Grinder Finance – Future Proofing

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With the wrap up of Grand Prix Seattle / Tacoma (which is really just Tacoma, I don’t understand why Seattle is even mentioned), many people got another taste of the eternal format, Legacy.  Many players look at the huge turn out and wonder “why aren’t there more Legacy Grands Prix? Look at how many people went to this one!”  While I understand these sentiments from the very vocal Legacy community, I don’t think it’s a good place to invest your future in Magic.

With the announcements from StarCity Games (here), the number of large Magic events is being cut in 2016.  StarCity games often had an open every weekend (including some holiday weekends) but has announced at least 5 weekends off in their first of 3 seasons this year (ending April 10th).  While I won’t analyze the effect of less organized play opportunities as a whole on Magic, I will point out the breakdown of the 9 events.  There are 5 Standard events, 3 Modern events, and only 1 Legacy offering in these 4 months.  This cut back on Legacy in favor of Modern is indicative of a larger trend away from player’s non-rotating format of choice from Legacy to Modern.  There are a lot of reasons why, but it’s been in the numbers for a while.

wasteland

How the mighty have fallen, right?  Legacy cards have been heralded like blue chip stocks.  They have nowhere to go but up, right?  Wasteland is technically an uncommon and not part of the reserve list so it could be reprinted at any time.  Consumer confidence isn’t high on this card and it’s lack of Legacy play that is causing it to fall.

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volcanic island rev

Even Revised Volcanic Island (arguably the most important land in the format) has seen a downward trend.  Although it is nowhere the pre-spike value of a mere $150, I can’t see this card rebounding nearly as fast as Modern investments.

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volcanic island unl

Unlimited edition Volcanic Islands have faired a little bit better because they’re legal in that niche 93/94 format.  Given the fact that Volcanic Island was accidentally left off the Alpha print sheet (seriously, go ask a vendor if they have an Alpha Volcanic Island), there are far fewer choices for this dual land in this format.  If you want to invest in a dual, this is probably the best one (with scarcity being the only thing that continues to drive it’s price up).

But what about Modern cards? They’re just like Wasteland and can be reprinted.  What is happening to their price tags?  Well let’s take a look at some cards from Modern Masters that were greatly affected by the reprint.

aether vial mm arcbound ravager glimmervoid

If you spent that $300 you could have spent to buy 1 Volcanic Island on Glimmervoid or Arcbound Ravager (cards that were not reprinted in Modern Masters 2015) in June, then you could have doubled your money in October.  The constant cycle of reprints is pushing the oldest cards to the front of the top gainers page each year.

The ease of turning Standard cards into Modern cards has never been higher with each set adding a few important cards to a Modern deck.  In fact, if you own the Standard Atarka Red deck right now you also own a minimum of 16 cards for a Modern burn deck.  It’s much easier to make the transition to Modern than Legacy and it’s more easy to support Modern at the LGS level because of sustainable reprints.

That being said, I’m not trying to take a shot at Legacy as a format.  I’m just voicing my concerns for continuing to hold cards that are highly influenced by their play in Legacy.  I think there are a number of ways Legacy can evolve as a format to allow for better game play and increased interest but I don’t think this is the place to explain that.

Upgrading your Trade Binder

What can we learn from Modern Masters to apply to our portfolio at the end of this year?

fulminator

This is my go-to target for an easy double up.  As long as big mana decks like Tron and Amulet Bloom continue to see play, this will have a home.  All it takes is one weekend where Bloom or Tron win to cause a rush to buy Fulminator Mages.  The Shadowmoor Fulminator Mage hit highs of $60 before being reprinted, I can’t fathom a world where this doesn’t get back to $40 again before a reprint.

noble hierarch

In continuing my trend of picking Modern Masters 2015 creatures, I think Noble Hierarch is another all-star that needs to be looked at.  True multi-deck staples will be the quickest to recover.  Noble Hierarch also gets some points for being the mainstay of a relatively inexpensive tier 1 deck, Infect.

spellskite

You know what’s more of a horror than Spellskite’s creature type?  It’s one of few cards that has actually increased in price since it was reprinted.  It eats Kolaghan’s Command like a champ, protects anyone from Lightning Bolts to the dome, gives Tarmogoyf +2/+2, and prevents Twin and Infect from winning pretty much on the spot.  Spellskite is like the perfect passive aggressive significant other that just sits in play protecting you at the potential cost of 2 life.  Anyone that doesn’t have multiple of these will be scrambling for them when Modern events kick into high gear again.

