Implications of Grand Prix Las Vegas 2013

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The dust has settled, and Grand Prix Las Vegas is now a week past. The implications of this Magic mini-con will be far-reaching. Wizards will need to re-evaluate the potential size of GPs, prize payouts, as well as quite a bit of tournament logistics. Also prize payouts. (I know I mentioned it already, but come on. I’m not even sure even a single X-3 got a payout at Vegas. Put yourself in in that position and ask if you’d ever want to attend a GP again.) Meanwhile, there’s currently some very honest and valuable discussion around the state of Magic organized play coverage. If Wizards acts appropriately, I would expect the next year to bring about a slew of changes to both large event OP, as well as the media surrounding it.

In the meantime, we should give further consideration to the implications of Modern Masters. Last week I discussed the likelihood of MM increasing the price of many format staples despite being reprinted. With MM driving many new players into the format, the demand on the existing supply will increase noticeably, and the influx of cards will not be enough to stem the tide.

What about the cards that weren’t in Modern Masters though? The mere fact that a card wasn’t in MM could be enough to drive a price increase, resulting in their being even more susceptible to popping than the cards reprinted. Granted, Wizards hit a lot of the staples – they couldn’t just print every single format-playable card – so there’s plenty of room to look for opportunity. If our goal is to get in ahead of market shifts, we need to evaluate the current price point of cards alongside their utility, price points of similar cards, and availability.

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Chord of Calling. (c) 2005 Wizards of the Coast.
Chord of Calling. (c) 2005 Wizards of the Coast.

The banner card for this effect is Chord of Calling. It used to be only a few dollars, and then early on in Modern’s lifespan it jumped up to $10-12. A while ago several financial types on Twitter pegged it as likely to rise, and by the Monday after GP Vegas, the card had nearly doubled to upwards of $20.

I would guess the ceiling on this is maybe $25 or even $30 if it sees a brief resurgence in Modern.  However, it’s not played in any other format aside from EDH, and while it’s good in Modern, it’s only good in certain types of decks.  Still, this card’s new price tag is probably not dipping much below $20. I’m not advocating you buy in on this card in particular; rather, it illustrates what can happen when seemingly underpriced cards are suddenly noticed by the market or vendors.

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One group of prime targets for this is the Scars of Mirrodin Fastlands. Shortly after their rotation, all were in the $1.50 to $4.00 range. They’ve snuck up a bit since then, and I expect they’ve got plenty of room to grow. There 3 most commonly played land cycles in the format are the Zendikar Fetchlands, the Shocklands, and the Fastlands. The Fetches are all $25-$40 (more on that in an upcoming article), and the Shocks used to all be $20+ until seeing a massive reprint in RTR. Even still the shocks are all $7-$10, and by the start of the next Modern PTQ season they will see pressure to rise on two fronts – both from being the out-of-print land in standard, as well as PTQ-goers needing to finish their playsets. Those two factors will likely push them all into the $15-$20+ range. This leaves the Fastlands as the third most played cycle in the format at a lowly $3-$5. I doubt we’ll see them as high as $20, but they could easily crest $10. Recall that Jund typically played about the same number of Fastlands as shocks, as did the Birthing Pod decks. Any aggressive deck will fill up with on-color Fastlands as well.

Speaking of Birthing Pod, this is another card that seems poised to at least double. Ask anyone familiar with the Modern format what the best deck currently is, and there’s a real good possibility the answer is going to include this card. Whether the flavor of the week is Kiki-Jiki or Melira, they’re still both using four Birthing Pod.

Birthing Pod as of June 27, 2013
Birthing Pod as of June 27, 2013

This is one of those cards that only gets better as more creatures are printed (which is how Chord of Calling works as well, by the way). Birthing Pod decks provide a great deal of strategic value, and can be tuned to just about any metagame should the pilot desire. It’s been slowly creeping up since its rotation, and $10-$15 doesn’t seem unreasonable down the road.

There are a plethora of cards that fall into the same category as Chord of Calling, the Fastlands and Birthing Pod. Keep an eye out for them as you browse Modern deck lists, trade binders, and Gatherer. Anytime you think to yourself “hmm that card seems cheaper than I thought it would be,” consider that a flag to closely examine the card’s potential.

Join me next week when we consider safe investments in a post-reserved list format.

