Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: One Last Look at Modern Masters 2015

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By: Corbin Hosler

Very rarely does something so thoroughly dominate the conversation as Modern Masters 2015 has managed to do, and it’s been a wild ride. From exciting spoilers and eco-friendly packaging to underwhelming rares and damaged and/or missing cards to the largest trading card tournament ever hosted, Modern Masters 2015 has certainly delivered in the Magic news cycle, if not in the hearts, minds, and wallets of all players.

That said, we’re finally moving past Modern Masters 2015 and into the time of Magic Origins. I think I’ve written about Modern Masters sets four of the last five weeks or something crazy like that. It’s not usually my style to harp on things for so long, but every week when I’ve sat down to write it has felt like this is the set we’re most interested in hearing more about, and the one on the forefront of people’s minds.

 

 

Barring any unforeseen developments, it seems like that time is finally moving behind us. I’m not promising no more Modern articles (after all, I’m working Grand Prix Charlotte this weekend, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Modern metagame adapts after last week’s Invitational), but I do think I’ll be done talking about Modern Masters 2015 before too long.

That said, there are some odds and ends in my coverage of the set I want to put in order before I close the book on it. Thus far, I’ve focused on the hype, the early movements, the fallout from Vegas, and what effect the additional printings have had on prices.

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What I haven’t done is talk about the future of the set: where it’s going, what cards are good pickups now versus what will be good in a year, what cards to stay away from, etc. I’ve had a few requests for this type of analysis, and I want to make sure I take care of that before moving on.

So, with the preamble out of the way, I’ll dig in. The plan is to treat this somewhat like my typical set review, highlighting cards I feel strongly about one way or another.

Pick-Ups Now

Let’s start at the top, with the cards I believe have bottomed out in price already and will be trending upward from this point forward. In some senses, this applies to much of the set, but I want to use this first section to talk about those cards that are going to move back up the quickest.

The shortlist is pretty, well, short:

There are a few others I could maybe throw onto this list, but I want to be clear about why this is my shortlist. These are not the only cards that have bottomed out, but they are the ones I believe will stay bottomed out for the least amount of time. In other words, these highly-played cards will see a price rebound much sooner than some of the other cards in the set for which I believe there is more time to pick up.

crypticcommand

But these are the most desirable cards in the set, and the time they’re bottoming out is now, and it won’t be for long. The only true question mark is, with Grand Prix Charlotte this weekend being Modern, if we’ll see an effect similar to Grand Prix Richmond last year, where prices spike leading up to the event and then trail off afterward. That remains to be determined, but for now there’s not much to indicate that these cards will stay at this lower level for too long.

The Next Tier

Here we have the cards that I believe are good pickups, but not quite as pressing. Think of things like Lava Spike from the first Modern Masters. We knew it would be a good pickup, but it’s taken until this year (two years later) to really pay off.

These cards exist in Modern Masters 2015 as well, and I wanted to highlight a few of them.

Eldrazi

Prices are still trending downward on these, and I expect that to continue for another few weeks or even months. I’m not sure how much further these have to fall, but chances are it’s another $5 or so. Keep an eye for the bottom on these moving forward, and buy in there. These are going to be great gainers over the next few years, even if Battle for Zendikar comes along and gives us new, cool Eldrazi. Chances are these original Big Three™ won’t be replaced, they’ll simply be added to a larger roster.

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On this note, I like Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple, as well. Temple is something that will quickly become a forgotten-about uncommon and a solid pickup, but I think the better bet is Eye. This thing is great in Commander, gets played in Modern, and will look especially impressive after we return to Zendikar and get more Eldrazi for it to play with.

Other cards I put in this category of “good pick-ups a month or two from now”:

Splinter Twin

I know this is an extensive list, but I’m trying to be as complete as possible. I expect all of these to bottom out in the next few weeks to months, but the main thing I want you take away from this list is that these are still staples. They’re going to fall lower and for a long time we’re going to take for granted that’s there’s enough of them to go around. But before you know it, it’s going to be 2016 and these are going to pull a Deceiver Exarch on us and shoot back up in price.

The Long-Term Only

Next up are the cards I believe are worth setting aside from your boxes, but will take significantly longer to rebound. For instance, Stonehewer Giant would be the poster child for this category in the original Modern Masters, and I think Creakwood Liege takes over that role this time around.

Still, these are worth setting aside. Throw them in the trade binder now rather than part with them for pennies on the dollar, and these will have the opportunity to make you money in a few years. On that note, there’s no rush to acquire these cards, but remember this list when we’re back in the summer doldrums a year from now and you need something to turn Standard stock into.

Commons/Uncommons

You definitely don’t want to forget about these, and I’ve seen a distressing number of these in draft leftovers already. Remember that something like Vines of Vastwood is a common that was super expensive (for a common) before the reprint, and will likely climb back to there before all is said and done. Just make a small box of these and lose it in the closet for a few years.

Special Cases

Foils

Before I wrap up, I want to hit on a few more things in the set, starting with some nice cards to pick up in foil, largely due to their Commander playability.

Conclusions

Largely, I think there’s still some room to fall for most of the set, and I’m not dying to tear into these in trade just yet. But I hope by breaking the set down in clear categories, I’ve been able to outline my strategy with this set going forward.

Of course, all of this is just my opinion on how to approach the future of Modern Masters 2015. What are your plans?

