Tag Archives: oath spoilers

Six Things to Expect from Magic in 2016

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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

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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.

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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.

images

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

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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

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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.

thoughtseize

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.

Legacy

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.

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Grinder Finance – Kozilek’s Return

shrine art

Another Eldrazi Titan has entered the mix.  The one they called “Cosi” finally joins the battle.  What does he bring with him?  A wealth of options.

Ok real talk, since everyone else on MTGprice is probably going to cover the expeditions I’m gonna take some time to talk about some Standard cards.  My column is for the player, by a player.  As I jokingly said during our impromptu podcast (found here) with fellow MTGprice.com writers, Jeremy AaransonTravis Allen, and Douglas Johnson, not a lot of MTG Finance people play a ton of Magic.  There is some extra value in owning cards when you play with them.

sphinxofthefinalword crushoftentacles

Bad news blue players.  We probably have 2 bulk mythic rares right here.  Crush of Tentacles looks a lot like an Upheaval but the reality is it’s almost always worse to cast than Ugin.  Until Shadows over Innistrad this is likely to be a bulk rare.  Part the Waterveil sees “some” play and is still barely breaking the bulk bins at $2. I won’t waste too many words because Sphinx of the Final Word does not deserve many words.

nissavoiceofzendikar

Now we’re cooking with gasoline.  I think Nissa might be in an awkward spot because on it’s face value, it’s probably worse than Nissa, Vastwood Seer at the moment.  They are the same mana cost and this Nissa is more difficult to cast.  That being said, I’m pretty sure there will be some Nissa/Gideon deck coming in the fall of 2016 so we will want to look at the summer as the time to pick her up.   As with most Planeswalkers, this card will probably start pre-ordering for too much and be half the price by the next set.

worldbreaker

World Breaker.  It’s simple, elegant, powerful.  This card looks like a literal Giant Spider Eldrazi but it’s really a lot more than that.  There is a high demand for 7+ mana colorless creatures (especially Eldrazi).  Despite the green mana symbol this guy is immune to the same removal that Kozilek himself dodges.  This mini-Ulamog plays a lot like a Pearl Lake Ancient that also plays pretty good defense.  I’m certain there are a lot of Eldrazi ramp decks that are fine trading a land for one of their opponent’s every turn.  All in all I think this guy will be too good to be $3 but probably not good enough to be $10.  Maybe if I get some camera time in Atlanta after the set comes out I can show you how good he will be.

kozileksreturn

You remember how I said 7 mana Eldrazi are a big deal?  The Eldrazi ramp deck really wants to ramp once on 3 and twice on 4 giving you access to 7-8 mana on turn 5.  This card can nicely fit into your 4th turn after a Hedron Archive and then can be “flashed back” to finish up any non-Eldrazi threats your opponents may have.  Being an instant is a big deal because it allows you to deal with some otherwise awkward threats.  This can kill dash creatures like Zurgo and Lightning Berserker and smaller manlands like the new R/W manland.  It’s also an answer to Jace that can also kill Dragonlord Ojutai and Dragonlord Silumgar.  It can also sweep up Thopter tokens that are otherwise particularly difficult for Ugin to kill.  I expect this card to be very popular even after Ugin rotates.  This card could pre-order for as much as $15 and that would be really unfortunate because I think longer term it’s probably a $5-8 card for it’s life in Standard.

chandraflamecaller

Yeah this isn’t Elspeth Sun’s Champion.  While we are more likely to take off the CMC Glasses now on 6+ mana planeswalkers, this one just doesn’t do enough right now to justify playing.  I am, however, a big fan of foils.  This card’s 0 ability has a lot of application in EDH and works great in a host of popular Izzet commander decks (Niv-Mizzet the Firemind is where she shines the most).  I dont think this card has “what it takes” to get it done in standard.  I’m pretty miffed the elementals aren’t even real Spark Elementals.  They don’t have trample.  Over all  I think this is a card you want to avoid for more than $6 or $15 for foils.

kalitastraitorofghet

I’d say traitor-schmaitor but this guy looks like the real deal.  He should be able to single handedly bring Roast back into the fold and propel flying creatures to the front of play.  While the 4 drop spot is pretty hard to get into, I think this guy following a Drana will be an unsual 1-2 punch that will leave Black aggro decks able to pull ahead of removal efficient Red aggro decks.  With the addition of more Zombies and Vampires in Shadows over Innistrad I think this guy has a lot of upside.  We’ll have to wait for preorder pricing to start tricking in but I’m a believer at $10 or less.  Without more spoilers, it’s hard to tell if this guy will be good enough without additional tribal support.

Cards that get better with the Spoilers:

executioner

Oh hey, you remember this bulk mythic?  Well with Kalitas asking you to play more Zombies and Shadows over Innistrad due to bring more competitive Zombies into the fold, this guy might get a lot better.  As I’ve said earlier, there is a lot of competition at the 4 drop slot so maybe he doesn’t quite get there right away but it’s early enough that you can get in him trades or dig him out of bulk boxes in preparation for Shadows over Innistrad.

shrinesanctum

Oh yeah.  Eldrazi is a fringe playable deck (it’s actually bonkers if your local meta game isn’t swarming with Atarka Red) that will survive two rotations.  I find it hard to believe these 2 lands will continue to stay sub $1 as color fixing continues to get worse and colorless cards continue to get better.

The Painful Truth

painfultruths

This card is the real deal.  Showing up in Standard (when your other card draw options are Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise – Both of which are banned in Modern and Legacy), Modern, and Legacy is a key to long term success.  This card is a buck now and if you ever intend to play black, I can’t imagine not owning a set.

The Modern lands

shocklands

Do you own all of these yet?  What are you waiting for?  I don’t know if this is the year they go up but I can’t imagine they continue to fall from here.  I  might write this again in July with a big “I told you so” but even if I don’t, you don’t lose anything by buying now.  If buying all 4 is too much, you can look at Derek Madlem‘s article describing the minimum number you need to stay competitive.

That’s all Folks

With the culmination of this article, I think we have 1-2 weeks of solid downward pressure on prices and then the bottom will become apparent.  I can’t recommend enough making sure you have purchased all that you need before this lull is over.

Next week (or the week after) I will be interviewing a local player turned card shop owner.  Do you have any questions you’d like to ask a binder grinder that has taken the step into a business owner?  Leave them in the comments below!

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