Announcement Day Finance!

The amount of Magic sets on the horizon is truly unreal! We want more Magic and it looks like we’re getting it! Kaladesh, Archenemy, Modern Masters 2017; the list goes on and on! But even without proper full spoilers for these, we can predict a lot about their financial ramifications! Well…Chas can. And he can pay it forward to us!

The number of Magic products being released these days is staggering. Before I knew what I was going to write about in the main section of my article this week, I Googled WotC’s latest round of product announcements so that I could write them up for “This Week’s Trends.” I was halfway into my analysis of Planechase Anthology before I realized that I had been looking at the announcement day article from May by accident.

I had already known about Planechase AnthologyI had even written about it—but that knowledge had somehow gotten lost in the hype surrounding Eternal Masters, Eldritch Moon, Conspiracy: Take The Crown, and Kaladesh. I write about Magic for a living, and I had completely forgotten about one of 2016’s most interesting releases!

If I can’t keep that stuff straight, I imagine some of you are having trouble as well. And these sets are important to know about—many of Magic’s supplemental products are filled with financially relevant reprints, while others might be worth buying at retail for either a quick flip or a long-term hold.

Forecasting the impact of the bigger sets shouldn’t be ignored, either—if you bought a few dozen copies of Scion of the Ur-Dragon before the release of Dragons of Tarkir, you could have built a decent Modern deck from your profits.

This week, in the wake of WotC’s latest round of announcements, we’re going to take a look at every release between today and next July. What will the next eleven months of Magic look like? Let’s find out.

September 2, 2016: Duel Decks: Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis

Technically, Duel Decks: Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis has already been released, but I wanted to touch on it here since it’s kind of flown under the radar. That’s probably because Nissa, Voice of Zendikar went from being one of the most important cards in Standard to more of an afterthought in recent weeks. If that changes and Nissa ends up being a major player again after Kaladesh comes out, this Duel Deck might end up being a decent buy. Until then, I just can’t see it.

Financially Relevant Inclusions:

· Nissa, Voice of Zendikar – $6

· Ob Nixilis Reignited – $4

· Crop Rotation – $3

Unlike previous Duel Decks, there isn’t much to focus on here beyond the two foil planeswalkers. Crop Rotation is a nice reprint, though, and the new art they commissioned for this version is stunning. I’ll be picking up a set in a couple of weeks, hopefully when the price is closer to $1-$2.

September 30, 2016: Kaladesh

We got our first peek at Kaladesh this weekend, and I’m pretty darned excited. Energy counters! Vehicles! Gremlins! It’s like if the Izzet got to run an entire plane all by themselves. I’ll be getting to my thoughts on the new cards once I start in on the set review, but for now I’d like to see if there are any existing cards that might benefit from what we know about Kaladesh so far.

If the Vehicles are going to see competitive play, they might benefit from a suite of cheap creatures that have high power. Lupine Prototype fits that bill nicely, though it’s a long shot to actually see any competitive play due to its serious mechanical drawback. Even still, this is exactly the sort of situationally powerful card that I like to pick up when I’m speculating on bulk rares. Sign me up for a set or two on spec.

Looking beyond Standard, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kuldotha Forgemaster finally sees that price spike I’ve been expecting for years. Not only is it a good enough card for Eternal play, but its “sacrifice three artifacts to fetch a better artifact” ability seems to fit a recurring theme on Kaladesh. If those sorts of abilities are well-supported, many people will want to add Forgemasters to their casual and Commander decks.

Last, the fact that Dwarves are back is a big deal for a vocal minority of casual players and Dwarf fans of all ages. Dwarven Recruiter sold out everywhere shortly after the announcement, which makes sense—pull them out of your Odyssey-era bulk if you have any. I also don’t hate Dwarven Thaumaturgist as a spec buy. It’s not a very powerful card, but it’s a Reserved List rare that you can pick up for less than fifty cents. Worse Reserved List rares spiked earlier this year for dumber reasons than “Dwarves are back!”

September 30, 2016: Planeswalker Decks

I haven’t found any final confirmation that these will be released in concert with Kaladesh, but I believe that’s still the plan. The Planeswalker Decks were designed to replace the Intro Packs, and for an MSRP of $15 you get a brand new planeswalker card (Standard-legal, but deliberately underpowered), and two copies of another new rare that tutors for exactly that planeswalker. (Not all Lilianas—just that specific Liliana).

