Late August is always an odd time in the Magic community. Set rotation is right around the corner, and the brand-new fall set is about to be front and center. Previews are still a week or two away, though, and even the idea of autumn seems impossibly distant, as if the current wave of 90-degree temperatures are just going to stretch on and on forever. In a normal year, we'd be gearing up for back to school season, the return of pumpkin spiced everything, and hours spent iterating on the new Standard metagame in the back of a cramped game store. This year…well, let's just say I'm really grateful that we have MTG Arena, Magic Online and webcam Commander.
August used to be a lull on the Magic calendar, but that isn't really true anymore. Not only was Double Masters a really cool and important set, but Wizards of the Coast has been aggressively banning cards all year long. Standard looks entirely different now than it did a few months ago, and the idea of WotC just letting their most popular format lie fallow toward the end of the summer seems like a policy relic from a previous decade. These days, it's all Magic, all the time.
That said, things are about to get even busier around these parts. Before long, we're all going to be focused on Zendikar Rising previews, trying to figure out whether or not we should be buying VIP packs in order to chase down fetch lands, and analyzing what the post-rotation metagame is going to look like. I honestly can't wait. But in the meantime, I want to spend the week examining two really important products that shouldn't fall through the cracks on WotC's jam-packed calendar.
Commander Collection: Green doesn't hit shelves until December 4th, but WotC revealed the full contents of the box set a few days ago. The box may only contain eight cards, but boy are they sweet. Commander Legends is actually going to arrive sooner—packs will drop on November 6th—but the full contents of that set should remain a mystery for another couple of months. WotC teased quite a bit of information about that set this week as well, though, and some of that information is quite financially actionable.
So. With the end of summer in sight and Zendikar Rising looming large, let's spend the week answering questions about WotC's final two "Year of Commander" products. Should you be saving your money for Commander Collection: Green, and how easy will it be to find a copy of the premium edition? What key cards might be reprinted in Commander Legends? And what do these sets mean for the future of Commander finance? Let's find out together.
Commander Collection: Green is quite good. Long-time customers have reason to be skeptical of Vault-style premium box set products—these sorts of things have gone through periods of being low-value and uninspiring.But WotC has been pulling out all the stops for their premium products lately, and Commander Collection: Green might be the best one yet. Here's the current financial breakdown, with current market prices as of earlier this week:
That's a total of $148, but the worst two cards (in terms of value) have exciting new art and are likely to end up being worth more than their current market price. They're also among the most-played cards in all of Commander. Truth be told, there's not a single dud on this list, and the box set does exactly what it sets out to do: provide the buyer with a really good seed for a green-based Commander deck.
Most of these cards should hold their value pretty well, too. I don't see Sylvan Library dropping below $15-$20 based on a single reprint, while Worldly Tutor should stick around the $8-$10 range. Seedborn Muse, Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury and Omnath, Locus of Mana are probably not dropping below $5 each, or at least not for long. Command Tower and Sol Ring have already hit rock bottom. Not only is this set good, it's resilient. These are all cards that could be right back up to $150 within a couple of years.
Of course, things get even more exciting when we look at the premium version of Commander Collection: Green. Remember how the non-foil copies of Command Tower and Sol Ring aren't worth much? That, uh, isn't true for their premium counterparts. I've tried to break down the potential value of that box set, but it's kind of messy at the moment:
As you can see, there's a far wider range of prices here. Omnath, Locus of Mana is worth about the same in foil and non-foil because the card was reprinted (in foil) in From the Vault: Legends, which is roughly as scarce as the Worldwake version. Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury has actually never been printed in non-foil. Bane of Progress and Worldly Tutor have never been printed in foil. Foil copies of Sol Ring range from $10 to $400 depending on the version. Foil copies of Command Tower are worth more than $100 because the only foils out there are from Commander's Arsenal or the Judge program.
Where will the Premium Commander Collection: Green versions of these cards settle? It's going to depend a lot on the size of the set's print run. The Command Tower will certainly be less than $100, and the Sol Ring will likely be more than $10. Sylvan Library probably won't stay at $73, but it shouldn't drop below $40, and foil copies of Worldly Tutor should be worth about the same. At the end of the day, unless WotC prints these to demand, this set will probably debut with $300 worth of singles that will settle in between $100-$200.
