The End of the Spikes?

Another week, another crazy round of Modern price hikes. It seems like everywhere you look, you see another ca…

Wait, what is this? I’m sorry, I need to interrupt this article quickly for a pretty important update.


If you didn’t know, I’m the world’s biggest Fish fan. I just finished my set of Champs Mutavaults and I’m the proud owner of this custom playmat. My entire Modern Merfolk deck is foiled out, and acquiring every card in it through trading is one of my proudest Magic accomplishments.

So to see Merfolk put two decks into the top eight of a Grand Prix and then win the entire thing is a huge moment for me. I’ve been telling people for years it’s the best deck in the format, and while that’s mostly been a joke, suddenly it doesn’t seem quite like it anymore. Basically, this is awesome.

Anyway, back to your regularly-scheduled article.

It’s All About the Climb

Let’s be honest: it wasn’t exactly hard to see this explosion in Modern popularity coming. We’ve seen steady growth on a bunch of format staples over the past two years, and despite all the complaints about Modern Masters 2015, the fact is more people have cards to play Modern, and (go figure) that means more people are playing Modern.

That’s one large piece of the puzzle. The other is the return of “seasons.” Some of you may not have been around four or five years ago, but banking on Extended season used to be the easiest money there was. People didn’t care about Extended until the Extended PTQ season came around, at which point everyone suddenly needed cards. You could pick up staples for absurdly cheap in the spring and cash them out at double in the fall every year, like clockwork.

Then, Extended died. Modern, a non-rotating format, took its place. This lessened the impact of the PTQ season, but it didn’t eliminate it.

Until, that is, Wizards of the Coast decided to nuke seasons entirely. The PPTQ system and leaving the option up to the stores running tournaments meant basically everything was Standard, all the time. While Modern still existed as a popular format, there wasn’t really any urgency to picking up particular cards.


This year brought back the return of seasons, and the fact lost in all of the Modern Masters 2015 hoopla is that we’re actually right in the middle of Modern season right now. It’s not just Grand Prix Charlotte and Copenhagen leading people to pick up Modern cards, it’s the fact that they need them for that PPTQ next week.

Of course, this doesn’t account for all of the spikes we’ve seen. Nourishing Shoal and Lantern of Insight were clearly buyouts, and that’s just kind of what it is. But when it comes to the real cards, like Snapcaster Mage and Liliana of the Veil and even smaller stuff like Terminate or Raging Ravine, I believe it’s real demand that’s pushed these cards. Snapcaster hasn’t just risen steadily—it’s held its price every step of the way, as has Liliana after spiking earlier this year. That doesn’t happen unless it’s real demand from people biting the bullet and pulling the trigger on buying in. And they’re doing that because of Modern season.

Those two factors account for most of the gains we’ve seen this year. Truthfully, now is not a bad time to cash out of many specs. After all, a lot of the stuff that’s risen has been stuff we’ve been talking about for at least six months here, so in all likelihood you got into some of these specs on the cheap. There’s nothing wrong with locking in some profits, especially given what I’m going to posit next.

…Until It’s About the Fall

Travis Allen and Sigmund Ausfresser, both great writers here and whose opinions I respect, have voiced similar concerns to mine. Travis, in particular, knocked it out of the park with his comparison of Snapcaster Mage this year and Scalding Tarn last year. While there are certainly some factors that make them different (namely, people anticipating a Tarn reprint in MM2 and then in Battle for Zendikar) the point is very well taken: further growth is not a given.

In fact, there’s historical evidence to suggest that prices may not continue to grow. Even if we discount Scalding Tarn, the fact remains that the most growth—as an overall index—that non-Standard cards experience comes in the first six months of the year. Go look at the price charts of staples over the past few years (dual lands spring to mind): you see price hikes in the first half of the year, with small dips in the second half before rising again come the turn of the calendar.



There’s a lot of theories I’ve put together for this: holidays strapping cash, tax day providing a lift, summer doldrums pushing people outside and away from Magic, etc. Whatever the reason, the facts remain: cards perform better in the first half of the year than the second.

So then, what about all these shiny new Modern cards that have spiked like crazy? There’s a lot of reasons to believe prices will stay steady or even continue rising. After all, the format is very healthy right now, the current spiked prices have mostly held, Snapcaster and Liliana of the Veil aren’t getting any worse or facing an immediate reprint.

But as Travis pointed out, that’s been true of other cards before, and it hasn’t panned out that way.

Scalding Tarn

Decision Time

All of this, of course, leads to a very basic question: is now the time to sell out?

The answer to that question depends on where you fall on the line of prices. Will this growth continue? Will Magic: Origins and the latest Duels of the Planeswalkers bring enough new players in to bring on further growth? There are reasons to believe these things are the case, and if so, you may want to hold onto your Modern specs.

Or are you on the other side? Will the historical reasons to be concerned repeat themselves and make the best decision to sell cards now? Will people care about Modern after its PTQ season is over? Will Standard rotation take enough attention away from the eternal format to send people’s money that way? If so, selling out now isn’t a bad choice.

Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle, and the fact that I’m in for so many of these cards at such good prices does sway me. I know that “technically” my buy-in price shouldn’t affect my decision-making here, but the fact is I’m not opposed to locking in money. Profit is profit, after all, and the Myth of Making Money™ tells me it doesn’t matter what TCGplayer says if I never sell my cards.

So I’m hedging. I’m moving some cards but holding a few copies. For instance, I have a few dozen Snapcaster Mages, and while some of them have come in since the price spiked a great many were acquired in the $20 to $25 range. That’s a lot of profit waiting to be realized, so rather than hold two dozen Snaps I’ll never sell through, I’m going to buylist some number of them to lock in profits while still exposing myself to additional upside.

As for the in-season spikes we’ve been ahead on, like Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid, Wanderwine Hub, Glimmervoid, Arcbound Ravager, etc? I’m happy to move them at a profit. If there’s one thing this game has taught me, it’s that there’s always another target. Sure, some of the cards that have spiked this year will likely spike more next year. But some of them won’t. Something will be surprise-reprinted. Something will fall out of favor. Something could be banned.

So I don’t mind selling out of many of them, and happily walking away with my profits. After all, there’s plenty of targets already on the horizon for next season. Glistener Elf, Blighted Agent, Thought Scour, Silvergill Adept, Gavony Township, and more may not hit this season, but I can already start stocking up on them cheaply in anticipation of movement a year from now. Why chase down another 10 to 20 percent on this year’s specs when I can stock up on cards that could turn a 500-percent profit in 2016? I’m happy taking my own advice and leaving the last 10 percent to the next guy.

Of course, that’s my usually-conservative take. What will you do?


Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

20 thoughts on “The End of the Spikes?”

  1. I just sold a playset of Snapcasters for 61 € a card. I bought them last year at 25 €. With this in mind I won’t feel bad it they should gain a bit more value later. I am still keeping a playset for personal use and have 3 extra to spare in my binder.
    Selling out with a profit now is never a bad choice imo.
    Taking a chance and wait for those 10 bucks extra is just being greedy with way to much risk. Snapcasters already lost a bit of value. I don’t know if this means anything, but a lot of people will get scared by this and start selling out. This will cause a drop in price. Question is, if this decline will stay or the price will stabilize again in a few weeks. But I don’t think we will ever see 25 € snapcasters again, even with a reprint. This goes for all the big format staples, regardless of what market you normally use.

  2. I’ll be the party-pooper here to tell you that this PROTRADER article is/was open for everyone to read 😉 Thanks for that.

  3. If people move out of Modern stock, what do they do with their newfound profits? Foil out their EDH deck? Get into Legacy? Buy that elusive piece of Power or Dual Land they’ve always wanted? Play Standard?

    This is what I’m trying to anticipate, so we can get in front of the next trend. I think everyone felt Modern cards were due for a bump this time of year – it explains why prices rose so rapidly. But knowing where things go from here is the REAL place to stand out and make some money.

    What are your thoughts on this, Corbin?

    Thanks for the shout-out by the way 🙂

    1. Corbin I have a question or 2 for u: I do NOT have premium access so I did not read the articles comparing Snapcaster to Tarn, but I think a comparison of the 2 is a bit silly. Tarn didn’t tank because Battle for Zendikar was announced…Tarn and Misty (and EVERY FETCH LAND) tanked because the Onslaught fetches were reprinted in Khans of Tarkir. In Modern if you played Twin or Delver or any blue deck you HAD to run 4 Tarn and 4 Misty…even in Legacy if you wanted to play the “cheap” blue fetches you had to spend money to get Tarns and Misties. These 2 cards were straight up REPLACED in a lot of decks by the new cheaper Flooded Strands and Deltas….there is NO CARD LIKE SNAPCASTER MAGE in magic other than Snapcaster Mage!! So what was the comparison?? Cause whatever it was I don’t think a comparison of Snappy to Tarn is accurate. And please don’t tell me to pay $5 to read the article…I obviously don’t agree with what I believe the premise to be 🙂

      1. Simply the idea that even cards which seem to be “safe” are never guaranteed. While I too don’t fully agree with the premise, it was a very good conversation starter that they brought up and examined well.

  4. I think the real test is when things bump back into standard. If memory serves me right, then this is really the most effort that WoTC put on another format in quite a long time on purpose. The rebound back to the bread and butter will be the telling tale.

  5. I think that you can’t overlook the fact that a lot of people just bought into Modern. Those people only have one Modern deck and don’t know much about Modern Meta-Shifts. If a particular deck starts getting absolutely crushed and doesn’t Top 8 for a while, there could be a surge of newer Modern Players buying into a new deck. Some will flip-flop, some might just want another deck because they are still in the “increasing my collection phase.”

