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Traderous Instinct – Price Memory

Every trader knows that value is a tricky thing.

For example, why does [card]Bitterblossom[/card] cost more than $10 on nearly every large retail website?

The card has already left both Standard and Extended.

It is banned in Modern.

It sees very little play in Legacy and no play in Vintage.

It is not particularly great in Commander.

With the ‘tribal’ subtype dead, its flavor strongly tied to Lorwyn, and it having terrorized Standard for two straight years, the likelihood of a reprint bringing it back to life is slim to none.

Sure, you can attribute some of [card]Bitterblossom[/card]’s current value to speculation that the card will be unbanned in Modern (it likely won’t), and it would probably sit at $5 regardless just because of its power in 60-card casual decks.

That said, its value is still well out of line with its demand.

A large part of the reason for this is price memory.

Price memory is a measurement of how strongly a card is tied to a specific price in the mind of the Magic playing community at large.

And it’s a very powerful thing.

The Zendikar fetchlands, for example, had a price memory of $10 for over a year. Everyone pretty much knew that if they looked hard enough, they could trade (or trade for) any fetch at $10.

Last year, [card]Wasteland[/card] had a price memory of $30. [card]Cryptic Command[/card], when it was Standard legal, had a price memory of $20-$25. [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] currently has a price memory of $11. These cards all have or had strong price memories.

A card like [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card], on the other hand, has a weak price memory.

The mighty zenith started at $5, jumped to $10, fell back to $5, jumped back to $10, and has fallen back to $5 again in a matter of months.

Bulk rares that become hot overnight usually have weak price memories as well. Think about [card]Prismatic Omen[/card], a $5 card that was worth $1 for years before jumping to $20 overnight due to last year’s Extended season.

So what’s the upshot of all this?

Newer cards with strong price memories take longer than average to fluctuate in value. And when they do, it’s still possible to trade them at the old value if you find the right person.

And finding him usually isn’t all that hard.

Older cards with strong price memories take longer to fall, and they’ll rarely fall below a certain point due to nothing more than residual demand. Also, if they start going up in price, look out.

A big part of March’s Legacy pricing boom was because strong price memory kept cards like [card]Wasteland[/card] and [card]Force of Will[/card] stable for longer than they should have been. So when the market did go up, it wildly overcorrected on the cards with strong price memory before they finally settled where they should have all along.

It’s important to note that cards with strong price memories are usually format staples or former format staples. If the card was the flagship of a deck, (like [card]Bitterblossom[/card]) it will usually retain a strong price memory long past its actual usefulness.

This is a long-winded way for me to start talking about Monday night’s bannings and their effect on the marketplace. It’s important that we establish a dialog on price memory first, because many of the cards that were banned are now going to be useless once more.

Some of them will likely stay artificially high due to a strong price memory, while others will fall further than they should and make excellent speculation targets. Let’s see if we can figure this whole mess out, shall we?

Again, note that unless otherwise specified all prices I quote are RETAIL PRICES.

Most of them come from THE VERY SAME SITE THAT YOU ARE READING THIS ARTICLE ON.

Please stop telling me in the comments that my prices are wrong.

The Modern Bannings

[card]Blazing Shoal[/card] – Banned in Modern

[card]Blazing Shoal[/card] was a ~$2 card before Modern, mostly due to casual shenanigans that lead to fun turn one kills if your starting hand was absurdly perfect. Modern let the cat out of the bag regarding this card’s interaction with cheap poison creatures, and the spell hit $15 overnight.

[card]Blazing Shoal[/card] is currently down to $6 on Star City Games and $8 on Channel Fireball.

Price Memory: Low

Future Price: $3.99

Normally I’d predict a card like this would go back down to its pre-ban price of nearly nothing, but its performance in Modern has flipped a switch for thousands of casual players everywhere. With infect already a popular casual strategy, I bet there will be quite a few people brewing up either 60-card-casual or terrible Legacy poison decks with this card.

