Demand And The Modern Metagame

The full Modern Masters 2017 card list is out, and Magic finance is already in reaction mode! Chas Andres has your deck-by-deck guide to what got reprinted…and, almost as crucially, what didn’t! A must-read if you’re buying or drafting Modern Masters 2017 this weekend!

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!

“Supply and demand.”

You’ve seen the phrase so many times by now that it barely has any meaning to you anymore. In fact, your eyes probably glazed over those words the moment you started reading this article.

The reason I talk about supply and demand so much is that it accounts for the vast majority of price fluctuations in the Magic finance world. Again, this is not really news. We know that prices drop when cards are reprinted (increased supply), and we know that prices go up when they see more play (increased demand). If you buy and sell Magic cards often enough, this becomes second nature, especially in a fast-moving format like Standard.

Modern Masters presents us with a different challenge. We know that the supply is going up — that’s the whole point of the set. But how should we talk about demand? When a new Standard expansion comes out, we have to guess what the new format is going to look like based on early reports from the most creative pro players. Demand is based on hype, not data.

We shouldn’t analyze Modern Masters the same way, though. The set doesn’t introduce new cards into the Modern metagame, and this it isn’t going to shake up the format’s competitive rankings. Decks that were good before Modern Masters were still good. Decks that were bad are still bad. The cards that most Modern players are going to want two, three, six months from now are the ones that see the most play.

Of course, quality isn’t everything. People are going to be opening packs of Modern Masters and using the contents as a seed for their entry into the format or the core of their next great deck. Decks with a high number of reprints are also likely to be cheaper over the next few months than decks where most of the cards are from older sets. This is already causing an increase in demand for certain decks. For example, Burn is much cheaper to build now that Goblin Guide has been reprinted, so more people have started buying Eidolon of the Great Revel.

Regardless of how Burn stacks up with Affinity, I expect more people will be looking to build the former deck than the latter over the next few months, thanks to the contents of Modern Masters 2017.

These are concepts that tend to be under-analyzed in the financial sphere. When we see an exciting reprint in Modern Masters, we tend to think about it in terms of supply (“I can’t believe Damnation is back for the first time in forever!”) instead of focusing on potential future demand.

That’s why I wanted to spend the week taking a look at the best decks in Modern and breaking them down based on which cards have been reprinted in Modern Masters and which have not. Ideally, we will find a few interesting spec opportunities as well as a solid list of the Modern Masters staples that it makes the most sense to buy or trade for once the boosters start flowing. Think you already know the hottest cards in Modern? Let’s see if you’re right.

A note before we continue: tier lists for Modern are always going to be subjective and imperfect. I used the Modern metagame feature on MTG Goldfish to create this list, and they get their data from Magic Online. That means that decks that see more play online for whatever reason (usually cheaper and easier decks) will be slightly favored. If you have another popular Modern deck that you want my take on, hit me up in the comments after you’re done reading.

Tier 1

Death’s Shadow

Key Reprinted Cards:

All of these cards are top-tier Modern staples. As I said last week, I think Death’s Shadow and Inquisition of Kozilek are currently underpriced. I don’t expect Tarmogoyf to fall much further, either. It’s nice that the best deck in Modern is a bit cheaper than it was two weeks ago, but this is still not a build that most newcomers to the format are going to be able to afford right away.

Key Omissions:

Mishra’s Bauble is an odd choice to be one of the most expensive cards in Modern, but that’s the world we live in now. Mishra’s Bauble is from Coldsnap, a set that nobody opened, and it’s a four-of in the format’s best deck. I doubt there’s much more room for growth, though. I’m selling my copies into the current hype.

Tarfire, Street Wraith, and Thoughtseize are on their way up as well thanks to continued demand for this deck. Bloodstained Mire and Kolaghan’s Command were printed more recently (greater supply), but I’d still make sure I had my set going into the summer. They’re not likely to gain as much value, but they could end up 10-20% higher.


Key Reprinted Cards:

  • None

Unfortunately, this latest Modern Masters set did not have very many artifacts. I don’t expect demand for Affinity to increase all that much over the next few months, since Modern Masters 2017 offers up zero help for anyone wanting to build it, though it’s one of the two or three best decks in the format regardless.

Key Omissions:

Most of these cards are only good in Affinity, keeping their value tied to the fortunes of this deck. Affinity is powerful enough to prevent any of them from losing much value, but like I said, I doubt too many people are looking to build it right now. I’m only buying out of need here, and I’m trading these cards away at retail for Key Omissions from some of the decks that I expect to increase in popularity.

Eldrazi Tron

Key Reprinted Cards:

  • None

Just like with Affinity, Modern Masters 2017 gives this deck a pass. The biggest addition is Basilisk Collar, which tends to be a one-of or two-of in most builds.

