If January was an unusually calm moment in post-boom FAB history, February was a return to form with one especially notable spike and bit of other movement in the market. We’ll tackle a variety of issues in more depth, but if there was one “story of the month”, it was Crucible of War finally adjusting to the range I’ve been saying it should be at for the past couple months –sorry if it’s gauche to brag about that call, but if there is an appropriate place to celebrate being right, it’s on your own blog. The runner-up to that bit of news would be the continued development of the Monarch first edition preorder landscape, followed by some fervor surrounding a cryptic announcement regarding reprints and cold foils that should coming out at some point today. Taking all of that into account, I expect to see movement in March on both CRU box prices, MON preorders, and potentially some more modest movement in the singles market. I’m still toying with the format for these end of the month articles, and I think they’ll necessarily have to evolve as things eventually reach stability and the game matures, but for now, we’ll try to do what I did last month and hit sealed and singles then talk about other newsworthy considerations.
Let’s just do these in chronological order. Welcome to Rathe Alpha box sales had a few high outliers, but in general, sales were in the $3500-4000 range. In a one month period, this represents a modest gain for FAB and a pretty spectacular gain for a conventional investment. My opinion on these boxes is the same as it’s been for a while now: they’re about at where they should be, though I’d be open to arguments that they’re a little high. My belief is that these will continue to accrue steady gains as long as the game is healthy. If FAB is a 10 year+ game in a healthy state, there will probably be some point in that timeframe where we see an unexpected jump, but the easy money has been made on these, and if you’re buying them now, it should be as a long term investment.
The same is not true of Arcane Rising, which has remained at $1500-1800 (TCG player has a $1700 box just sitting there right now from a fairly large merchant.) As of right now, I think that Arcane Rising is the most underpriced sealed product in FAB. It’s to the degree that I’m considering expanding my position over the couple cases I have on hand because, if there is any easy money currently available in FAB, it’s right here. Once again, we know that ARC and WTR have the same size print run from this Facebook post.
Yes, WTR will always hold a premium as the first set, but that premium should absolutely not be over 200% of ARC. While Arcanite Skullcap is certainly not as good as Fyendal’s Spring Tunic, Eye of Ophidia is absolutely superior to Heart of Fyendal, and unless other cards emerge that make Heart significantly better, I still maintain that several years down the road, Eye will be the better Fable to own. Even if you don’t believe that particular point, I think there are a lot of good arguments to be made that the two sets are very comparable in terms of valuable pieces (with, perhaps, the note that there is no ARC L on par with Mask of Momentum, but then, Mask is the best class Legendary in the game). Foil Command and Conquers are still climbing and, I won’t be surprised if it ultimately becomes more chase then Enlightened Strike. Given all of this, I feel like the absolute floor for ARC first edition should be $2,500 in the short term. As a sealed box, it should be around 75% of WTR’s value, and eventually the market will correct on this. Last month I said I’d be targeting CRU if I was just getting into the FAB box investment game, and if it isn’t abundantly clear already, this month I’ve shifted my pick to ARC.
As alluded to earlier, the story of the month is, of course, Crucible of War. I’ve been bullish on CRU for a while, and I’m not the only once. Once Rudy of Alpha Investments sent out a letter to his patrons that he was still buying CRU boxes here and there at the $460-500 market price, people suddenly accepted that they were wrong and dramatically changed course, spiking prices in under twenty-four hours. Prices shot up towards $1000 before ChannelFireball did what they so often do and put a ceiling on the market while they moved part of their position to take massive profits on boxes they almost certainly paid under $50 for. This imposed an artificial cap at $750 while they cashed out, but they’re “sold out” in the past week and we’ve seen prices moving back up towards $800 (I’ve written about it several times in the past, but I believe that CFB is still holding a meaningful number of boxes and they’re waiting for some internally-determined price before they reintroduce them to the market).
$700-800 is where I initially said that I thought CRU should be. However, given that CFB drew the line for the floor at $750 and we haven’t even made it to March, I think there’s a good chance these will climb up to $900-1000 before Monarch comes out. Long term, CRU should continue to accrue value in the same way that we see WTR moving. That said, this recent adjustment has put it close to where I believe it should currently be, and unless the whole FAB market moves (always a possibility), I don’t think CRU will see a dramatic change for a while. At this stage, I consider CRU to be another long term investment box. If you got in a few weeks ago, you got your free money, now it’s a more patient gain (though, FAB, as a whole, is still probably going to continue outperforming conventional investment targets for the remainder of 2021).
