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Set Prices, Reprint Rates, and MM2: Mirrodin through Dissension


A few days ago I published an article exploring the reprint rates and set prices of the mythic era of Magic — Shards block and forward. People seemed to enjoy it, but one of the questions I got was "what about the older sets?" I left out the pre-mythic sets on purpose, mostly because I wanted to be able to make an apples to apples comparison, but also because the article would have been 15,000 words long; but don't worry, today we are going to look at the sets from Mirrodin through Dissension — the first sets legal in Modern and sets that were printed before the advent of the mythic rarity. 

The method of this article will be the same as the first one with lots of charts and numbers and a focus on what cards have been and likely will be reprinted. Originally I was planning to cover the rest of Modern today, but seventeen sets (not counting core sets) is just too much for one article, so we'll focus on the first half today and finish up the series with Coldsnap through Eventide in the future. Even with this concession I should warn you: it will still be a long one! So onto the sets.

Mirrodin

Mirrodin
Set Price Cards $20+ Cards $10+ Cards $5-$10 Cards $1-5 Uncommons $1+ Commons $1+
$250.74 0 5 11 22 5

5

 

Rare $10+ Rare $5+ Rare $1+ Uncommon $1+ Common $1+ $5+ Reprint Rate
5.7% 11.4% 31.8% 5.7% 4.5% 81.2%

I should make a couple things clear right off the bat: First off, old sets have wacky sizes. Mirrodin for instance has 88 rares, 88 uncommons, and 110 commons, which seems absurd considering how standardized set sizes have become in recent years. What this means is any particular Mirrodin rare is opened once every 2.44 boxes, which is a bit strange considering a modern small-set mythic is opened once every 2.22, and a large set mythic every 3.33. As such, based solely on how often the show up in a booster box, Chalice of the Void is actually more rare than Voice of Resurgence and only slightly less rare than Sorin, Solemn Visitor

Of course we are talking about the supply of the original printing. As you can see by the massive 81.2 percent $5+ reprint rate, almost every valuable card in Mirrodin has been reprinted over the past 12 years. Only three expensive cards from the set only have one printing: Extraplanar Lens, Mesmeric Orb, and Goblin Charbelcher. None of these cards seem exceedingly likely to be reprinted in a Standard-legal set or in Modern Masters 2015, but the first two have a reasonable chance to show up in a supplement product like a Commander deck. 

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

Extraplanar Lens is close to a casual/EDH staple, and it's surprising that it hasn't been reprinted somewhere already. It could be good for the next year or two considering we just had mono-colored Commander decks and Imprint returned to Standard not too long ago in Scars block, but it will be reprinted eventually. Mesmeric Orb is generally a part of very slow and somewhat illegal combo deck and I'm not sure that is something Wizards wants to support with a reprinting. Using it as part of a janky casual combo is fine, but it seems unlikely that Wizards will reprint a card it really doesn't want a competitive player to play with. Goblin Charbelcher would be the best card in Vintage and Legacy if Force of Will did not exist, but it is also an odd design and not all that appealing to Modern, Standard, or casual players.

Darksteel

Darksteel
Set Price Cards $20+ Cards $10+ Cards $5-$10 Cards $1-5 Uncommons $1+ Commons $1+
$255.29 4 2 6 16 4

0

 

Rare $10+ Rare $5+ Rare $1+ Uncommon $1+ Common $1+ $5+ Reprint Rate
9.1% 11.4% 20% 7.3% 0% 75%

The original Modern Masters hit Darksteel hard with five of the six most valuable cards in the set being reprinted. While getting a second print didn't impact the mythic swords at all, it did have a meaningful effect on the rares; Blinkmoth Nexus and Arcbound Ravager still haven't recovered from their price decrease.

The list of valuable cards with only one printing is just as small as Mirrodin, but since there are less $5+ in total, the percentage is slightly better. This group includes Mycosynth Lattice which is $20 despite only being played in casual. It's got to be reprinted eventually, after which its trajectory will likely follow that of Darksteel Forge, a card which fell from $12 to $2 after showing up in a core set. The other two single print cards are Savage Beating and Leonin Shikai, both of which entered the $5+ club only recently with the help of buyouts, so they probably aren't on the reprint-radar just yet considering how far in advance sets are designed.

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This I think is one of the biggest lessons in this entire article — older cards that only have one printing are among the most likely to be bought out and the most likely to have big increases in price, simply because the supply is so low. Everyone knows they will likely be reprinted eventually, but when you can buy $100 of a card off TCGPlayer and double the price, the risk is extremely low. These aren't long-term buys based on power or potential; they are short-term, supply-based plays. So pay attention the single print cards because they are where the action is.

