At this point, it's not especially controversial to say that 2016 was a hard year. While I'm sure there are some people among my readership who got married, landed a great job, and finished that big creative project in 2016, that was certainly not how the year played out for most of us. We lost too many talented artists, faced down too many national tragedies, and saw our society slide a little further toward polarization and hatred.
Magic was certainly a bright spot for me this year, though. While Oath of the Gatewatch proved to be a forgettable set (minus that handful of overpowered Eldrazi), WotC did a great job with their return to Innistrad and their introduction of Kaladesh. 2016 was a very good year for Limited play, too, and WotC has proven that they are still at the top of their game in terms of world building, storytelling, and designing interesting new cards.
Standard had an up-and-down year in 2016. There were some periods of incredible diversity and experimentation, but at other points it felt like there were only one or two viable decks at the top of the format. Collected Company, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Spell Queller, Emrakul, the Promised End, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and Smuggler's Copter all took turns dominating the scene this year, providing a nice balance between midrange and control.
After 2015 gave us the most expensive Standard format in history, 2016 gave us one of the cheapest. It doesn't get much press, but Standard has quietly become much more affordable thanks to the Expeditions and the Masterpiece Series. Say what you will about WotC, but that's a pretty remarkable turnaround in just one year. The ramifications of this likely haven't been completely felt yet, but I'm hoping it will lead to another period of major player base growth starting in 2017.
Financially, WotC's continued dedication to reprinting anything and everything (save for cards on the reserved list) is the biggest story of 2016. Between the Masterpiece Series, Eternal Masters, Conspiracy: Take the Crown, Commander 2016, and a few other supplemental products, over a hundred financially relevant cards were reprinted in 2017. Because of this, Magic prices across all formats stayed fairly flat. There were a few major reserved list buyouts in the spring, including important cards like Moat and Lion's Eye Diamond, but they proved the exception rather than the rule.
This does not mean that your collection is rapidly losing value. In fact, your Modern collection (assuming you have one of each card) is now worth approximately the same as it was at this point last year. Your Legacy collection is actually worth more than it was in December of 2015, albeit most of those gains happened to that small handful of reserved list staples. It seems like prices are dropping everywhere—and some of them certainly are—but a diverse, well-balanced collection is still safe to keep. It just feels worse because most of those gains happened 10-11 months ago, and the drop-off since then has been fairly steady.
Speaking of Eternal Magic, 2016 started out pretty rough for Modern. Who would have predicted that Eldrazi Skyspawner would win a Modern Pro Tour? And while some people feel that the Splinter Twin ban hurt interactivity in the format, it's pretty remarkable how many different strategies are viable right now. It might be worse for anyone who has bad matchup luck in a major Modern event, but the format has never been more open to FNM-level players. I have even higher hopes for Modern in 2017.
Vintage and Legacy continued to fade into the background in 2016, which makes sense for formats reliant on 25-year-old cards that cannot be reprinted. I expect their adherents will keep those formats alive pretty much forever, but there are only a few major Legacy events every year now. This is going to make them even more special, so enjoy them as much as you can. I do wish that there was more support for my favorite Constructed formats, but the financial aspect of the game is a pretty serious gatekeeper at the moment. In fact, 2016's push toward populism has led us away from Legacy and toward homebrew formats like Frontier, which (if enough people played it) would immediately become the most accessible and affordable Eternal format ever. While I have concerns that Frontier will solve anyone's current issues with Modern over the long haul, I'm excited to see what happens with this underdog format in the coming year.
2016 was a great year for casual play as well. Conspiracy: Take the Crown and Commander 2016 were both pretty cool, and Commander still seems to have a stranglehold on the kitchen table game. I'm still hoping for a return to 60-card-casual or the addition of a 200-card format at some point, but I doubt either will supplant the big dog in 2017.
But before we look ahead, let's look back and see what I predicted would happen in 2016. I made fifty predictions last December, and here's how they turned out:
Summer Bloom ended up getting the axe instead, but the end result was the same: no more Amulet Bloom in Modern.
