Why do we celebrate the new year in the middle of winter?
I always thought it was because of the winter solstice, meaning that the new year occurs when the days start getting longer again. It seems like that was mostly just coincidence, however. The new year was celebrated at or around the vernal equinox during most of human history, but things got confusing once people started trying to mark time with calendars. It's hard to create a calendar that doesn't immediately fall out of sync with the seasons, though, so the new year kept drifting around the months until the Romans eventually decided to reform and standardize everything into more or less what we have now. It was locked into January 1st at that point, mostly for political decisions that are inscrutable to non-historians now.
New Year's Day might be a somewhat arbitrary date, but I do think that it's still worth using the new year as a way to mark time and take stock of the bigger picture. Things might not be much different now than they were a week ago, but being able to say "this is a different year, things can be different now" is a good way to shake yourself out of patterns that might be worth examining or changing. At the very least, the new year can be a source of hope for those who want it to be.
I like to use the new year as a way to look towards the future as well as to reflect on the past. In this article, I'll be making a few predictions about the overall state of Magic finance in 2022, as well as going deep into the upcoming release schedule so we can talk about this year's upcoming products and sets. You'd be shocked at how much we already know, and how easy it is to turn some of that intel into actionable predictions — even eleven or twelve months ahead of a set's release date!
Join me, then, as we take a look at the coming year in Magic finance. Whether you're hopeful or apprehensive about 2022 (or you're both, like me!), it's always fun to dive into the future of Magic: The Gathering. I know I can't wait to take a look at the shape of things to come.
The first few doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were slowly trickling out at this time last year, and it was hard to imagine a time when it would be available to everyone who wanted a shot. When I tried to predict what would happen to Magic in 2021, I guessed that most people in the USA would be vaccinated in late spring and normalcy would start to return over the summer. By autumn, I was hopeful that most local game shops would start opening for FNM and tabletop Standard would return in earnest, even if larger tournaments still had to hold off.
At the time, this prediction seemed almost pie-in-the-sky optimistic. Many of you told me that there was no way the vaccine rollout would happen that quickly, nor was there any guarantee that the vaccine would even prove effective in a real-world setting.
As it turns out, my prediction ended up being both too optimistic AND too pessimistic. The vaccine rollout was both quicker and more effective (at least here in the US) than anyone could have imagined, and game stores began opening up for in-store sanctioned play as early as April. Unfortunately, first the Delta variant and then the Omicron variant changed the game, putting us in a far worse place today than I would have ever dared predict at this point last year.
Why am I revisiting all of this? Two reasons. First, the biggest Magic trends in 2022 will likely have nothing to do with Magic at all. They will all be related to COVID-19, and how safe it is to gather in groups and sling cardboard in person. Second, it's nearly impossible to predict what will happen next with this dang pandemic. If I'd been either more optimistic or more pessimistic in my 2021 predictions last year, I'd still have been massively wrong about some aspect of what happened and when. It's easy to look back on everything and feel like it was inevitable, but I dare anyone who feels this way to actually make some predictions. It's far harder than it looks, and anyone who says they know what will happen next with this disease is kidding themselves.
It's not fun or sexy to say "we need to play things by ear when it comes to COVID predictions," but I really do believe that's the best approach going forward. It's quite possible that COVID will burn out in 2022 due to some combination of antiviral pills, additional vaccination, and the continued evolution of the virus, and we could be looking at the start of regular MagicFests returning by the end of next year. It's also possible that we'll all be right back here again in twelve months, with a new variant, rising caseloads, and yet more uncertainty. Most likely, we'll end up somewhere in the middle, with times during 2022 where indoor play is a lot safer than others. In the end, though, we just don't know.
In terms of Magic finance, the important thing to know is that competitive prices tend to fluctuate based on how the virus is doing, while Commander prices tend to remain stable. This makes sense: folks can still gather in small groups to play Commander (or use their webcams!), while competitive Magic is more fun in large competitive environments. You can also play Standard easily enough on Arena, while Commander requires physical cards. My advice? Focus on Commander as much as possible in times of uncertainty. It isn't just safer; there's generally more upside in Magic's most popular format, too. This has been true for many years now, and I don't see that changing in 2022.
One thing that we do know is coming in 2022? The Magic: The Gathering Netflix series, set to debut in the second half of the year. This has been rumored for a long time, but it's definitely going to happen now that we have an actual release date instead of "eh, sometime in the future." Will this have an effect on the market? Honestly, it depends on how good the show is. Arcane proved both critically and commercially popular late last year, and it will be a big deal if the Magic: The Gathering series is of similar quality.
