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Back to My Roots

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Over the past few weeks, I have been, like all of you, caught up in Dragon’s Maze and looking for the next big breakout card. Before that, I had a number of themed articles covering a few new websites and talking about particular facets of the financial community. This week, I want to go back to the bread and butter of the trade world and talk about what we as traders should be looking to do with particular cards in the coming weeks or months. It’s plain-and-simple speculation, concentrating mostly on Standard, as that is the current Pro Tour Qualifier season and surely what is on most people’s minds.

Master of Cruelties
Before I delve into the meat of this week, I do want to respond to one comment I have been hearing from a number of people this past week.

“Really interesting that you just throw the Master in the bulk bin with no explanation . . . cards that just win games are hard to pass up imo”

– Brian Maclin

In general for this spoiler season, I choose to concentrate on the cards that would immediately be looking at a price shift and for anything that was extremely overpriced, such as Master of Cruelties. I described him as bulk in the short term because I believe he will close in on or become bulk for a short time. In the coming weeks, I will be writing a follow-up Dragon’s Maze article highlighting many of the long-term casual cards I would be looking to pick up, and believe me: This set is riddled with them. Normally, I would include this in my original article, but since the prices are sure to drop, I want to give the market time to figure out what to target. With the new way of doing promos and looking at how much more product seems to have been opened in recent sets, I believe this will allow me to provide more accurate information while still giving you plenty of time to take advantage.

Silverblade Paladin
To get back on track, let’s jump right in with what I would be looking to pick up on the trade floor this week. My first two cards may seem a little out of left field, but I believe Silverblade Paladin and Loxodon Smiter are both solid targets currently. Smiter can still be found around $2 to $3, and Silverblade Paladin can be found as low as $4, but both have room to grow in the short term as cards such as Voice of Resurgence breathe life back into possible G/W shells. I would not advise paying cash on either of these cards, as I expect each to gain only fifty percent, but they can be found in trade binders readily, and few people are attached to them due to the current metagame.

On the subject of good white cards, I have been keeping a close eye on Thalia, Guardian of Thraben as of late, and as her price has now probably hit rock bottom again, I would be buying back in for the short term. This seems like a very safe target due to her Eternal playability, meaning she will probably lose very little value during rotation, and she looks to only increase in the years to come. If Thalia does spike in the short term, you will be glad to have gotten in, and if not, you can throw them in a box for a year when they will probably see Modern play again and spike during the season. The main reason I would target Thalia now and not after rotation is her potential playability in Standard in the coming months. If she sees no play she, will hold the $4 she is currently at, but if she sees any play at all, we are likely to see a gain of a few dollars and just as unlikely to never see her come back down to where she is now.

Thoughtseize
Modern Masters is finally upon us, and that means as spoilers begin to roll out, we will start to see dramatic price changes. As much as the market may tilt downward on cards that are reprinted, I believe money can still be made elsewhere even during the spoiler season. The more I contemplated the likely reprints, I began to think about the possible shift in the metagame due to certain reprints. Currently, the format staples such as Thoughtseize and Vendilion Clique have extremely limiting price tags for new players, which drives those player toward decks that are cheaper, such as Eggs and Zoo variants. Though I don’t believe we will see a huge switch, I do believe reprinting cards such as Thoughtseize—that make Jund and other tier-one decks so expensive—will allow new players to look at those as more of an option, thus possibly spiking the prices of other cards in the deck that cannot be reprinted this time around. I would not be looking to drop any cash on most of these cards since there are ample opportunities in the coming year for Wizards to reprint these, but trading for post-Alara-block staples does not seem unwise.

Off the topic of Standard for a moment, I want to talk about a card few people have noticed slowly trending downward: All Is Dust. With the leaked copies of the Grand Prix promo hitting eBay in the last month, it is surprising that the current price on regular copies has held firm. Although I believe the new promo will be in demand, I do not expect the current price to hold when this goes public, and I would be looking to dump all my copies now. Some buy lists are still $10 or more, and I feel if you cannot trade them off, you should probably be looking to sell them. If you don’t mind holding onto cards for a while, keeping these is fine—just be aware that they will probably take a year or two to adjust back to where they are after June.