I can’t imagine these will end up being financially relevant or even worth the price of admission, but be prepared to move in on them if one of the planeswalkers does end up inadvertently finding a home in Standard. For now, though, you can safely leave them off your radar. You’ll probably be finding these planeswalkers in collections for the next decade, causing you to shake your head and silently wish that the person you’re buying from had just opened a booster pack instead.

September 30, 2016: The Kaladesh Bundle

The [Set Name] Bundle is essentially just a renamed fat pack. You still get a nice cardboard box, a spindown die, 80 basic lands, and a player’s guide along with your booster packs. The differences? You get a rules insert and an extra booster pack now. Oh—and the MSRP went from $39.99 to $42.99. That actually makes it a slightly better deal, on average.

I can’t imagine this rebranding will change much financially, though. Most savvy players don’t buy fat packs, especially when you don’t get full-art lands alongside your boosters, and booster boxes provide far more bang for your buck. Just don’t be taken off-guard when you see a new product on the shelves once Kaladesh is released. This is the same old fat pack, even though its name and price have changed.

November 11, 2016: Commander 2016

We know that there will be five decks in Commander 2016, each centered on a four-color Commander. In total, 56 cards will be brand=new, leaving plenty of room for a handful of high-profile casual reprints. Just like with Conspiracy: Take the Crown, expect at least a few cards from your spec box to go from exciting to overprinted once this spoiler starts rolling out.

What cards might be reprinted? With four-color commanders, all bets are off. WotC has only ever made five four-color cards ever: the Nephilim from Guildpact. I’d say there’s probably a 75% chance they’re reprinted in this set and will either remain or fall to bulk rare status. There’s also a 25% chance they aren’t back and will immediately become desirable casual cards, though. Avoid them for now, but buy in quickly if they don’t show up in decklists.

November 25, 2016: Planechase Anthology

Planechase Anthology‘s staggering MSRP of $150 gives you the four preconstructed decks from Planechase 2012 along with all 86 planes, including the promos and releases from 2009. Much like the Duel Decks Anthology, each LGS will probably only get one or two of these. If you want a copy at MSRP, you might want to start looking into it now.

Will it be worth the buy? It sure is for anyone who wants the planes—the 2009 planes were selling for $3-$4 each, and the promo plane Tazeem was a $60 card before this set was announced (it’s $30 now). All of these prices will drop once Planechase Anthology is released, but probably not by a ton. Unless this set is printed in quantities far greater than I’m currently expecting, all this will do is satiate the short-term demand for these. Expect this set to be worth more than MSRP if WotC ever does another round of planes, too.

What about the singles from the Planechase 2012 decks? Let’s take a look at what you get:

Financially Relevant Inclusions:

· Maelstrom Wanderer – $15

· Kor Spiritdancer – $13

· Sakashima’s Student – $12

· Shardless Agent – $10.59

· Ghostly Prison – $10

· Silent-Blade Oni – $8

· Thromok the Insatiable – $6

· Awakening Zone – $5.79

· Baleful Strix – $5.69

· Preyseizer Dragon – $5.29

· Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni – $5

· Rancor – $5

· Beast Within – $4.79

· Bloodbraid Elf – $4.19

· Vela the Night-Clad – $4

· Brindle Shoat – $3.79

· Mycoloth – $3.69

· Quietus Spike – $3.59

· Tainted Isle – $3

· Felidar Umbra – $3

· Krond the Dawn-Clad – $3

· Exotic Orchard – $3

Adding up the retail price of every card above $3, you end up with $137.41. Throw in all the random $1-$2 cards, and you’re paying (just) below current retail for these four decks without considering the set of planes. Since the set of planes have very real value, I wouldn’t be surprised if these singles see a 20-25% drop after the box set hits shelves. It certainly isn’t worth buying just to flip the singles, but if you decide that you want to spend $100 or so for a set of planes, you can probably buylist the singles for at least fifty bucks. That’s not a bad deal.

