We Are The Two Percent (Not Milk)

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Hey, everyone! I’m continuing to receive a lot of positive reactions to my first couple pieces here at MTGPrice, and I really appreciate it. I’m glad that my words have been able to help so many people, and I’m always willing to accept requests for upcoming articles if you have a general or specific question about Magic finance that you’d like me to address.

While the titles to my last two articles were oddly food-related, I want to assure you that this week’s teaser does not have anything to do with different milk-fat percentages. In fact, I’m talking about the Interests page on MTGstocks.com, and the Biggest Gainers/Losers page on  MTGprice.com. These pages are two of the cleanest and most efficient ways for a single person to check what happened over the past 24 hours in MTG finance, at least in terms of single cards spiking or dropping in price.

I highly recommend you bookmark one or both of these pages and reference them at least once a day. It will help you to be aware of what to value your cards at for FNM, when to update your inventory on TCGplayer or eBay, and what cards you need to put your cross hairs on for the purposes of your own trading and buying. While my last two articles focused on specific cards that I think you should get rid of or pick up, this one is going to attempt to teach how to spot those cards on your own, which I believe to be a much more valuable skill in the long run.

I Got 99 Percent Problems (or Something Like That)

One of the biggest mistakes that I used to indulge in back when I thought I was a hot-shot financier was using the recent price spikes to my advantage once they had already happened.

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While this would help me out in the short term while trading at FNM or occasionally finding unchanged listings on eBay or CardShark, I wasn’t finding a way to stay ahead of the game; in fact, I was lagging behind it and feeding off of the scraps of others. I would find a card that had changed in price by at least 99 percent (we’re sticking to that number so my subheading joke works), such as Tempered Steel, when it jumped because of that silly mono-white aggro deck back when it was in Standard. Wow, I feel really old talking about that, even though it was only a few years ago. Anyway, I would trade for them at their “old” price, and try to find stores that hadn’t updated their prices. Usually, this would result in me owning a card that had already spiked, and having no way to get rid of it. While I had technically gotten the card at its pre-spike price, I was on a short timer to dump it at the inflated number before the hype wore off.

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temperedsteel

Although I have long since realized that this is ethically in a gray area and pretty inefficient nowadays, there are a lot of people who don’t recognize that. They check the “Biggest Gainers” and “Weekly Winners,” helped by the fact that the cards are sorted in such a fashion to show you the cards that already spiked. While this is helpful if you own the cards that are listed at the top of the page and want to know what cards to immediately try to sell out of, it doesn’t directly benefit you if you’re trying to find the next target days before it actually rises to the top of the page.

2.5 Percent Is All It Takes

I’m here to tell you that what you should be really looking for are the cards that consistently show up with a two percent, or similarly small percentage, next to their name, week after week. In the case of MTGstocks, two percent is the smallest price increase that justifies showing up on the daily Interests page, and it’s usually only an average jump by a number of pennies.

Sometimes, these minuscule percentages are incidental and overall pointless. “Oh boy! The average price on Luminous Angel from the Duel Decks: Anthology increased from $2.01 to $2.07! That’s so relevant to everything and you should buy them because DJ said that cards with a two percent change are going to spike!!!”

No. Let’s not have that mentality. Instead, let’s take a look a card that I think actually portrays what I’m trying to talk about.

MTGstocksgeneral

Do you see it? Can you guess on what card I think is an excellent sleeper for this type of “two percent” creep? Fine, I’ll give you a hint.

Nyxathid changes

(One of the lesser-known benefits of me writing this article is that I can now actually spell out the name Nyxathid without having to check back at the card image page six times. Anyway, let’s look at the actual graphs for this thing and see what’s up.)

Nyxathid graph

Alright, so it’s been slowly trending up from a low of $1.50, and it’s approaching $3.00 rather steadily. I’ve noticed that this guy has been towards the bottom of the daily Interests page, hovering between two and four percent at least a few times a week. I’ve also received at least 12 copies from my Pucatrades Want list, as you’ll be seeing on our Saturday article,  “What We’re Buying and Selling This Week.” I say this for full transparency, as I believe that the card has real potential to spike to at least the $6 to $7 range.

