Category Archives: Modern Masters

Mastering Modern: Making Money on Modern in 2017 (Pt 2)

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This is the second in my three part series on making money on Modern cards in 2017. You can find the first part, covering the cards most likely to rebound from Modern Masters 2017, over here.

First off, let’s check in on the prices of the rares and mythics from Modern Masters 2017 to see how those potential specs are progressing.

Most mythics are still on the decline since the release of MM17.

There was some chatter online last week that the set was rebounding, but as the charts above show, this is clearly not the case overall. MM17 mythics are down nearly 50% on average from Dec 1st, 2016 and

Nearly all of the MM17 mythics are either holding steady or have continued to fall, down an average of 12% from their release day pricing. Some very good deals were found during opening weekend, and momentum from those couple of days likely accounts for the few rebounds. The exceptions along those lines so far are Liliana of the Veil, Cavern of Souls and Snapcaster Mage, all of which are of course very popular staples in both Modern and Legacy. LOTV currently holds one of the shallowest listings on TCGPlayer.com, which could indicate it could regain $90-100 within the next few months, pending information on further set inventory.

Tarmogoyf has also been relatively consistent in the $85-90 range. As frequent 3 or 4-ofs in multiple decks, many players have had their eye on these cards looking for a solid entry point, and were likely impressed enough by the large discounts vs. prices from last fall to move in. It’s possible that some dealers and speculators have also taken up some of the inventory slack in hopes of future profits. From here on out, I would expect the cards that have been holding stead or rebounding to continue along similar lines, but whether this stays the case will depend heavily on how much more inventory shows up. Now that we’ve moved on to Amonkhet spoilers, the shift in focus back to Standard may redirect player funds and chill the rebounds as well. That being said, there really aren’t that many listings for the mythics at present, so if inventory is choked off faster than expected, further gains on the popular cards are likely.

Rares also continue to fall.

MM17 rares have been following similar patterns, with the average rare down a whopping 63% since Dec 1st/16, and nearly 19% since release day. If we ignore the most popular handful of rares, many of the other rares are down over 80% (!) since December. Some of these cards are now so cheap that waiting for further discounts is largely unnecessary. If you need play sets of Terminus, Pyromancer’s Ascension, Thragtusk, Scavenging Ooze, Phantasmal Image, or Abrupt Decay a further 10-20% decline won’t make much difference either way.

The most resiliant rares have so far proven to be Scalding Tarn, Verdant Catacombs and Stony Silence.  Most of the other fetchlands are so far holding steady, with shallow gains or losses, but I don’t think you need to be shy on getting in on them at this point, at least for your first playset. I’d like to spec on some of these, but for those purposes I’m willing to hold off until I understand inventory flow a bit better. Death’s Shadow got as low as $4 at one point during release weekend, but as one of the most important creatures in Modern right now, it didn’t take much for people to scoop them up and push the price back towards $8. If the card stays popular, and doesn’t get banned out of the format this year, these could end up close to $15 and may still be a solid speculative pick.

Cards like Damnation and Basilisk Collar, whose prices were largely supply side driven, have taken a serious pounding, with $20 Damnations now available, representing a 67% discount vs. last fall.

A Look at The Cards Not Printed

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Now let us turn our attention to the important Modern cards that didn’t make it into Modern Masters 2017, investigate their recent price trends and try to identify our best targets for further gains.

 

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As per a recent video by Rogue Deckbuilder (found here), the above are some of the most expensive and/or most popular cards in Modern (and beyond, eg Doubling Season) that weren’t featured in Modern Masters 2017. Let’s explore some of our more interesting options here for the purposes of financial speculation:

Noble Hierarch

Noble Hierarch

Noble Hierarch is one of the top ten cards in Modern by play pattern, and as a staple in Abzan, Bant Compay, Bant Eldrazi, Infect and Bant Spirits we have every reason to believe it will continue to occupy that position. I wouldn’t hold your breath for a better mana creature either as Hierarch already pushes the envelope pretty hard. This card peaked near $80 last fall, only to fall to $60 on reprint fears. Now that we know it isn’t likely to be reprinted this year (other than potentially as a Masterpiece) it has regained a few dollars and could easily top $80 again before a near certain reprint by Modern Masters 2019. This isn’t a card that is going to demonstrate fantastic % gains, but it is a consistent staple that could earn you $40/playset after fees before the end of the year, so there’s relatively little risk on getting in on a set to play with or speculate on.

