Hello, fellow speculators!
After the biggest Constructed grand prix ever, GP Richmond, we’ve been a whole lot of winding down from card spikes. The market seems to be returning to the regular world of value investing. It sure has quieted down around here in the MTG finance world.
But the slower pace really gives us a time to examine some of the more recent events.
I still like all three of my calls from my last article: Grafdigger’s Cage, Thrun, the Last Troll, and Phyrexian Unlife. Grafdigger’s Cage and Thrun, the Last Troll are cards you want to hold going into the Modern PTQ season, but Phyrexian Unlife is an easy pump and dump.
But aside from all the selfpromotion, I also wanted to more closely examine a question that has recently split the MTG finance community.
What is the Effect of Legacy on Current Card Prices?
To argue that Legacy is going to die is pointless. John Maynard is famously quoted saying, “In the long run, we are all dead.” It’s easy to say that the same is true for Legacy, but it will likely be the same for Modern ten years from now. Or maybe even Standard sometime in the future.
What we want to examine is what effect Legacy has on current card prices, not the future a year from now. Which format Star City Games will choose to support next year—Modern or Legacy—is anyone’s guess at this point, much less how Saturday and Sunday will be structured to support those formats. I like speculating, but I don’t speculate on baseless predictions.
Enough ink has been spilled over this. Let’s jump into some data.
Data
Match(Cuts)
Card Name  Cut Reason 
Abrupt Decay  Standard 
Aether Vial  
Arid Mesa  
Aven Mindcensor  Uncommon 
Batterskull  
Blood Moon  
Cavern of Souls  
Creeping Tar Pit  
Dark Confidant  
Delver of Secrets  Common 
Ethersworn Canonist  
Flickerwisp  Uncommon 
Forest  Basic 
Gemstone Mine  Common 
Gitaxian Probe  Common 
Goblin Guide  
Grafdigger’s Cage  Recent 
Horizon Canopy  
Inkmoth Nexus  
Island  Basic 
Lightning Bolt  Common 
Liliana of the Veil  
Marsh Flats  
Misty Rainforest  
Mountain  Basic 
Mutavault  Standard 
Noble Hierarch  
Plains  Basic 
Relic of Progenitus  Uncommon 
Scalding Tarn  
Simian Spirit Guide  Common 
Snapcaster Mage  
Spell Pierce  Common 
Stomping Ground  Standard 
Swamp  Basic 
Tarmogoyf  
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben  
Thoughtseize  Standard 
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle  
Vendilion Clique  
Verdant Catacombs 
Above is a list of 40 cards that are commonly played in both Modern and Legacy accordingly to MTG Goldfish. The chart above is based on a comparison between the top 50 spells, top 50 creatures, and top 50 lands in both formats. Cards were chosen across the two formats to control for the differences in supply and prices of the cards. Based on the list, a few of the cards have been taken out due to availability (common) or influence from other formats (Standard). I’ve also chosen to take out Grafdigger’s Cage because its prices doesn’t reflect its playability due to it being a recent printing and the myth that sideboard cards should be worth less (see Spellskite and Threads of Disloyalty).
Match(Final)
Card Name  Modern  Legacy  Price 
Aether Vial 
7.53% 
12.32% 
$18.49 
Arid Mesa 
10.78% 
5.25% 
$46.84 
Batterskull 
4.91% 
6.34% 
$21.49 
Blood Moon 
8.28% 
6.16% 
$10.84 
Cavern of Souls 
3.25% 
5.25% 
$14.96 
Creeping Tar Pit 
1.98% 
4.53% 
$8.75 
Dark Confidant 
6.66% 
8.70% 
$65.00 
Ethersworn Canonist 
4.79% 
6.70% 
$2.96 
Goblin Guide 
3.65% 
3.26% 
$10.00 
Horizon Canopy 
3.76% 
2.36% 
$28.49 
Inkmoth Nexus 
11.09% 
1.45% 
$9.00 
Liliana of the Veil 
7.77% 
17.30% 
$61.64 
Marsh Flats 
8.04% 
10.87% 
$40.24 
Misty Rainforest 
43.34% 
23.28% 
$74.90 
Noble Hierarch 
12.24% 
1.81% 
$36.95 
Scalding Tarn 
32.96% 
27.99% 
$76.00 
Snapcaster Mage 
27.30% 
6.88% 
$27.25 
Tarmogoyf 
17.59% 
18.12% 
$165.00 
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 
3.88% 
9.42% 
$5.49 
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle 
3.25% 
1.09% 
$1.37 
Vendilion Clique 
8.24% 
12.05% 
$53.14 
Verdant Catacombs 
23.02% 
22.37% 
$47.99 
Above is the final list of cards that play in both Legacy and Modern, the respective amount of play in each format, and the lowest listed TCGplayer prices based on data from MetaMox.
Next, I did a regression on Excel comparing each format’s playability as a predictor of price. Feel free to skip to the conclusion section if you’re not interested in the numbers.
Result(Both)
Regression Statistics 

