I freely admit that I’ve made some mistakes in my purchases during the past year, and the good news is, they don’t have to be your mistakes too! I did things according to the old, pre-pandemic, pre-Collector Booster rules, and those rules simply aren’t in play anymore.
If you’re the tl;dr sort of person, who likes their dessert before dinner, let me summarize before giving you the evidence. Here it is: Wait at least nine months before buying a card for speculative purposes, because that’s how long it takes now.
I realize this is new, because it used to be that by the end of a set’s three-months-or-so timeline, it would be at max supply and you were safe to buy in. Sadly, that’s not the case and I overspent on two cards. My thinking is good, but timing was atrocious.
First example: The World Tree in Foil Extended Art
Everything lines up on this card. It’s amazeballs in a five-color deck, it’s got a high adoption rate in Commander for only having come out about 14 months ago, and the price had fallen from a preorder above $50, down to a low of $20. Problem is, as you can see from the graph, it was not done falling. If I’d waited, I would have been able to buy in for half that price, close to $10.
You might think I had learned my lesson, but no, I did the same thing a few months later with the Japanese alternate art foil versions of Crux of Fate:
Again, this card has all the hallmarks of something that’s going to double in price: 20k EDH decks online, this is the best version, it’s an auto-include for a very popular tribe. I bought a playset in late June near $30, which was early for Strixhaven anyway, but again, waiting longer would have paid off nicely.
It’s important to note that these didn’t fall off of a cliff (hah!) but instead slowly sloped downwards. A gradual decline, instead of an abrupt loss in value.
Our pattern is no longer what it was pre-pandemic, where we would get an enormous amount of product opened in the initial rush, and a lot of it via FNM and other casual drafting, plus the people who open packs just for fun.
Instead, we’re getting a much more drawn-out set of parameters, where sealed product is getting opened on a longer timeline. It could be that this is more related to the proliferation of Magic sets and Secret Lairs, or how our attention and dollars don’t stay on anything for long. This means that later packs aren’t opened by your LGS or even big vendors, but instead the last ones at a distributor end up going to a large crack-and-sort operation, who gets the sealed product for a discount, several months later.
To be clear, this pattern doesn’t apply to the chase cards of a set, or even some of the semi-popular ones. For example, I think the slowlands from Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow (and Double Feature) are excellent pickups because of their Commander appeal, but I’m not sure if that appeal will ever give them a chance to become cheap. I’ll check in with those lands around the end of summer, and see how far they have fallen.
So what’s worth getting right now? I want to make sure prices have gotten to the bottom, and some examples would be:
Reflections of Littjara ($2 to $4) - Keep in mind that there’s an alternate art from the Kaldheim bundle available, but the EA foils are up about fifty cents over the past two months. That’s a trend which says ‘we’ve hit bottom’ for a card that’s already in 17,000 decks online and just gets better with every single tribal deck. I’m pretty high on this card, and while I think EA foils are going to get you better returns sooner, there’s also room for picking up a bunch of regulars and buylisting them all at the same time.
Toski, Bearer of Secrets ($8 to $11) - Clocking in for 30,000 decks on EDHREC, and representing just about everything a green deck loves, I’m ready to ride for some acorns and whatnot. The price has been stable for months, and while Toski sees a sprinkle of play here and there, I’m mainly interested in the invisible demand that’s kept this card expensive for its entire life. I’m willing to listen if you don’t like the Showcase art and frame, but the format doesn’t really matter to me. This card is the real deal, and there will be some impressive gains going on sometime in the near future.
Wandering Archaic // Explore the Vastlands ($6 to $20) - This is another big casual card that has had the price popped up by the invisible hand of Commander players. It’s not that invisible, though, considering that the Extended Art foils are significantly more expensive than the regular ones. I think if you want copies for your decks, you’re in the clear to get in now, and buying a bunch of $6 copies now is also very logical. We know the demand is there, and this can go into literally any Commander deck that wants to play it.