Karn Liberated

Karn Liberated

Karn Liberated doesn’t even crack the top 50 cards in Modern, but it is a fixture in both Eldrazi Tron and GW/GB Tron Variants, where they run anywhere between two and four copies, depending on the build. The card is also iconic and splashy enough to enjoy solid casual demand, but it has already popped from $45 to $65 on the news that it wasn’t included in MM2017 so it’s not clear how much meat is on the bone. If the Tron lands ever get from Modern, this card withers instantly, and that’s not an impossible scenario. There may be a few more dollars to be made here, but I think I’ll steer clear and focus on higher yields.

Doubling Season

Doubling Season

Doubling Season is distinctly not a Modern card, but it was last printed in a Modern Masters set (2015) so it was fair game to see a reprint this winter on the strength of it’s EDH/casual play and it’s steady price gains since the last reprinting. At this time last year Doubling Season was a $40 card that used to be $15 back in 2014. Now it retails consistently around $60 as a staple in Atraxa, Ghave, Rhys and Marath decks in Commander, including over 8300 lists found on EDHRec.com. That’s a strong demand profile, and the inventory is relatively shallow no matter where you look. These are all conditions for further gains, but I’d guess that $80 might be the max for this one before it gets nailed by a reprint, which could come as soon as Commander 2017 next fall. If you can glean some copies closer to $50 and aim to exit near $70, you might be ok, but you’re tying up just as much capital as with Noble Hierarch hoping that demand keeps pushing it up the curve.

Fulminator Mage

Fulminator Mage

Fulminator Mage is an increasingly useful card in a meta where Tron lands and ambitious mana bases abound, hence why we see it in lists from Death’s Shadow Aggro to Grixis Delver and Jund. Last seen in Modern Masters 2015, the land hating shaman didn’t make the cut this time around, popping from $20 to $30 on the news. There are now very few copies out there under $40 and this looks like a solid option on the premise that it is a Top 10 card in the format and could breach $50 before seeing a reprint or an unlikely replacement (since WoTC rarely makes new land destruction cards with Modern playable casting costs).  Getting in close to $40 will likely pay off.

Chalice of the Void

Chalice of the Void

Chalice of the Void is another Top 50 Modern staple that we got in an earlier Modern Masters (2013), but not since, though in this case a Masterpiece edition was printed in Aether Revolt. The value of this artifact floats relative to how good shutting down one drops is and whether mid-range and control decks can work around that stipulation in their own lists. The card most often shows up in Eldrazi Tron, Valukut Breach or W/R Prison as of late,  Chalice enjoys the added benefit of being playable in both Legacy and Vintage. Chalice of the Void was already at $45 heading into MM17, and has since popped to $65 or so, with very shallow inventory under $80. I can’t see another reprint any time soon, so I think $80 is a definite possibility, which could be worth $40 a set on a $260 investment. That’s not amazing, and Noble Hiearch’s strong overall demand profile may mark that as the superior play of the two. If you’re already holding, there’s no rush to unload, so check back in a few months.

Living End

Living End

Living End is worth noting because as of today we now know that Amonkhet is bringing back cycling as a mechanic. This means that we may be about to get a bunch of creatures with cycling that could add some power to Living End. Early speculation on that basis has already pushed this card from $8 to $12 today and inventory is now low enough everywhere that the price could settle anywhere between $10 and $20, depending on whether a stronger version of the deck emerges or not. Now on the one hand, this card has only ever seen a single printing and that was over a decade ago. Because Living End has the Suspend mechanic, it can’t just be thrown into any old product release, but on the other hand it doesn’t feature any specific narrative cues that prevent it from being included alongside a return to suspend as a mechanic. There is also the possibility that Living End decks suffer from too much incidental graveyard hate in Modern overall, and just aren’t positioned well to gain fresh traction. There are still some scant few copies floating around at $10 or less, and under $12 I’m be fine picking up a few playsets to roll the dice.

Eldazi Temple

Eldrazi Temple

Eldrazi decks in various flavors are putting up solid numbers in Modern, largely because they get access to this clearly overpowered land. You would think that as an uncommon that has seen multiple printings in the last few years, this would be a card that was resistent to strong growth, but we’ve already seen this Top 15 land in the format go from $2 to $10 during Eldrazi Winter (2016) only to fall back to $5, and then hit $12 just recently on renewed use in Eldrazi Tron lists. At this point inventory is shallow enough that I’ve moved in on several fresh play sets aiming for a $20 exit. Within the year I think we’ll get it.

