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Fetchless


Yesterday Maro confirmed on his Tumblr that we would be getting new full-art basic lands in Battle for Zendikar and the community erupted. To be fair, the eruption was more about the second part of his blog post where he let us know that "Battle for Zendikar does have a cool rare cycle of dual lands, but they’re brand new designs and not the Zendikar fetch lands." As someone who firmly believed that the enemy fetches would return in Battle for Zendikar, both because they almost have to be printed in an expert level expansion (more on this later) and because we already have fetches in Standard, so the impact of additional shuffling (which Wizards dislikes in Standard) is minimized. Tthe amount-of-shuffling difference between five fetches and ten fetches is much less than the amount-of-shuffling difference between zero and five fetches, so this comes as a surprise to me. I was certain enough that I sold my Zendikar fetchlands months ago right before Dragons of Tarkir was released. So today we are going to talk about what this announcement means for not just for Zendikar fetches, but also for the Khans of Tarkir fetches and the Modern format as a whole. 

1. Zendikar Fetches are Getting More Expensive

Unsurprisingly, all of the Zendikar fetchlands increased significantly in price yesterday with the two biggest gainers (Verdant Catacombs and Misty Rainforest) nearly doubling in price in a matter of hours. There are several reason for this huge price increase. First, some number of people (like me) sold their fetches on the assumption they would be getting reprinted in Battle for Zendikar, with the plan being to buy them back later for a cheaper price and avoid losing a bunch of money. Well, "later" happened to be yesterday, so anyone who sold their fetches but still wanted to have them to play Modern or Legacy rushed to buy them before the expected price increase (which ironically, helped create the price increase). Second, there were also players who were holding off on buying into Modern for the first time in expectation of the Battle for Zendikar fetch reprinting. Some number of these players also took the plunge yesterday, further driving up prices. This is not to mention that getting the "no reprint" announcement was basically a green light for speculators to buy, buy, buy with most assuming the enemy fetches are safe from reprinting for another year or two at least. Furthermore, some vendors raised their prices preemptively expecting there to be a run on fetchlands and it is also likely that some large vendors used their capital to purchase the supply of smaller vendors in preparation for the price spike. All in all, this lead to the huge increases shown above. 

2. This is Good News for Ally Fetches

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Substitute goods are two goods that could be used for the same purpose. If the price of one good increases, then demand for the substitute is likely to rise. Therefore, substitutes have a positive cross elasticity of demand. 

Although it might seem strange to consider them as such, ally fetches are a substitute for enemy fetches in regards to the Modern format. As the price of enemy fetches increases, so should the demand for ally fetches as some players figure that spending $70 on a play set of slightly-worse-but-still-functional Flooded Strand is better than spending $70 on a single copy of Misty Rainforest. Obviously if you want to run the absolute best version of a deck like Grixis Control, you are going to need a play set of Scalding Tarn; but in many cases, the Khans of Tarkir fetches are a reasonable substitute. Just how good of a substitute are they? Let's see.

Fifteen Most Played Modern Decks
Deck ZEN Fetch KTK Substitute Fetch Unfetchable Lands Post-Change
Grixis Control x4 Scalding Tarn x4 Bloodstained Mire Lose ability to fetch x3 Island, gain ability to fetch x1 Swamp
Splinter Twin x2 Scalding Tarn, x4 Misty Rainforest x4 Flooded Strand, x4 Polluted Delta, Lose ability to fetch x1 Forest, x1 Mountain, could play more Wooded Foothills.
Affinity/GR Tron/Merfolk/Boggles/Elves/Mono-U Tron/Scapeshift/Infect/Amulet Bloom/Death and Taxes/4-C Company n/a n/a n/a
Naya Burn x4 Arid Mesa x4 Windswept Heath Lose ability to fetch x3 Mountain. (Some builds don't play Arid Mesa anyway)
Abzan x4 Verdant Catacombs x4 Wooded Foothills Lose ability to fetch x2 Swamp.
Anafenza's Company x4 Verdant Catacombs x4 Wooded Foothills Lose ability to fetch x1 Plains, x1 Swamp

As you can see, 66.67 percent of the fifteen most played decks in Modern could care less about Zendikar fetches either because they don't play any fetches at all (various Tron builds, Merfolk, etc), or because they already play Khans of Tarkir fetches because they are the best option for their deck (Naya Burn, Infect, etc). As for the other five decks, running the best Khans of Tarkir fetch is only a slight downgrade from running the "best" Zendikar fetch. In fact, in 90 percent of the games you wouldn't even notice a difference and the other 10 percent will typically involving things like a resolved Blood Moon or a very long game where you could (at least in theory) run out of lands to fetch more quickly than if you were playing the optimal fetch. 

