Feature Article from Craig Wescoe

Financial Predictions for Modern Masters 2015

Craig Wescoe

5/15/2015 11:01:00 AM

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Which cards should I buy from Modern Masters 2015 and when should I buy them?

Whether you're a Modern player, a Commander player, a speculator, or some combination of the three, today I am going to bring to your attention what I take to be the most relevant factors to consider when deciding which cards to purchase from Modern Masters 2015 (MM2015) and when to purchase them.

First I'll offer a general discussion that identifies which key factors I see as most relevant in predicting future price trends for MM2015. Then in the section entitled ‘Buy or Sell' I'll offer a more in-depth discussion of each of the higher demand cards in the set, applying the tools described in the first section to each card individually. Then I will conclude by summarizing the key trends described in the first two sections that you should keep in mind when deciding when and which cards to invest in from MM2015.


General Analysis and Predictive Tools

The first Modern Masters set (MM) had a smaller print run but also had less demand. The targeted market was primarily Modern players (hence the name Modern Masters) and the goal was to make the format more accessible to a wider number of players by increasing card availability. Modern as a format has grown considerably in the two years since the release of MM. The demand for the cards in the set has likewise increased, at least the ones that see the most play in Modern. The demand, however, has not been uniform among all cards in the set and it has not been steady throughout.

In my analysis of the price trends of MM, I found that the higher demand Modern cards were least expensive at the beginning of the set's release. The high ticket cards such as Tarmogoyf, Vendilion Clique, Dark Confidant, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Cryptic Command were each at their cheapest right when the set was first released. Thus the best time to invest in high demand Modern staples was immediately upon the release of MM.

The Modern staples, including the high ticket items, almost uniformly spiked by 25 to 50% within the first month of the set's release and then spiked again approximately one year after the set's release as Modern continued to grow in popularity as a format. A few notable cards spiked a third time, namely Chalice of the Void and Blood Moon, due to a sudden change in the metagame when Treasure Cruise was introduced to the format and Wilt-Leaf Liege when it replaced Birthing Pod. Most of the other staples remained relatively constant during this time.

A separate and very different trend occurred for the few cards with low Modern demand but high Commander appeal, most notably: Doubling Season, Woodfall Primus, and Progenitus. The prices of these Commander cards spiked inversely relative to their Modern counterparts. In other words, they dropped considerably in value in the first month and continued dropping until reaching their lowest point approximately one year after the set's release. Doubling Season is the only one to pick back up since then, currently being worth about what it was upon the set's first release, while the others are considerably less than they were in the beginning.

Given these price trends that occurred in MM, I expect the cards in MM2015 to experience a similar price trajectory for similar reasons. Although the supply will be greater for MM2015 than it was for MM, so will be the demand since Modern is much more popular now than it was two years ago and all signs point to it continuing to grow at the same rate (or faster) than it has been over the past two years.

Furthermore, while MM only lightly and incidentally targeted Commander players, MM2015 seems to have targeted this market much more intentionally, which is what led me to investigate (and discover) a significant price trend that applied to Commander cards but not to Modern cards, namely that their prices spiked inversely to those of the Modern cards.

Given all these observations, my overall prediction is that right now is the best time to buy Modern staples and to sell Commander staples. A year from now will be the time to buy the Commander staples from the set, after they've reached their lowest point.

Mid
Low
 Tarmogoyf
$79.97
$39.99
Store QTY Price  
Universe Games 4 $49.99
Galactic Toys Store 1 $53.00
Galactic Toys Store 1 $53.00
Leonin Dealer 1 $53.35
Tower of Games 1 $53.74
Flipside Gaming 2 $54.86
IWinGames 3 $55.81
Kaiser's Kard House 1 $56.65
Geeks and Games 1 $56.92
Brainstorm Games 3 $57.94
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Tarmogoyf Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Now let's look more closely at price trends for some of the higher demand cards in the set, breaking them down into BUY and SELL categories.


Buy or Sell?