Ok, so we’ve covered a lot of ground but I’ve got at least ten more cards I think we need to discuss. Join me next week when we pick up this thread and continue exploring ways to make money on Modern this year.

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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Mastering Modern: Making Money on Modern in 2017 (Pt 1)

It would be perfectly natural if after looking over the Modern Masters 2017 set list last week, you found yourself wondering “how am I going to make money on Modern this year?”.  And while the surprisingly solid starting EV (Estimated Value) of MM17 boxes has set off the usual round of doomsaying with regards to the viability of Magic finance, the nimble minded among us should have relatively little trouble finding a way forward. After all, the set does have value well distributed between the mythics, rares and uncommons, but the print run is likely to torpedo the EV in the coming weeks, and plenty of relevant cards were left out.

That being said, last week I wrote that opportunities in Modern were likely to come from a few specific categories:

  • Recovering Reprints: Examples: LoTV, Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage, Cavern of Souls
  • Recent Reprint Dodgers: Examples: Ancestral Visions, Inkmoth Nexus, Engineered Explosives, Grove of the Burnwillows, Mishra’s Bauble
  • Newly Useful Cards: Examples: Rite of Passage, Death’s Shadow, Amulet of Vigor, etc. (when they were new)

This week I’m going to kickoff a three-part series, starting with an examination of the cards from MM17 that are most likely to make us money if we get in at the lows.

Note: Crystal Commerce, the software many vendors use to manage their inventory has been causing issues with TCGPlayer inventory this week, so I am referencing Ebay BIN prices and StarCityGames.com pricing as well as TCG & MTGPrice Vendor Team prices posted  for now to get a handle on price movements. Generally speaking you can expect prices to fall further once the set is actually released and we start the slog towards peak supply with sellers undercutting each other left and right.

First off, let’s review what’s on deck for reprint in the mythic slot in MM17, and how the week has treated the prices of these cards:

MM17 mythic pricing has already fallen off hard in the last week.

Last week I predicted that most MM17 mythics and rares were going to fall 20-50% heading into peak supply, and here we are just a week later with significant price declines already on the books. Here’s a quick price check I pulled together:

In just a week, the MM17 mythics have shown an average decline of 22%, and if we look back to Dec 1st/16 (when the market was already anticipating the inclusion of many of the Innistrad and Return to Ravnica staples), we see that the average decline has been 42%! That’s a pretty steep cliff if you were holding these cards in decks on the basis that you play with them.

For instance, if you owned a playset of ‘Goyf, LOTV, Cavern and Snapcaster, and held through the ramp up to the set, you’ve already cost yourself $350+! It’s going to be pretty tough to justify that inertia on the basis of getting access to some other staples you need for a deck or two at a cheaper price, but for a new Modern player things are certainly looking up.

And the thing is, we’re just getting started. Whether or not MM17 has been printed 1.25x, 1.5x or 2x the amount of MM15 we saw (which is still in the marketplace well below MSRP), prices today are still going to look optimistic vs. where they are likely to end up once the set starts getting opened. I expect a further 10-15% decline minimum on the mythics.

Now considering all of that, what might we be interested in targeting once market lows are reached? Well, generally speaking, we want to go after the cards that meet the following criteria (borrowed from my preliminary work on SpecScore):

  • multi-format all-star
  • playerd in multiple decks
  • low casting cost
  • low # of reprints
  • low chance of banning

Given all of that, my top pick at mythic out of MM17 so far is Cavern of Souls.

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Cavern of Souls is the poster child for open ended synergy, benefiting decks that are tribal focused and either a) multi-color or b) in need of counter-spell defense. The card is nearly always played as a four-of, it sees play in multiple archetypes in Modern and Legacy, the card has legs in casual, the new art is sweet, the foils are likely to be stunning and it’s a card that some folks like me already offloaded and will be looking to pick back up.  It’s also been confirmed that a strongly tribal themed set is in the pipeline (Azatlan?) and Cavern will certainly be useful once that appears. This is the first reprint for the card and I don’t think this card is likely to be a priority for MM19, though there are no certainties that far out.