WotC doesn't have MSRP anymore, but someone on Reddit leaked the wholesale price for these box sets so we have a decent place to start as we look to calculate value. Based on those numbers—which are unverified and should be taken with a whole shaker of salt—wholesale on the non-foil box is $26.55, while the foil box is $53.10. Since retail is usually a little bit under twice wholesale, my guess is that most stores will be selling the non-foil box for $50 and the foil box for $100, though they might end up being slightly cheaper if you've got a really friendly LGS in your area.
Is that a good deal? Let's break it down. Here's a rough idea of what you're paying per card if you're buying the non-foil box for $50:
You can obviously break this down any number of ways, even mentally assigning the whole $50 to Sylvan Library and feeling as if you're getting the other seven cards "for free," but I like breaking things down roughly equally. Thought experiments like this are helpful, because if I look at this list and think, "heck yes, I would buy these cards for these prices ten times out of ten," then I know I'll want to pick up a copy of the set. If you're instead looking at the list and thinking it's a bit closer to current retail price than you were hoping…well, maybe this collection shouldn't be your top priority.
This is also a good way of determining how likely these sets are to rebound in price. For example, I think we can reasonably assume that Seedborn Muse, Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury and Omnath, Locus of Mana will all end up back around the $10 mark again unless they're reprinted into oblivion. Worldly Tutor and Sylvan Library could easily end up back at $20 and $40 again, respectively. While I wouldn't run out and buy every Commander Collection: Green I could find that was selling for less than $100, I can pretty confidently predict that this set will retail for at least $100 again at some point in the future, and call it a pretty solid buy at presumed MSRP. If you're on the fence about this one, I'd make the purchase as long as you don't have to pay too much of a premium.
As for the foil version, I'd suggest contacting your LGS ASAP if you want a copy. There are early reports that allocation is severely limited—we already know that only "WPN Premium" game stores will be able to order these, and a lot of them appear to be limited to just a single case. While WotC hasn't officially stated that this is a limited print run item, it definitely seems more in the vein of a From the Vault box than, say, a Signature Spellbook release.
Will the premium version be worth significantly more than $100 over time? My guess is yes. The fact that this will be the only foil printing of Worldly Tutor should keep that card in the $40+ range, while I can't imagine the Sol Ring dropping too far below $10. The foil Command Tower should be an easy $10-$20, if not more, while foil copies of Sylvan Library aren't dropping below $30—they're currently at $73. That's $100 right there, and it wasn't hard to find. Unless this set is heavily printed, expect singles to track higher than the expected price of a sealed box, and expect speculators to be snapping up copies when possible.
If you want to buy the sealed product, look to get in early. With the low allocations of almost all products in 2020, you should be aggressive here—especially for the premium version, since it's only going to be available at a few local shops and not at all at big box stores. This is part of my reason for writing this article now. If you have a good relationship with a Premium LGS, give them a call and ask about reserving a copy.
As for singles, you should treat Commander Collection: Green like a Masters set and wait until peak supply. Late December should do nicely since the set releases in early December. That might change if the non-foil edition is more readily available than I'm expecting, but we'll have plenty of time to reevaluate that decision closer to the end of the year. The quality of cards in this set combined with the (expected) limited release of the box set makes this a more intriguing buy to me than nearly all of the Secret Lair drops we've had so far.
Should you sell your Commander Collection: Green singles now, in advance of the set being released? It depends. I think Omnath, Locus of Mana has the farthest to drop based on its current price and historical pricing data, so you can make a pretty reasonable case for moving on from that one if you can get around $20 for your copies. I'd also consider selling your foil Command Tower, since the available supply of those is about to increase by a significant amount. Otherwise, it depends how easy it is for you to buy and sell cards. If you flip cards constantly, getting out of all eight of these cards now and buying back in later this year is a no-brainer. If selling cards is kind of a chore that you rarely do, I'd suggest just holding onto everything for a couple of years, at which point all of these cards should have rebounded nicely.
