A Finance Retrospective On Magic In 2017

Chas Andres is proud of how often he gets it right, but man was 2017 a tough year to be a seer! Chas takes you through the Masters sets, the Tarmogoyf tankings, and the sports bets no one got right!

2017 was a bit of an odd year for Magic in general, and for Magic finance
in particular.

While Standard had some solid moments, it also saw its first bannings since
the Caw-Blade era and the most bannings since the Ravager Affinity era. In
fact, the last time cards had to be banned in Standard at two different
points during the same year was back in 1999, almost twenty years ago.
Standard has continued to struggle in the wake of those bannings, and at
this point I feel like we can call Kaladesh‘s energy mechanic one
of the bigger mistakes in the history of the game.

At the same time, Modern may have just experienced its best year ever.
While some top players have expressed frustration that winning a Modern
tournament has as much to do with hitting the right matchups as it does
with playing well, the fact that there are literally dozens of Modern decks
capable of taking down any given Grand Prix is pretty awesome. The format’s
top tier shifted a lot this year, with various decks waxing and waning in
popularity. If you’re a fan of diverse formats, you probably loved playing
Modern in 2017.

Financially, it felt like everything in 2017 keyed off the fact that WotC
gave us two Masters sets, both packed to the gills with Modern staples.
Despite the fact that Modern had a really successful year, the Modern price
index is down slightly from the end of 2016. Even though I’m as overwhelmed
with the relentless Modern reprinting as anyone, it’s hard to argue with
those results. If you have an extensive Modern collection, you didn’t lose
a significant amount of value this year. If you don’t, the format didn’t
get any less accessible in 2017.

Beyond that, 2017 gave us four Standard sets, a Commander set, From the Vault: Transform, and Unstable. It was easy to
get overwhelmed with products this year, and there were fewer casual and
Commander price spikes as a result. More than ever, the casual Magic
community seems willing to either wait for a reprint or just go with a
different card. The era of “buy a bunch of cards and wait a few years and
then make a killing” has been over for a while, and it shows no sign of
returning. We have to spec smarter, not harder.

Well-Gotten Gains

2017 wasn’t without its major financial gains, however. Reserved list cards
soared to absurd heights this year, and while some of those spells have
dropped off a bit since then, they’re all quite a bit higher than they were
in 2016. Part of this is a reaction to WotC’s reprint crusade-if you’re
looking to “lock in” your collection value, investing in reserved list
cards is a smart call. Herding played a part in these spikes as well-once
some reserved list cards began to spike, a lot of people realized that this
might be their last chance to snag some of these cards before they were
priced out of the old school market for good. I also suspect that Bitcoin’s
robust year played a role as well. A lot of people made a crazy amount of
money on the cryptocurrency exchanges, and turning some of that profit into
reserved list Magic cards might end up being a savvy call.

I made fifty specific predictions for 2017 when I wrote this article last
year, some bolder than others. Curious how I did? Me too. I’m almost afraid
to look…

The Magic Finance market will remain fairly flat in 2017, frustrating
many small-time flippers and speculators who used to be able to make
easy profits without risk.

I can safely say that this prediction came true. According to MTGIndex.com,
the Modern index (one copy of every relevant card in the format) began the
year at $2,241 and ended it at $2,184, a drop of about 2.5% and roughly
equal to the value lost by Tarmogoyf since the start of 2017.

That said, the reserved list spikes created some absurdly easy profits for
anyone who decided to buy into cards from Magic’s oldest sets this year.
The Legacy index climbed from $7,937 to $11,926 in just twelve months, a
gain of about 33%. Almost all of that was due to high end cards like
Diamond Valley, Drop of Honey, and City in a Bottle gaining absurd amounts
of value.

The trading scene will be somewhat reinvigorated thanks to the relative
cheapness of Standard and the lack of sharks.

I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not I got this one right. I found
it a bit easier to trade in 2017, but I’m not sure it was a big enough sea
change for me to call this a complete win. The biggest problem was that
Standard wasn’t that diverse in 2017 even though it was fairly cheap, which
meant that everyone was still after the same small suite of top tier
staples. If you weren’t giving up a copy of The Scarab God or a Modern
staple, you probably weren’t getting your hands on Chandra, Torch of

Magic will experience significant player growth for the first time in
several years.

