State of the Market: End of June 2021

by Ada Korman 1st July 2021 10 : 55

When I left you last month, we were just entering a bear market, and that is where we remain. I am still confident in most of the things I said last month. This downturn is not unique to Flesh and Blood, and is affecting crypto and a wide variety of collectible markets; and FAB’s long-term prospects aren’t worse than they were pre-bear market.

With that said, across the board, falling prices continue to be a thing, and I have yet to see any real indicators that they’re at their floor. So, this month we’re going to look at where the different expansions are, chat a bit about what we’ve learned from the first release of a set’s first edition and unlimited edition in close proximity, and talk about how we might apply that to Kingdoms, which now has a concrete debut date at The Calling in Las Vegas on September 10th-12th.

The Big Story: Monarch Cases at 1K

Monarch

I think the biggest story of the month is how far Monarch has fallen. At the beginning of June, cases were moving at $1500-1600, and now you can find them for $1050-1100 with a little bit of effort and at $1200 all day long. The whales who were holding up the market have seemingly pulled out, or are at least reducing their buys to a level where downward pressure is outpacing their acquisitions.

As I write this, week-to-week trends on Monarch have been downward. At this stage, I wouldn’t want to bet that it couldn’t go lower. In fact, it seems plausible that that will continue to happen for a bit still, as the decline has been pretty steady over the month with no real period of stability.

Singles have also suffered, with cold foil Legendaries dropping across the board. Most Ls are inhabiting the $200-300 range while, with only Phantasmal Footsteps left clinging valiantly to the $400 mark in the past couple weeks (which is still a notable decline from its $650-750 range a month ago). Even the highly-sought Galaxxi Black has had sub-$600 sales as of late. Again, all of these are actively on the downswing. At some point we’ll hit the floor, they’ll stabilize, and then they'll slowly creep back up- but for now, we’re definitely in a buyers’ market. The sustained downward movement has really eliminated any sense of urgency to pick cards up now rather than waiting.

The market for standard and rainbow foil first edition cards is especially dismal right now, with all first edition Majestics at essentially $10 or less. Meanwhile, the Ms that aren’t seeing play, like Deep Rooted Evil, are below$2 in first edition. This means that opening MON, even at the current relatively low prices, is very dicey. The odds are against you that a single box will net a positive EV, and even at the case level, you need to hit a CF Luminaris, Galaxxi Black, Library, two Ls, or an L and a CF M.

Looping back to the non-cold foil Majestics, an interesting thing we’re seeing here is that the price gap between first edition and unlimited edition is very minimal; in most cases we’re seeing 10% or less. In fact, let’s talk about Monarch Unlimited.

Unlimited Edition, Limited Desirability

The release of Monarch first edition right next to Monarch unlimited seems like an experiment on the part of LSS to figure out how they’re going to handle releases, and in my estimation it was a bit of a failure from a value perspective. Much like with first edition Monarch, when opening unlimited, you either hit one of a very small number of cards, or you’ve lost value. Unlimited Eclipse and Doomsday don’t even pay for a MAP box.

The average RF MON Legendary at TCGPlayer low is $116 (propped up in large part by the $200 Phantasmal Footsteps), which is lower than the average WTR and ARC RF L. That’s a bad place to be for the new set. Unlimited Command and Conquer beats out 50% of the Legendaries in Monarch at $95, and ARC unlimited boxes are plentiful in the $75 and below range. If you’re opening an unlimited box in hopes of getting more value in cards than you paid for the box, ARC or WTR are much better bets than Monarch.

I think it’s worth asking if unlimited as a side-by-side release was really necessary for controlling prices of anything below Legendary.

I think it’s worth asking if unlimited as a side-by-side release was really necessary for controlling prices of anything below Legendary. Unless unlimited supply dries up suddenly, I don’t see much of a future for Monarch Majestics, either in first or unlimited, until the set is entirely out of print. They’re not worthless, but the move to combine the M and S rarity has definitely made a major impact on how high these cards can get while their respective sealed boxes are readily available. That’s certainly good for players, but for anyone investing or collecting the product, it means that the days of valuable NF Ms are now over, and all value is located in cold foils and special treatments like Monarch’s extended art RFs.

