State of the Market: End of May 2021
Welcome back everyone! And what a wild month it’s been! As you’re probably well aware, we’ve had an incredibly volatile few weeks in the Flesh and Blood market, so we’ve got a lot to talk about there.
There's also the question of first edition Monarch specifically. I’m going to make the case that there are different considerations for this than the overall FAB price decline. In fact, we’ll spend the bulk of the article looking at Monarch sealed and singled pricing.
That said, we’ll also make some time to speculate on where the potential good buys are and what sorts of things we should be thinking of as we look towards Kingdoms’ release.
It’s hard to imagine starting with anything else, given how notable the FAB price dip was across the board. We saw small to moderate drops on pretty much everything out there, from Unlimited singles to Alpha Welcome to Rathe boxes, and it definitely propelled some people into “sky is falling” mode.
To me, the important thing to recognize is that this dip isn’t unique to Flesh and Blood. Just Google “crypto slump” and check out that news if you aren't already aware. I'm the first to admit that I’m no crypto expert, so I’m not going to attempt to unpack the details of that particular market, but after months of more and more people accepting high-end FAB deals for crypto (and the general preponderance of people who invest in both FAB and crypto), it’s not hard to see how crypto taking a hit could impact FAB.
The important thing to recognize is that this dip isn’t unique to Flesh and Blood.
It’s also quite possible- probable, even- that this isn’t correlated with crypto's downturn, but rather that multiple markets are moving down at the same time post-boom. You can certainly see a similar downward trend among many high-end Magic cards over the same time period.
People have proposed various causes for the downturn, such as US stimulus checks drying up. However, if you want to read up on overall market speculation, there are better places to do it. What I really want to get across here is that the dip is not unique to Flesh and Blood. And that’s what is most important for the long term outlook of FAB as an investment. While it certainly sucks for anyone who bought something right before the dip or intended to sell a higher value item, I don’t think that the game’s long term prospects are worse than they were last month relative to other collectibles.
What About Monarch?
Monarch is a bit of a different beast in all of this. In my mind, the drop in value of Alpha/1st Edition Welcome to Rathe, Arcane Rising, and Crucible of War boxes is a result of the overall dip. Monarch, on the other hand, is in a process of actually finding its market value. It's coinciding with the overall market downturn certainly complicates things, but there was no period of stable Monarch prices to really draw a baseline from.
Last month, before we knew the slump was coming, I said that we might see Monarch prices drop for a few weeks post-launch just on the basis of debuting too high, and that’s definitely happened. With the overall downward trend, current prices could stick around a bit longer than I initially assumed, but I do still think it’s temporary and boxes will go up meaningfully by the end of the year- especially if we get print run information that confirms first edition is still relatively small. We’ll talk about singles in a minute, but sealed boxes and cases appear to have stabilized for a few weeks now. We spent a very brief time below $400- and you can still occasionally see a box pop up at $380-390- but for the most part, prices have been consistently in the $400-450 range, which is a good sign for that being the actual floor.
Monarch is in a process of actually finding its market value.
If you want Monarch first edition boxes, you have two options: you can either accept the current stable price as a floor and buy, or you can bank on the overall market downturn continuing, in which case we might see lower prices still. I will note that I have seen some whales offering to buy large quantities of first edition at $300-350, so I don’t know how much further we could realistically see prices go down unless those people pulled out of the buying game.
The (Monarch) Singles Scene
If box prices are relatively stable for the time being, what about singles? Singles, my friends, are kind of a mess.
My stance on singles last month was that they were probably going to come out too high and your money would be better spent on older FAB cards. I feel like that bore out. I would characterize the price trajectory of MON singles as falling pretty dramatically from launch to now, but there are some weird outliers, so we’ll try to look at the set in chunks.
One of the most precipitous falls was that of the two cold foil Instants: Eclipse and Doomsday. The first Eclipse that sold on ebay went for $2000; then they were $650-850 over the next week, $450-550 the following week, and in the past week they’ve been at $325-400. Doomsday, meanwhile, is down to $300-400.
While their decline isn’t as dire as the Instants, the cold foil Legendary equipment lineup also took substantial hits. Carrion Husk has sold for as low as $375-425, and recent days have seen low $400s pricing for Vestige of Sol and Valiant Dynamo. Phantasmal Footsteps has held on best at the $650-750 range, largely on the sheer popularity of Prism. All of these debuted at over $1000 (aside from Carrion Husk, which was more like $900).
Are we at the floor on Legendary prices yet? Given that we’ve seen steady week-to-week declines, I'm not ready to say that we’re at the bottom right now, but I do think we’re getting pretty close. Prices are starting to get to the point where long-term-minded people are going to be tempted to snatch things up because, as prices fall, if you still believe in FAB as a game, the risk of picking up CF Ls is increasingly small. If I had to pick one Legendary to target right now, it would be Carrion Husk. It has the distinction of being the cheapest CF Legendary equipment, and its potential playability in Blitz seems absurd. Given that LSS gave Blitz significant organized play support over the past several months, being good in Blitz is not a trivial accolade.