#2) Stoneforge Mystic will be unbanned in Modern.
I still think this might happen at some point, but I can see why WotC doesn't want to paint themselves into a corner with what equipment they can print in the future. Banning Batterskull while unbanning Stoneforge Mystic would likely open up some new avenues of attack in the format without being oppressive, but it's probably a tad too counterintuitive to actually happen.
#3) There won't be any changes to the Vintage or Legacy banned list.
Wrong. The Lodestone Golem restriction in Vintage was a fairly big deal.
#4) Gideon, Ally of Zendikar will break $40 again.
I don't think Gideon technically did break $40 again, but he came awful close back in early November. Even though I was wrong about this prediction as written, I was right about Gideon becoming an incredibly impactful Standard card again.
#6) Bring to Light will find a home in Modern or Legacy. Foils will be $20+
There actually is a Modern Scapeshift variant that runs Bring To Light fairly effectively, but the foil is nowhere near the $20 mark. In fact, you can get them for just $4 right now—not a bad deal if you're a Frontier believer.
#7) Kolaghan's Command will rotate out of Standard. Its price will go up, not down, and the currently-$15 card will be $20 at this point next year.
I was predicting an Eidolon of Great Revel-style path for Kolaghan's Command, and the card actually did spike to $20+ a few months after I wrote this prediction. Unfortunately, it had a normal post-rotation drop in summer and fall, so this forecast ended up being a dud.
#8) Collected Company will also rise in price at rotation, going from $8.75 to $12.
Same story here. Collected Company ended up being an awesome buy when I wrote this article, and you would have tripled your money if you'd taken my advice. Of course, that had more to do with Standard playability than it did with Modern.
The good news is that Collected Company is still worth more today than it was at this point last year, so I'm going to claim a partial victory.
#9) Seance will still be a bulk rare. No one will play it at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch.
Remember this bizarre story? In the end, nobody did end up playing Seance at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch (or any other Pro Tour) and the incident was mostly forgotten. For some reason, the card did end up spiking above the $2 mark back in April, and it hasn't really come down in price, though finding a sucker—uh, I mean buyer—at that price isn't very easy.
#10) Oath of the Gatewatch will be a more powerful, more expensive, more beloved set than Battle for Zendikar.
Not so much. Oath of the Gatewatch was more of the same, and neither set was particularly well-received.
#11) Kozilek's Return will make Eldrazi Ramp into a top tier Standard deck.
Correct! G/R Ramp—featuring Kozilek's Return—was a major Standard deck last spring.
#12) After starting low, Chandra, Flamecaller will be the breakout card in the set.
I think this one counts too. Chandra Bottomed out around $10 in February before finding several new tier one homes and surging in price as the snows melted. By late April, she crested over the $30 mark. Considering how aggressively mediocre Oath of the Gatewatch proved to be, I'll give Chandra the breakout award.
#13) Nissa, Voice of Zendikar will be the set's biggest disappointment.
Nah. G/W Tokens was a great deck last year, and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar had a big place in the metagame for quite a while.
#14) Canadian Highlander won't supplant Commander or anything, but it'll have a month or two of hype and buildup that might cause a couple of odd cards to spike.
Does anyone remember Canadian Highlander? I feel like the last time I heard about it was the day I wrote this prediction. I still like the idea of the format, but I don't think most people want to spend their deckbuilding time pawing through spreadsheets and calculating point value limits. Oh well.
#15) Modern Masters 2017 will be announced for an early summer release, accompanied by another large Sealed Grand Prix in Las Vegas.
Hey, I have to italicize the set name in this prediction because it's a real thing now! The only thing I didn't call here was that the Vegas GP is a multi-format affair, and we don't even know if the Limited portion will involve Modern Masters 2017. There will probably be some awesome side drafts at least, though.
#16) There won't be a major 'supplemental set' release in early summer this year as WotC doesn't want to pull the focus off their new block structure. Instead, greater emphasis is put on a casual box set-style release similar to the Commander decks.
