By: Travis Allen
One thing’s for sure. The texture of Modern Masters 2015 is very different from the original Modern Masters. Modern Masters was a highly synergistic Draft format (which led to an atrocious Sealed experience, by the way) with money up and down throughout the set. Of the original release, a full one-half of the rares were good pulls. It’s tough to nail down exactly how many you’d consider worth the pack, as we each have our own personal metric for that, but if we consider a rare to have been a good pull if it was worth roughly at least as much as the pack was, there are about 26 good rares. In a set of 53 rares, that’s damned impressive. In contrast, Dragons of Tarkir, which also has 53 rares, only has about 10 good pulls.
The commons and uncommons were quite rich, as well. There were 14 or 15 solid commons and uncommons, with all-stars like Path to Exile, Kitchen Finks, and Lightning Helix hanging around. Overall, there was a fairly robust distribution of value through a Modern Masters pack without even considering the foil slot. It’s not hard to see why packs regularly sold for over MSRP: there was a lot of cash jammed into each one, and simply finding them to purchase could be a challenge.
What About the New Modern Masters?
This time around, things are quite different. On the mythic side of things, Modern Masters 2015 hits a lot harder. Now a full 14 of the 15 mythics, 93 percent, are excellent pulls. Not only is all but one mythic a good pull, they’re good pulls. Ten of those 15 mythics clock in around $30 or more right now, with several in the $40 to $55 range. Compare that Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre to Keiga, the Tide Star or Sarkhan Vol and you can see how much better the mythics are in Modern Masters 2015.
When we move over to the rares, things swing hard the other way. Where MM13 had a full 26 solid rares, MM15 has maybe 13. Part of that is that the pack MSRP is a full $3 higher, which means cards in the $7 range don’t justify the cost of an MM15 pack in the same way that they used to justify a MM13 pack. The result here is that while half the rares you opened last time just about covered the cost at MSRP, this time only a quarter of them are going to. That puts us a lot closer to the Dragons of Tarkir ratio than the Modern Masters ratio.
The commons and uncommons are weaker this time through, as well. Remand shows up, which is great for sure, but then after that, the goodies fall off quickly. Instead of multiple uncommons worth around $2.50 to $3, there’s only the one now. Electrolyze is back, which is fine, but it’s not covering half the value of the pack like it used to. Lightning Bolt is certainly no Kitchen Finks when comparing dollar signs. Eldrazi Temple is cool, but copies are already down below $3 and MM15 hasn’t even hit shelves yet.
What Does It All Mean?
Let’s boil this all down for analysis. The mythics in Modern Masters 2015 are better than in the original run. There’s more of them we want to see, and they’re individually worth more money, as well. Only a quarter of the rares are valuable enough to cover the pack’s MSRP in MM2015, as opposed to half of them originally. There’s some decent commons and uncommons in the new set, but overall not quite as many, and aside from Remand, they’re less strong individually as well.
All of this leads us to a few conclusions. When the top end is top-endier and the dregs are unequivocal gutter trash, as we’re seeing now, prices are going to remain much more stratified than they were in Modern Masters, a far more egalitarian set.
We can look back at a past discussion of box prices to understand how we arrive at this conclusion. The long and short of it is that a $240 MSRP box needs to be worth $240 somehow, and if people aren’t paying eight bucks for Comet Storms or six bucks for Mirran Crusaders now, they’re not going to start when more copies hit the market. All of that value is going to exactly three places: good mythics, the absolute best rares, and some of the foils.
This is in contrast to the first Modern Masters, where the $168 MSRP boxes had far more configurations to get you your money back. With so many valuable, in-demand uncommons and rares, and a less heavy top end, there wasn’t as much pressure on individual cards to carry the weight of the box.
At a per-card level, we can make two predictions. Rares that aren’t currently worth much are going to be absolutely pummeled by the MM15 printing, while cream of the crop rares and nearly all mythics are going to see way less of a drop in price than some may have hoped. Gone, for example, are my expectations that Tarmogoyf may finally have his price cracked and end up south of $150 for an extended period. With the amount of work the mythics are going to have to do carrying this price tag, we really can’t expect that much of a loss in value.
In fact, I’d venture that we see maybe a 10 to 20 percent loss of value on the mythics, and maybe not even that much on some of them. Kozilek has dropped from a fair trade price of $53 about a month or two ago to $46 today. I’m dubious that he’ll ever get below $40, and if he does, it won’t be by much, and it won’t be for long.
I’m going to extend my predictions here beyond the immediate price drops as well. If the mythics have to work hard to support box prices, they’re not going to see a deep loss of price, and it’s not going to last too long, either. They won’t dip deep, and they won’t dip for long. When they begin to rebound, we could see them rebound quite hard—potentially above where they were before the reprint, perhaps within six months to a year.
Why is that? Well, this was it. Modern Masters 2015 was the chance to make these cards more affordable and available. Prior to the release of MM15, there was this dark cloud hanging over the head of all of these cards. Even before the announcement, it was assumed that MM15 would happen and that cards like Fulminator Mage and Spellskite would be in it. Now that cards not in the set no longer have the immediate fear of a reprint over their heads, we may see prices surge. In three months time, we’re going to be saying, “They just reprinted Emrakul. They’re not going to print him again for at least a year or two.” That will be right about the time copies start hitting $70 and $80.
