Hasbro Chief Executive Chris Cocks opened the Hasbro Quarterly call this morning by stating that Magic: the Gathering product, overall, was up 16% year-over-year. Despite the company being down year-over-year overall, Hasbro’s first billion-dollar brand’s continual increase should not be a shocking statement for the massive MTG community. What MTG players may find shocking, however, is that two MTG products have hit record numbers in sales over this quarter. One of these is the best-selling Commander product in MTG’s history, but one product is further ahead than that, raking in $200 Million in profits alone! Forced rotation may be a big part of this product’s success.
Modern Breeds the Most Successful Product in MTG’s History
Despite Commander being the largest set in terms of popularity, the most successful MTG set of all time instead goes to a direct-to-Modern release. Modern Horizons 2, released in June 2021, is the most successful set in MTG history. According to Hasbro’s first quarter results report available on their site, Modern Horizons 2 has hit the $200 million mark.
Why has Modern Horizons 2 continued to generate incredible profits year-over-year? What is driving players to continually buy this product? While no official statements have been made in this regard, the answer likely has a lot to do with the contents available in the set and how it actually ended up creating something pretty controversial in the competitive MTG community: a forced rotation.
To be clear, Modern is not a rotating set. The only naturally rotating sets in Magic: the Gathering are ones like Standard, which has its legal card pool change every year. This is both to keep the format fresh and to make sure that new MTG cards can find a home for meaningful play more easily.
In contrast, the forced rotation, or artificial rotation, as referenced by many popular MTG icons like Tolarian Community College, in his words, involves the “influx of must-have cards, or game-changing cards, or meta-changing cards or anything related to that, that comes into formats like Modern and even Commander.” This new injection of cards pushes out older strategies and demands players to play new cards if they want to keep up with the competitive nature of the format. Modern Horizons 2 is commonly part of the forced rotation conversation amongst many MTG players.
Forced Rotation Demonstrated
If we look at the current competitive metagame for MTG’s Modern format, you’ll find that all of the top decks have a card from the Modern Horizons 2 set. You’ll also find that these cards are core to the deck’s strategy – making them irreplaceable tools. Izzet Murktide, the leading deck in popularity, has its namesake card appear in the Modern Horizons 2 set. Murktide Regent appears alongside Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, the most expensive card in the entire Modern Horizons 2 set. Its secondary market price is almost unaffected by its March of the Machine reprint due to how massive the demand for this card outweighs the supply of it.
This trend continues for the rest of the Modern metagame. Indomitable Creativity decks found their core combo payoff, Archon of Cruelty, from the set. Hammer Time is held together by Urza’s Saga, an enchantment land that dominates the Modern, Legacy, Vintage, and Commander formats. Crashing Footfalls decks need the Evoke Elemental cards like Fury and Endurance to function properly in the metagame. Rakdos Scam’s entire strategy is based on the red and black Evoke Elemental cards Fury and Grief. Ragavan, once again, is another necessary card for this archetype.
Amulet Titan, hinges on Urza’s Saga’s ability to find Amulet of Vigor. 4/5-color Omnath strategies heavily rely on Evoke Elementals. Grief is a central part of the Living End strategy to ensure the way is clear before they go for the win. Yawgmoth decks have Grist, the Hunger Tide, Ignoble Hierarch, and Endurance. Modern Merfolk lists enjoy the additions of Svyelun of Sea and Sky and Tide Shaper.
The only two ‘meta’ archetypes that Modern Horizons 2 doesn’t heavily influence are Burn and Mill, and Burn decks still commonly host some cards from this set somewhere in their 75 (but can efficiently function without them). Neither of these archetypes are considered to be of the top tier in the Modern metagame.
For players to play any of the top-tier strategies available in the Modern metagame, or even in the Legacy, Vintage, or Commander metagames, you’ll need some of the rarer cards available in the Modern Horizons 2 set. This increase in demand from players will, in turn, increase the card’s secondary market value, making the Modern Horizons 2 set much more valuable, and appealing to open. Players who enjoy playing with these new powerful cards are all too happy to purchase Modern Horizons 2 cards, making the product all the more popular.