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at MTGPrice.com - it's free!

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Gods and Generals, Part 1

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Maybe the title could have been “Gods as Generals,” because that’s what we’re going to talk about this week.

I feel like all of you are teaching me more than I am teaching you, which is edifying for me to say the least. Last week, my article had been up for 24 hours with zero comments, causing me to wonder whether anyone at all had read it. “That’s silly,” I thought to myself. “I bought my mother ProTrader access so she could read my articles and print them out and put them on the refrigerator so every time she went to get out some OJ she could be reminded that her favorite son was a writer and that spending $60,000 on a chemistry degree wasn’t a waste of money but rather a sound investment in a bright future.” I put a comment about how no comments meant no one was saying anything negative, and I got a lot of comments after that. Some of them were even about the article and not about the fact that it was behind the ProTrader paywall! Some of them.

And the ones that weren’t whining from poor people (it’s $5, guys. You make more than $5 a month if you get in a month late on a mediocre spec tip) were very insightful. I would have eventually gotten around to tackling the Theros block gods as spec targets in a future article. In fact, I’m such a professional, it’s likely I would have gotten around to it before rotation.  Possibly before every other financier wrote their articles about what to dump and pick up at rotation. This isn’t my first rodeo. Also, I’m not so bad at this that I think the upcoming set rotation is a rodeo.  That said, there are a few cards that, come rotation, I will be… bullish… about.

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Let’s talk about EVERY THEROS GOD and how I feel about their current prices, because the gods are sicko EDH cards, after all. Let’s start with the monocolored ones and get as far as we can today.

Erebos, God of the Dead

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This guy is falling off as we pass peak supply and Standard players realize they don’t give a wet fart about a Greed that can attack for five. That’s cool! While I don’t necessarily know I want this guy as my general, I have found quite a few decklists that feature him, including one I featured in an article. Erebos is also pretty dandy as part of the 99. He’s a damn Greed on feet, remember? In a deck lousy with black enchantments like Painful Quandary, No Mercy, and Polluted Bonds, this guy is dope.

I actually don’t think he’s done plummeting, though, and I think he could be around $3 at rotation. I would say I am like a 3/5 when it comes to how excited I am about picking this guy up at $3.


Before we move on, let’s talk about something I should have introduced at the very top but didn’t think about until now. Gods strike me vaguely like the planeswalkers did, but back in Lorwyn. Remember when there were only five planeswalkers? They were all money. They continued to be money approximately forever. Like, until the exact second that I said, “I feel pretty good about targeting any planeswalker that isn’t named Tibalt that’s under $5,” and then WOTC went, “Really, douchebag?” and printed approximately infinity RTR Jaces until they were $3 (and yet the price of Remand remained relatively undisturbed, go figure) and now people are emailing me saying, “Hey, you said planeswalkers under $5 were good so I spent my kid’s college fund on Duel Deck Vraska! Keep up the good articles,” and it makes me want to see which make and model of pistol has the tastiest barrel. Planeswalkers are the new hydras, readers. But I guess that’s okay since gods are the new planeswalkers.

It seems like they always will be, too, right? Gods are way harder to reprint in another block. They are legendary as hell and they need to be enchantment creatures with devotion. What are the odds we get both mechanics back if we revisit this plane in like five or ten years? Even if we do come back sooner than that, we will have made a ton of money on gods before then and won’t care. I feel good about a lot of them. Durdles will want to treat the gods like Pokémon and catch ’em all, and since most of them don’t suck in EDH, they’re pretty solid. So I guess I’ll give each god we discuss today a score out of five about how bullish I am about them at rotation.

I don’t know why I’m sort of asking you. This is my column, I can do anything I want. I could grade them on a scale from fart noise to confetti and you couldn’t do a thing about it.


Anyway, let’s get back to Erebos and look at his foil price.

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That’s a graph only a mother could love. I am really loving this price/spread overlay view because it shows what two different “markets” are thinking. Players are thinking, “Yeah, $15ish foil seems fine,” and dealers are thinking, “Get that out of my face.” The price is tailing off a bit and it’s lagging behind the dealer buy price, which is tailing off precipitously. Dealers are not buying these before rotation and you shouldn’t either, not even the foils.

Since Erebos is useful as a general as well as in the 99, I do think the foils are pretty good. This seems like this could be a $20ish card in a few years. Why not? It’s a foil mythic that sees EDH play both as a commander and as a role-player in decks that aren’t necessarily multiplayer. Basically every new player who bought the Eternal Bargain deck and saw a Greed in it will drool over Erebos (or has already, hence the initial demand) and I don’t expect anything to make Erebos obsolete in his role as “best Greed variant ever.” If you wouldn’t play a 5/7 for four mana, or a Greed, or an “opponents can’t gain life” enchantment, perhaps you’d play all three. This card is fine, and if the foil dips below $10, I may crank my enthusiasm for the foil up to 4/5. Yeah. Ballsy. I am not going to give half measurements like “4.5/5” because at that point, you’re saying “9/10 but do some math, readers,” and I’m not about that life. A rating of 4/5 seems okay for a foil god like Erebos at around $8, a number that seems almost absurd because you’re approaching non-foil Garruk Wildspeaker money at that point and gods can be your generals, which is even cooler.