I literally could not have been more wrong about this if I'd tried. Goodbye, new block structure! Hello, Eternal Masters and Conspiracy: Take the Crown! Maybe the new block structure would have gone over better if it wasn't implemented in conjunction with so many other sets to keep track of.
#17) If there is a supplemental set, it won't be a second Conspiracy expansion. A Two-Headed Giant set that is made to be played in teams, perhaps?
Yeah, no. It was a second Conspiracy expansion.
#18) The new set rotation will be hugely successful in terms of driving interest in Standard during 2016. Hype for Shadows over Innistrad will rival that of any large fall set release. Standard prices won't drop nearly as much during the dog days of summer as they have in the past.
Say what you will about the failure of the new set rotation, this prediction was more true than not. Shadows was a really hyped set, and Standard cards didn't fall off in price nearly as much as they usually do. The entire Standard market was fairly depressed this year, though, so it was sort of hard to tell.
#19) The Republican nominee for the US presidency will be Marco Rubio, because he's the only “establishment” Republican that the Tea Party seems willing to support.
#20) The Democratic nominee will be Hillary Clinton.
#21) Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States.
According to Wikipedia, a “Black Swan” is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.
As the creator of Black Swan Theory (economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb) explains it:
“[A Black Swan is] an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme 'impact'. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable…A small number of Black Swans explains almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives.”
Taleb's book The Black Swan does not spend much time discussing how to predict Black Swans. After all, they are unpredictable by their very nature. To him, most prediction models don't spend nearly as much time as they should accounting for low probability/high impact outcomes. Why? Because even though they don't happen all that often, their effect is massive when they do. The upshot is that we all need to think more about how to exploit positive Black Swan events while building better fail-safe measures against negative Black Swans. Some things just cannot be effectively predicted, but that doesn't mean we should treat their aftermath as though it were the result of normal behavior.
#22) …but the GOP will still control the House and Senate.
This is true, yes. Good job, me.
#23) The OGW leak will force WotC to change printers. We will see fewer print errors starting with the fall expansion, but booster pack price MSRP will finally hit $4.49.
I forgot about the Oath of the Gatewatch leak! I predicted a MSRP increase in both of the last two years, and I'm thankful that it hasn't happened yet.
#24) Neither Liliana of the Veil nor Snapcaster Mage will be reprinted in Shadows over Innistrad.
This seems obvious in retrospect, but so many people were certain that one or both of these cards would be back in Standard. I still can't see it happening any time soon.
I'm still sort of bitter that this didn't happen! Ishkanah, Grafwidow is the closest we got. And while that giant Spider is a cool card, it didn't really allow any sort of Spider Spawning-style shenanigans in Limited. Shadows Over Innistrad was a great Limited set, but I'm a little bummed that it didn't come close to matching the original in terms of craziness.
#26) Whatever has 'gone wrong' on Innistrad has brought the werewolves back. There will finally be a legendary werewolf creature for the Commander contingent.
Correct on both counts! Unfortunately, Commander players have found Ulrich of the Krallenhorde to be fairly bland and unremarkable. Better luck next time, Werewolf fans.
#27) Oh, and Emrakul will be there, too. Talk about horror!
And she even took down a Pro Tour!
#28) Shadows Over Innistrad will be a good Limited block, but not as good as the original Innistrad set. The fall set will also be a good Draft format, making 2016 one of the best Draft years in a long time.
This is subjective, obviously, but I'm going to say that I was right on the money here. I loved Shadows block limited, and Kaladesh is pretty fantastic as well. Neither are as good as original Innistrad, but 2016 was a well above average year for drafters.
#29) The fall expansion will take place on Kaladesh, with a heavy steampunk/artifact theme.
And it is going to feature a busted card called Smuggler's Copter. You might want to get your hands on those while they're still pre-ordering for $1.99, kids!
Neither of these things happened, and red had a pretty mediocre year in Standard as a result. I get not wanting another two years of turn-1 Goblin Guides, but surely we can get some better burn in 2017?
