Modern Masters Will Boost Prices

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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.

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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.

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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.

Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

Trade Habits: Prerelease Buylists

Beck // Call. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Though it seemed as if Gatecrash’s prerelease was no more than a few weeks ago, this weekend signaled the launch of Dragon’s Maze prerelease events nationwide. As always, vendors and local gaming stores alike had their hands full while organizing and running these events. A lot of coverage around last weekend’s prerelease consisted of favorite draft picks, and set-constructed evaluations. I’ll spare you the common banter that’s excessively splashed about in the wake of a new set release and get down to the point I care about most: makin’ that cash money via proper trade habit; particularly, arranging profitable buylists as an event organizer.

Preparing for a prerelease, from the perspective of an event organizer, can be stressful; perhaps even overwhelming at times. There are many variables that need to be calculated and allocated properly for an event to run smoothly: availability of products, seating limitations, competent judges, timing between flights, adequate air circulation, etc. So, those are the basic components of running a successful event – but what about a profitable one?

Besides the obvious profits drawn from sales of food, drink, accessories, and entry fees, what are good ways for event organizers to profit during prerelease events? The answer is painfully apparent for those of you who haven’t guessed already: create a buylist for the new set. Consider every large TCG superstore – like CFB, SCG, T&T, ABU – do they not buy new set cards at their prerelease events? Yes, yes they do! However, some of these vendors do not post buylists online prior to set release; I assume this is done to avoid clutter of their postal operations and to allow their employees maximum focus while gearing up for the release.

Creating a buylist that won’t net you investment loss seems like a simple task, perhaps. I assure you, there is a considerable amount of complexity when deciding what types of offers one should make when designing a buylist. Understand that pre-order prices are speculative and predominately based on consumer demand/impulse, rather than on market saturation, competitive application and non-fiscal consumer availability (barter/trade). There has been no amount of competitive play with these cards to solidify their price tags. Many of these cards will flat-line in price after 2-3 weeks after set release. For instance, look at Duskmantle Seer from Gatecrash – his preorder price on SCG was $19.99 on Feb 1st, but dropped to $5.99 on March 1st – the card lost 70% value in only a month. Even if you had bought the card for $10.00 (50% of the pre-order price), you would still lose $4.00 (-40% ROI) for every copy that you were unable to sell within 4 weeks.

Duskmantle Seer as of May 1st, 2013.
Duskmantle Seer as of May 1st, 2013.

To avoid losses of 40%, one really needs to do their homework. I have a general system for buying cards, it goes as follows:

Cash Value Payout Calculation
$5-10 50% $ x 0.50 = Payout
$11-15 55% $ x 0.55 = Payout
$16-20 60% $ x 0.60 = Payout
$21-25 65% $ x 0.65 = Payout
$30+ 70% $ x 0.70 = Payout


My system is solid and brings me great turnaround sales every week. However, these are cards that have been played, battle tested so to speak, and because of this their values are respectably steady. When gearing your buylists for prereleases, always remember that most cards flat-line and lose about 20-30% on average in value. Unless you can resell the stock you acquire within 2 weeks of release, make sure to accurately inventory the cards you purchase and set limits for each. Avoid 99% of commons and uncommons, go for the throat first and worry about the scraps later; chasing rares and mythics is where the money is.

Always take the time to familiarize yourself with new cards by looking at the set spoilers online. Do your best to identify the cards that will see play within multiple formats, or redefine a single format – acquire as many of these cards as possible! As for the remaining cards in the set, aim for a playset or two of each. So, now you know what you’re hunting for; it’s time to arrange the pricing. As I said before, the system of buying that I provided does work well, but not with prerelease singles. My rule of thumb is to offer 50% presale price for any card at prerelease. If I speculate that the card is going to rise, I may offer upwards of 70% for certain cards such as Voice of Resurgence. Some losses are hard to foresee (Duskmantle Seer), but limiting the amount you buy of ‘iffy’ cards can really pay off in the long run. I get all of my pricing information from MTGprice.com – as it averages the market cost across multiple vendors to provide the most accurate price. Below is a copy of my buylist for Dragon’s Maze. Feel free to print it out as a cheat sheet/quick reference when buying cards at your LGS, or from friends!

Zack’s Dragon’s Maze Buylist
Aetherling  $   3.00
Advent of the Wurm  $   3.00
Beck // Call  $   1.50
Blood Baron of Vizkopa  $   5.50
Blood Scrivener  $   4.00
Boros Battleshaper  $   0.50
Breaking // Entering  $   1.50
Catch // Release  $   0.50
Council of the Absolute  $   3.50
Deadbridge Chant  $   1.50
Dragonshift  $   0.50
Emmara Tandris  $   0.50
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch  $   1.50
Flesh // Blood  $   1.00
Gaze of Granite  $   1.50
Lavinia of the Tenth  $   1.50
Legion’s Initiative  $   5.50
Master of Cruelties  $   3.50
Maze’s End  $   0.75
Melek, Izzet Paragon  $   0.75
Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker  $   0.50
Notion Thief  $   2.50
Obzedat’s Aid  $   1.50
Plasm Capture  $   2.50
Pontiff of Blight  $   0.50
Possibility Storm  $   0.50
Progenitor Mimic  $   2.50
Putrefy  $   0.50
Pyrewild Shaman  $   1.00
Ready // Willing  $   0.50
Reap Intellect  $   1.50
Render Silent  $   1.50
Renegade Krasis  $   0.50
Renounce the Guilds  $   0.75
Ral Zarek  $ 15.00
Ruric Thar  $   2.00
Savageborn Hydra  $   3.00
Scion of Vitu-Ghazi  $   0.50
Sin Collector  $   0.25
Sire of Insanity  $   2.00
Skylasher  $   1.50
Tajic, Blade of the Legion  $   1.50
Trait Doctoring  $   0.50
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts  $   1.00
Varolz, the Scar-Striped  $   3.00
Voice of Resurgence  $ 14.00
Vorel of the Hull Clade  $   1.00
Warleader’s Helix  $   0.50
Zhur-Taa Ancient  $   0.50

I hope this list helps you throughout the week, and especially on Friday when Dragon’s Maze releases.

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Weekly Finance Tip:
[Beck/Call is one of DM’s biggest sleepers. I hope you held onto your Modern elves as I advised last month!]

Until next time,

Zack R. Alvarado
zackalvarado@gmail.com
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

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