State of the Market: End of November 2021
Here we are at the end of another month. November really contrasted the play side of the game with the market-oriented side. Competitive play featured National Championships across the world, with some interesting first place hero appearances popping up. Meanwhile, the market remained mostly flat, with newer product dipping down.
I’m not going to be touching on it in this piece because it’s pretty niche, but recent weeks have also seen the Ruu'di, Gem Keeper bundles being listed at $700-800 pricing on Facebook and Discord, with the card itself going even lower. This has been an interesting experiment to watch, and the reason I bring it up is that I think it reinforces my advice on being careful with targeting promotional cards as speculative assets. They behave idiosyncratically and are difficult to predict.
But, to return to more salient FAB matters, there’s not a lot going on market-wise, though Everfest news might potentially shake things up in the coming weeks (more on that at the end of this piece).
Unlimited Arcane Rising & Welcome to Rathe
So, this is awkward, but I’m going to give you a bit of a peek behind the curtain. About 24 hours before I was going to hand this article in, LSS made a significant announcement about WTR unlimited being out of print. At that time, about a third of this piece was a recommendation that you go out and buy $65-70 WTR unlimited if you wanted them for personal use (draft/sealed/opening for fun). That is obviously no longer actionable. The market is going to change on these boxes by the day for the next couple weeks, so instead I’m going to discuss my take on what will happen in the coming days, and when you read this, you can figure out where we are on that timeline.
Interestingly enough, we had a similar event that occurred last month, and we can use that as a reference point. While writing about the sudden out of print notice for unlimited Crucible of War, I suggested that if you wanted WTR and ARC unlimited boxes for your own use, you’d probably want to get those in the next couple months. As we now know, it turned out that “months” was actually “weeks,” and we’ve since gotten OOPs for both sets. ARC went OOP first by a few weeks, and we can look to that set as a very strong analog to WTR: both sets were normal, draftable releases with (I assume) similar print runs for unlimited, and (we know this from the collector’s center) they had identical first edition print runs. They also both had a pair of staple generic Majestics and a powerhouse generic Legendary that was nearly ubiquitous in competitive lists. So, similar money cards, similar print runs, and both sets can be drafted.
For ARC, between the OOP announcement and now, TCGPlayer sales show a movement up to a peak of $120-130 and a retrace back to about $100 at time of writing (several large, reputable stores have them at $99).
Prior to the OOP announcement, they were selling at $65-70 with some even cheaper case deals popping up here and there. In my opinion, those prices are gone for good. The big question on unlimited ARC is, if we know it’s trending down, where will it settle? Or, has it settled already?
I’d look to CRU for this. Unlimited CRU is a bit of a different product than ARC and WTR. As far as meaningful differences go, CRU is, by all indications, a notably smaller print run than unlimited WTR or ARC. WTR or ARC unlimited were on the market for about a year across many waves from multiple printers. CRU unlimited was a more constrained print run and never got down to the low box prices that WTR and ARC saw. While CRU cannot be drafted- which is potentially a ding on its long term value- in the immediate future, its floor is likely higher than WTR or ARC because there is less product out there (again, this bit is an inference based on the above rationale).
So, what happened with CRU unlimited? Boxes were selling for about $75-80 before the out of print announcement. From there, they went all the way up to a peak of $150-160 before coming back to reality at around $85-90 over the past few weeks. That suggests to me that we’re still in ARC’s retracement period. I doubt that they’ll get back to that $65-70 range, but I suspect the $75-80 range is realistic once the dust settles. If you want ARC, I would probably hold off for a few weeks and monitor the trend until it stays flat for 2-3 consecutive weeks or begins to pick back up.
WTR is, at this moment, still available for about $75-80 a box from various retailers. (NOTE: this could change in the hours between when I turn this article in and when it’s published.) Given that that’s my projected floor price, I would absolutely pick up a case at that price now if you want them. I think we’re going to see similar movement where WTR gets pushed up to over $100 and then comes back down as ARC is doing right now.
Buying sealed unlimited product is far from the best way you could invest money in cardboard.
With that said, I want to reiterate what I said last month. Buying sealed unlimited product is far from the best way you could invest money in cardboard. I recommend buying them only under the condition that you want them for personal use. They are not going to age as well as other products that you could be acquiring for a similar price.
