On the Pioneer Format (and Early Price Spikes) – “Magic: The Gathering”

Magic: The Gathering has announced a new format! It’s called Pioneer, and it comes with some rather interesting parameters – and some very interesting baggage.

On the Pioneer Format (and Early Financial Spikes) - "Magic: The Gathering"
Source: Wizards of the Coast

Pioneer, the format

Pioneer, as indicated from the infographic above, is going to support sets from 2012’s Return to Ravnica all the way to the present. Masters sets and supplemental sets like Modern Horizons, Battlebond, or Conspiracy also do not count within Pioneer, as is expected.

It’s also very important to note that the “fetchlands” within these sets – Flooded Strand, Polluted Delta, Bloodstained Mire, Wooded Foothills, and Windswept Heath – are banned. Keep this in mind because it’s important for data later in this article.

Pioneer has been created as a bridge between Modern and Standard, just as Modern was created as a bridge between Legacy and Standard seven years ago. The Modern format was created when Return to Ravnica came out, so it makes sense that Pioneer is to start by encompassing that set onwards.

Pioneer, the investment

Unfortunately for many consumers, it seems that a lot of Pioneer-viable “staple” cards have been bought out en masse by buyers, oddly well in advance of the public announcement of the format.

TCGPlayer seller Michael Caffrey (@MChainmail on Twitter) recently tweeted that he sold a glut of cards which are great for Pioneer roughly a week in advance of the announcement. The list includes 87 copies of Smuggler’s Copter, 35 AEtherworks Marvels (two of which were in foil), and 11 Deathrite Shamans.

On the Pioneer Format (and Early Price Spikes) - "Magic: The Gathering"
Source: Twitter

According to this chart, Smuggler’s Copter was listed on TCGPlayer for $1.79 apiece. MTGStocks.com has them presently listed at $6.98 per copy at market price. On the page for Smuggler’s Copter, you’ll also find that the card has only very recently spiked in its secondary market price.

As for Deathrite Shaman, listed as being sold for $2.45 apiece by Caffrey, its new post-announcement market value is $12.49, a nearly 400% increase.

Caffrey is not the only person to report issues with buyouts prior to Pioneer. Ben Bleiweiss, General Manager of StarCityGames.com (@StarCityBen on Twitter) replied to Caffrey looking to compare notes on suspicious purchases on his website. While we do not know the exact cards that were bought out, we do know that this is more widespread than simply one purchase on one website.

On the Pioneer Format (and Early Price Spikes) - "Magic: The Gathering"
Source: Twitter

It does not end with tabletop Magic, however: Magic: The Gathering: Online has also got its share of pre-Pioneer buyouts as the only official online source of Pioneer play once it releases. @GoatBots on Twitter, a client which uses bots on MTGO to sell digital cards, has reported that someone Рagain, we do not know who Рhas started buying out all viable cards from Return to Ravnica onward.

On the Pioneer Format (and Early Price Spikes) - "Magic: The Gathering"
Source: Twitter

This entire buyout debacle gets even dicier when you compare buyouts of cards in Pioneer with cards banned from the format – those fetchlands mentioned earlier.

None of the Khans fetchlands spiked in price at all. Some were even on a decline in price when this announcement dropped. This tells me at least that there may have been insider knowledge involved with the recent buyouts prior to Pioneer.

What do you think about these buyouts? Was there knowledge accessed prior to the announcement of Pioneer? What what do you think of the format? With only five banned cards (and more to come, in time), how healthy is the format in theory or practice? Let us know what your thoughts are!