The point is you don't lose much by playing a KTK fetch over a ZEN fetch, and in most decks you don't lose anything at all. As such, the lack of more Zendikar fetches most likely means the price of KTK fetches will be on the rise as players will use them as the go-to budget substitute. In fact, this is already happening; over night StarCityGames bumped their sell price on KTK Polluted Delta and Flooded Strand to $30 each.

3. Modern as a whole gets more Expensive

A month ago I wrote an article explaining how Modern Prices Have Increased 25 Percent in the Past Six Months, and while some people have questioned parts of my methodology, other independent articles have backed up my initial conclusion — Modern is getting more expensive. Even though I just told you that the lack of a ZEN fetch reprint doesn't actually impact Modern gameplay as much as you might think, it does impact the price of the format as a whole. Even though you can build tier one/two modern decks without fetches, they are still the entry fee for building a real Modern (or Legacy, for that matter) collection or gauntlet. Considering that most fetches have or likely will increase in price, it's difficult to imagine a scenario where Modern isn't more expensive three or six months from now than it was yesterday.

4. Shooting Down the Commander 2015 Rumors

A lot of people are taking the announcement of enemy-color commander decks from a couple days ago, combining it with the fetchland announcement yesterday and coming up with the theory that ZEN fetches will be reprinted in the Commander 2015 decks. 

Well, I'm sorry to break it to you, but either this isn't happening or Wizards is one of the most poorly run companies ever. First there is absolutely no precedent for Wizards including cards like fetches in Commander preconstructed decks (or any non-premium/limited release precons). None what so ever. Off the top of my head, the most expensive reprint ever included in these types of products was Wurmcoil Engine in Commander 2014 at about $15 (and it already had a prerelease promo printing).

Second, as I've argued before, using fetches to sell Commander theme decks is a massive waste of reprint equity and a horrible mismanagement of Wizards' savings account. Sooner or later, Wizards is going to want to sell an uninspiring expert level expansion and including fetchlands is a guaranteed way to do so — apparently they think full-art basics and the return to Eldrazi is enough to sell Battle for Zendikar, and they are probably right. They could literally have the office vote on the worst rares and mythics printed in the past 10 years, fill an entire set with only these cards, include the five fetchlands and have the next "best selling set ever." That's how valuable fetchlands are to Wizards.

Third, including fetchlands in Commander 2015 would cause all types of problems. The intended market for the Commander deck (the casual/competitive EDH community) will have difficulty obtaining the cards since the tournament and finance communities will buy every copy they can find. Even with unlimited printing, we have seen short-term shortages of Commander decks in the past. It would crash the market on literally every other card in the decks as the fetch would each up a huge percentage of the EV. While this might sound appealing, I'm not sure Wizards wants all their flashy new designs to be worthless, especially considering we naturally equate expensive with "good" and inexpensive with "bad." 

In sum, this isn't happening. If it does, I'll gladly eat my words (and buy every Commander deck I can get my hand on), but don't get your hopes up.

5. So Where Do We Get ZEN Fetches?

In my opinion, odds are still heavily in favor of the fetches eventually showing up in an expert level expansion. This could be as soon as the second set in the Battle for Zendikar block (the wording Maro used left the possibility open, but he is also notorious for truthful misdirection so it is unwise to read too much between the lines) or it could be years from now; we really have no way of knowing. In some ways, putting fetches in the second set in the block makes sense, since it would limited the amount of time the cycle would be in Standard, but using the cycle to generate excitement for a large release would work as well. 

The other possibility is Modern Masters 3 (which most people agree will come in 2017). My initial thoughts are that Wizards doesn't need to use the fetches to sell Modern Masters, but others have pointed out that Modern Masters 2015 didn't sell as well one might expect. If Wizards is worried the next Modern Masters will be a dud, including the fetches would be an easy way to solve the problem, but I still think an expert level expansion is more likely. 

And basically, these are the only landing spots I can see for the ZEN fetches, barring some currently unknown release like Legacy Masters. 

TLDR

  • Zendikar fetches WILL NOT be in Battle for Zendikar.
  • The prices of Zendikar fetches have already increased between 30 and 108 percent in the last day. 
  • It is likely that KTK fetches will get a bump in demand (and price), and this has already started with Polluted Delta and Flooded Strand hitting $30 on SCG.
  • This lack of reprinting doesn't impact most Modern decks all that much, but as a whole the format is more expensive today than yesterday. 
  • A Commander 2015 reprinting is exceedingly unlikely for several reasons.
  • The most likely landing spots for Zendikar fetches is an expert level expansion (as early as the second set of BFZ block or as late as several years from now) with Modern Masters 2017 being the only other realistic reprinting opportunity. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Did this announcement take you by surprise? Did you sell your fetches expecting a reprint in Battle for Zendikar? Did you buy fetches yesterday in anticipation of the price increase? When and where do you think the Zendikar fetches will get reprinted? Let me know in the comments and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.


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