Category Archives: James Chillcott

Throne of eldraine: what the new premium product mix means for #mtgfinance

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Throne of Eldraine will surely be remembered as the set where Wizards of the Coast pushed the envelope on product mix design to new heights.

Stepping well beyond the classic booster boxes of 36 packs, players looking to engage with this set have been forced to parse an unbelievably complex product mix including:

  • Regular Boosters
  • Theme Boosters
  • Collector Boosters
  • Planeswalker Decks
  • Bundle (formerly Fat Packs)
  • Brawl Decks
  • Deluxe Collection
  • Promo Packs
  • Holiday Bundle

Wow. Even for those of us fully invested in the brand that is a LOT to swallow.

For those of us interested in the financial side of Magic: The Gathering, it behooves us to try and understand the math behind these shifts in the product mix and how they are likely to impact the price behavior of the various kinds of cards that are now being dangled in front of players, collectors and speculators.

Overall, the two most relevant considerations here are the new Collector Boosters and their impact on and differentiation from the cards found in regular boosters.

Within regular boosters, the new foil drop rate unveiled for Core2020 continues as 1 in 45 cards (or a 33.4% chance of opening one in any one booster). Previously, the foil drop rate (this is counting all foils of all rarities) was 1 in 67 cards (which results in a 22.5% chance of opening one in any one booster). In practical terms this means that pack foils are now 50% less rare than they used to be, and in theory, equally at all rarities.

At the same time Wizards has introduced three additional card treatments to the Standard booster mix:

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  • Showcase frames: These are brand new to Magic: The Gathering, and are stylistically specific to each set, relatively sparsely used, with two mythics and five rares in Throne of Eldraine. Showcase frames exist at common and uncommon as well and all of the cards that come in these frames also exist in regular frames.
Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off (Showcase), Magic, Throne of Eldraine
  • Borderless Planeswalkers: This is the style we saw most recently in the Mythic Edition planeswalkers starting in fall of 2018, through to Mythic Edition: War of the Spark. Occur at roughly the same drop rates as the showcase frames do for other mythics, and are available for all three planeswalkers in the set, and only those cards. In Throne of Eldraine, this means Oko, Thief of Crowns, The Royal Scions and Garruk, the Huntmaster. As with the showcase cards, each planeswalker also comes in a regular version. Notably the borderless versions also feature alternate art.
Oko, Thief of Crowns (Borderless), Magic, Throne of Eldraine
  • Extended Art: The style of this treatment is very, very close to the Borderless planeswalkers, to the point where using different terms for them has been quite confusing for players. The most important detail here is that extended art rares and mythics ONLY appear in the Collector Boosters, which includes all 48 rares and 10 mythics that were not included in the showcase cards/borderless mythics. Let’s divert for a moment to get things straight about that product.
The Great Henge (Extended Art), Magic, Throne of Eldraine

Collector Boosters

There are only four ways to get your hands on collector boosters:

  • As a free buy-a-box promotion at your local LGS, along with the foil version of Kenrith
  • Via direct purchase from online vendors or LGS owners who happened to have allotments in excess of their BAB program needs
  • Purchase of the direct sale, online only set, the Throne of Eldraine: Deluxe Collection which sold for $449 and included 16 Collector Boosters
  • Purchase of the forthcoming Holiday Gift Bundle, which will include one Collector Booster pack, likely at a $50 price point Nov 15th

The composition of the Collector Boosters is uniquely complex. To put it as simply as possible:

Pretty simple right?

So these Collectors Boosters have 16 cards. 9 slots are taken up by foil commons and uncommons from Throne of Eldraine regular boosters, and they can be either showcase or regular frames. The single “ancillary” slot offers up any of the unique cards from the Planeswalker decks or newly minted Brawl decks, or a fairly rare non-foil version of Kenrith, the Returned King. Many of these cards are bulk, with Arcane Signet and Kenrith being notable exceptions. The foil token slot can mostly be ignored as those also appear in regular boosters.