Target Entry: $20-25
Future Exit:  $40

Liliana of the Veil is the 14th most played card in Modern, and is often played as a two or three-of. This is her first non-promo reprint, but I could see her ending up in Modern Masters 2019 again, where they may have significantly less fresh meat for the grinder given the relative lack of new Modern relevant mythics from the last few years. LOTV is one of the most iconic cards of the last decade but I well remember picking her up at $55 in the winter of 2015, a price I think she can fall beneath in the next few months. I suspect $45-50 copies will be available and that they may recover to $65-70 in the next twelve months. Past that point MM19 casts a scary shadow, so the window will be tight to make the spec worthwhile, unless you need some to play with.

Target Entry: $50
Future Exit:  $70 (with low certainty)

Tarmogoyf is now on its 3rd reprint in five years.  There is no doubt the card is a powerhouse, but surely there is a limit to how many times something can be printed without tanking semi-permanently. On the other hand, ‘Goyf is the 5th most played card in Modern and the 6th most played creature in Legacy, is nearly always played as a 4-of, and is played in multiple archetypes providing resilience to meta shifts.

It is worth noting that the best green creature in Modern made it from $115 around Modern Masters (2013) to $200 before the 2nd reprinting in Modern Masters 2015 (which was a surprise at the time), but it’s been basically all downhill from there and finding the bottom this time is going to be tricky given how much inventory was already on hand heading into this latest printing. In the past vendors have tried to defend the price of this card with aggressive buy listing but that time is likely past. I fully expect copies to end up available between $50 and $60 at peak supply and truly I see this as an opportunity to own for play more than a great spec. If MM17’s print run ends up as deep as I fear it is, or if a fresh wave of inventory is made available to vendors later this year, I won’t be prioritizing this card beyond the personal playset I’ve held off on for years.

Target Entry: $60
Future Exit:  $80 (with low certainty)

Snapcaster Mage was a bit of a surprise at mythic instead of rare, and as such, is more likely to show gains down the road. The card has a promo printing behind it and is the 19th most played card in Modern, showing up in 12% of decks and usually played as a 4-of. In Legacy it’s the 11th most played card, showing up in 25%+ of decks at an average of about three copies. Those are great stats, but this could easily show up in MM19, so the window is likely to be tight here as well. Currently selling at $35, I suspect you’ll get a shot at these closer to $25 and if you can get a couple of playsets near $100, I think you’ve got a solid chance exiting closer to $160 minus fees, especially if MM17 availability is scarce come the end of the year.

In contrast, 70% of the people I polled on Twitter preferred the original art, so I’m more likely to target those than the new version once we get to the lows.

Target Entry: $25
Future Exit:  $40 (with a tight sales window)

Voice of Resurgence is just barely in the Top 40 creatures in Modern, but keep in mind that this card has already fallen $30 (75%) in the past year on modest play patterns and anticipation of this set. When the card is played it is often as a 3 or 4-of and W/G decks featuring this card alongside Renegade Rallier have been popping up lately. If blue-based control finally turns the corner in Modern, that would also help boost demand for this counterspell hoser.

Once Voice gets below $8 it will have my attention and at $5-6 I’ll definitely take action.

Target Entry: $6-8
Future Exit:  $15+ 

Some of the other mythics feature a fairly limited demand profile and I strongly recommend exiting asap. Linvala, Keeper of Silence has already cratered from $45 to $20, and I think it could hit $10, as the play pattern in Modern is very shallow. Grislelbrand has some potential if he gets to $6, but his climb back up from the combined suppression of his GP promo and this printing may take a while. Most of the rest of the mythics already under $10 are equally unexciting, though if I’m pushed I would say that Craterhoof Behemoth near $10 (a strong EDH staple),  Sphinx’s Revelation near $2 and Past in Flames at say $6/play set might get a bit of my spec flow when the time is right.

Now let’s see what’s happening with the relevant rares:

MM17 rares are displaying massive drops in price over the last week.

Digging deeper, if we look back to Dec 1st/16, the story is even darker.

Note: I used post-spike pricing for both Basilisk Collar and Death’s Shadow since their price 3 months ago wasn’t particularly relevant. I missed Cyclonic Rift in this list as well.

If you were holding a large Modern collection or a went deep on some of these cards as specs, you are unlikely to be pleased by what this chart is telling us. MM17 rares have shown an average decline of almost 55% over the last three months, with 35% of that in just the last week. Of course, if you are just getting into Modern and had little in the way of collection value to lose, you are going to get a shot at a very solid entry point on a pile of key staples. (In contrast however, many cards that dodged the reprint bullet are likely to spike this year.)