It sees a tiny amount of Modern play in that Eight Rack  deck, it’s a casually appealing card in a synergistic archetype (in my experience, discard is somewhat close to mill in terms of casual appeal), and it’s legal in Tiny Leaders, for whatever that’s worth. While it’s obviously not a format staple, it certainly appears to be powerful in the Varolz deck, where you can scavenge it into something evasive like Phyrexian Crusader and just kill your opponent before he or she can react. (I’m no Tiny Leaders expert, though, so I’d appreciate those that are chiming in and telling me if I’m an idiot for saying that.) Lastly, I’d like to put a cherry on top and mention that it’s never been put in any supplemental product ever. The only Nyxathids that exist are the ones that were cracked from Conflux packs around seven years ago.

Is Nyxathid going to be the next four-of in a Modern pro tour maindeck? No, of course not. Even if it does spike, I don’t think it will stay at $10, and I don’t think foils should be $15 or $20. What you can do, though, is wait until that two percent creep reaches a breaking point, and keep an eye on the changes in supply on sites like TCGplayer, SCG, and eBay. Even if it spikes for a stupid reason, you can have copies in your hand to immediately make money off of, that you’ve been holding onto ever since you saw that card repeat itself on the bottom of the Interests page.

Relaxathid

In my opinion, the best part about this type of speculation strategy is that you’re far ahead of the game. If for some reason the card suddenly spikes, you’ve already been keeping a pulse on the card for weeks, by making mental notes of the cards that appear repeatedly near the bottom of the two percent section of the Interests. You get to savor the moment while everyone else scrambles to do what I suggested that you don’t do in the first few paragraphs of this article. While everyone is buying copies during the spike and chasing the hype, you get the opportunity to casually sell into that hype and make your money before the dust even starts to settle. If you can sell copies of your spec while they’re climbing up to the people who think it’s going twice as high as they’re buying for during the hype, you’re golden.

Oh, was that a link in that last paragraph? Did I just happen to accidentally mention the name of a certain card in order to demonstrate how you could’ve anticipated a certain price spike that happened just a week ago? Sure, let’s go with that. If we go back in time seven days (well, at least from when I’m writing this), we find this:

SavortheMomentincoming

I’m certainly not blaming the person who posted this picture on Facebook for causing the spike. That’s not what I believe happened at all. I just want to use this recent example to show how you could have been in on this card at bulk rare pricing as early as this past December. Savor the Moment crept up, penny by penny, every few days. From $1.00 to $1.04, to $1.21… ever so slowly. These types of miniscule changes are tracked on the Interests page, and allow you to get in early before the card happens to skyrocket in price because someone decided to spend less than $100 on TCGplayer to force something to happen.

SavortheMomentgraph

End Step

Did you know that there’s an Interests page for foil cards on MTGstocks? I recently learned that there were a large number of people who didn’t know this; that’s probably because the only way I can figure out how to access it is to add on “foils” to the normal URL of mtgstocks.com/interests.

In a world where we’re constantly hearing about X or Y card being bought out on TCGplayer, it’s important to know that there are ways of noticing tiny trends ahead of time, and jumping on them weeks in advance before anyone else catches wind of the card.

Have you noticed anything that’s oddly similar to Nyxathid or Savor the Moment over the past few weeks? What do you think is the next two-percent spec?  Let me know in the comments section below, or on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc. You all know the drill by now. Thanks for reading!

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The Things We Do

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The day starts at a dark and early 4:30 a.m. I stagger out of bed and stumble to the bathroom, trying hard to not wake up Marianne but doing so anyway thanks to the dogs going crazy, thinking it’s time for breakfast.

A few curses and a stammered apology later, I’m sleepwalking out the front door, the porch light guiding me to the car. A weary drive to the card shop only to wait on the inevitable oversleeper, and the day finally begins.