Must-Have Cards Breed Success
The Warhammer product has been revealed as one of the “bestselling Commander sets ever.” According to Chris Cox, the preconstructed Commander Universes Beyond crossover is now on its fourth reprint, meeting the massive demand behind this product.
If you look at the history of the Warhammer 40K crossover products, this is not a shocking thing. Supply-to-demand ratio issues drove the prices of these preconstructed Commander products to $90+ during the height of their demand in October 2022. Despite the product’s release in October, demand for these preconstructed decks remains strong, and a big part of that is due to all the exclusive cards, and fantastic play experience that these Warhammer Commander decks offer.
Most MTG Commander products have some number of new cards tailored for the format, but Warhammer 40K preconstructed decks had much more than average. For reference, the March of the Machine Commander preconstructed decks each offered about ten new straight-to-Commander cards. Warhammer pre-cons upped this number to more than half of the 100-card decklist.
Unlike Modern, you do not necessarily need the Warhammer 40K crossover cards to play Commander. This is primarily a casual format, allowing players to create their own unique play experiences instead of demanding that players equip the most efficient strategies the format offers. That said, many unique cards are offered in the Warhammer 40K expansion that are very impactful in the format, and may be a part of some of the more cutting-edge strategies that Commander has to offer.
A great way to see this in action is, simply, to look at our financial reports regarding the secondary market. Warhammer 40K cards are commonly found among the trending cards for the week because of their moderate scarcity and overall power levels. The Red Terror commonly finds itself trending because it creates a powerful two-card combos with multiple cards released in MTG’s recent expansions.
If you want to try some of the new strategies offered by the Secret Lair promoting the hit Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie, Exalted Flamer of Tzeentch is paramount.
While some players aren’t overly enthused about the nature of forced rotation, mainly because it can usurp the homes of some of MTG’s older cards, creating fresh churn to various formats also helps to keep the game fresh, as long as the play patterns are, overall, enjoyable for a majority of the community.
Average Lifespan of an MTG Player
While forced rotations are a controversial topic, whether players like them or not, there may be another one on the horizon. This is thanks to The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, the next straight-to-Modern set. While the power level of this set should not be on par with Modern Horizons, some players are nevertheless concerned. For Hasbro, however, this set is one to be seriously excited about.
For Wizards of the Coast, and Hasbro overall, the Lord of the Rings franchise seems to be an acquisition-based venture. These numbers given by Cocks is done in an effort to explain higher royalties costs using the IP, as bringing MTG to a new consumer audience “helps us and our shareholders win over the long-term.”
“As we expand Magic, in particular, with things like Universes Beyond, its a great opportunity to bring in newer players, but that’s gonna be a little bit of a margin impact, both in terms of the royalties we spend, as well as the development costs because those tend to be a little more intensive when you involve a second party. Now that said, we feel like this is a really wise investment.” “Giving up a little bit of margin up front to attract highly engaged, highly profitable, fan segment, we think is a nice trade-off that helps us and helps our shareholders win over the long-term.”Chris Cocks
The new Lord of the Rings release is being anticipated with heavy fervor and, with the set being tailored towards both the game’s most popular Commander format and the competitive format that created the most lucrative product in MTG history, Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth may reach more MTG players than any product ever has in the game’s history, whether they are currently engaged with the IP or not. For Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro, this is fantastic news, as during the investor presentation, Cocks revealed MTG players have a lifespan of roughly five to seven years.
Within this extended period of time, the average MTG player will supposedly spend between $500 and $1000. Obviously, however, the exact amount spent will vary heavily from person to person depending on how much they play and which sets come out. In the case of the Tales of Middle-earth, this set certainly seems to have players spending. As, according to Cocks, the set already has record pre-order numbers!