Otherwise, I’m not too worried about this set. Kor Spiritdancer and Sakashima’s Student might drop in price a little, but there’s no reason to panic-sell your copies or anything.

January 20, 2017: Aether Revolt

We don’t know enough about Kaladesh yet to predict which cards might go up or down in price as a result of Aether Revolt. It is worth noting that the trek from late September to late January is a pretty long time between sets in Magic’s current climate, though. Might that give us a little breathing room for Modern prices to jump a bit?

March 17, 2017: Modern Masters 2017

It would have been a shock if Modern Masters 2017 wasn’t announced, but it’s still crazy to think that we’re actually getting a reprint set every year now. MSRP is still going to be $10 per pack, and we’re getting cards from the first Innistrad Block and Return to Ravnica this time around. Which cards from those six sets currently retail for $10 or more? Let’s take a look:

Potential MM17 Reprints:

· Liliana of the Veil

· Cavern of Souls

· Snapcaster Mage

· Voice of Resurgence

· Craterhoof Behemoth

· Avacyn, Angel of Hope

· Mikaeus, the Unhallowed

· Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

· Steam Vents

· Griselbrand

· Breeding Pool

· Sacred Foundry

· Stomping Ground

· Huntmaster of the Fells

· Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

· Grafdigger’s Cage

· Watery Grave

· Sigarda, Host of Herons

· Restoration Angel

· Vexing Devil

· Exquisite Blood

· Geist of Saint Traft

· Godless Shrine

· Abrupt Decay

· Temple Garden

That’s not a super-exciting list, to be honest. Liliana of the Veil, Cavern of Souls, and Snapcaster Mage would almost assuredly be among the set’s chase cards, but the world isn’t really clamoring for more copies of Restoration Angel or Steam Vents.

If WotC goes heavy on cards from these two blocks, Modern Masters 2017 might end up being a step down from the past two. It also speaks to the diminishing returns of these sets—there are only so many reprintable cards out there that will incentivize players to spend $10 on a booster pack.

If you’ve got copies of Liliana of the Veil, Cavern of Soils, or Snapcaster Mage that you aren’t planning to use over the next six months, sell them now. While these three cards aren’t a totally lock to be in the set, the odds are very high—and if they are included, the price will drop.

I’m less certain that the shocklands will reappear. None of the Masters sets to date have had land cycles, and the Zendikar fetchlands are probably next up for a reprint. If a bunch of rare lands do show up in MM17, it will probably be those. I’d sell my extra copies of those at some point this fall, too.

April 28, 2017: Amonkhet

Egypt! Pyramids! Mummies! Nicol Bolas! It’s going to be a good spring for Magic.

First of all, I imagine that Amonkhet will give us a brand new Nicol Bolas card, much like Battle for Zendikar block gave us new versions of the Eldrazi titans. If you’ve got any copies of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker kicking around, save them for the spring. I imagine they’ll trade well in the lead-up to Amonkhet, and it might even be worth picking up a few on spec. The card is above $10 despite being unplayable in competitive Magic and having been reprinted in both a core set and a Duel Deck.

It’s also worth noting that the set’s blurb mentions something called “The Trials of the Five Gods.” Hmm…I wonder if they will be aligned to each of the five colors of Magic, much like in Theros? If you don’t have any of those in your spec box, pick them up now. I bet they’ll see a spike once we get confirmation that Amonkhet has Gods as well.

May, 2017: Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might

We don’t know much about this one yet, and it’s hard to guess what it might contain. Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might apparently represents “the age-old clash between mages and warriors, brains and brawn. Clever plots or raw power – which will you choose?”

Like most Magic players, I’m choosing mind. Maybe this deck will come with some sort of interesting counterspell reprint?

June 9, 2017: Commander Anthology

Buckle up. Commander Anthology will retail for $165, and will include four previously-released Commander decks: Heavenly Inferno, Evasive Maneuvers, Guided by Nature, and Plunder the Graves. Will it be worth the money? Let’s find out.

Heavenly Inferno is from Commander 2011, and it’s the prize of the bunch. StarCityGames wants $200 for their copies, though a big part of that value is due to how hard it is to find sealed products from the era before we all started hoarding them in our closets. We’ll have to see how the singles stack up before we can judge how good that price really is.