The most interesting slots in the $25-30 collector boosters are the remaining five slots:

  • Foil/Rare Mythic Slot: any foil rare or mythic in ELD in any treatment
  • Non-foil Extended Art: any extended art rare or mythic, non-foil
  • 3x Special Frame cards: showcase cards of all rarities and borderless planeswalkers. Also notable as the ONLY product that has showcase non-foil commons. Yes, really.

This is where we run head first into the extreme variance that comes from creating premium versions of every rare and mythic in the set, and a pile of the commons and uncommons. Collector Booster packs can vary in value from $10 to hundreds of dollars, depending on how lucky you get in these slots most likely to cough up a rare version of a multi-format staple. In magical Christmasland you could in theory open a foil extended art The Great Henge, a non-foil Emry, Lurker of the Loch and a borderless Oko, Thief of Crowns, and be having a pretty great day. On the other hand, you could also open a pack full of draft chaff and end up pretty disappointed.

Now, if you’re looking for hot specs, one way to dodge the variance in the Collector Boosters is to focus on the cards that are exclusive to those boosters and compare them to your best opportunities in regular packs so that you can try to optimize your spec basket once peak supply sets in. To do that properly, we’re going to need to get our hands dirty with some extensive math.

Throne of Eldraine Drop Rates

To really get a handle on our best opportunities with Throne of Eldraine we need to understand how often each card treatment shows up in both regular and collector booster packs vs. the alternative treatments.

Because Wizards of the Coast hasn’t provided any guidance on this aspect of the product mix, MTGPrice reached out to some of our larger vendor partners in the United States and Europe to gather data on drop rates from teams that opened thousands of boxes over the last few weeks. Suffice to say, the drop rates in this set are anything but obvious.

Just off the top, box opening data for ELD suggests that foil commons and uncommons are actually of equal rarity in regular booster packs. We suggest this may be due to the foil commons being syphoned off to fill the 9 foil common/uncommon slots in the Collector Boosters. I’m willing to bet that the gap is made up based on the likely # in the CB packs, but haven’t actually run the numbers yet on that.

Now, some quick facts about showcase rares and mythics:

Showcase non-foil rares appear at a ~1:2.5 ratio vs. regular versions of the same rares in ELD booster packs.
Showcase non-foil mythics appear at a ~1:7.5 ratio vs. mythic versions of the same mythics in ELD booster packs.

So right away we see some useful math emerging. Showcase rares and mythics are significantly more rare than regular versions. Unlike War of the Spark Japanese boxes where the alt-art planeswalkers dropped in roughly 50% of packs, showcase rares are 60% more rare than their regular versions and showcase mythics are 87% more rare than their regular versions.

For example Fae of Wishers alt-arts, which are significantly better looking, also only drop 40 times for every 100 copies of the regular ones. Likewise Brazen Borrower non-foil showcase copies are 3x more rare in comparison to their regular versions their rare faerie cousins.

If that wasn’t confusing enough, showcase foils have different drop ratios than the non-foils, and they pull in opposite directions depending on the rarity.

Showcase foil rares appear at a 1.35:1 ratio vs. regular foil versions of the same rares in ELD booster packs. That means Murderous Rider showcase foils should be less rare than regular pack foils!
Showcase foil mythics however appear at a 1:2.5 ratio vs. mythic regular foil versions of the same mythics in ELD booster packs.

That means that foil showcase Brazen Borrower and Realm-Cloaked Giant (the only showcase mythics) are very, very rare indeed.

Follow me here:

Now remember, foils are 50% more common than they used to be before Core2020.

Foil mythics should now be dropping at a rate of about .216 per regular booster box of ELD, which works out to about 1.08 foil mythics per 5 boxes. That means you need 75 boxes to find a specific foil mythic (1 of 15).

Since showcase mythics drop once for every 2.5 regular foil mythics, you need ~187.50 boxes to find a specific one. So if you were wondering, $24 might be a pretty solid price if you can think of a reason to play a foil showcase Realm-Cloaked Giant.

