Late to the game? How to Make Money in FAB (and how not to)

I’m gonna throw down a major caveat out of the gate here and say that the sort of returns on FAB that we saw between July and November of 2020 are unlikely to ever come again. But, even if we get another catalyzing event that drives prices up sharply in a short window, it will be very hard to predict without insider information, and you’ll likely have to recognize it as it happens and react quickly as opposed to planning for it in advance. That said, there are certainly still potentials for solid returns, and the long term returns could be very spicy (we’ll touch on that briefly). Beyond giving you my picks, I’ll mention a few that I’m ambivalent on along with my reasoning and flag a couple things I’ve seen people call out as money making opportunities that I think are ill-thought out. Finally, I want to say that I’m in FAB for the same reason I spent years playing, buying, and selling Magic cards: I enjoy it as hobby. I spend a lot of time on these games, reading news, monitoring sales, talking to players and dealers, hopefully playing more games when it’s safe, etc. I do all of that because it makes me happy, and the byproduct of that is that I have a lot of information to bring to the table when I’m assessing cards or sealed product. I don’t have a similar level of knowledge about every single other way one can make money. So, I’m only really discussing investments in the context of FAB and not how much you could be making on Big Tech stocks, crypto, betting it all on black, or whatever other financial gamble is your favorite poison.

Long Term Investments

If you want to buy product with the intention of keeping it for years, there are significant potential gains to be made. One question I’ve asked a lot of other players who started back when you could get sealed WTR at MAP or less is how many boxes they think are still sitting around out in the world (we’re all operating from the 22,000 box number that has been floated around) and estimates range mostly from “three thousand” to “less than a thousand”. Most of these discussions took place prior to ChannelFireball’s release of previously held product into the market which has likely added between 250-500 boxes based on Alpha Investment’s information from this video, so add those in to whichever end of that range you like. So, while I don’t have any verifiable information on this figure, when a bunch of people whose opinions I respect also overlap with my own take, I feel pretty good about rolling with that figure until something changes.

If there are three thousand boxes of WTR out there, how high can they go? Well, it’s largely dependent on how long the game lasts and how big it is. I think the next 2-3 year window is a pretty safe bet for FAB. They’ve wildly overshot projections on sales, the game is really good, and they’re getting good media coverage from influencers in the CCG space, both in terms of finance and gameplay. The three major dangers in this time period are protracted COVID-lockdown (especially in the US), major mismanagement of resources by LSS, and whiffing Monarch. Assuming those things don’t happen and the game grows, three thousand boxes could be a tiny, tiny amount of product.

Assuming the game is successful over the next several years, it’s easy to imagine the playerbase increasing several times over (remember, it’s relatively small at the moment and just starting to make inroads into multiple large markets). In that scenario, demand for sealed WTR and ARC and their associated Cold Foils has the potential to get prices to downright absurd levels. However, buying in at this point is a high risk/high reward proposition. The market fluctuates on these and has definitely not had enough time at a relatively flat price for me to really believe it’s stabilized. Prices have dropped about $100 from a month ago on WTR, but I would be totally unsurprised if they were to drop another $100. I would also not be surprised if you told me they were up $300 by Monarch. I think the trend is and will remain up, but if you’re looking for the quick flip in a couple months that you got if you bought before either of the spikes I’d be more skeptical. Now, if the game blows up, these products could very reasonably be worth thousands of dollars in five years, but if it is in decline or dying in five years, your losses will also be substantial on $900 boxes. My position on these products is hold if you have them, but only buy in if you’re looking for a long term investment and are confident in the game over the next 2 years.

What to Buy Now

In terms of things that can give you solid returns in the next 6 months, there are still a couple items that you can reasonably pick up or hope to pick up in the near future. These will ideally return a minimum150-200% in that time period (I wouldn’t get used to that forever, but I think we haven’t quite exited the golden era of fast FAB price spikes on some products). Without further ado:

Sealed Crucible of War – This is my top pick at the moment, which is crazy to me because I was bearish on it in September, but as we’ve learned, “a couple months ago” is a lifetime in FAB. Why the change of heart? Interest in the game has spiked and the amount of people who want these cards has increased far more quickly than most of us assumed (mostly due to the CFB partnership). At the moment, you probably can’t find sealed CRU at MAP or even MSRP in stock at most stores. I’ve seen boxes selling at around $150-200 lately. The key here is that a second wave of CRU is coming at the end of November (recently delayed to December in most markets). There are some stores still accepting pre-orders at MAP to MSRP range, if you can afford to float the money for a few weeks, these are low risk – either you get your cash back or you lock in product that is looking increasing like it will sell out very quickly.