    I think this bodes well for Corbin’s Merfolk Deck and his most recent pick of the week on Brainstorm Brewery. A TON of people that bought into Modern looked at the most current information they had before buying into whatever deck. As Top 8 results change this season we might see some more price corrections and cards spiking if decks like Merfolk show up consistently.

    A lot of newer players convinced themselves they needed Goyfs or other “staples” to play in Modern. They might change their mind if they see decks like Merfolk Top 8… 1 and 1/2 Goyfs can buy you an entire Merfolk Deck right now that is obviously competitive. I’d imagine a lot of people are going to be building Merfolk Decks and ANY other cheap deck that proves it can Top 8 in Modern.

    1. P.S… Guess what… You can get Goyfs for between $130-$140 again since Merfolk took down the GP… See what I mean? I thought we wouldn’t see the $130 mark again but I was wrong according to recent completed listings on eBay. I seriously think Merfolk and other “cheap” decks are causing Goyf to somewhat stall-out in price. Newer players just don’t have to have them as much as they thought they did…

      1. Goyf’s been $140ish on ebay for a while. If RUG Delver does well in a Legacy event or 2 I wouldn’t be surprised to see Goyf shoot back up as players realize he crosses over nicely into both accessible eternal formats.

  6. Hey,

    nice piece of work here, thanks for the article!

    I was thinking about selling my Snapcaster too when I saw that it reached the 70$/80$ range, but if I recall correctly, Spencer Walker said in one comment (about the GP Charlotte coverage) that he thought it still had room to grow.

    However, I recently saw a small decrease in Snapcaster prices (Basically going back into the 60/70$ range). Probably for the reasons you quote in your article ^^

    If you were to consider only profit, and nothing else (like you do not need the Snap to play them, etc), would you sell them at this time?

    I feel like it’s not targeted for a reprint any soon, but I’m actually wondering if it’ll keep on climbing the way it did these past few months…

    Sorry for the long post, and thank you very much !!

    1. No problem, and depending on how many you have, selling some or all is definitely a good move. If you got in at $20, I say keep a playset for yourself and otherwise enjoy your profits and move it into something cheaper but poised for growth. Snaps will likely see some continued growth over the next 12 months, but it will be slow.

  7. Vince, I’m honored but I just have an opinion like everyone else. Personally I sold 2 Snapcasters for $45 each to a dealer at a GP when he was $60 to “lock in profits”. I’m about to sell 2 to a friend at $70 each and he drives me to a bunch of events and needs Snaps so we both win…I got them all at $20 2 years ago when Innistrad block rotated. One thing I pay close attention to is AVAILABILITY…especially on StarCity Games and Ebay. When I posted my opinion that he still has room to grow SCG was sold out at $89-99…well they have a lot more of him now but still at $99, not at a price bump over $100. Ebay has a lot more available as well. Maybe it’s after the GP people are selling, I really don’t know. He isn’t going to crash…he isn’t a Standard only card and is a top tier card in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage. But we’ve passed the huge SCG Modern GP and it’s the summer…people need money to go to the shore and drink 😀

    Every player, investor, trader needs to decide when is the right time for them to sell. I think $70 is a solid price to take when a large vendor is selling for $100 and has a lot of cards in stock. But if he isn’t reprinted for the next year I don’t see why he wouldn’t go up or receive another spike…Twin and Grixis variations aren’t going anywhere. I should also note, one reason I made the initial sales is I reinvested in Foil Snaps at $100-$120 (sold other cards, did use some earned money from work as well. I also have another play set of non-foil Snaps to either sit on or sell, probably NOT until next year).

    You can always sell some or your inventory to “lock in profits”, or hedge against losses, and sit on some for next year. I’m not kicking myself for selling the 2 Snaps at $45….at the time it was a solid gain. I won’t be mad selling a friend 2 at $70. If they are $150 next year I will be happy to sell 2-4 then, I won’t be thrilled leaving $100 on the table obviously. If he magically gets reprinted out of nowhere (or gets banned which is about 0.01%) then I’m happy with my current set of transactions and profits. So the question is what would make you the happiest and/or most comfortable? I hope this helps your decision process Vince (I don’t think you can go wrong either way). Take care.

  8. Good to see Fish back at the top of it’s game. I think it maybe time for it to shine in Legacy again given that we’re living in the age of Omni and Delver. I completely missed the Silvergill Adept spike and am now going to pour over my Lorwyn bulk box and get those copies out for trade.

    In the Eye of Chaos (IEC) is a card people need to start paying more attention to. It should begin seeing sideboard action as a route against those two previously mentioned builds. It certainly drives Show and Tell players back to SneakShow builds.

    IEC is so damn good Omnitell has to essentially scoop unless they can play Emrakul right then and there.

    Also seeing less graveyard hate in boards this year. Dredge staples might see some gains if players cash out high end Modern staples to enter Legacy. I’ve been getting more requests for things like Cabal Therapy and Ichorid so this may be happening now and the pulse is so low it isn’t being tracked yet. Cabal Therapy especially. It’s getting harder to find and sees more play than it’s price would indicate.

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