In 2015, Magic finance was all about the orbital dance between the game’s two most important formats: Standard and Modern. Standard had a good year, with both Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins over-performing compared to early expectations. Battle for Zendikar was a step down in power level from Tarkir block, but the expeditions were well-executed and well-received. It wasn’t all fun and games, of course: thanks to the Khans fetchlands and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, 2015 saw what was likely the most expensive Standard format in the history of the game. That said, Standard had a very good 2015 from a gameplay perspective, with a reasonable amount of diversity and few unfair/oppressive decks.
2015 was a great year for Modern cards that were neither in Pod decks nor were reprinted in Modern Masters. The Zendikar fetchlands and other staples like Arcbound Ravager, Damnation, and Goblin Guide ended the year flying higher than ever. Modern Masters 2015 was printed in large enough quantities to satisfy demand on reprinted staples, so venerable staples like Dark Confidant and Noble Hierarch saw substantial discounts as the summer went on. This only served to increase Modern’s popularity, however, and the format had a very good year in terms of format diversity and overall excitement level.
It was an odd year for Magic’s oldest formats. Many Legacy cards have lost value since December 2015, with even the Revised dual lands showing some vulnerability. The growth of Old School Magic helped ameliorate some of those losses, however. Odd cards from Magic’s earliest years—Island of Wak-Wak, Erhnam Djinn, Juzam Djinn, etc.—have seen major price jumps as the Old School community grows.
It’s hard to gauge Commander’s popularity over this point in 2014, but the one thing we do know is that Tiny Leaders was more sizzle than steak. Back in February, it looked like the nascent format was successfully filling a casually competitive niche somewhere in between Commander and Legacy. Buying in was expensive, unfortunately, and the format stagnated quickly. The story of Tiny Leaders might not be entirely written yet, but it sure has been a long time since I’ve actually seen a game being played in the wild. Instead, Canadian Highlander is the new hot thing in the casually competitive sphere. Does this point-based deckbuilding format have what it takes to break out in 2016?
Before we start looking ahead to next year, though, I’d like to take a moment and go through all the 2015 predictions I made at the end of last December. There are 46 of them in all, and my results were…oh, let’s just say my success varied.
I got two out of three here—not a bad start. Jeskai Ascendancy was a hot card near the end of 2014, but the deck didn’t end up being consistent enough to find a real footing in Modern. I’ll be interested to see if that changes in the wake of an Amulet Bloom ban, should that come to pass.
Treasure Cruise and Birthing Pod were indeed banned, and it opened up the format in a big way. Birthing Pod was a surprise to most, but I doubt anyone other than the staunchest Birthing Pod players would argue with the results.
#2) Regardless, Siege Rhino will continue showing up as a four-of in winning Modern decks. It will hit $8 retail at some point in 2015.
Check and check! Siege Rhino still sees play in Modern, albeit not as much as in the good ol’ Pod days. Regardless, Siege Rhino broke $8 in late February of 2014. I suspect the price would still be in that range had the Magic Origins Clash Pack not saturated the market with extra Rhinos.
#3)…And Sidisi, Brood Tyrant will hit $12.
Uh, not quite. Sidisi did spike to about $8 in early January—it was one of the few cards that bucked the holiday trend and crept up in value all winter—but she was out of the metagame by February. This is part of why I love these yearly predictions, by the way. Who even remembers that Sidisi was a hot card last December? This is the sort of thing you should tape below your computer monitor to remind yourself that selling into hype is a good idea 95% of the time.
#4) In late December 2015, every Khans fetchland will retail between $13 and $20.
Incorrect, but not for the reason I had expected. Instead of predicting numbers that were too high, my guesses actually ended up being too low. Who’d have thought Polluted Delta would be a $30 card by now? Part of this is due to their interactions with the Battle lands, which couldn’t have been predicted, but the fetchlands were actually hitting these marks before those cards were spoiled. People really didn’t want to make the same mistake they did with the Zendikar fetchlands, I think.
#5) And we’ll also see the first $400 Revised dual land.