#31) The Zendikar fetchlands will not be reprinted in 2016.
The Battle for Zendikar expeditions were released in 2015, so I'm on solid footing here. Even with hundreds of reprints, the Zendikar fetchlands were a no-show.
#32) Modern will have an excellent 2016, with many staples seeing big spikes in spring and summer.
Modern had an up and down 2016. Between the Summer Bloom ban and the Eldrazi Winter, the format was certainly turned on its head this year. Despite all of that, it is arguably the healthiest and most vibrant of the Constructed formats right now. [Actually not arguable. –Ed.]
From a finance perspective, most of the major Modern staples are either flat or down from their 2015 figures. This is partially a result of aggressive reprinting, and partially because of how Modern has changed. Most of the best decks are pretty linear, and there isn't all that much overlap in terms of expensive multi-deck staples. Modern may have had an excellent 2016, but it is as cheap as it has ever been.
Steam Vents is still just $10, and Modern demand hasn't caught up with the glut of Return to Ravnica era product yet. The Splinter Twin ban killed this prediction, too. Snapcaster Mage did get up to about $70, but it's down to just $40 now thanks to reprint fears and a major shift in the metagame.
Noble Hierarch exceeded my prediction, however, ending the year at $65.
#34) A Delver of Secrets/Young Pyromancer deck will enter Modern's top tier by the end of 2016.
According to MTG Goldfish, the highest ranking Delver deck in Modern is only the fifteenth most played archetype in the format. That is solidly second tier—swing and a miss.
Scalding Tarn is the most expensive expedition, but it's only worth $220 right now. Wasteland's price was significantly hurt by the Eternal Masters reprint that I did not see coming. I had assumed that the expeditions would be a lot more unique than they ended up being thanks to the Masterpiece series, which should keep promo foil prices depressed going forward.
Both of these cards are tied for the cheapest Expedition. Blame the fact that Tectonic Edge isn't seeing nearly as much play in Modern these days.
#37) There will be no Expeditions or Expedition-like promos in 2016 after Oath of the Gatewatch.
Yeah, no. This is the failed prediction that screwed up those earlier ones.
#38) There will be a set of Comic Con black planeswalkers, even though there aren't any more Core Sets. They will be whatever the current/newest iterations of Gideon, Jace, Liliana, Chandra, and Nissa are. The set will probably be put together piecemeal from both Zendikar and Innistrad block.
This is what happened, though I did not predict that they would have weird Zombie-themed alternate art instead.
#39) After beating the undefeated Carolina Panthers in the NFC championship game, the resurgent Seattle Seahawks will find themselves facing the banged-up Patriots in the Super Bowl once again. This time, they will win.
Not only did the Panthers lose a regular season game, they made it to the Super Bowl…and lost to the Broncos in the AFC. The Patriots almost came back to win their game against Denver, but their comeback drive ended on a failed two-point conversion in Mile High. Too bad their center was tipping the snap count.
#40) The Jacksonville Jaguars will make the playoffs in 2016.
I should probably stop making Jaguars-related predictions. Every time they take two steps forward, they trip over their own feet and bounce down seven flights of stairs like a drunk in an old cartoon.
#41) Want a World Series pick? How about Cubs over Indians in seven, with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar all finishing in the top ten of the AL Cy-Young voting.
Okay – throw out the Cy Young part of this prediction and take a look at what I actually wrote here!!!. I didn't just predict a Cubs/Indians World Series, I predicted that the Cubs would beat Indians in seven games. That actually happened!!! And yeah, the Cubs were good, but the Indians weren't really on anyone's radar. This is so randomly impressive that it almost makes up for all the finance predictions I punted.
#42) None of the superhero films released in 2016 (Batman vs. Superman, Deadpool, Suicide Squad, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men Apocalypse, Doctor Strange) will have a Rotten Tomatoes score below 40% or above 80%. A few of them will be beloved by people who are already fans of the underlying properties, but there won't be any standouts of breakout hits. You will see dozens of lazy think-pieces on 'Marvel fatigue.'
