Are Standard Mythics Still Good Short-Term Specs?

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By Guo Heng

“Wizards is really trying to kill speculators huh?”

I woke up last Friday to this message a fellow mtgfinance enthusiast at my LGS . The Battle for Zendikar Event Deck’s list was announced on Thursday 8 a.m. PST (which is around 11 p.m. Malaysian time on Thursday). As I glanced through the decklist, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. And I was sure as hell it wasn’t because I have yet to ingest my compulsary dose of morning caffeine.

If you have yet to see the decklist, check out Corbin’s (@chosler88) post about the Event Deck for his thoughts on the impact of the reprints.

Here are the notable cards that you’ll be able to find in the value-fest that is the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck:

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What!? Since when do Wizards chuck in mythics in Event Decks. Two mythics!? 

I was dismayed to see Whisperwood Elemental included in the decklist.  I was bullish on Whisperwood Elemental as a mythic with an incredible potential for price growth in the new Standard landscape we are hurtling towards this October. Whisperwood has the making of a breakout card in financial terms. It’s a Standard staple with a track record in aggro and midrange decks. It’s a mythic from a small set.  And it was hovering around $6 – $7 for the previous few months, probably as low as a small set Standard staple mythic could go. Whisperwood Elemental could spike to the $15 – $20 range if it becomes the premier green five drop in the Battle for Zendikar Standard, an outcome which I am quite confident about considering Whisperwood’s power level and the new unconditional creature removal being sorcery speed.

It all changed when the Fire Nation attacked Wizards decided that they are going to reprint mythics in Standard supplemental products. Whisperwood is now $5 and I doubt it would be able to hit even $15 anymore. While the influx in supply from the Event Deck is marginal, it does affect the perception regarding the financial potential of the Elemental. I also pity the fool who went in deep on Warden of the First Tree.

The most recent supplementary product designed for Standard, the Magic Origins Clash Pack, packed a little more value than usual with Standard and Modern staples like Windswept Heath, Collected Company and Siege Rhino, and Standard and Modern playables like Dromoka’s Command and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit. But it was not too much of a surprise as high value rares like Hero’s Downfall and Thragtusk had seen reprint in these products. The inclusion of a fetchland was also not novel. Verdant Catacombs was in the Magic 2012 Event Deck.

Why Spec on Standard Mythics?

In the era where rare is the new uncommon, playable but homeless Standard mythics makes for better short-term spec targets compared to rare as mythics offer a significantly better multiplier at only a slightly increased cost.

Take Perilous Vault for example. The Magic 2015 mythic dropped all the way to $3 in September 2014, right before Khans of Tarkir rotated in. The colorless nuke found a home when Blue-Black Control made its debut at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir in October and subsequently tripled in price to $10. It’s not a majestic spike, but 300% growth within a month or two is decent return for a $3 investment.

Perilous Vault

Sometimes you don’t even need to wait for rotation to happen, as with the case of See the Unwrittena card which fellow MTGPrice writer, James Chillcott (@MTGCritic) and I have been bullish about. It recently spike from $3 to $8 (about time!) on the anticipation that it would be used to cheat in Eldrazi et al.

See the Unwritten

Now that Wizards is encroaching into mythic territory for cards deemed fit to be reprinted in Event Deck/Clash Pack products (they alternate each product between sets), the notion that playable Standard mythics at rock bottom are relatively low risk short-term specs no longer hold true. With mythics are no longer immune to an Event Deck/Clash Pack reprint, buying into future Perilous Vaults and See the Unwritten just got a lot riskier.

Walking the Speculation Planes

Ultimately Wizards’ priority is to ensure that competitive staples are sufficiently accessible to keep the competitive scene as inclusive as possible (plus it sells products). As a competitive player, I do welcome that move as it means that I would be able to secure my playset of Hangarback Walker at a reasonable price after missing the boat on that one.

As a financier, Wizards’ increasingly trigger happy inclination to reprint and repress price of staples forces me to reconsider my approach to short-term Standard mythic specs.

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Reprint Them All

 

The risk with Event Decks/Clash Packs reprints resides in the fact that it is hard to predict when, or rather which Event Deck/Clash Pack would reprint which mythic. There is a class of Standard mythics that follow a more predictable reprinting.

Standard planeswalkers reprints are reserved for the spring Duel Deck,  which means that they still make relatively safe short-term/rotation spec. Playable planeswalkers at rock bottom often spike come rotation,  along the lines of Xenagos, the Reveler and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver during the previous rotation.

Xenagos, the Reveler

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

The announcement for next spring’s Duel Deck comes late October or early November, so make sure you cash out of any short-term. planeswalker spec by then.

Siege Rhino is still in Standard and who better to accompany a crash of rhinos than Sorin, Solem Visitor, who is just $8 now. Now that Stormbreath Dragon is a myth of Standard past, it may be time for Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker to soar the skies for good as the premier sticky red five drop. Oh also, did I mentioned that now your opponent can’t kill your Sarkhan with his Form of the Dragon on the stack?