The other three decks are much more common. Evasive Maneuvers is from 2013, and it’s sold out at $30. Guided by Nature is from 2014, and it’s sold out at $35. Plunder the Graves is from just last year, and it’s sold out at $40.

Let’s take a look at the cards themselves. Here’s everything that retails for $3 or more in each of those four decks:

Heavenly Inferno

· Kaalia of the Vast – $40

· Path to Exile – $13

· Stranglehold – $12

· Bladewing the Risen – $4

· Mana-Charged Dragon – $4

· Lightning Greaves – $4

· Mother of Runes – $4

· Tariel, Reckoner of Souls – $4

· Angel of Despair – $3.79

· Akroma, Angel of Fury – $3.75

· Anger – $3.39

· Dread Cacodemon – $3

· Sol Ring – $3

· Command Tower – $3

This gives us a total of $105 in value, most of which is tied up in the top three cards. I expect that Kaalia of the Vast and Stranglehold will drop a little once this box is released, but probably not much—I can’t imagine that too many copies of this set are actually printed, and most of the people who buy them will probably keep the decks intact. Path to Exile’s price won’t be affected at all—it’s one of the most reprint-resilient cards in the whole game.

Evasive Maneuvers

· Flickerwisp – $5

· Thousand-Year Elixir – $5

· Angel of Finality – $3.50

· Sol Ring – $3

· Command Tower – $3

Yikes. Evasive Maneuvers only gives us another $19.50 in expected value, which puts us up to $124.50. Remember: these 2013 decks were overprinted to the point where some of us were able to find them at Target for almost half off MSRP a few months after their release, so it’s not really a surprise the prices haven’t recovered yet. Flickerwisp is a solid card in Modern and Legacy, though, so it’ll hold its value through this reprint. I also can’t imagine this set cuts into the Thousand-Year Elixir supply enough to make a dent in the price.

Guided By Nature

· Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury – $11.55

· Titania, Protector of Argoth – $8

· Ezuri, Renegade Leader – $6

· Priest of Titania – $5

· Song of the Dryads – $5

· Joraga Warcaller – $4

· Imperious Perfect – $4

· Immaculate Magistrate – $3

· Rampaging Baloths – $3

· Lifeblood Hydra – $3

· Praetor’s Counsel – $3

· Skullclamp – $3

· Sol Ring – $3

Okay, that’s a little better. Guided By Nature adds $58.55 in value, putting us at $183. Many of these cards don’t have a home outside of casual Elves decks, though, so their demand is fairly limited.

Plunder the Graves

· Meren of Clan Nel Toth – $10

· Eternal Witness – $4.79

· Eldrazi Monument – $4.09

· Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest – $4

· Lightning Greaves – $3.89

· Pathbreaker Ibex – $3

· Scourge of Nel Toth – $3

· Command Tower – $3

· Sol Ring – $3

· Skullclamp – $3

Meren of Clan Nel Thoth is the headline here, and the inclusions from this deck put our total value at $222 retail plus all the sub-$3 cards. That tells me that the $165 MSRP is fine for anyone who really wants these decks, but it’s a poor place to go looking for value. Of all the box set products on this list, this is the one I am least likely to buy at retail and the one that I expect has the greatest chance of sitting unsold on shelves. If this is the future of Commander reprints, I’m not worried about the more expensive cards from these sets tanking in price any time soon.

June 16, 2017: Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

Unlike the previous Archenemy releases, which were similar to the Planechase decks, Archenemy: Nicol Bolas comes with everything you need to play the game right out of the box for $60: four decks (all reprints), four alt-art non-foil planeswalkers (also reprints), and twenty brand new schemes.

Since one of the decks is designed to be the archenemy, you have to assume that one of the planeswalkers will be Nicol Bolas, right? I doubt they’ll just hand you the chase card from the spring set, so I expect the existing version of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker will show up here. It’s too early to predict the other planeswalkers, though.

Since you get four decks and a set of schemes, I expect this to be a decent buy at MSRP. I also doubt it’ll hurt card prices too much—it’s playable and balanced right out of the box without modification, so many of the people who buy it will probably keep it intact and treat it more like a board game. That said, it should keep the price of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker in check, even if the hype gets crazy over the summer.

