Which is Your Format?

Written by Wen Fu on . Posted in Finance, Legacy, Magic Culture, Modern

Which is Your Format?

Wen Fu

Wen has been playing magic for 18 years on and off. He started playing at Neutral Ground (NYC) as a kid, moved to Cincinnati, and now tries to squeeze in a few matches in the DC area. His favorite formats are Cube, Commander, and any Eternal formats; but he still loves playing kitchen table magic. He has served 4 years in the US Navy from 2005-2009 and is currently an Attorney in Washington, DC.

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Recently there has been much talk about the inflation of prices of Magic singles in the Modern and Legacy format. I feel that Magic players are really attached to certain formats because of their love for certain deck(s). When players have invested thousands of dollars in a format and someone claims the format will go away, die, or cease to exist; it’s not unexpected that some people will be offended.

I want to try and examine two things in this article (1) whether prices will get so high that Legacy will become unattainable for some players and (2) the effect this will have on Modern, and (3) where Modern prices are headed.

Many articles have compared Legacy to Vintage because of the Reserved List and the lack of availability for cards. I argue that this compassion is a little unfair for a few reasons.

SUPPLY: There are MANY more revised dual lands, Wastelands, fetchlands than there are moxes and Vintage staples.

Reference: http://www.crystalkeep.com/magic/misc/rarity-info.php

There are 1100 of each Alpha Rare
There are 3200 of each Beta Rare
There are 18,500 of each Unlimited Rare.
There are 289,000 of each Revised Rare.

But there are some factors we have to consider about Vintage and Legacy cards.

(1) The total loss: Because Alpha and Beta were so new back in 1993 people didn’t play with sleeves and at $2.95 a booster and $8.95 a starter, cards got lost, damaged beyond repair, thrown out, etc without much hesitation. I feel that this isn’t the case with a good amount of Legacy because people already started playing with penny sleeves and knew these cards were worth some money at the time.

(2) The collectors: Some buy these valuable cards with no intention of selling it or bringing it onto the market anytime soon. There are also people who send these cards to get graded by BGS or PSA with no intention of letting any of these see tournament play anytime in the near future. While collectors do have plenty of revised dual lands, they just don’t have the same rare and collectability value compared to the alpha/beta ones and the power 9.

What this means is that the supply of Legacy staples far exceeds that of Vintage and while expensive, they are available. While it’s common to see speculators try to hype up and buy out a new eternal card every week, good dealers and stores limit the amount of dual lands they post for sale. This is a common practice with goods that have high demand and constrained supply. For example, many stores kept extra stock of Xbox One and Playstation 4 in stock just in case there were defective models that were sold and they had to replace it. While some stores just sell out and make the quick buck, good businesses keep a few just in case of defective models. It’s much better to tell your customer that you’ll replace OR refund instead of ONLY a refund when they spent time and energy waiting on line to get that item, they don’t want their money back, they want what they paid for.

(3) The Price: Now comes the elephant in the room, the price of Vintage and the Price of Legacy. Before Legacy really took off around 2008, I built 2 Vintage decks and sold off some of the power not too much afterwards. Going off my eBay account, as of 11/09/2009 Here were the prices of some of the power.

Mox Ruby: 270
Mox Pearl: 227
Mox Sapphire: 315

That’s right less than 5 years ago, a Mox Ruby was $270, Pearl was $227, and a Sapphire $315. Let’s just assume the Emerald is $270, and Jet is $300. That’s the entire playset of Moxes for less than $1300.

I remember the Ancestral was about $325, Lotus was $700, and Timetwister I got for a bargain at $150. So the entire set of power in 2009 cost about $2500.

Depending on the deck, the rest of Vintage cards were not too expensive (minus workshop about $200-250, Library $100-125, Imperial Seal $150-200). So a deck would run around $4000-5000 in 2009.

Now why am I bringing up Vintage when Legacy is the hot topic? A Vintage deck just 4 years ago cost $4000 and at Gencon (former home to the Eternal Weekend) the Vintage Championships would draw about 150-200 players and over in Europe Bazaar of Moxen (Their Vintage champs) would draw anywhere from 250-300.

Now let’s compare this to Legacy.

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Blurry Text ,but the first prices are 225 and 410 for Underground Seas.