Fifth Dawn

Fifth Dawn
Set Price Cards $20+ Cards $10+ Cards $5-$10 Cards $1-5 Uncommons $1+ Commons $1+
$223.61 1 4 6 26 10

2

 

Rare $10+ Rare $5+ Rare $1+ Uncommon $1+ Common $1+ $5+ Reprint Rate
9.1% 18.2% 45.5% 18.1% 3.6% 63.3%

Fifth Dawn is an odd set. Its reprint rate is low compared to the rest of its block with nearly half of the most expensive cards in the set (4 of 11) only having a single printing. The most surprising of these is Auriok Champion which seems to be a likely include in Modern Masters 2015. It's basically a $20 Soul Warden, which is insane. Mycosynth Golem, Staff of Domination, and Beacon of Tomorrows feel safe from MM2 and are more likely to be included in a supplemental product at some point in the future. 

The most shocking things about Fifth Dawn is the uncommons. This set has more valuable uncommons than any other set printed in the modern era. In fact, if you decide to start cracking packs, you'll open a $1 uncommon every other pack. Such value. And this doesn't even include Serum Visions which is currently an $8 common. Serum Visions is likely a lock for Modern Masters 2015, which will drop the price to $2 or so in the short term. 

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Crucible of the World already has two printings but it is still the most expensive card in the set by a significant margin. It seems likely to get reprinted again eventually, but I'm not exactly sure where. The card doesn't do much in limited so it is a weird choice for Modern Masters 2015 (unless it takes up one of the few Blood Moon-esque slots), and it does next to nothing in most Standard formats (although it would be pretty sweet at the moment with fetchlands and cards like Satyr Wayfinder and Commune with the Gods), so it could be safe for Standard. Either way, it has been on the weekly winners over the past month, which suggests to me that people are betting against an impending reprint. 

Champions of Kamigawa

Champions of Kamigawa
Set Price Cards $20+ Cards $10+ Cards $5-$10 Cards $1-5 Uncommons $1+ Commons $1+
$360.68 4 4 8 32 5

5

 

Rare $10+ Rare $5+ Rare $1+ Uncommon $1+ Common $1+ $5+ Reprint Rate
8% 15.9% 45.5% 4.5% 0.9% 37.5%

Maybe it's because it was widely unpopular during its initial run (although it does have a cult following today), but Wizards just hasn't reprinted Champions of Kamigawa cards. With only 37.5 percent of the valuable cards being reprinted (and 25% if you discount the very limited FTV printings of Sensei's Divining Top and Forbidden Orchard). We are talking a Zendikar block level of reprinting, even though CHK is significantly older and therefore has had many more opportunities to see reprinting. 

In part because of this lack of reprinting, CHK has an abnormally high set price. A couple of the $20+ card are safe from MM2, but only because they are banned in Modern (Sensei's Divining Top and Glimpse of Nature) and others like Minamo, School at Water's Edge and Marrow-Gnawer seem like odd inclusions in a limited-focused set (assuming rat tribal isn't an archetype). 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

On the other hand, I'm really starting to expect Through the Breach to be in, assuming we are really getting all three mythic Eldrazi in the set. They have to give us a way to make sure the fatties hit the battlefield in draft or sealed, and while I expect the tron lands to be included, the math suggests they aren't really a reliable way to draft an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn deck since each pod will average less than three tron lands in total. 

The single-color legendary land cycle seems like an obvious include in Commander decks eventually considering EDH is the one format that really cares about legendary creatures. The same thing goes for casual staples like Konda's Banneret or another reprinting of the spirit dragons. Speaking of everyone's favorite mythic cycle from the original Modern Masters, they provide a good example of what a reprinting — even an extremely limited reprinting — can do to the price of casual cards. Both Kokusho, the Evening Star and Yosei, the Morning Star are about half of their pre-reprinting price. 

Betrayers of Kamigawa

Betrayers of Kamigawa
Set Price Cards $20+ Cards $10+ Cards $5-$10 Cards $1-5 Uncommons $1+ Commons $1+
$168.84 1 2 3 18 3

0

 

Rare $10+ Rare $5+ Rare $1+ Uncommon $1+ Common $1+ $5+ Reprint Rate
5.4% 10.9% 38.2% 5.4% 0% 33.3%

Like CHK, Betrayers of Kamigawa has an extremely low reprint rate for a set of its age with only two of its six $5+ cards being reprinted (including Umezawa's Jitte, which was a GP promo several years ago). However, I expect it to change with the release of MM2 as both Threads of Disloyalty and Goryo's Vengence are reasonable candidates to show up as rares in the set, not to mention the likelihood of Flames of the Blood Hand (which is pushing $5 as an uncommon) showing up somewhere as well. 