Heliod, God of the Sun

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Wow, the market price is like, whatever, but the dealer price is showing fascinating behavior. It appears that Heliod, by virtue of being mana-hungry and durdly, made dealers hit a minimum “shits given” threshold and it looks like players were right there with them. The TCGplayer price is relatively flat, and that could be due to a lack of sales as much as it could be due to price equilibrium establishing itself. I feel like there is a pretty sweet narrative going on here and I bet it took place at a lot of PTQ and GP booths.

Dealer: “Those are the cards I want.”

Player: “What about Heliod?”

Dealer: “Yes, what about Heliod? What about him indeed?”

Player: “What will you give me? I paid $8 for this guy, give me something.”

Dealer: “I am not the least bit interested.”

Player: “Come on, man! I need money for [spray paint or drugs or diapers or whatever the hell kids these days are buying].

Dealer: “I will give you one whole dollar.”

Player: “… yeah, fine.”

As a dealer, you can’t really pass up a chance at a card that’s likely $5 to $6 in a few years if someone is coming off of it for $1, even if it is Heliod and no one is that jazzed about him. After a while, the conversation took a turn.

Player: “Got a Heliod with your name on it.”

Dealer: “I will give you seventy-five cents.”

Player: “I wouldn’t fart in your mouth for seventy-five cents.”

Dealer: “Okay, a dollar. Damn.”

When dealers could no longer get them for $0.75, they bumped the price back up to a “still insulting” $1. I think this is just about the minimum buy price at rotation. If  any god goes below $1, or hell, goes below $2 and wasn’t dirt cheap already, that’s probably a decent snag. If you can pay at rotation what dealers are paying now, congrats, you’re thinking like a dealer. They know there is upside at $1. I’m like a 5/5 at $1 or less on these at rotation, which is handy because I don’t see rotation making the price go up.

Personally, I want to build an entire Heliod deck. Serra’s Sanctum is just yearning to tap for a million mana and fart out a ton of 2/1 clerics. Can you imagine Sphere of Safety if you have two dozen enchantment clerics out? Norn’s Annex, Ghostly Prison, hell, Test of Endurance for all the life you gain when you spit out a ton of clerics with Suture Priest in play. You can build pillow fort and use Heliod to give you all the enchantments you’ll ever need. This is a non-traditional general and mono-white tends to feel bad in EDH, so I expect the foil to be reasonable right now.

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While dealers had to raise their buy prices a bit to keep the supply steady, no one seems to pay the foil much mind. I imagine it dips even more at rotation. I think if the foil hits $5, I’m in, but I’m like a 2/5 on the foil here. Foils have higher upside, but they do have some “new card smell” tax built in when they first rotate. This isn’t a super exciting EDH god for people who aren’t lunatics like me, so I am not going that deep. Obviously, under $5 is absurd for a foil mythic god as you approach its current non-foil buy price. At $1 for the foils, I would spend enough money to make the price go up by sheer virtue of how many I bought. At its current price, I’m a 1/5. I imagine this dips at rotation since none of its price is predicated on Standard or Modern or… being played by anyone at all, really. Sure, maybe I’ll revolutionize 75% EDH with my clericgasm deck, but this is probably just the weakest of the cycle and his price won’t recover until people forgive him for shiv-ing Elspeth in the McRibs.

It’s fair to say that I have talked too much at this point and I’m not going to make it to the ten multicolored gods. I was told to keep my articles “around 2,000 words” and I’m going to hit that before we finish this paragraph. Could I cut some preamble or my dealer skit? Yes, maybe. I could also cut your face. Cut you bad. Cut you so bad, your mama would cry. You want your mom to cry? Okay, then. How about I vastly exceed my word count mandate, upset my editor, give you some bonus content, and see if I can’t squeeze the rest of the gods in next week? I didn’t expect to find this much to talk about when I conceived of the topic, but discovering things that bear discussion is always fun for me and gives me the enthusiasm to barrel through. Three more gods to go—don’t get squeemish on me now. This next one should be easy.

Nylea, God of the Hunt

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I figured we’d see stronger behavior from this card, as it’s played in a (fringe) devotion deck in Modern and isn’t a terrible EDH card. I actually kind of like this in decks like Omnath if you need a mana sink or a win condition. Giving Omnath trample is non-trivial and if Omnath dies, dumping the mana into an alpha strike at one or many players is worth doing. The Modern devotion deck is silly but functional. It seems like that modicum of non-casual play gave the card a multiplier over the price of Heliod, but the dealer behavior is even less encouraging. Dealers want to pay the exact same $1 for Nylea that they’re paying for Heliod and it seems like players, enchanted (pardon the pun) by dargons and knuckleblades and commands, are letting go of the gods.

You don’t want Nylea as your general. At all. Ever. That limits the upside of this card quite a bit. The Modern play only appears to tack a buck or two onto the price and dealers don’t seem all that convinced they need to pay competitively to get these. Their total lack of enthusiasm for this card is contagious. I like these at about a 1/5 unless they are like a buck at rotation. Could this get back to its current price in a few years? I think maybe it could. I think you are safe paying what dealers are paying right before rotation if people are dumping. Still, the slight rise in Heliod’s buy price shows that players are reluctant to take an insulting number on a god, and paying more than “an insult” may be a liability. I’d be careful here.

