State of the Market: End of August 2021

by Ada Korman 1st September 2021 11 : 40

In July, I talked about how relatively calm the market had been, and in a lot of ways August continued that trend. We didn’t see any major shakeups or earthshattering events, but we also didn’t see any first edition product take a major dive. (Well, aside from maybe cold foil Shiyana- though as with most of the WTR to CRU CF Legendaries, there aren’t very many publically available pieces of sales data. On that note, I would encourage you to be somewhat cautious about who you believe when people start talking about private sales numbers...)

Now, despite the relatively calm period I just described, if we’re going to see some significant market movement, I think September has strong potential to be when it happens. 

All Eyes on Vegas

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One of the absolute biggest events that everyone should be watching is The Calling in Las Vegas. As far as I’m concerned, this might be the most important FAB event of 2021 from a financial perspective. This is the thing that people are going to be able to point to and use as a reference for the sort of turnout FAB can generate. Legend Story Studios and Channel Fireball have done a lot to set the stage for success. They’ve got a guest list of some notable Flesh and Blood and Magic players and content creators who will be making appearances, and they’re poised to debut Tales of Aria a couple weeks before the game hits shelves.

As a mitigating factor, COVID concerns are picking up again- but I think the odds of a cancelation are virtually non-existent at this point, and I doubt people will really talk about it unless turnout is lower than expected- at which point it could be cited as a potential cause.

Now, if we see very high turnout, it could do a lot to energize the secondary market and build confidence in the game. Since the post-'crypto crash' slump, high end FAB boxes and singles have been relatively static, with a lot of people taking a “wait and see” approach. But if Las Vegas were to do really big numbers (like 1,000+ people), it seems possible that we could see the prices pick up a bit, riding a wave of renewed confidence. I don’t know that we’re going to be streaking back to peak prices, but a continued upward movement for things like first edition Monarch and some firming up on older cold foils certainly seems plausible.

As far as I’m concerned, The Calling Las Vegas might be the most important FAB event of 2021.

What’s interesting is that I don’t think the outcome of the event actually matters that much- not in terms of what decks win. With Tales of Aria coming out a couple weeks later, the meta is going to change. Even if there was some surprise upset and someone won the event on Kano or something else unexpected, it all sort of goes out the window when Tales launches anyway. So I wouldn’t really make any sort of financial moves based on winning decks. There’s just too much uncertainty for what happens to the meta post- TOA launch.

No, the story coming out of Las Vegas is going to be the event itself and any big Tales spoilers that aren’t a part of the spoiler season proper. So if we see some new type of variant card, I would expect to see excitement around that. LSS loves to shake things up, and a new type of full art card or something similar might get people excited enough to push preorder prices a little.

On The Topic of Preorders...

We’re in the opening hours of proper spoiler season for Tales of Aria. Certain reveals could drive the prices of current singles. For instance, Ranger has seen very little play so far, and if it were to suddenly become a popular class, there would presumably be some spikes in extant card prices.

However, that’s always a risky game to play, as the cards that people assume will be good sometimes don’t actually turn out to be. The bigger question vis-à-vis Tales is, “what is a box of first edition going to be selling for at this time next month?” At the moment, the $175 preorder price that has predominated the past month still holds, but if the big sellers pull their stock, sell out, or raise prices, we could see a similar run up on prices as the launch date approaches to what we had with Monarch. I would like to caution people (that’s kind of this month’s theme) to be very careful if that happens. Remember what you saw with Monarch first edition, and, if you plan to buy a $200+ box of Tales of Aria, you should be able to articulate to yourself why you think it will hold steady at that price when Monarch didn’t.

Speaking of Monarch, recent sales of first edition boxes on the major platforms like TCGPlayer and ebay have been in the $230-275 neighborhood. If you see Tales boxes getting there, you should be doubly cautious, as it’s hard to imagine Tales is going to have a smaller print run than Monarch now that LSS has access to three different printers.

If you plan to buy a $200+ box of Tales of Aria, you should be able to articulate to yourself why you think it will hold steady at that price when Monarch didn’t.

All of the advice for sealed product goes doubly so for singles. Monarch saw launch prices come down significantly across the board in the weeks and months that followed its release, and I see no reason to assume that Tales won’t exhibit similar behavior- though hopefully initial prices will be less extreme.

