Limited Release Fatigue

Chas talks about the two latest limited release products—the Comic-Con walkers and From the Vault: Twenty—as well as the first week of M14 results and Theros teases.

I’m wiped out.

Between From the Vault: Realms, Commander’s Arsenal, Modern Masters, judge foils, premium Helvaults, From the Vault: Twenty, and the Comic-Con planeswalkers, I’m feeling a massive amount of limited release fatigue. There are too many hot promotional Magic products these days, and tracking them all down has become an expensive grind.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that this trend is damaging to the game. They cite the "bubble" economies of comic books and baseball cards in the 1990s—industries that exploded thanks to limited edition releases and then imploded equally as fast.

Luckily, Magic isn’t even close to that point. Baseball cards had no underlying "value" the way that a playable Magic card does—you can’t use them in a game. Because of that, nearly all baseball card hype and speculation in the 90s was on items that were special, promotional, or limited release. Once the bottom dropped out, the prices crashed completely. The only people buying them now are little kids and huge baseball fans, which is the way it should have always been.

Comic books do have underlying value—great art and stories—but the markets in the 90s were totally untethered from reality. Most of the people buying limited edition books back then didn’t even read them. Speculator demand overwhelmed readership by a factor of at least ten, which led to the inevitable crash.

On the other hand, the underlying numbers for Magic look pretty good. It’s undeniable that there are far more speculators now than ever before, but most of them also play the game. If Magic finance columns ever start to outnumber strategy columns, we might have a problem, but as of now most people want Magic cards simply to shuffle up and use in decks. Smartly, Wizards of the Coast has made the decision not to ever release unique, necessary tournament cards as promos.

This means all of the fatigue I’m experiencing is purely by choice. I can play all the Magic I want without ever owning a limited edition card. You can opt in and out purely by choice, and it will never affect your tournament experience. Because of this, I expect we’ll see even more limited edition releases in the future. After all, it’s basically a license to print money and make a few lucky people unreasonably happy without damaging the brand.

This week I’m going to talk about the two latest limited release products—the Comic-Con walkers and From the Vault: Twenty—as well as the first week of M14 results and Theros teases. So shake off that fatigue, embrace your shiny new overlords, and join me in sunny San Diego.

The Comic-Con Planeswalkers

Last week I told you to buy these guys at the $250 price point they were selling for on eBay. Unfortunately, my advice was too late to help unless you follow me on Twitter (@ChasAndres) where I was shouting about them all week. By the time my article went up, the set had already reached $350 and was continuing to rise. Right now, finding these under $400 is nearly impossible, and StarCityGames is sold out at $500. They did go on sale on the Hasbro website at 2:30 PM EDT last Wednesday, but they sold out in five minutes. I don’t know anyone who actually got one.

I’m sad that these cards rocketed up in price so quickly. I still haven’t been given notification that one of my sets has shipped, and I’m worried that the eBay seller is going to end up backing out of the deal. Much like when any card jumps in price, Twitter was buzzing all last week from cancelled orders. This is why I usually like to speculate from larger, more reputable dealers. Unfortunately, in this case it wasn’t an option.

So is the $400-$500 price point due to speculator hype, or is demand for these cards really that great? It’s actually a little of both. Media attention—in this case strong buzz coming out of the convention mixed with reports that Hasbro mishandled distribution and sold out by Friday morning—is going to create a temporary surge of demand. Last weekend the demand far outstripped the supply, and the price doubled as a result. This was a real price doubling, too, not an artifact of rampant speculation—there are real collectors out there paying real money for these cards.

Over the next few weeks, though, demand is going to drop off. The most eager buyers will find their way to get a set. The novelty of the planeswalkers will wear off a bit. The public eye will move on to Theros, FTV: 20, and other exciting cards.

At the same time, though, supply is going to implode. Most of the people who bought extra sets to resell have already done so, meaning that most of the copies that will go on sale from now on will be sold by dealers. And very few of these dealers are going to be willing to sell at less than top dollar.

While I don’t expect the retail price on these cards to drop at all, I do think it will be possible to find deals over the next few months that don’t exist right now because of the hype. If you find the right motivated seller and you’re the only interested buyer at the moment, you might be able to snag a set for less than $400. If you want a set for yourself, you should wait a month or so.

If you managed to pick up a set or three of these on spec, don’t be afraid to cash them in right away while the hype is still very high. I still believe these will sit in the $600-$800 range long term, but a lot could change between now and then. There’s a tiny chance that Wizards will print more or that next year’s set of con exclusives is identical or just a whole lot better. I also think it’ll take a couple years for these cards to get to that point, and keeping $400 -$500  tied up for that long is a steep price to pay. I’m going long on my extra set (if it comes in), but if I didn’t have other money to speculate with, I’d go for the quick flip and keep my capital liquid.

