Unlocked Pro Trader: Exploring New Avenues

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Nerds,

It’s been a week since I dropped some knowledge on you and I’m happy I don’t have to talk about stupid tribal decks and how much people are playing them in EDH because I get to talk about stupid tribal decks and how much people will be playing them outside of EDH. Isn’t that fun? I am honestly looking forward to taking a break from trying to find value in decks predicated on Ixalan Legends because so many of them include cards that are specific to that tribe that were printed in Ixalan which means there are really limited opportunities. EDH finance isn’t easy mode because we spend a ton of time looking at which stupid pirates will go up by a dollar over the next two years because of people build pirate EDH decks, we want commanders like The Gitrog Monster to come along and make a bunch of old cards with low supplies and high upsides go off. Gishnath (or whomever) the dinosaur Legend doesn’t really do much of that – it’s all Ixalan dinosaurs, generic tribal cards like Urza’s Incubator and Coat of Arms and a bunch of lunatics who thought they were going to make a killing buying out foil Deathmist Raptor.

What is more fun is getting to buy cards that hit rock bottom after a reprint and go right back up because they are great cards and demand will soon soak up supply. It’s even better when people overestimate supply based on an initial flood of redemptions and buylist sales and we can really make bank. Remember how I like to talk about U-shaped and reverse-J-shaped graphs? You don’t? How is that possible, I literally talked about that like two weeks ago. The article was above reproach and I can tell that because there are no comments and that only happens when people read it and no one thinks “I’m way smarter than this guy” like what happens most weeks.

I think we have an opportunity to watch a few cards crater and then rebound more quickly than most people will anticipate. Furthermore, I think these cards crept up very sneakily and they have the capacity to creep up sneakily again. A lot of players don’t know what these cards cost now and in two years, they won’t know that the prices went up, then down then up again, they’ll just say “Wow, when did THIS get expensive?” not knowing that there are a lot of answers to that question. Not to dump on those people – they’re the best. They buy our cards on TCG Player. They trade us Standard expensive cards for EDH staples with so little regard for monetary value that how much money you make on the trade depends entirely on your conscience. They buy instant collections in your LGS because they need bulk rares and basic lands and a box to carry their Thallids deck in.  Hyper competitve players will miss these price movements, too, but only because they can only focus on the 50 cards that are expensive in Modern and Legacy and the 20 cards that are expensive in Standard that month.

Being able to see the price depression and subsequent rebound coming a mile away means we’re the ones buying at the valleys and selling at the peaks. We’re not making the price go up, ironically the people buying at the peak and complaining about speculators are the ones who do that, but we are benefiting, and why shouldn’t we? We paid attention to the price of the card every week for two years, after all. So before we mentally spend the millions we’re going to make off of savvy investments, let’s look at the impetus for prices changing.

 

Shut Up And Take Their Money

Settlers of Catan Explorers of Ixalan offers casual players the chance to pay $65 to not have to cobble together their own goofy homebrew Magic variant that someone came up with on the /r/magictcg subreddit that uses Dominion cards, the Ticket to Ride gameboard and the rules insert from Machi Koro to make a game of what is essentially a bad form of Planechase take 5 1/2 hours like casual people like. Instead, they can play some goofy Magic variant cooked up by whatever Hasbro executive is in charge of overseeing Magic development because his uncle on the Hasbro board is grooming him to take over as head of Angry Birds merchandising as soon as his therapist assures him that his hooker-choking days are behind him. This is likely to be a pretty annoying form of casual, bad EDH that snobs like me have no interest in, but what it’s also going to do is provide a pretty reasonable way to get copies of cards into the hands of people.

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This is going to reprint some key cards, but with MSRP so high on these sets, prices shouldn’t take a giant dump right away. Casual players aren’t inclined to buy these and immediately ship the good cards and dealers aren’t necessarily inclined to slice into $65 product that they likely paid $35+ for just to cannibalize a few singles. If it’s not super cost effective to pop these sets and the kind of people who likely buy these for retail don’t sell the singles off right away, prices may not crater unless their old price was a lie predicated on low supply and overestimated demand. I intend to look individually at each card reprinted in this set that has been announced so far and see if we think the value of the cards therein is likely to tank or stay mostly the same based on the $65 price tag and mainly casual appeal. If we do think prices will go down, I’ll try and guess at which ones will recover the best and which to target. This is not what I normally do in this column but is “what I normally do in this column” even really a thing anymore?