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Ugh. $10ish? Why? Modern? It’s not EDH doing this. Dealers are paying just about 50 percent of this card’s value on the button and their price is roughly descending along with the retail price in a curious way. They are reluctant to stop paying real numbers on this card, but who’s buying? This has been a $10 foil for like an entire year and it’s puzzling. I’m sure this dips at rotation because it can’t hold its current price, but unless the bottom falls out entirely, I’m not bullish on the foil. Still, if this hits $5ish, I will feel very differently. This is seeing no Constructed play outside of that fringe Modern deck and it’s only okay in EDH, and that has kept the price from fluctuating much. That said, Erebos’s foil hasn’t tailed off much, and maybe that reflects dealers’ reluctance to rock the boat and TCGplayer sellers’ reluctance to race to the bottom.

Curiously, there are a lot of foils available on TCGplayer. Even with competition amongst dealers, these aren’t really moving a ton. But with foils, people who want them for EDH will buy immediately or wait quite a long time. Rotation could be what the patient players are waiting for. Still, with a lot of loose copies that need to get soaked up before the price will increase along with tepid demand compared to better gods, I’d need to see the foil hit $4 or $5 before I even give this a 2/5, which is so odd considering Nylea has more non-EDH utility than Erebos or Heliod. Still, who’s foiling their fringe Modern deck that has Primeval Titan in it? Curious goings-on here, to be sure.

Purphoros, God of the Forge

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This is demonstrating some odd behavior. The spread became virtually non-existent very recently, then dealers backed way off. Let them. This is the money god.

Out of all of the original five, Purphoros is the best in EDH. At his current price, I give him a 3/5. If he hits $3, my score opinion will change to, “What score do I give him out of 5 at $3? His power and toughness.”

Purphoros is nutty. He’s unfair in Prossh decks. As a commander, he’s equally nutty, allowing you to KO people with a single tap of a Krenko. He’s bannably good in EDH and he may be the best god of the 15. Let that sink in. He can be had for twice the cost of Heliod, a god that failed to garner a following to such an extent that his buy price fell to below a dollar. This is the guy to watch, this is the guy to pounce on, and this guy alone is the one that had me wrack my brain for reprint scenarios. How do we get blown out here? FTV Gods? Commander’s Arsenal? I don’t see it. Commander’s Arsenal, by the way, is basically the only way we will ever see a foil reprint. What’s the foil doing?

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Yes…yesss. Plummet, buy price. Drag the retail price down along with you. Good. GOOOOOD.

I am bullish at below $15 here, honestly. That said, with essentially none of this price predicated on Standard play, I have no idea how much the foil will go down at rotation, if at all. Still, any discount you get is good. If you can buy these for cash from players at rotation, go ham. I am in for X of these at $12 or below. This is a $20 minimum foil in a few years, barring a catastrophe like a reprint, but the foil seems safe from that fate.

This card is bugnutty in EDH and I’m very excited about the prospect of the price going down. If the price doesn’t move at rotation, I’d leave it alone. The price is probably currently too low, but I don’t know if there is a ton of upside. I’d give this a 2/5 for the foil at its current price just because it feels so… correct right now. Could this be $50 in a few years? Sure, but is EDH that much of a driving force? We’d need something in a four-of format to boost prices that much, so let’s take a hard look at this price and wait for rotation.

Thassa, God of the Sea

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This is what a price predicated on four-of formats looks like. It’s actually basically as sad as the others, honestly. Gods have been all but abandoned in Standard in favor of multi-color decks that worry less about permanents and devotion and worry more about KOing faces. Mono-Blue Devotion rocketed this plucky god to superstardom, but these days the former star is closer to Marky Mark in the second half of Boogie Nights than she is to Marky Mark in the first half of Boogie Nights. I think this card has the farthest to fall, which is handy because it has the most reason to. Price memory is propping this up to a large extent, even though it sees only a modicum of play in Modern and its days in Standard are basically over.

This is pretty good in EDH, actually, but I feel like it’s underplayed. The scry is non-trivial and making a creature unblockable is sweet. I can see Thassa making all kinds of creatures connect: Thada Adel, Daxos, or basically any general. It’s underplayed in EDH and that may continue, as it’s also pretty much useless as a general.

Its current price has me hesitant, but with dealer confidence plummeting, I feel like the retail price could be $3 or less at rotation, and with its Modern playability and EDH potential, I’m a 3/5 or 4/5 at that price point. Dealers are paying that now, but they want to pay less, clearly. If you look at dealer buy price a few weeks before the fall set is released and target that as a retail price, you are probably going to be okay at rotation. If you can pay a couple bucks less and get copies from players, even better.

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I don’t like the foil price at all, and I’m not sure what’s doing it. Price memory? Even the dealers aren’t that eager to pay less than they are right now and that seems really dumb. I don’t know if this is going to dip enough at rotation for me to care about it and I’m super bearish on it unless it cuts more than half of the current price. With the current value predicated mostly on price memory and Modern playability, the picture is very muddy. I’m calling this basically a 1/5 unless it gets so cheap that you don’t need my advice about whether to buy it. Corbin wants to foil out his Modern Merfolk deck—maybe he’s propping the price up. I’m just so meh about this foil.

Whole Lotta Words

There you have it. This was way longer than I was supposed to make it, but I wasn’t about to make this sub-series take a month or write about fewer than five gods today.