Meanwhile, because Majestics are so cheap and RF Legendaries definitely have a strong split between good and bad hits, we’ve probably arrived at the point where the advice of “just buy singles” applies for anyone who is budget conscious. I don’t think this is a problem for the game, per se - this has been the case for Magic for years now, and that game is doing fine - but people are going to have to adjust to this as the new normal for FAB.

Thy Kingdom Gone

Beyond my goal of shoehorning in an esoteric gothic metal reference, I do think Kingdoms is potentially a very dangerous set for the investors/collectors. To put it bluntly, a bunch of people got burnt on Monarch. Don’t get me wrong, anyone who bought it at or around MSRP is still doing great, but the people who were buying boxes at peak pre-order prices of $400+ are in a very bad way right now. This should hopefully breed some caution as we approach Kingdoms which, as noted above, is debuting in September, barring some sort of major disruption. Pre-orders are starting to show up at a few bold sellers (who likely have no real clue what their allocation is going to be), and I’ve definitely seen prices well over MSRP.

I think Kingdoms is potentially a very dangerous set for the investors/collectors.

Hopefully Monarch has acted as a lesson in giving in to FOMO; but if not, let me strongly caution you to be very careful about pre-ordering Kingdoms. With Monarch prices still in decline, paying a premium on Kingdoms - which we can assume will minimally have a first edition print run that equals or surpasses Monarch’s - is playing with fire.

We should also continue to monitor any news of plans for Kingdoms unlimited. I think all the things I just discussed with Monarch likely apply to Kingdoms if we see a similar close release of first edition and unlimited: very low Majestic prices and little separation between first and unlimited versions of singles outside of cold foils and special treatments. I would not personally buy Kingdoms for over MSRP.

The Precarity of Crucible

Cru Mock Booster Box Transparent Width 10000

While I’m handing out warnings, we’re almost certainly going to see a meaningful drop, and potentially a proper crash, on Crucible of War singles prices in four to six weeks, depending on how quickly Crucible unlimited makes its way through the supply chain. Remember how we were just talking about Monarch prices being low for everything that wasn’t a CF or EA Majestic? Well, Crucible has some indicators that make me very nervous about the future of singles prices for cards that aren’t cold foils or full art Twinning Blade.

The biggest red flag that I’ve seen in the past month is the rapidly narrowing gap between CRU NF and RF M pricing. A few months ago, the rainbow foil version of a given Majestic likely sold for 150-200%+ over the NF version. Today that spread has shrunk to almost nothing on some of the most played Majestics. In my mind, this means that demand is being driven almost entirely by players who want the cards now so they can use them in events, and they want the cheapest version possible. If you want to see this in action, go to TCGplayer, pick a CRU majestic, and skim the “Latest Sales” table to see how few RFs are selling and how close they are to the NFs in price.

We also see high demand rares selling at exorbitant rates. For example, Chane’s popularity has pushed Mauvrion Skies (Blue) to $12 for the cheapest NM copy on TCGplayer.

(I want to pause for a moment to emphasize that that means this non-foil CRU Rare is worth more than the most expensive first edition Monarch NF Majestic.)

I can guarantee you that this will not be the case the day after Crucible unlimited drops. For prospective sellers, this means that if you’ve got CRU singles you want to move, you should probably be doing that like two weeks ago; and for prospective buyers, you should be asking yourself if you actually need any of these singles now or if you can hold out for a month or so. Because even if you want first edition and not unlimited, you’ll likely see significantly lower prices once Crucible unlimited starts being opened.

Prospective buyers should be asking if they actually need any of these CRU singles now, or if they can hold out for a month or so.

Does this have implications for sealed CRU prices? I don’t think so. Crucible, like every other first edition sealed box, has been trending down over the past month, and may continue to do so for a bit longer. If it hadn’t been, I’d be more open to the idea that the demand for singles was holding the price up, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I think its price is more tied to sealed WTR alpha and ARC first than its own singles.

