Learning From Leaks

Feature Article from DJ Johnson
DJ Johnson
3/13/2018 11:00:00 AM
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Let's talk about leaks. Most of you have probably heard about the Dominaria leak that happened last Thursday. For those unaware, the Chinese Dominaria release notes got sent out a little too early by Wizards of the Coast, so we ended up learning a lot about the set before any of us expected to. While getting info on almost half the cards at once can be exciting, it also has the chance to drain hype from players who enjoy getting the slow drip of preview season over the course of multiple weeks. Wizards has had their fair share of unexpected information leaks over the past 25 years of Magic, so let's take a second to look back at one of the more recent examples, and the financial trends that have happened because of those leaks.

Ixalan Leak

On June 16, 2017, an entire rare and mythic sheet of Ixalan was stolen and posted to the internet. While the image was very low resolution, it was enough to determine a lot of information about Ixalan even before Hour of Devastation was fully previewed. We "learned" that we had a legendary Naya dinosaur, a new Jace and we "learned" that the new Jace was himself legendary. The existing rumor that planeswalkers would become legendary was "confirmed" by the existence of this sheet on someone's hardwood floor, but we didn't have concrete information on how this would relate to other cards at the time. However, that information was more than enough for people to start looking at cards to buy in anticipation of the (unconfirmed) change that was still several months away.

 Captain Sisay
Price N/A
Store QTY Price  
Tower of Games 1 $30.03
OCM Mtg 1 $30.29
Game Arena LLC 1 $30.69
mtgmintcard 2 $30.99
MTGFirst 2 $32.00
Alter Reality Games 1 $32.95
BadMonsterGames 1 $32.99
MTG Seattle 2 $32.99
Chicagoland Games 1 $33.98
Wild Things Games 2 $34.09
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Captain Sisay Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

As the most well-known and popular "legends matter" card, Captain Sisay was the first one to jump up in price in the wake of the Ixalan sheet leak. If the leak ended up being true (and there was really no reason to believe otherwise), then Sisay could now tutor up every planeswalker in existence. Even being restricted to two colors in Commander, being able to create Green-White Superfriends or tutor up a Karn at will was enough to make her jump from $5 to $20 within 24 hours.

Next up was Reki, the History of Kamigawa, a card from an oft-forgotten set who was only really seen in existing Sisay decks and nothing else. Once the leak had been discussed for a couple of days and Sisays were across the country being shipped to those who were willing to bet on the Reddit thread, Reki seemed like an auto-include in any Sisay Superfriends list. As a $1.50 buy with low supply and sudden demand, the risk was minimal and the price increased, settling to $5 as the post spike price. Again, this all happened before Hour of Devastation was even on shelves. It's interesting to note that Reki happened two days after Sisay on June 18th; The Weatherlight captain was the more "obvious" and known card, but Reki required a little bit of digging before two and two were put together.

If you'll put up with my history lesson for a little while longer (There's definitely a Reki history pun in here somewhere), let's look at one more graph before we move on. If Sisay was the obvious card to pair with new legendary walkers, and Reki was the "let's actually do some research on Sisay decks and see what they play," there's another Kamigawa "legends matter" card that totally went all over the place in the days following the Ixalan leak. Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper went from the measly $.41 to…. Oh, wait. It didn't jump much in market price? That's right; the price of this Champions of Kamigawa bulk rare didn't even budge as a result of the leak, and there's a couple reasons for that.

Store QTY Price  
MTG Rares 10 $1.96
SpareDeck 9 $2.88
At Ease Games 2 $2.89
Showtime Cards 1 $2.95
Main Street Gaming 1 $3.37
Athoria Games 1 $3.50
NewCastle Comics 1 $3.50
thefunkyfruitstand 1 $3.50
Sarge & Red's 3 $3.56
SpareDeck 2 $3.68
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

The first is, well, the card is just bad. While Reki and Sisay are recurring card advantage machines, Untaidake is a situational and slow Ancient Tomb. According to EDHrec, 62% of Sisay decks are playing Reki, and only 15% are playing Untaidake. If you're even playing Untaidake, you should probably try Ancient Tomb first. The second reason for the lack of spike is directly related to the first; this card was on nobody's radar prior to the leak. It was sitting in bulk rare boxes at local game stores, and there wasn't really anyone building new Sisay decks that included the Cloud Keeper.

August 28, 2017

At this point, we all sort of got wrapped up in Hour of Devastation previews, Grand Prix Las Vegas, and Hascon 2017. A lot of stuff was going on, and the Ixalan leak remained in the back of our minds until August 28, when we got a couple of heavy articles from Wizards themselves. The first was a response to the sheet theft that happened a couple of months prior, and the latter was the mechanics announcement for Ixalan, confirming the change to planeswalkers and replacing the "planeswalker uniqueness rule" for the legendary rule across the board. Now, let's go back and look at some of the graphs we just talked about. *pretend gasp* Woah, all of those prices spiked a second time based on official confirmation of a leak we had months prior! We saw Sisay go from her previously settled $15 to a hot $36, Reki went from $5 to $10, and our friend Untaidake went from $coffeetablecoaster to $9. While the Reddit leak in June had a much smaller number of eyes on it, the official Wizards mechanics article had a lot more people immediately going to Gatherer, and searching for "Legendary" in the rules text. This was where so many people read Untaidake for the first time, and where some decided they needed a Sisay in their existing Atraxa or Child of Alara Commander decks.

