Grinder Finance – A Year in Review

While Magic prices are basically on ice while everyone is on holiday, I thought it would be a good time to wrap up the year and point out some of the highs and lows of the past year of Magic.



Definitely a hit.  Dragons of Tarkir is hands down the best spring set we have had the pleasure of opening since New Phyrexia.  This set was initially viewed as a casual player’s paradise and a bust for competitive players but we can see now that looks continue to be deceiving.


These 5 commands were a big hit.  Although Silumgar’s Command was definitely the worst, the rest of the command cycle were a great investment if you bought in at the right time.  Kolaghan’s Command and Atarka’s Command are definitely the most surprising with their huge amount of Modern play.


The cycle of Dragonlords will continue to be movers and shakers in casual formats.  The popularity of Dragonlord Ojutai and Dragonlord Atarka in Standard caused them to be hugely successful pickups if you got in early.  I am sure anyone that you told during spoiler season that 5, 6 and 7 mana gold legendary dragons would be top tier Standard cards you would have been laughed out of the room.

Currently a box of Dragons of Tarkir has on average more value than every spring set in the last 6 years except Rise of the Eldrazi, Avacyn Restored, and New Phyrexia.  That’s pretty good company to be in.  While some Standard-only cards will lose value over time, there are plenty of rares and mythics that will retain value compared to previous spring sets.


Zendikar Expeditions is a touchy subject.  In fact, I’ve included it as both a hit and a miss.  For now, hold your need to close the article and hear me out.  Zendikar Expeditions was a great promotion.  It was totally unexpected and a great way to make the land plane special.  The art on most of them is quite good and despite the dissenting opinions on the border they did a good job making them very unique.  These are likely blue chip stocks of the near future of Magic.  I’d even wager they’re a better place to “park” money than Legacy staples and sealed product.  I also feel like they did a great job making sure they are obtainable while not completely obliterating their value.

modern masters 2015 banner

Ok this might seem like a little bit of a cop out but this is also in the misses column.  But let’s be positive here, Modern Masters 2015 did some good things.  First of all, supply wasn’t as big of an issue.  The raise in the MSRP of the packs meant you were able to find some reasonably priced booster boxes around release.  The anticipation of reprints also caused some cards to really fall off despite not being printed again.  There was a great opportunity to act once the fake MM15 list was spoiled to pick up cards like Goblin Guide.  Right now, Modern Masters 2015 supply still hasn’t dried up but it will by Modern season next year.  Now is the perfect time to get into the reprinted cards.  While this set also had a lot less “value” cards, it didn’t tank a ton of casual cards in it’s attempt to make Cranial Plating affordable.  I’d call that a win since casual cards have a much harder time rebounding.  Adarkar Valkyrie will never be the same.


Grand Prix Las Vegas was everything anyone could hope for and more.  Remember those expensive entry fees? Some how Channel Fireball and Cascade Games were able to keep the price at $75 for $60 worth of sealed product.  This event covered all of the bases of what a fantastic Grand Prix needs:

  • Great selection of artists
  • Good value side events (not too top heavy or expensive to discourage casual players)
  • Enough Judges to cover events
  • Enough seating to allow events to fire
  • A well thought out and organized plan to seat side events and the main event.

In fact, the only complaints I have for GP Vegas is it isn’t going on again next year and the playmat was ugly.

ugins insight

The story for Magic has never been more relevant that it has now.  As I explained in this article, paying attention to the uncharted realms and the story of Magic will be a key to staying one step ahead.  Were you surprised there was a Chandra planeswalker card spoiled for Oath of the Gatewatch?  You shouldn’t be!  She was in the Uncharted Realms very recently reaffirming her fight on Zendikar.  The story also implies right now that Emrakul is gone.  Not dead, but gone, to another plane probably eating it’s mana.  While it unlikely we will see the conclusion of the Eldrazi story in this next set, it is something to be keenly aware of.  The most powerful Eldrazi titan hasn’t received an updated card.  It could literally do anything but knowing when it’s coming is key.  My guess is we see Emrakul in the fall if Liliana goes with Jace to Innistrad.  If she doesn’t, Emrakul is probably on Innistrad.


zen fatpack

While this entire set wasn’t a miss… there was much to be desired.  Maybe next year we will look more fondly on what is currently Battle for Zendikar but man was it a blowout for mtg finance.  Gideon’s pre-order price went up and the last stayed about the same.  Everything else you may have pre-ordered basically fell through the floor.  It’s like everyone wanted to be a Siege Rhino but fell short.  While there may have been some reasons for a mechanical and power level reset (probably to support playing slower Eldrazi cards), this fall set was definitely a shocker to a lot of people involved.

