Unlocked Pro Trader: Rebounding

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I usually have a lot of preamble just because I like to type a bit to get into the mood before I bang out an article. It’s my process. You remember that movie Finding Forrester where Sean Connery has the main character type his work and then once he’s had a running start, write his own thing? This has nothing to do with that, I just usually write a paragraph where I tell you what the article’s about but I spent so much time talking about how it’s going to be a shorter paragraph than normal that it isn’t anymore so I guess never mind. Anyway, the point of the article is that there are cards in Mystery Boosters that will probably tank and go back up and some that will tank and not go back up. A lot of obvious factors like a rarity shift don’t need to be explained, but some cards recover better than others and we need to try and figure out all of the factors that matter and which apply. Sound boring? Well, it’s not. I did one of these articles when Iconic Masters came out and Austere Command hit a buck. Did you buy any when that happened?

I’m not going to catch a dectuple up on all of these, but I’ll sure try not to miss something obvious. So what kind of card always recovers?

Eternal Witness is not rare and never has been. However, Eternal Witness gets a non-zero amount of play outside of EDH (though less than it used to) and is staple-tier in EDH.

It’s the 14th-most-played card in EDH as far back as they’re displaying data. Still. Despite not having been printed in the last 2 years. Staple-tier cards shrug off reprints. Which cards don’t?

Cards where the price was predicated more on scarcity than demand. This is the same set and same rarity as Rhystic Study, a card with more printings. It cost less at its peak and costs a LOT less now. Is Rhystic Study liable to tumble to $0.25 like Fog Frog did when it was printed in Modern Horizons before I could sell my dozens of copies? Let’s figure out what the difference between Rhystic Study and Fog Frog is in terms of demand.

One of these cards is play SIGNIFICANTLY more than the other. Sure, Rhystic Study is nominally a common in the Mystery Boosters, and while it can’t maintain $20, it will likely rebound from its floor in a way that Fog Frog never will. Is there a number that will help us figure out which cards will rebound? I don’t know if it’s worth trying to find one. I think that perception of a card’s worth is going to contribute to it maintaining or regaining value as much as anything else so if you don’t mind me using my gut a bit as long as I report the numbers for you to make up your own mind with, I’m going to talk about some cards in Mystery Boosters that are going to take a hit and come back. I feel good about how much money I made people on cards like Rune-Scarred Demon and Austere Commander in Iconic Masters, so let’s find the next Austere Command, shall we? OK, that’s the last time I’ll say “austere” during a global pandemic.

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Mystery Boosters basically chopped this price in half already. Aura Shards is about halfway between “Fog Frog” and “Rhystic Study” on the “will it rebound” scale and while it’s a different rarity and a different set, it did manage to climb quite a bit, especially recently with all of the crazy enchantment stuff running around. Who knows what a whole Theros block rather than just a set would have done?

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I personally think Shards isn’t done going down, but it’s bound to recover quite a bit. In terms of the raw number of decks it’s in, it’s closer to Fog Frog than Rhystic Study which puts this on the low end of “likely to recover” but I think if this is the low end, we’re in good shape with anything played more than this. This was printed as uncommon twice and was printed at “uncommon” in a commander deck so it was one per deck. This has more printings than most cards in the Mystery Booster set and if we could graph the trend in adoption on EDHREC as a function of time, I’d imagine it’s declining a bit, but until something comes out to replace this, it will reign supreme.

One more thing to consider is the topic of “discovered demand” as I call it, which basically states that the demand is what it is partially on the basis of the barrier to owning the card. Would this be in more than 9,538 decks in the last two years if it didn’t cost $20? Seems likely, and now that it’s $10 rather than $20, we’re about to see if it goes up. It’s an older card, only people who could afford to pay for it could show it to players who hadn’t seen it and the Enchantment block didn’t give us nearly as many Enchantments worth caring about as the Estrid Commander deck did, but this is still top-tier removal and I think it ends up between $10 and $20 when the dust settles. If this is the low end, again, I have a lot more confidence in these other picks.

While a lot of this card’s price is predicated on scarcity and it sees less play than Aura Shards, I think this has cross-format applicability with casual and more of a future. It’s a newer card, more people know it, and being printed at mythic twice means far fewer copies, which is the biggest knock against Aura Shards that was in Invasion, Commander, Commander Anthologies and now Mystery Boosters. With the large number of cards in the set, an uncommon isn’t the same as an uncommon in a set like Modern Horizons – with roughly 1 uncommon per sheet, they’re basically mythics, but I still think Archive is more scarce and buying in at $5 feels OK. Waiting to see where it ends up feels better. People aren’t aggressively updating prices during this crisis (I’m rhyming, a week cooped up does things to my brain) so we may want to give things a while to stabilize, but I think this is a good buy when it hits bottom and starts to recover.

This card’s price is NOT predicated on scarcity and is all about playability. I don’t think this recovers quite like Eternal Witness but it might not be far off. Witness is played in 5 times as many decks but it also has 5 times as many printings, so we’ll see.

Vessel seems like it’s going to sell for what it was selling for within a year. That’s predicated on paper Magic not going away entirely. Depending how many LGSs shut down in the wake of social distancing and how inclined people are to play cards in person in the future, the strength of the game overall remaining basically what it was means this price will be basically what it was. We’re not getting nearly as many new copies of this card as people think.

I think there are a few cards unlikely to recover because their price is predicated on scarcity more than play or because this one last reprinting was the last nail in the coffin. As a rule, anything played in more than 10,000 decks on EDHREC is probably a slam dunk price rebound if it doesn’t have a ton of printings, but there are other factors to consider, obviously. If you want more picks, I’ll cover this same topic next week. Covid has slowed things down enough that we can take an extended look at the set. Until next time!

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