While we’re talking CRU unlimited, I do think there is a real possibility that, although prices will come down, top CRU Ms may still sell a fair bit higher than their Monarch unlimited counterparts. CRU only has two Ls, and they’re pulled at a much lower rate than the Ls in Monarch (1:240 packs vs 1:80), so there is more value to be soaked up by the rest of the set. If we’re seeing top Monarch Ms at $10 or so, then $20 or so for top unl CRU Ms seems plausible. For short printed cards, if unlimited Luminaris is $20, unlimited Courage of Bladehold might be $30-40 or more.

We should also expect a drop in Tunic prices. The current cheapest version is $240, and the injection of more with CRU could easily push them down to the $200 line or lower. Shiyana, on the other hand, will likely be the standout card of the set. She was absurdly popular in CF and even in this depressed market people have successfully moved her at $4000. I wouldn’t be surprised if an unlimited RF Shiyana is worth more than any MON CF L when CRU unlimited launches.

ARC and WTR

Boxes of our first two sets are also down pretty meaningfully. WTR has been selling at $4000-4500, with some sales as low as $3500. It’s also worth noting that sales of $5000-6000 have also occurred recently on ebay for items shipping internationally. The likely explanation for the discrepancy is the extreme scarcity of these products in Europe, which never really got proper distribution, and which many people won’t ship to for fear of customs opening the boxes. This has made people who are set on getting these boxes willing to pay more than what the US and Oceana markets are willing bear.

Arcane Rising has been at $2500-3000 over the same time period, but notably fewer boxes have entered the market, which is odd on first glance since there are presumably more sealed ARC boxes than WTR ones left in the wild. My theory is that the current relative values of these two sets make moving ARC unappealing if you also have WTR. If you’re looking to buy first edition boxes, ARC is still my pick for the best value. Who knows how long it will take the market to correct on it, but it really has no business being a mere 50% of WTR’s value.

If you’re looking to buy first edition boxes, ARC is still my pick for the best value.

Singles for these sets have also gone down from their highs, though the biggest impact has been on the very top cards: Tunic, Eye, and Heart. The other CF Ls (and Cs) have certainly dropped, but less precipitously than the big three. CF Ls could go lower if the slump continues for several more months, but these still aren’t showing up very frequently on the market.

Where we have seen real erosion of singles prices in WTR and ARC is the NF Majestic market. A couple months ago, a non-foil alpha Enlightened Strike was as high as $450-500. Now they’re lucky to sell at $300 (the most recent ebay sale was a little below $250). These cards remain very scarce and could certainly recover in the future, but in the short term, they’ve definitely taken a beating and may not have reached their floor yet.

Gloom to be Sure, but Hold the Doom

All of that sounds pretty bad when you string it together- and if you look at the market of a few months ago, the current prices do indeed feel bad. However, it’s best to remember that the whole collectible card game space is down, not just FAB. A confluence of factors made for a huge explosion in 2020 and early 2021, and now that those conditions don’t necessarily pertain any more, we’re seeing retracement (though again, we should remember that a box of cards going from $65 to $4000 in less than a year is absurd growth, even if that box was $7500 for a month or so there). It’s perfectly reasonable to be a bit bummed out that cards aren’t worth as much as they were two months ago or that you overpaid for Monarch singles at launch. But it’s also important not to let that skew your view of the game’s long term prospects.

One thing to focus your attention on is the upcoming US Callings. We’re a few months out from the kickoff of these events, but they should provide us with some very interesting information. The joke that no one actually plays Flesh and Blood is very tired at this point, but people persist in trying to argue it on social media platforms, which usually just turns into people saying their local scene is well-attended while other people say that doesn’t mean anything. Having some major events where we can look at attendance numbers and see how they stack up against something like Magic’s old organized play events (also run by ChannelFireball) might give us a better idea of just how active and enthusiastic the community of players is.

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/