Dual lands took a step back this year, so this prediction didn’t come close to coming true. Underground Sea and Volcanic Island are still the closest to the $400 mark, clocking it at $300 each. I don’t know if these cards will ever hit $400, but as long as Legacy is well-loved and well-supported, there’s a chance.
#6) Nothing will be banned in Legacy in 2015.
I got this one half right. Mind Twist is still banned, but Black Vise has been set free. Unfortunately, this maneuver resulted in a grand total of zero cool new Black Vise decks tromping around the Legacy format. Oh well.
#8) Steam Vents (currently $12) will break $20 retail.
Many Modern prices jumped in 2015, but the shocklands weren’t among them. Steam Vents is $14 now, but that’s a far cry from the $20 I predicted based on MM15’s influx of new Modern players. I still think this will happen, probably as early as 2016, but it really shows just how little the player base has grown since Return to Ravnica compared to Alara block through New Phyrexia.
#9) As will Abrupt Decay (currently $10).
I was a little closer here—Abrupt Decay is currently $17, and it did spike to $20 retail for about a day and a half over the summer. Regardless, you’re probably pretty happy if you picked these up at $10 last December based on my recommendation. And yes, this card has the legs to keep going, though it will almost certainly be in Modern Masters 2017.
#10) The Boston Red Sox will win the AL East and become the first team in baseball history to go from first to worst to first to worst to first.
Alas, my beloved Sox had woeful pitching, anemic hitting, and a rotten bullpen. They finished dead last in the AL East again. After spending $217 million dollars on a shiny new ace this winter, though, I might double-down on this prediction for 2016.
#11) The resurgent Chicago Cubs will win the World Series, fulfilling the Back to the Future II Prophecy. 100 to 1 shot, I tell ya!
This prediction came closer to happening than it probably should have, and the Cubbies played well into the post-season. Between their young core and solid moves in free agency, I can’t think of a team better suited to make a deep playoff run in 2016. You won’t get 100 to 1 odds on them, that’s for sure.
#12) AL MVP: Robinson Cano. NL MVP: Anthony Rizzo.
Robinson Cano was a huge disappointment, and I should have known better than to bet on a Seattle hitter. On the other hand, Anthony Rizzo finished fourth in the NL MVP balloting—pretty good for a guy who was a dark horse candidate before the season began. I’m calling this, like, a quarter of a win.
#13) M16 (Now known as Magic Origins) will have more reprints than usual. It will be incredibly nostalgia-driven and will shake up Standard in a major way.
Magic Origins certainly shook up Standard, and I suppose the flipwalkers were a little nostalgia-driven, but this wasn’t the ‘farewell to core sets’ expansion that I was expecting. It felt like there were fewer high profile reprints than normal, and more emphasis was placed on building the planeswalkers’ story in order to support Magic’s increased push toward narrative world-building.
#14) There will be one jaw-dropping reprint that no one would have expected to see again.
I suppose this depends on how far your jaw dropped when you saw Goblin Piledriver in the visual spoiler. Mine was, like, a peanut-sized jaw drop. I’m calling this one a miss.
#15) What, you want me to actually pick something? How about…Force of Will?
Force of Will was not reprinted in a Standard-legal set in 2015.
#16) Oh, and both Baneslayer Angel and the Titan cycle will be back as well.
#17) After the first print run of Modern Masters 2015 sells out, a second print run will satiate demand almost entirely. You will be able to walk into your LGS and buy a box at retail without too much difficulty.
This was certainly true for me. While some stores charged $12-$15 per booster, I never had an issue finding packs for $10 each, and I could probably find packs close to those numbers right now without much trouble. StarCityGames was even selling boxes below MSRP for a while, which would have been unthinkable in the heady days of the original Modern Masters set back in 2013.
Woohoo! I got this one completely right!
I underestimated the number of reprints there would be from the first Modern Masters set, and I figured that these wouldn’t show up because they hadn’t been seeing as much play in the format. I was right about Elspeth, but not so much the other two.
#20) The Limited mechanics will include Phyrexian mana, infect, and metalcraft.
Phyrexian Mana and metalcraft both showed up, though they were a smaller part of Limited play than I had expected them to be. Infect was a complete no-show—fine by me, because it’s not a mechanic I enjoy playing with in either Draft or Sealed.