Commander Legends is going to be a pretty epic set, and it's going to have far-reaching ramifications in the world of Magic finance. Commander is by far the most financially-relevant format right now, so whatever WotC reprints—and whatever they don't reprint—is going to cause major market upheavals later this year.
We won't have the full list for a few months, but we do know a few things already. First, we know the set has lots of partner commanders. These are among the most powerful creatures in all of Commander, and the last round of partner commanders were instant hits, both on the battlefield and in terms of pushing the financial envelope.
Normally I'd be wary of investing in existing partners due to possible reprints, but Gavin Verhey said that his design mantra for partners this time around was, "let's not make any more Thrasios or Vial Smashers." That doesn't rule out Thrasios, Triton Hero or Vial Smasher the Fierce being in Commander Legends regardless, of course, but expect the price to shoot up even further if they're not. Commander players are going to be looking for powerful options to partner up with the partner commanders in Commander Legends, so if there's an entire earlier generation of partners that have a higher overall power level, the sky's the limit for their price tags.
Gavin also talked about how Commander Legends (and other, future Commander releases) are going to focus on making the color white more powerful. White has gotten the short end of the stick for a while now, but it has been good in the past, and I have no doubt it will be good again. Now that we know WotC has acknowledged this problem and is trying to solve it, it might be worth picking up some white-based Commander staples now. This isn't, like, a blanket call for speculation on all white Commander cards or anything, but if you've been thinking about building a deck along these lines for a while, this might be a good chance to buy relatively low.
Next up, enemy versions of the Battlebond crowd lands. All five of these will be in Commander Legends, with the implication that the five original lands from Battlebond will not be returning just yet. If you're not a Commander player, you might not have realized just how popular and lucrative these lands really are. Here's a price chart for Morphic Pool from the release of Battlebond until now:
Not only does this chart pretty heavily imply that you should get in on the new cycle of lands ASAP, but I suspect these older ones will continue to grow until they're finally reprinted. Demand has outstripped supply from practically the moment they were released, and that imbalance will only grow until WotC brings the cycle back again. The better entries in this cycle could easily end up being worth $30-$40 for a while.
Next up, we now know that Commander Legends is going to include a whole bunch of format staple commons and uncommons, and I wouldn't be shocked if this includes a lot of the best non-rares from the Commander pre-cons. While there aren't too many super powerful non-rare exclusives from these sets, I wouldn't be shocked if some of the best commons and uncommons that have been reprinted in multiple Commander pre-cons show up in this draft environment—Swiftfoot Boots, Reliquary Tower, Propaganda, etc. There are too many of these for me to suggest a blanket sell-off, but if you're on the fence about buying any of these cards right now, I'd wait.
Lastly, we know that the Collector Boosters for Commander Legends will include a whole bunch of "etched foil" legendary creatures. Not only will these include most of the legends in the set, but there will be 32 additional legendary creatures from throughout the history of Magic getting this treatment. We won't know how popular these etched foils will end up being until they actually start hitting shelves, but it seems possible that they'll end up being quite sought-after. Regardless, I think we can assume that the most popular Commanders are going to get a sweet new foil printing at some point in the next few years. Keep this in mind if you're holding onto any of the really pricey ones as long-term specs.
In terms of pricing, Gavin Verhey said that booster boxes of Commander Legends will be "less than a Masters set, but more than a normal set." According to another leak of the wholesale price data, it appears as if booster boxes will be sold to retailers for $86.38 each. Since normal booster boxes usually wholesale for just under $80, this tells me that boxes will be selling somewhere in the $120-$140 range. In fact, Amazon had boxes for sale at $125 over the weekend, but they've since sold out.
Is this a good price? Yes, it seems so, though I'd rather give my money to my LGS than to Amazon. You might want to call your local shop about this one too, though there's less urgency here. Commander Legends will be a print-to-demand set, so boxes should be readily available throughout the first half of 2021 at least. The COVID-19 printer delays are real, though, so it's likely that the first few print runs will be smaller than normal, and prices will be somewhat higher than they would be otherwise.