The leak caused a couple of previously known "legends matter" cards to go up – the pair of card advantage engines increased in mid-June. I'm going to call these "level zero" spikes. They were the first thing that came to mind when some players saw the leak. "Legendary planeswalker? What card does legendary stuff? Sisay does legendary stuff. Sisay is $5. Buy Sisay." I'm not criticizing that decision, because it does make logistical sense, and those players who bought Sisay at $5 are pretty happy if they're still holding copies. That said, not everyone has the time to get in at level zero. If you're just catching up on news three or four days after the leak and see that Sisay and Reki already jumped in price, you want to find the "level one" and "level two" cards that everyone else has skimmed over, like Untaidake or this next card.

Mirror Mirror

 Mirror Gallery
Store QTY Price  
Common Ground Games 1 $9.51
Ctucker 3 $9.53
Mom's Basement Games 2 $9.57
Yiz Games 1 $9.60
eXtra Point Games 1 $9.99
The Sleek Geeks 2 $9.99
Comic Lair 2 $10.51
Gulf Coast Hobby 1 $11.60
Three Kings Loot 1 $12.08
Cape Fear Games 1 $12.30
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Mirror Gallery Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Mirror Gallery is a good example of a delayed price increase. While it doesn't draw you cards or make you mana, it steadily creeped up after the initial leak from $6.50, and peaked at $12 almost two weeks later in late June. If you were just catching up on Magic news, you could do your own research into the potential changes, and still find $7 Mirror Galleries a week after the Ixalan sheet hit the front page of Reddit. It's not something you'll find on Captain Sisay's EDHrec page, but requires a bit of digging through Gatherer and understanding the buying behavior of casual players in the future who want to have four Liliana Vess in play at the same time. Level zero cards spike immediately, but level ones will still take several days to catch on. Compare this to Gideon of the Trials, a perfect example of a level zero spike from the day the legendary rule was officially changed on August 28th. As soon as we knew you could have multiple different Gideons in play, Trials was primed to go from $9 to $15 over the course of 24 hours, because people wanted to play Gideon tribal.


And that brings us to last week, when we received a hefty chunk of Dominaria previews a few weeks early. Wizards addressed the leak within hours, but there's no way to close Pandora's box when it comes to information. We saw players look towards some level zero cards that fit within a "legendary matters" theme, like…. Captain Sisay again! She was just settling back into her post-spike average price of around $18, and she's back up to around $25-30 for near mint and lightly played copies. We also saw Leyline of Singularity act as the "Reki" of this past week, lagging behind Sisay by a bit but pulling a temporary price increase of almost 900%. Because Dominaria's legendary instant and sorceries require control of a legendary permanent on cast, why not just make all nonland permanents legendary?

 Leyline of Singularity
Store QTY Price  
Stomping GroundsPA 2 $3.49
High Rarity Games 1 $3.51
CBS Games 4 $3.51
ItAllMustGo 1 $4.25
Gibbon Games 2 $4.50
Critical Hit FL 1 $4.75
Midnight Games 4 $4.75
CBS Games 4 $4.76
High Rarity Games 1 $4.76
Atomic Dreams 1 $4.98
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Leyline of Singularity Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Do I think that price increase will hold? Absolutely not – I mean it when I said Leyline's jump is temporary. Another part of these hype-based demand increases is that they're almost always going to go back down to a more reasonable price point. There's no actual decklist that includes Leyline of Singularity, and as long as that trend continues then the card will depreciate as players pull their copies out of bulk and list them on the TCGplayer marketplace. While Sisay did peak at $36 in the wake of the official announcement, her price was halved to the $18 I mentioned previously because there was no real additional demand to sustain that number. It was all hype, and players control the price by refusing to pay the inflated number. Time will tell if the myriad of legends and legends-matter cards in Dominaria will help Sisay hold $30.

If you're a player who wants to respond to the leaks by picking up cards you intend to play with, I strongly suggest looking at the cards whose prices haven't gone up yet and purchasing those, while waiting for cards like Sisay and Reki to fizzle out to the prices they were at before March 8. Cards like Time of Need and Day of Destiny haven't increased by a significant margin yet, and they're both Kamigawa block cards that have yet to be reprinted. It's also still possible even a week after the leak to consider some of the tribal offerings that Dominaria has. While a lot of players are in awe of the "saga" and "historic" mechanics, I have my eye on cards like Knight Exemplar in the wake of the many Knights that were confirmed to be in the set.

End Step

Maybe one of the most important things I can offer in this week's article is to hold off on making purchasing and selling decisions until announcements can be confirmed as official. While Wizards has had their share of "unofficial official leaks" that are practically guaranteed to be true, there have been just as many false rumors and forum posts that "confirmed" Goblin Guide was in Modern Masters 2015, that Thoughtseize was a mythic rare in Theros, and that the Khans of Tarkir fetch lands were in Masters 25. These whispers and rumors are "leaks" that you don't want to be making financial decisions with; it's easier to wait until the official previews to start changing your buying and selling decisions. Even if you did buy cards in the wake of the mid-June Ixalan leak, there were even more buying opportunities once the leaks were confirmed as official by Wizards of the Coast.

Knight Exemplar is my "pick of the week" as a level one card that I don't think will see a significant increase until we're closer to the release of Dominaria. What's yours? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter at @Rose0fthorns.

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