Grinder Finance – The Price of Standard is Too Damn High

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price of std

I’ve seen more than one person make this exclamation (not necessarily in those words, but the same sentiment).  Standard prices are out of control!  The price of 7 of the decks in the top 8 of the Pro Tour are between $675 and $800.  The one outlier is the “cheaper” atarka red deck played by Hall of Famer, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa,  which still has a price tag of $375.  What changed?  Why is everything so expensive?

Mana

Most of the price of standard decks right now is the mana.  The deck that won Pro Tour Magic Origins had a simple mana base, 21 mountains.  When calculating the cost of a deck you can usually leave the basic lands off since they’re essentially free.  What does PV’s deck play? Only 9 of his 21 lands are basic lands.  The other 12 are rare lands, 10 of which are fetch lands.  With the 10 fetchlands being about $20 each on average and 2 battle lands at $7 each, we add $214 to the total cost of the deck before there are any spells in it!  This is obviously a pretty large barrier to entry but there is some icing on the cake.  You will be owning 10 of the best lands ever printed.  There is some value in knowing the fact that your Standard mana base won’t become worth a handful of nickels in the coming months.  Temples from Theros block are worth between $1 and $4 each now, a far cry from the $7-13 they had at their peak of popularity.  What does this mean for the future of fetch lands? It’s hard to predict.  Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are scheduled to rotate out in April with the entrance of the unannounced block code named “Tears”.  Normally I would say that bodes well as their rotation will help ease some of the demand but that is only a few months before the start of Modern PPTQ season.  According to the 2016 PPTQ announcement, Modern PPTQ season starts July 16th (in conjuction with the release of the 2nd set of “Tears” block).  Will people sell their fetch lands only to have to rebuy them in 3 months?  If they do, does the price even budge or are vendors happy to hold them for 10-12 weeks?  There are too many questions that won’t be answered in this first rotation.

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Mythics + Rares

Here’s a break down of Paulo’s deck by rarity:

  • Mythics: 3
  • Rares: 24 (12 lands)
  • Uncommons: 23
  • Commons: 16
  • Basic Land: 9

36% of this deck is Rare or Mythics and the other 64% is commons and uncommons.  Let’s compare that to Pro Tour Magic Origins winning list by Joel Larsson.

  • Mythics: 2
  • Rares: 21 ( 0 lands)
  • Uncommons: 26
  • Commons: 5
  • Basic Land: 21

This list is made up of 31% Rares and Mythics and 69% is commons and uncommons.  Even with less commons in this deck, at the time of the Pro Tour it was over $100 less.  What changed?  Rares that are eternal playable hold much higher values.  A lot of the creatures overlap in these lists (Zurgo, Swiftspear, Abbot of Keral Keep, and Lightning Berserker are in both lists), but the inclusion of eternal playable cards pushes it over the edge.  Atarka’s Command is a massive $16 now and Non-blue fetch lands average $15-20 each. That’s eternally playable rares!

Want to see what exacerbates this problem? Let’s break down Ryoichi Tamada’s deck from the Top 8.

 

  • Mythics: 10
  • Rares:  27 ( 17 lands)
  • Uncommons: 21
  • Commons: 12
  • Basic Land: 5

 

His deck is made up of 49% rares and 51% non-rares.  The increased prevalence of Mythic rares that are played as 4-ofs increases demand and cost.  So despite Tamada not taking advantage of some more ambitious Jeskai Black mana bases his deck is just blowing away pre-rotation standard decks.  But it can’t be the rare and mythic count that is the entire reason that decks are so expensive, right?