#21) Jurassic World will be significantly better than Jurassic Park III and roughly on par with The Lost World.
Since these things are so subjective, I like to use Rotten Tomatoes scores to check my work on movie predictions. According to them, Jurassic Park 3 is 50% fresh and The Lost World is 51% fresh. Jurassic World got a 71% —good for second place in the overall Jurassic Park rankings. That’s about how I felt about the film, too—it had major story issues, but it was a really enjoyable night at the movies. [All but the first are completely unwatchable.—Ed.]
#22) Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be significantly better than all three prequels, but not even close to as good as any of the original three Star Wars films.
You are all living in a post Force Awakens world, but I haven’t had a chance to see the film yet. I’m writing this article ahead of time, and I’ve been traveling for the holidays, so I’m a little behind the times. The early reviews seem good, though, so I’ll call this a win.
#23) The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be the highest grossing film of the year and will have the best critical reception of any Marvel movie to date.
Age of Ultron felt like something of a tipping point—while most people seemed to enjoy the film to some degree, its debut seemed to mark a shift in public opinion toward Marvel Movie fatigue. Critics liked but didn’t love Age of Ultron—it had a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes, which was much lower than the 92% score that accompanied the first Avengers film. Jurassic World out-grossed it at the box office. I’m still excited for Captain America: Civil War, but these films no longer feel like they have opening night importance to me.
#24) We’ll also get the first teaser trailer for the Magic: The Gathering film. Jace Beleren will be the protagonist.
Ah, the long-promised Magic movie. I haven’t been able to find anything concrete that has been written about this project in almost a year. Either the film is totally under wraps, (possible) or it’s languishing in a sea of script re-writes and studio notes (more likely). Regardless, I don’t think we’re going to see a Magic film until 2018 at the earliest.
#25) The spring set will involve the Eldrazi. There will be three new mythic Eldrazi titans.
I’m calling this a win even though neither of these things happened. The Eldrazi were saved for the fall (we knew the spring set was Dragons of Tarkir when I wrote this, so I’m not actually sure what I was thinking at the time) and we only got one mythic titan in Battle for Zendikar. That said, Ulamog was a big enough part of Magic this year that I feel good about having made the call.
#26) None of them will have as much raw power as Emrakul, but they’ll all be easier to cast.
True! I don’t think WotC wants to give Reanimator or Sneak & Show style decks any additional power, so we probably aren’t getting an upgrade on Emrakul for quite some time. Ulamog and Kozilek are nice, but they feel like downgrades from their Rise of the Eldrazi counterparts.
#27) A green-based Eldrazi Ramp deck will emerge in Standard. See the Unwritten will be a four-of.
Both of these things happened, but not at the same time. There was a See the Unwritten deck for a few weeks back in the spring, but it debuted long before Ulamog did. There are two green-based Eldrazi Ramp decks in Standard right now, but neither uses See the Unwritten at all. So close!
#28) The most valuable card in Khans block will be the currently spoiled planeswalker Ugin.
Correct! This wasn’t true for most of Ugin’s run in Standard. It’s the case now, however, so I’m calling it a win. In fact, Ugin beats all the non-Jace cards in Magic Origins and Battle for Zendikar as well.
#29) The Fall 2015 set will be a Return to Zendikar.
Hey, yeah, it was! Ten points to Hufflepuff.
#30) It will contain the five Zendikar fetchlands with brand new art.
Nope, not so much. At this point, I think it’ll be at least a year before we see these come back. I’m not sure there’s a way to fit them into Innistrad, and I think WotC will power down fixing a bit once Khans of Tarkir rotates.
#31) …and one of the best one-drops in the history of Magic.
I know exactly what my thinking was here: Goblin Guide reprint. It didn’t happen, so this prediction is a total wash, right?
Well, not so fast. Dragonmaster Outcast was reprinted in Battle for Zendikar. And when you think about it, isn’t Dragonmaster Outcast one of the top ten or fifteen one-drops in the history of the game? Point, Chas!
#32) At least one of the expansions released in 2015 will be regarded as an all-time great Draft set.