Isolated Chapel
Since I am talking about cards to dump and attempting to focus on Standard this week, I want to be sure to cover some of the rotating cards we will be saying farewell to in September. Some cards, such as Thalia and Snapcaster Mage, will hold Eternal value and are fine to hold onto and ride out the price store with. Other cards, such as Restoration Angel and the Innistrad duals, will probably not be as fortunate. Normally, I would be saying to dump these cards immediately, but given how much popularity Magic has gained with all the streams and live coverage, it seems the rotation effect has slowed a bit, giving you further into the summer to liquidate. I would wait until we have a few weeks of coverage and you see a small spike in certain cards such as the Innistrad duals; then, dump any you don’t need to play with. Even if for some reason they are reprinted in Magic 2014, the prices will tank. I have not figured out exactly when the buy-list prices begin to trend downward, but this will be an interesting year to see how long into the summer the current prices can hold.

The last group of cards I want to focus on this week is the shock lands, both old and new. Since the market is going to be infused with an additional set that contains shock lands, I project an interesting trend over the next year. When you truly consider the effect on the market, you will quickly realize it is minimal to the overall price this additional pack is. In any normal block, we have three Limited stages that affect the overall time a set spends being opened rapidly—this year is no different. First, you have the lead set—in this case Return to Ravnica—wherein the shocks dropped about fifty percent over the course of the few months you were opening just Ravnica. Some shocks were higher, and amount of play was a large factor, but for simplicity’s sake, let us assume they fluctuated evenly.

The second stage comes after the release of the second set, wherein we have another group of shocks that have already had the old prices adjusted slightly in anticipation for the reprint. Normally in a block, we would see a Draft or Sealed format that would include about 60% Gatecrash and 40% Return to Ravnica opened while the box sales sway far heavier in Gatecrashe’s favor. This time around, due to the Limited environment, we saw 100% Gatecrash, leading to a larger portion of the newer run of shocks to be opened while dwindling the number from Return to Ravnica. This set the prices fairly firmly as the Gatecrash shocks quickly evened out with RTR shocks based on playability rather than availability. In the original set, we had the last few printed such as Hallowed Fountain and Breeding Pool see a considerable price difference from Overgrown Tomb and Temple Garden that had now been in the Limited format for six-plus months.

Breeding Pool
With this unusual price stabilization, we now come to the third phase, wherein we gain an additional pack of both of the previous runs but with a fraction of the chance to open a particular shock. So, if you look at the new format, we are now seeing the 33% of Return to Ravnica return, meaning we will be opening product again, and we will in turn be lowering the price in the short term, but for the long term, I expect the Shocks in general to be back to the prices they are at now, or higher, as the demand will still be existent. In addition to the 33% chance, we now have a chance to open these same cards in the third pack but at a smaller rate since there are fewer per box, and you have half the chance of opening one from Return to Ravnica’s group.

With this additional pack bringing the whole block together, I see a small decline in price but nothing too significant. I expect heavily-played shocks to still hold $10 to $12 at times while less-played ones may dip as low as $4. My advice would be to play the lows in the market for the long term and ignore the fluctuation while they are being opened. Pick any up for four to five, and stash them away until the new year, and I can easily see the majority of these being $10 or more again. You can always trade for any of them and feel safe once the price has dropped because even when these rotate, they will forever be Modern staples and will probably one day hit the $20 mark again.

One last word of advice about shocks that I can give is to grab any of the old-art foils you can while they are actively still low in price. Truly, any of the old-art shocks—foils or not—seem to be strong pickups while the price dwindles due to the availability of the new print. This will quickly trend upward, I believe, and I could see two years from now most of these foils doubling or even tripling as the fetch lands from Zendikar did. Modern is going to be the Eternal format supported by Wizards, so rather than fight it, let’s take advantage of this opportunity and put some stock in cards that will be necessary for years to come. What we have here is still what I would consider the ground floor of Modern, and even with the reprints, I expect to see a great deal of inflation as people become accustomed to the deck and are looking to foil out their favorite decks, a feat not always available in Legacy.

As always, thank you for reading, and let me know what you believe will happen with the shock lands; do you think I am crazy and they will be worthless? Leave me a comment below or contact me on Twitter @CryppleCommand, and join me next week, same place, same time, for more up-to-date financial information.

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