Insider Trading – From the Vault: Dragons, plus B&R Changes

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Tuesday, September 2nd – From the Vault: Dragons was initially released at Gen Con, and immediately began selling for well above MSRP. Why did this happen, and will the price increase last? PLUS: How will the September 1st B&R changes affect card prices?

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Insider Trading! In this week’s article, we’re going to discuss the From the Vault: Dragons deck, and the changes made to the Banned and Restricted list on Monday of this week. Let’s dive straight into the discussion, shall we?

From the Vault: Dragons was first announced as a daily Arcana on MagictheGathering.com on May 13th, 2008. Wizards announced that they would produce a box set with 15 Dragons from Magic’s past, all of them in foil, and multiples of them with alternate arts. The buzz surrounding the box set was immediate and huge, and players immediately started trying to find out how they could order these decks. The release date? August 29th, 2008 (three-and-a-half months later).

I immediately contacted our regular distributors, and was told that this set was going to be heavily allocated. And by heavily allocated, I mean ridiculously heavily allocated! Without going into specifics, let’s just say that we were told up front that we wouldn’t be able to order even a small fraction of what we wanted to order, when we were allowed to place orders at all; many distributors in fact told us that they did not have any to sell us at all!

I contacted every North American distributor over the course of that first week, and the story was the same from every channel – heavy allocations, can’t give you any, extremely limited print run. When Wizards of the Coast started offering the From the Vault: Dragon decks as a direct sales preorder, stores were limited to 2/4/8 copies, depending on their tier.

Fast forward a couple of months to Gen Con, the largest gaming con in North America. Wizards of the Coast announced that they would debut the From the Vault: Dragons box set at the Con, limited to 100 copies per day – and that it was limited to one per customer over the course of the entire con (so you couldn’t buy a deck both Friday and Saturday). Since Gen Con is a four-day event, this meant 400 FTV: Dragon decks would be released to the public. Would it be in heavy demand?

The answer is a resounding yes! Our booth was located next to the entrance nearest to the Wizards of the Coast booth. When the doors opened to the public each day at 10, there was a literal stampede of hundreds of people rushing the Wizards of the Coast booth to be one of the lucky 100 to buy a Dragon deck. Because of this, the Dragon Decks were (for all intents and purposes) sold out before the doors even opened due to the queue of people waiting outside the tournament hall! MSRP on the Dragon decks was $34.99 – we were offering $60 cash or $80 trade for those decks, and did not pick up a significant quantity even at those prices. By the end of the weekend, the From the Vault: Dragon decks were already selling on eBay for as much as $125.

On the day of the official release, stories started pouring in all over about extreme allocations – shops getting small percentages of their orders, online dealers being shorted left and right, and customers being unable to get their hands on the decks. The price had relaxed a little from the $125 mark due to the amount of product entering the market all at once. Moreover, forum threads started popping up all over the internet bemoaning the price level of the Dragon decks; and rightfully so from an uninformed perspective, as I would suspect that very few of the printed From the Vault: Dragon decks were sold at the Wizards MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) of $34.99.

So, enough expository. What does this all mean?

1) From the Vault: Dragons is Underprinted
Demand for the From the Vault: Dragons decks far outstrips supply. This box set had a limited print run, but it was too limited; distributors could not get enough from Wizards of the Coast, stores could not get enough from distributors, and customers could not get enough from stores. From top to bottom, on every level, this is an extremely short-printed set.

2) The MSRP on From the Vault: Dragons is Wrong
The MSRP on FTV: Dragons is $34.99. This is too low – it should have been $49.99. This was a three-fold problem; one, Wizards of the Coast lost money by underpricing the set; two, distributors lost money because the MSRP was too low; three, retailers (such as us) are faced with a bad proposition – sell the decks for more than MSRP, and alienate a certain number of customers, or underprice the set, and be bought out immediately of all stock by either customers, or other dealers.