Not so much. Khans of Tarkir was the last ‘great’ draft set, and that was old news by December 2014. Even Modern Masters 2015 didn’t seem to live up to the hype of the Modern Masters set released two years ago. Fate Reforged was subtraction by addition, and Dragons of Tarkir was kind of a mess. Magic Origins was fine as far as core sets go, and Battle for Zendikar is merely okay—any format where an entire color is close to unplayable doesn’t come close to making the pantheon.
#33) There will give five Grand Prix with an attendance level over 4,000.
Nope. In terms of attendance figures, 2014 had more tournaments with 2,000+ people than 2015 did. In fact, only one tournament all year broke the 4,000 person figure: GP Vegas.
#34) GP: Vegas will draw upwards of 7,000…
Nailed it! The coalition in charge of that event prepared for 10,000 Magic players, but the actual number was closer to my estimate: 7,551. It was also one of the most fun Magic tournaments I’ve ever played in.
#35)..and it will be won by someone with zero previous GP or PT Top 8s.
Aaron Lewis won Grand Prix: Las Vegas, and it wasn’t his first rodeo. He made Top 8 at GP Sacramento in 2015 and Top 8 at GP Charlotte in 2013. So much for my prediction of an amateur victory.
#36) A football team will win the NFC South with a losing record. They will then win at least one playoff game.
True! The Carolina Panthers snuck into the playoffs at 7-8-1 and beat the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs last year. This season…well, let’s just say that the Panthers are going back to the playoffs.
#37) The Pittsburgh Steelers will beat the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl
My attempt at not jinxing the New England Patriots paid off! I really should have followed through with the Red Sox as well. Steelers/Packers is still on the table for 2016, though neither is a prohibitive favorite right now.
#38) And in 2015, the Jacksonville Jaguars will double their wins total from 2014.
The Jags won three games in 2014, so I needed a six win season out of them this year for my prediction to come true. With three weeks of football left as of this writing, the Jags are 5-8. They’ve lost multiple close games, and their passing game has improved remarkably over the disaster of 2014. In fact, they have the highest point differential in their division. I’m calling this a win.
#39) Jay Cutler will be traded. Robert Griffin III won’t be. By the middle of next season, both decisions will look like mistakes.
Interesting. Jay Cutler has been decent this year, and the Bears are probably glad they didn’t trade him. RG III has no value to Washington, and I’m not sure he’s seen a single snap all year. Washington probably does wish they had tried to trade him when he had any value.
#40) Unbelievably, Half Life 3 will be confirmed.
I, uh, meant to say that Fallout 4 would be confirmed. Yes, that’s it! [Nice job.—Ed.]
#41) There will be no significant changes to Magic Online, but the buggy V4 will continue to get less buggy to the point where we’re all reasonably okay playing with the client, even if it looks like it should have been scrapped in 2003.
Yeah, this has pretty much been the story of MTGO. It’s still terrible and it breaks all the time, but it’s much better than it was a year ago and we’ve all sort of gotten used to it by now. I mostly use MTGO during holidays for Vintage Cube drafts and the like, so it’s kind of like my cranky old uncle who I love despite the horrific things he posts on Facebook every week.
#42) WotC will release a Cube product. It will be expensive, extremely limited, and suboptimal. It will come in an awesome box that for some reason won’t fit sleeved cards. Womp womp.
I still think that the time is right for ‘mediocre starter Cube’ to happen, but it hasn’t been announced yet. Bummer. I think the problem is that it should be a gold-bordered type of thing with a bunch of really powerful staples that can’t be played in tournaments, but WotC doesn’t really want to go down that road again.
#43) Starting in fall 2015, the MSRP of booster packs will rise to $4.49. We’ll all grumble, but it won’t mean much.
I’m happy to have gotten this one wrong. For now, at least, pack prices are stable at $3.99. The downside is that whatever discount printer WotC has been using to keep costs down might be behind the latest round of leaks. They’re certainly behind how lousy the “pack fresh” condition of the Zendikar expeditions have been, and misprints/pack errors were on the upswing in 2015.
#44) Conspiracy Booster Boxes (currently $100) will end the year sold out at $150.
