How the Lost Caverns of Ixalan Delays Have Affected the Market

04 Dec
by Harvey McGuinness

Magic doesn’t often have product delays, but in recent years the issue has become more and more prevalent. 

The most significant of these delays was Unfinity; initially scheduled for an April 1, 2022 release, the set didn’t hit shelves until October 7, 2022. Other products, such as Dominaria United and Dominaria Remastered, had localized product delays, with various regions receiving some items later than others, but not so severe as to delay an entire set’s launch or the release of an entire product line. 

Magic’s newest Standard set, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan (LCI), is the latest in this increasing number of sets which have faced delays, and it’s the first of which to have experienced a uniform delay across a specific product line. I’m talking, of course, about the disastrous launch of LCI Collector Booster boxes

So, what happens when Wizards of the Coast staggers the release of a set? It’s time to take a look.

Looking Back

So what went wrong with The Lost Caverns of Ixalan? According to a press release published by Wizards of the Coast on November 1, just over a week before Prerelease events were slated to begin, production delays along the Magic supply chain were going to push back the delivery date of Collector Booster boxes to stores globally (the initial release also mentioned a delay for Commander decks, but this was later updated to reflect on-time delivery in North America). The public isn’t quite sure what exactly the production issue was, but the end result was that stores received Collector boxes anywhere between one and three weeks late.

If this delay had come to pass several years ago, it would likely have had a less severe impact on the Magic market. However, in 2022 Wizards began allowing stores to sell single cards and booster packs in the window between prerelease and release, meaning that this delay was functionally extended by as much as 100% for some stores (doubling the time between when product was expected and when it was actually sold). Since Collector Boxes are among the primary sources for in-demand rares and mythics, the delay significantly (and artificially) inflated card prices for the first few weeks of LCI’s standard lifecycle.

Where Things Are

While the delay window has passed and Collector Booster boxes have entered the product ecosystem, things are still far from normal for LCI Collector supplies due to two primary reasons: staggered supply and time delay. 

First off, staggered supply. According to Wizards of the Coast, this delay wasn’t felt in a standard fashion, like that of Unfinity. Instead, stores received product at vastly different times. The two-week difference between delivery date felt by some stores versus others is an eternity in the TCG market, especially in the thirty days after a set’s release. As such, this staggering means that supply is still incredibly volatile. New product is being added to the market in disjointed amounts, increasing the day-to-day upheaval in both single card and sealed product prices. If this were a uniform delay, then the supply addition would be much more granular after the initial release, keeping a steady day-to-day transaction rate. That’s not the case here.

Second, the issue of time delay. For many stores, the first few post-release weeks are where all the money is, as it’s the time when players come to physical locations en-masse for the shock and awe factor that corresponds with new cards. While Collector products contain exclusive treatments and some exclusive reprints, these aren't incentives enough for a recreation of that same awe factor. Yes, players and collectors will still arrive with excitement when the product first hits shelves, but it won’t be purchased as impulsively and incidentally as it would be if it had coincided with a prerelease event.

Looking Forward

So, with supply still unreliable and the day-one awe factor being washed away with time, how should we look at LCI Collector Boosters, both sealed and as vehicles for single cards?

Well, despite all the chaos, Collector Booster boxes of LCI are holding up well. Prices are currently trending upwards, but this is largely due to a short-term spike, and as such it’s hard to say for certain what the long-term trend will be. It’s certainly interesting, but there is still too much noise to say for certain. I’d hold off on stocking sealed positions for the moment, until more dust settles from the staggered release. The time delay could prove to be a boon to anyone looking to score a cheap box, provided you have the patience to hold out. 

As for the single cards within - e.g. Special Guests, Jurassic World, and every other Booster Fun special treatment - nearly every class has reached a saturation point and begun trending sideways. Some cards are of course rarer than others, and as such will take more time to stabilize, but overall enough packs have been cracked for a comfortable equilibrium to be reached.

Wrap Up

Alright, that does it! There’s still dust to settle, but ultimately it looks like the delays on The Lost Caverns of Ixalan mostly prolonged the inevitable, rather than created an eternally distorted market. Good luck in your holiday shopping adventures, and be sure to keep an eye out for when Collector Booster boxes do stabilize; it shouldn’t be too long now.

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Harvey McGuinness
Harvey McGuinness

Harvey McGuinness is a student at Johns Hopkins University who has been playing Magic since the release of Return to Ravnica. After spending a few years in the Legacy arena bouncing between Miracles and other blue-white control shells, he now spends his time enjoying Magic through CEDH games and understanding the finance perspective. He also writes for the Commander's Herald.

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