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As a point of comparison, Masterpiece Inventions dropped 1/144 packs vs. 1/216 for a given foil mythic at the time, and there were 30 of them in that set, so a specific one appeared every 4320 packs, or 120 boxes. That makes showcase foil mythics roughly 56% MORE RARE THAN MASTERPIECES INVENTIONS/EXPEDITIONS. Think about what that will mean down the road if one of the mythic showcases in Theros: Beyond Death or Ikoria is a 4of card for Modern or a sick EDH staple and the drop rates remain the same.

It gets better.

Let’s say WoTC produces roughly 5,000,000 boxes of ELD. That would make the set a 200M+ product, which is probably accurate +/- 50M given that MTG as a brand is likely worth $550-650M USD/annum at present.

If you need 187.50 boxes to find a foil showcase mythic, then there are roughly only 26.7k copies of each in the world, and perhaps only 65% (17.3k) of them are in English. That’s compared to about 67,000 regular foil mythics (43.6k English).

Now, vendors were saying they thought that the Collector Booster boxes were 10x more rare than the regular booster boxes, but based on various vendor interviews, I actually think it’s closer to 20x, given that it was only printed in 2 languages and only for a single wave spread across a handful of linked releases.

If that’s anywhere close to true, there might only be 250,000 collector booster boxes in the world, which makes sense given how fast they sold out most places, and how many vendors couldn’t get their allotments in various corners of the globe. You can further confirm their rarity by checking the inventory levels of the foil extended art rares and mythics on TCGPlayer.com and most of the major vendors in the US. Levels are way lower than Kaladesh Masterpiece Inventions were at this point in their release cycle and there isn’t any easy way for vendors to restock given that very few of these Collector Booster cards are being opened at MagicFest weekends.

Some additional napkin math tells us that it likely takes 5 Collector Booster boxes to find a specific foil extended art rare. As such, there are likely only about 50K of each extended foil full art, and only about 80% of them are in English (the rest are Japanese). That’s 40k English copies. That would mean there may be as few as 6250 foil extended art mythics which explains why they are already in VERY short supply despite us being in a mass cracking period. Using similar math, we have previously calculated that there were likely something like 30-35k of the Masterpiece Expeditions or Inventions, to further that comparison.

Emry, Lurker of the Loch (Extended Art), Magic, Throne of Eldraine

So in summary, my best estimate of the relative rarity of the rarest cards from Throne of Eldraine looks something like this:

6.25k foil extended art mythics (90.5% more rare than pack foil mythics)
26.7k foil showcase/borderless mythics (60% more rare than pack foil mythics)
50k foil extend art rares (33% more rare than pack foil mythics)
66.7k pack foil mythics

Now, for argument’s sake, let’s recalculate where we land if Collector Booster boxes really are 1:10 vs. regular booster boxes. That would give us this relative rarity spread:

12.50k foil extended art mythics (81% more rare than pack foil mythics)
26.7k foil showcase/borderless mythics (60% more rare than pack foil mythics)
66.7k pack foil mythics
100k foil extend art rares (50% less rare than pack foil mythics)

What Have We Learned

Throne of Eldraine has a ridiculously complex product mix.

  • Hopefully WotC will dial it back down the road, because this is just silly.
  • Showcase commons from Eldraine are worth keeping an eye on as they are way more rare than they should be
  • Showcase foils are less rare than pack foil rares
  • Foil Extended Art, borderless planeswalkers and showcase mythics are likely more rare than Masterpiece Expeditions or Inventions.
  • Depending on what print run you believe Collector Boosters have, they too are either close to as rare as a Masterpiece, or 50% less rare than a pack foil mythic (but still far more rare than regular pack foil rares).
  • Multi-format staples or single format superstars are likely to exhibit solid ROI, with the rarest versions moving fastest and hardest.
  • As of today, the market is having trouble keeping extended art foils in stock on key cards, and I question whether the additional inventory coming throughout the fall will be enough to fill in the gaps.
  • We’re still running more math over here to refine this model, so if you think you have relevant info to share, reach out to help us keep things updated!

Let’s check back in on all of this in January 2020, as we prepare our strategy for the inevitable Theros: Beyond Death premium product mix. Until then, happy hunting!