Remember: there are a lot of people out there who are familiar with the game and characters, and many of them will give the TV show a shot. Many other people will watch the show first and then give the game a shot. If these two things combine to increase the player base by a significant amount — not out of the realm of possibility — then we might be seeing some absurd price growth next autumn. It's far from a guarantee, but it's well worth keeping an eye on. The upside here is pretty massive, as anyone who attempted to purchase vintage Pokémon cards or main series games after the Pokémon Go phenomenon can attest.
Lastly, it's worth mentioning that WotC's release schedule is not planning to let up in 2022. We've been under an absolute deluge of Magic products for the past few years now, and I see no signs of that faucet being turned down. There will be at least four Standard-legal sets, several supplemental sets, a whole suite of Universes Beyond products, and almost certainly a few dozen Secret Lairs. You will have to continue to pick your battles or suffer the consequences of product fatigue.
Will this strategy backfire on WotC? I suspect that it eventually will, but I see no evidence that the burnout will happen in 2022. Magic continues to shatter their sales figures year after year, and folks are still flocking to the game in droves. Anecdotally, I know plenty of people who are less invested in Magic or have even quit entirely due to the overwhelming flood of new products, but that's not a representative sample size of the player-base. The truth is that more people than ever are buying more products than ever, which means that demand remains strong across the board. When that changes, I'll strive to be the first to let you know.
Speaking of the 2022 release schedule, let's take a look at it in detail.
While WotC has been known to spring their products on us out of nowhere from time to time, we already know all of 2022's major set releases, as well as most of its minor ones. This allows us to look ahead and make some educated guesses about what we know so far. While there's only so much we can predict based on the vagaries of existing information, I've definitely made some killer specs in the past based on things like key art or just knowledge about the tribes and themes that usually show up on a returning plane. Let's see what we can find!
January 2022 – Innistrad Double Feature
I'm not going to get into Innistrad Double Feature right now, since I'll be doing a full Buyers' Guide in just two weeks. I'd love you to join me back here then for a more in-depth discussion of this incredibly interesting and unique set!
February 2022 – Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is a set that's ripe for the kind of vaguely hopeful speculation I do in articles like this. We don't know a ton about the new set yet, but we do know that it's set far in the future on the returning plane of Kamigawa. Based on key art and a few early leaked cards, we also know that the Samurai and Ninja tribes are back for another go-round, as well as Rats and Spirits.
Since Neon Dynasty takes place in Kamigawa's future, it's highly unlikely that cards like Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni and Higure, the Still Wind will be reprinted in the main set. After all, these characters would be long dead (or at least supernaturally old) in the storyline. Commander players don't tend to care about this sort of story continuity, though, so speculators are snapping up as many older Samurai and Ninja as they can, expecting a rush of demand as soon as Neon Dynasty preview season begins.
These specs were fairly obvious in retrospect, and it's unfortunately too late to act on them now. The better Samurai and Ninja might still spike from here, but it's hard to recommend cards like Isao, Enlightened Bushi when the price chart looks like this over the past month:
Is this former $1 rare really worth more than $10? Will it spike back up to $20, or simply start tumbling back toward the bulk range? It depends entirely on the contents of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, of course, which is why it was a terrific gamble at $1. Worst case, you can pass it along to others who want to take on that risk now. The upside is far lower at $10, however, and the downside is massively greater. To me, the ship has pretty much sailed on these specs, and I recommend staying away unless you know something I don't.
That said, Ninja and Samurai seem to be the only Neon Dynasty tribes being bought out right now. Thanks to leaks, we also know that Rats and Spirits are back. These cards were a big part of the original Kamigawa block, and I have no doubt they'll be at least somewhat more Commander friendly this time around. Both tribes have their fans, and I expect them to experience at least a minor surge in demand as preview season begins.
Want to invest in Rats? Cards like Marrow-Gnawer, Patron of the Nezumi, Pack Rat, Rat Colony, Ratcatcher, and Nezumi Graverobber are all on my radar. For a Kamigawa-style Spirits deck, I'm looking at cards like Inami as One, O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami, Bounteous Kirin, Infernal Kirin, Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens, Long-Forgotten Gohei, and Kodama of the South Tree. Most of these cards are incredibly cheap, and there's real upside here.
First Quarter 2022 – Standard Challenger Decks
The Challenger Decks tend to fly under the radar of most finance folks, but they're actually one of the most impactful releases of the year. The key cards that are reprinted here (especially if the deck comes with multiple copies) will lag behind the other heavy hitters in that set for years, if not permanently. The financial impact of a Challenger Deck reprint is far stronger than a Secret Lair or Masters Set reprint.
