All posts by Travis Allen

Travis Allen has been playing Magic on and off since 1994, and got sucked into the financial side of the game after he started playing competitively during Zendikar. You can find his daily Magic chat on Twitter at @wizardbumpin. He currently resides in upstate NY, where he is a graduate student in applied ontology.

The Maybe-A-Few-Hundred-Dollars Question

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By: Travis Allen

Think back to last March. If you were in school, it probably involved a spring break. Exams and the subsequent vacation were visible on the horizon. The weather was breaking and the color seemed to be seeping back into the world. Spring was just barely upon us, and with it the promise of another vital summer. Summer Bloom

Come June, the sun was finally up before you were. Warm rays on your face stirred you out of bed. Your Facebook calendar seemed more alive. Weekends were spent at beaches and on bike rides. Friday and Saturday nights were spent on dates, at house parties, or lounging on patios during cocktail hour. Vacations were taken, camping trips embarked on, picnics eaten.

Or maybe you played Call of Duty all summer in an air-conditioned basement because you hate living life.

Either way, the summer is spent doing a lot of things. One thing it is frequently not spent doing is playing Magic. Making time for PTQs and IQs is easy in the dreary February months when there’s four hours of sunlight and a total lack of desire to be outside. But when it’s light until 9pm and it seems like every weekend there’s a thrilling activity to partake in, those three and four hour car rides to sit in a convention hall seem much less appealing.

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The reason I’m waxing poetically about the exploits of summer is that they will have a bearing on card prices this year, and to what extent I’m still trying to come to understand. This year marks the first time since the summer of 2008, six years ago, that we will not have a Standard PTQ through the warmest months of the year.

Typically, the Standard PTQ season has occurred throughout the majority of the summer. Cards in the spring set were immediately Standard relevant, as PTQs began shortly after their release. As the fall season and the rotation of the senior set drew near, soon-to-rotate cards held value a little better than one would expect due to this continued demand. The grinder wasn’t happy about having to hold onto playsets of Thragtusk or Geist of Saint Traft or Huntmaster of the Fells, but as they were needed to play in PTQs, he or she bit the bullet and held onto them while they slowly slipped in value. The truly dedicated may have even kept more than one or two decks available, choosing to have access to most playsets of constructed staples as opposed to only a single deck.

Huntmaster of the Fells

This constructed demand helps ease the senior set out amidst a majority of players beginning to divest from rotating staples. Once March and April roll around, many players are aware of the fact that their senior block cards will soon be leaving the format. They begin selling and trading any additional cards they don’t absolutely need, so as to reduce the impact of rotation to their collection’s value. This guaranteed loss in value of cards is mitigated by a group of players continuing to need them to play in PTQs. Stores still have some number of players they can sell rotating cards to and players figure they can find someone, somewhere that will trade for them.

With the changing of the schedule, come March the Standard PTQ season is over. What’s left to keep RtR cards afloat? A quick glance at the GP schedule shows a whopping seven Standard Grand Prixs between March 9th and September, only three of which are in the US. It also appears there will be roughly twenty SCG opens, and then whatever IQs they happen to hold. Most players will be unable to attend a single one of those GPs, and there will be maybe one to two opens close enough to reasonably travel to.

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Imagine it’s March 9th. Between now and September, there are no Standard GPs for you to attend, and a single open. The only other Standard events are your local FNM. What’s your incentive to hold onto Rav block staples?

