Update 1/13/21: Per this stream, Team Covenant is now no longer anticipating more pre-orders to open up. They’re saying that any boxes available from them will likely be opening up a couple weeks before launch when they send out their pre-charge notifications for subscriptions. The information on other vendors here remains unchanged as of this update.
As FAB-mania continues to boom and people are increasingly running out of things to buy for anything approaching accessible prices (Unlimited boxes are getting listed routinely at $120-150 as I write this), eyes are turning towards the prospect of Monarch. And with that attention comes increasing anxiety over whether people will be able to get as much first edition product as they hope to, or, for those who have no preorders in place, whether they’ll be able to get any product at all. A lot of people including Rudy of Alpha investments (which I’m sure is a driving force here) have said that they expect a prompt sellout of first edition Monarch in a matter of a few weeks at most. With the confluence of hype for FAB generally and the (frankly realistic) worries about the supply of first edition Monarch, we’ve got a sort of perfect storm of FOMO going on. As a result, I see people asking if they should preorder Monarch nearly every day. And my answer? It depends.
I want to put aside the Monarch-specific discussion for a moment to talk about my general take on preorders. This isn’t a novel take, but I don’t like lending money to companies for free. That’s essentially what most preorders with a long wait amount to. There are exceptions to this –one of the reasons I have been such a booster on Team Covenant subscriptions is that they don’t collect your money until a few weeks out – this is about as close as I can see an LGS getting to the sort of Amazon pre-order model where you aren’t billed until the item ships (Amazon also gives you the lowest price at any point between when you submitted your pre-order and when your item ships, and again, you’re charged when your item ships). These sorts of pre-orders are great, the risk is minimal and you get to lock in favorable pricing. Outside of this model, you really just want to wait until a week or two before launch to preorder so that you get the buy a box promos.
Now, let’s talk about the particular circumstances around Monarch. If you didn’t lock in your TC subscriptions (remember there’s a potential chance more will open up in January), you’ve got a couple questions to ask. Does it make sense to pre-order? If so, when and from who? In general, my approach to cash-up-front preordering is that I do it as close to the release date as possible. In the case of Monarch, this gets complicated because there are some very valid concerns that preorders will be sold out a fair bit in advance of release. I share some of these concerns. I am increasingly worried that the supply of first edition Monarch is going to be insufficient to last even a few weeks. After all, Crucible of War more or less sold out in its first week with most of the availability after that being a trickle. So, to our first question, the answer is: “Yes, you should probably preorder”.
Where to Buy
Now comes the harder part: when do you order and from who? This is the area where I find myself breaking from the people who are hot to order from any store that offers preorders at $100 or below. I’ve spoken to owners and operators of quite a few stores who have been selling FAB since you could buy a CF Heart for a few hundred dollars, and pretty much all of them feel like they’ll be allocated on their order (meaning the distributors will not be able to provide all of the product that stores ordered and will allocate a each store a portion of their order -usually favoring older and/or larger accounts). Now, to contrast that impression, I see a ton of stores, particularly stores that have opened in the past few months (many focusing on FAB) saying things like “I have 300 cases coming”. Here’s the thing, ordering 300 cases and actually receiving 300 cases are two very different things. So, if this new starry-eyed retailer sells 300 cases, but only receives 75 cases, what happens to you? In the best case they hopefully refund anything you didn’t get promptly so you can fight for $150 boxes or whatever people are trying to get on the secondary at that point, but who knows; they could hold your money for several more weeks while they try to get product that likely won’t be coming.
If you’re going to preorder, there are a few things I’d look for. First, if anyone is offering a comparable deal to TC (order now, pay or cancel at launch) feel free to go crazy. If you don’t have to pay them now and you can cancel later, just go in for whatever quantity you want. Now, that is obviously not going to be an easy thing to find (I think your best chance of this arrangement, aside from more TC slots opening up, is probably finding a local store that will take pre-orders). Assuming that option is off the table, you need to strike a balance between price and how likely a retailer is to actually have your product. A MAP case that falls through is worse than MSRP case that you actually get. To this end, I look to big retailers that have a history with the game as the top choice. Places like Gamenerdz and Miniatures Market are massive stores who have been selling the game since WTR Alpha was available. They also have been taking preorders conservatively, opening up a small batch of slots and then selling out. Gamenerdz limited their initial (absurdly cheap) offering to 1 case per customer and MM was at MAP. Neither of them are currently offering preorders, but I anticipate one or both will add additional slots between now and release. Both stores do email notifications for restocks, so you should sign up.