Nope. While I don’t buy the doomsaying theories that Magic’s player base
has seen a steep decline in recent years, it’s pretty clear that there
wasn’t any sort of significant growth in 2017. I may double-down on this
prediction for 2018, though, because I have hope that Arena will be a major
hit that will lead to an influx of new blood.

Every Pro Tour in 2017 will be Standard, but there will be serious talk
about bringing back the Modern Pro Tour in 2018 thanks to the fact that
two Pro Tours will be won by the same deck.

I’ll call this a partial victory. I nailed the easier half of this
prediction (we’re getting a Modern Pro Tour less than two months from
now!), but a different deck took down each of 2017’s four Pro Tours. Who
knows what would have happened if WotC hadn’t started banning cards,
though? I feel like I got the spirit of this answer right at least.

At the end of the year, your collection will still be worth a tad more
than it is right now.

This prediction came true for everyone with extensive Legacy collections.
If you’re deeply invested in reserved list staples, you’re probably pretty
happy with how this year turned out. Otherwise, your collection is probably
worth a little bit less at the end of 2017 than it was at the end of 2016.
Blame the fact that we got two Masters sets and a sub-par Standard

Most of the gains will happen in select Frontier staples and whatever
Modern cards aren’t in MM17.

Remember Frontier? That was a fun 2-3 months. A bunch of the Modern cards
that weren’t reprinted this year did gain value, especially the staples
from the original Modern Masters set, but this gain was offset
(and then some) by Iconic Masters this fall.

Become Immense will be banned in Modern.

This was a common prediction last winter (seriously!), but Gitaxian Probe
and Golgari Grave-Troll got the axe instead. I was right that WotC would
target Infect, I was just wrong about which card they decided to whack.

Infect will remain a tier one deck despite this.

I think that Infect could have survived the Gitaxian Probe banning, but the
printing of Fatal Push was a massive bridge too far. I’d be hard-pressed to
call the deck tier three at this point.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor will be unbanned in Modern.

We didn’t get any Modern unbannings in 2017, and the format thrived anyway!
Here’s hoping for a sweet one in 2018, but I don’t think it’ll be Jace-blue
sees quite a bit more play in the format than it did a year ago, and I feel
like it would give tempo, not control, an unfair leg up right now.

This will lead to a blue control deck that can finally hang in Modern’s
top tier.

One of the most popular decks in Modern right now features both Logic Knot
and Cryptic Command, but it’s not really a “true” control deck. U/W with
Sphinx’s Revelation and Gideon of the Trials is carrying the flag proudly.

A Goryo’s Vengeance deck will also break into Modern’s top ten.

You can make a reasonable argument that Through the Breach is the
centerpiece of a top ten deck right now, but Goryo’s Vengeance is still
fundamentally a rogue strategy. I was right that Modern’s top ten would be
shaken up considerably, though.

Damnation will be reprinted as a promo, but not in any more accessible

Damnation was reprinted as a promo, (an Amonkhet invocation,
actually), but it was also one of the marquee reprints in Modern Masters 2017. In other words, I got this one dead wrong.

The Zendikar fetchlands will be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017.

Ding! Thank goodness-I was on a heck of a losing streak there. A lot of
people were adamant that we’d get these fetches back in Amonkhet
or Ixalan, but I don’t think WotC is anywhere close to unleashing
these in a Standard set again.

Tarmogoyf will also be reprinted in that set, and it will finally fall
below $100 retail.

Check and check again. Tarmogoyf finally saw one reprint too many, and you
can pick your copy up for just $65 right now. The last time this card was
under $100? December of 2012.

Engineered Explosives will not be reprinted, and it will hit $80.

Engineered Explosives wasn’t reprinted in 2017 (the Kaladesh
invocation was already out by the time I made that prediction), but it
didn’t hit $80, either. EE was a $50 card when I made the prediction, and
it ended up peaking at $65 in mid-May. You can pick them up for $45 now. I
was right that the card would continue to climb, but I overestimated its
peak and underestimated its decline.

Ditto Chalice of the Void, which will break $60.

Here’s a big win. Chalice of the Void was selling for just $40 last
December, and it spiked as high as $100(!) in the spring. It’s still a
whopping $85 now. Expect it to be reprinted in 2018.

And Koth of the Hammer will spend most of the year over $20.