Multiple R 
0.649513678 
R Square 
0.421868018 
Adjusted R Square 
0.36101202 
Standard Error 
29.63703948 
Observations 
22 
ANOVA  

df 
SS 
MS 
F 
Significance F 
Regression 
2 
12177.91239 
6088.956195 
6.932233974 
0.005486008 
Residual 
19 
16688.72807 
878.3541089 

Total 
21 
28866.64046 

Coefficients 
Standard Error 
t Stat 
Pvalue 
Intercept 
6.696302336 
10.45167841 
0.640691579 
0.529375415 
X Variable 1 
27.64720683 
85.57048402 
0.323092795 
0.750153757 
X Variable 2 
285.3216566 
121.4092381 
2.35008193 
0.029726643 
Something amazing just happened. Allow me to explain.
The equation that the Excel equation calculated for the price of a card is as follows:
Price = $27.647X_{%Modern} + $285.322X_{%Legacy} + $6.70
What does this mean? It means that from a purely price point of view, for every 1% more play that a card sees in Modern, it translates to a $0.28 higher price, while for every 1% more play that a card sees in Legacy, it translates to a $2.85 higher price.
That is insane! Legacy playability has more than 10 times the effect on price!
Let’s make sure the other statistical variable checks out. The Rsquare value of 0.422 means that about 42% of the variance in price can be explained by the variance in the playability in the two formats. While 42% isn’t a very high number, it’s not bad either.
What if we isolate the Xvariable by format?
Result(Modern):
Regression Statistics 

Multiple R 
0.503803211 
R Square 
0.253817676 
Adjusted R Square 
0.21650856 
Standard Error 
32.81750819 
Observations 
22 
ANOVA  

df 
SS 
MS 
F 
Regression 
1 
7326.863589 
7326.863589 
6.803100732 
Residual 
20 
21539.77687 
1076.988843 

Total 
21 
28866.64046 

Coefficients 
Standard Error 
t Stat  Pvalue  
Intercept 
17.69553437 
10.34801366 
1.710041652  0.102728117 
X Variable 1 
172.0295088 
65.9552694 
2.608275433  0.016822964 
Result(Legacy):
Regression Statistics 

Multiple R 
0.647063885 
R Square 
0.418691671 
Adjusted R Square 
0.389626254 
Standard Error 
28.96585795 
Observations 
22 
ANOVA  

df 
SS 
MS 
F 
Significance F 
Regression 
1 
12086.22192 
12086.22192 
14.40514955 
0.001134606 
Residual 
20 
16780.41854 
839.0209268 

Total 
21 
28866.64046 

Coefficients 
Standard Error 
t Stat 
Pvalue 
Intercept 
7.159058199 
10.11861304 
0.707513784 
0.487410668 
X Variable 1 
313.4851146 
82.5958141 
3.795411644 
0.001134606 
Legacy is still a much better fit based on the Rsquared value, .254 compared to .419. The fact the R squared value only a hair less than the multiple regression of Modern playability and Legacy playability suggest that adding Modern playability to the regression model might not be helpful at all.
Interpretation
As with all things statistics, you should take these numbers with a grain of salt. This analysis in particular should be taken with a boatload of salt. Here’s why.
The regression that Excel attempted is a bestfit regression. That means the difference between Modern being the factor with the larger coefficient might not be that different from Legacy being the factor with the larger coefficient.
While we can assume a normal distribution under the Central Limit Theorem despite there only being 21 total observations, it’s not a strong case.
Result(Both):