Can we predict 2022's Challenger Decks? It's hard. Even if we get some of the deck choices right, you can still miss on which cards are actually printed in them. Oftentimes the deck will only contain a single copy of a key mythic rare, but other times you get the whole set.
To me, the biggest shoo-in for a 2022 Challenger Deck is Izzet Dragons. It's a top deck now, and it has been so for quite some time now. It's also full of commons and uncommons, which means that WotC will likely give us at least one copy of Goldspan Dragon, if not two. I also expect the deck to have a full four copies of Expressive Iteration, which would be a hugely impactful financial move. That uncommon sells for $7 all day long right now, and I doubt that'll be true after the Challenger Deck reprint. If you aren't using your copies of Goldspan Dragon or Expressive Iteration right now, I'd consider selling them at some point later this month and buying back in after the expected reprint hits shelves. Don't get too cute here, but if you're buying and selling lots of cards on the marketplace anyway, why not hedge a little?
The other brew I fully expect to be included among the 2022 Challenger Decks is Mono-Green Aggro. This deck has also been a huge part of the metagame for months now, so it has clearly pinged WotC's radar. They seem to print at least one deck each hear with a ton of playsets of high-end Standard rares, so we might be looking at a pre-con with four copies each of Old-Growth Troll, Kazandu Mammoth, Werewolf Pack Leader, Ascendant Packleader, and Esika's Chariot. These cards aren't worth what they were a few months ago, but still: look out for this one.
April 2022 – Unfinity
Unfinity is going to be a more important set release than you think it is, thanks to the fact that many of its cards will be tournament and Commander legal for the first time. The new full-art lands and beautiful space-themed shocklands will be in heavy demand as well, making this the first Un-set that you should definitely not skip, even if you're not super in on the joke.
While I usually suggest selling cards before a major reprint, I actually don't think you need to do that for the shocklands, despite the Unfinity reprinting. Shocklands have been reprinted over and over again over the years, and they tend to hold their value reasonably well due to the fact that most Magic players wouldn't mind owning a full set, no matter what formats they play. The new lands are also going to be cool enough and scarce enough to keep the price reasonably high.
Overall, there isn't much we can do to prep for this one. Onto the next!
Second Quarter 2022 – Streets of New Capenna
Since we've never been there before, we know far less about New Capenna than Kamigawa. Here's what we do know:
This is actually quite a bit of intel! I'm not sure there's a lot of usable information we can gain from our knowledge about the theme and aesthetic look of the set, but the rest of this is pretty actionable. For instance, it seems quite likely that the three-color factions will match the allied "shards" from Shards of Alara, since those are both the most obvious pairings and the ones that WotC has stayed away from the longest.
Commander players already love the shards, and I wouldn't be surprised if popular cards in these three colors spike when New Capenna releases. Ditto for the lands. While we're likely to get something like the Triomes from Ikoria but for these other 3-color pairs in the set, Commander decks are still going to want cards like Savage Lands and Seaside Citadel. If they aren't reprinted, expect them to see a big surge of demand during this set's hype period.
The Angel and Demon themes are also really useful for our purposes. Angels are already a top-10 casual tribe, while Demons are moderately popular with a chance to break out. It's possible that the set will only include a couple of new Angels and Demons at the mythic rare level, and they might be better utilized with their own themes than with existing Angels and Demons, but there's also a chance that the set will have at least a minimal tribal theme with one or more of these types. The very least, I expect a couple of popular existing Angels to spike once we see a couple of cool new ones in New Capenna. We might also see a little movement from the existing Elspeth or Ob Nixilis cards, especially if they play well with one of the new versions of these two that we're sure to get.
Second Quarter 2022 – Commander Legends – Battle for Baldur's Gate
Wait, did y'all know that we were getting another Commander Legends set AND another Dungeons & Dragons set!? I missed the news on this one for whatever reason, but it's going to be one of the main releases of 2022.
The last Commander Legends set was a huge deal, and many of its cards are worth far more now than they were when the set was first released. That set had a shockingly small print run, though, likely because it was the first of its kind. This set should be on sale at retail for longer, assuming there aren't a ton of major supply chain and printer issues. It should still end up being a solid buy, though, as most Commander-centric products tend to be.
What cards might surge in anticipation for Battle for Baldur's Gate? It depends on how much the set has in common with Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Venturing into the dungeon ended up being more of a limited mechanic than anything else, but what if the new set brings a few more powerful dungeons to explore? That would likely lead to a flurry of demand for cards like Nadaar, Selfless Paladin. More die-rolling shenanigans could lead to demand for The Deck of Many Things, while more Beholders could cause Xanathar, Guild Kingpin to gain popularity.