What Will This Set Do?

Suddenly we have a new product that, if repeated, can be a new avenue to reprint these cards that seemed “reprint-proof” just a few months ago. Planechase, Archenemy and now this; could we get a product like this every year?

Either this sells well and they repeat it in which case we have another mine to dodge when it comes to Commander-based price spikes or they don’t repeat this. In either case, I think buying foils is one way to mitigate reprint risk but there are so few available copies and even fewer move quickly that I’m not advocating that. Buying foils is great for one or two people but the majority of people get left out so I don’t tend to advocate something like that in an article series that, according to google analytics, has a wider audience than one or two people. My Mom, six Russian bots and both of my google accounts (Jason Alt and Ricardo Dangersword) read every article so I’m at least reaching those people. So while foils are safe, reminding people to buy foils seems pretty pointless.

We had some time between Commander 2017 hype and the announcement of this set but the problem is that next year, it won’t be as obvious what to buy for non-EDH players like it was this year. We knew there would be tribal decks so we knew that if at least one deck had red cards in it, Shared Animosity was a good buy if it wasn’t reprinted. A lot of people didn’t even wait for confirmation that the card wasn’t in one of the decks before they bought in. Next year, the cards won’t be obvious which means the prices will move based on real, organic demand. That’s just starting to happen in earnest now, so if we have the same print schedule, there won’t be much time for growth between cards from Commander 2018 materializing as good buys and the reprint potential in “Settlers of Dominaria” or whatever.

Let’s look at the specific cards.

Shared Animosity

Currently the most expensive card spoiled so far, if this maintains its current value due to the set not being worth cracking but doesn’t see a race to the bottom in terms of dealers getting out of copies of the deck, this pays for more than the deck it’s in. Experiencing a recent double-up that we predicted in this series (anyone who paid attention saw this coming but don’t you pay me to pay attention so you don’t have to?) this card is very good in tribal decks. Our prediction that it would go up if it wasn’t reprinted in Commander 2017 was true but short-lived. People made a lot of money getting in early and getting out before Explorers was announced, but neither of those will be a thing next year.

Should Explorers depress the price, this card goes back up. I could see this hitting $5 if the set sells well and maybe a bit more if it doesn’t. The supply likely to be introduced by people buying Explorers is likely to be offset just about equivalently by the increased demand from people building more tribal decks. They seem to be focusing on the tribes from the Standard sets being used outside of just those sets and this year they even tied it in to the Commander release to an extent, introducing white Vampires in Commander 2017 before they did so in Ixalan. It’s an estimate, but I expect new demand to be enough to offset new supply enough to get Animosity back up to the $10 or so it was before Commander 2017 came along. If this hits $3 or $4, I’m a buyer. I still like these up to like $8 in trade because these move briskly, especially if they only get up to like $10. With more tribal focus likely in the future, this seems like the card with the most upside out of all of Explorers, but maybe not the most applicability cross-format.

Aggravated Assault

While I don’t think this has quite the upside of Shared Animosity and this benefited a lot from having pretty low supply due to being from an older set when cards like Narset made this an allstar, EDH seems to be focusing a bit more on combat. This was a great card to reprint, and it’s pretty likely that like 18 months ago when I was saying this needed a reprint, Wizards was planning to jam this in Explorers. I think it’s possible that other Masterpieces are good harbingers of future reprints in sets like Explorers if they continue and that’s a topic we can delve into another day. I think this likely goes very cheap, bottoming out around the same price as Shared Animosity if the set sells well and maybe a bit more if it doesn’t. If this hits like $2 or $3, I’m interested. I think $10 is a pretty reasonable place for this to end up, but $8 wouldn’t surprise me as a worst case scenario. There is a ton of demand – Aggravated Assault is in nearly twice as many EDH decks on EDHREC as is Shared Animosity. I think this could end up above Shared Animosity since cross-format applicability juiced Animosity’s price a bit in the past and got copies concentrated in the hands of dealers sooner. If this ended up the most expensive card in Explorers in a year, I wouldn’t be surprised. I like this a lot when it bottoms out.

