Welcome back to your weekly dose of finance content on TCGplayer! Last week we talked about everyone's favorite (or least favorite) $60 Standard-legal staple, and the expected price trajectory from here on out. If you need one for the cube, or four for pretty much any other format, I highly recommend checking out that article so you can determine the right time for you to buy into the metal meta man. In this week's article, we're going to talk about one of the furthest things from Standard-playable planeswalkers. Battlebond previews started coming out in droves on Monday, and this set is going to be extremely relevant for those of you who enjoy Two-Headed Giant, Commander and other less competitive formats. Let's get started!
If we're trying to find a financial analog to Battlebond, it has to be Conspiracy, and Conspiracy: Take the Crown. Both are multiplayer-focused draftable products that were released during the summer every two years (2014 and 2016), that introduced both new cards legal for Legacy/Vintage/Commander. In addition, Battlebond is going to bring us a nice pile of reprints to help keep some prices of some less competitive cards in check. If you're the kind of person that appreciated Burgeoning going from $25 to $5 or Exploration going from $35 to $12, then you're going to love some of the Battlebond reprints, even if we don't know what they are at the time of this article's publication.
If you know that the current price of Exploration has crept up to $20, then you might have a rough idea of where I'm going with this article. The Conspiracy sets are unique in that while they are an unlimited print run, the demand for the set upon release doesn't last for an extended period of time. It was consistently difficult for stores to fire and maintain these events that added more product into the market, and the expected value wasn't really there for people to purchase boxes en masse and start cracking them for singles. Several of the rares in these products are straight-up unplayable outside of a Limited event, so Conspiracy boxes lose a lot of their intended fun and playability if you just want to crack open the packs for fun, simply because of all of the "draft matters" cards.
Furthermore, these draft products are sandwiched into the summer, where they have to compete with other products near them on the release schedule. The first Conspiracy was sandwiched in between Journey into Nyx and Core Set 2015, while Take the Crown had to compete with Kaladesh. It's not easy being a non-Standard, non-Masters draftable product in the summer, and Battlebond won't have it much easier by having to compete with Dominaria. That's not to say that the set will be worthless, but you're going to have a very strong opportunity to pick up some quality cards at their lowest very soon after this set comes out.
Simply put, the scarcity of certain singles on the market is not for a lack of product being produced, but a lack of product being opened. While the market will initially flood with copies upon the release of the set as players look to cash out on the expensive cards they open, it doesn't take long for us to reach the low point. From there, we see a long plateau of at least a year or so before the long term speculation targets begin to bear fruit. Specifically, we're trying to pick up cards that are very playable in Commander or casual, have a wide range of decks they can be played in, and start out with a mid range price of around $6-15.
I mentioned Exploration earlier, but that took almost four years to reach its current high of almost $20 since it bottomed out at $12. Let's look at a couple of Conspiracy: Take the Crown's biggest winners that experienced a price graph that looks roughly like a valley. These are cards that hit a high point before the reprint, bottomed out as the initial wave of cards tanked the price, then consistently crept back up over the course of a year or two by going without a reprint.
As one of the top-five black cards to play in Commander according to EDHrec (seeing play in over 30,000 decks), Phyrexian Arena bottomed out at $3 very quickly after being hit with a reprint in Conspiracy: Take the Crown. Even if you're not someone who keeps a finger on the pulse of price changes every day of the week, you had months to pick up this powerhouse before it started to creep upwards towards its current $8 price tag. Battlebond will be full of this type of Commander staple, and you're going to have a ton of time to scoop them up at the low prices while everyone else focuses on Dominaria, Commander Anthology 2 and Signature Spellbook: Jace.
Birds of Paradise is another one of those cards that can be considered an "Immortal"; every time it gets reprinted, it'll bounce right back over an extended period of time. While it might take a while (and its graph isn't as much of a U shape as it is a slow climb upward over two years), it's still going to be the best time to pick up the card because it's such a universally wanted and played card. It's important to be able to distinguish between these strong pickups compared to something like Followed Footsteps and Pariah, whose prices were only as high as they were because of a single printing from 2005.