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy art fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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THE WATCHTOWER 9/23/19: three undervalued cards you should own now

By: James Chillcott
@mtgcritic


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy.


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Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2013. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance. James covered his article today because Travis was off being cool in New York City this weekend.


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Checking In on Inventions: A quick look at some Masterpieces poised for gains.

Over the last couple of years Masterpiece Inventions have allowed players, speculators and vendors to go back to the well at least a few times. Travis and I first noticed an arbitrage opportunity on the Masterpiece Inventions in late 2016. Due primarily to differences in EDH adoption in Europe vs. North America, the already too cheap Inventions were often selling for another 30-50% less than copies in the US or Canada.

As it so happened, I was looking to cash out of my $20k in Magic Online specs at the time, justifiably spooked by the early news on Magic Arena and needed a solid strategy for reinvestment. My thesis was dual-pronged: first that Inventions were largely EDH relevant and likely to be too cheap overseas and secondly, that they would sell better as $300 singles than Expeditions would as $800-1200 sets.

From Dec 2016 to June 2017, I was snapping up $70-100 MPS Sol Rings, Mana Crypts and Mana Vaults, $40 Paradox Engines, Rings of Brighthearth and Extraplanar Lens, etc, etc. As it became obvious to everyone that the Inventions were a smash hit, vendors and speculators started taking a harder look at Expeditions and (eventually) Invocations, driving boom/bust cycles on all of the Masterpieces that have result in generally higher plateaus and some noteable retraces. Turns out, that move was an important cornerstone of my action for the next 18 months, and I’m still not finished selling up the ramp. Truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Fast forward to spring 2019 and many of the Inventions are demonstrating relative price stability. Just last week MPS Paradox Engine tipped up over $150, representing potential 300% gains before fees for folks who were in on that in the earliest days. MPS Sol Rings sell consistently near $300, and will likely hit $500 down the road, but a couple of new factors have me looking at some of the middle tier Masterpieces, wondering where they might land in 6-12 months or less.

The first factor is that a combination of dwindling Kaladesh booster box supply on the open market, and steady demand for the Inventions is draining inventory levels on some cards to the point again where they look like they could show real growth at their next tipping point. The second factor is the announcement of Modern Horizons. What does a Modern focused set have to do with the Inventions, you ask? Well, the thing about Modern Horizons is that it draws a very clear line in the sand on what can’t be reprinted in the next six months or so, removing any lingering doubt for as to whether they we might get a chance at a new premium version in the near future. Certainty of draining supply = sales.

On that basis, let’s take a look at a handful of Masterpieces that could easily see price motion in 2019:

Extraplanar Lens

Extraplanar Lens
Current Price: $60-65
2019 Target: $90

Extraplanar Lens was underestimated in the extreme during the first few rounds of the Masterpiece feeding frenzy. Originally available overseas close to $30, and in the US around $40, the Lens has shown slow steady gains on the back of relatively strong usage in mono-color EDH decks where it can go to work abusing the mana doubling of your plentiful basic lands. At present Extraplanar Lens has one of the lowest inventory levels on TCGPlayer, and they are increasingly hard to find near $60, with a solid ramp pointing to imminent gains. I see no reason not to snap up a couple of these given that buylists are already backing the play over $60.

Chalice of the Void

Chalice of the Void
Current Price: $170-180
2019 Target: $225

Here we have a Modern staple that is increasingly relevant in a format that is looking to abuse the casting of multiple cheap spells per turn. Chalice is also typically played as a 4 of and has relevant in Legacy and Vintage as well. As with Lens, the ramp is steep and the inventory is shallow, so while the gains aren’t the highest possible by %, the odds that this joins the rest of the elite $250+ MPS cards in the near future seem good.