From the Vault: Twenty

According to Wizards, this set will contain one card representing each year from 1993 to 2012 that was used in a "premier tournament-winning deck." Here’s what we know so far:

1993 – 
1994 – 
1995 – Hymn to Tourach
1996 – 
1997 – Impulse
1998 – 
1999 – 
2000 – 
2001 – 
2002 – 
2003 – Akroma’s Vengeance
2004 – Gilded Lotus
2005 – Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
2006 – 
2007 – Venser, Shaper Savant
2008 – 
2009 – Cruel Ultimatum
2010 – Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2011 – 
2012 – 

Before addressing the elephant in the room, let’s talk about all the other animals. Cruel Ultimatum and Akroma’s Vengeance aren’t likely to be in much demand. Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni has already been reprinted too many times, and her value will continue to fall. Impulse has already seen a foil printing as an FNM card, but it’s marginal in Cube so some people might want this one too I suppose. This is the first foil printing for Hymn to Tourach, though, so the Legacy/Cube crowds are certainly going to want them. It won’t affect the price of regular Hymns though. Venser is currently a $20 card with a $100 foil, and this printing should cut into those numbers by at least a third.

In terms of the other slots, it’s anyone’s guess. Most people have been predicting Terminus or Entreat the Angels for 2012, either of which would be sweet. Remand could fit in 2006, which would help Modern availability a little. Otherwise, I don’t think we’re going to see any real heavy hitters. Why? Because:


I don’t know what your reaction to this was. Shock maybe? Glee?

Mine was just, "Ughhhhhh."

For some stupid reason, I really thought that this set would actually be about celebrating twenty years of Magic. Glided Lotus is one of my all-time favorite cards, but does it really speak to what the year 2004 was like in Magic? Was Venser really "the card" of 2007? I know we can’t have the box be all Tarmogoyfs, but the fact that some of the choices already feel uninspired (which to me is different from "bad cards") basically dooms everything else to fall under the shadow of Jace.

At this point, my biggest hope is that Wizards really cranks out the supply on this and makes it so each LGS has enough for all of their regulars. I heard a rumor on Twitter that a storeowner was allotted four times as many of these as usual by his distributor, but I haven’t heard anyone else talk about that yet so for now it’s just wishful thinking. This is likely just going to end up being yet another limited release money grab. Most stores won’t sell this anywhere near the $39.99 MSRP—presales started near $500 on eBay and stabilized closer to $300—and the people who might really appreciate the historical nature of it will be the least likely to actually shell out for a copy on the secondary market—these people either already have or don’t need a copy of Jace.  

I don’t even know where all these Jaces are going to go honestly. The card is banned in Modern, and that’s not going to change any time soon. It was banned in Standard, and then it rotated. Wizards barely supports Legacy. Extended was killed this week, but I’m pretty sure Jace was banned there as well (and also not a single person has played Extended in the past three years). Jace is okay in Commander, but playing one there just makes people hate you for having a broken, expensive card in your deck.

What is Jace really? Myth and currency. It’s the thrill of owning "modern" power. I guess that’s pretty cool, but it’s going to make acquiring these box sets into a nightmare.

Right now, Jace retails for $150, and a foil Jace retails for $800. These prices will drop a little. With Legacy staples in decline, there simply aren’t all that many people interested in shelling out $150 for a Jace. He didn’t jump from $100 to $150 because he started seeing more play; it happened because he’s pretty rare and pretty epic. Well, he’s about to become a little less rare—enough that I’d expect the retail prices to drop to $120 and $700 respectively.

How much will the foil be worth? It will probably start out in the $200 to $250 retail range—it’s a foil Jace, so how could it be valued any less than that? Over time, though, I’d expect it to drop closer to $150, just a tad higher than a normal Worldwake Jace. I see this card behaving somewhat akin to Mox Diamond where many people are simply going to prefer the non-foil. This version might end up being worth less than the non-foil if this set gets a higher print run than past From the Vaults.

At any rate, I would stay out of this one unless you can pick up sets for $150 or less from your local stores. If you can, awesome—it’s basically free money because the box should sell for at least $250 regardless of what else is printed and probably closer to $350. If not, don’t bother speculating. Much like the San Diego walkers, there will be a chance to buy in post-hype if you really want a personal set.