However, if you do fall into that camp, you’re probably not going to see a cheaper price for WTR; and once ARC settles down to whatever its new price is, it’ll probably slowly creep up over time. If you want them and they’re in that $75-80 range, get them, but do it with the idea that you’re saving yourself money for a personal entertainment purchase as opposed to investing it well.
Tales of Woe
Tales of Aria continues to take a bit of a beating across the board, but unlimited booster boxes in particular have had some of the worst performances we’ve seen across the FAB product line over the entire life of the game. There was a series of extraordinarily low ($45-50 shipped) boxes selling via ebay auction in recent weeks, and the product remains readily available well below MAP: $65-70 or less. I’ll forgive anyone who is having Monarch unlimited flashbacks.
That said, we’re seeing some rather bizarre behavior in Legendary singles right now, with TCG pricing for TOA cold and rainbow foils at about the same price (which represents a downward trend for the cold foils, as expected). I suspect this is due to what is still a relatively recent unlimited release. We’ll likely continue to see prices for both versions fall for several more weeks as more product enters the marketplace; and when all is said and done, there should be a gap between the two again.
This may go without saying, but if you were going to buy an unlimited Legendary and the cold foil version is a couple dollars more, you should pay to upgrade. This is doubly true for cards of Majestic rarity and lower, where prices are functionally the same for first edition and unlimited. Given how Monarch has behaved, they’re not going to separate for quite some time. So, if the first edition version of Pulse of Volthaven is going to cost you five cents more than an unlimited copy, you might as well spend the extra nickel because the two could separate a bit over the coming years.
As a quick aside, I’ve seen some strange arguments being put forth that TOA rainbow foils should be worth more than cold foils. In case this line of thinking takes off more widely, I’d counsel caution. The argument, as it goes, is that there are fewer unlimited boxes of TOA in circulation than first edition (that’s speculation that people are presenting as fact), which- even if it were true and remained so (it almost certainly won’t)- still makes some strange assumptions about how the secondary market works. Prices are demonstrably not a pure reflection of scarcity. If they were, a CF Eye would sell for the same price as a CF Heart given their identical print runs- but that’s not the case. I am very confident that, long term, the CFs will meaningfully outpace the RFs.
In a solitary hint of positive news for anyone who went hard on first edition Tales of Aria, Korshem remains the notable hold out in the face of unlimited. Although it’s lost a significant chunk of its value from last month, the cold foil version is still selling at about twice what the rainbow foil is going for.
Still, at this stage, I wouldn’t open sealed TOA product unless you hate money or you have a burning desire to gamble with bad odds. OK, that’s not totally fair. If you want common/rare playsets and don’t want to go through the hassle of ordering 3 copies of every single card in the set individually, opening a case or two is fine.
As far as I’m concerned, the future of unlimited edition is a big question mark. As we’ve gotten farther from Monarch’s release, we’ve seen LSS pull back on unlimited- a bit of a longer gap for TOA, CRU’s relatively small print run, and a lack of any information on an unlimited edition of Everfest. I suspect we may see a fairly different approach to unlimited from here on out, but we’ll have to wait for LSS to give us more information.
Looking Towards Everfest
Given the performance of Monarch and Tales of Aria, it feels prudent to start thinking about how you want to handle the Everfest release, as people are already offering pre-orders.
If I could tell you only one thing, it would be that you should absolutely not pay over MSRP for Everfest first edition pre-orders- and, to be honest, I wouldn’t personally pre-order at MSRP either.
Disclaimer: As ever, I feel that I should divulge that I still maintain my max Team Covenant subscription, but A) those are MSRP and they don’t collect money until near release and B) they come with exclusive promo cards which I expect to be worth some non-zero amount.
You’re probably aware that Tales of Aria first edition boxes are barely over MSRP right now, so unless something changes with how LSS releases product, why would you assume that Everfest is going to come out higher?
When I say, “unless something changes,” what sorts of things am I on the lookout for? There are two major pieces of information that could sway my opinion on this stance:
- information on what exactly the “carnival slots” in the boosters could potentially contain, and
- news on how unlimited is going to be handled.
