State of the Market: December 2021
Heya, everyone! In the spirit of the New Year, this month we’ll both review the changes from November as well as take some time to look back at the Flesh and Blood secondary market in 2021 as a whole. The most exciting upcoming FAB action is going to be the Everfest release, but for now, we really don’t have much more information than we did last month at this time. Since so little has changed there, I’m not going to dwell on that particular topic for too long, but I will offer some general advice and some things to keep an eye on as we approach spoiler season and the eventual release. We haven’t talked too much about the older sets recently, so we’ll also check in with those, and I’ve got something a little more out there for you at the end, but let’s kick things off with the big picture view of 2021.
2021 in Review
It’s been a real roller-coaster year for the secondary market. While the game itself has performed admirably, posting highly-attended events around the globe despite the ongoing pandemic, the secondary market was been more of a mixed bag.
The obvious “big story” was the peak and subsequent crash of the FAB market right as Monarch first edition launched. As I noted at the time, this was not a unique event for Flesh and Blood; we saw the secondary markets for many other CCGs take a nosedive in the wake of the cryptocurrency crash.
Fortunately, we also saw the FAB market stabilize, and the game remains healthy, even if the secondary market is still a long way from recovering to the peak values we saw earlier in the year. It’s likely going to be some time before we start seeing WTR boxes moving at $7000 again, but FAB successfully weathered its first major downturn, and more people are playing the game than ever before.
Still, the past month saw a fairly soft market on the older boxes, with recent WTR Alpha sales ranging widely from a particularly low ebay sale of about $2550 to multiple sales of $3800 on TCGPlayer. (I should note that the $2550 box had a small tear in the bottom of its shrink wrap, as well as a piece of scotch tape to prevent further tearing. That said, it was sold by an account with over 900,000 positive feedback, so it didn’t seem particularly shady, just not in pristine condition.)
At the same time, Arcane Rising has been hanging out from around $1900-2250 and Crucible of War has slumped a little, down to about $650-725. There isn’t a totally coherent picture here. ARC and CRU are down from last month but up from their lows over the summer. If we ignore the outlier WTR box, that set follows a fairly similar pattern.
The one thing I do want to stress both about sealed boxes and cold foil singles from WTR through CRU is that they remain high dollar items, and a much higher percentage of the sales involving them are happening via private deals brokered on Facebook or Discord, as compared to sales of more recent boxes and singles. This means we continue to have limited data to work with, and a lot of the transactions involving these products are hard to track beyond hearsay.
Speaking of anecdotes, one trend that I have noticed in recent weeks that isn’t reflected in ebay and TCGPlayer sales data is an uptick in the number of WTR, ARC, and CRU cold foils changing hands. It’s not just people trying to offload (which was the case earlier in the year); there are also more people seeking these cards out than I’ve seen in a while, but this is almost all happening off of the managed marketplaces.
This is a little looser than most predictions I make here, but I think that if the game continues to do well from a play standpoint, we’re going to see the prices of these old cards and boxes vacillate up and down a couple hundred in either direction month-to-month. Then we’re going to hit a point with no major changes until a combination of loose product being largely absorbed by people with a more long-term orientation and an influx of additional players entering the hobby (a small percentage of whom will want to own the high end stuff) will kick off a fairly abrupt jump that will then settle into a new plateau price.
But that’s enough of the old sets, let’s talk about the cards that actually came out this year. Monarch and Tales of Aria had a significant impact on the “play” portion of the game- I’m sure a lot of people felt like 2021 was the Year of The Runeblade. As to whether that was a positive or a negative is probably down to how you feel about the class in general, but regardless of where you fall on that issue, you were probably happy to see large turnouts for Callings across the world.
By contrast, the way the secondary market received Monarch and Tales was pretty decidedly negative. We’ll get to unlimited in a moment, but I think first edition Monarch, in particular, had a bit of bad luck. Expectations for its value were sky high, and then it released right in the wake of the crash I mentioned above, which led to months of falling prices. Tales and Monarch also both lacked a powerful generic Legendary to create a big hit in the L slot like WTR and ARC had in Tunic or Skullcap, respectively.