Planeswalkers

gideon

I so solemnly swear that the Champion of Justice was a mistake.  Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is the real deal.  With 5 decks playing 4 copies it seems his price tag will only continue to climb as the week goes on.  He bears a striking resemblance to another white walker from a year ago.

elspeth suns champion

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion was a dominant force during her stay in Standard and continues to define how good a 6 mana Planeswalker can be.  At the height of her popularity she was over $45 and I don’t expect Gideon to stay any lower.  She saw a decline with the dip ended at the end of December (remember this article: Grinder Finance – Winter is Coming ) and I expect Gideon to bottom out then as well.  What luckily kept Elspeth’s price in check toward the end of her life was the Elspeth vs Kiora Duel Deck.  Gideon probably won’t be in the next one (as it will likely feature 2 Planeswalkers from Khans of Tarkir block), I expect to see him in the following year’s deck.  What can we do now?  Not really a whole lot.  Hopefully people really like more cards from Battle for Zendikar and a second wave of box opening happens.  Unfortunately it seems like most of the innovation started in the SCG circuit and there’s not much innovation left for Standard at the moment.

 

jace

While Gideon looks like he’s giving a heartfelt apology, Jace’s smirk implies something else.  Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is the product of a whirlwind of beat beats to leave him the most expensive card in Standard in years!

Problems:

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  • He’s from a Core set which are traditionally under purchased
  • He’s played as 4 copies
  • He’s played in eternal formats
  • Modern Masters 2015 was released a few months before his set

The end result is not enough people had money to buy Magic Origins product and Jace and Hangarback Walker continue to prop up the set from the bulk bins.  Given the fact that Mark Rosewater has stated the extra costs associated with printing double-faced cards means they are unlikely in supplementary products, I doubt Jace sees any real reprieve from this price point.  I expect Jace to be $100 at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch unless something odd like a Standard banning happens.

nissa ww

This is not the first time a core set Planeswalker has held an unreasonably high price.  Nissa, despite being mostly a sideboard card that is played 1-2 copies was a solid $20-40 card for most of her time in Standard.  Jace being playable outside of Standard means we will likely not see any price drops.

Where do we go from here?

Well, you can play Atarka Red on a budget but it’s unlikely we will see any significant decreases in the price of Standard decks while 8-12 fetch land mana bases are popular.  The icing on the cake is a lot of this money is going toward cards that don’t immediately plummet in value after rotation.

Closing Thoughts

regionalptq_promo_2016

Snapcaster Mage was announced as a the RPTQ promo which means basically nothing will happen to it’s price.  It’s new art (which has been receiving mostly negative feedback) was expected. They have not reprinted any Invitational cards without new art except for time shifted cards (Avalanche Riders and Shadowmage Infiltrator). I expect non-foil copies to only quiver for a moment and foil copies to not budge.  Your Snapcaster Mages will be safe for another year.

li53_questionMark

Speaking of promos, why do we still not know the GP promo for next year?   I want to remain optimistic but  I feel like there is some weird reason we don’t know it yet.  Maybe there won’t be one?  I don’t know for sure.

PTKhans

Don’t have your Khans of Tarkir fetch lands yet?  What are you waiting for?  I don’t expect to see any drop in price when they rotate in April.

Currently played KTK cards are on the rise.  I would look to move anything you’re not planning to use in the next few months now.  Notable increases to the price of Wingmate Roc, Crackling Doom, and Mantis Rider.

Next week I’m planning an article to maximize your Pucatrading.  If you have any questions or concerns please leave them in the comments below or tweet at me @Phrost_ !

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30 thoughts on “Grinder Finance – The Price of Standard is Too Damn High”

  1. “Most of the price of standard decks right now is the mana.”

    If anything, this is where the money should be. It is easier to substitute lands over other cards in a deck. Running basics, painlands, or refuges as alternatives to fetchlands is suboptimal, but the alternative is there. Planeswalkers, on the other hand, are the absurd price point on these decks. There is no replacement for a Jace/Gideon if you want to run these decks. You must pay the $150-$450 (!) price point on a set of walkers to put it in the deck, because the decks that run then hinge on it.

    I can shave over $100 off of Atarka red by remodeling the manabase to use more Battle Lands and no fetchlands at a small cost of efficiency. In the Jeskai list I could do the same, but there is $460+ tied up in 8 planeswalkers that I cannot simply sub out without the deck becoming much, much weaker. Fetchlands are the red herring to the real monster in the room.