Beyond those stores, Reaper will be putting pre-orders up at some time in the future. They were an early adopter, and Bill moved a ton of product in the game’s first year. He recently posted the following on one of the FAB Facebook groups
Again, the fact that, like the other stores I’ve listed, Reaper has done serious volume before and is being cautious and waiting before just dumping all of their preorders makes me more confident that product ordered from them will actually show up while also reinforcing the idea that small stores claiming large supply might be jumping the gun.
Finally ChannelFireball, despite their somewhat fraught reputation within the FAB community (due in large part to their practice of mailing rather well-curled foils), does have a direct relationship with LSS, which, again, means that they are likely to actually have the product you order from them. To date, they’ve been much more dependable on delivering boxes in good condition than singles, which makes me feel a little better about singling them out as a site to pre-order from. And (you might notice a theme here) they haven’t started taking MON preorders yet.
These recommendations are somewhat US-centric, which is where my expertise lies, but you can use this general model for finding stores in other locales. You want to see stores that have been selling FAB since before it blew up (not really possible for EU. Sorry, I assume yinz are going to continue to have some trouble getting product through most if not all of 2021). Ideally you want these stores to be somewhat conservative on how they sell product and when they start taking orders –Mighty Ape, for instance is not going to sell pre-orders to the US market, has a long relationship with LSS, and has stated goal of trying to be equitable in how they made their product available.
One other thing you might want to consider is how much product you want to buy. If you’re looking at first edition Monarch as an investment, you’ll want to be building out your position of sealed boxes at the lowest price possible, which pretty much means you’ll need to preorder. While I hope to be wrong about it, I would approach MON with the assumption that outside of LGSs (for those of you that have them), you’re not going to see sub $100 boxes again after the first week of release. You’d also be giving up the free money that is buy a box promos if don’t preorder, so it’s doubly beneficial to preorder. If you set up your store alerts and stay attentive to social media FAB spaces, you’ll have opportunities to get preorders in between MAP and MSRP prices from stores that are highly likely to deliver your product.
If you are both an investor and someone who wants to play with first edition cards, MON is probably going to be a unique set in terms of singles sales. I’ll dive into this more in a future article, but I anticipate that people are going to open with very high prices for cards at the Legendary and Fable rarities. I would not be at all surprised to see $500 Ls and $1500-2000 Fs on day one. People do not want to get burnt, and I think they’d rather aim high and then lower prices if they don’t get any bites as opposed to opening low and watching prices soar. If MON sells out in a couple weeks, there isn’t going to be a real window to see these prices get down to what they were at release of CRU when we briefly saw Shard sell for sub-$300 and Shiyana at sub-$200. With that in mind, I personally plan on opening a lot more MON than I would with a normal set because I think it’s ultimately cheaper to just put in a large order and break break some of your $76-96 boxes for CFs than paying sky high singles prices.
People are absurdly hype for Monarch, and we’ve got something like 111 days until it even releases. By the time the end of April rolls around, the community is going to be absolutely rabid. Perhaps more than with any other set that will be released for FAB, this is one you should pre-order. But, you should also be shrewd about when and how you order. Any small or new store that is claiming to have hundreds of cases should be regarded cautiously. If I was going to order from one such retailer, I would certainly not put all of my eggs in one basket and make my entire order with them. If you’re going in on small stores, I would recommend limiting yourself to 10% or so of your total target order at any given store unless you feel you have a good reason to believe they’ll actually be able to deliver all of the product. Stores that have direct business relationships with LSS, are probably going to be reliable for large orders –the bulk of my orders are with Team Covenant, for example. Consider monitoring the various FAB Facebook groups and the #wall-street channel in Discord over the coming months to increase your chances of catching a sale announcement.
Good luck out there; I have a feeling that there’s going to be a fair amount of heartbreak around unfulfilled Monarch preorders, so I encourage you to make smart choices and mitigate your risk as much as possible.
*Header Image – Gambler’s Gloves by Surya Prasetya