When I started writing this article, I wasn’t sure what to expect to happen to the demand. Sure you were losing the PTQ season, but there would be enough events to mostly keep prices on a slow slide downwards, not an abject plummet, right? I’m not as convinced anymore. The only place the average player is going to be playing Standard is at FNM, and with all the alternatives to Magic the summer brings with it, even weekly attendance there is suspect. On top of that, why hold a $40 playset of Desecration Demons just to goof around at FNM? There’s a strong incentive to sell them off for booze money and play a janky nearly-block deck until rotation occurs. Huntmaster of the Fells

It’s hard not to see the closest thing possible to a freefall of RtR prices in March. With barely anything left to support demand for the cards, I doubt most players will consider it worth holding onto cards like Nightveil Specter and Blood Baron. With thousands on thousands of players ready to ditch playsets, prices will drop like a lead weight. March 9th won’t be all doom and gloom, though. Theros cards won’t be subject to this, and with the block Pro Tour around the same time, there may even be a slight uptick in demand. Players shifting RtR cards will want to trade them into something, and Theros will be a good choice. Additionally, Modern staples won’t be quite as vulnerable to the drop. Voice of Resurgence, while probably not a $35-$40 card anymore. will hold value along with the shocks. Those of us with long-term aspirations can treat this as an opportunity to score Modern and Casual growers on the cheap, especially if people are willing to trade them at below-market value just to get rid of them.

I can’t say for certain that prices will react this way, as this is all just an educated guess at this point. Perhaps FNM demand will prove itself quite worthy, and cards will hang on longer than anticipated. That’s not where I’d be putting my money though.

One last note before I go: The recent counterfeit news has been all over the mtgverse, from Reddit to Rosewater’s Tumblr to SCG. Most with a pulpit have been proclaiming that these are bad news across the board for Magic players. The long and short of it is that while counterfeits make cards cheap in the short term, they also mean the only place you’ll be able to play Magic a year later is at home, since every store will have closed shop.

However, there seems to be a vocal group on the internet that are championing these facsimiles as some sort of Robin Hood, rescuing the oppressed proletariat from the bourgeoisie WOTC and their ostentatious cardboard. I firmly reiterate that there is nothing further from the truth. Everyone needs to set their frustrations with the cost of Magic aside, both legitimate and illegitimate, for the good of the game and the community. Magic is full of self-professed geniuses. It’s time for all of you that consider yourselves bastions of free thinking and enlightenment to put your ideals into practice and be willing to consider information that may force you to reevaluate your worldview.

Counterfeits are bad for Magic. If you don’t believe me, go read the numerous articles that have been written about it. If you do believe me, go tell someone that doesn’t.

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Bayesian Statistics: You Should Probably Read This Article

By: Travis Allen

Over this past summer, I read Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – but Some Don’t. I mentioned it in an article previously as being an excellent book for anyone who is interested in the type of content that appears here weekly. I’m not the only one who enjoyed it either; multiple people on my Twitter feed proclaimed fascination with it upon release. Chas Andres (@chasandres) was a particularly vocal supporter, and ended up writing a piece or two over on SCG about some of the book’s content shortly after it came out.

Possibility Storm

Today I want to discuss what was to me one of the most interesting, informative, useful, world-view-altering portions of the book. The Bayesian Theorem, and specifically Bayesian interpretation, is so broadly applicable to every aspect of our lives (MTG included) that it’s difficult not to consider every day occurrences through its lens.

The theorem was developed by Thomas Bayes, a statistician and minister from the early 18th century. The work was published posthumously, and received a pretty lukewarm reception initially. It wasn’t until the topic was revisited some time later that it became considerably more popular, and is now a major component of statistics.

Here’s the basic idea: Everything is a probability. Nothing – nothing – is 100% guaranteed. New information we obtain allows us to more accurately predict what will happen, but we’ll never be completely, unquestionably certain.

Let me show you the equation in its simplest form. Don’t be terrified.

d92e290c66d423e4798a22a3690cbd31

That isn’t so bad, is it? It’s just three simple letters a few times. (The book uses a slightly different equation, but the results are the same.) I’m not even going to force you to figure it out. I’m going to point you to the Wikipedia page, and if you’re curious about the math, it will do a far better job explaining it than I could. Instead, I’m going to explain it with some examples.