A rare from an older second set with casual value should hold steady around $4, so if you can pick these up from frustrated Modern players at a buck each, do it.

[card]Cloudpost[/card] – Banned in Modern

Obviously, the real loser here isn’t [card]Cloudpost[/card] but its good friend [card]Vesuva[/card].

So let’s examine the banning from the POV of that card.

Before Modern, [card]Vesuva[/card] had crept up to the $8-$9 range thanks to Commander and some rogue Legacy play. Its inclusion in Twelvepost made the card hit $40, and at its height this very site was buying NM/M copies for $25 cash.

Right now, you can BUY [card]Vesuva[/card] on Channel Fireball for $25. They’re down to $20 each on Star City Games, but sold out.

Price Memory ([card]Vesuva[/card]): Low

Future Price ([card]Vesuva[/card]): $11.99

The truth is that very few people knew this card was creeping up in price even when it was. Commander players are unlikely to shell out more than $10 for one, though, and the card doesn’t really have another home in Modern right now.

Keep your eye on [card]Vesuva[/card], though, since the card didn’t actually get banned itself. If it finds another deck, it has the chance to rise back up into the mid $20 range. Until then, I recommend a strong sell on [card]Vesuva[/card] at current retail.

[card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] – Banned in Modern

Like I said in the opener, [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] has see-sawed wildly in price for months now. I got into mine at $5 just a couple weeks ago, they peaked just over $10, and now they’re back to $5. So, uh, fair enough.

Price Memory: Low

Future Price: $7.99

The reason WOTC gave for banning the card is that it gave green too much versatility, especially due to its interaction with [card]Dryad Arbor[/card]. The fact that this saw play in a low-mana deck like Zoo AND a big-mana deck like Breach-post lends some credence to this theory, though it is the card I am personally the saddest about losing in Modern.

Regardless, the truth is that this card is absolutely good enough in Legacy and it still has another year left in Standard.

Zenith is back down to $5 on some sites, and if you can pick these up at a discount right now, you should. It’s a very good card that likely will be for a good long while.

[card]Ponder[/card]/[card]Preordain[/card]/[card]Rite of Flame[/card] – Banned in Modern

I wouldn’t worry about dumping any of these yet – not even the foils. They are all still strong plays in Legacy, Cube, Commander, any casual deck that needs good library manipulation.

The demand for these cards was never really all that set in modern, so I wouldn’t worry much about them losing value.

However, when we take all of these bannings together, its important to look at other cards that will be majorly affected by the cards that got the axe.

Splinter Twin

This deck is rotating out of Standard in a few days and it basically leaves Modern at the same time. It’s not a fast or good enough combo for Legacy, so its only possible future is in Extended.

The card is worth a pickup for Extended season at a couple of bucks, because it will likely be in demand for the few Extended tournaments that do exist. Retail on the card is $6 now, though, and if you can get that for your Twins in a trade, I would.

[card]Primeval Titan[/card]

This card had come down to about $10-$11 before it became a 4-of in most Modern Cloudpost decks, which took the price back up to the $20 range briefly. It’s now back to the $10 rage, so buy and sell accordingly.

I see this card settling at $7-$8 retail unless it becomes a big player in Extended.

[card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card]

Like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, this card seems to find a way.

Whether it’s [card]Through the Breach[/card] or [card]Goryo’s Vengeance[/card]/[card]Makeshift Mannequin[/card], I doubt we’ve seen the last of everyone’s favorite flying spaghetti monster in Modern.

Emrakul sees a reasonable amount of Legacy play too, so feel free to pick these up from people who are going to be dumping them post-banning.

[card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card]

Most of the good combo decks have been nerfed and there’s no true control deck in the format yet, so expect to see a lot of little attacking dudes in the Modern dailies for the foreseeable future.

The Grove combo is still very good, and this card is primed to go back up to the $20-$25 range in the near future if Zoo becomes the deck to beat.

[card]Arcbound Ravager[/card]

Yeah, guess what deck DIDN’T take a hit in the bannings?