Four hours in the car, slowly waking up to watch the sun rise over the horizon: a new day filled with new possibilities for a car full of hopefuls. Every passenger is hoping to hit it big. Sweet new tech, a new sideboard card, still more new tech—it’s all a part of the journey, a never-ending grind that doesn’t feel that way when the sun is blazing red and the radio is blasting Eminem.

allsunsdawn

I’ll watch that group today. Check in with them before rounds. Share in their successes, sympathize with their bad beats. Blame the variance of the game when the deck yields one too few or too many lands, and wish them the best as pairings are announced.

But I’m an outsider. That’s their game, not mine. And mine doesn’t give me a break in between rounds.

The adrenaline is working, or maybe it’s the Red Bull. Either way, I sit in the middle of a veritable maelstrom, binders changing hands as quickly as the cardboard cash around me. A Tarmogoyf hits the table, and a stack of fetchlands follow. During a small break in the action, a newcomer approaches the table with a request that doesn’t seem so odd anymore. The next thing I know, an entire foil Affinity deck is sitting on the table for the taking, provided you have the chops to claim it.

I watch it all around me, and what is most striking is that this scene doesn’t strike me as unusual. There was a time when I was the guy anxiously checking the pairings board and praying that the next round is the matchup I need. Instead, I’m moving hundreds of dollars, making it work and working to make it. A dollar here, a throw-in there, a unique piece that I hope to move back home—it all enters my memory as quickly as it leaves their binders.

lilianav

The day finally ends and we meet at the bar, winners and losers alike. Those who made the money or those who scrubbed out after two rounds: it’s all the same to the bartender, that great equalizing force of the world who doesn’t care if you’re out on your 21st birthday or there for your 21st anniversary. The usual awkward “What are you in town for?” follows, and then she asks how the tournament went for us. Mumbles all around, and then she looks at me.

“How did you do?”

That’s the question, isn’t it? Why do I do this? For all my work, all the cards I moved, what exactly did I accomplish? Sure, I probably made a few dollars, loaded up on a spec for the future, or on a good day, found a new foil for my Merfolk deck, but why did I go through all that to deal with jerks trying to shark me just to find one or two good traders?

If you stop to think about it, this “MTG finance” thing we all do is a little absurd. We all ostensibly got into this game because we enjoy playing it, and here we are taking advantage of others playing the game but not as often partaking in it ourselves. Buying a card at a dollar and watching it go to $3 is certainly enjoyable, but is it really better than taking down a Friday Night Magic tournament? Is it better than trying to strike gold at a PTQ and find yourself on the pro tour?

The answer, for me, is yes.

I haven’t been involved with Magic for nearly as long as many of you. I was introduced to the game around the time Shadowmoor released, and I started really playing around Shards of Alara. In the finance world, that’s ancient times, but in terms of how long I’ve been around Magic, I can’t hold a candle to many of you.

But I do know the finance game. When I began playing, I wanted to make the pro tour, but I ran into a few obstacles. For starters, I have an annoying habit of finishing second at big tournaments. But another problem was that I was often pigeonholed into decks because I couldn’t afford the $50 walletslayers of the day.

cheapass

But like many of you, I found a workaround: trading. I’ve gone into details before about my journey into the niche world of Magic finance, so I won’t rehash that here. Suffice to say that I quickly found that I enjoyed the financial aspect of the game more than playing. Trading was more fun than playing, and building my collection was better than buying packs.

I decided to try my hand at writing about it in the summer of 2010, right in the infancy of “Magic finance” writing, and the rest is history. I found I liked it, and I kept at it. Heavy trading became buying and selling. Today I work as a member of the Wizards of the Coast coverage team and I have a solid business selling cards out of my LGS.

All of that is great, but reading some of the other authors on this site I began to ask myself that same question I’ve heard more than once from a stranger at the bar.

Why do I do this?

Everyone has their own reasons. Sigmund’s is to fund his son’s college education, and he follows daily movements closely, taking the highs and the lows of small specs way more seriously than he should. And he does it all because he knows exactly why he’s doing this, and he’s invested in the outcome. Derek Madlem is pretty far on the other end of the spectrum, focusing much more on the long-term than the quick flips. It’s a different skill but something that takes just as much work as tracking the daily movements, and he does it gladly because it helps him to accomplish his goal of having everything at his disposal.