Woof. Koth spiked to $20 right before I made that prediction, but the price
has kept dropping and dropping since then. I wildly overestimated recent
results when I made this prediction, and I should have sold this one into
the hype.

After the Eternal Masters second print run debacle, fewer
players will pre-order and hoard boxes of MM17. You will be
able to buy packs off the shelf at retail well into the fall.

Ding ding ding. Eternal Masters changed the way people viewed
these sets, and I can still buy boxes of both MM17 and Iconic Masters for much less than the $10/pack MSRP. It’s hard to
believe now, but people were paying $300+ for boxes of the first Masters set!

The Theros Gods will be reprinted as Masterpieces in Amonkhet block.

Nope. WotC continued to tie its Masterpieces directly to the flavor of
their respective sets, which meant that Heliod and friends were off-limits
for Amonkhet.

The fall 2017 block will be loosely enchantment themed and will feature
enchantment Masterpieces.

Yeah, no. Not only was Ixalan not even vaguely enchantment-themed,
it didn’t even have Masterpieces. I’ll give myself partial credit because
the Search for Azcanta cycle ended up being such a major part of the set,
but that’s stretching the kudos.

It will also feature multiple legendary Merfolk.

How did I get the last one so wrong and get this one so right? Kopala,
Warden of Waves and Tishana, Voice of Thunder both count, so Ixalan totally has multiple legendary Merfolk. Too bad they’re
not, y’know, actually good.

One of the big flavor reveals of Amonkhet? Nicol Bolas has
started an “evil Gatewatch.” It will include Bolas, Tezzeret, and
Vraska. Potential future members? Garruk and an undead Elspeth.

I’m going to punt this prediction into 2018 since Bolas’ latest master plan
hasn’t been revealed yet. I’m giving myself a couple of points for calling
the fact that he ended up recruiting Vraska. Maybe we’ll get an evil
Gatewatch after all.

Frontier will become much more popular in the first half of 2017. There
will be a series of Frontier-related buyouts in February or March,
frustrating format advocates who wanted it to stay cheap.

It seems like ancient history now, but this did sort of happen for a couple
of weeks in January. Cards like Dig Through Time and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
both spiked just after New Year’s, and Frontier excitement was indeed
responsible. I’m not sure there were any articles written about format
accessibility, but my Twitter feed was pretty miffed that their dirt cheap
format was starting to balloon in price.

And then…nothing. When was the last time you thought about Frontier?

Frontier will lose steam once the format is “solved” shortly after
that. It will mostly be forgotten by the time Modern Masters 2017 comes out, though some of the cards will
retain their post-spike value in hopes that it can be fixed or a
different format will come along soon enough.

The first part of this prediction certainly came true. Frontier sputtered
out fast, and it was old news by the time we were opening fetchlands and
moaning about Death’s Shadow in May. While some of its staples have
retained their value, it’s been thanks to Modern and Commander, not the
hope of another Frontier-ish format.

By this time next year, we will have a different Modern-alternative
format to obsess over.

This hasn’t really happened yet, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the
first set released on Arena becomes a new suggested starting point for a
post-Modern format. That’ll be far in the future, though, and in the
meantime, we’re dancing with Standard, Modern, and Legacy.

The most surprising teams in football next year will be the Tennessee
Titans (will win 10+ games) and Arizona Cardinals (ditto).

Oh, come on! After years and years of picking the Jacksonville Jaguars to
break out, they finally start to play well and I went with the stupid
Titans and Cardinals. I guess the Titans are somewhat better than they were
last year, but they were a sexy breakout pick by the time the pre-season
rolled around and they’re no lock to hit ten wins (they’re 8-5 as I write
this). The Cardinals lost their star running back and starting QB, though
they’ve looked okay at times despite that.

Current Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will win at least
five games next year as somebody’s starting QB. Cleveland?

New England really should have traded Garoppolo to Cleveland last winter.
Instead, they gave their third stringer Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for
mediocre WR Philip Dorsett right before the start of the season, only to
see him become a competent NFL start with a significant amount of trade
value. Then they traded Garoppolo at the trading deadline anyway, only
getting back a second round pick in return. I can’t criticize the greatest
coach of all time for much, but this was a frustrating series of moves.

Of course, I still have an outside shot of getting this prediction right.
San Francisco gave the reigns to Garoppolo with just five games to go in
the season, and as I write this he’s already won his first two. I doubt
he’ll run the table, but you never know!