Aether Vial

Aether Vial
Current Price: $160-170
2019 Target: $225

Given the near constant presence of this card as a 4-of staple in both Modern and Legacy, I’m a bit surprised that it hasn’t already pushed $250+. Part of the issue is likely that the decks that are most often using Vial are not at the top of the heap in Modern so long as Dredge and Phoenix reign supreme. That being said, if you believe that the Modern meta is due for a shakeup, either via the banning of Faithless Looting and/or Ancient Stirrings, or through some fresh hotness from the forthcoming Modern Horizons set, there is a decent chance that Aether Vial decks stand to gain from the coming sea shift. Regardless of how it gets there, I’ll be very surprised to see this card ride out the year under $200. The inventory is moderate here, but they do tend to get bought in 4s, so that’s worth consideration.

Sword of Feast and Famine

Sword of Feast & Famine
Current Price: $160-170
2019 Target: $225

Sword of Feast & Famine is the most popular of the original sword series for EDH purposes, with nearly 19,000 decks registered on EDHREC.com. Some MTGPrice Pro Traders have been theory crafting that Modern Horizons could include the printing of the five swords with the missing color pairs. This could be enough to get people to clean out the very, very low supply of this card, and from a collector perspective I don’t think you want to be sleeping on this card any longer.

Wurmcoil Engine

Wurmcoil Engine
Current Price: $150
2019 Target: $200

Wurmcoil Engine is a staple in EDH (16k decks+ on EDHREC) and consistently played in Tron in Modern, as well as being a cube staple. Inventory is very low in the US, and this one seems like a straight shot at adding some value in the next six months.

Chrome Mox


Chrome Mox
Current Price: $100
2019 Target: $160

Chrome Mox is registered in 14k+ EDH decks on EDHREC.com despite a relatively shallow past of set printings (Mirrodin + Eternal Masters). That’s a solid display of demand for a gorgeous mana rock that still be had for close to $100 on dwindling supply and a very steep ramp. Further, I don’t see WoTC prioritizing a reprint any time soon.

Rings of Brighthearth

Rings of Brighthearth
Current Price: $110
2019 Target: $160

If you’re looking to pick up an Invention with reach, you can do a lot worse than picking one that is about to undergo a serious boost in demand as War of the Spark makes doubling Planeswalker abilities a very sexy ability indeed. This card makes every build of Atraxa Superfriends already, supply is low and I smell a winner.

Chromatic Lantern

Chromatic Lantern
Current Price: $95
2019 Target: $140

Oh, how many EDH decks is this in? (Spits coffee out!) 63K! Sure, this card just caught a reprint in Guilds of Ravnica and there are plenty of copies floating around, but that just means the odds of a fresh version in the next couple of years just dropped through the floor. Never out of fashion in a format full of greedy color requirements, the inventory on this Invention is only moderately low near $100, but this pushing closer to $150 is a question of when, not if in my books. Not an immediate priority, but zero reason to hold off as a collector and an excellent target for a good coupon.

So there you have it, my current picks for solid Invention specs. What’s on your radar? Did I miss anything? Catch you next time.

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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New Horizons: What Modern Horizons Means for MTGFinance in 2019

On Feb 28th, Wizards of the Coast announced the first details of an “innovative” new product for Magic: The Gathering. The new set, entitled, Modern Horizons, represents the first time that WoTC has designed an entirely new set with the intent of pushing a plethora of new cards into the Modern format all at once.

The product announcement landed at an especially interesting moment, not long after many players had been publicly wondering whether the push to boost digital magic through the new MPL and Arena was going to come at the expense of paper magic in general, and support for Modern and other non-rotating formats in specific. Theories have been circulating that the launch of a post-modern format on Arena in 2019 or 2020 would relegate Modern to the same slow decline that Legacy has experienced since Modern became the dominant non-rotating competitive format nearly five years ago. The announcement of Modern Horizons however, puts test to the common understanding of the issues at hand, and reinforces the reality of the situation: that WoTC will support whatever formats they can figure out how to sell cards into consistently. Until now, non-rotating competitive formats were economically burdened with a reliance on reprint sets to justify their support. Modern Horizons however takes a page out of the playbook that brought us annual fall Commander decks, borrowing from their successful launch of new cards into that more casual non-rotating format to experiment with feeding Modern players a stream of products aimed squarely at their wallets.

