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 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 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 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 & 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 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 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 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 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.
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:
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.
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:
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?
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.
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
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!
The 2018 holiday season is posting up to put a dent in our collective wallets, and alongside the inappropriately early Christmas music and the over hyped ginger spice lattes it’s time to take Black Friday head on. Go ahead and cuddle up by the fire with your holiday sweater on, half conscious from turkey coma chemicals, while you chuckle at the fools who don’t know how to use the Internet to buy things on sale.
For Magic: The Gathering speculators and players in need of some savings, the holiday season from mid-November to the new year is often a pretty great hunting ground, with plenty of sales going on and plenty of folks looking to turn cards into cash fast so they can finance presents and travel plans. For the most part you’ll likely want to save your speculation budget to focus on the couple of weeks at the end of December when some pretty significant sales can be had during late night Ebay hunts, but for now let’s see whether the online Magic vendors have any goodies worth considering this year.
Here’s a round up of the Black Friday sales going on at various online vendors that you might be interested in, with some highlights of the sweetest deals as of Thursday afternoon. We’ll update over the weekend if relevant sales appear so check back in:
With the full spoiler for Ultimate Masters now revealed we’ve got everything we need to run a reality check on the estimated value of the booster boxes and to plan out our next few moves. Given how much of a profit seeking dogpile this very sexy set is likely to be over the next few months, it behooves us to consider the cards that didn’t make the set and looks for opportunities to get ahead on some cards that are headed for a supply crunch.
Here are a few of the better options I’ve been looking at this week:
The rest of this content is only visible to ProTrader members.
Take care, and keep an eye out for my forthcoming article on the EV of Ultimate Masters.
James Chillcott (@mtgcritic) is an entrepreneur, investor, designer, collector, gamer and adventurer. Between dolling out good advice and humble bragging on Twitter he can be found playing with his daughter Alara, running a couple of web companies and eating cookies.
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