[CEDitor’s Note: Jimmy Jesus got those five wins and the 49ers have
hope. Cleveland went 0-16 and the city is having a parade celebrating
this major accomplishment. All is right in the world.]

The New England Patriots will defeat the Dallas Cowboys and win the
2017 Super Bowl.

The Cowboys made it deep into the 2017 playoffs, but the New England
Patriots ended up beating the Atlanta Falcons instead. I’ll give myself
half credit for correctly calling the champs.

The most surprising teams in baseball this year? The New York Yankees
and Seattle Mariners.

The New York Yankees were the most surprising team in baseball, making a
deep playoff run during a rebuilding year thanks to out-of-nowhere
performances from young players like Luis Severino and the brilliant Aaron
Judge. The other surprising teams last year were Colorado, Milwaukee,
Arizona, and Minnesota. The Mariners had some flashes, but never really
performed beyond their expectations. Half credit once again here.

Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez will out-pitch the rotation’s big
three of Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, and David Price.

Eduardo Rodriguez got hurt in spring training and ended up having a
frustrating, lost season. He looked good in flashes, but Drew Pomeranz
ended up being the surprising member of that staff once Price got hurt and
Porcello regressed.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will beat the Houston Astros in six games to
win the 2017 World Series.

Not bad! Last year, I called Chicago over Cleveland in Game 7, so I’m
currently on a four for four streak when predicting the teams in the World
Series. Maybe I should do baseball finance from now on? Regardless, LA
couldn’t close the deal in Game 6, and Houston ended up taking home the
trophy in the end. Good for them.

Google Glass may be dead, but some variation of a digital heads-up
display will make major waves in the tech community next year.

There are still a few companies trying to make this work, but we’re pretty
far from “major waves.” Much like VR has made a massive comeback in the
gaming community despite being left for dead back in the nineties, I still
think that wearable HUD-style tech is going to break through at some point.
It hasn’t happened yet, though.

Emrakul, the Promised End will break $30 and touch $40 at some point
this spring.

I have no doubt that this would have happened had Emrakul, the Promised End
not been banned in January. Instead, the card cratered almost immediately
after getting the axe and has yet to recover. It’ll creep up at bit at some
point thanks to casual demand, but I’m not sure it’ll ever hit $40.

Smuggler’s Copter will hit $25.

Smuggler’s Copter was banned as well, of course. I’m glad both of these
oppressive cards got what was coming to them, but your portfolio took a
pretty serious hit if you bought in back in December like I suggested. I
really didn’t think WotC would actually start banning things in Standard
again after so many years of silence.

Aetherworks Marvel will hit $20.

And here’s where I went three for three in nailing banned cards. Hooray for
me, I guess? Of course, Aetherworks Marvel didn’t hit $20 even though the
card got plenty of time to shine before being banned, but I feel like that
speaks to just how colossally broken the Standard format was last spring.

At least one of the intro deck planeswalkers will show up in a good
Standard brew and we’ll all have to run out to Target in order to try
and buy them out.

Not only hasn’t this happened, there haven’t really been any close calls. I
still feel like WotC is going to vastly under-test one of these cards at
some point, though, and I want to be ready when they do.

The new Nicol Bolas Planeswalker will show up in a tier one Standard
list despite being less overtly powerful than the last one.

Close, but not quite. Grixis Control was a thing for a couple of SCG Tour
Opens right when Amonkhet came out, but it was pretty close to a
non-factor by the time the Pro Tour rolled around. Nicol Bolas popped up
here and there since then, but never as a tier one deck. What a

Yahenni’s Expertise will be The Card That Launches A Thousand Price
Spikes, but it will ultimately disappoint in Modern. It will, however,
be a tier one playable in Standard.

People forgot about Yahenni’s Expertise pretty fast. Did you even remember
that this card existed? It’s still Standard legal, even! Oh well.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance will never find a home in Standard. It will
be under $10 by this time next year.

The irony is that I vividly remember making a totally opposite prediction
and was smug all year about how I was at least going to get one of these
things right because Chandra broke through and I called it. That’s why it’s
important to write down your predictions, kids-we’re all a lot more wrong
than we think we are.

WotC will take their foot off the pedal a little next year. There will
only be one supplemental set release in 2017 – Modern Masters 2017.