Standard With M14: Week One

It’s easy to overrate and underrate cards based on one week’s worth of data. Don’t be swayed by the small sample size—there’s still a lot of M14 Magic to be played before we pass our final judgment of the set. After week one, though, some clear trends have emerged, including a few resurgent cards from previous expansions.


Scavenging Ooze – Jund Midrange is probably the best deck in the format right now, and Scavenging Ooze is a big part of why that is. It’s already up to $20 on StarCityGames.com, and I still like it to hit $25 or $30 at some point this season.

Mutavault – This was a four-of in both monocolored decks that made Top 8 of the Open in Richmond, and it showed up as a two-of in the winning list as well. This one’s up to $20 already as well—I told you to buy these last week, remember?

Xathrid Necromancer – This is the engine that drove the winning W/B Humans deck. It’s a legit card.

Bonfire of the DamnedNaya Midrange and Jund Midrange are straight-up crushing people with this card just like last summer. It’s likely that this will have one more price jump before rotation.

Rakdos’s Return – I talked this one up last week, but your window to buy has almost closed. It’s the trump in the Jund Midrange mirror match.

Imposing Sovereign – Could White Weenie finally be back? A sweet deck did well last weekend, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Burning Earth – This is an awesome Jund Midrange killer for your sideboard. Play four of them.


Chandra, Pyromaster; Kalonian Hydra; and Archangel of Thune – None of these cards made the Top 8 in Richmond. A mono-green deck even made the Top 8 in Richmond running zero copies of the Hydra, but Huey Jensen’s performance in the Standard Open in New Jersey may have changed some things. I’m not saying these cards are doomed, but the early returns don’t look great.

Looking Ahead to Theros

We’ve gotten our first look at Theros, and the set seems extremely spicy. If this block is to Greek myth what Innistrad was to horror, it could be an all-time great. You know, if the Limited format is any good.

For speculation purposes, we’ve been told that the block will focus heavily on enchantments. Hmm, what cards currently in Standard might be poised to make a jump based on synergy with cards in Theros?

Ajani’s Chosen – I still think this is too clunky and is probably a third rate Talrand even if all goes well. I might pick up a few at $0.50 to hedge, but I’m not touching it at $1.

Blind Obedience – If this is abusable as an enchantment, it might start to look more enticing.

Ethereal Armor – Pick up foils as throw-ins.

Legion’s Initiative – If "enchantments matter" ends up in Boros colors . . .

Mana Bloom – This is kind of a sweet one. There isn’t much ramp at the two-mana slot anymore, and this triggers an enchantment entering and leaving the battlefield while ramping you. A really intriguing spec pickup with almost zero risk.

Oath of the Ancient Wood – Would this be good enough even if it said "creature" or "land?" I doubt it.

Sundering Growth – If enchantments are everywhere, I could see this joining forces with Advent of the Wurm. Snag foils.

Underworld Connections – I don’t love this post-hype sleeper, but it’s certainly on my list of powerful cards that could end up rebounding.

What about older cards for Modern, Legacy, or casual fun? You might want to consider buying some of the following:

Opalescence – You can still find these for a buck or two, and it’s a neat little win condition for a creatureless deck. March of the Machines is a bulk rare, though, so don’t expect this one to make too many waves.

Serra’s Sanctum – Obviously this is a pricey spec—a reserved list land that already sees competitive play. It’s probably not going to drop in price, though, and Commander players are probably going to drive the demand at least a little this fall.

Here are a few other idle thoughts I have about Theros:

– I’m still convinced that we’re getting a cycle of legendary dual lands this fall. They’ll help support Commander, and the new legend rule paves the way for them to play intuitively. Wizards said we’re getting a cycle that "people have been asking for." I think this is it.

 – Just because Sun Titan is in the Theros Duel Deck does not mean that the Titans will be reprinted. In fact, it means that the card will likely not be coming back. Remember how Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind was in the Izzet vs. Golgari Duel Deck? This is like that.

– I still don’t like Didgeridoo, but that might be because I’m bitter about the card. I’ve been snarking about it being the longest of long shots for months, and now Wizards says this is a Minotaur-heavy set? You’ve got to be kidding me! I hope the card is in Theros as an uncommon just to mess with people.

Wait—it’s on the reserved list??? Boo! I still don’t think buying a set is a good idea, but I just dug mine out of the closet and am probably not going to sell them until September at the earliest. I’m not even joking; this might have an Eye of Ugin-esque spike to $20 before finally settling in the $4-$5 range. Of course, typing that sentence made me want to vomit.

Until next week –

– Chas Andres