Coefficients 
Standard Error 
Lower 95% 
Upper 95.0% 
Intercept 
6.696302336 
10.45167841 
15.17931198 
28.57191665 
X Variable 1 
27.64720683 
85.57048402 
151.4538746 
206.7482882 
X Variable 2 
285.3216566 
121.4092381 
31.20920081 
539.4341125 
The lack of observations create a huge variance for the 95% confidence interval, where the true coefficient for X_{%Modern} is likely a number between $151.45 and $206.75 and X_{%Legacy }is a number between $31.21 and $539.43. We really have no idea if we have anywhere close to the real number!
Conclusion
I would argue that for a given Modernplayable card, its playability in Legacy will be the biggest factor in its price. The conclusion makes intuitive sense. The data set began with cards playable in Modern, and the differences in price can be attributed to how playable those cards are in Legacy. Think Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, which sees minimal play in Modern, but because of its playability in Legacy, has seen its price recently jump from $3 to $7.
Speculation Corner
Will anyone please come up with a better name for this section? Hit me up with your suggestions!
Steam Vents is already at a 25% spread due to its playability in Modern, and it sees close to zero play in Standard. I would target it in trades and buy into copies if you have additional capital. It’s the thirdmostplayed nonbasic land in Modern behind Scalding Tarn and Misty Rainforest, and there’s always money to be made on the top dogs.
I’ve been calling Grafdigger’s Cage and I will call it again. By all metrics, the card is massively underpriced. Obviously the supply is what’s stopping the price of the card in its tracks. Short of a ban on Chord of Calling—that is, a huge metagame shift in Modern—Grafdigger’s Cage will easily be $10 by next year. The card is also on the top of the list on the thread here, and the Brainstorm Brewery podcast has called the card multiple times. Not many cards on the Modern cards list also see massive Legacy play that isn’t already $10, and the fact it’s already a $20 foil means that it’s not your ordinary sideboard card.
Lastly, Ethersworn Canonist looks to be a good pickup from a theoretical perspective. It sees crossformat play, and the spread for the MMA copy is only 15%. It’s not a card you would expect because it’s not a sexy card like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, but it sees slightly less play in Legacy and slightly more play in Modern. People don’t give nearly as much respect to sideboard cards as they should—until all the supply runs dry, that is.
Until next time! Stay liquid and sharp, my friends.
Closing
I’ve provided an honest attempt at using regressions to interpret MTG finance data, and it’s my hope that others who are better equipped and knowledgeable with economics will build on my efforts. I apologize in advance if I’ve made any newbish errors and misinterpreted any part of it—if I only learned anything from my econometrics class! If others would like to combine efforts, I would be happy to offer my help to advance the public’s knowledge of MTG finance trends.
Please see below for the download links to the excel sheets.
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Latest posts by Enmou Gao (see all)
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8 comments
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JPLvector
March 27, 2014 at 12:20 am (UTC 4) Link to this comment
I didn’t see in your analysis if you weighted the relative popularity of modern vs. legacy, for example in the form of number of tournaments fired x number of participants. Perhaps you did but it’s embedded in the data.
Enmou Gao
March 27, 2014 at 12:32 am (UTC 4) Link to this comment
This is a really good point and would support using data at MetaMox which has a approximate weighing of frequency over the data at MTGGoldfish which does not have such data available.
However, I don’t quite understand why weighing the popularity would be an influence on price in an equation that measures playability and price. I see the weighing as an additional confounding variable that dilutes the equation rather than helping to solve it. If you would explain the specifics of that, it would be much appreciated.
JPLvector
March 27, 2014 at 12:58 am (UTC 4) Link to this comment
Oh ok. For example on Aether Vial you have on your table 7.53% for Modern (playability) vs 12.32% for Legacy. But if there were 6 Modern DEs fired per day, each with average 40 players vs 3 Legacy DEs fired daily each averaging 20 players, then this information should be incorporated into the format’s influence in the card’s price. In this example you have that modern is played 4times more than legacy and I would apply that into the playability (now weighted playability). I could simply normalize respect the legacy column leaving 30.12% Modern vs 12.32% Legacy.
Hope this make sense! :)
Anonymous
March 27, 2014 at 9:48 am (UTC 4) Link to this comment
That makes sense, I’m just wondering if it’s worth it to confound the variables when there are only approximate data about the popularity of the formats.
At the end of the day, if I’m understanding it correctly, it’s only another coefficient in front of the Playability variable, but it’s something to think about.
I can see a whole article dedicated to the popularity of the various formats though! Thanks for the suggestion.
Jon
March 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm (UTC 4) Link to this comment
What is the justification for including an intercept term in the regression model?
You SUCK
March 27, 2014 at 2:13 pm (UTC 4) Link to this comment
This is an absolutely worthless model, as it takes the % played of the format as the basis for regression…but it completely ignores (a) the absolute number of players, and (b) the fact that speculators are running rampant in Modern right now. These two points make running a regression purely based on relative % of the field a very poor and ineffective predictor.
Enmou Gao
March 27, 2014 at 3:41 pm (UTC 4) Link to this comment
Tell me something I don’t know ;)
duntaduns
March 28, 2014 at 12:03 pm (UTC 4) Link to this comment
So… there was no reason for this post, then?