      1. Elspeth’s all time high was $35 and Sarkhan’s was $40, neither were ever as expensive as Gideon and Jace currently are.

  2. The current standard reminds me a lot of Modern, especially with Jace. It feels like you’re playing against UWR control with a slightly worse snapcaster and ajani. Gideon is strong, but his power scales well with the other sets. Jace? Busted. You’re drawing 2 cards a turn as early as T3 and flashing back T4 spells. I don’t think he’ll get the banhammer, but he’s already warped the format around him.

    So, do we need to spend $500+ to be competitive in this standard? Thusfar, that is a yes. 16 Jace’s and 20 Gideon’s in the PT T8 sends a pretty clear message. Abzan was $600 at this point last year, but there were a bunch of viable alternatives. I sure hope the PT and SCG states aren’t a signal of what is to come (some T8’s were just Jeskai, G/W, and R/G -_-). If this standard turns into RTR/THS (3-4 best decks), then we’re investing upwards of $400 to buy into eternal mana staples and underopened walkers. On the one hand, this may prop up new modern players. On the other hand, new standard-only players are going to think twice (or ten times) before making the jump.

  3. In my opinion all the talk of things being “too expensive” for standard or for any other format – is just short sighted.

    Granted some degree of affordability keeps the game accessible to … we can call it
    “occupationally challenged” or just folks too young to be employed BUT- without a robust financial market the game would collapse. If everything stayed low value and universally affordable then who would ever buy any product? Let’s be honest- those who can’t pay 40,60 or 80 bucks for a set of lands are NOT keeping the game afloat and their participation-while welcome and appreciated- does very little to affect the future outcome of the game or to influence innovation from WoTC. I myself am a very new player, purchased my very first cards in early June of ’15 and have since dumped nearly 10k into the world of MTG finance. New players/collectors like myself would never get involved if the sticker prices were all destined to stagnate or drop. Not every hobby is for everybody- so yes the price point of entry may be a deterrent for some but the vast majority of people who are put off by this would ultimately make very little difference in the overall climate anyways.

    1. So what is your ROI on your 100 Benjamins outlay for MTG, to date?

      Paper gain or otherwise?

      The secondary market is driven also by pure speculation attracting daytrader types who could give a rat’s patoot about gameplay use of the cards, fwiw…

      Enjoy the Dutch Tulip Mania while it lasts, because nothing is forever, e.g., Beanie Babies…

    2. I think you may be underestimating the impact of casual players and overestimating the importance of the “mtg finance” community.

      There’s a ton more of them than us and together they do more to “keep the game afloat” than you think.

    3. One player may not, but you fail to realize this is talking about quite a few players probaly switching to modern (myself included).

  4. Let’s face it: at the PT level, cost of entry is not a factor. By the time you are playing at that level, you are already prepared to sell a kidney to support your habit.

    Where this causes grief and concern is at your local FNM. It’s discouraging to show up with your mono-Green Eldrazi Ramp deck and have it nuked into the Stone Age by something that walked right off the PT T8 report page from the previous weekend.

    Do not discount this. Your local tournament scene relies far more than you realize on those 0-2 drop, or 2-2 got-me-a-promo players. If they stay home, your FNM becomes six players griping about how they drove all this way and there’s no tournament.

    If you’re like me, and 28 players is a big turnout, then you’d better be a little worried about $1K Standard decks. It means the format’s been solved (or at least a majority of players think so), and that’s unhealthy for everyone.

    1. “Let’s face it: at the PT level, cost of entry is not a factor.”

      False. A buddy of mine went to PT DTK and borrowed playsets of every standard legal card before leaving. He only owned about 3/4 of an Abzan Aggro deck. About 1/4 of the competitive people in my area borrow large chunks of decks before major tournaments.