Key Omissions:

Even though Modern Masters 2017 didn’t give us much for this deck, most of Eldrazi Tron’s staples are from recent sets. If you played Eldrazi in Standard and have the Walking Ballistas for Mardu Vehicles or something, you’re a good portion of the way to a Tier 1 Modern deck. In fact, cards like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher are currently climbing in price as many Standard players use this as their gateway into the format. This is also a big part of why Karn Liberated has seen major gains despite being a one-of or two-of in most builds of this deck.

I don’t know of the Oath of the Gatewatch Eldrazi will continue to rise or if they’ll bottom out around rotation, but I do expect them to be worth more in a year or two than they are now. I’d get your copies sooner rather than later.

Bant Eldrazi

Key Reprinted Cards:

Not a lot here from MM17, but this is certainly the best Cavern of Souls deck in Modern and it’s what I’d consider building if I opened a couple of these. The other option is Merfolk, which is both worse and more expensive to build.

Key Omissions:

Again, the Eldrazi are all over the top tables in Modern even without Eye of Ugin to help them out. I’m glad I have a playset of each socked away. Beyond that, Ancient Stirrings has seen a big bump since Modern Masters 2017 was revealed, but Eldrazi Temple really hasn’t. You can still get MP copies for $7, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a $15-$20 card before long.

Tier 2


Key Reprinted Cards:

Wow! If you want to build Abzan, this seems like a pretty great time to do so. Both of the most expensive lands in the deck are in Modern Masters 2017, along with the most expensive creature and planeswalker.

Key Omissions:

Three of these cards are Standard-legal, another reason why I expect Abzan to gain popularity over the coming weeks. If you’ve already got a B/G deck built in Standard and you open Tarmogoyf and Liliana in your Modern Masters box, why not work toward something like this?

By the way, this is yet another top-tier deck where Thoughtseize is crucial. Fulminator Mage almost doubled in price this week, but Thoughtseize hasn’t really budged yet. I expect that one to start climbing soon, though there are many more copies out there, so its upside isn’t nearly as high. Ditto Dark Confidant, which has been much more expensive in the past and is looking a tad undervalued at the moment.


Key Reprinted Cards:

Goblin Guide was crazy expensive before the MM17 printing was announced, making Naya Burn one of the more attractive decks to build at the moment. This deck is still a little more expensive than R/G Scapeshift, but it’s still quite good and a certain subset of players will always love Burn. Expect a decent number of people to open Goblin Guides and start working toward this brew. The biggest hurdle is the manabase, which works hard to splash both white and green. A lot of budget players will go with the straightforward version of the deck — more on that a little bit later.

Key Omissions:

Eidolon of the Great Revel has perked up a bit, but it might have more growth left in it. Atarka’s Command hasn’t enjoyed the same kind of bump, but it’s certainly capable of gaining 20-30% of value as well. It’s also worth pointing out that the Khans of Tarkir fetchlands see a lot more play than their Zendikar counterparts, and it’s not (always) just because they’re cheaper. Make sure you have your sets of these if you don’t already.


Key Reprinted Cards:

This version runs fewer copies of Path and Arid Mesa is a more optional inclusion. Without Wild Nacatl, having perfect mana on turn 2 is less of a big deal.

Key Omissions:

A lot of the same analysis can be applied to this version of Burn, and the fact that there are two distinct and popular variants of the deck means that Eidolon of the Great Revel and the key burn spells are likely to remain solid pick-ups for a while yet.

Grixis Delver

Key Reprinted Cards:

Snapcaster Mage is the big get here. It’s the most expensive part of the deck, and even though it was reprinted at mythic rare, Grixis Delver should remain a more affordable option going forward.

This is also the first deck on this list that attempts to play blue in a non-Affinity or Eldrazi context, so some number of blue mages will always keep decks like this in demand — much like how Burn players will always play Burn.

Key Omissions:

If you already have your Khans of Tarkir fetchlands, building this deck is mostly a matter of getting your Snapcaster Mages plus a bunch of cheaper complementary pieces. Look toward Spell Snare as the possible gainer here—it was last printed in the first Modern Masters set, and it could end up jumping toward $15.

Ad Nauseam

Key Reprinted Cards:

Here’s yet another reason to get your Serum Visions ASAP — they’ll be played in basically every blue deck in the format going forward. Beyond that, though, Modern Masters 2017 didn’t give Ad Nauseam very much help.

Key Omissions:

This list is pretty long, but these are all moderately priced cards. Pact of Negation is the big one here, and it’s started to tick up a bit since Modern Masters 2017 was revealed. So have Simian Spirit Guide and Lotus Bloom.

I’m not expecting a big increase in demand for Ad Nauseam — it has its devotees, but Modern Masters 2017 in unlikely to create too many more. All of these staples could continue to see modest gains, though.