And that’s the key. When CRU dropped in August, supply was mostly wiped out in week or two. Additional stock was available between MAP and MSRP in trickles up to the end of October, but you had to do some searching. I anticipate that we’ll see the same thing happen with wave two, only with as shorter tail. Many sellers (particularly those outside of the EU and CA) haven’t been accepting pre-orders because they aren’t sure of how much they’ll be able to get. Assuming we’re not getting a wave three of first edition CRU (which seems very, very likely, though it’s not verified, as far as I know), the size of wave two is the big question that we need to answer, and, fortunately, we have some useful information.

This screenshot has circulated Discord and various FAB FB groups, it is not mine originally

From this screenshot we know that wave two was ordered before the OOP announcement was made causing the first spike. Despite the CFB deal being in the works, LSS hadn’t finished it and didn’t know what the outcome would look like. Given those factors, I believe that wave two is likely the same size as wave one or smaller. And since wave one dropped, the game has added two new markets, grown the extant player base in the US, and started seeing more media coverage. We already know that people are willing to pay double MAP or more for boxes when it’s public knowledge that there is a wave two coming in a couple weeks. Once that wave has come and gone, I think we’ll return to those prices very quickly, at which point you can sell and double up in early 2021, or hold out in hopes of even better returns. $300 boxes at some point in 2021 wouldn’t surprise me at all as CRU is going to likely be the last set to have a really underprinted 1st edition relative to demand at its release.

Crucible of War Cold Foils – Cold Foils are seemingly made of money, and while the Legendaries get the most attention, all of the Cold Foils have upside unless LSS signals that they are going to reprint them again in the future. Cold Foil commons are something I’ve been boosting for almost as long as I’ve been in the game, and even then I seem to be perpetually conservative in how much profit there is to be made there – I was advising people to pick them up at $2, at $5, and at $10 (I put my money where my mouth was on these, and bought several hundred dollars of them at these prices) – now they are regularly selling between $30-70 apiece. However, I think we’re getting to the point where these will stabilize and then slowly and steadily increase over time as opposed to spiking month over month.

Like WTR and ARC, CRU also has a lot of Cold Foils to offer, both the Rare weapons and the Majestic equipment. These have been relatively stable since launch, and are just starting to pick up. Some people are adjusting to potential future prices and marking up accordingly, but you can still find singles at solid prices (~$10 or less on weapons and ~$40 or less on equipment). You may also have a decent chance of finding these at or around these prices through the launch of wave two because, while I expect a wave two to sell through quickly, I also think a lot of those boxes are going to get opened up and some number of the people who are breaking them will want to recoup costs. The weapons in particular are some of my favorite type of buys if you can get them at $10 or less because it’s a relatively low initial cost with high upside.

Questionable Bets

The following are things that I see people going in on that could turn out to be money makers but also carry a a fair amount of risk and uncertainty, particularly in the short term. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone get into these unless you feel like you’ve got a firm understanding of the current market on them and a compelling reason that you think they’ll be moving up soon and offering better returns than CRU boxes of CF in the window you plan to hold for.

Promos – I’ve got a series of articles on promos that will be rolling out over the next couple weeks (The first one is here), but as a quick side note on these, recent developments have indicated that we really don’t have any reason to think that promos won’t be distributed in additional quantities of even potentially reprinted. I would have said the Team Covenant Scar for a Scar was a worthy pick up at $100, but as people are now asking $300+ it has shifted into a space where one day it could be worth way more, or it could plateau for a long time or even tick down a bit, so it’s less of a short term winner. That said, I don’t think you’re likely to see a sub $200 one again unless TC is sitting on a lot and plan to fliff them out like candy –which I’m betting against. Until we have better info on promos, I wouldn’t be confident in buying into these cards as an investment.