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The reasons we get involved in Magic finance are as numerous as the reasons we got into Magic in the first place. The guy managing a collection for friends. The player who sells his hand-crafted Commander decks to pay for emergency surgery for his beloved pet. The brother who sells his collection to help raise money for his sister in an emergency. The guy trying to better his son’s future.

These are all reasons I’ve seen people engage in what is colloquially known as “Magic finance.” I know and hate the stereotypes that it’s all about making a few quick bucks and screwing over players in the process, because every day I see the opposite.

And that brings me back around to the reason you’re reading this article in the first place. This is my first piece for MTGPrice, and it will be the first of many. In the future you’ll find from me an assortment of theory articles, hot pick-ups for the weekend, set reviews, analytical pieces, and anything else even tangentially related to this field. I’m as plugged into Magic finance as you can get, and I’m not going anywhere. I’ve written for both free and paid audiences before, and I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to have my work be made freely available to as many people as possible.

freeforall

I enjoy writing, and to be honest, I enjoy seeing my name at the top of an article. But none of those things answer the question burning on my mind as I write this.

Why do I do this?

I don’t have a great answer. I’m not socking away anything for my future childrens’ benefit. I don’t have a goal bigger than myself, and having the cards to play any deck I can dream up doesn’t appeal much to me.

The answer is constantly changing. At times I’ve done this to eat lunch in college. I’ve done it to save money to buy Marianne an engagement ring. I’ve done it for the recognition. I’ve done it to foil out my Merfolk deck. And yes, at times I’ve done it for the money.

I don’t know that I’ll ever have the luxury of having an easy answer at the ready. But today I can say this.

I do this for all of you: those who take the time out of their days to read what I write. You’re making a conscious decision to click on and read my article, and that’s something I don’t ever want to lose sight of. I’ve ended every article I’ve ever written with “thanks for reading,” and I’ve meant it every time.

I do this because Magic has given me a lot in my life. When I needed friends, it gave me an avenue to make them. When I needed a break from stresses in my life, it gave that to me. When I wanted to pursue my professional writing dreams, it gave that to me.

And that’s something I want to share. Everyone deserves the same gifts this community has given me, and that’s why I’m a part of this community. Sometimes, a large part of that is offering financial advice that hopefully helps my readers save money or even make a little bit of it on cards.

But I couldn’t still do this after five years if it was all about the calls. Writing is not a job: it’s a part of who I am. Magic is not a game I play, it’s a lifestyle I live. Keeping the two separate is impossible.

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback over the years, both good and bad, but I’ve never received a single piece of feedback more meaningful to me than the time a reader who I had never interacted with before told me, “This article doesn’t make me just care about the cards you wrote about; it makes me care about your life, and I wish you all the best on your way.”

That comment is never far from my mind when I write. I believe good writing is about making connections, and the reader will always be able to tell if you’re truly invested in what you write about. That’s why I’ve always tried to stop myself from holding back, and it’s why I do my best to always respond to every message or question I receive, even if it takes me some time to get to everything. It’s worth it. If someone takes the time to reach out to me, I owe it to him or her to respond.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not about Magic. It’s not about the spiking cards, the reprint risks, or the best way to squeeze out some EV from a box.

It’s about you and me. It’s about the middle schooler learning to play the game and the PTQ grinder with that fire inside and the old pro who is used to playing for world championships. And to me, it always has been.

Great Magic writing is just like great sports writing is just like great news writing. It’s about the people. That’s the view I’ll always hold, and it’s something I’ll never forget when I write, whether I’m doing a story about a high school football game, a set review on the podcast, a deck tech on the mothership, or an off-the-cuff 5:00 a.m. introductory piece on a Magic finance website.

Today, that’s why I do this.

What about you?

