State of the Market: May 2022
Welcome back to another month of looking at the Flesh and Blood secondary market. As has seemingly become tradition, this article’s release will fall awkwardly around the new set. Accordingly, I’m going to be talking about Uprising in terms of general things to consider, pitfalls to avoid, and new elements being introduced by FAB 2.0. Uprising is going to be the bulk of our discussion this month, but with Starvo (and probably Chane) being retired to Living Legend status at the next big Banned and Restricted announcement, I do want to take a little bit of time at the end to revisit how card legality affects prices, as well as looking forward to what PvE and future versions of a hero might offer for revitalizing the value of cards that drop after a hero is retired.
We frankly don’t have much more information about Uprising than we did at this time last month. There are a couple useful pieces of information that have emerged though, so let’s start there with an exploration of box prices.
Over the span of FAB’s life, the question of whether you should preorder- and if so, for how much- has been a hotly contested one. The correct answer to that question has also changed dramatically as the game’s release model has evolved. Once again, we’re in uncharted territory as Uprising does away with the first edition/unlimited split- which is going to fundamentally shake things up. As a result, we’re now operating on assumptions and guesswork here. I’m going to do my best to explain where my recommendations are coming from and the logic I’m using to arrive at them.
MAP pricing for Uprising is just shy of $80, and that’s what ChannelFireball is selling preorders at. Setting aside any hot takes on CFB as a company, what we’ve seen from recent releases is that they have a strong ability to push down prices across the board. There are two main takeaways I see from their choice of pricing here.
- First, they believe that stock of Uprising is not going to be an issue. While we might see hiccups in some regions between product waves, CFB likely has better info on supply availability than almost anyone outside of LSS. To me, that means that they see no real reason to try to maintain MSRP on Uprising, which means boxes should be readily available at MAP for quite some time.
- Additionally, pre-order bonuses are largely lackluster this time around. We saw CFB offering up some random old, low-value promos and, broadly speaking, pre-order promos are thin on the ground this time.
I should note the one meaningful exception remains in the form of Team Covenant’s exclusive promos. TC still, I believe, is the only store that has an exclusive promotional card, so they always merit special consideration. Now, this is largely academic for the purpose of Uprising, since they appear to have locked their subscriptions for this release already. But we’ll work through the way you should consider these in the future. TC sells booster boxes at MSRP, not MAP, and the promos they’ve been given have not been valuable enough to close that price gap post-Crucible of War. The post-CRU exclusives all clock in below the $20 you lose from not paying MAP; showing up at $7 (Tales), $10 (EVR) and $18 (MON). I think the only way that you see immediate value from the TC MSRP + exclusive is if LSS returns to the Scar for a Scar format and gives them a powerful generic card as their promo. In that scenario, they probably beat out a MAP box in terms of value.
Given those considerations, I don’t see a compelling reason to pre-order above MAP for financial purposes. You can also likely wait until a week or so out to order you boxes, so that you aren’t floating money on a preorder for longer than you have to. I strongly suspect that you’ll be able to continue to buy boxes for MAP or lower for quite some time to follow.
On that “or lower” note, we’ve seen MAP be skirted via various workarounds before (bundling, listing inventory on ebay in auction format, dumping via TCGPlayer, etc.). If Uprising doesn’t succeed in ameliorating FAB’s recent EV problem, it’s quite likely we’ll see similar behavior from big retailers once again. My personal approach for Uprising has been to preorder the amount of product I want to personally open, and then I’ll take stock of how much, if any, product I want to hold long term after the set’s release, operating under the assumption that prices will either still be at MAP or even potentially lower. Those scenarios feel far more likely than a short-term surprise price spike, particularly given CFB’s posture with MAP pricing.
As ever, I should note that this is strictly a financial analysis. I encourage you to get your sealed boxes (for opening, at least) from your local game stores, assuming you feel like they’re providing you with a worthwhile service and you can afford the (probable) higher price tag. However, I would be lax in my duties as a finance columnist if I didn’t point out that paying over MAP for Uprising is totally avoidable if your top priority is to spend as little as possible. (Full disclosure: my personal preorders are still parked at Team Covenant, since their content got me into the game.)
Uprising: Singles in General
Uprising is going to do a bunch of interesting things to the singles market, between the formal introduction of Marvel as a rarity as well as the decreased pull rate for the higher rarity cold foils. However, because LSS has not given us actual pull rates for the Marvels and we don’t know how big the total print run of Uprising will be, it’s going to be a little tricky to predict what’s going to happen with singles prices. We’ll return to those thornier issues momentarily- but first, let me give you a piece of basic advice for singles.
DON’T buy singles prior to the set’s public release!
This happens every time a new set comes out (not just for FAB but for most CCGs). Some amount of cards will get out early, either from an event, like the big Uprising world premieres or a pre-release, or from retailers breaking street date. Sellers will attempt to list these cards for exceptionally high prices. The excitement of new cards can prompt some people to overpay, and you don’t want to be one of those people. At a basic level, you should wait until the set is actually out before you buy anything because, in the short term, the odds that singles prices will go up as opposed to down is minimal. Even after the set drops, you should honestly wait a few weeks to pick up singles unless you want cards for the purpose of playing with them right now, or you think you’ve found a breakout card that people are sleeping on.
