Tag Archives: MTGPrice

PROTRADER: Modern Season Is Upon Us

The Modern hype is here and it’s very much for real. I am embarrassed for even momentarily suggesting Modern may be hitting a plateau as far as interest is concerned. Last week I went as far as to use wishy washy language surrounding my prediction for how Modern cards would perform come 2016. Clearly, Modern season is going to offer up significant opportunity. And with record breaking Star City Open attendance in Cincinnati this weekend (1,022 participants) it’s clear there’s more growth ahead.

All that said, it’s really interesting to see which cards have already began ascent and which have remained stagnant. Even with some metagame evolution, a large portion of the mainstays of Modern should still be relevant – Affinity, Tron, Splinter Twin, Infect, etc. Yet when I review the top movers so far in 2016, I’m seeing almost all the growth thus far occurring with Eldrazi cards, presumably due to the current block.

Eye of Ugin

Despite being narrow in scope, I believe the data out there is strong enough to conclude Modern will once again be a lucrative format to speculate on. But the train is already leaving the station – in fact, it’s already nearing its final destination on stuff like Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple. With that in mind, I’m going to look to a couple ideas that are still worth pursuing as the Modern hype rapidly approaches its peak for the first half of 2016.

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Six Things to Expect from Magic in 2016

Yeah, I know, list-style articles are a bit clickbaity. That said, there’s a ton to cover as we head into 2016, and with so many other authors writing great pieces wrapping up 2015, this feels like the best way to lay the groundwork for a big year for Magic.

The year of 2015 wasn’t bad, exactly, but it certainly didn’t continue the momentum of previous years. In many ways, this was expected. You can keep up monstrous growth year-over-year forever, and with the power level on sets being cut back—which I’m a fan of in terms of what it means for the game’s sustainability—it’s not exactly easy to push Magic sets these days. That leads to gimmicks like Expeditions (a fun set), but it also doesn’t sell sets forever the way Snapcaster Mage, Delver of Secrets, and Liliana of the Veil do. It’s not a huge surprise, then, that the numbers so far this year haven’t lived up to years past.

That means 2016 has to, if not increase, at least sustain where Magic is at. Shadows over Innistrad seems like a great way to do that, and we’ll see how the rest goes. On that note, let’s begin.

The Rise of the Colorless (Eldrazi)

Whether it’s Standard, where Eldrazi ramp was already a deck and figures to be greatly helped by Oath of the Gatewatch, or Modern, where decks built around exiling graveyards for Blight Herder and Oblivion Sower are taking off, Eldrazi are everywhere these days.

There’s no reason to expect that to change anytime soon. Eldrazi are going to be a force in Standard until rotation, and possibly even more of one after. I think we can look forward to at least nine more months of Eldrazi in Standard, and possibly 15 before Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch leave the scene. The biggest beneficiary to this is Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, who is up from $13 to $16 and shows no signs of slowing down, but the big guy is bringing along plenty in his wake. Awakening Zone, for instance, has been on absolute if predictable tear (I’m proud of how well the community here on MTGPrice got out ahead of that one), and now Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin are joining the fray (Edit: apparently these have spiked hard in the last two days. These will settle much higher than they were pre-spike, but the current inflated prices won’t hold, especially on Eye of Ugin).

Looking forward, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect Ulamog to top out around $30 if Eldrazi Ramp becomes top-tier, and Sanctum of Ugin and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods won’t stay bulk long. More long-term, From Beyond is a surefire bet for future gains.

From Beyond

The Summer 2016 Specialty Release Will Be Multiplayer-Focused

Let’s take a brief walk through history.

2009: Planechase

2010: Archenemy

2011: Commander

2012: Planechase 2012

2013: Modern Masters

2014: Conspiracy

2015: Modern Masters 2015

The Modern Masters sets throw it off over the past few years, but if you look back at the release history, it’s pretty clear that Wizards highly values a multiplayer-centric release during the summer. The annual Commander decks have taken some pressure off of this trend and made room for Modern reprints, but I have to believe that 2016 takes us back to multiplayer land.