Knowing all of this, it will be important to react quickly during the coming months. The good stuff won’t have far to fall, and when it gets there, it won’t be there for too long. Maximizing profits will require identifying when cards have stopped dropping and moving in within what will probably be a window of only a month or so. What cards, that I didn’t already talk about last week, should we be considering?
Well, first of all, basically all of the mythics. I don’t like Comet Storm at all, of course—stay the hell away. Primeval Titan isn’t exciting to me, either. This is its umpteenth printing, and without terribly strong demand backing it, I don’t expect it to rebound from all of this nearly as well as some of the other orange set symbols. Tezzeret the Seeker isn’t anything I want to be a part of, either. With zero competitive demand and only mild casual appeal, there’s nothing here that really excites me.
Other than that, all the mythics are good. You’ll notice that prior to MM15, Elesh Norn was climbing. Despite everyone being aware of her potential inclusion in the summer’s Modern product, we saw her price climb from $30 last November to $40 in early April. This tells me that there’s real and powerful demand for her, which will support her price considerably as we get a few months past the MM15 street date. This demand, combined with Wizard’s hesitance to reprint iconic legends, has me looking to trade for copies when prices bottom out. I’ve never been able to keep an Elesh Norn in my binder longer than a few days.
Despite lukewarm Modern performance, Bitterblossom has sustained a surprising price tag. Tokens has evergreen appeal, even in competitive formats, it seems. With the Modern event deck last year being BW Tokens, there’s probably quite a few people out there looking to start or finish their sets of Blossoms.
As for the big colorless three, Battle for Zendikar is going to bring us additional enablers for Eldrazi, which will only make them more playable in more formats. It’s not unreasonable to imagine that BFZ may bring us just enough to push multiple Eldrazi into a competitive Modern deck, which would be a tremendous boon for their price tags. Imagine some sort of deck that runs eight to 12 big, honkin’ Eldrazi, Temples, Urzas, and a few Eyes to hurry them out, Sylvan Scrying and Maps to find lands…could it be real? I don’t know. Depends on what we get. I’m just daydreaming now. Let’s move on.
Dark Confidant may not fare all that well once the dust settles. While he’s currently one of the better mythics to open, his price is supported fully by the competitive scene—a scene which has been sorely lacking any Confidants for some time now. Neither in Legacy or Modern have we seen much confidanting, really. Even though MM15 is poised to do a great job supporting the prices of its mythics, that relies on the assumption that those mythics are still desirable to their respective crowds. I’m probably staying away here, actually.
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker won’t drop dramatically, but his will be one of the slower ascents. Like Dark Confidant, he just isn’t making the rounds quite as much as he used to, which means we’re combining a reprint with an overall loss of demand. He’s still an extremely powerful card though, both at the kitchen table and the feature-match table. If a Modern deck pops up that needs Kiki-Jiki rather than Splinter Twin again, he’ll move fast.
How about the rares? What looks exciting to us?
I didn’t intend to choose these such that they represented all five colors and an artifact, but here we are. That’s balance for you.
These are the rares that are best situated to rebound after the set hits its price floor. Each enjoys a strong competitive demand profile, which bodes well for rapid recuperation of price. A lot of people are still missing their own copies of these, especially Cryptic Command, Leyline of Sancity, and Fulminator Mage.
A year or two ago, I had given up on owning Fulminators until they were reprinted. I have been completely removed from the market for Fulminator Mages. If you counted all the people worldwide that needed Fulminators, I wouldn’t have been included. Now that they’ve got their second printing, this is the cheapest they’ll be for a long while, basically until they completely fall out of the format or they get reprinted again (and again.) Because of that, I’m now coming into the market looking for a set. I’m an example of how a card that has been reprinted can see its price rise rather than fall, because total demand can increase faster than the number of copies on the market.
All of these cards are capable of that behavior. Anyone that plays Modern regularly will be looking for their own copies, and many personal playset binders are missing these. I’d expect each of these to possibly double from their floor within a year, depending on how far they end up actually falling.
- Serum Visions has been confirmed for the August FNM promo (with Path to Exile coming one month before it.) The increased supply isn’t going to be enough to lower prices, especially with art that cool, because even those that already own sets of Visions may want this promo (like me.) I’m thinking Wizards got caught with their pants down on this one and didn’t expect Visions to be $10 ahead of Modern Masters 2015, and now there’s no way to get more copies into the system for at least six or nine months. I’d expect an overall increase in price on Visions, possibly north of $15. I wouldn’t want to be holding copies past the end of the year, though.
- Completed listings for Tarmogoyf are in the $140 range. This strikes me as a reactionary or fire-sale price. It may slip lower yet, probably about two weeks to a month after the GPs when supply is extremely high, but I don’t believe its price will remain that low. It’s too good in too many formats, too iconic, and these packs are too expensive for it to suddenly lose $40 to $60 in value.