Here’s what we know about the set thus far:

https://media.discordapp.net/attachments/522564825889374209/550804164737761321/Screenshot_2019-02-28_Twitch.png?width=481&height=282

This set of bullets deserves a bit of further discussion. Firstly, the word from our vendor contacts is that this is likely a 36 pack booster box set (as opposed to the 24 pack Masters sets), without any Masterpieces or premium box toppers, and without the guaranteed one foil per pack we are familiar with from Masters sets. It is likely no coincidence that WoTC just announced a couple of weeks ago that they would no longer be publishing MSRP for paper magic sets, but the $6.99/pack for MTGO packs suggests that the retail price of these boxes may be pretty close to that of a Modern Masters set, or around $240 USD. Practically speaking that may mean that the cheapest pre-orders from volume focused Ebay vendors could end up in the $170-180 range, with even lower prices if the print run is particularly deep, or higher ones if it becomes scarce for an extended period based on rampant player demand.

The Opportunities

From an MTGFinance perspective, Modern Horizons is likely to represent a landmark set of opportunities for 2019, much as Ultimate Masters and the first Mythic Edition did in the last quarter of 2018. Those opportunities arise as much from what IS in the set (brand new cards for Modern + old cards that were not previously Modern legal) as from what definitely ISN’T (any current Modern legal cards other than five basic lands).

The first opportunity is related to the original printings, especially foils and old border printings, of the cards that are being brought forward into the Modern card pool from their original sets. If Counterspell or Daze were to be printed into the format for instance, some players will be inclined to take a fresh look at 7th edition foils of the first and perhaps the Masterpiece version of the latter. Figuring out which cards strike the right note for Modern (not top tier in Legacy, but about the right power level for Modern) and identifying the most likely versions for players and collectors to target once they are confirmed in the set is going to likely to make or save you plenty if you get it right.

The second opportunity will arise from early identification of the cards revealed during spoiler season in May 2019 that are most likely to develop into new staples of the format. Given that the set is not a limited print run, and is being released in the bonus set slot that has been used in prior years for products like Battlebond and Conspiracy, we can likely expect Modern Horizons to be very popular and readily available for 3-6 months. The way the Modern player population is likely to respond to this product could be explosive, and it would not surprise me to hear tell of smaller stores running out of product in the early weeks of release, especially given the WoTC tendency to make product a bit more scarce in the first wave to drive hype through perceived scarcity.

The circumstances around this release are truly unique, with the Modern community being forced to parse the implications of up to 250+ cards that could possibly shift the metagame. Attempting to think three steps ahead, beyond which decks get better and on to which decks end up best once a bunch of decks get better (or worse!) based on the fresh additions to the card pool is a fairly mind boggling scenario entirely fresh to the format.

Realistically, the fact that the set has also been designed to be drafted suggests that a healthy portion of the set list will fall below the power curve for Modern, but figuring out which cards fall on either side of that line will require deep format knowledge and a willingness to think outside the box. Leveraging that knowledge to save or profit will additionally require quick wits, a healthy wallet and a strong sense of when the new cards reach peak supply and probe the price bottoms they are likely to accelerate out of in the coming months or years as the set fades from the common supply.

Yet a third opportunity for players and speculators arises out of the certainty that Modern Horizons contains exactly zero reprints of cards that are already in the Modern card pool. That means no fetchlands, Mox Opal, Surgical Extractions or Manamorphose reprints for at least another six months. This fact alone will embolden vendors and players alike to invest in current staples and in fact we are already seeing some pretty spicy buylists published:

This board may be tongue in cheek, but the fact remains that vendors will have little reason to avoid going deep on the plethora of Modern staples that now seem safe from reprint for much of 2019.

As such, those players that may feel uncomfortable predicting the potential of new cards may be better served investing in a small pile of Cavern of Souls, as key staples stand to post significant gains from both safety from reprint and renewed format interest. Ironically, Modern Horizons could end up so disruptive that it changes the entire landscape of the metagame, invalidating prior staples as spec targets while elevating previously unplayable cards to all-stars. Navigating these waters will be tricky to say the least.


