in all, buying a FTV: Annihilation box set is risky because it will be hard to get much value out of it in the near future. However if you want everything in here, buying the box set is great because there has never been a cheaper FTV this close to MSRP.

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Weekend Update for 8/30/14

By: Jim Marsh

Every week, some cards from Magic the Gathering increase and decease in value based upon a number of factors.

Let’s take a look at some of the cards whose values have changed the most and the factors behind why those changes have occurred.

10 Big Winners of the Week

10. Mana Confluence (Journey into Nyx)
From $11.70 to $12.97 (17.16%)

The new paradigm shift for Magic blocks and rotation have a lot of people excited but wondering what the future will hold in store. The new plan means that Journey into Nyx will be the last set to suffer the 6:2:1 drafting ratio. Now larger sets to smaller sets will be closer to 5:1.

This and looming rotation have cause a lot of interest in Journey into Nyx cards. The fact that Conspiracy arrived and cannibalized drafts makes  this one of the least opened sets we will have for a while.

Let us start with our new and improved City of Brass. It is already played in standard Naya Hexproof and Selesnya Aggro.

I can only imagine that the more aggressive Khans wedges will want to be running four of these as well.

It is also being used in Legacy Dredge and I would not be surprised to see these in modern either.

You will want your play set for a long time to come.

9. Eidolon of the Great Revel (Journey into Nyx)
From $6.30 to $7.44 (18.10%)

Standard Burn. Modern Burn. Legacy Burn.

There are varieties of those flavors but this card comes down and deals damage.

It has already helped propel legacy lists to Top 8s. It is an all star from a set that was not opened much. These are going to be going up for a while. These are a safe hold for the next few months. A year from now when they are getting ready to rotate I would try to find as many copies as you can from standard players. They will be a good hold for quite a while to come.

8. Keranos, God of Storms (Journey into Nyx)
From $7.83 to $9.29 (18.65%)

Keranos, God of Storms is finding a home in every format imaginable. He is a steady engine of card advantage. He is great even if your deck has no way make him a creature.

He is in standard RUG (Temur) Chord and Grixis Control.

He is in modern sideboards for Splinter Twin, Kiki Pod, UWR (Jeskai) Delver and UWR Twin.

He is in legacy UWR Miracles.

He is even in a vintage Grixis deck.

He is a powerful commander and a god that gives you free Lightning Bolts. There is so much to love about him.

I do not know what Jeskai and Temur decks will look like Khans but I guarantee they will run a couple copies of Keranos. I would say he is an excellent pick up.

7. Temple of Epiphany (Journey into Nyx)
From $5.20 to $6.23 (19.81%)

Temple of Epiphany is used in standard Azorius Control, Esper Control and even WUR (Jeskai) Control.

It is even seeing play in Modern Ad Nauseam and Sun Titan Control decks.

We are going to get new lands in Khans to allow for wedges to be played. I still feel the value of scrying is powerful enough in slower colors and Azorius fits that bill perfectly.

It is losing a lot of steam at rotation but this will be one of the better scrylands to have soon.

Get them now.

6. Sliver Legion (Future Sight)
From $38.49 to $46.89 (21.82%)

Sliver Legion is going in everyone’s casual and commander sliver decks.

The demand has always been there but short supply and the resent printings of Sliver Hive and Sliver Hivelord have people brewing again.

Keep in mind that both Sliver Overlord and Sliver Queen have seen reprints in supplemental products. Let that sink in for a moment. Sliver Queen is on the reserved list and they still reprinted her in oversized form in order to keep players happy.

There is no way we do not see a similar reprinting for Legion. It could be Duel Deck: Slivers vs Eldrazi or in Modern Masters 2. I just know that it will happen. I would cash out while everyone is excited about having an indestructible Coat of Arms.

5. Slaughter Pact (Future Sight)
From $6.04 to $7.73 (27.98%)

Slaughter Pact is all over modern in a variety of decks. It is used in Jund, Junk (Abzan) and even Amulet of Vigor decks as removal and a win condition.

It is even seeing play in Legacy OmniTell.

The popularity and power of a free kill spell are undeniable. I think these are a good place to park some value. It will only be a matter of time before they hit $10 again.