All of that brings us to unlimited WTR/ARC, which is its own interesting story. Last month we were looking at $120 boxes which I said were likely not investable at that price point. This remains my stance, but I want to touch on general short term availability. Earlier in the month I was pretty shocked to see Rudy telling his patrons that he had a large shipment of WTR UNL incoming that he’d be putting up on a sale and then keeping on his regular availability list. My assumption was that any large stable supply of unlimited wouldn’t appear until after Monarch, and while it briefly looked like I was wrong on this point, Rudy’s supply got annihilated in short order and now he’s out of stock again with no expectation of a restock in the near future. He’ll be getting Arcane Rising unlimited in March, and I anticipate a similar situation. For those with access, Rudy’s MSRP case sales remain the best price you’re likely to see for several months. For those without access, you might be able to get a similar price from either LGSs or some online stores, but you should expect a similar pattern, boxes will largely sell out, and then we’ll be back to $120-150 secondary market boxes.
So, should you buy MSRP unlimited? My advice on this remains the same as before. If you want the cards to actually use between now and Q3, an MSRP case of UNL is about as good as you’re going to do; however, UNL prices for both sealed product and singles remain a bubble unless LSS decides to put the UNL sets OOP much earlier than expected (if they did this, I’d have serious concerns about the health of the game unless they had a really compelling plan for how they were going to get staples like Command and Conquer into player hands for non-collector prices.) When LSS finally catches up on printing UNL (and that might not be until 2022), I fully expect unlimited singles prices to resemble alpha prices from July/August 2020. That will mean fairly dramatic price drops. If you are buying unlimited, it should be so that you can play with those cards now. I would not invest in unlimited at current prices. On a multi-year timeline, I do continue to believe that sealed unlimited boxes will be investible as they both offer the only accessible way to draft the original sets and their print run will still likely be small relative to current sets if the game is thriving after they’ve been OOP for a few years. But, the essential point is that you should have an opportunity to buy them at MAP or cheaper before any of that happens, so picking them up as investments at MSRP or higher is a poor use of your funds.
I realize that the sealed section was super long, but that’s where the action was. Conversely, the singles market remained a lot more stable in February. The general trend was modest upward movement, but nothing really dramatic happened. There are still a few things to talk about here but nothing really explosive. The big question is, of course, “what’s going to happen to CRU singles”, so let’s tackle that first.
While I think there may be some modest gains generally and a couple cards might see a notable bump, I do not expect singles to move up proportionately with the box adjustment. One of the reasons that I saw a CRU spike as inevitable was that EV (expected value) of a box of CRU was far too high relative to the price of a sealed box for that sealed price to be correct. With this jump, things are much closer to a reasonable spread. If EV actually chases the box price up to $750+, then the sealed price is likely still too low and your investment target should once again be sealed boxes of CRU. Most people who have dealt in cardboard for a while understand this decoupling of sealed box and singles prices, but I regularly see people for whom FAB is the first game they’ve engaged with as an investment, questioning why sealed boxes are so high if the cards inside aren’t worth that much. I’m not going to go into this in detail here, but Rudy did put out a long video on this earlier this week, and I pretty much unilaterally agree with him on the explanation –this is how I look at boxes. There is one important caveat: we’re still in a hyper-accelerated period for FAB where small print runs, a spike in the interest in collectibles, and general inflationary pressure are creating the sort of movement that took years for Magic sets to achieve. While we should expect each successive first edition FAB set to have less of a crazy spike than the previous one until we reach a stable market price, said stable market price is not going to happen in 2021.
Outside of CRU, the most interesting singles event of February for me has been the increasing number of graded cards hitting the market. To be completely upfront here, I am not someone who deals in graded cards –it’s just not an element of the game that interests me, though I am considering getting some cards graded just because of the value gains on 9.5s and 10s. And that’s the news –we are still seeing that 10s are virtually non-existent for FAB. The premiums that that 9.5+ cards are demanding is significant, and there are so few of these cards out there when we’re talking Fs, Ls, and ARC/WTR RF Ms. Despite my lack of interest in graded cards in general, I am currently leaning towards talking to people who are more versed in this field than me and seeing if any of my high value cards should be graded –if you’re also holding cards from the aforementioned categories (Fs, Ls, and ARC/WTR RF Ms), it’s worth tossing some pictures up in the Discord and seeing what the seasoned collectors of graded cards think about the condition.