New Cards & Set Themes

In attempting to wrap our heads around Modern Horizons, and possibly predict what it might include, we should likely start with reviewing what has been revealed thus far, and what that means for the likely themes of the set.

Here are the two cards Wizards of the Coast chose to show off during the announcement stream:

Right off the bat, those are some fairly interesting new additions to the Modern format! Cabal Therapist is likely the more important card of the two, representing a fresh way for token decks to dismantle opponents hands turn after turn. Just at first glance this card seems tailor made to bolster the B/W token strategies that have largely fallen out of favor in the format, with both Lingering Souls and Bitterblossom looking like solid partners for the card.

Serra, the Benevolent is a bit tougher to evaluate. From a flavor, lore, and art perspective the card is a clear win and casual demand from angel lovers alone will likely make the foils big winners in the long term. When asking whether the card is good enough for Modern we end up considering a fairly disparate set of abilities. The +2 ability is seems fairly benign at first glance, but could potentially double the damage output from the flying tokens generated from the aforementioned Lingering Souls or Bitterblossom. Perhaps more importantly, using the +2 even once, sets Serra’s controller up to use her ultimate on the following turn if unmolested, thereby gifting their side of the table with a Worship emblem that could be very difficult to work around for a lot of decks in the format. In a deck that would also be likely to be running Intangible Virtue, the -3 ability can end up putting a 5/5 flyer with vigilance into play, that could end up attacking for 6 on the following turn and getting joined by her twin the turn after. Put another way, Serra could be viewed as a Serra Angel, that for one mana less than usual, also happens to put a planeswalker into play when it enters the battlefield.

Taken together, both of these cards suggest that at least part of Modern Horizons is designed to bolster token themes in Modern. Having played a few seasons with B/W tokens a few years back, I would imagine that Cabal Therpist upgrades a few of the slots typically reserved for Inquisition of Kozilek or Thoughtseize, leveraging fresh synergies with early token production to further pressure our opponents hand. Serra the Benevolent on the other hand likely challenges slots usually reserved for Sorin, Solemn Visitor or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

Perhaps most importantly, if tokens is one of the themes of the set, it becomes worthwhile to establish what other Modern strategies that are currently under-powered might be bolstered by a fresh influx of synergistic cards.

One obvious possibility would be upgrades aimed at a handful of tribal strategies that are currently lurking on the fringes of the format. Goblins got a lot better over the last couple of years with the reprinting of Goblin Piledriver and the freshly minted Reckless Bushwacker. Fanatical Firebrand and Light Up the Stage also represent key recent upgrades, and the deck might only be one or two more cards from evolving into a serious Top 8 contender. Could Goblin Lackey, Goblin Ringleader or Goblin Bombarment be on the way into Modern or might they be approximated through fresh Goblin cards designed specially for the format?

Fanatical Firebrand

Merfolk, Elves and Faeries could likewise be targeted for greater competitiveness via new card options, as could strategies as diverse as Reanimation, Snow and Enchantments. Since we know none of these themes will include reprints of existing Modern cards, targeting the cards that are made better by the new cards will be key to a successful summer of MTGFinance.

I could also see them including some or all of the missing allied color pair swords to finish the cycle started back in Darksteel.

Finally, it is important to understand that while this set is likely to have a print run somewhere between (best guess) Battlebond and a Standard legal set, a couple of years out, these boxes are likely to be fairly hard to come by. With Standard boxes, the wholesale cost between $60-80 of boxes tends to limit the maximum prices the average rare or mythic can achieve while the set is in print. With Modern Horizons we are dealing, for more or less the first time, with a brand new set of cards priced at a premium during THEIR FIRST PRINTING. The implied MSRP of Horizons looks to be $200 or more, so there will be far less of an economic limiter on singles prices. This could allow for some very expensive rares and mythics as soon as a few months after the set release, essentially once we pass peak supply.

Possible Reprints

One of the biggest challenges with evaluating Modern Horizons will be establishing in advance of preview season which cards from outside Modern are most likely to make sense for fresh inclusion in the format. Right off the bat we can exclude anything on the Reserved List, since nothing has changed on that front, and we should likewise ignore cards that are clearly too powerful outside of the highest power bands in Legacy and Vintage.