The Modern Masters version can still be purchased for $6.59 and sold for $7.23.

4. Xenagos, the Reveler (Theros)
From $12.86 to $16.89 (31.34%)

Xenagos is all over standard. He is in Jund Walkers, Jund Monsters, GR Devotion and RUG (Temur) Chord decks.

He showed up in three of the Top 8 decks in SCG Hartsdale on 8/24/2014. There were eight out of a possible thirty two copies played.

He is well positioned for rotation and I expect him to break $20 in the coming weeks.

You can still get him for as little as $12.75 and sell him for up to $14.52.

3. Maralen of the Mornsong (Morningtide)
From $2.15 to $3.20 (48.84%)

When I first saw Ob Nixilis, Unshackled I thought of Maralen. Together they deal thirteen damage a turn to each player. The problem is that your opponents get to tutor for answers.

She is part of an incredible commander combo deck.

Cast her and tutor for Ad Nauseam. Draw your entire deck which consists of Sickening Dreams, Dark Sphere and about ninety swamps.

Play the Dark Sphere and cast Dreams large enough to kill everyone but you.

This is either hilarious or terrible depending on which side of the table you are.

Either way this combo is getting attention. You can still buy her for as little as $2.00 and sell her for as much as $2.23 or just hold it and hope novelty gets her to $10.

2. Nyx-Fleece Ram (Journey into Nyx)
From $1.01 to $1.64 (62.38%)

Nyx-Fleece Ram is bit of a work horse in any control deck that runs white. It has high enough defense to block almost any threat while nudging your life total out of burn range.

It is being used in Azorius Control, Orzhov Midrange, Esper Control and even in Boros Burn sideboards to help in the mirror match.

However I think it has had its heyday.

White control decks are losing Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict, Detention Sphere, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Archangel of Thune, etc. All of the Ram’s best friends are moving away.

The next block will be wedges which have been a little slower anyway. They may not need the Ram to keep aggro decks under control.

I would trade these away and take whatever profits you can.

Keep in mind the foils are still $9.64 despite seeing no modern or legacy play so I would cash out on those too.

1. Goblin Guide (Zendikar)
From $16.62 to $27.69 (66.61%)

Goblin Guide has been having a tremendous week! It is one of the most aggressive one drop creatures ever printed.

Any decent modern or legacy burn deck runs four main deck without question. This is less of a price spike and more of a price correction.

Burn decks have been experiencing success recently with the inclusion of Eidolon of the Great Revel.

I believe this price is here to stay until it is reprinted in either an expansion set or the next Modern Event Deck.

Vendors are still adjusting their prices so you can still get them as low as $20.00. If you have been waiting for this spec to pay off you can cash out up to $22.93 with some vendors.

I would be looking for other opportunities to profit as well. If you can track down a copy of the Into the Breach Event deck from Mirrodin Besieged there are a couple of Guides in there.

I would also take a look at the Grand Prix and foil versions. Both are hovering around $30 right now. There is absolutely no reason why these should not be $50 to $60 soon.

5 Big Losers of the Week

5. Sword of Feast and Famine (Mirrodin Beseiged)
From $22.87 to $18.49 (-19.15%)

Sword of Feast and Famine was recently reprinted in the Modern Event Deck.

Do not let that distract us from the multiple decks it is used in such as legacy UWR (Jeskai) Delver, Esper Stoneblade and Deathblade.

Modern UB Faeries and all manner of commander and cube builders love the swords.

There is no way that this does not bounce back.

To add some gravy you can purchase these as low as $12.00 and sell them for $13.19.

That sounds like more feast than famine.

4. Obstinate Baloth (M11)
From $1.72 to $1.36 (-20.93%)

I do not understand why this is a $1 card.

It is used in sideboards for modern Melira Pod, Jund, Scapeshift, Kiki Pod and Junk (Abzan) builds. It is great when cast normally and fantastic when you get it for free off of an activation of Liliana of the Veil.

Legacy even uses it in 12 Post.

I would gladly trade for these at $1 all day long.

You can even purchase these for as low as $0.61 and sell them for up to $1.10.