It's also worth remembering that Commander Legends packs are going to be kind of wonky. There are only 24 boosters per box, a la Masters sets, but each booster has 20 cards including two "legend slots." My guess is that these slots exist in addition to the rare/mythic slot, so it'll be possible to open a good rare and a couple of good legends, much like the timeshifted slot in the old Time Spiral packs. At any rate, feel free to pre-order these boxes now if you want, but there's no rush. I'd instead focus on premium copies of Commander Collection: Green.
Let's begin by checking in on some of our Reserved List friends from last week. How's Apocalypse Chime doing with that $15 spike, one week later?
It looks like a few people did pay the spiked priced for Apocalypse Chime, but boy oh boy is that number small. A couple of copies sold in the $14 range the day after the spike, then nobody bought any copies for a few days, then a few cheap copies were listed and immediately bought up. Then a few more copies were sold for around $10, then another cheap copy was snapped up. The cheapest LP copy on TCGplayer right now is $9 shipped, so the price is definitely sticking somewhat, but demand appears to be vanishingly small. If folks keep buying out the sub-$5 copies, momentum might take over and the card will just be "worth" $10, but finding buyers for this card at all is always going to be tough.
Here's Gaea's Cradle. After that wild spike and weeks of social media discourse, the price seems to have stabilized quite nicely at $700. I suspect that price tag will start to erode a bit over time—that's what usually happens after Reserved List spikes—but Gaea's Cradle definitely has more staying power than Apocalypse Chime and friends. This might be 'cause it's actually a good card, but who can know?
Speaking of spikes, a few interesting Commander cards went up in price this week. Rings of Brighthearth, Gilt-Leaf Archdruid and Grave Pact all saw surges in price according to the MTGGoldfish "movers and shakers" page, which is a tad surprising. Let's check the charts. Here's Rings of Brighthearth over the past 3 months:
And Grave Pact:
First off, Grave Pact and Rings of Brighthearth don't really look like the same kind of spike as Gilt-Leaf Archdruid. The Gilt-Leaf Archdruid really did double in price out of nowhere, while the other two cards seem to have reached new temporary heights after a full season of bounding around and doing relatively well.
Why did the Gilt-Leaf Archdruid go up? Without access to this chart I'd blame a buyout, but that doesn't really seem to have happened here. A few extra copies sold on 8/11 and 8/18, but it wasn't out of the card's normal range, nor did a single user buy most of those copies. My working theory is that the available supply of a unique Commander staple simply dried up, and enough people saw the list of Commander Collection: Green and wanted copies of a powerful mono-green card in anticipation for the set's release.
Here's something that didn't happen: a vast conspiracy. I came across a pretty wild one when I was researching prices for this article, and I had to read the comment several times before I could even figure out what the person was trying to say. I normally wouldn't address a conspiracy theory from a random user in a comments section, but they had quite a few people agreeing with them, including one who claimed that the theory originated from a popular YouTuber who I'm just going to call Magic Finance Alex Jones because I don't want to give him any more clicks. I don't know if that's true because I try to avoid his content on general principle, but let's get into the claims and veracity of this theory nonetheless.
As near as I can tell, the theory goes like this: large internet storefront retailers all have inside information from WotC that enables them to know what's going to be reprinted several months before it happens. They react to this information by buying up all the cards that are about to be reprinted, causing the price to spike. Why would they do this? Because that way when the reprint set comes out, the price will only drop back down to the "old" retail price and the stores won't actually lose any money on their inventory. This is why reprint sets never actually cause prices to drop.
So yeah, this isn't true on any level. First, there's no evidence that these cards are being bought out by anyone, much less a cabal of large dealers who want to spike the price. Second, no large dealer is going to tie up thousands of dollars in liquid capital on cards that are about to be reprinted. Even if this scheme did work the way the conspiracy theorists allege, which it doesn't, they could make that money many times over by just buying and selling half-a-dozen cards each with that cash in the time it took for these shenanigans to play out. Third, the premise that reprinting cards won't cause continued price losses beyond recent spikes just doesn't hold any water. In fact, it's quite rare that a card ends a year where it was reprinted at a higher price than it entered that year. Reprinting does work, and conspiracy theories are dangerous and stupid. Shadowy cabals don't run the world, and they don't run the Magic market, either.