As such, we can likely safe exclude cards like Necropotence, Balance, Armageddon and Wasteland either because of extreme power levels or a tendency to reinforce play patterns that make for unfun games. Further, I would expect cards that might serve to make the best decks in Modern even better to get a pass. A card like Lotus Petal for instance, might seem innocuous at first glance, but could be just the kind of free mana acceleration already great decks might need to be nearly unbeatable. Likewise, cards that would help the graveyard-centric strategies such as Dredge, Arclight Phoenix and Hollow One would likely be limited in their fresh support given their current dominance.

Ultimately then, when looking for likely reprint targets we are looking for cards of medium to medium-high power level that either reinforce existing strategies or create entirely new archetypes in the format. Given that the set reveal stream mentioned that the box topper for the set will be a blue spell, many people are wondering whether an all-star counterspell will be entering the format for the first time. Some options here might include Counterspell itself, Daze, Arcane Denial or possibly even Force of Will. I honestly don’t know which of these are viable in Modern, especially given all the new goodies we’ll be getting in June, but if I had to guess I would think Counterspell is the most likely choice for inclusion.

Other possible targets for reprint could include anything from Mother of Runes, Containment Priest and Invigorate to Oubliette, Patriarch’s Bidding, Innocent Blood or Unearth. Multi-color spells could include Undermine, Psychatog, Baleful Strix, Fire//Ice or Vindicate. Might WoTC choose to push a cycling theme with Astral Slide and Lightning Rift? Could Elves be given a couple of key pieces from their Legacy build (Birchlore Ranger?) to make them more viable in Modern? Does Tom Ross on the design team for the set meaning Infect is getting Invigorate? Is Impulse good enough or too good for the format? While predicting the mix of reprints is going to be pretty tough, the rewards for successful predictions will be impressive as the community snaps up the best versions of the reprinted spells, including Judge Promos, Masterpieces, and the coveted 7th edition foils.

(Note: The MTGPrice Pro Trader community is building out a constantly evolving list of potential targets in our Pro Trader only Discord channels. Join MTGPrice today to contribute and leverage the collective knowledge of our most experienced community members.)

Staples On The Rise?

Finally, we must turn our attention to the possibility that Modern Horizons is quite likely to push the most important cards in the format back toward their peak pricing as a rush of format interest increases demand across the list of the most played cards in the format. Cavern of Souls immediately comes to mind as a recent reprint that likely has at least two years before the threat of another printing and would stand to gain significantly should even a single tribe get pushed into the spotlight. Given that Humans & Spirits already generate strong demand for the tribal powerhouse, additional tribes landing Top 8 finishes would almost guarantee the card lands back close to $100 before the next print run

Cavern of Souls

Many people were hoping that cards like Surgical Extraction & Manamorphose, both top 10 cards in the format at present, would end up in this set, but now that we know that isn’t possible their peak pricing is likely to be impressive. Cards without recent reprints are likely to hit fresh highs, and even key cards from maligned sets like M25 and Iconic Masters are likely to be major gainers. Mox Opal, Horizon Canopy, Snapcaster Mage and Noble Hierarch are also quite likely to gain ground in 2019, as should Leyline of the Void, Aether Vial, Thoughtseize and Chalice of the Void. You can also add Death’s Shadow, Cryptic Command, Walking Ballista, Bloodghast, Liliana, The Last Hope, Liliana of the Veil, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Kolghan’s Command, Celestial Colonnade & Thing in the Ice to that list BUT you must also allow for the possibility that some of these cards will get pushed off the podium as strategies both new and old emerge to set up a fresh new phase in the evolution of the Modern format.

Whether you spend the next few months triangulating meta shifts or buying Modern collections on the cheap, Modern Horizons is likely to end up as one of the biggest pivot points in MTGFinance this year. Happy hunting as we all try to gain an edge in predicting a fresh new market era with plenty of moving parts!

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