Alright, that’s the easy stuff that most people should be familiar with. Now let’s stray more into the speculative realm.
Uprising: Cold Foils
First up: increased scarcity for cold foils. Per the FAB 2.0 press release, we know that cold foils in Uprising are distributed as follows:
- Cold Foil: 1 per 24 packs
- Legendary Cold Foil: 1 per 220 packs
- “Legendary and Fabled cold foils in Uprising are around 3 times rarer than they have historically been, offset by rainbow foil versions that are slightly more frequent than the past.”
So, not a whole lot of hard data to go on. We still don’t have a precise pull rate for Fabled cards. People like to bandy around different numbers, but LSS has never, to my knowledge, confirmed the actual pull rate of a Fabled card in any set. People (often people with a lot of high end cards) like to use the 1:40 box figure. I’ve even seen people argue for a total number of Hearts that would make them scarcer than that 1:40, some go so far as claiming their total number is in the low to mid 300s.
Using the Alpha Magic comparison from an old James White post, you end up with a pull rate that looks a lot closer to 1:30 boxes. (Note, the accepted number of Alpha Rares for Magic changed between when James made that post and now, having finally been revealed by Peter Adkison.)
Anyway, I say all of that to highlight a messy area here: “3 times rarer” compounds the problem of the unknown Fabled pull rate. To quickly illustrate the point, let’s assume that, thus far, the Fabled pull rate was either 1:30 or 1:40 boxes. If they get three times rarer they’re now either 1:90 boxes of 1:120 boxes. Hopefully you can see how this makes a huge difference in the prospective scarcity of these cards.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you anything more concrete here. You’re going to need to make a personal choice on which number you find most believable for Fabled cards and adjust your buying plans accordingly. I personally am inclined to use number of approximately 550 cold foil Hearts (twice as rare as the assumed 1100 Alpha Black Lotuses believed to have been printed when James made that post). We then take the total number of WTR Alpha displays (16,700 as listed in the Collector’s Centre) and divide by the number of Hearts (again, 550) to arrive at approximately 1:30.4 boxes. Until LSS reveals the official pull rate for Fabled cards (which may never happen) or otherwise gives us info to work with, I’m sticking to those numbers. So, once again, be cautious with the initial asking prices on these rarer CF Fabled cards. The people selling them have a financial interest in representing them to be as rare as possible, and the basis for some of the pull rates people like to float around are suspect at best.
For the Legendaries, a big question is going to be how big the overall print run is. Since we lose unlimited edition, every box of Uprising that’s produced will have cold foils in it. LSS is presumably going to need to print enough of Uprising (and all future sets) to get an adequate amount of cards in circulation as well as to account for a growing player base. That means that, while individual CF Ls may be harder to pull in Uprising, the total number of a given Uprising Ls relative to those for other recent sets, like Tales of Aria, will remain somewhat of a mystery until the print run information for Uprising is released. If Uprising is a big print run, there could still be fewer copies of a Monarch CF L than an Uprising one, for instance.
For my personal approach on this, I’m not even going to consider buying single CF Legendaries for at least a month post-release, unless something absolutely wild happens, like a supply shortage or a mega-early OOP announcement.
This is actually going to be easier to discuss than it might seem at first blush, though it’s also pretty unsatisfying. We have even less information on Marvel pull rates than we do for Fabled pull rates. As a result, this market is going to largely be determined by hype and whatever alleged pull rates sellers can convince buyers of.
What I can tell you is that in the post-spike era of FAB (Monarch forward), the only Marvel-equivalent card of substantial value that’s increased in price post-release has been Extended Art Aether Wildfire, which I would hypothesize went up as a result of the reemergence of Kano as a potential threat in any meta that doesn’t respect him coupled with the promise of more Wizard support in Uprising. Meanwhile, all of Monarch’s EA Majestics plummeted, as did alternate art Channel Lake Frigid, and the rest of the comparable cards remained flat or dropped significantly. With that in mind, I would exercise serious caution when buying Marvels, and, I know I sound like a broken record here, you should wait several weeks or more before buying these as singles.
Uprising: Rainbow Foil Legendaries
Here’s the awkward entry in our singles speculation. While there was previously some incentive for casual players to wait for the Unlimited release of a set to pick up the Legendaries they’d need for their chosen Heroes, we’re now going to have the vast bulk of the player base using the same RF versions, as I imagine the increased price of cold foils is going to push more people to choose the cheaper option. While LSS has increased the pull rate for RF Legendary cards a bit (from 1:88 packs for a CF or RF Legendary in Tales to 1:80 for an RF Legendary in Uprising), I think the probable decrease in the percentage of players who continue to buy CF over RF copies will offset this.