Not everything is gold, however.  I would avoid any cards that got reprinted in both Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2015.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see the trio of Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, and Vendilion Clique show up as marquee cards in Modern Masters 2017 (or whenever the next Modern Masters set is).  Some cards that got reprinted as a mythic but are a little more niche are also probably fine pickups.  Mox Opal will be in for a price correction if Ravager and Glimmervoid get printed again.  Karn will likely see a jump if Grove of the Burnwillows is in our near future.

You know what’s a real odd one?

kor spiritdancer

Kor Spiritdancer is probably a pretty decent investment for the near future.  This card has been on an upward trend since the $30+ Daybreak Coronets got reprinted.  Boggles decks are largely a collection of draft commons and Horizon Canopy  so they are a perfect budget option for a lot of players.  At some point, something in the deck has to be worth something and this is probably it.  It’s hard to reprint since the Kor are native to Zendikar and there isn’t an enchantment theme going on like during Rise of the Eldrazi.

 

Final Thoughts

  • I really don’t want to hold onto Sensei’s Divining Tops right now.  If Legacy is ever going to evolve into a format that is enjoyable to the general player base, that card will need to be banned.  It sits on the Modern banned list for similar reasons as to why it will probably eventually get banned.
  • In my opinion, Wizards needs to figure out a way to print creatures that cost more than one and less than eight that provide exciting game play for Legacy to experience any growth.
  • Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged cards are at the highest they will be for the next 2 years.  I do not expect any kind of jump in January when Oath of the Gatewatch is released.  Sell accordingly.
  • Expect a shake-up on the Modern ban list prior to the Pro-Tour in January.  Given the heath of the format, an unban seems more likely than a ban.
  • I expect a new Kozilek to be in Oath of the Gatewatch.  If he is as game ending as Ulamog, expect a green Eldrazi ramp deck to be good.
  • I don’t expect the Commander 2015 decks to be a total bust.  If you can pick up Sword of Selves or Command Beacon in trades they should mature well.
  • Next week I will bring you some information from the vendors and artists at GP Atlanta
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23 thoughts on “Grinder Finance – Future Proofing”

  1. I think you make some false assumptions and statements here, specifically regarding Wasteland. Wasteland’s sharp rise was due to an attempted buyout. It was a failed buyout, and so the buyer dumped them all, causing the price to go back down. This is well known. It is not a good card to use for a price chart to make any assumptions about legacy pricing. Then you state that its lack of Legacy play is causing it to fall? It seems to have been very heavily played at the GP. Do you have any actual data to show decreased play?

    Secondly, I think you need to be relatively careful with Modern. I’m sure you remember that about a year ago, Wizards released information about how dissatisfied they were with the format and that they were going to begin dropping support of it. At the request of the playerbase, they reconsidered and are giving it another shot, but I wouldn’t put all my eggs into the modern basket.

    On top of that, I have concerns about future reprints. Modern Masters 2015 drove all but the heavily played cards into bulk pricing, and they are running out of value to reprint outside of those heavily played cards. I would guess that the next set of Modern Masters whenever it comes is going to have many more heavily played cards in it, printed a lot.

    The GP announcement from a couple months ago suggests that Wizards is not expecting massive player growth this year. Hasbro wants results. Wizards will likely respond by more frequent high-value reprints to continue to drive sales.

        1. If thats what he meant then that’s a little short sighted. Wizards still hosts many more Modern Grands Prix than Legacy and continues to enjoy the lucrative Modern Masters reprint product series.

      1. Jarvis was right. What I was referring to was the fiasco last August where they cut modern from the pro tour. We got those gems of statements from Aaron Forsythe and Helene such as:

        (Helene) Standard is the most-played format by far, which makes sense. It’s highly accessible for everyone and it rewards players who are good deckbuilders, as well as skilled players. We are supporting other formats, such as Modern, through the Grand Prix schedule, but we feel that the Pro Tour, and the level of play and preparation that we want to showcase, is best left in the hands of Standard.

        Aaron as well made comments in a private interview (here say, I know), such as the format being ‘stale’ and that it had ‘not enough innovation’.

        I’m not saying it’s going to happen — no one knows, but a year ago they were lowering support. Who knows if they will feel that way again next year. It’s just hard to make strong speculation on a format they wizards wasn’t happy with last year, with a slower growing player base, with reprints of all cards readily available. I just worry. We all (including me) have a LOT of money tied up in modern and legacy.