My prediction? Archenemy 2. The inclusion of surge and other multiplayer-centric cards in Oath of the Gatewatch is not a coincidence, and I don’t believe that Matt Tabak’s seemingly random reference to the archenemy in this article is, either.

Archenemy 2016. Maybe.

The Price of Standard Will Fall

We know that it already is, as the price of Gideon falls and everything else evens out after the post-Battle for Zendikar spike. But while Jace will remain expensive, the other reason for an expensive 2015 Standard season—fetch lands—will rotate. Say what you want about WOTC’s design decisions over the past few years, but rarely have we seen a single dominant deck. Even Mono-Black Devotion, hated during its run in Standard, wasn’t the only deck to see success, just as Dark Jeskai isn’t the only deck doing so today. Of course, there’s another argument to be made that Modern-focused reprints (Thoughtseize, fetch lands) do Bad Things™ to Standard, but that’s a topic for another day.

Once fetch lands rotate, people won’t be able to put together whatever four colors they feel like playing, and that means more dissemination of the strongest cards in the format. When Shadows over Innistrad releases, I expect the two poles to be Jace decks and Ulamog decks. The difference between then and now is that neither deck will be running $200 in fetch lands just because it can. That should lead to a less-expensive Standard, and while it may not be low enough to satisfy everyone, it will be a step up from what we saw in the second half of 2015.

Emrakul Awaits on Innistrad

Fair warning: I’m not a flavor expert. But I do know storytelling, and it certainly seems like the Eldrazi are too all-encompassing to go away anytime soon. With Kozilek rising up to join Ulamog (RIP Lorthos), it certainly seems like the coalition to drive the Eldrazi off of Zendikar won’t be anything more than a stopgap. I don’t see our planeswalker buddies “killing” the Eldrazi in any way, and even if they do manage to force them off Zendikar, I doubt these monsters are gone forever. As Magic builds toward a coming blockbuster movie in the next few years, it makes sense for Wizards to keep the Eldrazi around—and notice that we haven’t heard from Emrakul in a while.


Furthermore, there’s speculation that Shadows over Innistrad is a reference to Shadows over Innsmouth, a Lovecraftian story that has Cthulhu—the baddest Eldrazi this side of the Multiverse—as its villain. I wouldn’t put it past Wizards to title the set after the novella on purpose, and have Emrakul fill the role of said shadow.

A Major Shakeup to the Modern Banlist

The announcement of the Stoneforge Mystic Grand Prix promo is the biggest giveaway here, if you want to read it that way. Personally, I could see it going either way. It wouldn’t shock me to see it included just as a “good promo” even if it wasn’t legal in Modern, thanks to its Legacy playability.

On the other hand, these cryptic words from the announcement article would seem to indicate otherwise: “I wonder how many promo Batterskulls we’ll see next to these new promo Mystics by springtime next year…” The ellipses was included in the original, and it’s no secret that Wizard likes to shake up the banlist before a Pro Tour. I think it’s probably better than 50-50 that Mystic sees an unban before Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch in February, and to answer Mike’s question about how many Batterskulls we’ll see: a lot.

Magic Will Gain Increased Acceptance as an eSport

This is a larger-picture issue, but one that is important to me and worth talking about. I work full-time in Magic, from managing the content on this website to working event coverage for Wizards. I also shoutcast League of Legends and other games regionally, and follow eSports as a whole pretty closely.

For those of you who may not know, eSports is blowing up. League is the largest video game in the world and is being injected with tons of money from venture capitalists right now. It’s sending salaries skyrocketing and quickly driving it toward the “only the big businesses can thrive.” Heroes of the Storm was on ESPN. CS:GO is getting a weekly league aired on TBS in 2016.

The field is, as a whole, going nuts right now. And there’s little reason to believe it will stop. With an incredibly young audience demographic right now, the money isn’t quite there yet. But as these people grow up watching competitive gaming instead of football or basketball, they’re going to retain those loyalties and preferences into adulthood. Ten years from now more, and more 30-year-olds will be watching videogames on TV, and the advertising money is going to truly start flowing.