The Upside

Wizards’ increasingly trigger happy reprint policy is not all doom-and-gloom for financiers. Even if you do not grind Standard, there is a positive note to the phenomenon. Granted, the biggest casualty is the increased risk in short-term speculation. The other side of the coin is that Wizards’ aggressive reprint of high value Standard rares in their Event Decks/Clash Packs widens the window in which you could pick them up for long-term spec.

A good number of expensive Standard rares in recent times were expensive because they found a home in Modern. Collected Company hit double digits (and hovered near $20 briefly) but Den Protector did not because Collected Company spawned new archetypes in Modern and made Elves tier one while Den Protector is strictly worse than Eternal Witness in Modern. Tasigur barely sees Standard play but the amount of eternal play he sees made him the most expensive rare in Fate Reforged. And I don’t think many would complain about Windswept Heath dropping back to $12 after the Khans of Tarkir fetches trended upwards during the summer. You can bet that Tasigur, Collected Company and Windswept Heath will appreciate at a decent rate in the following years as Modern staples.

These Event Deck/Clash Pack reprints creates another window, or extends the current window to pick up these cards as long-term investments. For financiers without a huge budget, or those who have to split their budget between specs and maintaining a competitive Standard card pool, this is likely to be welcome news. Personally, I could never pick up all the specs I have on my specs list for the month as I grind the competitive scene as well and I can’t just sink 90% of my Magic budget into a truckload of Tasigur when he bottomed at $6. Tasigur dropped from $8.50 to $6.50 after last week’s announcement, giving me another window to pick him up at rock bottom amid securing Battle for Zendikar staples.

Do share your thoughts in the comments section below, or catch me on Twitter at @theguoheng.


 

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7 thoughts on “Are Standard Mythics Still Good Short-Term Specs?”

  1. Hi Guo !
    Just to share my opinion on the subject : according to the announcement for Oath of the Gatewatch (http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/news/announcing-oath-gatewatch-2015-09-01), we will not get any Event Deck/Clash Pack for this set (and I suppose we will definitely not get any, though it’s still to be confirmed…). So maybe the Battle for Zendikar’s Event Deck with all its value cards is just the apotheosis for this product…

    1. Hey! Thanks for bringing that to our attention, I certainly missed that. Hmm that’s peculiar as they did not make any announcement about discontinuing the product which they usually do with regards to changes in their product line-up. I guess we will find out in a bit if it’s the intern who missed out the Clash Pack on the announcement listing, or if a product line shake-up is coming.

      It would be nice if the BFZ Event Deck is the pinnacle of value for Standard supplementary products, but it seems unlikely. It’s a bit like a power creep in a way. Imagine the dismal sales figure for any upcoming Standard supplementary products that does not compare in value to recent ones.

  2. I kinda flipped from a financier’s perspective when Corbin released his article and I saw the event deck. I also flipped when Coco was reprinted. I feel like Wizards is crushing the investment side of Magic….but their goal is not to propagate investing in Magic. They want people to be able to play Siege Rhinos and Coco, and afford Hangarbacks and Tasigurs. I just worry about the long term implications: if it’s too risky to invest or save Magic cards are players going to start turning away from the game?

    I’m in the process of outting a large number of Abrupt Decays in lieu of the Commander product being enemy colored and Decay around $20 and a Modern (and Legacy) staple. I got in at $6 so getting out now is fine, but the reprint craze is making investing difficult. Of course, those of us that sold Serum Visions and Goblin Guides into the MM2015 hype “lost out” but still likely made money.

    But in regards to Standard card investing I’ve already greatly decreased my spec targets and it sounds like a lot of the finance community is doing the same. The amazing Siege Rhino is losing the price war vs Hardened Scales (roughly, forgive me if that changes. But that fact a Modern and Standard staple is about the same price as a pure spec and casual card is mind-boggling). The lack of presale speculating also seems to have caused the meteoric rise of cards like Jace and Hangarback (and last year Rabblemaster and week 1 Mantis Rider) as the “value” of Standard cards upon release are very risky and everyone seems to wait to the week of the Pro Tour and then beat everyone to a buy out. Non-foil Standard cards seem like a huge risk, if you can spec and then sell off cards right after a pro tour or week 1 of a Star City event I think you and financiers can make money. But if one’s plan is to hold onto Standard specs that’s likely a losing money making plan going forward. I picked up foil Ashclouds and Whisperwoods at below or regular card prices…but even that seems like a losing idea. And cards like foil Anafenza the Foremost have risen but not to the level I expected. Foil Den Protector is about $13 while non-foil is $9-10!?!?!?! I’m not sure exactly what’s going on in the market but it’s not behaving like many of us would expect.