Alpha RFs – I was long convinced that people are really overestimating how many people care about owning an Alpha vs Unlimited RF copy of a card in the short term. While there are certainly some of these people, I don’t think there are enough to support a big price gap on anything but the most sought after cards (Ex. Enlightened Strike and Command and Conquer). On a long time scale, say 5-10 years, there will almost certainly be premium on alpha RFs, but I think the secondary market is pricing this in prematurely. While I havn’t seen the retreat I expected, at the current prices, I don’t think you’re going to make money here short term. These are long term investments and may prove to be VERY long term before they really pay off for non-marquee cards. Also, the lower the rarity the less I like the investment. A set of alpha RF Glint the Quicksilver is likely a better place to park your money than a bunch of RF Cs and Rs if you really want to go the alpha foil route.

Awful Bets

Unlimited singles – If you look at Magic, most sets traditionally launch with high singles prices that fall over time. Traditionally, this occurs because people are excited for new cards and no one wants to underprice a breakout single. For FAB, the first point still holds because a lot of people never got first edition WTR and ARC, and in some ways it may be amplified because CF prices are so high that there is a lot of room for RF Ls and Fs to be cheaper. The second point is less of a factor since these cards have been played with for over a year, and while a new set could suddenly spike the value of a previously unplayed card, that shouldn’t be priced into singles costs. There is also going to be a big increase in supply over time, which suppresses the value of lower rarity cards. The essential cards from WTR are the Legendaries, and as more and more product is opened to supply the player base’s needs for Ls, there will be a glut of non-L cards. I think pretty much everything from UNL is going to go down over the next few years unless it’s a previously unplayed card that get’s turned on by something printed in the future. However, even if everything is going down, it will not be at the same rate. I would expect things to drop (from quickest to slowest) as C > R > S > F > M > L. To me, that means that if you want a RF L to play, and you’re playing now, you might as well pick it up because the fluctuations won’t be huge. But some things like Ss will head down much quicker, and may be worth waiting a few weeks on. Unless you have a short term need for physical cards, I would be very hesitant to buy anything, aside from an L, as an Unlimited single until January or February.

Unlimited sealed boxes – I’ve seen people talking about buying unlimited boxes as an investment, and I want to say that this is just a terrible idea. If there is a shortage of unlimited, you might be able to get some gains in a narrow window before another print wave lands, but LSS has made it clear that these sets are going to be available for a long time to come. Eventually, these sets will go OOP, and that is when you can consider buying boxes to put away long term, but even then it will take years for them to really climb up to meaningful gains. What you definitely don’t want to do is tie up several hundred or thousand dollars in boxes that will show no gains for years as they’re continuously reprinted. Why stash a case of WTR Unlimited at MAP now when MAP goes away after 6 months? It’s entirely possible that some big volume store will sell you $65-70 UNL boxes 2 or 3 years from now. Heck, I bought a bunch of sub-$60 boxes from a non-advertised sale a couple days ago.

Rainbow Foil Heart – I just want to quickly call out Rainbow Foil Heart specifically as a really bad investment. I still see people asking $700+ on these. While I think that CF Heart is possibly high at the moment and could retrace over the next few months before resuming its climb, you need to recognize that the reason that card is so expensive has nothing to do with its in game use. Right now it is an OK card in a niche deck. Its value is in being the first F in the game and thus an iconic card. The problem with Unlimited Fs and Ls is that they are not valued in the same way. Their value lies in their utility – hence why the Ls are still in high demand and pay for their entire box and then some when you open one. The amount of people who want to play Heart is significantly lower than how many want to play any of the L’s, much less essential ones like Mask of Momentum. If my assumption is true and the collectable display piece element doesn’t really exist for RF Heart, or it’s at least significantly diminished, then Heart is going to lose value over time. I expect that, barring supply issues, a year from now Heart will be selling for $350 or less.

*Header Image – Kavdaen, Trader of Skins by Nikolay Moskvin

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