      On a larger level, check out forums before opens and GPs (reddit, mtgsalvation, etc) and you’ll find a number of players trying to borrow staples. A local pro didn’t even own the paper copy of his legacy deck (which he rode to fantastic results) and always borrowed large chunks. You can read similar stories, particularly Michael Majors winning the GP with a borrowed mill deck because he couldn’t borrow the cards for an Abzan deck.

      You’d think even the pros would own paper versions of specific decks (and maybe some do), but we also have to factor in price of travel and lodging. However, I will agree that price impacts a pro less than LGS Joe since they likely have the connections to manage.

  5. Why do you not expect KTK fetches to drop in value? Yes, they’re awesome 4-ofs in modern and older formats. But there’s WAY more than enough supply of them out there to satiate demand for modern-and-older formats. The recent price rises (to $23-$25 on deltas) is because there were no fetches printed in BFZ. People jumped on them as “good enough alternatives” in modern and beyond. If they (unlikely) announce fetches (in the actual set) of Oath, they’ll go down because standard doesn’t need them as badly.

    If they announce (more likely) fetches in the set after Oath, KTK fetches will go down to probably a little above shockland prices almost surely. Standard can’t use them by that point, and modern demand can start to get eaten up by the freshly printed new enemy color fetches.

    1. The consensus is that the second set of fetch lands won’t be in standard at the same time as the Khans ones. The earliest we could get them is Fall 2016.

      1. While I agree we won’t see fetches reprinted before fall 2016, your timeline is off. The set after Oath won’t be in standard at the same time as Khans. It will kick out KTK and FRF.

      2. I also don’t believe that fetches will be in standard for the entirety of BFZ block. Printing them at the tail end of BFZ allows for some time without them.

  6. Do you really think they’ll print a Takir ‘walker in the new duel decks? Elspeth/Kiora was released end of February. That gives ’em under two months until rotation with this new schedule for Fate and Khans ‘walkers. I cannot imagine them putting in ‘walkers that won’t be standard legal by the time of the next duel deck. This leaves Narset vs. Sarkhan if they stick to Tarkir ‘walkers. Flip ‘walkers seem more likely to me.

  7. Excellent work as always. I must have missed it when MaRo talked about the costs of printing double-faced cards, that’s interesting. Definitely limits the reprintability of those cards moving forward (unless they don’t fudge the threshold for MM17 just to fill the DFC sheet).

    1. Retailers still have a lot of Origins on the shelves and distributors/WOTC probably have more in warehouses.

      If they reprint the walkers which are the sets main attraction they are going to have a really tough time getting rid of that stuff.

  8. Is this a finance article or a trolling piece of garbage???

    I’m so tired of articles and people complaining that Standard is too expensive cause of the fetch lands. Wake up A-holes!!! If this is a finance site and article the lesson is “Did you buy Khans of Tarkir Fetchlands when you should have? If so you have almost doubled your investment already!” That’s the kind of stuff I want to see, read, and hear. On Facebook where people cry about Dig being too good is where I expect to find babies crying about the price of Standard.

    Players just getting into Standard that don’t have fetchlands are in fact late to the party. I keep saying I believe MM 2015 and Origins brought new players to Magic which is a good thing. You know what’s also a good thing? Trade that Jace you magically opened for 4 Wooded Foothills, maybe even get a Atarka’s Command thrown in. Trade those Splinter Twins, Spellskites, Cryptics, Tarmogoyfs for Standard and Modern legal cards in the Fetchlands! Know what else, those 4 Wooded Foothills will last you FOREVER in the world of Magic. If you bought a playset of Khans Fetches today you would never need to invest/buy in those lands again to play Modern, Legacy, or Vintage or whatever the next format is. How much did Polluted Delta previously cost? $80 or so…that’s $300 plus for 4 lands in Legacy (and Scalding Tarn and Misty were insanely expensive as the only Modern Blue Fetches). Well guess what, a year ago $60-80 got you your whole Khans Delta playset, now it’s $100 ish…that’s both a good profit margin AND still affordable for new players long term. $100 seems a lot better than $300!!

