Wow, Wizards of the Coast sure has made some significant announcements over the past week. Let's start there!
First off, the Pro Tour will now include Modern (February 2-4, 2018) and Team Constructed (August 3-5, 2018). This is awesome: not only is Modern back on the PT, but Legacy (!?) will be played on Magic's biggest stage. I can't wait.
In retrospect, we should have seen this coming. Now that the twice-yearly rotation is out the window, running back Standard every three months feels like a much worse plan. Modern has also become a lot more popular in recent months, and it makes sense that WotC seems ready to capitalize on that.
Just be ready for something in Modern to be banned prior to the event, just like in the good old days. It's far too early to say for sure, but something in Death's Shadow is the most likely target. If you own the deck and you don't play very much Modern, it might be time to think about moving on from some of its most valuable staples. On the other hand, Modern prices always skyrocket in the weeks surrounding a Modern Pro Tour, so you don't want to panic too much. Any cards that aren't banned should see a nice (if temporary) bump in price early next year.
I love the fact that Legacy is back on the Pro Tour, but I don't think a single Team Constructed event will affect Legacy prices too much. The format already has a pretty high barrier to entry unless you're playing a budget deck, and I don't think too many of the pros are going to be buying decks from scratch. Remember: only a third of them will actually be playing Legacy. The might be a small surge of interest if a deck or two starts looking sweet on camera, but I'm not expecting a ton of movement in that market.
In unrelated news, WotC also announced that we're going to see a lot fewer 5-0 decklists from Magic Online in the future. Instead of ten, we now get just five, and they all have to be significantly different brews in order to make the list. Saffron Olive wrote a good article breaking down the potential problems with this move, some of which are financially relevant.
First, it's going to be a lot harder to distinguish good rogue decks from bad/lucky rogue decks. Any old brew can spike a League now and again, but it takes a good strategy to do it over and over again. At first, people are likely to be too trusting of the new data, speculating on interesting cards in decks that turned out to be flukes. Later on, people may not be trusting enough, which could result in fewer rogue decks catching financial fire. Saffron Olive also warns about the risk of self-reported Magic Online data in an era when WotC doesn't give us enough: someone might falsely claim to have 5-0ed an event with some obscure card in an attempt to spike the price and cash in on a buyout.
I'm not a big fan of this move by WotC, and I doubt it'll end up keeping Standard from being "solved" any faster than it is now. If anything, it will hurt the people who rely on crowd-sourced data to find the best way of beating the format's obvious Tier 1 decks. As an average player, though, this change probably won't affect you very much. Most price fluctuations are based on tournament results, and we'll still have all of those. I'm also not the kind of person who likes to speculate (or recommend speculation) based on one unverified report of a 5-0 deck. If things get worse on the information front, or of this change leads to a shift in the market, I'll be sure to let you know. For now, you can file this in the "frustrating but not worth having a major fit over" bin.
WotC also made some major changes to in-store promos.
First, Game Day is now going to be called the Store Championship. It's moving to the end of the Standard season, and it will award "foil full-art promo cards that look at the next set." This means that we're now getting foil, full-art cards from an unreleased set. Not only is this awesome, but it's going to lead to higher prices for Store Championship cards. Even if they're bad, people will want these just so they can be the first kid on the block who has one. Make sure you sell your copies before the Prerelease, though!
Second, the Standard Showdown packs are going to include foil basic lands with "new or highly desirable art from Magic's history." These lands, especially since you only get one per pack, are probably going to be quite valuable and in high demand. For every land out there, especially from artists like Rebecca Guay (who gets the first batch), there's someone who needs 40 of them for their Commander deck. These lands may be underpriced at first, and I'll be looking to pick up a bunch for long-term speculation if they're selling at a reasonable rate.
The only potential issue here: if APAC, Guru, or other high-profile "special" basics are reprinted here, the originals will drop in value. It won't be a major drop since those cards are already so scarce, but it will happen. I'm not saying you should panic-sell your Uluru Plains collection or anything, but you should be aware that there's some potential for reprinting now.
Last, the FNM promo foil is being replaced with foil, double-sided tokens. The community is pretty upset about this change, and I don't blame them. Personally, I'd rather see all the promos be like Fatal Push or Aether Hub, and I know that I'm much more likely to go to FNM if the promo is awesome.
