PROTRADER: Identifying Trends in Modern-Playable Dual Lands

Last week, I explored everything related to fetch lands. Based on Maro’s recent announcement stating there would be no fetch lands in Battle for Zendikar, the deeper dive was merited. Hopefully everyone has their strategies in place going forward. Personally, I’ve noticed Khans of Tarkir Polluted Delta continue to climb day in and day out while Onslaught copies barely move on eBay. The gap appears to be closing between the two printings.

But enough about fetches. I want to turn my attention to a broader trend I’ve been observing: namely, when a set’s respective dual lands spike. In light of the recent movement on Scars of Mirrodin fast lands, I want to see if any trends present themselves. If so, then we can reapply these trends to future lands as well.

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23 thoughts on “PROTRADER: Identifying Trends in Modern-Playable Dual Lands”

  1. Very insightful article, Sig. There are many out there who think shocklands are duds in terms of investments but your hypothesis points out good reasons for picking them up that we may be overlooking.

    I certainly have patience, but holding something for three and half to four years is a very long time… especially when most of us are looking for the next spike. However, I share your philosophy in that the point of tracking these prices so closely is so that we have time to setup for a big pay day for the cards we know are going to do well in the long term.

    1. Thanks, Jared! I think the ideal strategy here would not be to acquire mana-fixing lands when they’re in Standard, or even at rotation. To do so is to lock up funds unnecessarily for a year or two of minimal gains. However, it seems at that 3-4 year mark we really start to see movement. Just before said movement would be the best time to buy in. It incurs less wait time, but still enables you to get in at decent pricing.

      Let’s see if the hypothesis plays out on these shocks!!


      1. I’ve personally found it to be very worthwhile to have the Shocks for trade during their time in Standard. Right now I’m just sitting on my leftovers from that period, mostly obtained by using credit anyway. I know this is partially based on my unique trading setup, but I never felt the general disappointment in them was entirely justified as they were quite stable in price and as such a good commodity to get into anyway (especially compared to other options in Standard).

      2. Good point, pi. From a liquidity standpoint, shock lands have always been solid targets. My biggest complaint is that there were just endless other options which would have yielded better returns over the same time period. But shocks are more and more attractive every month they age…

      3. Assume you wanted to get into cards that met the following conditions:

        – recent (at least Standard legal)
        – likely to be stable in price, even through rotation
        – nice upward potential

        Were there really all that many other options in Standard during their time? Maybe Abrupt Decay or Thoughtseize? Most other options seemed more risky at the time.

        It’s entirely possible to not be in a position to pick up many cards outside of Standard (or to have some money left over after picking them up). Few cards have better long term prospects than lands already played in Modern, particularly as a deck might break out at any time that draws attention to one of them.

        Sure, in hindsight were many cards that saw better returns, but hindsight is 20/20. Of course it would’ve been possible to do better, but if you are risk averse and don’t want to keep a close eye on Standard you could’ve done a whole lot worse than get into Shocks. Right now you just need to wait for them to ripen.

        Of course I traded the Shocks for bulk rares, then traded the same amount of bulk rares for about 2-2.5 Shocks, so I was doing well anyway. So far nothing has moved for bulk rares quite as well as Shocks, only the ZEN Fetches come close.

      4. I suppose in the spirit of my article, any other mana-fixing nonbasic lands played in Modern would have been better pick-ups than Shocks. Primarily man-lands, Scars Lands, and, most recently, fetches.

      5. But would you really have given those better prospects when the Shocks were in Standard? (Because if so, in which article did you tell people to get them instead of Shocks?)

      6. I’m asking you to think back, not work with hindsight. What was really a better option than Shocks back then given what you knew then?

  2. Hey Sig,
    I also feel like the shocks just need another year or two to start growing. I actually sold my Scars and Innistrad lands to pick more shock lands up.

    1. VERY smart move, jbrown. Of course…Scars lands are likely to climb even higher (at least the ones that are played will). Still, I’d much much rather be in shocks anyway since they have much higher playability in Modern. You timed things well!