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The problem with BOK (actually all of Kamigawa block) is that there really are not that many tournament worthy cards. All of these sets are top heavy with two or three legitimate eternal staples, but then the rest of the set is stocked full of unplayable weirdness like Samurai, Rats, and strange legendary non-creature permanents. While some of these cards have managed to grow in value simply because their supply is low, once a reprinting does happen, their prices will drop fast and hard. I don't own many casual cards from the block, but if you have gone deep on casual Kamigawa block specs, I would be mindful of moving them before a reprint is announced. 

Saviors of Kamigawa

Saviors of Kamigawa
Set Price Cards $20+ Cards $10+ Cards $5-$10 Cards $1-5 Uncommons $1+ Commons $1+
$124.80 0 2 4 12 0

0

 

Rare $10+ Rare $5+ Rare $1+ Uncommon $1+ Common $1+ $5+ Reprint Rate
3.6% 10.9% 32.7% 0% 0% 0%

 

Saviors of Kamigawa is probably the worse set printed in the modern era in terms of value; it's almost laughable. Homelands with Samurai is actually a pretty reasonable comparison. The set has not had a single valuable card reprinted, but still comes in near the bottom of every price point. This is especially true of the lower rarities, where a stunning zero percent of uncommons and commons are worth more than $1. It's that bad.

So bad, in fact, that I solicited Kamigawa jokes from Twitter. Here's a sampling:

There are really only two Modern playable in the entire set: Pithing Needle, which has been reprinted several times, and Kataki, War's Wage, which was in the original Modern Masters. Before its reprinting, the latter was closing in on the $10 as a way to fight against Affinity, but now it's barely holding $2 and hasn't shown any real signs of recovery. Like the rest of Kamigawa block, there are not any obvious MM2 inclusions, with most of the cards better suited for a supplemental product, or the somewhat unlikely Return to Kamigawa. 

Ravnica

Ravnica
Set Price Cards $20+ Cards $10+ Cards $5-$10 Cards $1-5 Uncommons $1+ Commons $1+
$355.35 3 6 5 25 6

1

 

Rare $10+ Rare $5+ Rare $1+ Uncommon $1+ Common $1+ Reprint Rate
9.1% 15.9% 37.5$ 6/8% 0.9% 64.5%

Ravnica has a 64.5 percent $5+ reprint rate, no doubt aided by the inclusion of the entire shock land cycle in Return to Ravnica. It still has an abnormally high set price thanks in no small part to Dark Confidant, Glimpse the Unthinkable, and Doubling Season. Bob and the enchantment are particularly interesting since they were reprinted in MMA but didn't lose significant value. Doubling Season dropped, but has since recovered quite nicely; better than some of the tournament staple rares. 

These cards ask an interesting question that isn't really answered by our number crunching; namely, how much would some of these cards cost if they were not reprinted? Dark Confidant, for instance, was a $14 dollar card before the announcement of the Modern format in 2011. A year later he was up to $40. He stayed in this range for the next 18 months until the MMA reprinting, when he nearly doubled up from $50 to $80. This price increase in response to reprinting is what some people call the "Tarmogoyf effect" and is based on the misguided notion that more supply entering the market somehow causes some cards to massively increase in value. 

Let me break it to you now: the "Tarmogoyf effect" is a myth, at least in the way it is most commonly understood. If you look at the big picture and not just the price chart, it is pretty clear what happened with some of the most popular mythics in MMA. If you remember, the MMA announcement came during the fall Pro Tour and Tarmogoyf was spoiled at the same time. This is a full eight months before the set was actually released. For this time period (between the announcement and the release of the set), Tarmogoyf lived in a sort of limbo along with the other mythics that were widely expected to be in Modern Masters. It is common knowledge to most of the community that reprints decrease prices, so it was pretty difficult to justify spending $400 on a set of Tarmogoyfs when you knew a reprint was right around the corner. When the set was finally released, the floodgate of pent up demand broke open. Everyone that was waiting to get their set on the cheap pounced at once, causing the demand and price to increase. To be fair, the small supply of the original MMA did play a part — if they had announced that Tarmogoyf would be reprinted as a rare in M13 instead of the very limited Modern Masters, this influx of demand wouldn't have mattered. There would have been enough Tarmogoyfs to go around because they would be printed, and printed, and printed. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