Keep giving me feedback in the comments section, because even if I come up with a good idea, I’ll write about what you want me to write about, unless your idea is terrible. In that case, I’ll send Corbin or Travis a text making fun of you, but I won’t do it publicly because I’m trying to work on being more “approachable” and “managing my brand” and “not getting any more death threats.” So keep the comments coming. Thanks for reading, nerds.


 

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Is Modern Masters 2015 Bottoming Out?

By: Travis Allen

I normally try to write some sort of opening that segues into my article in order to ease readers into dense material and establish my voice as a writer. I’m on a bunch of painkillers today, though, so we’re just going to jump in.

Study 1: Modern Masters

Two years ago, when the first Modern Masters released, prices drove off a cliff. On many price graphs of original editions, there’s a right angle heading south in mid to late May 2013. Future Sight copies of Tarmogoyf, which had been $170 to $180, were now in the $110 to $120 range. Cryptic Command dropped from $45 to $30. Vendilion Clique from $60 to $45 or or so. Wizards’ goal was to take a whack at staple prices without flattening them, and the set did a great job—in the first few weeks.

goyf 91-115

It only took a month or two before prices on original printings began rebounding. Stores had trouble keeping boxes of MMA in stock at 30 percent above MSRP, which was driving prices up across the board. Lorwyn and Morningtide copies of Cryptic Command and Vendilion Clique didn’t wait long to begin regaining their lost value.

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clique 75-122

Meanwhile, the MMA copies didn’t waste any time at all. They came out of the gate at prices reduced from the original printings, of course, but that would be the lowest they’d ever make it. Take a look at the MMA printings of the same two cards, Cryptic and Clique, from day zero.

cryptic 63-105

clique 52-105

Both cards either stayed steady or rose immediately, at no point dropping below their initial prices.

Overall, here’s what we saw during the first MMA release: Original printings dropped in value around launch, as was to be expected. After all, it was the first time many of these cards were seeing a second printing. Several weeks later, they began regaining their lost value, and about a year later, they were fully recovered, if not above where they had been before Modern Masters. MMA printings of the cards started out at the lowest price they’d ever be, climbed immediately, saw little or no meaningful loss in value, and eventually skyrocketed in the spring of 2014, when the set saw huge gains across the board.

You got all that? Everything started low, gained value within a few weeks or even immediately, and never looked back.

Study 2: Modern Masters in 2015

Let’s turn our attention now to the cards in Modern Masters 2015 that were also in the original Modern Masters. The major question on everyone’s mind is, “When will the set hit the floor?” The obvious implication is that when we find the floor, that’s the time to buy.

I’m of the belief that we’re probably either there now, we’ve passed it already, or we’re within five to ten percent of it. While initially many of us were expecting to see considerably reduced prices on some of the rare staples, I don’t think we’re getting that low. Jason Alt and a few others, myself included, were discussing at one point getting in on Noble Hierarch at $14. I’m now about as confident as one can be in this field that we’re never getting that low, nor even close to it.

Let’s take a look at the behavior of a few cards to see how things are shaping up. Keep in mind that we’re only a few weeks past the release date, so we don’t have boatloads of data to work with yet. We’re looking for small indicators that are going to tell us where things are headed. Don’t expect to see major upward movements on price graphs yet, because that would mean that we had already missed the floor.

Here’s the MMA printing of Tarmogoyf in the last fifteen weeks.

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We see that the Fair Trade Price has drifted from $210 in the middle of December last year to between $180 and $190 today. That’s a loss of roughly 12 percent, and the price hasn’t started to turn up yet. Check out the buylist prices, though, which is the blue line. It’s at its lowest point early in May: $106. On June 6, just a few days ago, it was $110. We’re already seeing the buylist increase on the MMA copy, just a scant few weeks after the release of MM2. Buylist prices are often indicators of future retail pricing. They’re an excellent way of gauging true demand.

How about the MMA copy of Vendilion Clique?

clique 0-17

We see a big drop in the Fair Trade Price in mid-April, from $75 to a low of about $58. A few days ago the price was already up to $60, and hasn’t been below that point yet. Meanwhile, the buylist price bottomed out at around $38, and has since climbed to $40.

Cryptic Command has seen more noticeable changes.

cc 0-15

Prices in early March and April were in the $55 to $60 range. On June 1, we can see a sharp drop to $35 (although this may be the result of some funny data). The price quickly springs back up, and as of June 8, the Fair Trade Price is already $44, up considerably from June 1.

The buylist line shows that there’s more to this than just retail prices behaving oddly. It cratered around May 10, but has already begun to see a good uptick at the end: from a low of $21 to $25 today. Is this the beginning of a rapid recovery for Cryptic Command?

New Phyrexia’s Karn Liberated has perhaps the most impressive stats of any of these.

karn

In the last 30 weeks, his price has…not really changed. On November 11, his Fair Trade Price was $46.36. As of June 8, it’s $46.58. You can see the launch of MM2 between the May and June markers, with a drop in his trade price to $42, but by the time we hit late May, it’s already climbed back up. His buylist numbers remain consistent as well: $28 on November 10 and $28 today. What we’re seeing here is that Karn has barely been affected at all by the reprint.