Boxes of Conspiracy are still $100, but they’re getting harder to find at that price. This is another prediction that should be true by the end of 2016.
#45) Ravages of War will be reprinted either as a judge foil or in this year’s From the Vault.
Correct! We’re getting one or two high end P3K reprints a year, and it was finally Ravages’ turn.
#46) I will end the year as a married man living in a new city and actively working toward my goal of being a full-time writer.
In March of last year, I was accepted by the creative writing program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a TA-ship in Film Studies. Emma and I were married on July 4th, 2015. Shortly after that, we moved to Wilmington so that I could earn my MFA. It’s been a hard transition in many ways, but a necessary and productive one. I look forward to having a book or two to show off in the coming years.
My Best of 2015 Awards
Best TV Drama—Fargo. I gave Fargo the award last season, and nothing that’s happened since has made me question it. Season two wasn’t as closely tied to the 1995 film as season one, but the feel of the show was still lovingly Cohen-esque and one of the most delightful, suspenseful, well-crafted shows out there from week to week. It also included a pantheon performance from Nick Offerman in Episode 6.
Best TV Comedy—BoJack Horseman. 2015 was a great year for TV comedy. I could have easily given this award to Rick & Morty again, which delivered a second season that was even better than its already-excellent first season. You’re The Worst came into its own this year as well, and Broad City is always sublime. None of those shows were BoJack Horseman, though, which somehow managed to combine the best in absurd comedy with all the dark emotions I felt about moving away from Los Angeles. A truly stellar season of TV.
Best Film – Mad Max: Fury Road. Picking a best film of the year in December is hard, because most prestige pictures don’t come out until the end of the year and I generally won’t see them until the Oscar buzz starts and they make it to video in February or March. Boyhood was my favorite film of 2014, and I didn’t see it until a week or two after I wrote my retrospective.
That said, I can’t imagine a film—not Star Wars: The Force Awakens, not anything—dethroning Mad Max for me. I love quiet films with complex characters and small-burn drama as much or (quite likely) more than the next guy, but Mad Max was spectacle personified. It was blockbuster in the way that it always should be but almost never is. It was the most cracking two hours of digital celluloid I’ve ever seen in the same sitting. In the halls of popular film history, it will ride eternal, shiny and chrome.
Best Album – Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell. I knew from first listen that this would be my choice. I’m a massive Sufjan Stevens fan, and Carrie & Lowell is up there with Come on Feel the Illinoise in terms of sheer sonic mastery, albeit in an entirely different way.
Carrie & Lowell is one of the most intimate albums ever recorded, stripped down and raw, with the truth of Sufjan’s own life laid bare for the listener to interact with. It was the perfect album for me to come across this year, as I continue to tackle more and more personal writing projects that require unvarnished honesty and a commitment to hard truths. Get it on vinyl if you can.
Best Song – Best Coast – California Nights. From a technical perspective, there are probably a hundred “better” songs that I liked in 2015. When it comes down to it, though, I’m going with a song that I will always associate with my last three months in California—a whirlwind of deepening friendships, bittersweet goodbyes, final trips up the coast and into the mountains, and planning for an uncertain future. I probably listened to this song a few hundred times during that sunset, and it will always live on as my song of 2015.
Best Article of Mine – The Thousand Dollar Buy
I almost went with my article on Old School Magic here. A few of you accused me of propping up a format without much support or any financial relevance, but Old School Magic has proven to be reasonably popular and incredibly lucrative for anyone who took the plunge.
I like The Thousand Dollar Buy more, though, because it’s the sort of article that will be useful for years. Once you start to think about your long-term specs in terms of sets that can be redeemed and you learn how to make MTGO work for you, an entire world of buying possibilities opens up. I can tell you that I’ll be making a purchase like this once a year for the foreseeable future.
50 Predictions for 2016
2. Stoneforge Mystic will be unbanned in Modern.
3. There won’t be any changes to the Vintage or Legacy banned list.
4. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar will break $40 again.
7. Kolaghan’s Command will rotate out of Standard. Its price will go up, not down, and the currently-$15 card will be $20 at this point next year.