3. Silent Arbiter (Fifth Dawn)
From $4.54 to $3.54 (-22.03%)

Silent Arbiter was just reprinted in Conspiracy.

The only competitive deck that runs it is a singleton in legacy MUD sideboards.

Sure you can slot it into your commander deck to slow things down or to build on an exalted theme but it is still not that exciting. Artifact creatures are the permanent with the most answers.

Why spend $4 on this copy when you can get the Conspiracy copy for less than a $1?

Move these while you can.

2. Journeyer’s Kite (Champions of Kamigawa)
From $1.53 to 1.13 (-26.14%)

This commander staple has fallen out of favor. Has mana fixing gotten so good? Maybe more cheap viable commanders are being printed.

Either way the reprint in Duel Decks: Venser vs Koth did not help.

I like the card but I honestly feel it deserves to be a bulk rare.

There are just too many other things to do with extra mana.

1.  Golgari Grave-Troll (Ravnica)
From $1.99 to $1.31 (-34.17%)

Vintage and legacy Dredge and Manaless Dredge decks would run at least a dozen Grave-Trolls given the chance.

The reason that Dredge has never been a serious contender in modern is the banning of Golgari Grave-Troll and Dread Return.

It was reprinted in Duel Decks: Izzet vs Golgari so you can find these for $1.

I do not think that that is sufficient for an enabler and finished in a deck that held two Top 8 spots in the SCG Legacy Open in Washington on 8/24/2014.

I would consider this a sale and grab as many copies as you can. If this is ever unbanned you can be certain this will spike.

You can get these for as little as $0.71 and still sell them for up to $1.18.

When you see buylists offering fair trade value that should get your attention.

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Price Warps

By: Cliff Daigle

I’m trying to collect a foil set of the draft-altering Conspiracy cards. It’s slow going for someone who doesn’t want to just buy them off assorted vendors. I much prefer to save my money and accumulate through trading.

The rare foils are not just in demand, they are hard to find. Those who want them want them BADLY and when they are acquired, they leave circulation as they enter into Cubes.

With the number never being too high to start with, and the urge to acquire very strong, that leads to a lot of weird things happening when it comes to pricing a card.

Last week, I found someone with a foil Lore Seeker on deckbox.org. I opened a trade and thus began the dance. Deckbox has a pricing algorithm of its own, since it no longer takes directly from TCGPlayer’s mid. When I added foil Lore Seeker to the mix, the value went up by $200.

This trader wanted five foil shocklands and a Badlands from me for this Lore Seeker.

Feel free to do a double-take at that price. Naturally, I flip tabs to MTGPrice and there it is at $100…but only available at Amazon or HotSauce. Hmmm. Fishy.

When there is a small supply of something, the few data points available can really warp perception. We’re good, but we are prisoners of the data.

I decide to look at a few other places. TCG has four available, three at about $200 and one at $100. Wow. My first reaction is something like “Really?” TCG allows you to price cards at whatever you want, so usually, what’s listed is stuff that stores or individuals really want to sell. These strike me as ‘hopeful’ prices, from three vendors who are okay sitting on cards as long as it takes.

There’s one place that allows you to not only sell, but it lists what things have sold for: eBay. Let’s see…foil Lore Seeker…completed listings…sort by date….presto!

Here is what foil Lore Seeker is selling for. There’s a range of prices, some luck, but there’s certainly nothing that sold for triple digits, and only one over $50.

What’s really telling is that lots and lots of vendors do not have this in stock. I don’t think there’s an organized buyout–I simply think that Cubers want this card very badly. It’s getting snapped up when it shows up, because it allows for another booster pack when it is drafted.

The Seeker is getting a very overinflated treatment. Conspiracy foils (see the cards here and the Conspiracies here) are about where you’d expect, with the mythic and Legacy/Vintage foils commanding a real premium. Foil Dack Fayden, as an awesome Vintage card, is not a surprise in the $250 range. Foil Marchesa, the Black Rose, as a sweet Commander card, is not that shocking at $90.

