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Commander's Financial FOMO Problem


Let me start by addressing anyone who paid $100 or more for a preordered Jeweled Lotus:

I am so, so sorry.

Schadenfreude - taking joy in the suffering of others - is almost a reflex for many of us after everything 2020 has put us through. We're not doing that here. I know exactly why that card shot through the roof the moment it was revealed during Commander Legends preview season, which was last month yet feels like it was decades ago.

Commander players have a big problem with the fear of missing out. It leads us to make poor decisions with our money, our time and our emotional energy.

It doesn't have to be this way. We can break this cycle.

Lotus? They Hardly Know Us

Jeweled Lotus

I remember the day Jeweled Lotus was spoiled. Magic Twitter melted down as it is apt to do, and concurrently, preorder prices shot through the roof. I was incredulous as I saw people preordering that card for $125, then $150 and finally $160.

But I get it, too. Within seconds of its debut, Jeweled Lotus was declared to be a card that would define Commander if not break the format in half. There's no deck that doesn't want it, people said. It's as much of an auto-include as Sol Ring, they said. We all had to have it, they said.

Turns out - and I'm imagining your utter shock here - the hype wasn't real. It took a few hours, but voices of reason began to cut through the noise. No, Jeweled Lotus wouldn't break the format. No, not every deck wanted it - in fact, not many decks would really be able to get much out of it. And no, it wouldn't end up being nearly as ubiquitous as Sol Ring. For the record, I agree fully with all of these statements.

As the hype dwindled so did the card's price. As of this writing you can snag one on this very website for $69.99. That is still a beefy price tag to be sure, and Jeweled Lotus is the most valuable card in Commander Legends by a country mile (not counting foil/extended art/etched foil variants, of course). I'm not sure it'll stay that way for very long, though, and that's because the logic of Commander as a format is coming into direct conflict with the financial component of Magic perhaps more than it's ever done before.

We're Really, Really Bad At This

Jeweled Lotus is the latest and most infamous example of a cycle we've locked ourselves into over the past few years. When a new card is spoiled - something that seems to happen more days than not in Wizards of the Coast's current pedal-to-the-metal product release pattern - we instantly try to parse its place in Commander, and the market is set accordingly. Problem is we Commander players are absolute trash when it comes to gauging what the market will be for cards based on their predicted impact in our format. I mean, we're just the worst.

Here's one example I cite quite frequently, and a favorite card of mine:

As Foretold

I lost my mind when this card was spoiled. It was INSANE! This was going to be the next Rhystic Study, I and quite a few others declared. It would go in every deck that had Blue in it. We'd have to watch carefully because it's so good it might get BANNED. The market pegged this as a $15-$20 card right off the bat.

And then... Whoops!

I still love As Foretold. It's a good card. Not the best card, not a broken card, and because of that, not an expensive card. You can get one right now for $10 or less - for quite a while it was well below $5 - and of all the games of Commander I've played since Amonkhet was released, I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who's ever cast As Foretold in a game.

I could fill millions of words talking about all the cards we've thought would be so expensive we'd have to fence a kidney to afford one. The point is this: We do this with every set, every product. We read the spoiler once and immediately, involuntarily assign a dollar value to it.

We're almost always wrong. And that means we're always in danger of overpaying for cards that don't live up to the hype.

Not Our Circus

Many Commander players are neither financial speculators, nor are they armed with credible knowledge of how Magic finance actually works. Most of us are just players on budgets. For every person you see on Twitter or Reddit cracking a case of booster packs on a new set release day, there are a dozen who know they'll only be able to get a handful of new cards - if any at all.

I don't know what it is that makes us all think we're stonks masters during spoiler seasons; to be sure, I'm guilty of this, too. I suspect part of it is the fear of missing out... on a deal. We're terrified that we'll wake up one day in a few weeks or months and find that the chase rare or mythic we'd been eyeing had shot through the roof.

I get that. I'm a guy on a budget just like most of you. I can't afford a boatload of booster boxes of every set - and cracking boosters isn't the best way to get cards for Commander anyway. I can't afford multiple copies of any card I want. I have to make determinations about where my money goes. And sometimes, when I see a card that looks like it's got the potential to be a beast in Commander, the hype and the FOMO do their thing and I end up taking a bath.

I need to stop doing this. We all need to stop doing this. This isn't what we do. Commander players are really, really good at making cards work in our format. We're really, really good at seeing diamonds in the rough and, yes, sometimes we accurately predict the bombs.

But my word, we are so, so, so, so bad at guessing how much cards are going to cost. So, we need to stop.

Breathe Before You Buy

I'll grant that there's something to be said for the peace of mind we get from preordering cards we know we want from a new set. If we do that, we know those cards will safely show up in our mailbox or at our LGS and we'll have them and play with them and be very happy.

But hear me out - what if we, you know, let the products actually release before we buy the singles we want?

I know, I know. That's kooky talk. But look at the patterns we've seen just this year with Double Masters, Commander Legends and every Standard set. Spoiler season happens, the market is arbitrarily set, then release weekend comes and the prices crash through the floor. And, of course, they do! Each booster box that's opened puts more supply into the marketplace. Increasing supply drives down prices, even when demand is correspondingly high.

I'm far from an economist. But I do know that this is how it goes virtually every time. So why are we still playing a game we know we're going to lose?

Instead, a modest proposal: Let the cards get out into the world, then check off your shopping list. You don't even have to wait that long! More often than not, prices begin to crater within a day or two of release and continue to fall and/or stay low for weeks. Other players get the cards, figure out whether they're really going to be good or not, and the market responds in kind.

So... just breathe. And wait. Just a little. There is so much instability, controversy and unrelenting hype around Magic. There are enough reasons for players to feel burned out, overwhelmed or anxious about this game right now. We can't do much about Wizards ramping up the product release cycle, and the hype cycle that goes with it, but we absolutely can choose not to play the financial game when we know we probably won't win.

Focus on playing and enjoying the format we love. The world won't end if we don't have every single card we want on the exact day a set comes out. We can wait a few days or weeks and save ourselves the feelbad of paying twice as much as we should for a card. There's a lot we can't control, but this we can.

I'm Sorry, Tevesh

Last week I apologized to Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools and the team who designed him. To show just how sorry I am, I brewed up a new version of my Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest deck with Tevesh at the helm, along with Kodama of the East Tree. Happy Thanksgiving, Tevesh.

An Apology to Tevesh Szat | Commander | Dave Kosin

Dave is a Commander player currently residing in Reno, NV. When he's not badly misplaying his decks, he works as a personal trainer. You can bother him on Twitter and check out his Twitch channel.

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