Magic is doing its best to not be left behind. While video coverage won’t be as frequent in 2016, many people have characterized it as taking a step back to take a step up, and I hope that will be true. Magic may not be as visually exciting as some other games, but it has all the major attributes of other successful eSports, and the Pro Tour scene features both high-level play and a number of intriguing personalities. Viewership on Twitch has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years—both in professional play and streaming—and I have high hopes for the digital and professional future of Magic. The 2016 year will be a key one for the game’s growth, because eSports are no longer a thing of the future: they’re a thing of the now, and Magic needs to continue to grow in this regard.

A bit over my word limit this week, but there you go! This year was a big one for me personally, and as I enter my first full year working full-time in Magic—and with my first kid on the way in May—I have big hopes for 2016.

See you on the other side.


Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter/Twitch/YouTube

Grinder Finance – A New Frontier

Last week we looked into the year that was.  This week I want to take a look at the year that may be.  This year will be uncharted territory for the Magic community and especially for MTG Finance.  There have been golden rules related to the time of year.  There was one rotation per year in September and the summer before ushered in a huge sell off in the oldest Standard cards.  Now we have two rotations, once in September and one in April.  How will that affect the normal trends of card prices?  There is also another elephant in the room.  There isn’t significant growth in the size of the player base.  For the past year it has been pretty clear to me that Wizards is trying to sell more product to the same number of people.  This may have some impacts on otherwise “safe” picks from the past year’s standard.


We learned about the new rotation over a year ago.  Let’s revisit it to refresh everyone’s mind.

Source http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mm/metamorphosis
Source http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mm/metamorphosis

This is the old rotation.  Blocks were 3 sets and then a core set was released and then the following set caused a rotation.  This meant that fall sets had 2 years in standard and that amount of time decreased until the core set (which spent the least amount of time in standard).

Source http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mm/metamorphosis
Source http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mm/metamorphosis

The new Standard has a rotation every other set.  Every beginning of a block causes two sets to rotate out and one set to rotate in.  This means there will be an increased significance of the spring and summer set (as they stay in Standard just as long as the fall and winter sets).  The real question for us is when do people begin to sell off their cards?

sphinx's rev

Let’s take a look a card who’s price was entirely impacted by Standard.  If you wanted to get rid of your Revelations before they made their final descent, you needed to sell them in March of 2014.  That card did not rotate out of Standard until September, meaning people began selling off a full 6 months before rotation.

Khans of Tarkir cards rotate with the release of Shadows Over Innistrad in April.  If cards followed that same trajectory then I’d have to assume we’re already almost two months too late.

crackling doom mantis rider

I’m inclined to believe the boat is missed.  While these cards are almost bulk rares at this point,  I don’t advocate holding onto anything that has value left from Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged.  There is almost no upside in the release of Oath of the Gatewatch.

abrupt decay

Look at Abrupt Decay.  It rotated at around $13.  Right now you can find copies at retail for $11.50 (Strike Zone).  While there was a period in between you could have got out at a profit, it’s clear that dealer confidence is low and buylists reflect that.  There was also never a point where the best buylist was above the retail cost at rotation.  Now there is the possibility this is just part of the end of year slump and we see $20 Abrupt Decays July.


This is the year of the Thoughtseize.  What happens to it?  Buy price is plummeting, now out of even double digits.  Are there just too many Thoughtseizes?  Is its rotation out of Standard actually detrimental to it’s long-term price?  It’s hard to tell but it’s something to watch.  We might see a lot more seasonal ebbs and flows with Modern legal cards printed in Return to Ravnica and newer sets.  So much sealed product of those sets was available that it’s impossible for cards to retain their pre-rotation value even if they are eternal playable if there are just too many of them.  It’s possible the card will never recover to it’s $25 height-of-Standard price tag.