There’s an outlier at the top of the Conspiracies list, though: Worldknit. This is another incredibly sweet card to put into your Cube, because now you get to play everything ever! It’s got a Fair Trade Price of $100…with one Amazon seller. Uh-oh. A little searching on that, though, shows us that plenty of those can be had for around $15, on eBay or other sellers we don’t list in the FTP.

So when someone quotes you a ridiculous price, or at least a price that feels ridiculous, check it. Check it several ways. If it still feels like too much to you, walk away. There might be a buyout happening, or a price warp. Don’t trade $200 worth of cards for something that sold on eBay last week for under $20.

If you found this article interesting, take a look at ProTrader from MTGPrice.com - it's designed to help you make money from the game you love. The cost per month is less than a pack of sleeves (and when did a pack of sleeves ever make you money?). Click here to learn more about ProTrader.

Crop_Rotation

Magic is dead. Long Live Magic.

By: Travis Allen

This summer has been a particularly quiet one for those of us into the Magic market. I haven’t gone digging through my bulk rare box for spikes once, none of the stuff in my spec box has moved, and Modern prices have stayed flat. Overall it’s been real boring for most of us, and everyone has been looking forward to the fall for some exciting changes.

Boy are we getting them.

Unforeseen Consequences

First off, read this article. Read every word on the page. Do it twice if you have to. It’s probably the most important words about Magic that have been written and will be written this year. (This entire article assumes you’ve read that one.)

I’m going to stick these here so that we can keep staring at them while trying to grasp what is happening.

This is clearly a massive change to the game. Not only will this affect things on the surface, such as length of format legality, card availability, and format demands, it will have smaller, quieter effects as well, such as design and development decisions, manabase concerns, and reprint ramifications. We won’t fully be living in the new world until the fall of 2016 which means it’s going to take years before we fully appreciate the impact this is going to have on the game and markets. We’re not the only ones that have to wait awhile to see how it all plays out either. Wizards will be watching closely, and like all major changes they roll out, expect some tweaking to the system after a few million players push it from every direction.

Given how long it’s going to take to fully get into the swing of the new system, along with the likelihood of Wizards making some additional changes along the way, we won’t really know how the markets will react for years. Myself and plenty of others will be making some educated guesses over the coming weeks and months, but I don’t doubt there will be plenty of fallout that will be nearly impossible to see from here. For instance, as I mentioned at the start of the article, typically the summer months have a drought of interesting market movement. Will a brand new block hitting in May change that entirely, or are people truly tied to the game seasonally rather than by a set release schedule? There’s no way to know for sure until we get to that point.

Another major unknown will be the way inference and speculation is conducted. Right now, everyone making decisions based on educated guesses about the future leans heavily on the known block model. For instance, take Ravnica block. Once we knew that we were going to be returning to Ravnica back in early 2012, you could make a fair assumption that shocklands would be in the block. If that was true, then the next leap was that the fetchlands wouldn’t be printed in Standard until at the earliest fall of 2014. Why? You quite reasonably figured it unlikely Wizards would print fetches and shocks alongside each other in Standard. Knowing that shocks would be in the upcoming Ravnica block in the fall of ‘12, it was clear then that fetches couldn’t be printed in the expansion the following fall, meaning that the earliest you could see them was fall of ‘14. For a sense of scale, this means that back when Delver of Secrets and Green Sun’s Zenith were legal you could have predicted the earliest date at which fetches would be printed again was two and a half years away. Knowing that, you could make trades and buys feeling confident that there wouldn’t be a major printing of the cards anytime soon. All of that information was derived simply from a thorough understanding of how the block structure worked, as well as experience with how Wizards treats Standard.

Those same types of logical inferences will be available to us eventually, but it’s going to take some time to figure out. For instance, is Wizards going to put a rare land cycle in every block? That would mean three big land cycles would be in Standard at any given time, which is a lot of mana. Are they going to do every other block? How are they going to approach flavor-specific reprints, such as Urborg, Tomb to Yawgmoth? What about cards whose power level they’re concerned with? In the past, some of the most dangerous cards are printed in the spring set because they have the least amount of time to potentially ruin Standard. That won’t really be a method of controlling overpowered cards anymore, since everything will be legal for roughly the same amount of time.