This first example I stole right out of Nate’s book. Imagine a woman going through a dresser drawer, and she finds a pair of panties that aren’t hers. Her first instinct is to assume her husband is cheating on her. That’s a pretty severe leap to make without any additional evidence though, isn’t it? If this woman had no reason to suspect her husband before, is it really appropriate to condemn him already? Someone without Bayesian interpretation may do that, but not this woman. She’s going to approach this with ~math~.

In order to get some numbers to plug in, she needs to do some guesstimating. The first thing she has to put a number on is what she thought the probability of her husband cheating on her was before she found the panties. This can be difficult, especially if you’re holding incriminating evidence in your hand. But she thinks rationally, and decides she had no reason to suspect him before this. She also happens to know that 4% of married spouses cheat each year. That seems like a good number to start with. So her prior expectation of her husband cheating on her – her “prior” – is 4%.

Next, she has to figure out the probability of the underwear being there assuming her husband is actually cheating on her. Basically she says to herself “If my husband is cheating on me, what are the odds I would have found this underwear?” He would probably be trying to cover his tracks if he was having an affair, so she wouldn’t expect to always find this incriminating evidence even if he was cheating. She decides to go with a coin flip – 50%. If he’s cheating on me, there’s a 50% chance I would find evidence like this.

Finally, what are the odds that this underwear is there if he isn’t cheating? Well, the number of reasons for strange panties in your house is pretty limited, and many of them are going to be quite suspect. Maybe he bought the panties for her as a gift, or received them as some promotional giveaway whilst walking through the mall, and forgot he put them there. Perhaps they’re his (no judgments.) Regardless of why, the chances of this underwear being there if he isn’t cheating are pretty small. She decides it’s maybe a 5% chance the underwear would show up if he isn’t cheating on her.

She then takes her three numbers and runs them through the equation. Her prior expectation of his cheating, 4%, the probability of finding the underwear if he is indeed cheating, 50%, and the probability of the underwear being there if he isn’t cheating, 5%. It spits out an answer of 29%. Her new expectation of his infidelity is 29%.

In a vacuum, that seems kind of low. She finds this women’s underwear, and it’s barely more than 25% likely that he’s cheating on her? How is that possible? It stems from the fact that she really didn’t expect he was cheating on her at all beforehand. If that prior expectation was higher, perhaps because he was working late all the time or being overly protective of his phone, then the end result would have been a lot higher than 29%.

Let’s try this out with a more on-theme example. Let’s try and figure out what the chances are that True-Name Nemesis is getting banned at the next B&R update in light of a new piece of information. 

True-Name Nemesis

We’ll begin with our prior. Right now, without any additional knowledge, what do we think the odds are he’ll get banned? Well, they don’t ban cards in Legacy very often. We could just look at the total number of banned non-ante cards in the format as a percentage, but I feel that is a bit misleading in this context. People have reasonable suspicion TNN may get the axe, but nobody is eyeballing Lightning Bolt in the same way. Let’s say that right now, TNN is maybe 5% to get banned. 5% is a much greater chance than any random Legacy card, and simultaneously reflects Wizard’s proclaimed hands-off approach.

Now, we consider new information. How about this tumblr post from one Mr. Mark Rosewater? Hmm, that’s pretty damning. Look at the language he uses. “Well aware of the public’s feelings” and “will impact how we act in the future.” Make no mistake – that is severe word choice. He easily could have said something along the lines of “TNN is new and we want to give a resilient format like Legacy a chance to try to solve the problem first.” Instead, he made no attempt to indicate they are giving the format time to shake out. He acknowledged people hated it, and said they would react.

So, what’s the chances that Mark would say this if they are planning on banning the card? I would put it pretty high, say, 80%. There is really no stronger answer he could give here.

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Finally, what are the odds he would say this if Wizards wasn’t planning on banning TNN? Well, Mark has been known to be purposefully misleading before. We’ll say there’s maybe a 15% chance he would use language this strong even if they weren’t thinking of banning it in the near future.