I say this a lot, but the narrative of 2021 was a transition from the game being driven by collectors and investors to being driven by players, and that means that instead of a big chunk of the market looking for the rarest, fanciest versions of cards, people are chasing the cheapest ones, which has led to very narrow price gaps between first edition cold foils and unlimited rainbow foils. Unlimited as a whole has been amazing for players trying to get into the game cheaply and kind of a nightmare for the secondary market and retailers. Monarch unlimited was a debacle; we saw major retailers pulling out every trick they could think of to skirt MAP restrictions, with some of them seemingly just flat out ignoring MAP and dumping product at well below permitted prices. Tales of Aria hasn’t done much better in that respect. This year has offered LSS a lot of lessons on how the market reacts to the first edition/unlimited model and they’re starting to indicate that they are unsatisfied with the reception unlimited has received so far. I would look for changes in how product releases are handled, starting with Everfest.
The Greatest Show on Rathe
Focusing solely on the market aspect of Everfest, it’s going to be a very interesting set. It has a lot to prove in my book. Crucible of War was somewhat of a failure on launch in terms of value. It was saved by the game exploding in popularity which allowed the relatively low supply to skyrocket in value. Because most of the people currently involved with the game weren’t playing when CRU released, the strength of CRU as a product has become somewhat distorted in the collective memory of the community. As someone who was there and opening cases, I can tell you that pretty much none of them broke even at set release unless they had a Legendary, Shard, or Full Art Twinning Blade. The lower total number of Legendaries made openings feel generally bad, and cases with none of the hits listed above and no cold foil Majestics were by no means uncommon. If CRU was released into the current market with a modern print run size, I think people would be rather disappointed with it from a financial perspective. Given all of that, Everfest needs to convince the community that supplemental sets can have decent value.
I’ll admit, the information we have right now has me somewhat nervous. Everfest is a three Legendary set, with one of them being the much-needed Arcanite Skullcap reprint. While that’s better than Crucible’s two Legendaries, it’s still going to mean a lot of people will open a case and hit nothing above Majestic rarity. To me, that’s a bad look.
The major X factor is the set’s “carnival slot,” which we still have very little information on. It is unclear what can be contained in this slot and if the potential cards that could go into it are accounted for in the product configuration information. Could the slot contain reprinted Legendaries that aren’t counted as part of the set’s three? Are there alternate treatments of the cards already in set? Imagine a rarer variant of a cold foil! This slot could dramatically affect how much value the set has, as well as what its long-term prospects are.
In any case, we haven’t got any information that changes my previous recommendation for Everfest, which is: don’t pre-order any product over MSRP, and ideally don’t pre-order period unless you’re not going to be changed until close to the product shipping. You can buy Tales of Aria first edition at or a little below MSRP right now. Unless we get new info that suggests that Everfest will either have a smaller print run or substantially more valuable cards, I have a very hard time seeing a case for paying more for it than Tales.
On the Topic of Tales
Since it’s the most recent set for a little while still, we should dip in and check up on Tales singles. As predicted, the cold foils have continued to drop and separate from their unlimited rainbow foil counterparts (which are also dropping).
The big loser of the month was Korshem, which has been moving on TCGplayer for about $330-375 lately, down from $450-500 a month ago (ebay sales have been slightly higher at $350-450). The various cold foil Legendaries have continued a slow decline or remained flat, with Shock Charmers posting the biggest loss. Alternate Art Channel Lake Frigid has actually inched up $5-10, but on the whole, the high end cold foils are still trending down. When we consider where Monarch cold foil prices are right now (along with the assumption that Tales of Aria’s first edition print run is probably at least as big as Monarch’s), I would expect to see continued gradual decline for a few more months excepting a potential spike in competitive usage for any particular card.
What’s particularly striking about Tales right now is that there isn’t a single Majestic over $10, and the precious few that are over $5 are barely over. Non-foil Majestics continue to be almost identically priced across first edition and unlimited edition, as do their foil counterparts, albeit at a marginally higher price point. Well, there is one notable exception: Channel Lake Frigid (not the alternate art version) is about $7-9 for a first edition non-foil, an unlimited non-foil, or an unlimited foil. Meanwhile, recent sales of first edition foils are going from $13-25 with a concentration around the middle of that range. Historically, variant first edition foils have shared space, so to speak, with their normal foil version. This means that there are likely fewer normal rainbow foil Channel Lake Frigids in print than any other Majestic in the set, which explains the premium being placed on it. It obviously also helps that it’s a card that people are actually playing.
