Wow. Just wow.
I knew the bans that WotC had lined up on Monday were going to be impactful, but I did not expect to see fourteen cards(!) and five formats(!) impacted. Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Historic, and Pioneer are all going to be significantly different going forward. In fact, I don't think it's hyperbolic to say that this was the largest and most impactful B&R announcement of all time.
As your resident Magic Finance expert, my goal today is to walk you through the financial fallout from this meta-shattering announcement. Which of the banned cards will drop in price? Will any of the banned cards see a price increase, like Field of the Dead and Oko, Thief of Crowns did after they were banned in the fall of 2019? What about other key staples from the decks that took the biggest hits? And what cards might see price increases as the metagame settles into its new, post-ban form? Yeah, we've got a lot to cover, so strap in.
Here's the good news. Since I'm writing this article on Thursday morning, three full days after the B&R announcement dropped, I have access to more than 72 hours of post-ban sales data. Because of that, I can show you exactly what has happened to these cards since WotC dropped the hammer. That way, we can make educated guesses on their future price trajectories based on hard data, not just guesswork.
As much as I enjoy prognosticating based on my lifetime of Magic finance knowledge, this is the kind of article I like best: digging into the numbers and showing you a snapshot of the evolving marketplace in real time.
Let's start by going over the individual bans card by card. I'm not going to spend any time on Balustrade Spy or Undercity Informer, since these two are bulk cards already, but we do have a couple of more interesting commons to talk about today, starting with Simian Spirit Guide (banned in Modern):
This chart covers Simian Spirit Guide's price tag from the start of the month to now. The past three bars are post-ban sales, and you can see a little downtick here. It's unclear whether this is a true downturn or statistical noise—you could point to a similar drop from 2/8 through 2/11 that didn't actually mean anything—but coupled with knowledge of the ban, it does appear as though this card is dropping in price. My guess is that it settles in somewhere in the $1-$2 range since there's not a lot of Commander demand for this combo enabler.
What about the foil price? Well, no foils have sold since the ban hit on Monday, but the last Masters 25 foil to sell was just about $8. Right now, the cheapest LP foil is close to $10. No sign of a panic-dump going on here yet, then, and foils should hold demand thanks to other formats.
Speaking of commons, let's check out Arcum's Astrolabe (banned in Legacy, already banned in Modern and Pauper). Non-foils aren't worth anything, and this foil chart doesn't indicate any kind of drop-off is imminent:
This is small-sample-size-a-palooza here, but it does look like multiple copies sold after the ban for slightly over $7, an uptick from its pre-ban price. That doesn't mean Arcum's Astrolabe is going to continue to rise in price, but it does indicate to me that the supply is low enough to keep the price more or less what it is right now. Thanks, Commander!
Sticking with our trend of looking at commons, let's move along to Mystic Sanctuary (banned in Modern, already banned in Pauper). As with Arcum's Astrolabe, the non-foil isn't worth discussing. Here's the foil chart, though:
Again, there doesn't seem to be enough data here to say anything for sure. I will say that there doesn't seem to be signs of a huge drop-off, and the fact that several copies have sold after the ban bode well for its future. Mystic Sanctuary is a popular Commander card, and that should keep its price tag in roughly the same place going forward.
Okay, enough messing around in the shallow end of the pool. Let's get to the heavy hitters, starting with Oko, Thief of Crowns (banned in Legacy, already banned in Standard, Pioneer, and Modern.):
Is…is that three straight days of post-ban gains? You'd better believe it! It makes sense, too. There aren't that many Legacy players, but there are a lot of Commander players, and every time a popular Commander card is banned in a competitive format, a bunch of Commander players rush over to pick up their copies because "hey, it's banned in X format, so it should be cheaper now!"
Ironically, this causes a price increase due to increased demand. This happened when Oko was banned in Modern, and Modern is a much more popular format than Legacy. And while I don't think Oko's price is going to surge all the way back up to $30, or even up to $25, I don't see it losing any value over the long haul, either.
How are Oko foils doing? I'm glad you asked:
Oh, hey, it's the same chart but slightly more extreme! It looks like a few people panic-sold their foil Okos on the day of the banning, they sold out immediately, and then the price went right back up to where it had been. Sounds about right, and I expect the price to level off from here.