Time Warp

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This can’t quite maintain $20 owing to multiple reprintings. However, while this reprinting is going to bring the price down, I think Time Warp (Nearly 6,000 decks on EDHREC) seems to be the most played card and with Modern applicability and the possibility that someone will make a YouTube video about a deck with Time Walk effects and spike everything from this to Part the Waterveil again (could that be what happened in 2016 to make this $25, a price it couldn’t maintain?) this also could end up the most expensive card in Explorers when the dust settles. Gettable around $14 right now, this likely tanks as much as anything else. I think it’s safe to call this $8-$10 in a year from now and I think barring more reprints, it can flirt with $20 again. I really don’t know how much Explorers of Ixalan will hit the market, so I could be giving the reprint too much credit, but I think this will be a brief window where players can get a Time Warp without paying more than $10 and they’ll want to. I bet this is the pace card that establishes the rate of price recovery for the rest of the cards to try and imitate.

Beacon of Immortality

Beacon of Unrest went down to $2. Beacon of Unrest is in four times as many decks as Beacon of Immortality. Commander 2016 likely sells way more decks than Explorers of Ixalan. Will it sell four times as much? This could end up really cratering in price the way Beacon of Unrest did, and while the demand seems less than for Beacon of Unrest, the fact that lifegain is something people are excited about means that maybe the current demand being a fourth of that of Unrest is less important than crossing some invisible threshold. Maybe recovery is a yes/no question rather than a “how much?” question. I think this has the goods to hit such a threshold if it exists. Does this end up $0.50 extrapolated from the price of Beacon of Unrest? Maybe. But I think we will see this recover to at least the $2-$3 Beacon of Unrest is a year later.

Quicksilver Amulet

The price of this card is kind of all over the place. Big Dargons caused people to buy these and some retailers sold out repeatedly and ratcheted their price up to about $15 at one point but other retailers don’t seem to be moving them at the old price. It doesn’t seem worth it to snap those $10 copies so they just sit there. I think this is also going to be an EDH allstar and with the big Dargon and Dinosaur decks of the past year likely to be at least a portion of what we see printed in the future, expect this to recover to at least $5. I like these if they bottom out around $1.

Regisaur Alpha

I don’t care about this card. This isn’t an EDH card outside of the Gishath deck and Standard either will or won’t make this a real card. It reminds me of Bloodbraid Elf a little bit but then I reread it and remember it doesn’t have haste, only the token and then I get sad. I don’t know what’s going to happen in Standard and I’m staying out of it. Plenty of people are willing to stick their neck out and talk about that format.

Adaptive Automaton

I feel like the price isn’t done going up on this because I feel like it was just getting started. It was an obvious card and while a lot of sites are sold out, I feel like no one has restocked at a new price and that means TCG Player basically establishes the price itself. It’s not selling out at $7-$8. With the same demand in a year and way more copies, this likely can hit $5 so bear that in mind when you decide if it’s gotten cheap enough to buy. This will always be a decent lord but everyone seems so enamored with Metallic Mimic right now that this is almost an afterthought. This is good for us – Automaton is quietly in 30% more decks than Mimic due to a combination of having just been around longer and therefore registered in more decks even if people later took Automaton out. That’s kind of a problem with EDHREC numbers but considering we’re looking at ratios rather than integers, I think it’s fair to say Automaton has more demand at leave it at that.  I think this is always a $5 card no matter how many times it’s reprinted provided it gets 12 months to recover in between. I think this could tank less than other cards and I think it might grow sooner, but if this does crater at like $1 or below, make like a single mother in the detergent aisle on supermarket sweep and shove these in your shopping cart.

Threads of Disloyalty

A modicum of play in the sideboard of a deck that basically no longer exists in a format that basically no one is excited about got this to flirt with $40. Look at the slope of the price graph when the card was forced to deal with reality. Do you imagine the slope will be less steep now that we have the same demand and more supply? Stay away from these. This is not an EDH card, anyway, what do I care?

I think these are the relevant cards. Everything else spoiled is a bulk rare basically already (Vanquisher’s Banner might have had a chance to do something but got nipped in the bud). Next week we should have something else to talk about and we’ll do that. Until next week!

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