July 14, 2017: Hour of Devastation

The second set of the Amonkhet block, it’s far too early to speculate on what might be in Hour of Devastation. Bolas unleashes the full power of the infinity gems and would have destroyed Space Egypt if it weren’t for those meddling planeswalkers? Let’s go with that.

Anyway, this is set is probably full of Contraptions, so make sure you have those Steamflogger Bosses at the ready!

This Week’s Trends

Three of the biggest gainers in Standard last week—Grim Flayer, Collective Brutality, and Eldritch Evolution—saw their prices increase mostly on the back of Modern play. Decks featuring those three cards were on display at the Grand Prix and on The SCG Tour® over the past few weeks, which has caused their prices to start ticking up. I doubt the gains will stick unless they find more of a home in Standard, though—it’s very hard for Modern demand to drive the price of a card that is from a current set for more than a week or two. Grim Flayer has the best chance at maintaining its current price—if it keeps showing up in Modern and ends up in even a second-tier Standard deck, it can bounce along in the $20-$25 range for quite a while. I’m still selling into the hype, though.

Other than that, Standard prices are still dropping from their post-Pro Tour highs. This will change once Kaladesh archetypes start to make themselves known, but right now everyone is focused on the start of preview season and all the exciting new cards.

Over in Modern, Death’s Shadow Aggro and Dredge are the two most in-demand decks right now. As such, the staples from those two brews continue to gain value. Death’s Shadow was one of the format’s biggest risers last week, as were Mishra’s Bauble and Bridge from Below. Through the Breach is also up this week, and both Noble Hierarch and Engineered Explosives continue to climb.

Comments from Last Week

Looking at Eternal Masters, all the prices stabilized and never went up again. [Will the same happen with Conspiracy: Take the Crown?]

– Bjorn Schultz

I don’t think those two sets are comparable, Bjorn. Eternal Masters had a small print run and $10 packs. Conspiracy: Take the Crown has a large print run and $4 packs. Your point is well-taken, though: if Eternal Masters card prices haven’t rebounded, how can we expect Conspiracy prices to do anything but drop?

First off, it’s way too early to judge the long-term trajectory of Eternal Masters cards. The set has only been out for a few months, and two other expansions have been released in the interim. Even with a slower release schedule, I wouldn’t expect these cards to rebound for at least six months. With so many sets to vie for our pocket money these days, it could take even longer. The fact that WotC is running a reprint set out there ever year is also working to keep these prices down. Why drop a lot of money on a single that might be reprinted again next year? At this point, I expect the real Eternal Masters price spikes won’t arrive until the full Eternal Masters 2018 spoiler is revealed and we see which cards haven’t returned.

As for Conspiracy: Take the Crown, I agree that it will be a long time before these prices begin to recover. If the print run is the same as it was for the first Conspiracy set, it may take three years. If it’s a lower print run, which is doubtful, it might happen sooner. Regardless, there is no need to buy these cards now unless you believe there will be a major spike in demand that isn’t accounted for in the current price tag. (Leovold, Emissary of Trest emerging as a Legacy staple, for example.)

What’s my Khans of Tarkir box worth?

– Ben Barrett

The current retail price for a Khans box on StarCityGames.com is $99.99, but it’s been sold out for a while so that price is probably out of date. On eBay, it looks like boxes are selling between $110 and $120 shipped.

As I’m sure you’re aware, most of the value in your box is tied up in the fetchlands. The odds of opening a fetch in a Khans box is about one in twelve, so you’re going to average about three fetchlands per box. Beyond that, the pickings are slim. Even the cards on the next tier down—Sorin, Solemn Visitor; Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker; Clever Impersonator; and Monastery Swiftspear—are under $5 each, and most of the rares in the set are worth less than a buck. This is fairly common for a recently rotated set, especially one with five Eternal staples in the rare slot.

Should you open your Khans box? I wouldn’t. Unless you open a foil Flooded Strand or something, it’s worth more sealed than the singles you open. It’s also likely to go up in price as time passes. I doubt the fetchlands will be reprinted soon, and the draft format is widely considered to be one of the best ever. Even though I’ve been wrong about holding sealed boxes in the past, I’m bullish about the future of Khans.