Keep in mind that these prices are pre-order period pricing, which tends to be significantly higher than the prices we are likely to see 3-6 weeks from now as peak supply on MM17 is achieved and Amonkhet starts to steal the focus (and the money) away from this set.

As with the mythics, deciding where to get in and what to get in on is largely a function of how deep the print run goes, but we can apply similar principles as above to select some likely targets.

The Zendikar Fetchlands

Anyone telling you that you should get in on these lands at current pricing needs their head examined. The price memory on these cards is going to be soft because despite their inflated value heading into this scenario, they were printed at rare. Had they been printed at mythic rare, they might have held closer to their old prices, but you’ll be better off if you erase past expectations and work with an eye to the future.

Like some of you, I’ve been awaiting an entry point on a few of these for personal use for at least a couple of years, but trust me, there isn’t a rush to jump on pre-orders. There are going to be an average of two of these things in every box of Modern Masters 2017 and there are going to be 10,000-20,000 boxes of this set sold in North America alone. That’s a minimum of 20,000 new fetches entering the market, or 4,000 play sets of each. That means 1,000 players each get a shot at a set, and despite the average drop off in value in the mid 40% range since December, I don’t think we’re done yet. As of today, StarCityGames wants $45 for a Scalding Tarn. That tells me that TCG NM Low is likely to be closer to $35, and that deals via social media are going to touch $120/set or lower. I consider this math to be conservative. If there’s more like 40,000 boxes sold, the lows will be lower.

As far as speculation targets, Scalding Tarns and Verdant Catacombs are most likely to continue their popularity regardless of the specific meta, but all of these are solid pickups if they get low enough and you have personal use for them. It’s worth reminding you here that Khans of Tarkir fetches have been mostly shallow gainers, though Polluted Deltas and Flooded Strands I bought at $10 are now closer to $15. Still, whether MM17 is 1.5x or 4x the print run of MM15, there’s still a big difference between a globally released fall set and an LGS only set with an MSRP of $10/pack that’s printed in just three languages.  If the foiling in this set is as bad as MM15, original foils may be gainers, but they do have the hard ceiling of the Expedition versions capping their progress.

Without knowing just how much inventory is in the pipeline I’m not in a rush to get more than a personal play set. Let’s revisit options once we’ve got some pavement behind us before going deep here.

Target Entry:

  • Scalding Tarn: $20-25
  • Verdant Catacombs: $20-25
  • Misty Rainforest: $20
  • Arid Mesa: $15-20
  • Marsh Flats: $15-20

Future Exit:

  • Scalding Tarn: $40
  • Verdant Catacombs: $30+
  • Misty Rainforest: $30+
  • Arid Mesa: $25+
  • Marsh Flats: $25+

People were joking about Damnation not getting a reprint for so long that they lost sight of just how shallow the demand for this card actually is. It doesn’t rank in the Top 50 spells in Modern, let alone the Top 100 cards, and is most often played as a one or two of. There is some demand from EDH but in the end, this is a Wrath of God, and pricing on this class of cards has not been kind to reprints. SCG is currently looking for $35 on this card, but copies are already posted under $30, and I will be stunned if it’s doesn’t drop under $20 when all is said and done. In fact I feel strongly enough about this card dropping that I’m tempted to sell them now at $30, and fill those orders with copies I buy in a few weeks at $20 or less. If you need this card for a deck, grab one at lows, but I hate it as a spec.

Target Entry: $20
Future Exit:  Don’t bet on it 

On the one hand, Blood Moon is a devastating card that hammers reliance on non-basic lands in Modern so hard that it gets main decked in multiple decks. It’s in the Top 30 spells in the format, appearing in 13% of decks but only averages two copies in the decks that want it. It’s been four years since it last showed up in Modern Masters, after which it gained popularity and topped out over $50.

On the other hand it is on a short list of cards that many Modern players feel the format would be better off without and carries a slight chance of being banned. All in all if it gets low enough I’ll pick some up, but it’s not a priority.