$164 - M - Tarmogoyf - BUY

MM Tarmogoyf was $110 at release and spiked to $145 within one month. It spiked again to $190 in March 2014. It reached its peak at $210 in March 2015 and has since been dropping down to its current price of $190. MM2015 Tarmogoyf is currently preselling for as low as $155. My prediction is that both MM and MM2015 Tarmogoyfs spike back to $200 by August 2015 and will be worth $250 by August 2016. If you've been saving up for Tarmogoyfs, now is the cheapest you're going to find them. As was the case with the first Modern Masters set, waiting just one month could end up costing you hundreds of dollars because I predict the same price pattern to take place with MM2015 that took place with MM, which means a month or two from now three Tarmogoyfs may very well be worth the price you can currently buy four Tarmogoyfs.

$51 - M - Vendilion Clique - BUY

Vendilion Clique in MM followed a similar price pattern to Tarmogoyf. It started around $40 and spiked to its peak of $75 a little over a year after the set's release and has only recently dropped to $65 due to knowledge that it is being reprinted in MM2015. You can currently buy MM2015 Vendilion Cliques at $51, which I suspect will be the cheapest they will be. I expect them to return to $75 by this time next year, and likely much sooner than that.

$45 - M - Dark Confidant - BUY

Dark Confidant in MM started at $55 and immediately spiked to $75 within the first month and reached its peak at just above $85 a little over a year after the set's release. It remained above $80 until it was confirmed to be reprinted in MM2015 and has since dropped to $61. The MM2015 version is currently selling for just $45. I expect Dark Confidant to nearly double in value by this time next year, returning to the $85 it was at a few months ago.

$41 - R - Cryptic Command - BUY

Cryptic Command in MM started at $25 and was one of the few Modern staples that did not spike in the first month. Instead it remained constant until the one year point where it spiked by more than 100% in just one month, reaching its peak at $55-$60 and remaining constant at that price for the past year until the recent announcement of its reprinting caused it to drop down to around $50. Cryptic Command from MM2015 is currently selling for $41 and I expect it to quickly rise by nearly 50% back to $55-$60.

$41 - R - Noble Hierarch - BUY

Here is where things start to get interesting. Unlike the previous four cards mentioned, Noble Hierarch was not in MM and this is its first time being reprinted (outside of a promo). I expect it to follow a similar trend in MM2015 that the above four cards experienced in MM, which means I expect it to spike quickly and then spike again in approximately twelve months. The MM reprints of the high demand Modern staples in MM shared the same price spikes that the corresponding original versions of each card experienced but were consistently worth slightly less. Looking at the original Noble Hierarch's price trajectory over the past two years, we see that it remained constant at $25 throughout the first year after the release of MM and then suddenly spiked along with all the MM Modern staples at the twelve month mark, more than doubling in value to $60 and then spiking again to just over $70 a couple months later before settling back down around $60. Since news of its reprinting was announced it has dropped to just under $50. You can currently buy MM2015 Noble Hierarchs for $41, which I expect will be at least a 25% discount of what they'll be worth in a year (and maybe as early as next month).

$41 - M - Kozilek, Butcher of Truth - SELL

Kozilek is sometimes found as a one-of in Modern Tron lists, but for the most part Kozilek is not a Modern staple. Two years ago Kozilek was worth $30 and has since crept steadily up to around $50. I expect the price of Kozilek to follow a similar pattern to that of Doubling Season, namely to drop in price by about half in the first few months. I expect the original to be worth around $25 and the MM2015 version to be worth around $20 in the next few months. If you can wait until January to buy Kozilek, that would be the best time to pick it up. Doubling Season was the only Commander card in MM to spike back up in price. The rest remained low. Whether Kozilek proves to be as popular as Doubling Season or not, the clear trend is that it will drop considerably in value over the next few months with the potential to rise again thereafter.