Let’s do another recap. Since MM2015’s release, the previous edition of staples (Tarmogoyf, Vendilion Clique, Cryptic Command, and Karn Liberated) have seen the loss in value we expect with a reprint, and have since either begun to level off or increase in price since their recent lows. What we may be seeing here—I can’t be certain—is that the floor of format staples has been reached. If the trends established with those four cards remain consistent, it means they’ve already bottomed out, and will be increasing in price as we move forward. How are the MM2 copies of some of these cards looking?

Study 3: Modern Masters 2015

fish goyf

We’re seeing virtually no change in the MM2 edition of Tarmogoyf’s price. It starts at $165 on May 8 and is $160 as of this writing on June 8. That’s a three-percent loss in thirty days. It’s a loss, yes, but three percent is arguably negligible in a market as volatile as this. There’s certainly no indication that a major downturn is on the horizon.

fish hierarch

Hierarch has lost about seven percent since May 8. Notice that around May 23, the price is actually a bit lower than it is today. In fact, it’s visible in Tarmogoyf’s graph as well, although it’s a bit tougher to see. Is it possible that prices bottomed out on the 23rd, just a day after the Modern Masters 2015 official release?

fish mage

Fulminator Mage is funky compared to the others, and I’m not sure what to make of this data. It’s worth noting that it both starts and ends at $20 though.

fish clique

Vendilion Clique looks like Hierarch and Tarmogoyf: the lowest point on the graph is the 23rd, and today’s price is only a few percentage points away from the starting price.

I’m not sure that everything has bottomed out yet, though. Here’s MM2 Elesh Norn:

fish eleshWe see a pretty steady 20-percent loss from release.

fish iona

Iona has suffered similarly.

Conclusions

We know that after the printing of Modern Masters in 2013, across the board cards lost value. This wasn’t surprising. Then, while cards like Stonehewer Giant languished in bulk bins, and still do today, the true format staples bounced back quickly. Meanwhile, the MMA copies of format staples such as Dark Confidant never got much lower than their price  upon release. If we use these findings to guide our expectations, we see that the same trends are already emerging in Modern Masters 2015.

Similar behavior is noticeable in two places. The most recent printings of cards in MM2 (MMA Tarmogoyf, NPH Karn Liberated, etc.)  seem to have already stopped dropping, and in some places, may even be rising. MM2 copies of high-demand cards, such as Noble Hierarch, have seen either no loss or negligible loss since release.

Here’s where I am right now: I’m getting the impression that true format staples, the four-ofs, have just about found their floors. The other accessory rares and mythics that are powerful but that aren’t quite at the level of Tarmogoyf and Noble Hierarch are still suffering.

Our takeaway is that now is probably the time to buy into the absolute cream of the crop, because if they aren’t at their floor, they’re damn close. If you buy Tarmogoyfs and Cryptic Commands now, there are two outcomes: either they aren’t cheaper again for another two years, meaning you couldn’t have done any better, or they drop from where they are today, but probably only a few percentage points, and you don’t have to feel bad at all.

Why shouldn’t you feel bad if you didn’t buy at the absolute floor? At any time, any of these cards could spike hard. There aren’t as many new copies in the wild as people seem to think, and vendors have gotten a lot more aggressive with forcing the issue in the last few years. Maybe StarCity decides that Cryptic Command shouldn’t be less than $40, and just buys every copy on the market. Or Noble Hierarch. Or Mox Opal. Basically, if you buy now, you’re either getting in at rock-bottom prices or extremely close to them. If you wait, you only stand to save yourself a few bucks on what could easily be a $100 to $200+ purchase, and you also run the risk of getting blown out by sudden market movement.

Consider Mox Opal. Copies are available for about $35 right now, down from $60+. How much cheaper do you really think it can go? Do you expect it to keep dropping and dropping down to $20? If it hasn’t happened already, when three GP’s worth of cards were just opened and 60%+ of MM2 stock that will be opened this year just hit the market, why would it suddenly occur weeks or moths from now?

Recommendations

Here are the mythics and rares from Modern Masters 2015 that I wouldn’t feel bad about buying today:

 

 

 

 

  

If I don’t have it listed (Leyline of Sanctity, Splinter Twin, etc.), then I’m advocating staying away for now. These cards still seem to be on the decline. Is it possible they don’t level off, and instead just bounce straight back up? Sure. And if you are in desperate need of Splinter Twins, then you could do worse than locking in at today’s prices and being comfortable with that. If you can manage waiting, though, I would.

The list above is also my MM2 trade list—I’ll be happy to pick up any extras of these. I don’t think you can go wrong trading for any of these cards at retail today, and I think we’ll see pleasant gains on all of them between now and the end of the year. Hopefully they won’t have skyrocketed by October and I’ll be able to shovel money into them ahead of February next year.

Lessons Learned

It’s wild how fast the staples in Modern Masters 2015 seem to have leveled off. Initially we were thinking a month to three. Now it’s looking like half the chase cards in the set are on the rise and we aren’t even at Origins yet. We can probably stop using Chronicles as a reference point.

This set is a good indicator of how to think about reprints in the future. If it’s a tier-one staple and we’re expecting reprints in a non-Standard legal product, then we have nothing to fear. Supplemental product reprints just don’t seem to move the needle much on competitive staples.

Casual staples get hit hard, though, as we’ve seen time and time again. I’d warn against stockpiling too much money in any pricey casual specs. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth has lost 25 percent of his value so far, and I don’t think he’s done falling. That’s a big hit for such an awesome kitchen-table card. I would bet a card like Consecrated Sphinx would take an even larger hit, maybe a 50- to 75-percent  loss if reprinted.