Another pretty big miss for Battle for Zendikar was the insufficient printing of the extremely popular fat pack.  Hopefully supply issues will be remedied with Oath of the Gatewatch because they will contain Wastes and full art lands necessary for your dream decks.


Zendikar Expeditions, where do I begin?  I guess I’ll continue with the “bad.”  What the hell happened at the printers?  Was some disgruntled employee with a fork running around the factory scratching the edges off 3/4 of the expeditions before they caught him?  This series of cards was one of the most arduous tasks to get a complete set of because of how unsightly damaged foils are.  I’m not in love with the slick texture of the card but at least they had the decency not to use full From the Vault foiling.  All in all, I hope whichever company Wizards of the Coast used to print these is never used again.  It ruined an otherwise fantastic chase product.

Financially there was a lot of turmoil because nobody knew exactly how many expeditions were in each case.  There is some good and some bad things about Wizards of the Coast not using guaranteed rarities per box (some games like Cardfight: Vanguard have guaranteed distributions like 1 mythic per case, for example).

modern masters 2015 banner

What back alley printers are we using these days?  While the damaged cards weren’t nearly as bad as the eye sores on Expeditions, there were a lot of collation errors.  I played in a Modern Masters 2015 draft that had some of the most awkward problems that had to quickly be rectified by helpless judges.  One draft had 4 undraftable packs (missing rare, missing foil, two foils, two rares) because the printer just couldn’t get it right.  There is no bigger kick in the face than spending $10 on a pack with no rare.  Except maybe if your rare is a Comet Storm.  The extremely large range for the highest and lowest EV of a box caused it to be a real money loser unless you were exceptionally lucky or bought a lot to offset bad boxes.  Hopefully Wizards has learned from this mistake and makes the average value of the pack much closer to MSRP by including more expensive uncommons.

100 jace

You missed it.  I missed it.  We all missed most of the best cards in Magic Origins.  Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Hangarback Walker were available for $15 and $2 respectively during pre-order period but people were too busy salivating over a 1 mana planeswalker that currently sees no play and couldnt give the 0/2 merfolk looter the time of day.  The lesson learned here is we really can’t discount any Jace card.  Maybe we still had some Jace, Living Guildpact hangover but we have to remember than 2 and 3 mana planeswalkers are VERY good.


Overall, I think we had a great year of Magic but some pretty big blemishes on physical card quality put a damper on it.  I’m hoping we were loud enough to let Wizards know that this isn’t acceptable and can’t continue.


What do you think are the biggest hits and misses of 2015 in the world of Magic?  Leave your comments below!

3 thoughts on “Grinder Finance – A Year in Review”

  1. Naughty: ‘The Death of Legacy’
    Legacy is similar to Christmas in many ways; ‘shops, Miracles, Gifts Ungiven, Red White Green, I’m constantly fetching, but fail to find.

    This year there was much talk about the ‘death’ of Legacy; less support for organized play, lagging prize support, a decreasing number of available staples and a certain ‘premium’ attached to Legacy cards that makes them difficult to trade for. These are certainly issues that need to be addressed – maybe with functional reprints or extra MTGO support.

    I feel that Legacy’s allure is still strong. The format is great and continues to evolve. Perhaps Legacy as simply becomes more difficult to access the effects are starting to show.

    But hey, things change. You get old. One minute you’re the CFO for a Mineral Exploration company the next you’re writing articles about Magic cards while you’re family slowly moves out.
    Ha ha, life is crazy.

    1. Family lives in minneapolis and I live in Atlanta(both not NE) and there is too much legacy going on year round. Only people that say legacy is dying is typically those who do not play legacy I have noticed over the years. Some places don’t have big legacy scenes, but some places don’t have big scenes for other formats as well. Legacy doesn’t need support from wizards because it is one of the most unique and challenging formats magic has to offer. It’s basically a vetern format so it appeals to only so many.

  2. Nice article. Thanks for the year in review. GP Las Vegas was excellent. Well run and lots of fun. Hope they do something this amazing again soon.

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