Target Entry: $15
Future Exit:  $25 

Goblin Guide is one of the Top 25 most played creatures in Modern, but doesn’t have much demand beyond that. I consider the original art from Zendikar superior to the new art, but tastes may vary. The card is a staple creature in Zoo and Burn decks, and almost always played as a 4-of.  Copies are already out there for $17 or so, so I expect that a $50 play set is almost certainly doable in the coming weeks. The lower it gets beyond that point, the more interested I get as the decks it fits in are some of the most common entry level decks in the format and the card has an essentially zero chance of being banned and a very low chance of falling out of the format permanently due to a meta shift. It’s worth noting here that at $12, even after a 100% gain in the last few weeks, Eidolon of the Great Revel might be the better pickup since supply has been draining and it is highly unlikely to show up before MM19.

Target Entry: $12.50
Future Exit:  $20+

Most of the rest of the rares are going to be sunk for a long time, but very low pricing on Death’s Shadow, Abrupt Decay and Pyromancer’s Ascension might grab my attention. Other cards like Basilisk Collar, Scavenging Ooze and Stony Silence are either reprinted to irrelevance or corner case cards that can’t handle all the fresh supply.

In terms of uncommons, Path to Exile, Inquisition of Kozilek and Serum Visions have shown a resistance to reprintings in the past, but you can sit back and look for a deep low before making a move there and the returns are likely to be minor regardless.

When scouting for entry points on all of this, I recommend two specific periods of review. First, look to the week after release for the initial flurry of buying interest to be overcome by building inventory, leading to a serious race to the bottom, especially on the cards with weaker overall demand. Some people that bought in hard on boxes and cases on spoiler news will be panicking when they realize this is going to be a buyers rather than a sellers market, and deals will be had. The next period I would be targeting would be Amonkhet spoiler season through to the week after that sets’ release. I expect that set to be impressive, and even if it’s only average it is going to steal attention and wallets from MM17.

Join me next week when we follow up on the Modern cards that weren’t reprinted in MM17 that are already on the move or may do so down the road.

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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MTG Fast Finance Podcast: Episode 57 (Mar 3/17)

MTG Fast Finance is our weekly podcast covering the flurry of weekly financial activity in the world of Magic: The Gathering. MFF provides a fast, fun and useful sixty minute format. Follow along with our seasoned hosts as they walk you through this week’s big price movements, their picks of the week, metagame analysis and a rotating weekly topic.

Show Notes: Mar 3, 2017

Segment 1: Top Card Spikes of the Week

A pretty quiet week in card spikes…that is up until the MM17 reveals wrapped up Thursday and people started moving on cards that weren’t included. (Expect to see those here next week.)

Rite of Passage

Rite of Passage (Fifth Dawn, Rare)
Start: $0.50
Finish: $6.50
Gain: +$6.00 (+1200%)

Carpet of Flowers (Urza’s Saga, Uncommon)
Start: $3.50
Finish: $15.00
Gain: +$11.50 (+330%)

Tainted Pact (ODY, Rare)
Start: $2.00
Finish: $5.50
Gain: +$3.50 (+175%)

Falling Star (LEG, Rare)
Start: $6.50
Finish: $17.00
Gain: +$10.50 (+161%)

Eidolon of the Great Revel (JOU, Rare)
Start: $6.00
Finish: $12.00
Gain: +$6.00 (+100%)

 

James’ Picks:

Ancestral Vision

  1. Ancestral Vision (TSP, Rare)
  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $35.00 to $60.00 (+25.00/71%) 12+ months)
  • Note: Source from Europe to snag at mentioned price

2. Karn Liberated (NPH, Mythic)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $45.00 to $70.00 (+25.00/+55%, 0-6+ months)

3. Horizon Canopy (FS, Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $35.00 to $60.00 (+25.00/+71%, 0-12+ months)

Travis’ Picks:

  1. Noble Hierarch (MM2, Rare)
  • The Call: Confidence Level 7: $45.00 to $70.00 (+25.00/+56%, 0-6+ months)

2. Inkmoth Nexus (MB, Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 6: $20.00 to $40.00 (+20.00/+100%, 0-12+ months)

Disclosure: Travis and James may own speculative copies of the above cards.

Segment 3: Topic of the Week

James & Travis got deep on the exciting new Modern Masters 2017 release.

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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Negotiating the Modern Masters 2017 Minefield

With the latest spoilers revealed this morning, Modern Masters 2017 is officially the most exciting edition of the series, and one of the most exciting Magic sets of all time. Wizards of the Coast is clearly looking for a home run here and there is a lot to digest in terms of how the set will impact investments in the Modern format for players and speculators.