Do you agree with  me that we’ve found the floor? Are there cards you think we’re better off waiting on, or that we should be buying now?


 

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Lessons Learned from GP Vegas

Two hours.

That’s the buffer someone important recommends when flying domestically. Being a classic rule-follower, I tend to adhere to such recommendations. Therefore, when my flight leaving Grand Prix Las Vegas was set for 9:10am, you could have bet the farm that I’d be walking through security at around 7.

That left me with two hours to reflect on my trip to the largest Magic event of all time while sitting at my gate in McCarran International Airport. But rather than thinking through my sick draws and tough beats throughout the event, I found my mind drifting more towards the financial lessons I learned while there. These lessons shaped my entire experience and have made me a much better financier.

I could spend this week writing about my performance in the main event, but doing so would mean an incredibly short article. As it turns out, I was one of the many hundred players who dropped before the event really got going. I wasn’t eager to battle in one event all weekend – I simply had too many other priorities planned. So when my sealed pool contained a foil Cryptic Command and a nonfoil Elesh Norn, I immediately decided to drop. Did I extract 100% of what I paid to enter the event? Close, but probably not. Did I make the right decision in dropping, allowing me to explore a number of other engagements and discussions? Absolutely.

Foil Cryptic

Luckily the story of my main event participation is already over. Now I can focus on the important stuff. This week my hope is to document the tidbits I learned about MTG Finance & negotiation so that you and I can benefit when participating in future events.

Top Objectives for GP Vegas

Heading into the event, I had mentally listed out three primary goals and a number of secondary ones.

Objective 1a: Purge as much MTG inventory as possible, leveraging top buy prices online and TCG Low to ensure profitable sales were made.

Objective 1b: Network network network by connecting with as many Twitter people I follow as possible.

Objective 1c: Acquire some Old School MTG cards (aka 93/94) to begin building a deck for this incredible format, preferably at good prices.

Other Objectives: Play in some side events, do a little gambling, watch some hockey, etc.

I thoroughly prepared for this event by looking up the top buy prices of all my cards and tabulating the data alongside TCG Low pricing. Doing so ensured I would be selling to a given vendor near the top range of buy prices, extracting as much value from my collection as possible. This strategy yielded tremendous success as I managed to buy list nearly everything I wanted to at target pricing. In many cases I was even able to negotiate with vendors by highlighting their competitors’ buy prices. Paul Feudo (@plfeudo), buyer for MTG Deals, deserves special thanks for his openness to negotiation and for buying nearly all of my Shock Lands at top dollar.

Fountain

My advanced networking with Twitter people also paid tremendous dividends. I met so many new people in the MTG community; I can’t fathom listing them all. By keeping engaged with Twitter throughout the event, I had many opportune meet-ups with some of my favorite Magic players. Highlights included the Friday lunch coordinated by the MTG Finance community, watching hockey and grabbing dinner with Andrew Magrini (@A_Magrini) Friday night, Saturday evening with a group of awesome people, Saturday drafting with Kaesi Corne (@GirlOnNerds), and Sunday drafting with MTGPrice’s own Corbin Hosler (@Chosler88).

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

My preparedness for objectives 1a and 1b was top notch, enabling me to accomplish both goals with impressive results. I met a ton of people and I sold a ton of cards at solid prices. Check!

This is around where Vegas luck had to kick in, because my preparations for acquiring old school cards were severely lacking. Sure, I looked up prices on a few cards I was eager to acquire.  But my research was insufficient. Guardian Beast was towards the top of my want list, but I hadn’t realized how few copies would be for sale at the event. What condition was I okay with? What was I prepared to pay for a Chaos Orb? How good of a deal would I need on a Mox in order to pull the trigger? Who had the lowest prices on Juzam Djinn?

GUardian Beast

Sadly I had no definitive answers to these questions. So when faced with certain decisions – especially ones which were not obvious win/lose situations – I hesitated. Such hesitation nearly cost me some very attractive deals.

For example, I was alerted to one vendor’s favorable buy prices on moderately played dual lands by @LengthyXemit. They were offering around $125 on Tropical Islands, $160 on Volcanic Islands, and $180 on Underground Seas. Prices even went higher from there for SP copies!

Trop

This left me with a new question I hadn’t prepared for in advance: am I willing to sell my duals at roughly TCG Low minus 10% to free up cash and acquire some larger old school cards I wanted? After sleeping on the prospect I decided to pull the trigger.

The selling part was easy – I had TCG Player open, comparing quoted prices to what vendors had listed for sale. Most prices checked out.

Armed with the resources necessary, I hopped from booth to booth browsing high end cards in the hopes of finding a deal. I could not have been more unprepared for this shopping experience. Prices on high end cards are highly condition-dependent, and I hadn’t done any advance research to prepare for such a purchase. Completely lost, I reached out to Xemit for his guidance.

He connected me with one particular vendor. Through open discussion, the contact mentioned to me his eagerness to sell some high end staples in order to raise some much-needed funds. Turns out they ran out of cash early in the event! I subtly indicated I’d be willing to pay cash if the price was right.