I haven’t done anything but eyeball it, but fellow MTG Finance writer Saffron Olive says Legacy staples are down (for the first time ever) 0.4% year over year (Source).  I’m not expecting that to change.  With the increase support of Modern and the decreased support of Legacy at a local and global level it’s hard for people to justify thousands of dollars in decks they can play maybe three times per year.  Wizards has only announced one Legacy GP and Star City Games has announced one Legacy open in the first third of the year.  Assuming there are two more opens in 2016, that gives North America only four major Legacy events in the year compared to six Opens and one Grand Prix last year.  This doesn’t count international Grands Prix (which were not on the same date as they are this year) and the Invitational or Player’s Championship.  I foresee drops to continue as long as support for the format drops nationally.  While it may be thriving in your local area, it is so hard to start grass roots support for such an expensive format.  I don’t really want to elaborate anymore on my feelings but I think we will see another year of Modern replacing Legacy as the non-rotating format of choice for a lot of players.

The Future of Making Money

With the print runs of recent sets, it’s hard to find a reason these days to invest in a Standard legal pack.  When you look at the difference between sealed boxes of Return to Ravnicai versus sealed boxes of Innistrad it’s easy to see where things changed.  Conventional wisdom of sitting on any kind of sealed product is no longer true.  I would by proxy say holding most singles from those sets is also a poor idea.  My interests now are in limited print run products.  Modern Masters sets, From the Vaults and promotions like Zendikar Expeditions are the safest places to hold money because we don’t know what the future will hold.  If you really want to trade Standard cards into other Standard cards I would suggest looking into foils.  Those are similar to limited print run products in terms of scope.  The buy and sell prices of Foil Thoughtseizes have been basically flat since July which is a start contrast to the rise and fall of non-foil Thoughtseizes that may just never recover.

Into the Unknown

I don’t think anyone could factually back up any claims on the future.  I am suggesting we consider our options and look to the past for some theories.  I don’t know how players will enjoy or dislike the new rotation but it will definitely be a defining part of the 2016 Magic landscape.

PROTRADER: The Winners vs. Losers Debate

While navigating a tumultuous stock market and a rapidly evolving MTG market, I often find parallels between the two worth sharing. While sometimes not directly applicable, strategies from one economy can educate us on how we should consider the other. This is perhaps my favorite part about writing for this site – the freedom I have to explore the similarities between the two in an academic way.

However not everything between the two matches up perfectly. Sometimes a mindset that is commonly applied in the stock market doesn’t make sense to consider in MTG finance.

This week I will write about another paralleled question between Wall Street and MTG finance. You’ll notice along the way that the questions don’t fit 100%, but they still trigger worthwhile discussion that leads to an actionable recommendation. Through this framework I believe we can make some deterministic conclusions around what the best pick-ups are going forward as we enter 2016.

The premise: it’s all about winners vs. losers. Allow me to explain.

Winners or Losers

 One of my favorite podcasts (besides Brainstorm Brewery of course) is the port of the television show Fast Money. The CNBC show is all about traders and their reactions to the constant fluctuations and news of the stock market. They do a nice job keeping things entertaining – although I’ll admit the traders, while “famous”, make their fair share of errors. I never follow their direction blindly. But I do like the way they pose up questions and analyses.

One question they consider frequently that I really enjoy is whether or not one should look to buy the “winner” or “loser” of a given segment. For example, they may touch on retail stocks and discuss whether one should buy a beaten up stock such as that of Macy’s or a recent winner like Nike. In a nutshell, they’re addressing whether they feel it’s better to ride the momentum of the winner or bet on a catch-up play from the loser.


The question is certainly worth considering seriously. By definition the losing stock, such as Macy’s, is certainly out of favor on Wall Street. Meanwhile Nike is basically the darling of the Dow, having the best 2015 performance of the 30 stock index. However as long as the “loser” is still profitable, at some point it may become an attractive enough value to pick up. Conversely the winner may be getting too expensive, facing resistance to the upside.

Now let’s try to apply this to Magic finance. Random buyouts aside, prices rise and decay in MTG due strictly to supply and demand. There really isn’t as strong of an equivalent of “in-favor” and “out-of-favor” like there is in the stock market. There’s far less emotional selling and buying (not zero, but certainly less). Macy’s is certainly hated right now and Nike is a hedge fund’s dream. W can’t necessarily draw this parallel to, say, Khans fetches and Zendikar fetches perfectly. But we can try.