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Modern Masters Will Boost Prices

Tarmogoyf gon' getcha
Tarmogoyf. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast

We are thrilled to introduce Travis Allen as a new contributing author for MTGprice.com. Travis maintains a blog at http://travistyofmagic.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter as @wizardbumpin. Welcome Travis! 

With the release of Modern Masters, the MTG community is seemingly awash with high-quality Rares and Mythics, many of which are at the cheapest they have been in years. I’m here to tell you that this is about the lowest price point we’ll see many of these cards for quite some time. My expectation is that MM will ultimately raise the price of many tournament staples and unique cards rather than deflate them.

At base, price is a factor of supply and demand. In MM’s case, I believe the increase in demand will be greater than the increase in supply. Consider your newer player that started sometime around Innistrad or Return to Ravnica. We know Magic has seen explosive growth in the last several years – there were something like 365 players at a recent PTQ in Toronto, which Brian Kibler remarked is larger than a GP he won there previously, and GP Vegas is set to be close to 4,000 players. These new players have been accumulating Standard cards for a while, and maybe even picking up a few Modern cards here and there. Now MM comes out, and all those cool cards the veteran players at their local store talk about are right there, in trade binders and in display cases. If our new player is particularly lucky, maybe he or she even gets to draft the set. After a taste of the power of an eternal format, and with the Modern PTQ season 6 months away, the player decides to start picking up cards so he can play in January. Part of his plan includes obtaining a playset of Tarmogoyfs, a Grade-A Tier-S Format-Megastar Dash-Heavy staple.

Consider the average store. How many Tarmogoyfs were in their allocated product? I’d be willing to guess that most stores saw in the range of 3 to 8 Tarmogoyfs total in all of the boxes of MM they received. That means most stores would see about one to two playsets of Tarmogoyfs.

Two months ago, a lot of these players didn’t even factor into the demand for Modern. They didn’t have Modern cards, and they didn’t want Modern cards. (Think of it like the unemployment rate: the people that aren’t looking for work don’t factor in.) But with the MM release, they are now trying to get involved, so they’ve entered the market. Demand has increased significantly, but the supply is nowhere near enough to compensate. The best way to consider this is playset-per-player. For each playset of Tarmogoyfs that has been opened from MM packs, how many players do you think have decided they want to pick up a set? As long as it’s more than one, there is now a net increase in demand for Tarmogoyf, as opposed to reducing the strain on the limited supply.

I would expect the Grade-A Mythics and Rares – cards like Tarmogoyf, Vendilion Clique, Dark Confidant, and Arcbound Ravager, as well as any new art – both swords, for example – to follow a pattern of minimal to no losses now followed by growth beyond their original price points by January. The supply of these cards is currently greater than it has ever been, and with Modern PTQ season a ways off, not everybody will have turned their attention to the singles they need yet.

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Dark Confidant (MM) as of June 20, 2013
Dark Confidant (MM) as of June 20, 2013

Once January rolls around, and most of the MM inventory has migrated to binders of players that were savvy enough to pick it up early, demand will begin to skyrocket. I would also pay close attention to any foils in these categories, especially alternate art cards. Foil Sword of Fire and Ice is already higher than both the original pack foil and the judge promo, and I don’t expect that to change.

Other cards that are Legacy and EDH staples have seen more drastic price suppression, and may not ever recover. In their case, more copies have been added to the market, but the demand for them hasn’t seen any real increase. Meanwhile, Uncommons have already seen price reduction almost across the board, and while their dip in value may last longer than the Rares and Mythics, I anticipate most will be back to their original prices by PTQ season, or quite possibly higher. Similarly, any alternate-art foil Uncommons will get out of control quickly.

For those that were hoping Modern Masters would squash the price barrier of the format, I’ve got news for you: the wall isn’t getting any lower. If you need Modern cards, now is the time to get in. The supply of these tournament-grade cards has never been higher, and demand is temporarily tempered by a distant PTQ season. By January, however, expect a significant rise in prices across the board, even on cards in Modern Masters. And what of the staples that haven’t been reprinted by then? Some of those price points may seem downright Vintage.

Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze is playing out this weekend in San Diego. While it’s true the Block format the Pro Tour features this time around isn’t widely played, it can provide a sneak peek into which cards may be good in Standard once the Innistrad block rotates out in a few months. Therefore, even though there might be a dominant deck, the cards found within the deck may not drastically rise since few people play the Block format. However, it will still definitely be worth keeping track of the popular cards, as they may be the key building blocks for Standard in a few months’ time, and may foreshadow which strategies will do well, and which cards may raise in price.