If you're someone who picked up a pile of Birds or Arena at $3, now is a great time to exit and jump the ship before the next reprint comes along. If we see the card in a similar ancillary product, you'll have another opportunity to participate in the cycle of "card gets reprinted, goes low, slowly creeps up over two years."
So what kind of cards could we see in Battlebond that would follow a similar price trajectory to Exploration, Reflecting Pool, Phyrexian Arena or Birds of Paradise? You're definitely going to want to keep an eye out for cards in the $5-15 range, instead of something that started out incredibly high like Berserk or Show and Tell. The demand for Show and Tell is so much lower than cards that see play in both Commander and casual gameplay, so I'm really waiting on something like Rhystic Study to get printed at either uncommon or rare, then watch that graph steadily climb over a long period of time. While it might seem dull to have to wait this long for your gains to be realized, you can add value to your investment by actually playing with the cards you pick up!
Did you know that the "Eternal" in her name refers to her ability to be eternally reprinted every couple years and still rise back up to $7 each time? If E-Witt gets hit with a reprint this year in Battlebond as a Ghost Quarter-esque value uncommon, we're going to see that roller coaster of a graph hit a $3 bottom again, and then you'll have a solid opportunity to pick them up. Before you know it, it'll have returned its $7 price back from your graveyard to your hand, or something like that.
It's blown my mind that this card has only ever received a reprint through Commander's Arsenal so many years ago. It's just begging for a nonfoil printing with the modern frame, and I think Battlebond or even Commander 2018 would be great places to put it. While everyone else pouts about their $10 common being gutted in value, you'll be able to squirrel them away and pick up cheap copies for your decks. It will recover in due time, and likely surpass the original with a more attractive frame.
Last printed in 9th Edition? One of the more popular ways for white to avoid mana screw? Tutors for powerful lands like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Maze of Ith or even Gaea's Cradle? Sign me up for a reprint, please. This type of card will get really affordable really quickly if they decide to use it as a reprint slot, and you'll have a lot of time to pick up your $4-5 copies.
One important factor to note when picking up cards in a post-reprint period is the volume you're purchasing and the risk you take while doing so. It's pretty easy to move three or four copies of Phyrexian Arena or Reflecting Pool to a couple of different Commander players, but the difficulty of finding a non-buylist out for maximum value will increase significantly when you start buying in volume. Buying 20x copies of Phyrexian Arena when it hits a low could easily bring you a lot more money if you sell at the right time, but it could take you longer to maximize those gains by selling over a longer period of time.
In addition to the risks of buying in bulk, there's always the possibility that Wizards of the Coast chooses to take a concussive approach to reprints. Burgeoning seemed like a really strong buy at $4-5 after its Conspiracy: Take the Crown reprint, until it got hit immediately afterward by a printing in Commander 2016. I can only imagine that Burgeoning would have recovered at least a little better by now if not for the additional printing through a preconstructed deck in the same calendar year, and it's a risk you take by purchasing popular Commander cards that Wizards of the Coast wants to increase accessibility on.
Honestly, there are too many potential reprints to list in a single article. There are dozens or even hundreds of cards that fit the criteria to be treated as "Immortals" with a roller coaster shaped price graph but keeping up to date on Commander as a format and what cards people prefer to play with will help you out in the long run. Cards like Reflecting Pool, Ghostly Prison and Vedalken Orrery were all very easy to pick out as longterm gains over 18-24 months as long as they dodge another reprint, and Battlebond will almost certainly give us several more opportunities to repeat that performance this year. As an added bonus, we'll get to play Two-Headed Giant Limited, one of the best formats in Magic!
What Commander goodies are you hoping to see in Battlebond? Let me know in the comments below, and stop by at the same time next week for some more finance content to help you build your collection, all at TCGplayer.com!
- DJ Johnson