In particular, the early and very limited supply of cards that emerge out of the Las Vegas Calling will probably command massive premiums, as there will be extremely few copies on the market for several weeks. I wouldn’t touch these if you’re looking to buy. However, if you are attending the Calling, you should consider selling in the period when there is no real supply on the open market to compete with. I imagine if you opened a Fable at the Calling, you’d be in for a pretty tidy profit. For this set, especially for the cards we all know are valuable (like cold foils and variants), try to exercise restraint in the immediate aftermath of the launch. You don’t want to be the person who paid $1,000 or more for a cold foil Legendary that you could have picked up for $300 if you waited a month.

Another area to be careful of are first edition rainbow foils and non-foil Majestics. With Monarch, a lot of these debuted high and got run up even higher initially. Then, when prices started to fall across the board, unlimited came out and the crash was significant. As I write this, the cheapest first edition non-foil Celestial Cataclysm is only $1 more than the cheapest unlimited non-foil Celestial Cataclysm. If you want first edition play copies of Tales of Aria cards, consider holding off until unlimited rolls out and the first edition prices move down (unless, of course, you need a specific card immediately for actual play). While rainbow foils still hold a premium, what we saw with MON was nowhere near as extreme as the gap between ARC/WTR non-foil and rainbow foil versions of a given card.

About Unlimited

Unlimited remains a bit of a curious product. WTR and ARC still have very high value Majestics in the form of Enlightened Strike and Command and Conquer (and, to a lesser degree, Tome of Fyendal and Art of War), and with MAP being lifted for those products, opening a C&C can mean doubling up on what you paid for the ARC-U box. Meanwhile, some of the lesser played RF Ls have moved down significantly; Scabskin Leathers is at $50, for instance. And all RF Fables have moved below $300, with Eye currently resting at $175 and Heart at $199. This primarily emerges from ARC/WTR Majestics being the bottleneck for players. People need more Command and Conquers than are readily available, and as a result they’re continuing to open unlimited boxes. The effect of this is steady downward pressure on Fables and Legendaries, and while the most played ones still maintain respectable prices (Tunic and Mask), some of the others- like the aforementioned Scabskins- have lost significant value. Unless we see one or more of these generic Majestics reprinted in Tales, I would expect that we’ll continue to see high demand on the WRT/ARC unlimited versions, and any class that isn’t a notable part of the meta will likely see their respective Legendary forced down. 

Speaking of prices getting pushed down, for WTR, class Majestics range from $1-9, with most being in the $6-7 range. And for ARC that range is about $2-8, with the bulk at $4-5. Again, unless we see generic Majestics reprinted in TOA, those probably move down in the short term, with the possible exception of something like Three of a Kind spiking because Lexi wants to run it and she takes off as a widely played hero.

Overall, I don’t like buying up unlimited singles unless you actually plan to use them. Until unlimited goes out of print, it seems like the continued need for the generic Majestics will erode the prices of most everything else in those sets, meaning that it will usually be cheaper to wait until you’re going to slot a given card into a deck to order it.

Even with downward movement on Legendary and Fable cards, the strong Majestic performance and ability to buy ARC and WTR at below MAP makes them the safer bet in my book, if you wanted to open an unlimited box. Compare that to Monarch and Crucible, which are unlikely to pay for themselves. The opportunity to “win big” is exceedingly narrow compared to the days of a rainbow foil Heart selling for $700 and Tunic pushing $300 (currently it’s at $150 for a WTR Unlimited copy).

For those trying to optimize their CRU/MON spending, you’re best off just buying singles. While MAP remains in place on these products, you can have some very bad opening experiences, and the upside is pretty slim- for CRU, you need to open an L (1:10 boxes) or an F to really perform meaningfully over the cost of the box. For Monarch, you’ve got a 50/50 on L’s, where Footsteps, Vestige, and Husk are a solid return and Dynamo, Doomsday, and Eclipse don’t pay for their box. And, of course, the average box has neither a Legendary nor a Fable. So, again, just buy the singles you need.

Even with downward movement on Legendary and Fable cards, the strong Majestic performance and ability to buy ARC and WTR at below MAP makes them the safer bet, if you want to open unlimited.

