Learning From the Lotus

Cliff Daigle • November 27, 2020

My goal in Magic finance is not to hoard knowledge. If you ask me about things, I’ll give you the benefit of my advice. I won’t always be right, but I’ll tell you why I think something and let you figure if I’m right.

Through the years, there’s been a couple of principles that have never failed me, one of which has really been on display: Don’t Ever Preorder A Card.

Jeweled Lotus has made fools of many people in the past month.

The price graph for Jeweled Lotus in Foil Extended Art

That graph shows the folly of ordering a card during preorder season, when hype is at maximum. People saw the card and somehow decided that this would be the most expensive card in a pack since foil Amano Liliana:

Hype is real, and the fear of missing out is real too. Those two factors are what combine to make people drop $800 on a card three weeks before it’s in hand.

It is wild to me, but you could, if you were feeling bold, execute a short sell on preorder cards. If I’d put an auction on eBay on October 30 and said ‘not shipping till 11/25’, I could have presold for $600 and now bought for $300, making $300 on the deal. I don’t like the ethics of that, but presales are wildly inflated and something you should never partake in.

It’s also true that we had some unique views of the math involved behind these Foil Extended Art cards, making this even more rare than expected. Given the 30% chance of the foil rare slot upgrading to the FEA, and the number of mythics and rares in the FEA sheet, you’re going to get a mythic FEA about once every two Collector Booster BOXES.

So to get a FEA Jeweled Lotus, you’ve got to open roughly 400 Collector Boosters. That’s about 34 BOXES of these packs.

Box Toppers, these are not.

The other aspect of the Lotus is the play pattern. We’re extremely conditioned to think of three free mana as game-breakingly good. Before the set was even out, more than 700 people had added this card to decks on EDHREC, which is way out in front of the usual numbers.

However...I’ve been thinking about this card, and doing the rounds of others who I trust, and I have a hot take and a half: This card needs some very specific conditions to be good. It’s best with mono-color or two color legends, because casting a three-color creature with this asks for help. Sacrificing this for two mana doesn’t feel very good.

Think of it this way: This is one mana better than Dark Ritual, but only for your commander. This means your commander needs to get that card back for you right away, in tempo or other ways. There are aggressive combo-oriented decks that would happily do that, but this is card disadvantage and Commander players tend to hate that.

Personally, I’m much more worried about turn one Sol Ring than I am turn one Jeweled Lotus. Sure, turn one Prime Speaker Vannifar is going to enable some shenanigans, as would turn one Arcum Dagsson, but these are already powerful cards.

The regular version of the Lotus has raced to $60 and it’s not done dropping. We’ve only had the vendor waves of product being opened, and I’m expecting the maximum in supply to happen in about one to two weeks, when individuals have gotten their boxes and cracked them for value.

Meanwhile, the other cards in the set are also racing to the bottom, as people chase the Lotus and dump so much else. I’m really looking forward to buying a lot of these cards when they hit their lows.

The etched foils are definitely going to fall farther, as we’re guaranteed one uncommon, one reprint, and one rare/mythic (which sometimes swaps into a foil borderless planeswalker) per collector booster pack, and people are opening a LOT of those. Notice that the prices of the etched foils have dropped a whole lot in the last week, creating some really big price gaps. Don’t try to buy too many copies yet, though, because we’re not at the maximum of supply yet.

Just take a moment and think about being the person who bought a FEA Jeweled Lotus for $800 when there’s lots available at $300 four weeks later. Think about being the person who bought a foil etched Najeela, the Blade-Blossom for $50+ last week and this week it could be had for under $10.

I’ve been the one who buys too quickly, and it’s a rough feeling. One caveat here though is that personal copies don’t count. If it’s going into your Commander deck and you’re eager to play the card, go ahead and get it, because it’ll make you happy. Sometimes, though, patience means you get to have it both ways.

For example, here’s the graph of FEA Hellkite Courser:

Now this is a card that was really intended to go into The Ur-Dragon decks, of which I have one. And I’ve been eager to buy one, but waiting one week means I saved about fifteen dollars. The price might drop below $30 in the next couple of weeks, but I’m not going to care.

What I’m really eager to buy is extra copies of the FEA commons and uncommons, given that you get one of those cards about two of every five packs. The cards that are on the FEA list include some exceedingly playable Commander staples, up to and including Sol Ring and Command Tower.

The overinflated prices for preordering Commander Legends isn’t a new thing. The first set of prices is almost always wrong. How about paying $10 for a Lotus Cobra?

The Price Graph for Lotus Cobra in nonfoil regular art.

Or $20 for Moraug, Fury of Akoum? Can I interest you in a $28 Jace, Mirror Mage? I could go on, but this effect is less pronounced in Standard sets, given the larger distribution. Collector Boosters make a big difference here, especially as people chase the most rare version of the sweetest of the card.

So to summarize it all, we had a card that was more rare than usual, with an effect that looks incredibly powerful, combined with the peak of potential hype. All of this came together to have people spend much more than they should have spent, and hopefully, we’re all a little better prepared for the next time something is mega-hyped.