As a result, the mythical "Tarmogoyf effect" — if we even want to call it that — only impacts very select and very expensive cards. Say, for instance, you are in the market for a new car and you know that in a month there is going to be a huge sale that will save you $5,000. Most people are just going to wait for the sale before buying. This is what happened with Tarmogoyf. At the same time, this doesn't really work with Etched Champion, Verdeloth the Ancient, or any other inexpensive card. These cards are like a pack of gum. Sure, there is a sale next month that will save you $0.10 per pack, but is it really worth waiting a month for your gum to save a dime? For most (and maybe all) people, the answer here is no. 

Guildpact

  

Guildpact
Set Price Cards $20+ Cards $10+ Cards $5-$10 Cards $1-5 Uncommons $1+ Commons $1+
$139.63 0 3 4 12 3

0

 

Rare $10+ Rare $5+ Rare $1+ Uncommon $1+ Common $1+ $5+ Reprint Rate
5.4% 10.9% 29.1% 5.4% 0% 42.8%

The numbers on Guildpact are generally unexciting. It's a low value set propped up by a handful of shocks. The reprint rate is low, but that is in part because a large group of reprinted cards (that would be worth more than $5 if they had not been reprinted) fall into the $4-$5 price range, thereby missing our sample. Either way, if any of Shattering Spree (likely), Orzhov Pontiff (possible), or Debtors' Knell (unlikely) end up on MM2, the reprint rate jumps up to nearly 60% and into the normal range for a set of its age. 

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

Let's talk about shocks for a minute. Since rotation, neither printing of the shock lands has done anything of note (with the exception of Steam Vents in response to the printing of Treasure Cruise). Most of the original printings are hanging around the $12-$15 range, while the reprints are in the $8-$10 range. The question is should you be buying shocks now? The answer, I'm afraid, is actually pretty complicated. Here's my thoughts on the topic:

  • If you are buying shocks to play with, there seems to be very little risk in purchasing them now. With fetchlands in Standard for the next couple years, there is a very minimal chance for another mass reprinting. There is absolutely no chance that Wizards allows us to play Modern manabases in Standard. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Sure, a copy here or there could show up in a supplemental product like a Modern event deck, or theoretically in a Commander deck, but I just don't see anything major happening in the near future. 
  • Reprints have a limited amount of equity for Wizards. When something like Tarmogoyf first gets printed, it's game changing. When Tarmogoyf gets reprinted, it's exciting. When it happens a second times it's cool, I guess. The third, forth, fifth times? Meh. There are definitely diminishing returns — if not, Wizards could just put fetchlands in every core set, sell a million boxes and make a trillion dollars (they actually tried this with the buddy lands, and I'm pretty sure I heard an audible groan from the community when they were spoiled for the fourth core set in a row). 
  • Supply of shocks is massive. Return to Ravnica block was extremely popular. Tons of product was opened. Many sets were redeemed (remember too, RTR was the last set with $5 redemption from Magic Online). It takes a lot for a card with two printings to spike significantly, and even more so a card from the set that was the "most opened ever" only a couple years ago. 
  • At the same time, there isn't really any reason to think shocks will decline in value until they are reprinted again. It is virtually impossible (barring the end of the reserved list) for a better cycle of lands to be printed for Modern (thanks to the fetchland synergy). These cards will likely be played just as much next year and five years from now as they are today. 
  • In buying shocks you are really betting on two things: when will they be reprinted again, and how much will the player base (specifically the Modern player base, but also casual/EDH, etc) continue to grow? If you think it will be five years until we see shocks again (in Return to Return to Ravnica) and that the player base will continue to grow at 10+% per year, buying shocks on spec is a great idea. If you think they will show up in the next year or two and that new player growth is going to slow, then just buy what you need for your decks and forget the rest. This is actually quite interesting because the most recent numbers from Hasbro show that the new player growth is less than it was a few years ago, but that current players are spending more money; the problem here is that current players are also more likely to already own a set of shocklands. 