Now let's take a look at this B&R announcement's signature card, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath (banned in Pioneer and Modern, already banned in Standard). This chart looks a lot more like what we're used to dealing with when a card is banned:
Why did the drop-off happen all the way back on 2/9? Because that's when WotC tweeted that Uro was going to be a part of the coming ban announcement. It was a more substantive pre-announcement than we've had in the past, and people acted accordingly.
Why did Uro lose half its value, while Oko went unscathed? Well, Modern is a bigger format than Legacy, and Uro was arguably the most important card in all of Modern until the ban. Unlike Oko, who already saw most of his play in Commander, Uro was primarily a competitive card. Uro probably would have been $80+ if the pandemic hadn't depressed competitive tabletop prices across the board, and its post-ban price is still roughly in line with Oko's current value.
Unlike Oko, which I expect to remain fairly stable going forward, I actually think Uro is going to drop a bit from here. It's simply not as good or popular in Commander, and we've got a Secret Lair printing heading our way before long. I think Uro's current price tag is being propped up a little by price memory, and my guess is that it ends up closer to $10 at some point. I'd sell now if you're not planning to use your Uros for a while.
Let's move on to Teferi, Time Raveler (banned in Pioneer). It doesn't seem like the ban has hurt this powerful planeswalker much, if at all. Check this chart out:
No change in price at all, coupled with a slight increase in demand over the three days of post-ban data that we have. Pioneer is just not that popular right now, and some Commander players clearly decided to try and take advantage of the expected (though not present) post-ban discount. Teferi's price tag seems pretty stable to me, and the card has room to grow long-term if WotC doesn't reprint it.
Speaking of cards that haven't seen much of a change in price, take a look at Dreadhorde Arcanist (banned in Legacy):
Much like with Teferi, you probably couldn't pick the date of its banning out of a lineup. This entire run of sales data looks pretty stable to me. As with Pioneer, Legacy just isn't that popular right now, and Commander is the thing propping up Dreadhorde Arcanist's price tag. Ditto for the foil chart, which I'm not even going to show you here since it's equally boring.
Let's move on to a more interesting ban in Field of the Dead (banned in Modern, already banned in Pioneer):
This chart is more reminiscent of Uro than any of the other cards we've looked at today, but instead of losing all of its value in a single day and then stabilizing, Field of the Dead has seen a slow and gradual decline that appears to have begun before the ban announcement even dropped. Insider trading? No—just common sense. We knew that Uro was going to be banned, and Field of the Dead sees a lot of play alongside Uro. Any Uro ban was always going to spell bad news for Field of the Dead, and the market has reacted accordingly.
Much like Uro, Field of the Dead was a Modern card first and foremost. It sees a little play in Commander, but not nearly enough to maintain either its old $25 price tag or its new $16 price tag. Field of the Dead might have seen a price increase the last time it was banned, but it's running out of competitive formats to wreak havoc in. I expect the price to eventually settle in the high single digits, and you can sell your copies now if you don't think you'll need them.
Let's move on to the newest card to get the axe, Tibalt's Trickery (banned in Modern):
Unfortunately, you can't see much ban-related data here at all. Tibalt's Trickery dropped in price as Kaldheim was released and hit shelves, causing a massive increase in supply that wasn't quite matched by demand. It seems to have leveled out just under $3, and it might drop a little lower before starting to tick back up again. Long-term, Commander demand should keep this one in the $4-$5 range. Personally, I'm hoping to buy in around $2.
What about Wilderness Reclamation (banned in Pioneer)? This is another card that's way more popular in Commander than Pioneer, especially right now when competitive tabletop Magic isn't really a thing. If anything, the ban seems to have simply reminded Commander players that the card exists:
Finally, let's talk about the only card to get unbanned this go-round, Lurrus of the Dream-Den (now legal in Vintage):
This looks like a pretty significant increase in demand, coupled with a small increase in price. This is somewhat surprising to me, since there aren't actually that many paper Vintage players, but I can imagine a decent number of folks simply want to have these in their collection now that they're legal again others wanted to avoid any potential unban-related price spike FOMO. In fact, I suspect that this spike is more to do with casual speculators than with actual vintage mages.
Even though it looks like Lurrus' price tag might keep increasing, I just don't see that happening. Vintage is the least popular format of all, and nobody who has $20,000 worth of power and duals is sweating a Lurrus or two. This card might stay in the $5-$10 range just because it's both good and powerful, but don't expect this unban to change much.