Over the past few months, Scalding Tarn has spiked, pulled back, and then continued its rise. More importantly, buylists on the Zendikar fetches has consistently risen for the most part. On the other hand vendors are paying less on Polluted Delta now than they were over the summer. You could say Khans fetches aren’t in favor right now while their Zendikar counterparts certainly are.

These trends are driven purely by fundamentals. There isn’t any excessive emotional momentum at play here – Standard players are moving their Khans fetches in anticipation of rotation and this volume is outweighing Modern and Legacy demand, where as Zendikar fetches aren’t facing that same pressure. It’s as simple as that. If asked which is the better pickup, I’d argue both will ultimately trend together once Khans is well out of Standard. Until then, the play is to stick with the “winner” – not because of momentum, but because Scalding Tarn and Verdant Catacombs will particularly experience greater demand as we enter 2016 while Khans fetches continue to suffer from rotation.

Another Winner/Loser Comparison: Counterspells

 Occasionally, a publicly traded company will announce a secondary offering. This is essentially the creation of more stock to raise cash. The practice dilutes value of current shareholders by increasing the supply in the market. In a way, it’s kind of the equivalent of a reprint. Except often times a company offers more shares to raise capital for a given investment, which is intended to pay out in the long term. Reprints in Magic offer zero long term benefit.

Because of this difference, a winner/loser comparison involving reprints is again not a perfect parallel with the stock market. But I can still use the setup of winner versus loser to provide guidance on where I think the market goes from here. For example, let’s compare the relative “winner” Force of Will with a reprinted Modern counterpart, Cryptic Command.



Force of will has shown cyclical behavior over the past few years, but the general direction is upward. Cryptic Command on the other hand, spiked in Spring 2014 but has since pulled back drastically due to the Modern Masters 2015 reprint. Once again, this isn’t an emotional reaction in price – the supply of Cryptic has increased significantly, impacting fundamentals.

If I assume supply will remain constant going forward (i.e. no more reprints), my recommendation is to follow the option with more demand upside in the future: Cryptic Command. Modern is growing in popularity and has the Pro Tour season to support demand. On the other hand, Legacy demand may falter as there are fewer premier Legacy tournaments in 2016 than recent years. While the cyclical nature of Force of Will may suggest there’s upside in the next 3 months, I can’t imagine the growth is significant enough to merit a material investment. I’d much prefer getting into Cryptic Command, betting on the next Modern surge.  It also helps that we have data on other Modern Masters reprints that have since recovered in price.

One More Comparison: Discard

Perhaps the most difficult winner/loser comparison lies in the one-drop discard spell category. Which is the better pickup: Inquisition of Kozilek (winner) or Thoughtseize (loser)?



Looking at the charts above, we see that the top buy price of Inquisition has risen from $3 to nearly $8 throughout 2015. Meanwhile the top buy price of Theros Thoughtseize has decreased from around $11 to $10 after hitting a peak over the summer. The fact that these two discard spells are nearing parity in price is baffling given their discrepancy in rarity and (supposed) power level.

While it’s fair to ask the question of which is the better pickup, once again we have a situation where prices are driven strictly by fundamentals. The supply of Thoughtseize is higher than that of Inquisition despite the rarity difference. This is due to the recent printing of Thoughtseize in the high print-run set Theros. On the other hand Inquisition of Kozilek was opened far less being a third set from years ago. Once again this isn’t a love/hate comparison like Macy’s and Nike – this isn’t about emotions.

Still, the question begs an answer. If I was forced to choose, I’d have to ask for another month to decide. Why a month? Because I want to see what gets printed in Oath of the Gatewatch first. With the recent Kozilek spoiler, a reprint of Inquisition of Kozilek makes tremendous sense. I simply cannot advocate picking up copies of this discard spell until we confirm it is not getting reprinted. Assuming it dodges reprint again, I’d recommend Inquisition. Until then, the safer pickup is Thoughtseize.