WotC pushed back pretty hard on this line of thinking, though, claiming that higher-quality promos do not correlate with higher FNM attendance. Since I don't have any information to counter that claim with, and it's been backed up by some LGS organizers that I respect, I have to believe that it's true. The fact of the matter is that WotC doesn't want newer players getting smashed at FNM by high-level players who just want to get their $8 foil, and this is part of the way they're trying to change that. In their mind, FNM is for semi-casual players, while Standard Showdown is for more experienced folks.
Is this the correct way to think about the format? I don't know, but it's certainly the tack that WotC is taking for now. The truth is that FNM promos have been mostly worthless for several years now, and the average value of the foil tokens (which will be worth something) will probably be higher than the last couple of years' worth of FNM promos, even with a smattering of good ones thrown in. I also doubt that anyone will stop going to FNM because the promos are different.
The one card that might be affected by all of this? The double-sided foil token that was hidden in some stores' Helvaults during the Avacyn Restored Prerelease. WotC isn't going to reprint this card or anything, but it'll feel a bit less special now that foil double-sided tokens are everywhere. If you're holding any extras in your collection, I'd sell them now.
With that out of the way, let's move on to the weekly trends.
In Standard, Startled Awake is the big winner of the week. The card more than quadrupled in price, a trend that has shown no signs of letting up as of this writing. That's crazy! People really want to play Startled Awake with Fraying Sanity, despite the fact that the combo probably isn't good enough to make the cut in Standard. The moral of the story? Don't ever underestimate the leaps that casual players will take in order to play mill.
I don't really know where the price goes from here, to be honest. I doubt the deck is good enough to compete, but it might not matter: as long as it can win a game here and there, some people will still play it. And if the deck does end up being a decent control strategy in the new Standard, Startled Awake could hit $20-$25. Yes, really.
That said, I'm still selling this card into the hype. Right now, the deck is theoretical and its proponents are living in Magical Christmas Land. Unless you're a believer, selling into the hype seems correct. I doubt Startled Awake will end up back at $2 again, but it won't stay above $10 for long unless it's a viable tournament strategy.
Otherwise, the Standard market has remained kind of slow. Chandra, Torch of Defiance is up a bit. So is Torrential Gearhulk. Online, cards like Kozilek's Return, Thought-Knot Seer, Spell Queller, and Wandering Fumarole are all on their way up, but those increases haven't hit paper Magic yet. Again, I think people are still being a bit gun-shy about Standard until they see how this format continues to evolve.
In Modern, the big winner was Geralf's Messenger. It roughly doubled in value once Saffron Olive highlighted the card in his latest Against the Odds deck: a Modern Solemnity brew that actually looks pretty sweet. Phyrexian Unlife gained a couple of dollars this week as well thanks to the same deck.
As with all Saffron Olive spikes, I recommend selling into the hype. The deck is pretty cool, but it's worth taking advantage of the fact that everybody is buzzing about it right now. The price of Geralf's Messenger appears to have peaked, but it hasn't started dropping yet. You still have time to sell if you want to.
It's worth noting that Saffron Olive also built a Crested Sunmare deck in his latest episode of Budget Magic. As a result, the MTGO price roughly doubled in value.
This trend hasn't duplicated itself in meatspace yet, but if Crested Sunmare shoots up over the next few days—and it probably will—you know why.
The next major Modern spike might end up being Intruder Alarm.
I've seen a lot of buzz about a new combo deck that uses this card to make arbitrarily large numbers of tokens, and the overall supply is pretty low. Intruder Alarm has gained some value over the past week, but there's still room to grow here.
Also gaining value this week: Training Grounds. The card has been great in Commander for a long time, but its interaction with The Scarab God put it over the top. The price peaked a few days ago and is already heading back down, though, so you might not be able to sell it into the hype anymore. I bet it'll end up stabilizing somewhere in the $10 range.
Speaking of Commander, Magus of the Wheel was bought out this week thanks to its interaction with The Locust God. This card was only printed in Commander 2015, and I suspect it'll end up settling in the $8-$10 range.
Last, it appears as though one of my two-year-old predictions finally came true: Underground Sea now retails for a whopping $500! I'll be interested to see if the price sticks, and I'll be especially curious to see if the market responds to this or if it's just a temporary change. Less Legacy is played now than a few years ago, but these Reserved List staples keep getting more and more scarce. If you've been holding off buying your duals, be warned that another spike might be coming soon.