Let’s get up to speed on the mythics revealed thus far:

We now know 14 of the 15 mythic rares in Modern Masters 2017 [Update: Olivia Voldaren is the final mythic], and despite the inclusion of both Liliana of the Veil AND Tarmogoyf, with Snapcaster Mage and Cavern of Souls as a side dish, this offering is actually not that different than Modern Masters 2015.

Here are some figures on the MM15 Mythics, courtesy of number crunching that Saffron Olive did over on MTGGoldFish at the time.

As you can see mythics were on track to contribute just under $90 in EV (Estimated Value) to MM15 at launch.  Now take a look at the MM17 mythic offerings by comparison.

As you can see, the mythics may actually represent less value in this set than in MM15, largely because they are dazzling us with LoTV and Tarmogoyf, while offering up significantly less $25+ cards. That being said, the demand profile as persistent, multi-deck four-ofs for Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage, and Cavern of Souls may help those cards hold value better and recover faster down the road.

Now let’s take a look at the rares that are on offer:

Prices as of noon Mar 2/17.

Clearly the biggest story here is the inclusion of the Zendikar fetch lands. Adding five high demand rares currently priced between $30-$60 (after immediate deflation upon the reveal) was the clearest flag that this set is intended to push the envelope on Estimated Value. But the rare value goes significantly deeper overall than it did with MM15. Have a look at the different in EV just based on the rares we know so far:

Numbers are rough here, but rares are clearly a much bigger contributor to EV this time.

If you squint, that’s a potentially whopping 50%+ increase in the EV being added by rares in this set, assuming a roughly equivalent value for the remaining rares, including likely bulk rares.

I haven’t run the numbers on uncommons yet, but with key cards like Path to Exile, Inquisition of Kozilek, Serum Visions, Terminate and Might of Old Krosa, my guess is these numbers will come in equal to or above even Modern Masters (2013), and significantly above the uncommon poor MM15.

If the set allocations were the same, these figures alone would make boxes a slam dunk, but beware, because there is more to this story.

A Word on Product Allocations

Early word from vendors was that Modern Masters 2017 featured an entirely different distribution pattern than the last two installments of the series. Previously, most vendors got some of their limited edition product from WoTC directly, and some of it via their distributors. This time around, distributors are controlling all of the inventory, making it much harder to get a handle on how much the print run has been increased (since you can’t simply measure WoTC case allocations). Many vendors reported that they had been offered “as much as they wanted” for MM17, which suggests that WoTC is fully aware of how juiced this set is and is looking to take advantage of the hype the kichen sink approach to set design will drive in order to achieve significantly greater sales. Solid information is still unfolding at this point but based on what I’ve heard so far I would estimate that the print run is at least 50-100% larger than previously, and possibly even beyond that. Massdrop.com sold over 1700 boxes in one drop the other day, and even more on a second one.

Interestingly, after the fiasco of Eternal Masters “limited” product being made available to vendors a full six months after it was first released (in Dec 2016), many players and speculators were looking gun shy at the prospect of pre-ordering this set and I managed to pick up my boxes at $175 without issue before most of the reveals went down. As of this morning, boxes are hovering around $210-$220 a box and they hype train could easily drive them back into the MSRP range of $240 or even beyond depending on what the forthcoming final EV calculation articles confirm about the expected value of a pack or box.

So should you be piling on to buy boxes with everyone else? I don’t think so. The Estimated Value on offer just so far, without the full set revealed, looks roughly equivalent for the mythics and significantly increased in the rare and uncommon slots. Paired with higher supply that suggests to me that nearly all of the cards included are going to take a large hit in the 20-50% range as we approach peak supply. Sure, a lot of cards recovered well from the last two Modern Masters sets, but they had less supply, and MM15 boxes appreciated much less than MM13 before them (partially due to lessened set value).

If you got in on boxes under $190 when those were available in the last few weeks, you may get a chance to flip them for +$40/box at peak hype, and cracking them will be unlikely to cost you much if you need the cards. Boxes over $240 however are not somewhere I want to be with this set, as the EV today is very unlikely to resemble the EV in a few months. Couple that with the specter of another holiday season surprise re-release and even Japanese boxes around $300 look scary.