A great deal of information we use to make informed purchases and sales on a daily basis comes from understanding the block rotation model and what Wizards is willing to print where. With this major change that’s all getting turned on its head. Our ability to confidently make predictions about what will and won’t happen is going to be hampered for quite some time.

Moving on, let’s take a closer look at those animated rotation models to see what we can glean.

Conveyor Belt

Under the old system, there was a rotation every four sets that happened once a year in the fall. From fall to fall, the number of sets legal would slowly grow. Standard was at it’s smallest immediately after a fall set was released and at it’s largest immediately after a core set came out. (We’re currently in the largest Standard format.) 

This system meant that with each set released there was less and less of a chance it would have a major impact on the format. When Khans releases there will be a giant Standard shakeup, but that’s more of a product of Return to Ravnica leaving rather than Khans being added to the pool. As Louie and Dewey are respectively added to Standard, they are mathematically less and less likely to affect major changes. Because the Standard card pool keeps adding cards without removing them, the power level continues to rise and it becomes more and more difficult for new cards to have an impact. This effect is more pronounced in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage, where very few sets add more than a card or two to those formats. All of this builds until the following fall, where half the format drops out and it’s a whole new ballgame again.

In the new block model things are going to happen much faster. There will now be major format changes every other set. Twice a year, both in the fall and in the spring, a third of the format is going to disappear. With that many cards dropping away, established decks are going to lose huge chunks of their constituent parts. Even if any one particular deck doesn’t lose much itself, the loss of some particular predator may allow another deck to spring up that was not viable previously. For instance, when Good Jace was originally printed, it was alongside both Bloodbraid Elf and Blightning. Jace was mostly weak in that format because those two cards did such a great job punishing him. Once Alara rotated and took BBE and Blightning with it, Jace suddenly sprang into power because the cards keeping him in check disappeared. (Also other good blue cards were printed.)

We’re going to end up seeing faster, more dramatic cycles on a more regular basis. Every other set some several hundred cards will rotate and suddenly lose a large portion of value, and some previously underused gems are going to spring to the top of the heap. When Block D comes out, not only will it introduce a whole slew of new cards, but Block A will fall away. The cards in  Block B and C, previously influenced by Block A, will now be viewed in an entire new light.

Some particularly great sweeper in Block A may have supported an entire control deck made mostly of cards from Block B and C. When Block A rotates, that control deck is suddenly going to be missing a key component. Meanwhile, a great aggro deck hiding in Blocks B and C that was waiting for control to wane will become viable. The financial implications of this are pretty clear. That control deck is going to have wild price swings on not only the sweeper that rotates out of the format, but also all the other cards that relied on it. Meanwhile, those aggro sleepers are going to jump once the deck becomes tier one. All of this is happening with cards in Blocks A, B, and C, even though it’s Block D that just released.

Constant changes to the card pool are going to mean constant changes to card values. Format pillars will lose support and drop appropriately, while powerful cards kept in check by existing metagames will jump once their predator is gone. The resulting market will be a constant cycle of large drop-offs and big gains. This is as much a double-edged sword as I could imagine.

On A Rail

Another factor to all of this is length of card legality. Here is how long each set of Return to Ravnica is legal in Standard:
Return to Ravnica: ~24 months (Oct ‘12 – Oct ‘14)
Gatecrash: ~20 months (Feb ‘13 – Oct ‘14)
Dragon’s Maze: ~17 months (May ‘13 – Oct ‘14)
Magic 2014: ~15 months (July ‘13 – Oct ‘14)

Now let’s see how long sets will be legal in the new Standard:

Blood: ~19 months (Oct ‘15 – May ‘17)
Sweat: ~15 months (Feb ‘16 – May ‘17)

A few things immediately jump out when we look at these durations. We no longer have to endure two whole years of Standard dominated by obscenely powerful cards such as Sphinx’s Revelation, Thoughtseize, or Shocklands.The most powerful cards will only hang around in Standard for roughly as long as the spring sets dol now. Think about how long Voice of Resurgence and Blood Baron have been in Standard – that will be the longest period cards are legal for. 