Cold Foil Commons
We’re skipping around because we’re saving the weird categories for last. Like Legendaries, cold foil Commons have dipped, with opening prices around $200-250 and current prices closer to $100-150. Some sub-$100 pieces have shown up on Facebook and Discord selling channels, but anything below $90 has generally been snatched up pretty quickly. These are largely in the same place as the Legendaries in that they seem to be closing in on their floor, though perhaps they aren’t quite there yet.
Of all the MON CFs, Commons are likely the place to make the best margins.
Of all the MON CFs, Commons are likely the place to make the best margins. Right now the prices are relatively close, but we will see significant separation between the good and bad pieces (as we have with the older sets). If you feel confident in identifying which pieces are the good ones, there is a definite opportunity here before big organized play events fire off and everyone aligns on what the choice equipment is.
Cold Foil Majestics, or What's the Deal With Galaxxi Black?
Alright, this is one of the two weird categories of high-end Monarch singles. This is going to be a bit long just because there is a distinct lack of official information on how CF Majestics are handled. Unlike Commons and Legendaries, cold foil Majestics started low, went high, and then retraced somewhat- with the exception of Galaxxi Black seeing a smaller retrace (the most recent ebay sale was a little over $800).
What happened here?
Well, there is some rampant speculation among the community that CF Ms are rarer than the CF Ls. Is that actually true? We won’t know for sure until LSS updates the Collector’s Center (and maybe not even then), but there are a few things to consider.
My starting point for discussions of CF rarity always centers on this article from LSS, with this quote being the standout:
“When designing Flesh and Blood, we pay a lot of attention to the frequency of each individual high-rarity card. By this, we mean that we don't look at a Legendary as being 1:96 packs, but rather as a Fyendal's Spring Tunic appearing in 1:480 packs. This was planned so that Welcome to Rathe and Arcane Rising both had 5 Legendary equipment, meaning you get, on average, 1 Legendary equipment per case (or 1:96 packs). It's our intention for core booster sets like WTR, ARC, and Monarch to mostly follow this model.”
Given this approach, since there are six Legendaries in Monarch, you would expect to see a Legendary in 1:80 packs. This seems like a pretty safe assumption since LSS specifically calls out Monarch Ls as behaving in this way. However, the big question is, are CF Majestics “high rarity cards”? If they are, LSS presumably has a pull rate for each individual CF M, and the fact that there are fewer CF Ms than Ls means that, even if your odds of pulling a specific CF M were identical to your odds of pulling a specific CF L, you’d anticipate having more total Legendaries than Majestics over a large number of boxes.
The added wrinkle here is alt-art Galaxxi Black, which begs the question, “Does Galaxxi Black have the same pull rate as the rest of the CF Ms, or does it have its own unique rarity?” If Galaxxi Black is just treated as a CF M, then it’s no rarer than Luminaris or Hexagore (and, in that case, it’s probably over-valued relative to Luminaris). This would mean the set has five CF Ms for determining frequency that a CF M appears (again, assuming they fall under the “high rarity” clause). However, there is also the possibility that Galaxxi Black has its own singular rarity as a special chase card, which means the set has four CF Ms, and Galaxxi Black is off doing its own thing.
Does Galaxxi Black have the same pull rate as the rest of the CF Ms, or does it have its own unique rarity?
Let’s try to pull this all together with an example. Let’s assume Galaxxi Black has its own unique rarity, but the rest of the CF Majestics are treated as high rarity cards and the drop rate for a specific CF M- say, Luminaris- is 1:360 packs (as opposed to the known 1:480 for a specific Legendary from the linked article). Given four CF Ms, we would expect to see a CF M appear 1:90 packs, which would make the odds of pulling any CF M slightly worse than pulling any CF L; however, if you opened, say five thousand boxes, you’d expect to see more copies of Luminaris than Carrion Husk. This situation is important to pay attention to because people are taking the experience of seeing a few cases or even a few dozen cases opened and seeing fewer total Ms than Ls and assuming that makes individual Ms rarer- when, in the scenario I just outlined, specific Ms are more common than specific Ls even if you pull fewer total CF Ms than Ls.
For people investing in cold foils, the question you need to ask yourself is, “Do you think LSS treats cold foil Majestics the way it treats cold foil Legendaries?” If so, then they are probably overpriced relative to Legendaries right now. Galaxxi Black, meanwhile, is either doing its own thing rarity-wise, or it counts as a normal CF M. Right now, the market is banking on it being its own special extra rare thing, and that’s baked into the current price. If it’s only as rare as any other CF M, I think we could realistically expect a price drop, were we to get confirmation of that fact; whereas, if we get confirmation in the other direction, the upward bump is probably not going to be as significant, since the market is already assuming this is the situation.