Overall, I don’t expect a lot of action out of Tales, either in terms of singles or sealed product in the next several months. It’s possible that we’ll see Ranger or Guardian get a notable boost in Everfest, which could pull up some singles or at least help stave off the decline I’m forecasting for the cold foils, but the set’s short-term prospects are not terribly exciting right now. I would say that if you’re still looking for cards for your personal collection, you can continue to try to wait them out for the best prices, but we’re also probably getting to the point where the worst of the price drops have passed (you can now pour one out for the people who paid $300 for a Rampart of the Ram's Head back in September/October).
A Brief Foray into Long-Term Picks
If you’re looking more towards long-term opportunities, which are frankly where most of the promising potentials are for FAB right now, there are a couple areas I tend to like. At the higher end, I would keep an eye on sealed first edition ARC and CRU. If they continue to tick down, they could be solid pick-ups on a multi-year plan. In more approachable areas, alpha/first edition WTR and ARC non-foil Majestics are far rarer than most of their current prices reflect, as are rainbow foils of all rarities from these sets. These aren’t going to correct overnight or even in the next several months, but if the game continues to perform well, eventually the community is going to start targeting these. There simply aren’t that many of them in circulation, and even fewer in near mint condition.
Let’s wrap up 2021 and start 2022 by closing out on what could be one of the biggest moves in the FAB market this year. Although we still have no concrete information on a specific product or release date, we do know that a PvE variant of Flesh and Blood has been in the works for over a year at minimum (to say nothing of ongoing efforts among the community to generate their own variant formats). We don’t have a particularly good idea of what such a format will look like when/if it does arrive. However, what I can say is that if a PvE format takes off within the community, it will almost certainly dramatically elevate the prices of some cards that aren’t currently used. For instance, if the imagined format had players working together against an enemy deck, asymmetrical effects that apply to “heroes” would likely be very good – If three player-controlled heroes faced off against one enemy deck, Coax a Commotion would do a whole lot more for your team than the enemy. As I said, we can’t really predict which cards will become good until we know what the rules of the format are, but if LSS releases a PvE product in 2022, there will likely be some nice profits for whoever can figure out which seldom-played cards will suddenly have a home before it becomes common knowledge.
I expect 2022 to be an interesting year for FAB. I think LSS learned a lot about the issues with their current release model. Per their reprint policy they say that “[w]e want single card resellers who invest in FAB inventory, [sic] to prosper from their investment and the service they provide to the FAB community. We want players who invest in building their collections, [sic] to be proud to own something of value.” We can already see them trying new things with changes like the carnival slot, even if we don’t know exactly what that will look like. I would expect them to make some other similar moves in the coming year, which makes me hopeful that we’ll see them find a way to break out of the 2021 MON/TOA pattern of prices going down for a few weeks or months, starting to stabilize, and then falling again when unlimited comes out. So, with that spot of optimism in mind, I’ll wish you a Happy New Year and hope to see you again in a few weeks, where I suspect we’ll be deep into Everfest discussion.
Ada (Freyja on Discord) got into Flesh and Blood a few months before it took off in the US and has been heavily involved in the financial side of the game ever since. When she’s not writing finance pieces for The Rathe Times, her FAB-related writing can be found on her blog: https://fabwithfreyja.com/
It will be interesting to see what happens when the print run numbers are released for Mon 1st - I think that might be the next big catalyst of movements.
It could be for sure, though, unless it comes in way lower than what I'm anticipating, I wouldn't expect anything as dramatic as the reaction to the WTR/ARC info.
Browse by tag
State of the Market: September 2022
What do we find in Prism's wake? Where are Uprising's Legendaries going? And what should we expect from Dynasty, market-wise?
State of the Market: Uprising One Month Later
In the final segment of a three-part series, Ada sees how Uprising's value held out after 1 month on the market.
State of the Market: Uprising Revisited
In the second of a three part series, Ada tracks the changes in card values from two cases of Uprising.