$40 - M - Mox Opal - BUY

Mox Opal followed the same general price spike trends that other Modern staples followed over the past two years and I see no reason to believe investing in Mox Opal will be any different than investing in the other staples. It's a crucial piece in one of the most consistently Tier 1 decks of the format (Affinity) and sees fringe play in various other decks ( Open the Vaults). It also became a slam dunk four-of in every deck that wants it when they changed the rules about how legendary artifacts work (in Mox Opal's favor).

$37 - M - Bitterblossom - SELL

Bitterblossom is an interesting case because it has its own unique price history due to a unique set of factors surrounding its Modern appeal. Unlike any of the other cards in the set, it was unbanned from Modern for Pro Tour Valencia in early 2014. This announcement caused it to immediately spike, literally overnight, from $20 to $75. It soon dropped down to the $40-45 range within a few months where it has steadily remained ever since. Given that I do not see any particular reason to believe Bitterblossom will suddenly see a big increase in play in Modern, I consider it a fringe card and not a format staple like most of the other cards in this price range. I believe most of its price is tied up in holdover speculation and that once the market is flooded with MM2015 copies of the card, the price will drop down to the level of the actual demand, which I suspect is closer to $20 than the current price of nearly $40. So in the case of Bitterblossom, I would sell at $37.

$36 - M - Emrakul, the Aeons Torn - BUY

It followed the same price trend as the other Modern staples and I expect it to return to $50. Unlike the other Eldrazi, this one is not legal for Commander. Also unlike the other Eldrazi, this one is a Modern staple.

$36 - M - Karn Liberated - BUY

Modern staple in Tron decks, should return to $50.

$35 - M - Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre - SELL

Ulamog spiked in March 2014 but has since been constant at $35-40. It is not a Modern staple and from what I can tell holds most of its value from its Commander appeal, much like Kozilek. I would therefore expect it to follow a similar trend I expect the Commander cards to follow, namely dropping to $20 in the next six months before slowly picking back up. Buy in six months, but sell now.

$30 - R - Fulminator Mage - BUY

Modern staple, should spike back to $40 shortly.

$25 - M - Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite - SELL

Steadily rose in value over the past two years, not following the Modern staple price trend. Its appeal seems to be much more driven by Commander than by Modern. I would sell accordingly.

$21 - R - Daybreak Coronet - BUY

Modern staple in Bogles. Spiked at all the times the other Modern staples spiked. I see no reason to believe it won't return to $35 the next time all the Modern staples spike.

$20 - R - Splinter Twin - BUY

See every other high demand Modern staple.

$20 - R - Spellskite - BUY

Modern staple with a Modern staple price trend history.

$20 - R - Iona, Shield of Emeria - SELL

Fringe Modern card, not a staple. Price trend suggests mostly Commander appeal.

$20 - R - Leyline of Sanctity - BUY

Modern staple.

$20 - M - Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker - BUY/SELL

Modern staple, but with a caveat. This one was already reprinted in MM and its price did not follow the same price trend as most of the other Modern staples. Its peak was only around $25, so although it's unlikely to drop in price, it has less upside to spike big than a card like, say, Noble Hierarch.

$20 - R - Wilt-Leaf Liege - BUY

Like Bitterblossom, Wilt-Leaf Liege has a unique price history because it was not a Modern staple until Birthing Pod got banned and it replaced Birthing Pod in the Abzan midrange decks. Before that point it only saw play in GW Hate Bears. It spiked pretty much overnight from $15 to $30 and seems to have stabilized in that price range. I expect it to increase by 50% from its current price of $20 back to the $30 it was before being announced as a reprint in MM2015.

$16 - M - Primeval Titan - BUY/SELL

Banned in Commander. Modern staple. Second time being reprinted, but reasonably high demand. This one looks a lot like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in that it will likely only spike by 25% instead of the 50% or more that some of the other Modern staples have spiked by and are projected to spike again by.

$14 - R - All Is Dust - SELL

Fringe playable in some Modern Tron decks, but largely edged out by Oblivion Stone and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in those decks. Big Commander appeal. Its price has pretty much been a straight line with an ever-so-slight incline before a recent drop-off upon news that it was being reprinted. I expect it to pick back up slowly but to follow the price trend of Commander cards rather than Modern staples – that is, slow increases instead of rapid and uniform spikes.