    1. The sentence about it’s “lack of Legacy play” was a reference to the lack of people playing Legacy not the lack of it being played in Legacy. Sorry that was awkwardly worded.

      I also don’t remember them ever mentioning any drop in support for Modern. The fact that they can continue to print cards for that format and receive money is indicative they want the format to survive. The entire Modern format is based on the fact that you can reprint anything in it so prices should never “get out of control,” but also it means that the secondary market is not the only ones who can profit from card sales in Modern.

      1. It is this concern that worries me. What exactly constitutes ‘out of control’? Looking at the meta list and the associated prices with the decks, a modern deck costs between $700 and $1500, with a few exceptions (burn, amulet bloom, a few others). Legacy decks average between $1500 and $2500, with some exceptions (dredge and burn being around $500 for example). So if you are expecting the prices of some cards to double based on being heavily played, where does this leave the normal modern deck? Right around $1500 to $2500. Right where it’s too expensive. Right where wizards might step in, or just as bad, step out.

        1. But the reality of Modern is that is not how much it costs to make a deck. Reprints give us dips in prices where people can pick up cards for cheaper than they would have otherwise. Legacy almost never has large dips in prices that provide “good times to buy in”

        2. What average modern deck costs $700 to $1500? Yeah some cost up to $1500 or more, that’s what happens when you run 4 goyfs and zendikar fetches.

          My elves (both versions, combo and midrange) are sub-$500 decks easily. I think I actually could put them together for under $300 actually. Merfolk is probably similar, and others.

          1. Well I guess I was basing my modern deck prices off of the established metagame. There are sites out there that show the most played decks and the cost of each. If we look at all decks over 2% of the metagame (14 decks, and elves does not have 2% of the metagame), the average price is $1,113. A lot higher than you think. You are missing my other point as well. People are betting on modern prices to rise. Enough to be investment worthy. If they rise, that only makes these decks that much more expensive — and so is modern really that much cheaper than Legacy? A little. If prices rise, no.

  2. This theory is bullshit! Legacy staples drastically grow in Europe, community players are bigger, MCM started a series of European Legacy. On the other hand, many Legacy cards are part of a growing commander format.

    1. I never said it wasn’t growing. I said that the growth of Modern is faster and indicative of faster moving card prices if you wish to make profits in 1-2 years instead of 3-5 years.

      Can you show me the growth of legacy staples in Europe? Our data uses only North American card vendors.

  3. I dont play legacy but its easy to tell some folks are a bit uneasy about this article…… i can sypmathize some, i guess if i had a 5000$ foiled out legacy deck the last thing i want to hear is that support for the format is dying

    more or less this leads to a statement that has rung in my mind since i jokingly said it at my LGS.

    ” modern is the new legacy “

    1. I don’t want to insinuate that the format is dying. The point of the article is to point out that if you are going to invest in cards that don’t rotate because they “wont lose value” it’s better to pick up Modern cards because the ebb and flow of the prices gives us a better chance to buy in low and sell high. Legacy cards will continue to creep up because there are simply less of them in the world every year after some become lost or too damaged to play.

  4. Modern has had reprint support. The reprints dropped prices. The prices dropping allowed more players to afford access to Modern staples and thus support the format.

    Legacy is an awesome format. I will start off with that. I am a fan. However, it is not a sustainable format. The reserve list limits cards from reprints, and the price tag on an affordable deck is in the thousands.

    While more seasoned players with access to o a larger collection can manage. Other players over time will stick with modern and my least favorite format, standard because it is the more affordable option. I would love for WOTC to do something to support that format, but outside of taking cards off the reserve list, and doing a massive reprint ( which will never happen, just hypothetically speaking). They really can’t do a lot. It isn’t going to die, but it will be taking some hits.

  5. Hey Jim, I find it interesting that you misinterpreted my Standard is too expensive rebuttal when you thought I was “rubbing in” the fact players didn’t get Khans fetches because your comment about Modern Atarka Red containing at least 16 Standard Legal cards came from MY comment or at least I presented it there. I’ll try commenting one more time and we’ll see how this goes.