There will likely be an overall increase in demand for key Commander singles when this set is released, as Commander takes over the Community spotlight for a couple of weeks. It'll be hard to predict which cards spike without knowing more about the set, but if you're holding onto a bunch of Commander stuff on spec and you want to find a good window to sell, this is likely to be a terrific one.
The other big question about this set, of course, is whether or not it will contain a whole bunch of high-level reprints. The original Commander Legends set had a couple of nice ones in addition to an entire subset of reprints in the Collector Boosters. My guess is that WotC will run this back, though it's possible that the D&D theme will make it harder this time around. It's always difficult to predict which sets WotC believes can sell well on their own versus which ones they try to prop up with high value reprints, and the second Commander Legends set will certainly tell us more about the third.
Third Quarter 2022 – Dominaria United
The first Dominaria set was incredibly popular, at least among longtime Magic players like myself, and I expect Dominaria United to be more of the same. This is the set that gave us Legendary Sorceries and Sagas as well as a metric ton of Legendary Creatures, so expect a lot more of those. Commander players rejoice yet again!
We know very little about this set so far, but Dominaria generally features some pretty popular tribes: Angels, Wizards, Goblins, Zombies, Elves, and Knights, among others. I would definitely look to pick up any Standard-playable Elves, Goblins, and Knights in the weeks leading up to this set's release, since those are the ones most likely to make a competitive splash. In Commander, this is another reason to snag Angels now. Between this and New Capenna, 2022 should be a great year for them.
Third Quarter 2022 – Double Masters 2022
I see no reason why Double Masters 2022 would deviate much (if at all) from the model established in the original Double Masters set. It was incredibly successful, and WotC is likely to run it back more or less as-is. In addition, by waiting two years between these releases, they can use many of the same chase cards to sell this set as they did with the last one. Force of Will, Mana Crypt, Doubling Season, Stoneforge Mystic, etc. are all likely to be included. Remember: with twice as many cards as a normal set, they can really jam in a ton of reprints. I'd also expect Jeweled Lotus to show up here, if it doesn't appear as the chase card in the second Commander Legends set.
The last Double Masters set showed up in August, during the notoriously soft late summer market, and since this set is scheduled for Q3 of 2022 I'd expect a similar release date. Last time around, Double Masters provided a really nice buying window as the reprints coincided with seasonal trends to create a really nice drop in prices. If you have a bunch of high-end cards that might be in this set — non-Reserved List eternal staples, pretty much — I'd recommend selling in the spring and looking to buy in late August. Remember: one of the cheapest ways to build a robust Magic collection is to take advantage of Masters set reprints whenever they occur!
Fourth Quarter 2022 – The Brothers War
I'm a little surprised that Magic is banking so hard on nostalgia in 2022. With both Dominaria United and The Brothers War coming out back-to-back on the release schedule, there should be a lot to love for folks who have been around the game for as long as I have.
We don't know very much about The Brothers War, but I do expect that it will heavily feature Urza and Mishra since, y'know, they're the brothers who are in the war. While not all Urza and Mishra cards will spike, folks will want to make Commander decks featuring these two and will want many of the existing Brothers War theme cards. Since these two were main characters in the Magic continuity as far back as Antiquities, that includes some Reserved List cards that should spike once The Brothers War preview season begins.
The preview stream where The Brothers War was announced also stated that this will be an "Artifacts Matter" set, which is always dangerous. These sets nearly always end up being incredibly powerful, no matter how well WotC tries to balance them. I'd definitely look to pick up powerful Standard artifacts in the months leading up to this set's release.
Fourth Quarter 2022 – Jumpstart 2022
I'm shocked that they're releasing a product called Jumpstart 2022 so late into 2022, especially after years of the Core Sets being named after a year that's still six or seven months in the future, but I'm sure WotC has their reasons. My guess? They really want to push this product during the next holiday season as a good gift and stocking stuffer.
For our purposes, the real question is: how much overlap is there between Jumpstart and Jumpstart 2022? Will the chase cards from the original set be included, or will they show up in Double Masters instead? I do think Allosaurus Shepherd will be reprinted this year, potentially in both products, so I'd be looking to sell my copies of that one this spring. Other than that, I'm taking a full wait-and-see approach here. If this set is radically different, I'll be picking up booster boxes of the original Jumpstart ASAP.
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Last week, I took a look at several of Commander's blue-chip staples, since they appear to be on the rise. Is this a blip, or evidence of a format-wide trend? What can we learn about the past and future of Magic's most popular format by taking a look at these cards? Is it time to buy staples like Cyclonic Rift and Smothering Tithe? You'll have to subscribe to find out!