$12 - M - Tezzeret the Seeker - SELL

Ever since Kenny Oberg fell off the Pro Tour, Tezzeret has not really seen enough play to be considered a Modern staple. Its price trend also suggests it is not a Modern staple. Sell.

$10 - U - Remand - BUY/SELL

It's hard for me to justify advising you to buy an in-print Uncommon for $10, but that's exactly what past price trends suggest is correct. Past trends suggest it will return to $15 in the next year. The one major Hesitation I have is that Remand is the perfect card to reprint in multiple copies in a Modern Event Deck, which WOTC has shown a desire and willingness to do for exactly this type of card (see Lingering Souls). Hence I'm reluctant to advise you to spend $40 on a playset of Uncommons that will either be worth $60 or $10 by this time next year, entirely depending on information I have no access to (i.e. whether it will be printed in a Modern Event Deck). Buy or sell at your own discretion, but understand the risk you are taking.

$10 - R - Blinkmoth Nexus - BUY/SELL

Over the past two years it dropped from $10 down to $7 and then went back up to $10. It peaked recently at just under $12 and is now being reprinted. I don't expect it to drop much if at all from its current price, but I also don't see it increasing much. It's certainly in the Kiki-Jiki / Primeval Titan camp of lukewarm demand despite being a Modern staple in exactly one deck (Affinity). Instead of seeing a second reprinting of Blinkmoth Nexus, I would have much rather seen a first reprinting of Inkmoth Nexus, a card that is currently worth twice as much and sees play in both Affinity and Infect.

$7 - R - Eye of Ugin - BUY

It's a one-of in Modern Tron, but its price has not followed the trend of Modern staples. It has recently spiked above $10 though and $7 is a good deal. I would recommend buying one copy at $7 right now. That's all you'll ever need and this is the best price you'll find.

$6 - R - Creakwood Liege - SELL

Creakwood Liege has been a consistently $10 Commander card for the past two years and is now selling for $6. If you've wanted one for your Commander collection, you're essentially getting it for half price now. With that said, I think it will drop to $4 before rising again, so if you're not in any hurry to pick it up, I'd wait a couple more months.

$5 - R - Hurkyl's Recall - BUY/SELL

This is Hurkyl's Recall's fifth time being reprinted and it is still worth $5. While it is a Modern staple, I'm skeptical that with so many reprintings it can continue to hold its value. It's a fairly common sideboard card as long as Affinity is popular though, so if you don't yet have your play set, now is a decent time to acquire it.

$5 - R - Surgical Extraction - BUY/SELL

More of a fringe Modern card that sometimes sees play in sideboards, its price is driven by Modern demand but is more tied to changes in the metagame than by growth in popularity of the format as a whole. I expect it to remain where it is for a while +/- $1-2 depending on how the metagame shifts.

$5 - R - Etched Champion - BUY

It spiked from $4 to $8 a year ago when Modern surged in popularity, but has since steadily declined and is back in the $4-5 range. It is usually a staple in Affinity decks, though some versions run one or no copies. I suspect this will not be the norm moving forward and that Etched Champion will spike back up to $8 at the next uniform spike that Modern staples experience. It's one of Affinity's best cards against all the Abzan decks.

$5 - R - Apocalypse Hydra - SELL

Unplayable in Modern, though carried enough Commander appeal to be worth nearly $10 at its peak a year ago. I suspect with its second printing that it will drop to around $3 before picking back up and leveling out around $5-6 a year from now. Sell now if you can and buy back in a few months when they hit $3, unless of course you want one now for your Commander collection, at which point we're only talking a buck or two loss at most.

$3 - R - Mirran Crusader - BUY (SLEEPER PICK!!)