That said, the extended-art version of Lurrus is a lot more intriguing to me. Check out the non-foil:
And here's the extended-art foil:
These cards have a much better shot of maintaining their new price tags or even seeing further increases. There simply aren't as many of these kicking around the marketplace, and Vintage players generally prefer to have the shiniest, coolest possible versions of modern cards next to their Moxes and Black Lotuses. My guess is that the non-foil ends up in the $30-$40 range, while the foil breaks $100.
Lastly, let's take a look at Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor. While the card wasn't banned on Monday, WotC changed the cascade rules that caused this card to reign over all the eternal formats over its brief time in the sun. Take a look:
There hasn't been much of a drop yet, but demand does seem relatively soft compared to its first few days of availability. I still think this card is good enough to see play regardless, and $25 isn't too wild for a top tier mythic. I'd be shocked if Valki spends the next few weeks tanking in price. It should drop off a little, though, and I'd hold off until early March if you're in the market for a copy.
Here's a piece of morbidly good news: very few other cards are tanking this week, despite massive shake-ups in all competitive formats. In previous years, there would have been a financial reckoning, with dozens of cards plummeting in price while others surged to take their place. In 2021? Barely a peep.
Why? You already know why. The COVID-19 pandemic has kept tabletop play on ice for the past year, and the Modern metagame has proven so volatile that very few people have been trying to keep up with the shake-ups. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a deck that might not be remotely playable by the time your LGS finally opens up for in-store play?
For example, the key cards in Five-Color Cascade never really went up in price when Valki began dominating Modern, so there wasn't really any room for them to drop when WotC nerfed the deck. Take a look at Force of Negation, one of the 2-3 most important cards in Modern. Not only was it necessary to play against the Five-Color Cascade lists, but most of them ran a full playset of copies:
This is Force of Negation's price chart from January 1st through Wednesday. Demand has remained robust, but it's impossible to tell when Five-Color Cascade hit the scene as well as when it was banned. Some good Modern cards are still selling reasonably well, like this one, but prices have never been more detached from the weekly ups and downs of the metagame.
What about cards from Modern Ad Nauseum, one of the decks that took the biggest hit from the Simian Spirit Guide ban? Well, let's take a look. Here's Ad Nauseum:
And Lotus Bloom:
Yeah, I'm just not seeing much happening here. It looks like a lot of random noise to me, with the possible exception of Phyrexian Unlife trending up. This doesn't look like a deck that was just decimated by a high profile banning, that's for sure.
I'm going to talk a lot more about this in next week's article, but the headline here isn't that the bans weren't as impactful as people thought—it's that the Modern market is as close to rock bottom as it has ever been. Seriously: there is just not much room for cards to drop right now because so few people are buying and selling Modern. Field of the Dead and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath were two of the only cards that even had the potential to lose significant value. Most expensive Modern cards are actually just expensive Commander cards in disguise.
Since very few cards lost value due to the bans, it seems odd to suggest that some cards will gain value as the Modern metagame finds new equilibrium. Indeed, I don't think we're going to see the kinds of gains that we might have if the pandemic wasn't a concern or if confidence in the long-term viability of Modern decks hadn't been dealt a near-fatal blow when Modern Horizons flipped the format upside-down.
That said, gains are definitely possible, especially when paired with Magic's current FOMO culture. It doesn't matter how many people are playing Modern right now if enough players and speculators decide to buy copies of hot cards for fear of missing out on future gains. In other words, Modern might be close to rock bottom, but that doesn't mean certain cards can't still spike.
I also think that some of these cards might be better spec buys over a slightly longer timeframe. Even if they don't move right away, we've got a second Modern Horizon set on the horizon and LGS play will resume at some point, too. Modern cards might be cheap right now, but they won't always be.
What cards are worth looking at? Well, I decided to crib off Adam Yurchick, one of the other terrific writers here on TCGplayer Infinite. He's an expert on shifts in the Modern metagame, and he wrote an article earlier this week entitled "16 of the Winners from Monday's Modern Shakeup." Based on his research, I figured I'd look at some of the key cards from some of the key decks that he thinks are well-positioned in the post-ban metagame.
(Side note: why Modern and not Pioneer or Legacy? Because Modern is by far the most popular tabletop eternal format, and even Modern prices are struggling right now. Speculating on less popular formats right now doesn't seem worthwhile unless you have some slam-dunk calls.)
