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Happy New Year, Magic financiers! With 2017 finally behind us, it’s time to spend a week thinking about the future. Not the unpredictable far future, with its robots and flying cars and three-dimensional super-platinum ultra-mythic Tarmogoyfs made from spun silver, but the immediate future of 2018.
As far as I can tell, these are the biggest questions that will be facing Magic finance over the next calendar year:
Will Anything Be Banned in Standard?
It’s crazy that Standard bannings are even worth speculating about, considering how few of them happened between 2000 and 2016. There were three separate banning waves in 2017, though, so it’s worth wondering if Wizards of the Coast is going to pull out the hammer again in 2018.
The real test should come early in the year, when Rivals of Ixalan will attempt to give some of Ixalan’s tribal strategies a much-needed boost. Three of the top five Standard decks right now are basically just Kaladesh block decks, and none of those cards are rotating until September. If Rivals can spawn a couple of new archetypes, things should be more or less okay, but I doubt the community will be fine with the entirety of Ixalan coming and going without affecting Standard much at all.
In fact, if Energy continues to dominate through the middle of February, people are going to be calling for at least one of its key cards to be banned. Attune with Aether is the most likely card to go, but if Wizards of the Coast picks up that hammer, I bet they’ll smack down at least two cards just to ensure that their actions aren’t taken in vain.
Regardless, this makes me wary of holding too many expensive Energy cards past mid-January. Either Rivals will shake up the format enough to minimize Energy’s dominance, or it won’t and people will start clamoring for a banning. I’m not sure how things will end, but I doubt it’ll be a world where the same three Energy variants win games all the way into the summer. Plan accordingly.
What Will Be in Masters 25?
I’ll devote an entire prediction article to Masters 25 at some point early in the new year, but it’ll be interesting to see how Wizards of the Coast approaches this set. If it’s anything like Iconic Masters, we’ll be getting an intriguing jumble of Legacy, Modern, and casual staples.
I also expect a full week of “What if this set coincides with the end of the Reserved List??” speculation. I still highly doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon, but it would obviously be the biggest Magic finance story of the year if it did.
My guess is that Masters 25 will contain at least one card from every Magic set, which would be pretty cool, honestly. Rishadan Port, Imperial Recruiter, Ensnaring Bridge, Crucible of Worlds, Demonic Tutor, and Doubling Season seem like some potential high-priced inclusions. Expect a lot of key historical commons and uncommons to come back, too—think Lightning Bolt, Counterspell, Path to Exile, and so on. Until March, I won’t be buying any Eternal cards unless they were reprinted at some point in 2016 or 2017 or they’re on the Reserved List.
Will There Be Any Other Supplemental Sets?
Right now, we know that Rivals of Ixalan drops in January, Masters 25 arrives in March, Dominaria shows up in April, Core Set 2019 releases in July, and we can almost certainly pencil in the next Standard set for late September. But what happens beyond that? 2017 gave us two Masters sets and Unstable in addition to the four normal yearly expansions. Will there be three supplemental sets in 2018, too?
Most people seem to want a return to fewer Magic sets each year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Wizards of the Coast’s end goal is to have two sets—one Standard, one supplemental—every fiscal quarter. 2018 seems like a key year in terms of developing an understanding of their long-term release plans. Will they pull back to just one Masters set and something like Conspiracy 3, or will they double or triple down on reprint expansions?
If Wizards of the Coast continues releasing Masters sets at a fairly relentless pace, I think we’ll start to see the Modern market drop off and flatten a bit. People are going to be less eager to pay for any Modern cards unless they’ve just been reprinted. Players will also be less incentivized to keep large Modern collections kicking around and will instead look to move on from whatever they’re not currently playing. If your cards have a reasonable chance of tanking in price every few months, why keep anything that you don’t think you’ll need right away?
On the other hand, I expect that Modern prices will rise considerably if Wizards of the Coast announces that there won’t be any other Masters sets in 2018. That would create a fairly lengthy window between reprint sets, and some players and speculators will take advantage of that bubble of safety after so much relentlessness. It also might signal that they’re taking their foot off the reprint gas a bit going forward. That’s why I have no idea where the Modern market is going after May or so—it’s so dependent on what the second half of 2018’s Magic calendar looks like.