Play it Smart

Speculation with Modern Masters 2017 cards is not going to be easy. Once we know more about total supply, and we’ve seen inventory levels of key cards and mapped their likely peak supply pricing, we can start to probe for potential targets.

Generally speaking you are going to want to look for desperation sales from folks who snapped up boxes looking to crack and flip, only to find that everyone else is doing the same thing and driving prices into the ground.

Rares especially are going to be tough to keep afloat, and sales on Twitter and Facebook are likely to abound by early April. With a foil in every pack you should get a chance at some good deals on sparkly things for your cube or EDH deck.

When picking targets you will want to pair your patience with data on which cards are actually being played in multiple archetypes, usually as a 4-of, and in multiple formats. Fetchlands, Snapcaster Mage, Goyf, Cavern of Souls, etc fit this profile.

The other group of cards you will want to take a hard look (prioritizing on the same basis) at are the ones that definitely won’t be in MM17, including:

  • Blinkmoth Nexus
  • Cryptic Command
  • Engineered Explosives
  • Glimmervoid
  • Grove of the Burnwillows
  • Horizon Canopy
  • Inkmoth Nexus
  • Karn Liberated
  • Mishra’s Bauble
  • Saffi, Eriksdotter
  • Valakut

Priority Exits (If You Can)

Damnation

Given how much of this set is going to be bought and cracked in the next two months, you have already missed out on some key opportunities to sell off staples like Cavern of Souls and Liliana of the Veil.

Given current pricing, which is collapsing by the minute, there are still a few overpriced cards that should be exited in a hurry, if you have the chance:

  • Zendikar Fetchlands: These are going to lose another 20-30% of their value as rares. There is too much going on in this set, supply is higher and dealers aren’t going to be motivated to prop up prices via aggressive buylisting. Same art too, so you can safely ditch and get back in with holograms a bit down the road if you have extras lying around.
  • Tarmogoyf: I think Goyf could get as low as $60-70 this time if supply is high enough. Remember this is his third printing in 5 years, and supply wasn’t draining after the last time.
  • Damnation: This card’s price was propped up largely by the number of years it dodged a mainstream reprint. At $40-45, it might have held most of that value as a mythic, but as a rare, this thing will be far, far more common in six weeks. It’s really only run in Jund and Abzan in Modern, and usually then as a 1-of in the sideboard. Stony Silence is played more, and it’s $5. I think the price will get cut in half or worse, so if you can exit over $30, that should be a solid move.
  • Cratehoof Behemoth: This will drop from $20 to $10. Get out.
  • Linvala, Keeper of Silence: $10-15 card by the time this is over.

Looking Forward

It is worth noting that in removing Modern as a Pro Tour format, a reduction in Modern tournament support throughout the competitive ecosystem, and the continued LGS-only distribution of Modern Masters products, WoTC is signally strongly that Modern (and other Eternal formats) are Tier 2 priorities for them and are not the core drivers of revenue and user growth.

That being said, there is no reason to believe that Modern won’t carry on much as it has been over the last twelve months or so, as a largish niche for competitive players that have been around for a while and have the collections to support it. Modern Masters 2017 represents a strong shift towards accessibility and away from prioritizing collection value, in Modern in specific, and Magic as a game, as represented by the evolving set design strategy of Wizards of the Coast. With so many key staples being reprinted here, and with expansive print runs on deck, there is every reason to believe that some new players will pick up a Modern deck, and that Modern players will diversify their options by expanding their staples collection. (Hilariously, cognitive dissonance will likely enable many players to ignore the drop in their collection value as they happily run out to scoop up cheaper staples.)

From the speculators perspective, this paradigm shift towards accessibility suggests that holding Modern staples for more than a few years after release is going to be a very risky game. I didn’t get caught out on much with this set list, but cards like Abupt Decay and Scavenging Ooze now likely represent failed specs that I would be happy to sell at or near cost, given how long they might take to recover past potential.  Moving forward, opportunities related to Modern are much more likely to involve three specific categories of targets:

  • High demand recovering reprints, eg: LoTV, Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage, Cavern of Souls
  • Recent reprint dodgers, eg: Ancestral Visions, Inkmoth Nexus, Engineered Explosives, Grove of the Burnwillows, Mishra’s Bauble
  • Newly unlocked/underestimated cards, eg: Rite of Passage, Death’s Shadow, Amulet of Vigor, etc.

Good luck out there…it’s getting tougher!

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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