My expectation is that RF Legendaries in Uprising will settle somewhere between the RF L and CF L prices of previous sets. That translates to between the range of $40ish for bad Ls (Silver Palms) to about $180 for good ones (Rampart of the Ram’s Head, Spellbound Creepers), though I suspect we’ll see most of the vaguely viable ones fall in the $80-150 area.
While you definitely should, if possible, give it a couple weeks to let the initial prices sort themselves out, there’s no big price fall to anticipate when Unlimited drops, as there is no Unlimited Uprising. The summary for people who expect they’ll mostly be using RF Ls from here out is as follows: If you previously bought CF Ls, you can expect to spend a little less this time around, and if you previously bought RF Ls, you can probably expect to spend a little more.
Uprising: Everything Else
The previous sections cover the vast majority of card rarities that merit financial discussion. Below them, we have Majestics, which have historically been $5 or less with a couple exceptions. I see no reason to assume this will change with Uprising. Expect them to debut high, most will drop by a lot, and the ones that don’t see play will move towards the $1 floor that their predecessors have settled at. There will be a couple standouts in the $5-20 range, and one or two will probably spike up from the cheap price to that range once someone makes a deck that prompts people to reassess a card. It’s not a terribly exciting part of the set from a financial perspective.
Living Legend Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be
How the mighty have fallen.
As I discussed last month, the impending retirement of Starvo has seen his once high price of $250 enter a protracted period of freefall. We were down to $80 last month. We’re now at $70, and I’ve seen listings on Facebook for $50-60 pop up here and there. I suspect that his short-term floor will be around $50.
What we can learn from this, as far as I’m concerned, is that you should be very cautious with similar CF Majestic heroes, should they exist, in Uprising. I really hope that LSS keeps using this treatment (and applies it to all heroes in each set): they look spectacular, are a nice source of additional EV (even at $50), and, now that most players won’t be opening any CF Ls, they’re likely to be the biggest CF hit that the average person sees. We can assume that the ones for the best new Heroes will still demand high initial prices, and if those same Heroes find their way to Living Legend status, we can also expect that their cards will follow a similar trajectory to Starvo’s.
There is an interesting wrinkle to this. With PvE confirmed as a casual format LSS is going to actively support in the future (it’s a fair ways off yet), we could see a resurgence of value for cards that don’t currently have a home. As much as competitive players seem to be fed up with Starvo, casual players do like playing him because he’s a bit easier to make flashy plays with than some of the heroes who require more work to shine (Kano, for instance). So, if PvE provides a home for Starvo, we should expect that demand will pick up again. Obviously, there’s a long time gap between now and when PvE comes out, so there’s no rush. But if CF Starvo gets down to that $50 or so price range, and you think you might want one in the future, it probably wouldn’t be the worst hedge to buy him in the next several months instead of waiting until PvE drops and giving him a chance to rebound.
As a parallel consideration, Specializations and class cards are another interesting topic when we look at Hero retirement. Prism is right behind Chane as the next leader on Living Legend points. It seems likely that, sheerly on popularity, she’ll probably make it there in the next year or so unless she becomes far worse than she is right now.
This puts Prism in an odd place. Bravo still has another legal version in print, providing a home for his Specializations, and Oldhim can use many of the Guardian cards he was using. Chane’s Specializations become useless (for now) when he retires, but many of the Runeblade cards he was using remain relevant for Briar and Viserai. Prism, on the other hand, has no outlet for her Specializations, and we have no idea if Dromai is going to be a viable home for the other Illusionist cards Prism was using.
In terms of individual cards to watch if/when the Prism retirement happens, the promo Herald of Judgment is probably the one to focus on. It’s been sitting stably in the $70-80 range for a while, and that’s a pretty decent price tag for a card that may have no home in the near future. This is all new, and the best we can do is identify key cards to watch when the Banned and Restricted announcements drop. In the coming months, we can start to build an idea of how retirement affects cards as Living Legend status finally becomes an active part of CC.
Bring the Fire
That’s it for this month. I know that was a lot of speculation and conditional statements, but that’s the nature of the game this close to a new set. I’m excited to see what the opening experience looks like for Uprising and whether or not LSS has managed to fix or at least reduce the EV issue that’s plagued the recent sets, but, to restate the thesis of this month: be patient in how you approach singles, and don’t feel like you need to rush out and stock up on Uprising immediately. Buy the product that you want to open, and assume that you’ve got some time to build up any sort of long-term hold position you want to have for the set. Finally, remember that MAP boxes are readily available, and the only compelling reason to pay over MAP is because you want to support the store you’re buying from. 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/
It seems the approach is wait and see for Uprising, especially more so for countries that can't easily get boxes at MAP. But it is nice that there's a little of everything for different type of players/collectors, hopefully Marvels will make the regular version of the cards more accessible (price-wise).
The amount of chase cards crammed into Uprising are likely to keep the set going for longer than Everfest has. Someone at Sydney just pulled a Rewind with upside down art and reversed card text. That's gotta be intentional.
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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.