Given those three numbers – 5%, 80%, and 15% – our final probability of TNN being banned in the upcoming announcement is 22%. That may feel a little low, but remember our initial expectation of it being banned was only 5%. It jumped 17 percentage points after this announcement from Mark. That’s a big jump.

Perhaps you are more convinced Wizards is going to ban TNN, and your prior expectation without any additional information is not 5%, but 30%. With that single change in number, the odds TNN gets banned rises to 70%. That’s a pretty solid chance of him being banned.

These examples show you what happens when you utilize real numbers, but what I really want you to focus on is the underlying principle. When we discuss things that will happen in the Magic world, it’s always a probability. When someone says Genesis Wave or Threads of Disloyalty or Spellskite is going to jump in price, what they mean is “I believe, given the information I have, the probability of this card rising in price is high enough that I feel justified proclaiming it, and I’m betting that it will happen.”

Aside: Notice my use of the word “betting” there – speculation is really just informed gambling. You’re playing odds. They’re considerably better than casino odds, of course, but at the end of the day you’re putting money up against the chance of something happening. 

You may not be aware of it, but you are probably using this principle frequently when you play the game as well. Imagine you’re playing against a control deck, and the board is empty. You cast a reasonable threat that will kill your opponent in a turn or two. Your opponent lets it resolve. Well, before you cast the spell, you were pretty sure he had a counterspell in his hand. After he let this resolve though, you swing way the other way – why wouldn’t he counter it if he could? You now feel pretty confident that he doesn’t have a counter. Then you pass the turn, he plays a land and passes back. You go to declare attackers, and he Downfalls the creature. Suddenly, you have once again found yourself pretty sure he has the counterspell. The reason he didn’t counter the threat last turn was that he didn’t need to. Threads of Disloyalty

See how with each piece of information, you update your expectation of what your opponent is holding? All (decent) players do this. Recognize this, and try extending the practice into more areas of your life. Use the concept, and in situations where you feel you have good numbers, maybe even use the equation. You’ll find you rush to conclusions far less, are more equipped to plan for contingencies, and in general have more reasonable expectations of what may come.

All of the predictions in my article last week were formed based on frequent Bayesian interpretations. Every time new product is spoiled, an announcement is made (or not made,) or someone from Wizards says something, I factor that into my expectations of an event, and see how it influences the probability. I would be lying if I said I explicitly used numbers, but I definitely find myself mentally ballparking percentages all the time.

Holding to Bayesian interpretation will also help you be more objective. Say you hold some belief that you are very certain about, perhaps 99.99% sure of. A single piece of evidence to the contrary is not going to sway you far from that belief. But if you remove your personal prejudice from the issue and fairly factor in each new piece of information, you may find that your previous rock-solid belief is now considerably less so. Holding a firm belief is not foolish, but doing so in the face of bountiful evidence certainly is. Don’t be that guy. Be the guy willing to learn and grow.

There’s a lot more information about Bayesian statistics out there. If this tiny taste I’ve given you piques your interest, I highly encourage you to do some more reading. In the meantime, go forth and be probabilistic!

  • Genesis Wave spiked on Tuesday afternoon, and as I write this, the cheapest copy is $6 on TCGPlayer. If you have any, sell now. Yes, the card could end up more expensive, but it’s far more likely it doesn’t. (Probability and the Greater Fool Theory all in one!)
  • With Genesis Wave spiking, Primeval Titan is on the edge. There’s been chatter about him online lately, paired with a slow rise over the last few months. He’s going to be in any deck with Wave. It won’t take much to push him over the edge at this point. He’s not going to be $25, but $12-$18 seems pretty reasonable.
  • I don’t have any specific results to point to, but I like Threads of Disloyalty. It’s been rising for months, it’s always been floating around Modern, it only has one printing, and continues to get better in the face of awesome small creatures. I doubt it’s going to be bought out tomorrow, but I wouldn’t hesitate to grab copies where you can.