    It seems you like writing doom and gloom articles, if I read only your pieces I wouldn’t ever get involved in Magic as it seems like a waste of time and money and if you guess wrong on a card or two you are out a ton of money. I’m going to share a little knowledge and opinion because you only use some facts and graphs to support your points, plus I’ve posted these statements before:

    I believe the spike for 95% of Legacy cards was around the time of GP New Jersey!! Wasteland went on a decline when Cruise (and Dig) were printed. Wasteland strategies were losing to UR Delver as UR Delver players would just search for one Island and Cruise would catch the Delver player up and surpass the effect of Wasteland. (Patrick Sullivan on Star City coverage over and over said the format was more fun when people were drawing 3 cards instead of having their lands destroyed and not playing magic) After Cruise was banned Dig became the soup du jour, well to ensure you can cast Dig you need 2 blue mana so again fetching for Islands remained popular or decks like OmniShow would just fetch for Islands so Wasteland wasn’t featured in top decks for quite a while. It was roughly a 3 of in some of the Grixis Delver/Control decks that were doing well until the new banning of Dig. I believe there may have been another Wasteland FOIL Judge Promo released as well since GP Jersey and as you noted Legacy players like to foil out decks so that might also have led to decreased price.

    “Snapcaster Mage has fallen from $100 to $60 and it’s a sign that Modern is dying!!!” lol, I love making this comment because this is what Modern supporters are saying about Legacy cards. Abrupt Decay has dropped from $20 to 15, Serum Visions is on the decline and only had a new FNM promo (nicknamed Semen Visions of all things)….so is Modern dying??? I think you would agree the answer is NO. But this is what happens when people interpret graphs without looking at facts and causes for spikes and declines. It’s also proof that MODERN IS NOT A STABLE INVESTMENT. You are 1000% correct about investing money in Vials, Ravagers, and Glimmervoids vs. Volcs, but guess what? If you invested your money in Bobs, V Clique, Cryptic, Noble Hierarch etc you’d be singing quite a different tune.

    With every Modern Masters release everyone poops themselves and sells what they fear might be reprinted…so then nobody has the cards that aren’t reprinted and has to buy them back driving up price. Voice of Resurgence is a prime reprint target and it will plummet to $10 when it is, but if it’s NOT in the next MM set it’ll spike to $40 or so right? Goblin Guide keeps riding this roller coaster. Big risk, big reward and loss for these cards. Modern is a roller coaster investment, much like small set Standard cards like Dragons of Tarkir set. Hindsight is 20/20 and I think you are giving too much credit to Modern investing, it is quite volatile.

    One last comment, Financially I understand what you are saying about Top but I can’t stand your reasoning even though it’s just your opinion and largely the opinion of the Magic community. Miracles is the ONLY control deck in Legacy, and to me there is nothing more enjoyable than beating a Miracles player. I mean who gets pumped about beating Burn? Who cares about beating Stoneblade or Death and Taxes? Everyone loves to stick it to the Miracle’s player. Playing vs control is typically never fun, so I don’t understand the big deal if there’s a control deck in Legacy. That said, Wizards seems to listen to the Legacy players that complain the most as they banned Cruise and Dig and thus I Financially agree with you that Top is not a good investment. I just believe it’s these constant complaints from Legacy players that are causing the format to stagnate and if new powerful cards keep getting banned there becomes no room for growth. I guarantee that if Top is banned there will be 2 decks that rule Legacy and everyone will again complain and ask for more bannings. Wizards needs to step back and leave the “dying” format only.

    1. Spencer, I appreciate your comments but I think you would be better served changing your tone to sounds less condescending. You are more than welcome to have an opinion on my piece (which is also an opinion) without sounding hostile.

      While I understand you may think I took the reference to the overlap in Atarka Red with Modern Burn specifically from your quote, it is an anecdote that doesn’t really matter where it came from.

      “It seems you like writing doom and gloom articles, if I read only your pieces I wouldn’t ever get involved in Magic as it seems like a waste of time and money and if you guess wrong on a card or two you are out a ton of money”

      How is this gloom and doom? I’m suggesting you invest in Modern instead of Legacy. If you make a wrong call, that is the risk you take when you try to treat Magic like a stock market.

      “I believe the spike for 95% of Legacy cards was around the time of GP New Jersey!!”

      The Wasteland spike lasted until July. GP New Jersey 2014 was not until November. Revised Volcanic Island hit it’s all time high in June. What cards spiked at GP NJ that you are talking about?

      “Abrupt Decay has dropped from $20 to 15, Serum Visions is on the decline and only had a new FNM promo”

      These cards fell predictably because Modern is out of season. While I won’t make any guarantees, it is unlikely they will continue to fall into Modern season next year.

      “so is Modern dying???”