The second set will be shorter for even less amount of time, about what core sets are legal for now. Sweat releases in winter of 2016, which is historically around February. Think Gatecrash and Dark Ascension. It will be legal until the following year’s spring release, around the time Dragon’s Maze and Journey into Nyx release. Core set cards with a similar lifespan have been Mutavault and Thragtusk.

Summing all that up, nothing will be around as long as Revelation has been. The longest a card will exist in Standard is about how long we’ve had Voice right now, or how long Vengevine was legal. The shortest a card will exist for is just a bit over a year, such as how long Mutavault has been legal. The longest time period a card can exist is a good bit shorter than we’re used to, and the gap between the longest lasting cards and the shortest ones has been narrowed significantly.

The smoothing of the duration of legality is going to push towards more uniform prices on cards across sets. Because most cards will be legal for about as long as any other card, the concern that you won’t get to play with card A as long as card B won’t be too much of a worry. It was much easier to justify buying into Revelations or Thoughtseizes immediately after their release because they were clearly format-defining and would exist for what felt like forever. Voice of Resurgence, on the other hand, was a harder pill to swallow because you had so much less time to use it.

Similarly, there will be less imperative to purchase those key AAA cards. Don’t feel like investing in the hottest format staple revealed in Khans? Don’t sweat it as much. It’s not going to be around nearly as long as it would have been without the change. Eighteen months isn’t exactly a short period of time, but it’s half-a-year less than it would have been. You also won’t see cards ruining formats in tandem nearly as much. If two cards together are format-warping (think Splinter Twin and Deceiver Exarch) and are from two different sets, they’ll be spending less time legal together than they would have. In addition to this, rapid format changes means that what is a format pillar today may not be a few months from now.

Interloper

The draft formats, just like format legality, are getting a good shake up as well. One thing that’s up in the air is what the draft format will look like in two years. For instance, Theros was a “traditional” draft model with a 6:2:1 ratio. An average Theros card is roughly six times less rare than an average Journey into Nyx card, not adjusting for set sizes. I can’t imagine the price on Thoughtseize if it was printed in Journey rather than Theros.

The upcoming Khans of Tarkir set will be a bit different, with the three draft formats looking like this: KTK/KTK/KTK, Dewey/KTK/KTK, Louie/Louie/Dewey. Here we see a 5:2:2 ratio that should close the gap a bit on the distribution between the first set and the rest of the block. Cards in Khans will be more available than the other two blocks, but the difference will not be as drastic as between Theros and Journey into Nyx.

Beyond Khans is uncertainty. We can be reasonably confident that Blood and Sweat will be drafted together without Tears getting involved. Our estimation then is that the two draft formats for that block (and most typical blocks after that) will be Blood/Blood/Blood and Sweat/Blood/Blood. That creates an unfortunate 5:1 ratio, where for every five packs of Blood opened, only one of Sweat will be, resulting in a similar distribution of rares as Theros to Journey into Nyx. That’s a severe disparity in the new Standard, so I’m wondering if we’ll see Wizards try and curb it somehow with a different draft model. Perhaps we’ll see Sweat/Sweat/Blood? That would bring the ratio to 2:1, which is a lot more balanced than 5:1. (Again, not adjusting for set size.) Obviously in a 5:1 ratio the prices on the small set can quickly grow to obscene levels while severely suppressing values on large set cards.

Hazard Course

Earlier I mentioned that the new block cycle is a double-edged sword. I say this because the new format is going to better reward those that pay attention and more severely punish those that don’t keep up.

Fall rotation is one of the most financially active periods of the game. Not only do all the cards exiting the format take a dump, you’ve got brand new cards hitting the scene with volatile prices and existing cards that couldn’t hack it in the old format get a new lease on life. Up until now, this has only happened once a year. Now that rotation will be happening twice, there will be twice as much time that prices will be correcting to meet the demands of the new format.

If you’re on the ball you’ll be moving your rotating staples ahead of the game, just as you’ve been doing now. You’ll also be targeting cards that are undervalued in the current format but could break out in the new one. Doing well will necessitate paying just as much attention to what is leaving the format as what is entering. Paying attention to what is leaving also signals what cards to sell off even if they aren’t rotating. When a Sphinx’s Revelation type card is about to rotate you’ll want to move your control staples ahead of that date, even if they aren’t leaving along with it. 