Extended Art Majestics
The three foil extended art Majestics in the set are the final high value items. Like CF Majestics, they started low, rose, and then came back down. The most recent sales on ebay have Herald or Erudition around $550, Lumina Ascension at around $400, and Mark of the Beast at $450. These don’t have a ton of sales data, so any individual price could be a fluctuation in either direction. A Mark sold for $350 last week, for instance; but the overall trend has been downward, and I don’t know that we’ve hit the floor with these.
The best model we have for guessing how rare these cards are is Twinning Blade in Crucible of War, where we can see that the normal foil version appeared at 50% the rate of other RF Majestics, and the working assumption is that the full art version appears as the other 50% (although that isn’t explicitly confirmed in the Collector’s Center).
We don’t really have solid past data on which to base an estimate on how these will do over time. Twinning Blade is notable for being a full art as opposed to extended art variant, but the only CF L it has to compare its relative price to is Shiyana, who has a ton of unique factors affecting her own pricing. Right now, I would say that they feel a little high relative to the CF L prices; they’re on a downward trend, and I think they might go down a bit more before they hit floor.
The real opportunity related to these might actually be the non-extended art foils. While these will never hit the same highs as the extended arts, if they’re being priced like a normal RF Majestic and they’re short printed by 50% like Twinning Blade was, we might see a correction on them if that data hits the Collector’s Center, as we did with Twinning Blade.
There is one odd wrinkle to Monarch pricing that we’ve never seen before. Due to global logistics issues, New Zealand is only now getting their first edition product. Historically, the arbitrage opportunities in FAB were to import cards from New Zealand, where the market was a fair bit softer than in the US and especially Europe. However, it seems unlikely that this will be the case for Monarch, since the US market established the baseline prices before NZ ever got first edition.
The main question is, will NZ get enough product to drive overall prices further down by injecting more copies into the market? This largely depends on how much they got overall- and from what people on social media are talking about in terms of how many boxes they got, I’m inclined to believe it wasn’t a particularly large amount. This is anecdotal of course, but many US players who were around for CRU’s release seemed to get their hands on more first edition MON than they did for CRU, and the opposite seems true for New Zealand players.
What to Buy
If you’re of the belief that the overall market is closing in on its floor before prices stablize and then start to climb again, this is potentially a good time to buy in. If I had to pick one item to buy on the basis of relative prices, it would probably be first edition Arcane Rising, which has shown up for as low as $2800 (though it was quickly snatched at that price). At some point, the fact that ARC has the same print run size as Welcome to Rathe is going to narrow the gulf in their prices.
If you’re not looking to throw down thousands of dollars, this is a good time to look for older cold foil rares and commons, which have dipped down to more affordable levels with some outright bargains showing up briefly from time to time on the various FAB social media locations.
Meanwhile, I’m less confident that Monarch singles have found their floor. While I do think that most of the chase cards are going to be worth meaningfully more in 6-12 months than they are now, I’d personally counsel watching prices and waiting for the beginnings of an uptick, as oppose to proactively going after cards in the hopes that this is the floor. As noted, if the NZ market is going to affect global Monarch prices, it will probably be downward. So if you know what cards you’re looking for, I would start tracking TCGPlayer and ebay prices now and see where the trends are going. Even if they start to pick up again, it’s doubtful they will skyrocket instantaneously, so you’ll have a window to pull the trigger on your buys.
I want to close out here on some musings about our next expansion. Kingdoms is, unless we hear otherwise, still slated to launch in Q3 of this year. It’s another standalone draftable set, so we can probably expect something similar to Monarch in terms of size. Kale Brenzi’s recent article has opened up some speculation on what we me might be seeing in terms of theme for the set; and if we get either Aria or the Savage Lands as a setting, it will likely entail introducing new talents to the game. So we’re probably looking at a set with similar composition to Monarch, undoubtedly with a couple curveballs thrown in because it’s LSS.
There’s plenty of fun flavor to speculate on in terms of what classes we’ll see and what regions will be our key players, but from a financial end, what we really care about is what a good price for first edition boxes looks like. That’s a tricky question for sure. Will the first edition run on Kingdoms be bigger than Monarch? We know that Monarch was delayed to print more, and that COVID was a major factor. Kingdoms, if it’s coming out Q3, is likely at the printers now or it will be shortly. That means there is potentially capacity for a larger run, if LSS wants to produce more.
We also know that Monarch boxes dropped between $100-200 from right before launch to now. Overall, this tends to lead me to be a bit more cautious about this set. I think MSRP boxes are still a great buy if you can find them, but after the very high Monarch prices, we’ll probably see many stores opening their Kingdoms pre-orders at significantly over MSRP (I’ve already seen stores selling at $400). I would recommend caution with Kingdoms. Paying $400 for a box seems like a real good way to get burnt if the print run increases at all.
Also of note, a lot of Monarch pre-orders ultimately went unfulfilled from stores who oversold the product before getting their allotment. It would be smart to be a bit choosy in terms of which stores you deal with going forward. Be careful, and don’t overextend.
See you next month!
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/
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