All posts by Andrew Smith

Pro Tour Gatecrash and Card Demand

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By Andrew Smith

This past weekend a couple hundred of the best Magic: The Gathering players in the world descended on Montreal to compete in Pro Tour Gatecrash. Three days of Standard and booster draft to crown the newest Pro Tour champion. And perhaps more importantly, set the direction of post-Gatecrash Standard. Without a doubt, Standard will continue to evolve in the coming weeks and months, but there are some conclusions we can draw based on the PT results.

Boros_Reckoner_lg
Boros Reckoner. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast

A Reckoning

Let’s start with what is now obvious: Boros Reckoner is for real. The week after the release I was suggesting the $15 price tag was the ceiling for this card and it continues to skyrocket. Today the average price is nearly $30. I certainly misjudged the number of decks that want this card. It has its place in aggressive decks, midrange decks, and serves as a great anti-aggro card in UWR control decks.  Four of the Standard decks in the top 8 ran four copies of Boros Reckoner. Last time I compared him to Deathrite Shaman, but it’s evident that Thragtusk is a better comparison. He’s going to be an important card in Standard for the foreseeable future. Even without Modern or legacy play, Thragtusk has shown us it’s possible to be a $25-30 Standard rare for quite a while.

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Another card making big moves out of the PT: Falkenrath Aristocrat. Only one deck in the top 8 played the big hasty vampire, but it was the deck that won it all. And that matters, a lot. Falkenrath has already seen a 25% increase since taking down the PT.

Falkenrath Aristocrat as of Feb 19, 2013
Falkenrath Aristocrat as of Feb 19, 2013

If you can find someone trying to trade theirs off, this is a pretty safe investment. She reached $25 on some stores prior to Gatecrash when B/R Zombies was a tier 1 deck. No good reason to expect anything different this time.

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Speculation

My speculation choices for this week are Abrupt Decay and Crypt Ghast. Abrupt Decay has settled in around $7 right now, but it’s getting more Standard play than ever before. Obviously, Boros Reckoner has a lot to do with that. Decay is one of the best cards to take out the Reckoner. It is also seeing an increasing amount of play in Modern and Legacy. Crypt Ghast, on the other hand, was key to Conley Woods mono-black control deck that had a winning record in Standard at the PT. While it didn’t dominate, there are a lot of people out there that love playing mono-black. Currently the average price is just over $3, but can be picked up on eBay for about a buck. If nothing else this is one card to move from your junk boxes to your trade binders.

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Wednesday: Fetchlands with Andrew Smith

Scalding_Tarn
Scalding Tarn. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

If you haven’t yet noticed, Wizards of the Coast wants you to play Modern. They’ve dedicated a PTQ season for it. There is a special limited release product of Modern-format staples due out this year. It’s a regular format for Grand Prix and Pro Tours alike.

The reasoning is simple: people want a non-rotating format they can afford.

Legacy players spend years perfecting their play with one deck without worrying about it being illegal in just a few months. But the barrier to entry is extremely high. Competitive decks can cost thousands of dollars, amounts most players just can’t afford.

Modern is supposed to be the cure, with relatively inexpensive cards that can be purchased without the threat of rotation. Bannings have been commonplace thus far, making it certainly less stable than Legacy.

This emphasis on Modern has caused prices to skyrocket. And nowhere is this more noticeable than in the price of the manabases. Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash have offered us reprints of the shocklands, but as those prices drop, fetchlands – their partners in crime – continue to increase with no end in sight.

At the end of October 2012, prices of the “blue fetches” from Zendikar, Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn, increased dramatically. Mid-October the average price was $15; by the end of the month it had risen to $30. Currently, the average price for a Misty Rainforest is above $35.

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Misty Rainforest as of Feb 12, 2013
Misty Rainforest through Feb 12, 2013

The other Modern-legal fetches are catching up. Verdant Catacombs climbed to just under $30 this week. Arid Mesa and Marsh Flats are over $25. For players hoping to build a Modern deck, the savings on shocklands from the most recent block is more than overshadowed by these increases.

It’s important to note that the release of Modern Masters this summer will only serve to continue to drive up these prices. The announcement for Modern Masters stated that cards printed originally in Eight Edition through Alara Reborn would be eligible to be reprinted in this special set.

As players get their hands on high priced staples like Tarmogoyf, they are certainly going to start building new Modern decks. Unfortunately, Zendikar falls outside of this timeframe. It would appear that, barring a new set that returns us to Zendikar or a Modern Masters 2, no increase in supply will be available to offset the increase in demand that is surely coming our way.

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Gatecrash Released!

Gatecrash is upon us, which of course means a huge demand for the newest cards that could impact standard and eternal formats alike. It is also the time to either learn a bit of patience or be handsomely rewarded for gambling. In general, demand is higher than it will ever be and supply is at its lowest. If you can find the right card that everyone else is passing over, you may be able to make some worthwhile investments. But it is a big gamble knowing that most cards are going to drop.

With players scrambling to get the cards they need, speculators are buying up lots of stock of the cards they think may become big players in the upcoming standard season. Let’s look at Boros Reckoner. This Gatecrash rare started around $4 for preorders, inching up to $5 just a week ago. Rumors of Boros aggro replacing the current B/R builds began to spread and this card doubled in price as February hit. SCG increased their price to a cool $14.99 on Monday.

Boros Reckoner as of 2/6/2013
Boros Reckoner as of 2/6/2013

This price point isn’t going to be sustainable. If you bought in, you’ve likely already sold them for a tidy profit. If not, you should. Compare Boros Reckoner to Deathrite Shaman. The same price on

Deathrite Shaman as of 2/6/2013
Deathrite Shaman as of 2/6/2013

SCG and only $3 more on average. Deathrite is a staple in modern, legacy, and sees play in Standard. Boros Reckoner helped Boros Aggro top 8 SCG Atlanta, but almost definitely not see play in any eternal format. There is no reason to believe a deep cut in price isn’t coming. If you are a player and you need those Reckoners for next week’s FNM, realize you are paying a premium for your impatience.

Even with an impressive performance week one, cards can come crashing down very quickly. Ask my friend the Lotleth Troll. He was a 4-of in two decks in the top 8 of SCG Cincinnati the weekend of Return to Ravnica’s release. He was selling for as high as $12 that weekend and one of the hardest cards to acquire. Three months later and that very same $12 would buy you a playset of Lotleth Trolls. When it comes to buying cards, patience is obviously a virtue. It’s worth repeating: demand will never be higher; supply will never be lower.

However, if you are looking to make a few speculative buys from Gatecrash, there may still be money cards out there. Keep in mind cards like Rhox Faithmender that spent five months in the bulk rare box, before becoming a $5 card. Speculation is all about predicting the market. Once the card starts to go up, it probably too late. Spark Trooper is currently positioned to increase in the short term. He’s around $3 today. With aggressive decks doing well in early Gatecrash Standard, this card seems like a backbreaker in the mirror or versus any other aggressive deck. A twelve point life swing is certainly worth 4-mana. This is one to keep an eye on.

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