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Magic Online Finance: The Fate of KTK Packs


Fate Reforged (FRF) is being released on Magic Online February 2nd. What will happen to Khans of Tarkir (KTK) packs, which, at the time of this writing, is currently hovering around 2.8 tickets?

The value of packs on Magic Online is derived from both the value of the individual cards in the pack, the popularity of the limited format, and the overall supply of the pack (especially with regards to how long it was paid out in constructed queues). These three factors are not independent of one another.

At the time of this writing, Journey Into Nyx is the most expensive standard pack at 4.2 tickets, which is unsurprising considering the fact that it both has several constructed standouts including a nearly unheard of three rares around or above 10 tickets: Mana Confluence, Temple of Malady, and Eidolon of the Great Revel. Compared that to the only two other rares over 10 tickets in the rest of standard (Courser of Kruphix and Goblin Rabblemaster. Journey into Nyx was also drafted and paid out in constructed queues for a short period of time.

In contrast, Theros (THS) , which is a much better comparison with KTK than JOUs ince they are both large Fall expansions, is the least expensive standard pack at 1.6 tickets. This in part is because of the deflated rare prices. THS started dipping around this time last year and never really recovered.

THS was around 3 tickets when BNG came out, and then it started to dip to 2.5 by the summer. One major reason for this is that constructed payouts switched back to pay either partial or, in the case of one-on-one constructed queues, entirely, in THS packs. This was the first time that Wizards had done this. Typically, constructed payouts for one-on-one queues were always the most recent standard set, however, with the release of BNG and JOU, those sets only remained the primary payouts in constructed queues for a short period of time before they switched back to THS.

What about previous large fall sets? RTR is unique in that it was drafted as a triple pack draft format, but then disappeared as the primary format for four months with the release of Gatecrash (GTC), before returning for the summer when it was drafted as a one-of with Dragon’s Maze (DGM)/GTC/RTR. This was also the same summer that Modern Masters (MM) came out, which further restricted the supply of RTR as drafters switched from RTR draft to MM draft. While less drafters also means less demand, it also means less rares and mythics in the system as a whole.

But the best comparison for KTK pack prices is most likely Innistrad (ISD), which was drafted in exactly the same manner as KTK will be drafted: first as ISD/ISD/ISD, then for a couple of months as Dark Ascension (DKA)/ISD/ISD, and then replaced by triple Avacyn Restored (AVR). This is exactly the draft trajectory that KTK will have when it is paired with FRF for a couple of months (actually, less time than ISD was drafted with DKA because Dragons of Tarkir comes out earlier than most third sets) before being shifted out completely.

The question of how the playability of KTK singles will stack up in future standard is impossible to answer, but looking at the precedent of lands from comparable sets provides some guidance. Fetch lands will continue to be good in both Standard and Modern. It is very interesting that Sulfur Falls, Isolated Chapel, and the other ISD dual lands all hovered around 3 tickets (a respectable price for a rare on Magic Online with standard-only viability), while THS lands all fell to below a ticket. While there was definitely some difference in playability (the THS lands were of less-played colored combinations in their standard environments and ISD lands played extremely well with RTR), it’s not enough to explain three-fold price difference.

As for other mythics and rares, it’s obviously hard to predict what — if any — cards will rise in value as standard changes and it's dangerous to play the speculation game for individual cards. Common wisdom would be to assume that prices from a large fall set hit a low when the packs are being opened and then rebound as it is drafted less, but that’s not actually always true. THS prices dramatically dropped about two months after its release and never recovered. However, both RTR and ISD peaked, though at different times (RTR peaked with the release of GTC; ISD didn’t peak until a year later, also with the release of GTC). What cards produced value in these sets?

Theros

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

THS seems to be a historically bad set value-wise: it was flooded into the system and, despite actually having some high performing mythics in standard (Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Stormbreath, Polukranos, World Eater, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver) and a multi-format pillar at rare (Thoughtseize), the singles did not maintain much value because of the high supply. The lands were not in the most played color combination (and were not auto 4-ofs because they come into play tapped) and they have no playability outside of standard.

Return to Ravnica

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

RTR had incredibly short supply because it was never drafted as a two-of and when it came back with DGM, it was quickly crowded out by DGM. Two of its mythics ended up being defining cards in standard (Jace, Architect of Thought and Sphinx’s Revelation) and the shocklands were a glue that kept the value relatively high.

Innistrad

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

ISD captured value from two areas: multi-format playables (including two mythics with Liliana of the Veil and Geist of Saint Traft) and relatively low supply. Again, the lands here are indicative: while Liliana of the Veil, Geist of Saint Traft, and Snapcaster Mage got most of the attention, the fact that standard-only lands (lands which were auto 4-ofs in their respective color combinations in standard) maintained value over 3 tickets for most of the set’s lifetime in standard is indicative of what a relatively short-supply can do to a set’s value.

Khans of Tarkir

KTK seems like it is very comparable to ISD. While it does not have mythics that will be multi-format staples, its lands are played in standard, modern, and legacy, and this will go along way towards keeping KTK packs at a reasonable level. It does have standard playable mythics with some potential: KTK's top five mythics at this point compare favorably with the top five mythics from THS at this time last year.

It will be interesting to see how fetch lands being re-printed in FRF will affect KTK's value. The nearest comparison is shocklands being reprinted in Dragon's Maze (DGM), which did not have much impact on RTR and GTC shockland prices. However, FRF will be drafted for longer than DGM; DGM was both a third set and also faced competition from Modern Masters not long after it was released.

The fear of KTK being flooded in the market might be unfounded. There's obviously the fact that KTK will be drafted for nearly four months less than THS. Remember that Dragons of Tarkir comes out a month earlier than most third sets. With the shorter turn around between FRF and Dragons of Tarkir, it is possible that constructed queue prize payouts might not switch back to KTK after going to FRF. Even more intriguing is the possibility that KTK drafts will disappear entirely this summer. With Dragons of Tarkir, Modern Masters 2015, and Magic 2016 all coming out within a few months of each other, it's possible that KTK draft queues will be removed entirely from Magic Online sometime in the next few months.

Conclusion

Based on all of this, I think KTK packs will rise to at least 3 tickets sometime in the next 3-4 months, probably when Dragons of Tarkir comes out and KTK stops being a primary draft set. After that, the relative short supply of KTK packs on Magic Online, coupled with the playability of the singles, could cause packs to keep rising to 3.5 by next fall's release. It probably won't reach 4 or above like RTR because it will rotate faster than RTR, but KTK packs are likely bottoming out now and will probably will climb upward over the next six months.


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