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

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Going Mad – Hello, and Good Luck

Hello, my name is Derek Madlem and I write about Magic: The Gathering. I’ve been writing articles about all types of topics on MythicMTG for a few years now and most recently wrote Insider articles for Quiet Speculation. Now I’m here to write articles for you. Yes, you. Because you deserve it.

You might have seen me around. I’m on Twitter (@GoingMadlem) disagreeing with basically everyone about everything and occasionally dishing out the same lessons in Magic finance over and over again.

Like this gem:

Give a man a ‘Goyf, and he’s going to want three more.

Which pretty much sums up everything I have to say about the impending Tarmogoyf reprint in Modern Masters II: The Remastering. Okay, I’ll spell it out for the slow kids: I don’t think the reprint will have much impact on Tarmogoyf’s price because half the people that open one will begin their quests for three more.  There’s also an upward pressure on Tarmogoyf’s price due to the fetch-wealth of the common man … a topic I’ll elaborate on another time.

Origins

I’m a trader at heart. I honed my trading skills in the first grade, trading Battle Beasts for Micro Machines and graduated to swapping X-Men action figures with my school friends. I would trade the hot character from a given week’s episode or a rare find for three or four other figures.

mu13main

When I picked up my first pack of Magic: The Gathering in 1995, I was hooked. I combined my weekly allowance with my lunch money to fund my addiction, thinking, “Why spend $4 on lunch when I could buy four packs of Fallen Empires?” Ah, hindsight …

It took me a while to stumble out of the awestruck phase of kitchen-table Magic and begin to trade with real goals. On a shoestring budget with an addiction for cracking packs, I traded my way into the power nine in just a couple short years, all while selling cards to negate the need for a part-time job. Obviously, I sold all my power right before college.

Sometime during Shards of Alara, I found my way back to Magic with limited funds and ever-growing ambitions. I had missed out on nearly a decade of the game and needed to fill in the gaps.

All the cool kids were playing formats that didn’t really exist when I stopped playing in 2000, and I wanted to be one of the cool kids, so I had to acquire some cards.

Finance Style

The most important thing for any budding MTG financier (a term I use loaded with sarcasm) is that there is no one-size-fits-all method. My goal has always been to feed my desires: an ever-moving target that shifts from week to week. When I play Magic, I want to play whatever deck strikes my fancy, a curse that basically requires me to acquire every card I could possibly want. It also doesn’t help that the only thing I hate more than letting people borrow cards is asking people to borrow theirs.

When I’m not playing or writing about Magic, I tend to ignore the fact that Magic exists. I can’t be bothered to follow spikes and crashes day to day—that’s just not for me. I tend to focus on mid-to-long-term price trends. While you’re taking the quick double up on Dragonlord Ojutai, I’m shooting aliens in the face on Destiny. While you’re reading articles about Brad Nelson’s beard, I’m in the garage building furniture.

I rarely sell cards, choosing to unload most of my wares through trades. Long gone are the days that I’ll throw away a weekend binder grinding. These days, I do most of my trading through PucaTrade and with a handful of players and dealers that I’ve developed trade relationships with.

And I’ve done alright:

Humblebrags#humblebrags

If you’re here for the hot tip on the quick flip, I’m probably not your guy. But if you’re here for the tools to help curate your collection for the long haul? Well then, I might be your guy.

Words About Cards?

But you’re not hear to read about me are you? You want to know about Magic cards, don’t you? With the combination SCG Invitational / Standard Open this past weekend, we have a treasure trove of results to comb through for big winners, but are their newly-inflated prices warranted?

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

Sidisi, Undead Vizier – As of writing this article, Sidisi is hovering a little over the $4 mark on TCG with many saying it could easily go to $10. I disagree. Sidisi suffers from a couple things that hinder its potential.

For starters, Sidisi is legendary, so drawing multiple copies hurts, resulting in most decks limiting the number of copies. Being a five-drop that doesn’t have an immediate impact on the board doesn’t help matters, as we’re spoiled by cards like Stormbreath Dragon and Siege Rhino. The card is still playable because Demonic Tutor is one hell of an effect, even if you do have to sacrifice a creature to achieve it. The real killer here is the reality that being a five-mana creature without haste or an effect that immediately impacts the board means that this card is going to be hard-pressed to make its way into Modern or Legacy. Note that if Birthing Pod was still legal, we’d be having an entirely different conversation.