Dissension

Dissension
Set Price Cards $20+ Cards $10+ Cards $5-$10 Cards $1-5 Uncommons $1+ Commons $1+
$174.05 0 4 3 23 2

2

 

Rare $10+ Rare $5+ Rare $1+ Uncommon $1+ Common $1+ $5+ Reprint Rate
6.7% 11.7% 43.3% 3.3% 3.3% 57.2%

 

First off, Plaxcaster Frogling is a $1.60 common. After reading this, I went an dchecked the price of my massive pile of Spore Frogs on the off-chance that there had been a reptile buyout that I had missed, but unfortunately they were still worthless. Why is this card worth so much? Please let me know in the comments.

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The rest of the set can pretty much be summed up as more shocks, a handful of casual cards, and Infernal Tutor, which is actually an interesting card in terms of a potential MM2 reprint. While the paper price isn't crazy and it isn't heavily played in Modern (where storm decks are U/R rather than U/B), it is a Legacy staple and it seems difficult to reprint anywhere else. To show up in Standard it would require a return to Hellbent, which isn't the most popular mechanic. Most supplemental products are aimed at the casual crowd which would rather have a Diabolic Revelation to find their *insert unplayable 9 drop here*. On the other hand, the card is horrible in limited, so I'm really not sure about its inclusion in MM2. If it isn't reprinted, it might be a good place to be. The card is super expensive on Magic Online since Storm is one of the cheap "intro to Legacy" decks that new players to the format tend to build. With more time to mature and no realistic reprint threat in the near future, there could be potential here, as suggested by the 20 percent spread. 

Visual Representations

Adjusted set price allows us to compare sets of different sizes on equal footing, which is important. Without adjusting for set size, Darksteel would be in the bottom half value-wise, but when you take into account that a large set has 37.5 percent more rares in it than a small set (during this time frame, it has since changed), Darksteel actually becomes the second most valuable set. 

Amazingly, the average $5+ reprint rate of Mirrodin, Kamigawa, and Ravnica block is almost exactly 50 percent, even including SOK's goose egg. Half of the most valuable cards of our sample have already been reprinted and it is likely this rate will increase next month when MM2 hits stores. Interestingly, this average is consistent with the Alara through New Phrexia sample from the last article, so it doesn't appear that set age is the determining factor in reprints. If we discount Kamigawa block as an outlier, the average increases to just over 63 percent, which sounds about right. 

To put this in perspective, Dragons of Tarkir currently has 12 cards worth $5 or more: all the non-Kolaghan Dragonlords, Narset Transcendent, Deathmist Raptor, Sarkhan Unbroken, Thunderbreak Regent, Dromoka's Command, Atarka's Command, Dragon Whisperer, and Ojutai Exemplars. Many of these cards look like very attractive long-term spec targets for casual, EDH, or even Modern in the case of the commands. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Reprint rates of 50, 60, or even 70 percent complicate this plan. Not only do you have to pick winners (i.e. cards that are going to be worth more three or four years from now), but you also have to consider that at least six (and maybe eight or nine) of the cards on this list will be reprinted in the future which will decrease their value. Picking cards that will not be reprinted is much more difficult than picking cards with long-term potential. Anyone can see that Sarkhan Unbroken will be popular with casual players as a dragon-referencing planeswalkers, but none of us can know for sure if it will be in a Duel Deck next year, a supplemental the next, or a Modern Masters the year after that. 

What I'm trying to say is high reprint rates decrease the odds of successful long-term specs on new cards and increases the amount of stress and work that goes into making money on these purchases. It wasn't that long ago that all you needed to worry about was a yearly core set reprinting and some random promo printings. Now the focus is to push more copies of old cards into the market by any means necessary. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

And this makes complete sense. Sakashima the Impostor doesn't need to be a $10 card, and by its merits and power-level, it shouldn't be. We have what? Three, four, five times as many Magic players now than when Saviors of Kamigawa was printed, not to mention the advent of EDH, the most popular casual format. For the game to continue to grow — which benefits all of us from Wizards, to financiers, to players, to store owners, to dealers — new players need access to cards printed back in the dark ages, and the way to make this happen is reprintings. 

From a financial perspective, the moral of this story is that MTG Finance is no longer primarily about recognizing powerful cards, casual hits, and sleepers. While all of these obviously play a role, the most important skill required to make money by speculating on Modern cards is an impeccable sense of timing. Apart from cards on the reserved list, the question is no longer can this be reprinted; this question has already been answered with a resounding yes (as our data shows). The question we need to ask ourselves is when will it be reprinted, and in what type of product and quantity? 

This is the brave new world of MTG Finance and it's time for us to learn how to live in it. 

Conclusion

As always, leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments, or you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 


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