 

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Pay 1, Tap: Scry 2

By: Travis Allen

Boy, I get you guys on Christmas and New Years? Excellent! I’m sure, like me, none of you ever do anything fun so you’re all sitting at home reading Magic articles on holidays, right? Guys?

Today is the first, and as the teeming hordes gear up for a what will end up being no more than three weeks at the gym, we gaze outward towards the coming year. January 1st is not a noteworthy date in MTG timelines, but it’s not uncommon for many of us to be thinking a little larger and a little more long-term today. The calendar year is laid out before us, ripe with possibilities and pitfalls. What will the subsequent days hold?

Nine months ago I jotted down the idea for an article about predictions. I never got around to it, and since then one of the notes I made materialized. (Thoughtseize being reprinted somewhere between MM and Theros.) My minor success has spurred me forward, and I’m going to share a few more things I see on the horizon for Magic in the coming year. Keep in mind all of this is probabilistic. If I guess thing X will happen, it just means that I think it’s more likely that it will happen then it won’t, not that it’s a mortal lock.

 

Prediction #1: We won’t see Fetchlands this year, but we’re getting quite close

Magic has this characteristic to it where we’re used to thinking about it on a day-to-day basis. We see cards rise in price in the span of hours and tournament results are constantly turning things on their heads every week or two. At the detailed level, Magic feels like it moves very fast.

Stoneforge Mystic

Meanwhile, the general arc of the game is very slooooow. We only get new product a few times a year. It’s planned out years in advance. If a deck crops up that’s just far and away too good (CawBlade,) there’s nothing Wizards can do to fix the problem in a meaningful time frame other than ban the cards.

We only get one new theme a year. 2013 was Theros and the Greek thing. If you were sitting around in late March of 2013 and you saw the announcement for Theros and thought “I don’t like Greek mythology,” then you were pretty much screwed for an entire year. The game’s direction was set, and you were going to have to put up with it until Theros had run it’s course. Similarly, any flavor or mechanical direction they choose lives out the same way. On the eve of sets the rumor runs wild, with all sorts of ideas about what cards will be included, mechanics, new Planeswalkers, etc. Then the spoiler is fleshed out and you get what you get. No patch two weeks later to fix a change. No shaving a mana off a card. They’re printed as they’re printed, and that’s that.

The reason I bring all of this up is to help you step back when considering the timeline of lands in Magic. Remember we only get one new cycle of lands each year. One. When the scrylands were shown for Theros, that was it. No enemy manlands. No Nimbus Maze cycle. No fetches. We had to wait an entire year to see what the next land cycle would bring us. While we only see things a few months in advance, Wizards is the one playing the real long game.

This fall will bring the next cycle of lands, and the butts in the folding chairs are clamoring for fetchlands. It feels like it’s been forever since we had them, and the prices reflect that sentiment. As much as many out there want them though, I don’t think we’re getting them this year. Let’s take a look some past land cycles:

Theros: Scrylands
Ravnica: Shocklands
Innistrad: Enemy checklands
Scars of Mirrodin: Fastlands
Zendikar: Enemy Fetches, Manlands
Shards: None
Lorwyn/Shadowmoor: Tribal & Filters
Timespiral: Nimbus Maze/Horizon Canopy/etc
Ravnica OG: Shocklands
Kamigawa: Legendary lands or something? Who even knows
Mirrodin: Artifact lands
Onslaught: Fetchlands

Windswept Heath

That’s the past twelve years of Magic blocks and their respective lands. You can see that we only get “cool” lands every several years. It took three years after Onslaught to get quality rare lands. The original Ravnica gave us shocks, and then it was another four years before we had something special with the Zendikar lands. Filters were there in the interim, but were not particularly popular until much more recently. After Zendikar, you had two more years of boring mana bases until Return and the shocks, well, returned. Now, here we are considering the 2014 mana base. Given the history of lands, do you think Wizards will give us Fetchlands with only a single set between them and the Shocklands? It was seven years after Onslaught that Wizards reprinted Fetchlands. 2014 will be five years after Zendikar. Almost enough time has elapsed for Fetches to return in a fall set, but not yet.