Speaking of looking ahead to future Standard, I would sell all the Standard-legal Reanimator pieces right now, such as Angel of Serenity. Why? Because Scavenging Ooze is going to be reprinted in M14. This legacy staple has a very high power level, and will see high levels of play regardless of how prevalent Reanimator decks appear in the metagame. In legacy, some have said they prefer to play this card instead of Tarmogoyf, because it can get as big as Tarmogoyf – if not bigger – relatively easily, and they like the utility of graveyard hate attached to a major threat. The effectiveness of Scavenging Ooze at removing cards from the graveyard, combined with providing a relatively quick clock, will definitely put a crimp in the plans of what Reanimator decks are trying to do.

Plasm Capture as of May 19, 2013
Plasm Capture as of May 19, 2013

One strong interaction in Standard that hasn’t yet seen widespread play is Plasm Capture into Aetherling (or the more commonly used Sphinx’s Revelation). Aetherling is a stupendous creature; it is virtually impossible to kill, and because of its built in evasion and pump, it ends games very quickly once it has been cast. It does cost a bit of mana to play, but once it enters the battlefield, it has a significant impact on the game. With Plasm Capture being available, it enables the deck to counter a spell on turn four, and then next turn cast Aetherling and leave mana up to flicker Aetherling if needed to make it impervious to any removal spells. With Plasm Capture and Aetherling both only costing around $4, they both have room to grow if this synergy gains traction.

Have fun watching the Pro Tour this weekend. I’m very excited to see which decks and cards will do well.

Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

Advent of the Wurm
Advent of the Wurm. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Grand Prix Portland is coming up this weekend, which brings Modern cards to the forefront of peoples’ minds again. However, this is an out-of-season format, so if there’s an unexpected deck or card that does well and jumps up in price, I would unload any copies you’ve obtained quickly. People will soon realize that the Modern PTQ season is still over half a year away. That realization will cause the cards’ price to swiftly drop again until the Modern PTQ season approaches, so make sure you have an outlet where you can rapidly sell any card you speculate on for this tournament.

One card that I believe is primed to rise in price due to Grand Prix Portland is Beck // Call. Elves is the brand new deck that is made possible by Beck // Call; a Glimpse of Nature clone. Glimpse of Nature is banned from the Modern format for being too powerful, and is currently at $25. Beck // Call has the same effect as Glimpse of Nature for a miniscule one additional blue mana, and is a bargain at a meager $2. With both the Fetchlands and Shocklands available in the Modern format, the additional color requirement is not much of an issue. The additional mana cost is a little annoying, but Modern is not a super-fast format right now, since Storm and Eggs got banned, and the Elves deck is good at generating extra mana. In addition, Beck // Call can be more powerful than Glimpse of Nature in certain situations: Glimpse of Nature demands a creature spell to be played to satisfy the prerequisite to draw a card, whereas Beck // Call merely needs a creature to enter the battlefield. This difference can become relevant if you want to fetch a Dryad Arbor into play mid-combo, where it will draw you an additional card if you’ve played Beck // Call, whereas with Glimpse of Nature it will have accomplished nothing.

Switching gears over to Standard, I think that token and populate cards have a great opportunity to rise in price. Advent of the Wurm is a terrific card that has already seen some success at last weekend’s SCG Open. With the addition of Advent of the Wurm to the token arsenal, a dedicated token deck might be ready to become a contender; there might finally be enough under-costed token creators to make a potent token themed deck. Token creators such as Call of the Conclave, the angel from an attacking Geist of Saint Traft, and Advent of the Wurm are all prime populate targets.

Because of the abundance of quality token creatures, I would keep my eye on Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Scion of Vitu-Ghazi, and perhaps on Growing Ranks as well. Trostani was $15 at one point, and only dropped down to its current price of $5 because there weren’t enough quality targets to populate. With Advent of the Wurm added to that cache, Trostani could easily double in price.

Scion of Vitu-Ghazi is an army all in one card; at worst it’s essentially a Cloudgoat Ranger, which saw lots of play when Lorwyn was in Standard. However, most of the time it will be able to create an additional copy of the best creature on your battlefield, in addition to bringing its 4/4 body and bird token into play. At a measly $1, there is very little risk in trading for this card.

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