Yet again, I underestimated Marvel and overestimated DC. Civil War was 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and Doctor Strange did it one better at 91%. On the other hand, Batman V. Superman was a putrid 27% and Suicide Squad was an even worse 26%. There were plenty of lazy think-pieces about superhero film fatigue, though.
#43) The Revenant will win the Oscar for best picture, beating out fellow nominees Spotlight and Room.
Spotlight was a pretty justified winner here, and I highly recommend the film if you haven't seen it.
By the way, if (like me) you believe that the sort of investigative journalism shown in Spotlight still matters, might I suggest getting a newspaper subscription in 2016? Free news has become more and more unreliable, and I love my online New York Times subscription. It's very cheap for anyone who has a .edu email address, and they email you the top stories every morning so you don't have to chase them down across nine different social media platforms.
#44) Leonardo DiCaprio will finally get his Oscar, too.
Yeah, and predicting a best picture/best actor sweep was ambitious of me, especially with the decent slate of films last year. DiCaprio did finally win, and that was good enough.
#45) With MTGO's stability increasing, Sealed leagues coming, and flashback drafts every weekend, Magic's digital client will have a banner year in 2016. And by that I mean there won't be any high profile debacles and/or boondoggles.
I can't say there weren't any boondoggles—the treasure chest launch suffered from horrible PR if nothing else—but 2016 was actually a pretty great year for MTGO. Draft leagues were a fantastic addition, and with MTGO, it can always be worse. In 2016, it mostly wasn't.
Reid Duke won a Grand Prix and a Standard Classic in 2016. He also made the Top 8 of Pro Tour: Eldritch Moon, though he didn't win it. All in all, a pretty good year for Reid.
Owen didn't make Top 8 twice, but he did finish second at Pro Tour: Eldritch Moon and took down Grand Prix Houston back in February. Not bad!
#47) The Commander 2016 release will—finally—highlight four-color Legends.
Correct! And they are pretty darn sweet if I do say so myself.
#48) The yearly From the Vault expansion will be called From the Vault: Fire and include premium copies of Magic's best direct damage spells and enabling creatures. Yes, that means Comet Storm again. It also means Lightning Bolt and Eidolon of the Great Revel.
I had to check and see if there actually was a From the Vault release in 2016—there were so many random releases that I had completely forgotten about this. Indeed, From the Vault: Lore came out, featuring both Umezawa's Jitte and Dark Depths. They probably should have just called it From the Vault: Banned in Modern.
#49) Mana Drain will be re-printed as a judge foil.
Yup! It looks pretty great, too.
#50) I will have an essay or article published on a major non-Magic website or in a literary journal.
While this did not happen, it was mostly due to my lack of submitting things other than my pop culture essays. I feel pretty good about my creative writing output in 2016 regardless, and I hope to do even more of it in the year to come.
50 Predictions for 2017
1. The Magic Finance market will remain fairly flat in 2017, frustrating many small-time flippers and speculators who used to be able to make easy profits without much thought or risk. Many of them will declare Magic and/or Magic finance to be “dead” and walk away. As always, the people who put in the thought and the time will be just fine.
2. The trading scene will be somewhat reinvigorated thanks to the relative cheapness of Standard and the downtick in the number of value sharks.
3. Magic will experience significant player growth for the first time in several years.
4. Every Pro Tour in 2017 will be Standard, but there will be serious talk about bringing back the Modern Pro Tour in 2018 thanks to the fact that two Pro Tours will be won by the same deck.
5. At the end of the year, your collection will still be worth a tad more than it is right now.
6. Most of the gains will happen in select Frontier staples and whatever Modern cards aren't in MM17.
7. Become Immense will be banned in Modern.
8. Infect will remain a tier one deck despite this.
9. Jace, the Mind Sculptor will be unbanned in Modern.
10. This will lead to a blue control deck that can finally hang in Modern's top tier.
11. A Goryo's Vengeance deck will also break into Modern's top tier.
12. Damnation will be reprinted as a promo, but not in any more accessible form.
13. The Zendikar fetchlands will be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017.
14. Tarmogoyf will also be reprinted in that set, and it will finally fall below $100 retail.
15. Engineered Explosives will not be reprinted, and it will hit $80.
16. Ditto Chalice of the Void, which will break $60.
17. And Koth of the Hammer will spend most of the year over $20.
18. After the Eternal Masters second print run debacle, fewer players will pre-order and hoard boxes of MM17. You will be able to buy packs off the shelf at retail well into the fall.