Ravager & Co will certainly fill some of the void left in the format by the combo decks, meaning that this dude might be UNDERvalued right now at $25.

It’s also kind of neat that the Modern and Legacy Ravager decks are both pretty good and require many of the same cards. If you want to play both formats on the cheap, affinity seems like a pretty good deck to build and work on mastering.

The Legacy Banning

[card]Mental Misstep[/card] – Banned in Legacy

[card]Mental Misstep[/card] never really hit the highs that it once promised to.

I, along with many others, touted Misstep as the can’t-miss eternal card of the last several years. I predicted it would hit $10 with ease as the supply of New Phyrexia dried up and it cemented itself into every single good Legacy deck.

I still believe this would have been 100% the case had the card not been banned.

As of now, Misstep sits at a retail price of $3 that promises to drop to a buck before too long. It’ll see some play in both Standard and Extended, but [card]Dismember[/card] has now clearly passed it on the ‘long term Phyrexian mana card you want’ list.

The foil will stay reasonably high, however, because it has a very strong price memory.

These foils were literally never available for less than $20, and they were trading around $40 at their height. Because of that, the foil STILL retails around $20 on the websites of most major retailers, and its slow, steady, fall from grace will take time.

The card’s Vintage playability and overall power level will keep foils above $6-$8, and they’ll probably stabilize around $12.

But you won’t find much of a buyer’s market for them.

The bigger news, of course, is that [card]Mental Misstep[/card]’s disappearance has suddenly made Legacy a wide-open format again!

[card]Dark Confidant[/card]

This was a $15 card before Wizards’ big Misstep, and it was up to an easy $40 before Modern speculation took hold.

Granted, it was criminally undervalued for years, but Legacy is nonetheless back to being a format where one-drops rule. I can certainly see the retail value of this card dropping back down into the $30 range before long.

[card]Candelabra of Tawnos[/card]

Before Misstep was printed, Legacy had another boogeyman: High Tide. This deck was gearing up to be the best deck in the format and everyone was howling because Candelabras were in such short supply that it was nearly impossible to get them for under $300.

Guess what? Those days are back.

Shortly after the banning, all the Candelabras that were easily available for ~$150 sold out immediately. As of today, they’re closing around $215 on eBay and the retail has gone up to around $300.

Sadly, I sold my extra candlestick about a month ago, hoping to capitalize on a >$100 price while I still could. It’s too late to pick these up in trades/sales for the old price, but if you have one, I wouldn’t let it go right now for under $300. The eBay price will catch up with the retail price there if the deck starts to dominate events again.

[card]Time Spiral[/card]

Same thing here. You could pick ‘em up for about $10 on eBay yesterday, and they’re up to about $20 now. Retail will hit $40 if the deck becomes the brew to beat.

[card]Show and Tell[/card]

Many predicted this card would get banned, but in a post-Misstep world it goes back to merely very good. I don’t see this card falling much over the next few months, though, as it enables both a fun and powerful strategy.

[card]Natural Order[/card]

NO-based strategies should still be tier-1 in the ‘new’ Legacy, but the format has opened back up again. Expect the demand for these to drop slightly as more people move on to other things.

[card]Aether Vial[/card]/Goblin Cards

You can’t keep a good goblin down, it seems. While the red menace might not be T8ing every SCG open again next week, Goblins has historically been an up-and-down deck in Legacy. It lies dormant for months, even years at a time before inevitably roaring back from the grave.

All I know is that sooner or later, the goblins will be back on top – and losing Misstep only helps speed that day up.

And then [card]Aether Vial[/card] will be a $20 card again.

[card]Serra’s Sanctum[/card]/[card]Argothian Enchantress[/card]/Other Enchantress Cards

This might be a deck again too, and it gains a couple of intriguing pieces from Innistrad to boot.

Pay attention to the cards in this deck and buy in if it starts putting up positive numbers.

Legacy as a Whole

Legacy has enjoyed a depressed market ever since [card]Mental Misstep[/card] warped the format around it and Modern was announced.

