Shifting Metagame

Hello, fellow speculators!

Are you all looking forward to the prerelease this weekend? I know I’m not, as Born of the Gods has close to zero implications for Modern. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the prerelease is on Super Bowl weekend.

What everyone does care about is the upcoming Modern banned and restricted list changes that will be announced roughly a week after this article. The general gist among pros is that [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] and [card]Bitterblossom[/card] are the most likely to be unbanned, while [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] is the most likely to be on the chopping block. Keep in mind that this is nothing more than speculation at this point.

Enough talk about talk about the banned list, though, I’ve already covered the topic extensively in my previous article here. Let’s move on to the main topic of today’s discussion: the MTG finance metgame.

Shifting Metagame

I wanted to cover a topic that I’ve brought up on reddit, and it’s the idea that MTG Finance has a metagame.

What metagame, you say?

The current metagame is to bandwagon-buy cards that are being bought out. For example, one might buy when a card like [card]Summoner’s Egg[/card] is debuted in a Travis Woo brew or when the supply of a card dips below 100 vendor listings on TCGplayer.

Let’s look at the past month’s worth of specs that have spiked to make up the current MTG finance metagame.

Splinter Twin


[card]Splinter Twin[/card] is a rare from a set released over three years ago. It is played as a four-of in a tier-one Modern deck. The card doubled over the course of a day from $5 to $10 and has stayed stable since, albeit at low supply of vendor listings. Going into Modern season, the card likely still has more room to grow if there’s yet another shortage on the internet.


Phyrexian Obliterator

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[card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card] is a mythic rare from over two years ago that sees play in a popular Modern mono-black devotion brew as a two- or three-of. It is a casual favorite because making an opponent sacrifice permanents is dirty. The card spiked on two occasions, culminating in a doubling of price from about $14 to $28. Prices are falling overall because Mono-Black Devotion isn’t actually a competitive deck.

Genesis Wave

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[card]Genesis Wave[/card] is a rare that is three years old and played in Modern Green Devotion as a four-of win condition. The card also sees a good amount of EDH play according to Prices have actually gone up from spike levels of $5 to the current $6, suggesting that the demand for the card is real.

Birthing Pod

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[card]Birthing Pod[/card] is very similar to [card]Splinter Twin[/card] in that it’s a rare played in a tier-one Modern decks as a four-of. Likewise, it doubled from $5 to $10 overnight, albeit the price has given a little. I think this is because there is more supply, given that it’s a two-year-old card as opposed to a three-year-old card like [card]Splinter Twin[/card]. Also like [card]Splinter Twin[/card], there is more growth for the card so long as it’s not banned in Modern.

Summoner’s Egg

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[card]Summoner’s Egg[/card] is getting to the really shady territory in that it’s just seeing play in Travis Woo’s Modern brew as a four-of. Partly due to the price jump that [card]Disrupting Shoal[/card] saw, speculators didn’t want to miss out on another spike and bought the card out. Egg is now a $4 card, up from its previous $0.60 price. I don’t think the card is done dropping from its current price yet, because the deck isn’t any good.

Wurmcoil Engine

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[card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] is a mythic rare from a set over three years old that is commonly played in Modern Tron as a three- or four-of. It also sees a fair amount of play in EDH. Its price has steadily gone up from under $10 at the beginning of 2013 to the current $23, and the card could go up even further during Modern season.

Coming Out Ahead

I hope that this review has struck a chord. If you want to actually come out ahead in MTG Finance, it’s about the fundamentals, not trying to bandwagon into hype. Just because the card goes up some 600%, like in the case of [card]Summoner’s Egg[/card], doesn’t mean that there’s money to be made. You have to find a buyer for the cards before you can sell.

Based on previous cards, there are some general inferences that can be drawn for future speculating.

  • If you haven’t read my colleague Brainstorm Brewery writer Anthony Capece’s article, Rare is the New Uncommon, I highly recommend reading it here. Mythic rare is a big deal because it is literally half the supply of rares. Even if there isn’t a great demand for a card, like in the case of [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card], it will likely at least maintain its price. If it’s a card that is a multi-format staple, like [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card], there’s no telling where the price will settle.
  • On a similar note, supply reigns supreme over demand. Sure, demand might spike due to a new deck or brew, but demand is fickle. The card that everyone wants today is likely not going to be the card that everyone wants tomorrow. [card]Kami of the Crescent Moon[/card]’s price is going down so slowly because where in the world is someone supposed to find an eight-year-old card that never saw any play?
  • Cards that don’t become staples will go back down, albeit to levels higher than previous price points. [card]Genesis Wave[/card] was a huge deal on the day that it spiked, but how much profit was there to make on a card that sold at $5 at its highest point? Unless you were one of the first onto the card, getting in at the lowest point of $2, there was very little money to be made.
  • Market algorithms are constantly changing. I’m glad to be one of the first to have written about the number of TCG vendor listings as a way to predict future price spikes here. But nowadays cards are constantly flirting with 50 or fewer vendor listings. It’s time to go back to the fundamentals. Find the next gap in demand and supply. Buy into the next undervalued card that no one’s discovered yet and get it for cheap. When the price finally catches up, not due to hype, but actual demand, you’ll know that you made the right call (credit to Jason Alt for the concept). For me, that card is [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] because of its massive EDH appeal and the tight buylist spread, despite seeing close to zero competitive play.

I hope that this article was informative on the most up-to-date info in the MTG finance world. I continue to be intrigued by the ever evolving nature of the metagame, where to think like the average person is to be behind.

Until next time!

About the Author
@fyawm     -     Email     -     Articles Tim Enmou Gao is a writer for Brainstorm Brewery and resides in Los Angeles. A Modern-phile at heart, he is currently piloting a RUG Delver. You can reach Tim on Twitter or /u/fyawm on Reddit.

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