So what that leaves us with is a rare in large set that will see play as a one- or two-of in Standard and in a variety of Commander decks. I am of the mind that this card is going to see a little spike based on on-screen action at the pro tour, but $6 or $7 is about as high as I would expect it to go before dipping back down to $2 or $3 in the weeks following Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir.

Thunderbreak Regent

Thunderbreak Regent – Now there’s a card that has wings. Thunderbreak showed up as a four-of in a number of red-green aggro decks that performed well this last weekend. I’m sure we’ll see more of this card in the coming weeks, so a $10 or $15 price tag seems very possible as this starts to slot into Jeskai or Temur aggro decks. Being able to drop this into play with a Stubborn Denial for protection does not seem like a bad position to be in.

Dromoka's Command

Dromoka’s Command is a harder one to gauge. Often, prices are spurred by more than just results and utility cards just aren’t as flashy and exciting as dragons or zombie snakes, even if they don’t count as snakes. This card is currently sitting at $6, and it’s obviously going to see play as long as mana bases are reasonably capable of supporting two colors … but it’s just not exciting. It’s a conditional two-for-one that doesn’t outright perform the deed and can be an atrocious topdeck in the late game, so running a full four-of is going to be a lot harder to justify. I can realistically seeing this card settle around $3.

That said, I can see this card showing up in Modern sideboards, so I like foil copies in the long term if you can find them under $10.

Deathmist Raptor

Deathmist Raptor – I might be changing course on my opinion of this card, as I wasn’t a fan at first, second, or even third glance, but the lack of aggressive three-drops in green has long been a problem. The ability to “trade up” with large creatures combined with situational rebuys will ensure this is a strong role player over the next 18 months. But role players don’t hold $15 price tags—I can see this card settling in for the long haul at $10, but I fear it’s probably near its price ceiling now.

Dragonlord Silumgar

Dragonlord Silumgar is a mythic legendary creature that showed up as a silver bullet in Reid Duke’s Sultai Reanimator list. Where I come from, we have a name for mythic creatures that only get played as single copies: Pearl Lake Ancient, though we sometimes call them Torrent Elemental. You can see that both of these cards peaked between $6 and $7 and quickly found their ways downward. Silumgar will likely hold a strong casual appeal, but the dragons of Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir were just not made to be compelling characters that will hold long-term fans . I don’t expect Silumgar to hold onto his value for long, even if he does have a really sweet necklace.

Dragonlord Ojutai

Dragonlord Ojutai is entirely overpriced at $14. This is clearly a powerful card and painfully hard to kill, but then why would you ever need a full four copies? People get entirely too excited at the prospect of playing Esper control decks, and while the hype on this card is partially merited, I can’t find myself getting on board at $14. I would recommend shipping any extra copies of this card you might have.

The Kicker

While you can see that I’m generally cold to this weekend’s breakout cards, and pretty much everything in Dragons of Tarkir for that matter, there’s still plenty of time. Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir is still a couple weeks away and most of these prices will remain relatively stable until then, especially with Easter getting in the way of additional format discovery this weekend.

Until next time, you can find me on Twitter at @GoingMadlem.

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Khans in a Dragon’s World

By: Travis Allen

Dragons of Tarkir became tournament legal this past Friday, and players jumped into the format with both feet at the SCG invitational. Invitationals are great for spurring players to put effort into building real decks, because the payout is high enough to be worth it. This makes these week-zero events a great barometer of the format ahead of the Pro Tour. While we’re looking at it to see where the money is, you can bet your butt PT competitors are looking closely at the results as well.

I’m not going to talk about Theros cards much, if at all. They’re pretty much all a sinking ship at this point. If you own them, do so because you need to for play purposes. Other than that, if it’s from Theros block and it’s not Thoughtseize, I’d be looking to trade it away.