If, for instance, we find out that the carnival slots are going to contain desirable and rare cards and will only be in first edition, that would likely increase demand on the product. Conversely, if we found out that LSS had no concrete plans for an unlimited edition in the near future because they anticipated the first edition print run would be big enough to meet demand, then it’s likely that the boxes will be MSRP or less. There are more possibilities than we can really discuss here, but the short version is: if nothing notable is announced, avoid pre-orders that you can’t easily cancel. Be on the lookout for news about the carnival slots and how unlimited is being handled.
In the introduction, I spoke about exercising caution with promos. The WTR OOP announcement was accompanied by news of a series of farewell events offering cold foil versions of the young heroes from WTR. These are going to be a hot item out of the gate, but again, they are unpredictable. One line in particular stands out to me:
“Bravo, Dorinthea, Katsu, and Rhinar young hero cards will be available for the first time in Cold Foil.” (emphasis mine)
We do not know if these will receive additional printing, but the language chosen here- along with LSS’s reprint policy concerning cold foil promos, which states ,“A promo card printed using the cold foil printing technique (Cold Foil Promo Card) can be reprinted, including as a cold foil in a retail product”- gives me pause. I fully expect people to disingenuously list these for sale with a strong implication that they are super rare and will remain so, when nothing LSS has actually said suggests that to be true.
Additionally, while the list of events awarding these promos is currently short, the article states that “participating stores will be loaded into the Event Locator throughout December.” Please don’t be the person who wildly overpays to buy the first ones of these that hit the market.
Finally, given a recent trend of nervously questioning the game’s financial future on various Facebook groups, I wanted to publicly articulate my position on the subject.
As I’ve said before, over the past several months the game has transitioned from being driven by collectors and investors to being driven by players. While this may be disappointing to some who were chasing short term gains, it is very good for the long term prospects of Flesh and Blood. The game survived the crash that occurred around Monarch, the market largely stabilized, and the prices commanded by sealed boxes of the first three sets and the accompanying cold foils are still staggeringly high when you consider the game is only two years old. LSS is hosting many large events around the world and player growth remains notable. As long as they can continue to foster this growth, the older cards and sealed products have a bright future ahead of them.
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/
Excellent break down, this has given me a lot to think about! Do you think that the first season being oop will push newer players to open more of the newer sets, thus bringing more opened RF legendaries to the market?
I'd encourage anyone who has a local game store that they appreciate to preorder boxes/cases from them if you're planning on buying the product. Supporting your store will help keep your community alive and grow the player base around you. Saving five or ten bucks by ordering online might not be worth hurting the only place you have to play in events.
Buy local. But you shouldn't have to pre-pay a preorder locally. Just tell them what you'll buy and they should order it in for you. When Ada talks about preorders, I think the subtext is 'preordering is a free loan in exchange for a guarantee of product'; there are no red flags that product will be scarce this time, so no need to pay in advance for it.
To expand on what Alex said, In terms of buying boxes, I'm generally writing these articles from a pure "where's the best value" perspective, where 'value' means least money spent. That doesn't really include things that are functionally politically motivated decisions like supporting local businesses vs paying the less money (you can label them as 'personal decisions' if you prefer that framework). How much any given person values supporting their LGS (or even if they have an LGS supporting FAB) is wildly variable and not really something I can account for when giving numbers. Some people will buy the absolute cheapest box no matter what, some will pay 140% of what they could get the box for in order to support a local store, some people always buy 1 box from their LGS but order their others at the cheapest price, etc.. And there are, of course, additional elements that factor into those decisions. For instance, do you make enough money that you're going to end up with all the cards you wanted either way and it's only a question of how much you pay? Or, is your budget such that supporting your LGS at a 20% premium is going to make it meaningfully harder to play the decks you want? In the end, there are too many things to account for to try to give different "how to buy" scenarios, so I'm just outlining what I think is a good or bad price in the sense of what costs you the least money. It's up to everyone else to filter that though the lens of their own situation and determine their approach. As to Everfest specifically, I don't think that there will be a real shortage of product given the current information, so as Alex notes, any pre-orders that are cash down upfront seem premature and not really in your best interests.
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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?
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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.