Individuals that don’t keep up are going to get hammered twice as hard. Those players are going to lose huge chunks of value in their collection not just once a year, but multiple times. With two rotations, that’s twice as many opportunities to hold onto staples too long and lose hundreds of dollars in virtual value as your Voices plummet. Not only will these players take a hit by holding onto rotating cards too long, they’ll also take a hit when they hold onto cards that while still legal, cease being major players in the format. The greater amount of turnover in Standard means that more often cards will fall by the wayside. We only have to look as far back as Boros Reckoner to see a perfect example. It was a huge player in the INN/RTR Standard because of the Aristocrats and Blasphemous Act. The rotation of most of the Aristocrats deck, along with the rise of Mono-Black, crushed Reckoner’s price. If you weren’t paying attention you lost a lot of money holding onto those Reckoners. (Meanwhile Lingering Souls, a card that kept both Nightveil Specter and Desecration Demon from being relevant, left the format and opened the doors for those two to terrorize the skies.)

Whether you’re paying attention or not, it will be more difficult to avoid sinking excessive disposable income into the game. Gone are the days where you’ll be able to build a tier one list in the fall then make small changes to it over the course of a year or two. The constant set cycling will be forcing you to make large changes to your decklist frequently, or even abandon the deck altogether, which means investing more money into the game more often.

There’s also the issue that your cards won’t be legal for as long as they were before. If cards are legal in Standard for less time overall, it means you have to refresh your collection more often to stay in the game. Over the course of maybe three or four years you’ll have refreshed your entire Standard binder once more than you would under the old system. There’s money in these more rapid changes, but again, only for those doing their homework to stay ahead of things.

One exciting aspect of all of this is that sleepers are far more likely to burst onto the scene. A card printed in Journey into Nyx is forced to live it’s entire Standard life alongside Thoughtseize. If that card can’t perform in a world with Thoughtseize then it’s never getting a fair shake. In the new system, a card two sets away from Thoughtseize gets time to shine without having to deal with the hateful card. A card printed in Sweat is never getting away from a card printed in Blood, but a card from Tears will have a chance to operate without either of those two sets in Standard, which it previously wouldn’t have had.

Not only will cards have less permanent housemates, the formats won’t be solved as often or for as long either. Even if the next Mono-Black gets figured out relatively quickly, it will only be six months at most before a major change. This is in contrast to the year or more it can take to lose oppressive decks in the current system. With formats in greater flux more often, there will be far more opportunities for brewers to take the world by storm. The next Battlefield Thaumaturge is going to be positioned much better two years from now than he would be today.

Apprehension

At the end of the day I think we see a smoothing of card prices a little bit overall, although the highs and lows are going to come faster, harder, and more often. Hopefully the amount of product opened for the first set of a block should be a bit more in line with how much gets opened for the second set. The rapid change of formats will cause more cards to rise and fall than they do now.

Overall, the average price of cards should mostly stay the same. We should roughly see the same amount of unique cards printed in 2016 as we see printed in 2014. Standard may feel more expensive though, since most individual cards aren’t legal as long as they are today. The greater flux of Standard prices may push some people away who are scared of losing money to the cycle. The flip side of that is that fewer players will be frustrated with decks such as Mono-Blue dominating the format for long periods of time, and are more likely to want to play Standard since the metagame won’t be nearly as stale.

Reading Twitter it seems like the reception to this is quite favorable. Nearly everyone I’ve heard from has been a fan of the change. More new formats means more exciting Magic, which is good for all involved. Some are a little peeved that it will be more expensive to keep up with Standard, which is a fair frustration. Not everyone wants to play the stock market just to keep up with FNM.

For you and I it’s definitely a good change overall. More turnover and more change means more opportunities to profit. Having said that, It will be a bit more challenging now for sure. We’ll have shorter timetables to work with, and it will take a little while before we figure out exactly where the best places on the calendar will be to buy which cards. I don’t believe we’ll know fully how the markets will handle all of this until we get there and start seeing what happens. If there’s one thing we certainly know at this point though, it’s that the future of Magic just got a lot more exciting.

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