What to do about LOTR in the Long Run

We’re a couple weeks into the  Universes Beyond: Lord of the Rings set, and hype is about to flip over to the Commander Masters release at the beginning of August. LOTR has done some interesting things which I’ve written up already, but today I want to give you my long-term and short-term plans for the set. There’s some dynamics at play that might not be on your radar, and these will inform your buying.

First of all, let’s talk longevity. The hype cycle is about to move on to Commander Masters, and then Wilds of Eldraine, and then we’ll get the information about next year’s releases, and so on, and so on…

You might be thinking that LOTR is a product with a short turnaround time. That’s not what will play out. Aaron Forsythe, director of Magic R&D, has said that this product will be in print for an extended amount of time, in addition to the holiday release that’s planned. (More on that in a minute.)

So what I’m expecting is a pattern much like Modern Horizons 2, a product that wasn’t the draft format for a long time, but had a steady supply of cards pushed into the market for a very long time. Fetches are the cheapest they’ve been since they were in Standard, and we’re talking OG Zendikar Standard here:

I know that graph isn’t perfect, but we’re going over data from 2011, and it gets tricky on that sort of timeline. 

I bought some retro foil fetchlands more than a year ago, expecting them to appreciate, and instead, they’ve gone down even more! That’s the effect that a constant flow of product has, and it’s why I’m not going to spec on any LOTR cards for some time…with one exception.

If you want cards for personal use, in Cube, Modern, whatever, go ahead and get those. You’re going to get good mileage and enjoyment out of them, so go ahead and get what you need/want. Also because of this timeline, I’m going to vote against buying the full borderless panorama scenes, unless you’re setting it up for just yourself. There will eventually be a market for these scenes, but buying in now is super early. Be more patient, and it’ll cost you a lot less.

My exception, though, is The One Ring itself. We’re getting a glut of these right now, and I’m expecting to get at least one more special version in the Holiday edition. The gift bundles are just landing, and that’s going to add a lot of copies…but this is also an extremely good Commander card, and when a card is taking over Modern AND Commander, watch out for its price.

The One Ring is going to be a staple until it’s banned, which probably means it’ll be good forever. I don’t think I’ll have a good window to get in cheaply before the Holiday edition arrives in November, but sometime around Valentine’s Day, after the end-of-year sales and such, I’ll be ready to evaluate what copies I want to buy. Still too many unknowns about that set to make firmer plans as yet.

Speaking of the Holiday release, a new frame was revealed way ahead of time, and that makes me really pause on LOTR cards at the moment, because we’re getting a mix of old and new, it seems, plus a new Showcase frame. That much uncertainty makes me want to be patient, have plans but be flexible with those plans.

If we knew that it would be a completely new set, then that would clear up my plans, but we’ve been given very little information about the set and what is in it. We do know that there will be a new set of scenes, even coming with a frame for displaying those cards together. Since we don’t know the cards or the pricing, it’s hard to get too excited, because if we get art cards for display plus the actual game-use cards, those prices will get quite low indeed.

I’ve written a lot about the foil extended art cards only available in the Sample Packs, and unless you’re buying in significantly below TCG or Ebay’s listed prices, I can’t tell you to buy these for long-term growth. If you want a card for your deck, get it, but I have a hard time thinking that these will go up or down significantly. In eight months, we might see prices a bit lower, but the quantities are so low that the usual pattern of undercutting each other won’t really apply.

Again, the Sample Packs come with the Commander precons, so now that the big operations have gone through their allotment, they are unlikely to hit a big batch of those special cards. The main way that more copies will come on the market is from Commander players who buy the deck and decide to sell the card rather than keep it and put it into a deck. Greed is a powerful motivator, and for a lot of folks, it’s a no-brainer to sell a card for $60 or more that you opened in your $60ish Commander precon.

Finally, the Realms and Relics subset is a strong ‘wait and see’ right now. All three versions are getting cheaper as time passes, and as this set stays in print, the nonfoils, the traditional foils, and the surge foils are all going to trickle downwards in price. I’m very excited to pick up some of these cards at cheap prices, but the key is being patient for the bottom of the market. 

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.