3) From the Vault: Dragons is Currently Undervalued
What you see is what you get on this set – once they are gone, that’s it – no second print run! The entire supply of From the Vault: Dragons decks was released at once this past Friday, causing the market to flood with the decks, as much as the market will ‘flood.’ This has caused the price to be temporarily suppressed, because people do not realize just how truly underprinted this set is! I expect the box set to dry up over the next couple of weeks, and start rising in price; how high, I cannot say for sure, but I believe that From the Vault: Dragons box sets will be selling for at least $150 by the end of September, with the ceiling being even higher than that amount. A lot of people are selling theirs all at once right now, and there won’t be many left for the open market within the month.

The From the Vault: Dragons deck was a full-on success for Wizards of the Coast, in that it (for all intents and purposes) sold out on day of initial solicitation. Selling out on pre-order day one is quite an achievement! In order to keep up demand, Wizards is going to need to make sure that any future From the Vault decks have some degree of a limited print run (but, perhaps, not as limited as the Dragon deck). Wizards also needs to raise the MSRP to a minimum of $49.99 – based on the demand and the amount sold above MSRP already, this price seems like a price the market will bear.

Banned and Restricted Changes

There were several changes made to the Banned and Restricted lists on September 1st. Sensei’s Divining Top was banned in Extended, and Time Vault in Legacy. Time Vault was restricted in Vintage, and Personal Tutor, Chrome Mox, Mox Diamond, Dream Halls, and Time Spiral (the card, not the set) were unrestricted in Vintage. Wizards also announced that Time Vault will receive new oracle text (yet again!) with the release of Shards, one that will supposedly allow it to be untapped with effects (such as Voltaic Key and Twiddle) in exchange for free turns, without having to give up turns first. How do I believe each of these B&R changes affect the prices of these cards?

Sensei’s Divining Top: Will drop a dollar or two, but should stay in the $4-$5 range thanks to steady play in Legacy, and some play in Vintage (mainly in Helm of Awakening/Storm combo decks). This may be one of the most underutilized cards in Vintage post-Brainstorm restriction (ups storm counts, lets you look at three cards), so I believe that over the next year, Vintage interest in Sensei’s Divining Top will help it maintain value.

Time Vault: Even though Time Vault is going to be restricted, the removal of power-level errata will cause it to be played a lot in Vintage. This may also result in a rise in price in Voltaic Key, if people dedicate resources to a two-card, low-cost infinite-turn engine (one that is more stable and cheaper to play than Grindstone/Painter’s Servant, though with a restricted half).

Chrome Mox/Mox Diamond: I don’t think that either of these will have a big impact in Vintage, since they require a pretty heavy additional cost (+1 card) to play. However, if Mox Diamond ever reverts to being able to act as a Lotus Petal (currently, it cannot be tapped for mana if you don’t discard a land; under the original wording, it could be), it will either jump heavily in value, or end up getting re-restricted.

Dream Halls: It’s not easy to get to five mana (double Blue) to cast this enchantment, so likely it won’t be broken in Vintage anytime soon. I don’t expect this one to have that much of a change in value.

Time Spiral: The same as Dream Halls, except this one is a draw-seven card in-and-of itself. Will this lead to a re-emergence of Tolarian Academy decks in Vintage? I don’t think so, but this one should be watched a little more closely than Dream Halls.

Personal Tutor: Is a half-use Mystical Tutor at Sorcery speed a broken Vintage card? Well, Personal Tutor only costs one mana (which is a plus), and it can fetch Yawgmoth’s Will (which is a huge plus). It can also get Balance, Burning Wish, Merchant Scroll, Mind’s Desire, and Time Walk (among others). Will it be viable to build a deck around Yawgmoth’s Will (and I mean around it, not just with it) when you can have around eight one-to-two mana tutors (Vampiric Tutor, Imperial Seal, Mystical Tutor, Demonic Tutor, 4 Personal Tutor) that can fetch the Will? I’d invest in these now, because these have the highest chance to be broken out of any of the Vintage-unrestricted cards.

Until next week, ciao!