So what was the big winner this weekend? What new card burst out of the gates and amazed us all with its power? Siege Rhino. Big, dumb, brutally efficient Siege Rhino. Yawn. It put 12 copies, three playsets, into the invitational top eight, and another set in the open top eight. We can’t really be surprised at this point. Those stats are hard to argue with. What is surprising, though, is how cheap it still is. I’m looking at MTG Deals, an online store, and I see 89 copies at $4.94 each. $5? Really? For a dominant Standard threat that’s even making medium-sized waves in Modern?

When Khans came out, I wrote about how rares from that set would be suppressed. With fetches in the set soaking up big value, it’s tough for other rares to break through. We would expect the few big competitive mythics to take a small hit in value but remain the most expensive cards in the set, while the rest of the rares fall off fast. When we look at Khans though, that’s not what we’re seeing:

ktk

Our first mythic is three slots down, behind two fetches. In fact, of the top eight cards, only two are mythic. It turns out that Khans doesn’t have much in the way of big, playable mythics. Between the two Standard top eights this weekend, there were only six Sorins, four Wingmate Rocs, and I don’t even know how many Sarkhans. There were so few that I didn’t even bother to write it down. It turns out that all of the playability in Khans of Tarkir is in the rares, not the mythics. This is a big shift, too. Take a look at leaders of Fate Reforged and Theros right now:

FRF

Seven of the top eight cards in Fate Reforged are mythic, and Theros is similarly quite mythic-heavy at the top.

Okay, so what do we do with this information? What it tells me is that all the most playable cards in Khans of Tarkir are rare, not mythic. If mythics are highly competitive cards, it should be no problem for them to hold the highest value slots in a set. With their much-limited availability, it’s much easier for their prices to hold closer to or above $20. The fact that this isn’t happening means the KTK mythics are just unexciting on the competitive scene, which is what drives Standard prices. If the mythics aren’t that good, then we should be buying rares. And what’s the non-land rare that saw the most play this past weekend? Siege Rhino, whose $5 price tag is looking very odd right about now. This is an excellent number to be jumping in at. All I can imagine looking at that price is sitting there in November looking at $15 Rhinos and thinking, “Man, I can’t believe these were $5 awhile ago.” Even if it doesn’t jump that much, I can’t imagine you lose value picking these up at $5.

Keep in mind that Khans rotates next spring, though, about a year from now, not in the fall of 2016 as we’ve become accustomed to. This will impact how the card prices behave, although we’re not exactly quite sure how yet. Currently, rotating sets begin to see their prices really sag about four to six months ahead of the fall set. That time frame under the new model puts the price drop for cards rotating in the spring right at the fall rotation beforehand. That would mean that just as Theros is rotating and Khans staples should be skyrocketing in the new meta, they would instead be dropping ahead of their spring rotation. It’s very odd. I have a feeling that this first spring rotation is going to creep up on people and prices are going to stay high on KTK cards right until the bitter end.

Alright, we’ve managed to talk about one card so far. What’s next? After Siege Rhino, the next most common rare we’re interested in is Thunderbreak Regent. I liked Regent quite a bit in my set review, although apparently not nearly as much as everyone else. It had climbed to nearly $10 coming into this weekend, and it quite clearly deserved it as the most-played Dragons of Tarkir rare. Be wary though: it’s in an event deck, which will hamper its price somewhat. I don’t like picking up Regents right now, actually. I’d much prefer to wait until the Pro Tour to see if some other cards can pick up steam and knock Regent’s price down a few notches.

Three different cards came in with 10 copies each; Tasigur, Whisperwood Elemental, and Mastery of the Unseen. Tasigur came in across half the decks in the top eight, in fact, but only at two copies per deck. He’s an extremely powerful creature, and it’s clear that everyone that makes black mana wants to be in the Tasigur business. It seems the problem is that his legendary status and hunger for grumper fuel makes it difficult to warrant running more copies. Even at $25, I really like foils, by the way. He is seeing play in both Modern and Legacy, and Fate Reforged isn’t going to have been drafted all that much. $25 for eternal staple foils is too cheap.