8. Collected Company will also rise in price at rotation, going from $8.75 to $12.
9. Seance will still be a bulk rare. No one will play it at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch.
10. Oath of the Gatewatch will be a more powerful, more expensive, more beloved set than Battle for Zendikar.
11. Kozilek’s Return will make Eldrazi Ramp into a top tier Standard deck.
12. After starting low, Chandra, Flamecaller will be the breakout card in the set.
13. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar will be the set’s biggest disappointment.
14. Canadian Highlander won’t supplant Commander or anything, but it’ll have a month or two of hype and buildup that might cause a couple of odd cards to spike.
15. Modern Masters 2017 will be announced for an early summer release, accompanied by another large Sealed Grand Prix in Las Vegas.
16. There won’t be a major ‘supplemental set’ release in early summer this year as WotC doesn’t want to pull the focus off their new block structure. Instead, greater emphasis is put on a casual box set-style release similar to the Commander decks.
18. The new set rotation will be hugely successful in terms of driving interest in Standard during 2016. Hype for Shadows Over Innistrad will rival that of any large fall set release. Standard prices won’t drop nearly as much during the dog days of summer as they have in the past.
19. The Republican nominee for the US presidency will be Marco Rubio, because he’s the only “establishment” Republican that the Tea Party seems willing to support.
20. The Democratic nominee will be Hillary Clinton.
21. Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States.
22. …but the GOP will still control the house and senate.
23. The OGW leak will force WotC to change printers. We will see fewer print errors starting with the fall expansion, but booster pack price MSRP will finally hit $4.49.
26. Whatever has ‘gone wrong’ on Innistrad has brought the werewolves back. There will finally be a legendary werewolf creature for the Commander contingent.
27. Oh, and Emrakul will be there, too. Talk about horror!
28. Shadows Over Innistrad will be a good Limited block, but not as good as the original Innistrad set. The fall set will also be a good Draft format, making 2016 one of the best Draft years in a long time.
29. The fall expansion will take place on Kaladesh, with a heavy steampunk/artifact theme.
31. The Zendikar fetchlands will not be reprinted in 2016.
32. Modern will have an excellent 2016, with many staples seeing big spikes in spring and summer.
37. There will be no expeditions or expedition-like promos in 2016 after Oath of the Gatewatch.
38. There will be a set of Comic Con black planeswalkers, even though there aren’t any more core sets. They will be whatever the current/newest iterations of Gideon, Jace, Liliana, Chandra, and Nissa are. The set will probably put together piecemeal from both Zendikar and Innistrad block.
39. After beating the undefeated Carolina Panthers in the NFC championship game, the resurgent Seattle Seahawks will find themselves facing the banged-up Patriots in the Super Bowl once again. This time, they will win.
40. The Jacksonville Jaguars will make the playoffs in 2016.
41. Want a World Series pick? How about Cubs over Indians in seven, with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar all finishing in the top ten of the AL Cy Young voting.
42. None of the superhero films released in 2016 (Batman vs. Superman, Deadpool, Suicide Squad, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men Apocalypse, Doctor Strange) will have a Rotten Tomatoes score below 40% or above 80%. A few of them will be beloved by people who are already fans of the underlying properties, but there won’t be any standouts of breakout hits. You will see dozens of lazy think-pieces on ‘Marvel fatigue.’
43. The Revenant will win the Oscar for best picture, beating out fellow nominees Spotlight and Room.
44. Leonardo DiCaprio will finally get his Oscar, too.
45. With MTGO’s stability increasing, Sealed leagues coming, and Flashback drafts every weekend, Magic’s digital client will have a banner year in 2016. And by that I mean there won’t be any high profile debacles and/or boondoggles.
46. Reid Duke will finally win a Pro Tour. Owen Turtenwald will make the Top 8 twice.
47. The Commander 2016 release will—finally—highlight four-color legends.
48. The yearly From the Vault expansion will be called From the Vault: Fire and include premium copies of Magic’s best direct damage spells and enabling creatures. Yes, that means Comet Storm again. It also means Lightning Bolt and Eidolon of the Great Revel.
49. Mana Drain will be reprinted as a judge foil.
50. I will have an essay or article published on a major non-Magic website or in a literary journal.