If the next SCG proves that the Legacy metagame is back to being incredibly diverse, I fully expect these prices to start trending upward again.

Now is a reasonable time to trade for those last few staples you’re missing.

The Extended Bannings

Most of the Caw Blade Cards – Banned in Extended

The important thing to note here is what seems to be a major shift in WOTC policy.

Before this year, WOTC would pretty much only ban cards that proved themselves utterly degenerate to a format. Rarely would they preemptively ban decks or just start punishing whatever the best deck was before the metagame had a chance to react.

In recent days, they’ve been MUCH more aggressive, culminating in a lengthy banned list to launch the Modern format and a preemptive ban of everyone’s least favorite Standard cards to start this Extended season.

In fact, they’ve pretty much said that from here on out, they’ll ban the best deck in standard every season so that Extended is no longer just old standard decks beating each other up.

I, for one, love that Wizards is doing this.

They seem to have recognized that major weekly tournaments and the propensity of great players/deckbuilders sharing tech online are creating stale formats much quicker than before.

The best way to keep constructed Magic feeling fresh is to ban cards aggressively, and this seems to be what they’ve decided to do.

It’s important for you as a speculator to be aware of this at all times. In today’s ban-hammer world, I recommend selling out of top cards much quicker than in previous years. Lock in your profits and get out.

If you suspect a ban is coming, and the card you’re speculating on is key in one of the best, most degenerate decks in a format that means its time to sell.

In terms of where the current Extended is going from here, I have no idea whatsoever. I have seen zero decklists to date. Is anyone going to even play this format? Anyone at all?

Week of 9/19 – Buy, Hold, & Sell

Buy

At the prerelease this weekend, I would focus on getting Zendikar block Commander cards and Scars block standard cards at cut-rate prices while everyone goes nuts over the new gems from Innistrad.

Cards like [card]Felidar Sovereign[/card] will always hold value, and their prices are at an all-time low right now. You’ll also probably be able to get good deals on ‘unexciting’ pickups like [card]Spellskite[/card], which will be a solid performer in every format it’s legal in for years to come.

I would also buy in on any Legacy cards you can get cheap, as I believe that the format is due for an upswing of interest.

Hold

Modern staples.

The initial hype is over, the first wave of bannings is over…the time to get out has passed. If you’re still holding Modern, wait and see what the new meta looks like before making any decisions.

Sell

I would sell high on pretty much anything good I opened in Innistrad.

I’m sure that there will be a few cards in that set that will be worth more in three months than they are now. But if you’re a gambling man, you’ll know the odds aren’t good for you to pick which ones.

Bear with me for a moment and take a look at some prices from this week last year:

[card]Elspeth Tirel[/card] – $50
[card]Indomitable Archangel[/card] – $10
[card]Leonin Arbiter[/card] – $4
[card]Koth of the Hammer[/card] – $50
[card]Ezuri’s Brigade[/card] – $2.50
[card]Liege of the Tangle[/card] – $5
[card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card] – $20
[card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] – $10
[card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] – $15
[card]Mox Opal[/card] – $40
[card]Venser, the Sojourner[/card] – $50

These are some of the SCG preorder prices from Scars of Mirrodin.

Yeah, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that those Planeswalker prices would come down, but it’s not like I cherry-picked the list too much.

You know how many rares & mythics COMBINED you would have done well to preorder?

One.

[card]Tempered Steel[/card] at $2.50.

And even those you could find for like $1 several months into the drafting season.

Every other SOM preorder would have lost you money compared to the current retail value of the card.

People forget how much of each large set is drafted and how seriously that affects the price of the cards. There will literally be a steady downward trend on nearly every card in the set for the next year.

And by the time the next small set comes around, everyone will have forgotten that some of those rares and mythics actually will go up, so everyone will ditch those rares as quickly as they can and get burned when the price doesn’t drop as much.

It’s the circle of Standard. Don’t be fooled by it.

Until next time –

– Chas Andres

Discussion

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