Buying into the Future

In a recent post I discussed what I see as the places to make money in FAB if you missed out on the initial rush. Today we’re going to look into another venue of speculation, one that is near and dear to my heart. As I mentioned in my first post on this blog, I made a bunch of my Magic money by speculating on EDH cards when the format was still young. There were two main ways to make these sorts of moves in Magic – either by identifying an old, relatively unplayed card that suddenly became good in the context of a new release or predicting a card’s utility in an emergent format. FAB is a bit too young for the former, but it’s very ripe for the latter. Before we go too deep into this, I think that it’s important to note that these sorts of bets are less reliable than many of the other ones I’ve discussed (sealed boxes). If you hit, you can get big returns, but if you miss, the card will usually do nothing or go down. You cac mitigate the risk by identifying cards that have a solid value already and gain additional upside from an emergent format or cards that are already cheap so don’t have much room to fall further. That said, I wouldn’t use this approach as the primary vehicle for putting money into FAB (that remains sealed product). If you’re thinking of it as a diversified portfolio, sealed product should make up a much bigger chunk of your investment. Finally, this doesn’t have to be something that you buy into now, rather, you can use this method to identify cards to watch and then wait until such a format starts taking off and the pounce of the cards before singles prices react.

Future FAB

So, how do we speculate on future formats? After all, they don’t exist yet. Much like LSS, we’re going to take our queues from Magic. So, let’s pick up two formats that I think are likely to exist in the future: 1.) A popular multiplayer format and 2.) A pauper format of some sort. I prefer to keep this a bit nebulous because we don’t want to overcommit to granular assumptions. A multiplayer format seems likely for one major reason: Commander (or EDH as I still think of it) is a huge pillar of Magic, a lot of Magic players are moving into FAB and will bring with them some of their taste in formats. Also, LSS clearly anticipated a desire for multiplayer. We can see it in the format they’ve given us (Ultimate Pit Fight) as well as card design that takes multiple players into account like Gorganian Tome. Now, the key thing in my mind is that UPF may not be the multiplayer format that the player base decides on. FAB has fewer options for interacting with multiple opponents than Magic, and it may ultimately turn out that it’s more suited to teams or a raid boss style multiplayer format. I don’t want to pin our hopes and dreams on the particular ruleset of UPF, but we can look to generally useful cards that improve with multiple players.

Multiplayer Picks

Obviously there are some big money cards that are turned to excel in multiplayer – Shiyana and Gorganian Tome come to mind. Unfortunately both of those cards are already highly valued and not a great investment opportunity for low risk big rewards. However there are some other promising cards to consider. If we’re taking a cue from Commander, we want to pick up low rarity cards, preferably in foil (though you could pick up non-foil versions for a more conservative speculation) as we can buy in at good prices but get nice returns down the road. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it highlights some of the things to look for:

Reaping Blade (CF) – When we look at promising multiplayer cards, we’re automatically interested in things that affect multiple players. Reaping Blade has a lot of upside right now and we’re focused on the Cold Foil version specifically. The CF can still be acquired for under $20 (sometimes as low as $10), is a viable weapon for Viserai, and has an effect that impacts all players simply by existing (and you’ll always get to have it in play). I like this card a lot because it’s doing double duty. It’s a CF from an early set, which I already like as a thing to park your money in, and if multiplayer becomes a thing, then that is an additional upward force on it.

Aetherize (RF) – A little less intuitive because it doesn’t affect everyone, but this is another political card that could potentially end up preventing or enabling a big play.  As long at the multiplayer format lets you meddle with cards that aren’t targeting you, Aetherize could either stop someone’s plans short or enable a big play to land by preventing someone’s defensive instant. Again, you likely don’t want to offer this service for free, and can potentially get into some bargaining with other players – or even competing offers.

Stamp Authority (RF) – You can find these for $5-7 and while it’s by no means a guaranteed hit, it is one of the few political cards you can throw down in FAB. It affects all attack actions, not just ones aimed at you. This can help slow down a leader or protect another player – depending on how the multiplayer format evolves, you might be able to leverage it to help another player in exchange for not being attacked, or to backstop an ally who is vulnerable on a particular turn. Its highest appeal is perhaps in a raid boss format since it remains active until your next turn, so we get a format where you act after several players act against you, it works to stymie several people for one card.

Kavdaen, Trader of Skins (RF) – A very obvious one, but Kavdaen interacts with multiple players, potentially every turn. He will likely be issued in Cold Foil at some point (The rest of the CRU young heroes are getting that treatment in Armory Kit 3), so the RF will have some competition, but when you can get copies for $10-12 there is definite upside for him in the long term, and, similar to Reaping Blade, he is a card type that has value outside for any multiplayer format, so that helps to backstop his price.

Pauper Prospects

Pauper formats (of which there are several) cropped up in Magic in response to the high cost that often accompanies Magic formats. These formats generally limit the card pool to cards of only particular low rarities (usually commons, those sometime uncommon as well). With Unlimited Ls at prices of $80-150, and top Majestics at $30+, it seem probable that FAB will still carry a pretty solid price tag for a competitive deck. To me, this means that at some point, it’s likely that we’ll see a pauper format emerge. To be safe, I’m assuming commons only will be the rule of the day, but it’s also possible that such a format may allow Rs as well. The interesting thing about these formats from a money making perspective is that while most commons are cheap, old cards and foil commons can both carry a significant premium if they’re staple for the format. I expect patterns to apply to FAB. I think this format may take longer to emerge because we need a bigger pool of common cards to really make it viable but it’s definitely a thing to look out for as we go forward. Here are some cards and card types I’m looking at.

CF Commons – This market is pretty much tapped at the moment due to their overall rarity. The WTR and ARC ones have moved past the point where you could pick up cheap copies. However we can take two things from this. First, in future sets, CF Cs will likely not be as cheap as Alpha copies were, but they will also probably find a price point that isn’t as wildly high as those in WTR and ARC. Keep your eyes on the cheap ones which may have a better option in conventional formats but are best in slot in a format with commons only. For instance, the chest slot is highly competitive because Tunic exists, but in an all common format, a card that wouldn’t make the cut in constructed or blitz could easily be the best option you have for pauper. Our second option is to pick up unlimited RFs (remember, per the announcement on the LSS homepage, Unlimited “contains exactly the same cards as the original printing of these products, in the same configuration”). Unlimited RF C equipment will still be relatively valuable, especially as CF prices climb. A $3-4 RF could easily be $15+ in a pauper format if the CF equivalent is $100+.

Class Staples – Cards that are already commonly played in their respective classes can often still be picked up cheaply (even rainbow foil commons from 1st edition ARC and WTR)– we’re talking things like Snapback (Red) or Zero to Sixty (Red), cards that are currently solid in Constructed, and likely will remain prominent Pauper choices for even longer. These are likely going to be quite cheap for some time so there’s no rush here, but when the eventual Unlimited Edition out of print announcements lands, these are the cards you’re going to want to look towards picking up.

Other Horizons

What other formats are out there? Who knows? Those two are the most obvious and likely to me, but there could very easily be others that emerge and create opportunities to capitalize on, even if it’s just a limited rarity format that goes up to Rare. But, anything could happen, there was no real popular multiplayer format in Magic (two-headed giant was very niche) until EDH blew up the scene. It’s entirely possible that FAB will produce a new format that only FAB could facilitate, and if that happens, there will likely be opportunity to find neglected cards that become valuable commodities overnight. Again, I wouldn’t go big investing into speculative formats until they start to emerge, but be ready to move early once things start evolving.

*Header Image: Arknight Ascendancy – by Alexander Mokhov

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