U/R Storm

Key Reprinted Cards:

If people are going to build storm thanks to MM17, it’ll be this brew. It’s cheaper than Ad Nauseam, and most of its key cards have just been reprinted.

Key Omissions:

Not a bad list at all, right? None of these cards have spiked since Modern Masters 2017 was revealed, but considering the contents of the set I would be surprised if they stay this low over the next couple of months. Manamorphose, Sleight of Hand, and Remand stand out to me as really solid spec targets at current retail.

Final Thoughts

If you want to play Death’s Shadow, Jund, Abzan, Grixis Delver, U/R Storm, or any of the Burn variants, Modern Masters 2017 is going to help make your deck of choice much more affordable. If you’re looking for spec opportunities in Modern, focus on staples from these six decks that did not show up in MM17.

Liliana of the Veil, Verdant Catacombs, Tarmogoyf, Serum Visions, and Inquisition of Kozilek show up in the greatest number of decks on this list, and are thus likely to hold more of their value than many of the cards that didn’t show up at all. Beyond that, the cards that showed up at least once (Death’s Shadow, Arid Mesa, etc.) are fairly safe bets to maintain most of their value as well.

I would be careful about going to deep into expensive cards that did not show up here. For example, Damnation sees some sideboard play and it does have strong casual demand, but I’d rather invest in a card like Verdant Catacombs that has a much higher floor.

As always, buy and trade intelligently. When you get your box of Modern Masters or you do your first few drafts, always be willing and eager to get out of falling assets and into rising ones. While everyone else is using price anchors based on old ideas of supply, use what you’ve learned about future demand to end up with the cards that will continue to be hot all summer long.

This Week’s Trends

I’m not sure how useful my Standard analysis is going to be this week. There’s a reasonable chance that WotC bans a card or two this morning in an effort to shake up the metagame. Heart of Kiran is the most likely choice, but Saheeli Rai could go as well if WotC is concerned about that deck existing without Heart of Kiran to keep it in check. It’s also worth noting that Walking Ballista is played in almost half of all Standard decks right now, so keep that in mind when considering potential ban targets.

If Heart of Kiran is the only ban, Saheeli Rai and Oath of Nissa (a four-of in most Four-Color Saheeli decks) are likely to be the biggest early beneficiaries. If both Heart of Kiran and Saheeli Rai are banned, the two B/G decks become the de facto best decks in the format. Aetherworks Marvel and the different U/R and U/B Control decks would probably see a bump as well.

Last week was pretty flat in Standard regardless. Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer saw modest gains, but I expect that had more to do with Modern demand than anything else. Most of the key rares in Standard (including both Heart of Kiran and Saheeli Rai) saw small declines. I think everyone was waiting to see if WotC would shake up the format or not.

It was another big week for Modern prices, though. Of the cards that weren’t reprinted in Modern Masters 2017, Fulminator Mage saw the biggest gain and has now almost doubled in price. Also up: Through the Breach, Noble Hierarch, Karn Liberated, Crucible of Worlds, Dark Confidant, Leyline of Sanctity, Ancestral Vision, Engineered Explosives, Thoughtseize, All Is Dust, Ancient Stirrings, and Tarfire.

Merchant Scroll also spiked this week. A new Modern Storm deck plays it, and it hasn’t been printed since 8th Edition. Good thing you have that random pile of Homelands cards still kicking around in your closet, right?

A few random spikes: City of Shadows, Three Wishes, and the Antiquities printing of Colossus of Sardia. Not much to see here, though the first two cards are on the Reserved List. Pick out of your bulk and sell into hype.

Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might was revealed, including Jhoira of the Ghitu and Lovisa Coldeyes as the foils out front. Both of these cards will drop into the bulk range, with Jhoira likely ending up close to the $1 mark. Some people are guessing that Ancestral Vision will make an appearance in the Jhoira deck since she gives things suspend, but I’m not convinced. Mishra’s Bauble has just as good a chance to show up in the Lovisa deck, for example. I’d still sell your extra copies into the current post-Modern Masters hype, but that has more to do with the fact that the card doesn’t see enough play to warrant its current price tag.

Finally, Splinter Twin gained some value last week thanks to rumors that it would be unbanned in Modern. This probably has something to do with the fake image that was kicking around two weeks ago showing Splinter Twin as an uncommon (?) in Modern Masters 2017. It’s possible that Splinter Twin was unbanned today and I look silly for doubting this rumor. I don’t think they’d use this Banned and Restricted announcement for something that monumental, though. If Splinter Twin is unbanned, it’ll probably happen next January.

Regardless, I love the idea of buying Splinter Twin when it drops again over the summer. People will keep assuming that the card is on the cusp of unbanning, whether it is or not, and there should be some future Banned and Restricted hype-related spike that you’ll be able to sell into.

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!