These were my worst two predictions. Here they are, back to back. Look upon
them and despair.

Modern buyouts surrounding MM17 will be fast and furious.
Staples that aren’t reprinted in that set will double overnight. This
spring/early summer will be rough for buyouts (Modern Unbannings,
Frontier, and Modern Masters) but the rest of the year will be fairly

There were plenty of Modern spikes last spring thanks to MM17, but
no buyouts on the level I had predicted here. Instead, the buyout brigade
mostly focused on reserved list cards.

The From the Vault series will be discontinued entirely.

This didn’t happen either. I like From the Vault: Transform well
enough, but I still think that this outdated series should be put out to
pasture. It has no real place or identity in our current reprint-saturated

Commander 2017

will feature classic allied color pairs. Partner Commanders will

Neither of these predictions came true, though I’d argue that Commander 2017 is the best release of the entire series. After a
few years of doing these supplemental casual sets, I feel like WotC has
finally struck a good balance between power level and flavor.

Grim Tutor will be released as a judge promo.

I’ve been pretty good about nailing these judge promo calls in recent
years, but I whiffed this time. It’ll happen sooner or later, though!

The next Star Wars installment will be good…but it will NOT
be the highest grossing film of 2017.

Unfortunately, I’m writing this article before I’ve had a chance to see The Last Jedi. We’re also not going to be able to measure its full
box office returns for at least another couple of weeks.

Right now, Beauty and the Beast was the biggest winner of the year
(yes, really!) coming in at $504mm. Rogue One beat it last year
with $532mm, and The Force Awakens made 936mm(!) in 2015. At this
point, I have no doubt that The Last Jedi will make at least
$600mm and take home the top BO score of 2017. Another swing-and-a-miss for


will upset La La Land for the Best Picture Oscar.

Yes! This happened in the most dramatic way possible, and it was awesome.

Either Netflix or FX will take home more Emmys than all the broadcast
networks combined.

Broadcast networks won Lead Actor Drama (Sterling K. Brown,This is Us), Directing for a Variety Series (Don Roy King,Saturday Night Live), Reality Competition Series (The Voice), Supporting Actor Comedy (Alec Baldwin,Saturday Night Live), Variety Sketch Series (Saturday Night Live), and Supporting Actress Comedy (Kate
McKinnon, Saturday Night Live).

Netflix won TV Movie (Black Mirror, San Junipero), Writing for a
Limited Series (Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror), and Writing for a
Comedy Series (Master of None).

FX won Lead Actor Comedy (Donald Glover, Atlanta), and Directing
for a Comedy Series (Donald Glover, Atlanta).

So Broadcast TV still beat both FX and Netflix this year, though all but
two of those awards are for the absurdly funny run that SNL had right
before and right after the 2016 election. Regardless, HBO and Amazon were
the two biggest Emmy winners of the year by some pretty wide margins.

Game of Thrones
will win Best TV Drama.

Unfortunately, Game of Thrones wasn’t eligible to be nominated for any Emmy
awards in 2017. That said, it was a much-maligned season (even though I
disagree with most of the haters) [Get off the internet. -Ed.] and
I doubt it would have won Best TV Drama regardless. We’ll find out in 2018!

WotC will announce a launch date for their Hearthstone competitor/MTGO
replacement digital client, which will simplify the rules of Magic to a
frustrating degree. People will worry that it will be the end (or at
least the dumbing down) of the paper game. It won’t be.

I was pretty sure that Magic: Arena would be a far worse program than it’s
shaping up to be, though people are still worried about its impact on Magic
overall regardless. If WotC really can create a Hearthstone-style client
that can successfully replicate the rules and flow of paper Magic, it’ll be
the best way to ensure that the game has a long and successful future in
both the digital and paper realms.

We will have to face down many demons, both in reality and on the
battlefield, but 2017 will be better than 2016.

There were only five Demons printed in 2017, though one of them (Razaketh,
the Foulblooded) certainly did manage to beat me in a couple games of Amonkhet Limited.

I’m not sure that I can fully call 2017 a better year than 2016,
considering most of the big problems of 2016 followed us right into the new
year and have refused to relent. It’s been an exhausting year, certainly,
but I really do feel like I have more hope for the future than I did a year
ago today. That doesn’t count for much, but it does count for something.