    2 quick points: I was wrong about the Tango/Battle Lands…they suck!! They are worse than Temples…you can fetch for them but STREAMLINED DECKS WITH GREAT MANA BASES that can cast spells on curve are going to dominate standard EXCEPT and maybe for a Control/5-Color Dragons deck which will still only play about 2 of the new lands. I do believe the Pain Lands will be the premier lands of Standard as casting spells on curve is going to be the difference between winning and losing Magic games. Secondly, I’d get out of Deathmist Raptor now. There’s a lot of removal spells that EXILE cards and even Spell Shrivel which exiles (Radiant Flames is actually a great Jeskai answer to Aggro decks). Additionally, before rotation Raptor was on the decline and now Satyr Wayfinder is gone. Without a good mill card/strategy $20+ Raptors seems like a lofty price.

    Just my opinions, but I play a lot of Standard and these are my thoughts for the Magic community moving forward.

    P.S. Thanks for writing a free article

    1. Hi Spencer! Thanks for reading and sharing your comment. Great point about Abrupt Decay’s increased reprint risk with the enemy-colored Commander products in the horizon.

      Yeah, the signal Wizards is giving to the market does not bode well for financiers. The safe haven of cards we could speculate on is getting smaller and smaller every year, which means we have to be a lot more picky in selecting cards to spec on. I agree with WURBG that eternal foils seem a lot more enticing these days. Anyway, I am not too bummed about Wizards’ direction. Understandably, accessibility is priority as it sells more products and is probably better for the game’s growth.

      Hold on to your foil Anafenza, the Foremost. Besides the occasional Modern play, she is a popular Commander in Duel Commander. I am confident her foils would be worth a good sum in the long-term.

  3. I think what speculators need to take from this is invest in FOILS if you think a newly released card is eternal playable. Hell invest in foils if you think the card is good in EDH too.

    WotC is basically telling us that they are going to make sure that players are not driven away from newly emerging archetypes because a card spiked during its life in standard. They will make sure standard players can get cheap copies of cards like CoCo so that they are enticed to go to FNM.

    The lesson here is that they are not messing with foils too much other than FTV and everyone hates those. Modern, Legacy and EDH players LOVE foils and the foil price isn’t driven down much by these reprints. In fact, confidence in foils often times goes up as confidence in non foils goes down. WotC have unnoficially given speculators an “out” by leaving foils out of supplemental products.

    All of this screams “BUY FOILS” to me. I think the Age of Reprints is really going to turn out to be the Age of the Foil Multiplier.

    I mentioned on the forums that I would like to see some articles from the writers and their thoughts on foil specs now that the game has changed. I think we all need to re-evaluate our definitions of “safe” specs.

    1. Agreed. Eternal foils are looking better and better every year as Wizards get more aggressive with reprints.

      I would love to write about speccing on foils, but that is an endeavour beyond my paltry Magic budget. The foils I get mainly come from redemption and they are for my own personal collection.

  4. WUBRG I’ve been spec’ing mostly on foils since I decided to take this magic finance thing seriously, so I agree with you there. Unfortunately at my LGS a lot of players aren’t as interested in foils as I am and it’s hard for me to move them unless I do the ebay thing, or get into pucatrade, etc. But there’s some very weird inconsistencies with foil pricing (like with Noble Hierarch) although original foils typically don’t get crushed like non-foils from reprints. Additionally, Wizards is almost reprinting cards too quickly to capitalize on the spikes like with the Coco and Hangarback reprints.

    There’s too many smart people out there it seems to really cash in. I got extremely lucky picking up foil Jaces for $25 on ebay and got Taz foils around $13…but big wins like those are in the minority. I’m deep on Foil Harbinger of the Tides for $8-10 a piece, it’s a Legacy and Modern 4 of yet it’s still this low?!?!?! Dig is amazing and gaining popularity in Legacy, but the foil price really hasn’t budged, maybe cause it’s banned in Modern but for a foil Legacy powerhouse I’d expect it to be more than $25 at this point (foil Deathrite is $60ish and their rarity, popularity, and Modern banning are all equivalent). I hope I’m ahead of the curve, but prices aren’t where I’d expect them. Oh, and then there’s the wonderful ban hammer always looming.

    I’m getting to the point where speculating on new cards is too risky. For every (talking all foils here) Jace and Taz and Mentor I hit on there’s Humble Defectors, Rending Volleys, Aetherspouts, Jeskai Ascendencies, Treasure Cruises, Whisperwoods, Sorins, Siege Rhinos (got in at $4, he’s still at 4) I miss on and then I don’t pull the trigger on things like Nissa, Worldwaker, Origin’s Nissa, Rabblemaster, Hangarback, until it’s too late cause of the volatility of the magic market. I probably need to do some spread sheets and see if my wins are greater than my loses and then I’ll have a more accurate outlook and understanding of my prediction skills, but I feel like it’s ‘WorK’ instead of fun speculating these days. I think the writers are doing a better job discussing the prospects of foils, but some of them dislike foils so they have no interest in covering them. I hope BFZ is good to you WUBRG, not sure if you are targeting anything specific. There’s a few really cheap cards I’m taking a flier on like Radiant Flames. Good luck to ya!

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