One interesting thing about CRU unlimited is that LSS appears to be regulating the supply a bit more carefully than they’ve handled other unlimited products. This is speculation on my part, but they may be trying to dial in the correct amount of product to put out so as to avoid a situation like Monarch unlimited where stores were clearly looking to dump product and get around MAP. In that instance, we saw some major stores and LSS partners working around MAP by “bundling” it with non-MAP product to obfuscate what they were really selling it at. Some of them just dumped cases on ebay in auction format, where they went on to sell for around $100 below MAP.

Crucible unlimited currently has few Majestics that can really help deliver value. Only three of the short-printed equipment (Skeleta, Courage, and Gambler’s Gloves) remain over $30. For the normal Majestics in the over $30 camp, Find Center has been the big performer, while Spoils of War has fallen down to $20. The only other member of the $30 club is, oddly enough, Remorseless, which has tripled in price from a few weeks ago, almost assuredly from people speculating on it going into a Lexi build.

The Larger World of Collectible Cardboard

FAB doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and since this is a calm month, it gives me a good opportunity to talk a little more about Flesh and Blood’s place among other popular card games. We’re about ten months from when FAB took off in a meteoric ascent, and it seems highly unlikely it will ever reproduce that sort of growth in such a short timeframe. The current floor is simply too high. As a result, some of the big money that snowballed speculation into surging prices is now directed elsewhere. MetaZoo is the big investment/speculation darling of the moment, and I bring this up for two reasons.

One, to reiterate, if big money is going to bet on a higher risk game (as opposed to a blue chip like Magic), MetaZoo has more short term growth potential. However, I also want to emphasize that I don’t see MetaZoo as a long term competitor to FAB. Even ignoring what I think are some very valid questions about the long term sustainability of MZ, it’s not really in the same lane as FAB.

I don’t see MetaZoo as a long term competitor to Flesh and Blood; it’s not really in the same lane.

As we’ve seen from how card prices reacted in the slump (Unlimited C&Cs climbing to $95 while we saw significant retraces on cold foils and sealed first edition product), Flesh and Blood has built its foundation on playability, which is frankly reassuring for anyone who was planning for the long haul. This is similar to how Magic’s value has tracked over the years. The very oldest and rarest Magic cards hold value even if they aren’t good. But for the most part, cards are valuable in Magic because people want to put them in decks. So too are we beginning to see with FAB prices. Meanwhile, MetaZoo is more similar to Pokémon, where the game is centering collectability first. This likely makes for better short term growth potential, but if the game dips for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to have a strong base of dedicated players to help hold the floor.

Flesh and Blood still has some potential for modest spikes- after all, I opened up by talking about how big numbers at US Callings could galvanize the secondary market- but it does seem to be trending towards a more stable set of product releases. However, if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that “stable” is a relative term. Boxes going up ten times their starting price in a year is probably out, but meaningful gains are still very much possible depending on how LSS decides to release products going forward. As an example from Magic, Time Spiral Remastered came out in quarter one of this year. Boxes could be had readily for pre-order on Amazon at $150 each. Currently, those same boxes are $260, about six months later. That sort of growth seems perfectly viable for FAB. Hell, if you’re getting TOA at MSRP, you could already flip for nearly double that on the open market.

Closing Thoughts

Tales of Aria is exciting –I know I’m excited about it anyway. It appears to have a very different tone than the all-out light versus darkness bedlam of Monarch, and the organized play meta is very ready for something to happen that might knock Chane off his throne. From a player perspective, I see no reason not to be super excited about the coming weeks.

While there is a possibility for Las Vegas to kick off an uptick in high end FAB prices, there are certainly potential pitfalls to avoid. If you get caught up chasing a Tales of Aria preorder price spike, you could definitely end up holding boxes that you paid $300 for in a market that’s valuing them at $150. Also, while I have your attention, I’ll be spoiling a Tales of Aria card on my personal site, FAB with Freyja, on the 8th. While the physical package that LSS sent me is still tied up in customs (they clearly want my cards), I got the digital version today, and I’m very excited to share it with everyone, so hopefully I’ll see you then!

Ada Korman

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/