Rosewater has said repeatedly that lands are a precious resource. There is simply not a lot of design space in lands, so they use the good ones sparingly. If they flood us with awesome lands several years in a row, we end up getting used to them. So they dole them out, one cycle every several years, to make the great lands feel special. Shocklands are still in Standard. Do you think as they rotate out, we’re going to be handed Fetchlands? Remember that Fetches are basically the most popular land not on the reserved list. Talk about greedy.

2015 is probably the earliest we’ll see Fetches in a fall set. It will be six years past Zendikar, which is nearly as long as between Onslaught and Zendikar. Demand will be at a fevered pitch quite soon though, so they may be forced to pull the trigger a year early and relieve financial pressure on the cards.

If the Fetchlands aren’t on the docket, then what is? I do think that the Filters are a reasonable option for this year. They were a notable omission from Modern Masters. They have extremely limited supply, as they were printed before Zendikar, which falls in the pre-DOTP era right alongside the original Thoughtseize. They’re reasonably popular with casual players, great EDH cards, and quite playable in Modern. They’ll also pair well with a year of devotion behind us, as they allow a little more flexibility in casting RR on turn two and 1UU on turn three. 

Graven Cairns

It’s possible we’ll see the Zen Fetches pop up in an auxiliary product this year, but it will be in a much more limited quantity than a fall set release. Maybe they’ll do $70 Modern precons with one Fetch each or something.

And when they finally do reprint Fetchlands in a fall set? It’s going to be the Onslaught ones. If you think Misty Rainforest is expensive, take a look at Polluted Delta. Those were first printed WAY back, when there were roughly thirty people playing Magic. There are so very few copies out there. Reprinting them first will help ease strain on Legacy manabases as well as give Modern players twice as many options, which will have the additional benefit of taking some of the pressure off the Zendikar lands.

Alright, 1200 words in and only one prediction so far. This is going great!

 

Prediction 2: A Standard mythic that is currently under $7 will be $20+ sometime this year

This is hardly a risky call, but it’s a prediction nonetheless. I believe there is currently a sleeper mythic out there that is being overlooked. Will it be Master Biomancer experiencing a surge due to Kiora and her support? Perhaps Ral Zarek will break open Nykthos in the spring set, sending him to $25? Or will it be Heliod, who can be had for under $4 on TCGPlayer, that bursts into the spotlight?

I don’t know which card it will be, but something very cheap in Standard right now is going to be a lot more expensive before the year is over.

 

Prediction 3: By the end of 2014, MTGO will still pretty much suck

We’ll get promises, patches, and untold amounts of complaining on Twitter. The end result will be that MTGO will still not be very good. Unless they hire 200 developers – today – the MTGO beta is not going to be where it needs to be by year’s end.

Prediction 4: There will be another Modern product this summer

The Modern PTQ season this year starts on June 7th, 2014. Modern Masters was released on June 7th, 2013. It’s possible it’s a coincidence, sure. But it’s also very possible that the announcement will be “The Modern PTQ season starts 6/7. Here is a bunch more Modern product.” What better way to kick off the PTQ season than with humanitarian aid full of Modern staples people need?

There’s a lot of things that product could be. It could be Modern event decks. They could simply re-release Modern Masters. Maybe we get Modern Masters Remixed, with roughly 30 cards changed. Or perhaps it’s an (unlikely) full-blown Modern Masters Two. This I don’t know.

 

Prediction 5: Magic growth will slow down

Magic has grown at an absurd rate of 25% a year for four years running. That’s awesome, but that level of growth is unsustainable. Eventually we’re going to be on the other side of that climb, and probably have a heavily-overprinted set as a result. I’m not saying Magic is going to lose players in 2014, but I bet we see that it’s not growing as fast either.