      I just picked up a few of the more heavily played shocks myself, and I’ll keep an eye out for a few more in the next couple months. I really think this thesis will hold true on these.

  3. Great article.

    I have a feeling though that BFZ will be bringing us a form of mana fixing that we have not seen before. It has been a long time since something new was put into the mix.

    1. Thanks, shadray! You’re right that BFZ will bring us new mana fixing lands. What remains to be seen is how strong they will be in the Modern environment. I honestly don’t see WOTC printing something better than the fetch land / shock land combination. But time will tell…I suspect shocks will have a home in Modern for years to come because they’re VERY difficult to outclass. And if rumors are true that BFZ brings us enemy man lands, then shocks will definitely be a mainstay of Modern.

  4. The time and effort you put into your research and articles really shows. Thanks for sharing your findings with us. Long Term trends like this are a great thing to remember. Bookmarked!

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment!!! I really do pay close attention to numerous trends, and any time something pops up as noteworthy I try to write about it. Since I often work with a mid-term time horizon, observations like this nonbasic land trend are valuable to me. I’m really glad you find the data insightful as well – this tells me I’m doing the right research! 🙂

  5. Is the trend on Shocks affected by the fact that they are a second printing unlike your other examples?

    Why 3.5 years? It must relate to growth in the game’s player base to some extent. Shocks would be more plentiful after 3.5 years than other lands when they reach the same point because there is a prior stock of themfrom Ravnica:CoG.

    1. You raise a valid concern, Charles. I admit I have a tentatively optimistic view towards shock lands. You’re right that the player base exploded during RtR block, and there are many shock lands in existence as a result. This could be reason for caution.

      What I will point out though, is the robust price performance of the most played shock land: Steam Vents. Despite being a reprinted land, the card is worth around $13 – more than 2x its lows from two years ago. To me, this is precedent that other heavily played shock lands also share similar upside. And naturally as time progresses and these age, there will be less “float” in the market (fewer copies available for sale at any given time). This will spark natural price appreciation, periodically magnified by any potential for future Modern growth spurts. Time will tell.

      I’m not sure how critical the 3.5 years is…it just seems like an approximate timeline that seems to fit the data empirically. I don’t know if there’s a fundamental cause for it, or if it’s just related to how the game has been growing through the years. Regardless, I’m keeping a close watch on the shock lands I mentioned above as we approach Modern season 2016. This will be the true test for whether or not this thesis will continue to play out.

      Thanks for the build, I really appreciate the open dialogue!

    1. Oldschool ’93/’94, EDH, casual play in general and it could potentially see Legacy play again, though that’s a stretch (it once did in the life deck). Don’t forget about collectors though and copies being lost to time.

      Due to the very small print run of only 20.500 copies there only needs to be very little interest in the card to make it move. If it does start moving it’s primed to make a big jump, if it doesn’t it eventually will anyway, you just might need to be patient for a couple of years.

      As I see a jump becoming more and more likely I completed my playset last month. I couldn’t find much more than the 2 copies I ultimately bought in the 40+ shops I check in Europe.

    2. Pi hit the nail on the head. It’s my not-so-subtle reminder to folks to grab any old stuff they want now before they rise further (see: Bazaar of Baghdad, Mishra’s Workshop).

  6. I’ve been wanting to put together this research for a month now (I started in Zen, so I caught the gist of the trend experientially), but haven’t been able to find the time to do it. Great work here. Makes my decision to pick up a case of RtR and GTC much easier.

    1. Thanks!!! Glad the research was useful and timely. Just be prepared to wait a LONG time for sealed boxes to become profitable. I’m still sitting on 6 RtR boxes myself and I’ve seen virtually no appreciation since I bought them a couple years ago. I remain patient, but the opportunity cost is a true drawback.

      Hopefully we hit an inflection point soon, but I suspect we have at least another year before these boxes really move anywhere. I hear stores can still get these from distributors, even, so that’s not going to help.

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