We didn’t haggle long – he gave me his best price on a key card I was after. What DID take too long was my hesitancy. I sat there hemming and hawing, unsure if the offered price was truly the best. I began second guessing myself, and the vendor nearly lost patience with me as I asked him to take cards out of my binder to act as credit towards the purchase. Luckily Xemit stepped in and highlighted to me other vendors’ buy prices for the card in question. That was all the convincing I needed, and I was fortunate to pull the trigger just moments before the vendor changed his mind.

That same day I serendipitously stopped by the Aether Games booth to say hi at precisely the right time. They had just picked up an HP Juzam Djinn, which they knew I was after throughout the event. The offer Kyle (@itsyourboyLOPE) made was highly attractive, but once again I felt ill-prepared. My hesitation nearly cost me again! Xemit was nearby, and he confidently stated he would make the purchase if I wouldn’t. Fortunately I didn’t give him the chance, as I paid up almost immediately after he made the statement.

Juzam

You’d think these two experiences taught me the lesson – indecisiveness is a major turn-off to vendors who are incredibly busy buying and selling at the largest Magic event of all time. Unfortunately, my thick-headedness required a third such experience before I would absorb the information.

Once again Kyle Lopez of Aether Games came across some nostalgic cards I was after. Only this time I walked by while Kyle was in the process of buying the cards I wanted.

Commence awkwardness.

Kyle looked up the two cards in question – an HP Chaos Orb and a Tawnos’s Coffin, and he made a simultaneous offer. He offered a given price to buy the cards from the seller, and then offered to sell me both copies for about $10 more in total. My hesitation nearly killed Kyle. Not only was it unprofessional for me to remain indecisive, but it also incorrectly reflected a lack of appreciation on my part. Kyle was doing me a favor that no other vendors in the room would probably consider, and I didn’t have the knowledge to make a call promptly.

With time nearly expired in Kyle’s mental clock, I was fortunate to come to my senses. A quick head-nod, and I became the proud owner of two 93/94 cards at just a few bucks over buylist. Xemit didn’t have to scold me as we walked away (although he did) – I was already scolding myself plenty.

Old Dog and New Tricks

Fortunately I did not make the same mistake a fourth time. I finally learned the power of decisiveness and I wasn’t about to forfeit the knowledge so soon. Sunday night as the event neared a close, I managed to acquire a final high-end card for a favorable price. I obtained the favorable deal by making a decisive offer and stating I was ready to pay cash should the vendor accept. They hesitated a moment, but ultimately gave me the deal! I was elated! Confidence does matter and it can play a huge role when negotiating deals with vendors.  We are emotional beings, and we tend to look favorably upon people who exude confidence – something I had lacked throughout most the event.

While I was selling cards, I was fully prepared. Listing all my cards out along with their top buy prices in advance meant I could confidently negotiate and seek out top dollar from vendors. But my research ended there, leaving me weak-handed at the table when negotiating to purchase the cards I was after.

It took me a while to learn this lesson, but I finally got there after a few near-misses. It turns out you can teach this old dog some new tricks.

Wrapping it Up

Grand Prix Vegas was a tremendously valuable experience, educating me on a number of important MTG Finance matters. Next time I attend a major event such as this one, I’ll make sure to do far more advanced research on the buying side. A lack of preparation nearly cost me a number of attractive deals. Given my indecisive nature, I need to go above and beyond what the average person may do when planning out a buying strategy.

I also picked up other tidbits of useful info. I learned that Zendikar basics are buy listing for as much as $0.75 each now (I cashed out of mine in advance of their potential re-appearance in Battle for Zendikar). I learned which vendors paid well on small-scale casual cards (CoolStuffInc) and which vendors paid aggressively well on obscure foils (Tales of Adventure). Some vendors were highly approachable, while others remained cold and unmoving when it came to negotiation. All of these observations have made me a stronger MTG financier.

And even though I never played in the main event, I could not have been happier with the decisions I made. All that free time enabled me to focus on each of my objectives, primary and secondary. Despite a few hiccups along the way, I managed to accomplish each and every one with time to spare!

I even managed to participate in three MM2015 drafts, where I found occasional success. I am usually horrible in Limited formats, but perhaps MM2015 is one draft format where I sort-of know what I’m doing.

Overall it was a terrific experience and I am very glad I attended. And now I look forward to the next opportunity, where I can apply and sharpen my newly learned skills and strategies, making me an even stronger negotiator and MTG financier. Hopefully after reading this column you’ll also be even more prepared to take advantage of on-site deals by learning from my mistakes.

Sig’s Quick Hits

  • A number of the most successful Modern decks in last weekend’s SCG Invitational contained some number of Tasigur, the Golden Fang. I believe this creature will steadily see more play in Modern, driving his price higher as we approach Standard rotation. But I still prefer foils. Star City Games is currently sold out of set foils with a $29.99 price tag. The foil has around a 4x multiplier, and an increase in the nonfoil could lead to a magnified effect on foils.
  • Amulet Bloom was a highly successful deck during the same event. A few cards from the deck are likely to remain premium pricing, including Summoner’s Pact. SCG has just a couple copies in stock, with NM copies retailing for $14.99. This could be the next $20 pact if it continues to see play as a 4-of in Modern.
  • I’ve noticed Arcbound Ravager gaining some price traction in recent days. The rare dodged reprint in MM2015, and now Star City Games has less than a dozen nonfoil copies in stock. Their NM price is $21.45, but if they sell out completely I could see this tick higher in the coming months.
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