      I never said any format was dying.

      “If you invested your money in Bobs, V Clique, Cryptic, Noble Hierarch etc you’d be singing quite a different tune.”

      Singing a different tune? Probably not, I made mention that there is precedent now to repeat some flagship mythic rares. I made mention that I’m not particularly fond of holding some of those due to their ability to be reprinted in another year.

      “With every Modern Masters release everyone poops themselves and sells what they fear might be reprinted…so then nobody has the cards that aren’t reprinted and has to buy them back driving up price. ”

      This sounds like a great investment opportunity to me and a great reason to buy into Modern.

      “Big risk, big reward and loss for these cards.”

      We haven’t had enough time to tell if this is true from Modern Masters 2015. Modern Masters has recovered nicely on almost every non-casual card that was reprinted.

      “One last comment, Financially I understand what you are saying about Top but I can’t stand your reasoning even though it’s just your opinion and largely the opinion of the Magic community”

      My reasoning is that the card is seen in a negative light in the community. It provides a poor viewing experience which is why it’s banned in a lot of other formats. It’s not on the reserve list so there is unlikely a reason for it to climb out of control. Why risk holding onto them if they have a possibility of being banned and falling from the sky?

  6. @jim helpful post to read and think about. it is understandable that people are going to overlook your underlying arguments given that everyone is worried about the future (relative, that is) of legacy.

    it makes sense that modern is going to up during the next half year or so, relative to whatever legacy could do in the same timeline, but i think it’s a good time to get into legacy given that prices are moving downwards or flatlining. for those (e.g., me) that want to get their first or second legacy deck, using that idle liquid inventory will help me do that.

    i’ve already made up my paper modern set already (twin everything, UWx control, prowess) but have been looking at legacy for a long time (miracles, delver shells).

    i am a bit bitter because i have to trade out a lot of the cards that you’ve mentioned (noble, mage, etc). maybe i should have held and move after the next PT. one middle ground that i’m moving on is to move into blue fetch expeditions and then figure it out from there.

    if i decide to move back into modern pieces, i find spellskites the most compelling.

    thanks for the article!

  7. Thanks for your long reply. I’m not sure why YOU find ME condescending when that’s how I view your writing. I’m not sure if you don’t grasp sarcasm, maybe you hate D Madlem’s writing too, and I have no earthly idea what you find hostile unless you are insecure about your writing and ideas and I’m hitting a nerve. Regardless, we aren’t going to agree ever so thanks for the time you spent replying because it was lengthy. I really hope you do take a look at your writing and see how you are coming off. I’m not the only person that wasn’t thrilled with this piece of writing. Travis one time wrote a piece I was livid with, he responded in length to my comment, and I think his writing has been much more positive than it previously had been yet still very analytical and educational.

    I too will look at my own writing and comments and see if I’m being too harsh. I am passionate about things I enjoy, like, and love. Nothing I’ve said has been condescending to the general reader or financier…if you find me condescending it’s because I don’t think you did enough homework on your last 2 articles but people read them like they are gospel. I can’t advocate for players at my LGS (young players at FNM) to read the articles on this site when I feel they are being given horrendous advice and presented with half truths. People, especially kids, believe everything on the net. You tell them Standard is too expensive and they stop showing up to LGS’s for events. Regarding this article, YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT ALL THE MODERN CARDS THAT TANKED during each reprint!! You also didn’t comment about Snapcaster’s rapid decline (without a reprint).

    We can disagree. I don’t think we need to waste each other’s time arguing. But please realize that A LOT of people read these articles and take you and the others for being “experts”. I don’t like to read “experts” talking about the game I love dying. Be cautious about investing, sure. But if you and other writers across the net keep saying that Legacy is dying it will…and then we might see an awful downward spiral where the bottom falls out on Magic. I don’t want to see that happen.

    Thank you Jim, I’ll read your next article, I hope I enjoy it more than the last 2, but more importantly I wish you well sir. Take care, please realize the impact your have on the Magic community.

  8. Well in all honesty these articles wouldnt even matter if people would stop treating mtg like a job or “investment” and more like a game.
    This cookie cutter bullshit with the meta makes me sick, its like players cant think for themselves.
    Mindless drones i guess. This game was about building a unique deck an having fun at one time. So sad thats gone.
    Ill stick with uniqueness in my decks even if i only beat the “champ” decks 70% of the time. I buy what i can afford and use my imagination instead of a spreadsheet or someone else’s ideas.

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