This is going to be something to pay attention to in the long term for anyone with serious money invested in the game. You don’t want to be caught holding 1,000 copies of the next Deathrite Shaman, only to find the game has shrunk a bit and the prices are not rebounding as you thought they would.

 

Prediction 6: I break 500 followers on Twitter

I’m at 482, so this one feels pretty safe. If I manage one follower every three weeks, I’ll get there. Setting the bar high! @wizardbumpin

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Do the Planeswalker Curve

By: Travis Allen

Merry Christmas!

This article goes live on December 25th, which is Christmas for a large majority of my American readers. I didn’t bring you any gifts, but I do have some words you can read about Magic on your phone at family dinner while trying to avoid conversation with irritating relatives that bought you packs of Pokemon.

I’ve become aware of a trend in Planeswalkers lately that I want to bring to your attention. I’m going to say right off the bat that this is hardly conclusive, nor is it particularly revelatory. It’s mostly a pattern I’m noticing, and whether it’s signal or noise, I can’t be sure. In any case, it’s worth being aware of.

Let’s start by taking a look at the price history of Jace, Architect of thought:

Jace

You see here that  Jace started very high, as all Planeswalkers do post-Worldwake, and dipped all the way down to about $10-$12 early this year. There was a small bump in early summer as speculators got on board, and finally in the fall he rose to ~$25, where he was looking like he could have climbed even higher had Jace vs Vraska not been announced. He now sits right around $20.

Next up, Domri Rade:

Domri

Here is a very similar curve. He dropped to ~$12, then in the fall climbed to $25+. As with Jace, he has settled around $20.

Now Chandra, Pyromaster and Garruk, Caller of Beasts:

Chandra

Garruk

 

I think you’re beginning to see a trend here. All of these Planeswalkers have done the same thing. They dip in the spring to about $8-$12, then skyrocket in the fall. This isn’t exactly new information; lots of cards from the senior block have similar curves. The reason this is worth paying attention to in this case is because the good cards are already obvious. Not many people could have identified Desecration Demon skyrocketing, and only a few saw Nightveil Specter coming. Those rares that see 1,000% increases are notoriously difficult to predict. But the Planeswalkers are easy! They’re huge, obvious, splashy cards. No thinking required. They aren’t going from $.40 to $9, but $10 to $25 is still a good chunk of profit.

This seems to be a newer trend as well. We saw something similar with Liliana of the Veil, but her low was about $18 or so. Other than that, I don’t recall so many Planeswalkers behaving similarly at the same time. It may be that they’ve ironed out power levels of the Planeswalkers a bit, so they aren’t quite as divided between “top five ever” and “not good enough for a casual deck.”

It’s also not happening with every single Planeswalker. While the ones listed above have seen spikes, Vraska and Gideon haven’t jumped yet, and they are both from the Return block as well. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

It seems that we have a fairly clear price curve for successful Planeswalkers. How can we identify them? Well, I’d say the block Pro Tour is a good place to start. Jace was all over the Top 8 of PT Dragon’s Maze, and Domri made a showing in the 18+ points list. Gideon was around, but only in Sideboards, and it doesn’t seem that Vraska showed up at all. Outside of that Pro Tour, Domri and Jace were seeing play, while Gideon and Vraska were not.

Chandra and Garruk are a little tougher to spot, simply because they didn’t have the Pro Tour to show off at. They move a lot faster; dipping within weeks of the core set release, and then spiking in sometime in October. The trick to catching core set Planeswalkers in the future will be watching for ones that seem to perform in the month and a half after release, but before rotation occurs.

This seems to make a rather compelling case that any walker that has had reasonable success prior to their first summer will be a great pickup a few months ahead of the fall set. So far out of Theros we’ve had Ashiok, Elspeth, and Xenagos, who have all seen some amount of accomplishment. Are these the three we should be watching in the fall of 2014, or will the rest of the Theros block dethrone them?

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