Whisperwood Elemental and Mastery of the Unseen showing up at the same rate isn’t too surprising, as they’re best buds. GW Manifest has made its position in the metagame clear, and Deathmist Raptor is a powerful new tool for the deck. Even if the deck holds on at one copy per top eight, I think we see Elemental lose a little bit of steam from its current price of around $15. There are already copies on TCG around $10. $15 was his “wow, this is new and exciting” price. I’d guess $8 to $12 is his “yep, another manifest deck” price. Meanwhile, you don’t still own Mastery of the Unseen, do you?

Just behind those guys is Surrak, Hunt Caller with nine copies in the top eight. That’s a decent showing, and I wonder if perhaps we’re just seeing the beginning of what he can do. He’s got an obvious home in GR aggro types of decks. Can he break out to other strategies, though? His ability to give any of the dragons haste is quite spicy, and with Battle for Zendikar on the horizon, he may be hasting up Eldrazi this fall. At $5 a copy, I don’t dislike trading for him here. He’s shown that he’s good enough to run in the big leagues, and while we could see a small dip in price, you don’t have much to lose getting in now. Be aware though, he’s in the same event deck as Thunderbreak Regent.

What surprised me most in the other direction is Dragonlord Ojutai. During the first few rounds of Standard on Saturday, I saw a lot of Ojutai, and even tweeted that it was a good pickup with all the camera time it was getting. It ended up doubling up over the weekend, so it seems plenty of people agreed with me. Looking back though, we see only three copies of Ojutai in the invitational top eight, and three in the sideboard of Buffalo Magic player and general hater of cool things, Alex Bianchi. Even though Ojutai came out swinging and looked great at the start of the weekend, he apparently couldn’t follow through. With a price tag of $15, this is a definite ship. Compare Ojutai’s price trajectory to Whisperwood, and you’ll see quite a bit of similarity. Now recognize that Whisperwood did quite well during its inaugural weekend, and has continued to perform. Ojutai’s 95-percent best-case scenario is performing just as well as Whisperwood has, and if he can’t manage that, we should see prices back under $10. Of course, I still am not convinced that Ojutai is that good of a card, so take my advice here with a grain of salt, I suppose.

Over on the Modern side of things, Affinity’s win gives us nothing to care about. That whole deck is a minefield with MM2015 on the horizon. Infect in second place doesn’t give us much to work with either, except for Inkmoth Nexus. Nexus has climbed up towards $12. If it doesn’t show up in MM2015, I’d be surprised if it didn’t hit $20 by the end of summer.

UW Tron in third is interesting. We see an Ugin in the list, lending certainty to the theory that we’ll be seeing the spirit dragon pop up in every format here and there. My favorite card out of this list is the Gifts Ungiven. It was reprinted in the first Modern Masters, meaning it’s unlikely we’ll see it again this year. It’s been slowly climbing since, and the card’s power is undeniable. This could be $10 before year’s end.

Other than that, there wasn’t much interesting in that event. Two Merfolk lists in the top eight is amusing, and I seem to recall Corbin tweeting enthusiastically about the whole affair. There’s nothing particularly new in these lists, though, so I don’t think we’re seeing some revitalization of the archetype. I did see three copies of Collected Company over in the Zoo list, which is running 27 creatures. I’m dubious this will be enough to propel Zoo into the top two tiers of Modern, though it’s hard to argue the card doesn’t add power to the strategy. Being able to keep up Path or Bolt and then flip in two creatures if you don’t need them is welcome, I’m sure.

So far, Dragons of Tarkir hasn’t made too large of an impression on Standard. The power level is uncertain at this point. I see a lot of discussion that the set is dead on arrival, with plenty of comparisons to Dragon’s Maze, which was Voice of Resurgence and a few hundred other cards. I don’t think it’s that bad yet. Hopefully the Pro Tour will show us some more uses for DTK cards. Like, say, Descent of the Dragons.

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