Anyway, let's start with Fiery Islet. It's one of the few cards in Izzet Prowess worth more than $5, and I certainly don't think Scalding Tarn is going to be going up in price anytime soon with fetchland reprints on the way. This is a fairly cheap deck, and it looks fairly well positioned going forward. The price hasn't gone up yet, but it did sell a lot of copies the day of the bannings:
Speaking of Horizon Lands, take a look at the original: Horizon Canopy. This card still hasn't had a widespread reprint since Iconic Masters, so the available supply is quite small. It's a four-of in Bogles decks, which suddenly look pretty formidable again. As with Fiery Islet, Horizon Canopy had a banner sales day on Monday:
Let's move on to Stoneforge Mystic, which has a starring role in Colossus Hammer Combo. This deck caused Steelshaper's Gift to spike pretty hard a few months back, and it's only looking more powerful with Five Color Cascade out of the way. Stoneforge is also a four-of in many Death and Taxes and Azorius Stoneblade builds, also look primed to come back. Oh—and take a look at this price chart. It looks ready to pop off:
Speaking of cards with a lot of raw power and a solid track record, here's Aether Vial. The card is a four-of in Azorius Spirits, Humans, and Death and Taxes, all of which are looking good right now. It's also the sort of powerful one-drop that could randomly end up being one of the best cards in the format at basically any point.
Next up, we've got Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger. Nearly all of the good midrange decks in Modern are based in Rakdos, and Kroxa is a big part of why. The card shows up in Rakdos Midrange, Rakdos Death's Shadow, and Jund. Since midrange decks are likely to see a lot more play in the post-ban metagame, Kroxa is going to be a pretty hot commodity. Also, check out this price chart:
That's exactly what I like to see: steady gains mirrored by an obvious increase in demand. If you're going to buy a single card after reading this article, Kroxa is the one to target.
Moving onto control decks, it's likely that they're going to be abandoning Green (good riddance, Uro!) in favor of good old Azorius. To that end, expect to see more of Jace, the Mind Sculptor:
I also suspect we'll see a lot more of Snapcaster Mage. The famous blue Wizard saw a massive downtick in demand during Moderns' Uro era, but take a look at how many people are excited to brew around Snapcaster Mage again:
That's a pretty tall bar on announcement day! If I had to pick a card to bet on due to increased demand alone, Snapcaster Mage seems like the clear frontrunner to me.
It also seems likely that Tron is going to make a pretty significant comeback. With Field of the Dead out of the format, it should be time for the Urzatron Lands to shine yet again. Karn and Ugin are still relatively cheap due to reprints, while Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger currently represents the deck's major financial bottleneck:
Ulamog is primarily expensive due to Commander, and this card is probably going to be reprinted at some point over the next year or two, but there are some potential short-term gains here. It's not where I'd focus my money, personally, but $70-$80 isn't remotely out of the question.
Lastly, we have Modern Elves, which could see a pretty major surge thanks to our new friends from Kaldheim. If you're looking for potential spikes, you may have already missed the boat on Ezuri, Renegade Leader:
As you can see, it doesn't seem like there's a ton of increased post-ban demand for Ezuri, but the card has spiked quite a bit due to Kaldheim bringing additional focus to one of Magic's most popular Commander tribes. At this point, Ezuri seems to have peaked, and I doubt any future gains are in store, even if the deck does well. Commander demand really does rule all.
If you want to bet on Modern Elves without running afoul of Commander spikes, I suggest Collected Company:
As the chart shows, demand has been strong for a couple of days. Collected Company also has a strong track record of greatness, and enough Commander demand to keep the price relatively high. It's a solid pick-up.
It was another strong week for Reserved List spikes, as all sorts of random bulk cards spiked into the $5 range. I went through half of my random Mirage cards looking for spikes, and uncovered a lot of charts that looked like this one, for Afiya Grove:
Afiya Grove is not a playable card, but it is on the Reserved List, so it has some value due to its collectability alone. Is "some value" one dollar? Five dollars? Ten? I'm not sure. Now that older Magic cards are becoming collectable for reasons other than playability, I see no reason why bottom tier Reserved List cards can't be worth $5-$10 if they're in good condition.
That said, these cards are only going to be worth $5-$10 if people want to pay that. Right now, it seems like several people are happy to pay the "new" price for these cards, even though it was a pretty obvious buyout. Will that change as people get bored with Reserved List investing and move on to the next shiny object? Perhaps. I'm certainly not chasing any of these cards, and I'm happy enough to sell into the spike. I'd rather invest in cards that are good.