If you want a potentially swingy pick, the full art rainbow foil Twinning Blade is perhaps the most compelling “big” card on the market at the moment. It’s sitting around $600-700, and historically the question I’ve asked is “will it be in CRU unlimited”, but recently my thinking on this has changed a bit. I don’t think that this question actually matters that much. Right now, I’m sitting on an unlimited foil enlightened strike that I’ve been trying to trade into Magic product at $130 for over a month with no bites. Meanwhile, if someone was standing at my front door with a suitcase containing $3500 cash that they wanted to give me for my alpha RF estrike, I wouldn’t take the deal. So, given that I’ve accepted this massive disparity between alpha and unlimited RF estrike, why the hell would I care about an unlimited printing of full art twinning blade? Right now, I think the real question (which, to be fair, I and others have asked before) is “how rare is FA twinning blade?” If the answer to that question is anything close to “as rare as an L”, then the card is meaningfully underpriced, especially considering that it’s been seeing more action in competitive play lately. Remember, this is the first card in FAB with a full art treatment that you could open in a pack. In the same way that Heart will always be the first CF Fable, Twinning Blade will always be the first full art chase card you could open. So, if you want to gamble a bit, this is a card to consider.
Well, this one is running away on length, but we’re not getting out of here until we talk about Monarch, so pour yourself another drink and get comfortable. At this time last month we were talking about the $350 preorders from Miniatures Market. Since then, ChannelFireball entered the market at $250, which set a ceiling on prices; meanwhile, MM is now sitting on what appears to be ample stock at $300. We’ve also seen CFB offer a one per person $200 box to their Pro subscribers, and that $200 has been picked up by other stores as the “bargain price” for the time being. I still regard these prices as fairly volatile. At some point, it seems likely that CFB is going to decide that they’ve sold enough preorders and reserve their remaining stock for higher price post-release sales. Once they remove the ceiling from the market, we’ll see if there is enough demand remaining to scoop up those $300 boxes or if $250 is where people are at. If you don’t have orders at this point, I think it’s hard to imagine a better preorder price than $200 unless one of more of the following three scenarios applies: A.) You have an LGS selling to locals for cheaper. B.) LSS makes an announcement that fundamentally changes the understanding of first edition product. C.) Significantly more stock appears at distributors for order.
With all of that said, I remain cautious about the Monarch price at launch. I think that there is a fair chance that we’ll see prices drop a bit from whatever the final preorders were during the first couple weeks as people take profits and boxes transfer hands. There is going to be some downward pressure as those who bought up large positions at MSRP on credit or as short term flips double up and move on. Now, how low these prices get will, as I said, be a function of where preorders were just before release. If the market is still at $250 preorders a week or so out from release, we could potentially see sub $200 boxes on the secondary. If these go down enough, I think they could be a nice pickup even for people who already have a position; I know I’d consider expanding my own position in this scenario. All of this is of course contingent on where the market is just before launch. If preorders are back up to $350, a dip could mean $275 boxes. In either case, sealed MON remains a solid investment as long as the game continues to do well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me they’d up to $500+ by the end of 2021.
The stealth hit of the month was the Monarch blitz decks whose preorders came and went at $40 and are now mostly sold out everywhere. With some teases that there might be some surprising elements in these, I would expect any additional preorders to be well over MSRP if they even show up. Alpha Investments patrons will get a crack at them at launch and a couple stores who haven’t listed them yet will probably post stock at some point for preorder, but who knows where that price point will be. With no real sense of what the “surprise” is, I don’t know how far over MSRP I’d consider paying, but, at this stage, if someone is offering a set at MSRP, I’d probably recommend grabbing one. At that price they have potential upside and a minimal value to lose.
Finally, Monarch unlimited is currently holding steady at MAP preorders of thereabouts. We’ll obviously have to see if preorders sell through or if we get to launch with stores still holding stock, but given the inability to keep any FAB product on shelves at MSRP, I still believe we’re going to see rising Monarch unlimited prices prior to the launch of Kingdoms. My long term position on these is similar to my position on other unlimited boxes, though, in this case, if you want cards to play with, I would just lock in your preorders now and not mess around with the potential of having to pay $120 a box come May. Again, Team Covenant’s subscriptions allow you to order a couple boxes/cases now and then pay for them shortly before they ship. Looking at their site, it seems like they’ve got a bit over 3000 subscriptions available still for Monarch unlimited (this is just me seeing how much the site would let me increase my unlimited order by). That may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t. I have no idea how many they started with, but when you consider that Rudy sold through a couple thousand boxes of Welcome to Rathe unlimited in about a week, that 3000 number for a brand new set doesn’t seem like all that much. In closing, Monarch remains incredibly hype, and you shouldn’t sleep on unlimited preorders if you want MAP product in 2021.
*Header Image – Scar for a Scar by Arif Wijaya