Mirran Crusader has established itself as a Modern staple, even without Birthing Pod in the format. Abzan has only Path to Exile to deal with it, Jund only has Lightning Bolt for it, and it's a generally cost efficient and removal-resistant threat that can fit into a number of white decks (BW Tokens, GW Hate Bears, Death and Taxes, Deadguy Ale, etc.). Despite its low demand, it has followed the same price trend as the higher demand Modern staples, just on a lower scale. It spiked last year by 50%, rising from $2 to $3 and then again to nearly $4 a few months ago before going back down to $3 upon the announcement that it is being reprinted. I suspect it will rise back up to $4 and, given that it's so cheap right now, it has the unique upside of being a card that spikes in a big way, reaching upwards of $10-15 if it finds itself as a four-of in a Tier 1 strategy. In all likelihood if that happens I'll be the guy to make it happen. So I'm going to say BUY on Mirran Crusader since I expect it to rise in price by 25%, strictly based on objective analysis of past price trends, but I'm also calling it the potential sleeper of the set, based on faith I have in my deck building abilities to make it a $10 Tier 1 staple. Invest as you deem appropriate.

SELL on all of the rest of the cards as none of them are Modern staples. Their demand is entirely driven by either Commander appeal or by nowhere and so the best you can hope for with any of them is a slow and steady increase, which is much less profitable than the projected spikes that Modern staples are expected to experience. If you have reason to believe any of these cards will spike in the Commander market, perhaps due to a suddenly popular interaction with a newly printed card in a recent or upcoming set, then by all means invest. Otherwise get rid of them at any amount anyone is willing to pay for them. These are the cards no one wants to see when they peel open their $10 pack of MM2015:

$4 - R - Necroskitter
$4 - R - Puppeteer Clique
$3 - R - Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
$2 - R - Mystic Snake
$2 - R - Indomitable Archangel
$2 - R - Scute Mob
$2 - R - Sunforger
$1 - R - Swans of Bryn Argoll
$1 - R - Midnight Banshee
$1 - R - Mirror Entity
$1 - R - Hellkite Charger
$1 - R - Shadowmage Infiltrator
$1 - R - Etched Monstrosity
$1 - R - Profane Command
$1 - R - Ghost Council of Orzhova
$1 - R - Wildfire
$1 - R - Inexorable Tide
$1 - R - Banefire
$1 - M - Comet Storm
$1 - R - Lodestone Golem
$1 - R - Overwhelming Stampede
$1 - R - Nobilis of War
$1 - R - All Suns' Dawn
$1 - R - Horde of Notions
$1 - R - Battlegrace Angel
$1 - R - Thunderblust
$1 - R - Ant Queen
$1 - R - Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
$1 - R - Surrakar Spellblade
$1 - R - Spikeshot Elder
$1 - R - Chimeric Mass
$1 - R - Lodestone Myr
$1 - R - Long-Forgotten Gohei
$1 - R - Precursor Golem
$1 - R - Guile
$1 - R - Wolfbriar Elemental
$1 - R - Argent Sphinx


Conclusion

With the possible exception of a handful of lower demand Modern staples that are being reprinted a second time (Primeval Titan, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Blinkmoth Nexus), I expect most of the Modern staples in the set to uniformly spike at one or two intervals in the next twelve months. The first spike is projected to be very soon, in the next month or two, and the second will likely occur in the next ten to fourteen months as dealers respond to the scarcity of Modern staples relative to increasing demand as the format continues to grow in popularity.

The high demand Commander cards that are not also Modern staples are expected to drop off in price in the short term and then slowly start picking back up at some point in the next six to twelve months. The majority of my investment advice involves buying high demand Modern staples in the short term while selling Commander staples. Then I suggest buying Commander staples in six to twelve months when they have reached their lowest point and are beginning to increase in price due to scarcity. Until that point the market will be oversaturated with MM2015 Commander staples relative to demand.

As with any financial prediction article, the future is unpredictable and the advice I'm giving is purely based on my reasoned analysis of past price trends. There is always risk when investing, especially in Magic cards, but as long as Modern continues to grow in popularity, you pretty much can't go wrong with investing in Modern staples.

Craig Wescoe

@Nacatls4Life on twitter