19. The Theros Gods will be reprinted as Masterpieces in Amonkhet block.
20. The fall 2017 block will be loosely enchantment-themed and will feature enchantment Masterpieces.
21. It will also feature multiple legendary Merfolk.
22. One of the big flavor reveals of Amonkhet? Nicol Bolas has started an “evil Gatewatch.” It will include Bolas, Tezzeret, and Vraska. Potential future members? Garruk and an undead Elspeth.
23. Frontier will become much more popular in the first half of 2017. There will be a series of Frontier-related buyouts in January or February, frustrating format advocates who wanted it to stay cheap.
24. Frontier will lose steam once the format is “solved” shortly after that. It will mostly be forgotten by the time Modern Masters 2017 comes out, though some of the cards will retain their post-spike value in hopes that it can be fixed or a different format will come along soon enough.
25. By this time next year, we will have a different Modern-alternative format to obsess over.
26. The most surprising teams in football next year will be the Tennessee Titans (will win 10+ games) and Buffalo Bills (ditto).
27. Current Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will win at least five games next year as somebody's starting QB. Cleveland?
28. The New England Patriots will defeat the Dallas Cowboys and win the 2017 Super Bowl.
29. The most surprising teams in baseball this year? The New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners.
30. Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez will out-pitch the rotation's big three of Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, and David Price.
31. The Los Angeles Dodgers will beat the Houston Astros in six games to win the 2017 World Series.
32. Google Glass may be dead, but some variation of a digital heads-up display will make major waves in the tech community next year.
33. Emrakul, the Promised End will break $30 and touch $40 at some point this spring.
34. Smuggler's Copter will hit $25.
35. Aetherworks Marvel will hit $20.
36. At least one of the intro deck planeswalkers will show up in a good Standard brew and we'll all have to run out to Target in order to try and buy them out.
37. The new Nicol Bolas planeswalker will show up in a tier one Standard list despite being less overtly powerful than the last one.
38. Yahenni's Expertise will be The Card That Launches A Thousand Price Spikes, but it will ultimately disappoint in Modern. It will, however, be a tier one playable in Standard.
39. WotC will take their foot off the pedal a little next year. There will only be one supplemental set release in 2017 – Modern Masters 2017.
40. Modern buyouts surrounding MM17 will be fast and furious. Staples that aren't reprinted in that set will double overnight. This spring/early summer will be rough for buyouts (Modern unbannings, Frontier, and Modern Masters), but the rest of the year will be fairly light.
41. The From the Vault series will be discontinued entirely.
42. Commander 2017 will feature classic allied color pairs. Partner commanders will return.
43. Grim Tutor will be released as a judge promo.
44. The next Star Wars installment will be good...but it will not be the highest grossing film of 2017.
45. Carrie Fisher will earn a posthumous Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in the film.
46. Moonlight will upset La La Land for the Best Picture Oscar.
47. Either Netflix or FX will take home more Emmys than all the broadcast networks combined.
48. The judge lawsuit will be settled, and it will require a large restructuring of the judge program that will disrupt events over a several-week period. The judge community will rally to the cause and find an amicable way forward without the loss of a single GP.
49. WotC will announce a launch date for their Hearthstone competitor/MTGO replacement digital client, which will simplify the rules of Magic to a frustrating degree. People will worry that it will be the end (or at least the dumbing down) of the paper game. It won't be, but it will be a scary amount of change for us to face in the start of 2018.
50. We will have to face down many demons, both in reality and on the battlefield, but 2017 will be better than 2016.
Happy New Year—See you in 2017!