    You know what’s great about Atarka Red? half the deck is Modern Legal. Buy your non-foil Foothills, Bloodstained Mires, Abbots, Swiftspears, Become Immenses (maybe even Temur Battle Rage) and port them over to Modern or even Legacy. Most of the rest of the deck is super cheap as well. Pick up Eidolons and Bolts now if you haven’t already. Exquisite Firecraft can be in both Sideboards.

    A playset of Temple of Malady during it’s life in Standard was $32 on the lower end. What is it $10 now?? Maybe?? Your “expensive” Standard deck is loaded with Eternal investments. This Standard ENCOURAGES players to start playing Modern and/or Legacy. Is Gideon too expensive? yes. Is Jace? Yes but he still dies to Wild Slash, Fiery Impulse, and any creature plus Dromoka’s Command so don’t waste your money on him and spend small amounts of money to beat him if you so choose.

    Let me write for this site. You have my email. Pass it along to Corbin, Sig, whomever is in charge these days. I’d love the opportunity to give a player’s perspective on finance and the environment of Standard these days.

    What’s great about Standard: Siege Rhino and Mantis Rider are dirt cheap for their impact. So is Crackling Doom, Utter End, Sorin, Sarkhan, Warden, Whisperwood, Rattleclaw, Jeskai Ascendency, Wingmate Roc, etc etc. Anafenza and Wingmate Roc are finally around $10…Anafenza was a 4 of pre-rotation in one of the best decks and it nukes Hangarback, that was a tough one to see coming. No pro-white Stormbreath around…2 for 1 Wingmate Roc seems amazing again. Sorry for not feeling bad for people who waited post rotation to realize these were good cards and that Abzan/GW aggro would be great decks, that really came out of no where lol. The pain lands are dirt cheap as well. Last I checked there’s 8 painlands that fit in Jeskai, Mardu, and Abzan (and Sultai and Temur), that’s 8 lands for about $12 for your Standard deck.

    I want a fresh take on Standard deck analysis. Is it expensive? Yes. Is it worse than Theros, I don’t really think so. How much is Downfall now? Sure isn’t $16. How about Elspeth and Stormbreath? Don’t think you can retire on their growth. Those Temples gonna pay for college or a trip to Florida? Don’t think so. Oh wait, how much with Flooded Strands be next year or in 3 years?? $20-40…SOLD!! I’m in. How much are the Standard creatures I need for my decks? Wait they r cheap cause there’s a gazillion of them opened or they were in a special release deck??? In a vacuum this Standard is expensive, financially speaking it’s one of the best Standards possible. Get Your Stuff Together people!

    xo,
    Spencer Walker

    For real, would love the opportunity to write some player based financial material and I’d clean up the language…maybe :p

    1. Berating people for not buying cards 8-10 months ago isn’t good writing either. I have written in detail in previous articles the optimal time to buy these lands has passed. Continuing that “I told you so” narrative doesn’t help the situation.

      The point of this article is to analyze why decks seem so expensive and how we should approach dealing with their price.

  9. P.S. Couldn’t be happier that THAT is the Snapcaster promo foil we’ll be getting cause it’s horrible and I’m looking for the ones I own to spike as a response. Is that really what the card will look like??

  10. Snapcaster could look like Ronald McDonald and it wouldnt matter to us non-holders……i just want to see more familiar’s ruses getting thrown down around the poor guy 🙂

  11. Casale, really disappointed in you. My point wasn’t to rub it in the faces of people who didn’t get Khans fetches a year ago but to congratulate the people who did… positive reinforcement is how I like to motivate people. Someone has to buy Ojutais, Den Protectors, Wingmate Rocs etc at higher prices than prevoiusly, THERE HAS TO BE A FINANCIAL LOSER IF INVESTORS AND SPECULATORS ARE “WINNING”. I also pointed out that getting Khans fetches NOW isn’t a bad idea either. Like I said, would love to write for this site (maybe another) cause if that was what you got from my post then I don’t need to follow your mediocre writing. Take care sir and thanks for your time.

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