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Yes, it’s true… Legacy decks are about $4000 on paper for Tier 1 non-budget decks according to Mtggoldfish. So Legacy is now pretty much the same price as Vintage was just 4.5 years ago so if all holds true then Legacy tournaments should only have 200 players correct?

Not so fast! Let’s now take a look at legacy numbers.

Grand Prix DC: 1700
Eternal Champs 2013: 365
Bazaar of Moxen: 724 (est. 2012)
Starcitygames Opens: est. 300-500 players depending on City.

Yes, Legacy is the same price as Vintage and it is still growing. It doesn’t look like it is stopping anytime soon. Because there are so many more cards available for Legacy than Vintage, there will always be players that want to play and stores/companies will support it. Even if the popularity wanes down as Modern becomes the eternal format of choice, Legacy will never dwindle down to the numbers that we see in Vintage. What’s the bottom in 5 or 10 years? What’s the ceiling in 5 or 10 years? I don’t know and I really can’t even fathom a guess.

Now onto the other elephant in the room, Modern prices (Legacy gets 2 vs Modern’s 6) I think the number for Modern will continue to increase as we see that demand for Modern singles is like a runaway freight train that WOTC engineers are trying to figure out how to slow it down in a safe way.

While I believe Legacy is a good and thriving format, the $4000 barrier I truly believe will slow one thing down, which is the growth of the format. I think Legacy’s player base will not shrink by much but I would be surprised if more players enter the format like we saw the last 4 years.

I think Wizards will capitalize on this (and they will) by reprinting more Modern staples and making sets like Modern Masters 2 at a higher volume. For all the hoarders you can breathe a small sigh of relief, if the first Modern Masters is any indication, prices won’t go down much even if they did a mass printing here’s why:

(1) the MSRP of Modern Masters is $6.99 a booster, so this means if everything holds true and they did a mass printing of Modern Masters 2, the chase mythics would still be around $70 and rares $25-40. (double of a Standard legal chase rare/mythic)

(2) Modern Masters 2 will be another limited print set so that means the days of $6.99 a booster is out the window. I say minimum they will be around $10-12 which is triple the price of a traditional booster. So with another limited print run and 3x the price of a normal standalone set, we are looking are a multiplier of 3x (price) times 2-2.5x (estimated limited availability) of the price of each mythic and rare. So a fair chase mythic/rare of a Modern Masters booster should run 6x to 7.5x times the price of a chase mythic.

Let’s take a look at some comparisons.

MYTHICS: Generally Standard Mythics range from $15 to $35 depending on how many copies is played, if it overlaps decks, and if it’s eternal playable. With a 7x Multiplier that means Modern Masters 2 Mythics that are playable can range from $100 to over $200 dollars. I believe this is completely feasible just look at Dark Confidant (est. $90) and Tarmogoyf (est. $200)

Rares: Standard Rares now range from $5 to $10 in this era, with a few exceptions such as Mutavault/Snapcaster/etc. This means Modern Masters 2 rares would be from $30 – $75. For $30 (see any Modern staple rare) to cards like Cryptic Command (est. $60-65)

So what does this mean for the masses? I’m sorry to break the news but I truly believe that Legacy will be a $3500-5000 barrier of entry when all the dust settles and Modern looks like anywhere from $800-2500 depending how aggressive Wizards get with reprints.

I really don’t think prices are going to drop anytime soon for eternal formats, so if you want to play try to get a few pieces at a time for Modern that were already reprinted in MMA1 but if you can hold off on reprint targets such as fetchlands, goyfs (yes I think it will be reprinted again, $200 is too high), or any ridiculous card over $100. I really believe that Wizards made Modern so that there are no $100 single cards in the format, while they don’t acknowledge the secondary market, they are not turning a blind eye to it either. When they printed Modern Masters 1, Goyfs were hovering around $100-125. I truly believe they were “aiming” for it to come down to around $75.

While we all know this backfired since Goyfs are now at a solid $200, I believe Wotc is preparing to “fix” this for their so called “FNM friendly” format called Modern. I’m not a Magic financier by any means but for a non-reserved list format, I’d sell out any rare over $75 and mythic over $150.

Thanks for reading!

Wen

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