PROTRADER: The Slow Death of Khans

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While browsing last week’s “Interests” over at mtgstocks.com I discovered two trends that immediately caught my eye. The first was rather obvious and has been so for weeks now. The other was perhaps more subtle – it’s this latter observation that I wish to spend more time on today.

But before I dive in to the subtle observation, have you noticed how many old cards are in high demand lately? I count 15 cards in the past week that have risen by at least 5% according to mtgstocks.com. While that site does contain heavy bias towards TCG Player volume, the trend is nonetheless too strong to be simple website manipulation. There is real demand for older cards such as Su-Chi and Erhnam Djinn, both staples of the Old School MTG format.

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14 thoughts on “PROTRADER: The Slow Death of Khans”

  1. Rotation doesn’t happen with Oath. Khans rotation occurs with Shadows over Innistrad in April.

      1. They definitely are. I am reminded of Derek’s controversial article from the summer. Even though Sigmund has correctly identified that impending rotation is causing falling prices he and many others haven’t sufficiently internalised this new schedule. He writes in this article about rotation being 2 months away, it is more like 5. This schedule is already messing with time-honoured price cycles.

        Of course Fetches have mucked up Khans and we didn’t see the big October price spikes that we have in the past but the spikes we have had have been shorter in duration because of the condensed rotation. We aren’t seeing late season spikes as decks turnover. Whilst a new strategy may emerge in November that trumps the October PT metagame average Magic players are gun shy from jumping on it because they can see they are only losing money on Khans from October on.

      2. The new rotating schedule is definitely something we’ll have to adjust to. Clearly some like myself haven’t fully internalized implications yet. 🙁

        But it DOES mean folks will be more gun shy, as you indicated, until we learn how prices behave in the new world. This is a key point that I’m glad came through in the article, albeit accidentally.

    1. Wow. On the one hand, I’m really sorry for this error. On the other hand, it makes the sell-off even more noteworthy because we still have MONTHS before rotation happens and prices are already dropping hard. Yikes.

      Appreciate the correction!

  2. I checked a number of old school cards supposedly showing significant increases. It is easy to conclude they are, but I feel this is a poor conclusion.

    Many of these cards have less than 15 LP/NM copies available. In many cases if I was to buy a NM playset I am either buying all NM copies or most of them, if I was to buy the cheapest LP or better playset I would push the lowest price up by 50% or more for cheaper cards.

    There are millions of Magic players in the world, do you really want to recommend buying in on cards where 1. your buy will significantly push up the average and lowest price without actually changing player demand and 2. you will have to find that extremely rare player who is actually looking for these cards?

    I can see how you might want to recommend players to buy now if they want them, but as a spec target I can only recommend staying away. I believe that recommending players to buy them now leads to exactly the kind of price push I illustrated by buying just the 4 copies. If people gradually buy these there is time for new copies to surface, if we now all buy before it’s too late we are causing the price increase and you can bet that prices will then remain high even when other copies ultimately surface.

  3. Pi,

    You and I have debated this subject at length and I won’t attempt to summarize our discussions in this post.

    I will say that I definitely DISCOURAGE folks from speculating on this format. Some of these older cards can be tough to move in any significant quantities. You don’t want to be the one to buy 20 Island of Wak-Waks only to realize the actual demand for this card is tiny.

    However if you want to have a copy or two to play with, then there’s no reward for waiting to buy. Quantities on the open market are only going to dwindle as long as Magic remains a popular game. I doubt there are many people with copies of these old school cards that they’re itching to unload if only the price would jump. And the argument is there are, then the Invisible Hand will find the correct price eventually. Markets can be manipulated for only for so long.

    It’s an interesting debate and I enjoy it. But I doubt we will convince each other of anything 🙂

    1. Why don’t you address the comment on the numbers though?

      The number of buys needed to cause a seemingly significant change is so small that you can’t really conclude anything from there being 15 cards in the past week with a more than 5% rise. Basically your test group is too small.

      This is a problem with MTG Stocks that looks at prices and ignores sales numbers. I think we should be able to agree that somebody buying a playset is a normal sales volume for any Magic card during a period of a week (except for extreme rarities, none are among the 15). As a result changes in price caused by buying a playset should be considered normal variation.

      There could absolutely be some interesting cards among the 15, but they would have to be researched individually and we would need to confirm that we are not looking at normal variation before we can conclude that interest in them is indeed rising.

      I admit that I cannot prove whether or not we are seeing normal variation, but that’s my point: based on what we are seeing we cannot conclude anything.

      1. I should add that right now there are 40 cards from The Dark or earlier in the MTG Stocks weekly interest. Out of those only 4 have more than 15 copies for sale that are in LP or NM condition: Fellwar Stone, Urza’s Tower, Simulacrum and Animate Artifact.

        Everything else fits on a single 10 seller page. Buying a NM playset means you’ll buy most, if not every, NM copies and with LP you still have a significant influence on the price just for getting a set.

        I don’t necessarily disagree with the guess that interest in old cards is rising, but the numbers for a single week just aren’t there to support it. This would require analysis done over a much longer period of time.

  4. Under the old rotation we often saw cards begin to descend about 6 months prior to rotation, under the new rotation that will likely be compressed a bit to 4-5 months? But that still means that standard cards will only have 11-14 months of mtgfinance viability

    1. This could make speculation on Standard a bit trickier going forward. Likely the windows to sell at peak prices will be much narrower. And if rotation is still months away and prices are already dipping, this bodes poorly for those who continue to play with Khans cards until then as prices will only drop from here. Even on Khans fetches.

  5. Just a thought, but you talk a lot about how casual/EDH staples are rising/doing well. I wonder if it has anything to do with the recent Commander releases and people going out to build decks. Awakening Zone is great in both the UG and GB pre-cons.

    A cool article/research would be if casual cards always go up this time of year after a new Commander release. Just a thought.

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