Wrapping It Up

 Momentum is a term that’s thrown around often on Wall Street. A stock that has done well over recent months is considered to be “in-favor”, sometimes leading to continued upward movement. On the other hand a hated stock can sometimes get beat up unfairly simply because of its recent poor performance. Macy’s and Nike are two stocks that reflect this dichotomy. Another good example would be the Facebook/Twitter pair. The former is incredibly well-run and has the dedicated support from Wall Street. The latter has struggled to grow its user base, and therefore it has been an absolute dog of the Nasdaq. With each passing day, Facebook seemingly climbs higher while Twitter gets beaten up, perhaps unfairly, even more and more.

The same comparisons can be made in the Magic market. However, buyouts aside MTG cards don’t really exhibit emotional “momentum” in the same fashion. Typically price movements happen due to fundamental shifts in supply and demand. Still, the winner/loser debate is one that is certainly applicable to MTG finance. The choices really are boundless: Wasteland (loser) or Dark Depths (winner)? Jace, the Mind Sculptor (loser) or Liliana of the Veil (winner)? Dark Confidant (loser) or Stoneforge Mystic (winner)? Each choice presents two options: either bet on a card that’s already moved up significantly or bet on a card that is seeing fundamental decay in price.

Perhaps looking at these comparisons can help us conclude a broader opinion of the market. For example, my predisposition to choose Zendikar fetches over Khans fetches and Inquisition of Kozilek (barring reprint) over Thoughtseize is an indicator that I prefer Modern cards printed at least a couple years ago over recently printed cards. But my pick of Cryptic Command over Force of will indicates my belief in Modern’s future success over that of Legacy. Such broadening conclusions can really help dictate one’s ongoing investment strategy.

In fact, that’s essentially what I’ve done here. By starting with some individual questions, I’ve boiled down my investment strategy going forward. I’m going to target Modern cards over Legacy cards and older cards over newer. While perhaps not so clear cut, these guiding principles will ensure I think more mechanically about my options before committing funds in a directionless fashion. If nothing else, this winner/loser exercise has helped me this much.

I’d recommend considering these comparisons and using your own answers to drive broader investment strategies. Perhaps you’ll surprise yourself with where you end up. If nothing else, you’ll think more diligently about the many investment decisions we face on a daily basis. Just remember – in MTG finance prices don’t move on momentum (besides buyouts). Card prices rise and decay due to shifts in supply and demand. Wasteland isn’t down in price because it’s simply hated – it is genuinely in less demand relative to six months ago. So when picking losers, be cognizant of the evolving metagame and format favorability. We all like an underdog, but picking one with the right risk/reward equation will be the best way to bank on these out-of-style cards throughout 2016.

Sig’s Quick Hits

  • Arabian Nights Erhnam Djinn has just hit an all-time high thanks to demand for the Old School MTG format. Star City Games has recently increased their price of NM copies to $69.99, and they only have 2 MP copies in stock with a price tag of $49.99. I’m surprised by two things here. First, the fact that their Near Mint price tag is substantially below TCG Player – this is likely to change. Second, their Moderately Played price is 70% of their Near Mint price. This suggests to me that the demand is indeed from ‘93/’94 players and not collectors, who would generally be willing to pay a much larger premium for NM copies over MP copies.
  • It’s really interesting to see which printings of Birds of Paradise have gone up in price lately. A cursory look through Star City Games’ stock can give us a peek into which editions are most in-demand recently. They are out of stock of Tenth Edition copies ($6.45), NM Revised copies ($6.65), NM Fourth Edition copies ($6.99), NM Ravnica copies ($6.99), and Unlimited copies ($69.99). They also have low stock in most other sets. It would appear that the lack of reprint in Origins didn’t matter – this one-drop is still rising in price.
  • Chaos Orb is almost completely sold out on the internet. Chalk this up to demand from collector’s along with Old School MTG players. Star City Games is completely sold out of the card across each printing, with Unlimited’s price tag currently at $149.99. I fully expect them to increase their prices on all three printings…if they can ever get some back in stock again, that is.