Last week, we took a look at Modern’s top decks in search of the
cards most likely to make an impact during the 2016 Modern season. We talked about surefire staples like Noble Hierarch, Dark Confidant, Goblin Guide, and
Inkmoth Nexus that are likely to gain value as more people enter the format. We also took a quick look at the possibility of an Amulet of Vigor banning and
what that might do to the metagame.
After looking at the Magic Online data provided by MTGGoldfish, I put Amulet Bloom, Burn, Jund, Naya Company, G/R Tron, Affinity, Abzan, Infect, U/R Twin,
Grixis Twin, Scapeshift, Zoo, and G/W Hexproof at the top of the Modern pyramid. If you’re building a Modern gauntlet right now, these are the decks you
have to develop plans for.
This week, we’re going to take a long look at Modern’s second tier. Are there any staples that we’re sleeping on right now? Are there any decks on the
verge of breaking out? And what do the lower rungs of Modern look like, anyway? Let’s find out.
Not all of the decks I profile this week will put up results in 2016. Some of them could enter the top tier, but most will not. Some are pet decks that
only show up here and there, putting up a win when the field breaks right. Others are newer brews that no one has had time to metagame against yet. Still
others are older decks that are either weak to a current top strategy or have been outclassed by a similar deck with a slightly faster kill. This is
deliberate-I want to cast a wide net and avoid making too many judgments.
Since I am not a Pro Tour caliber player, it’s very hard for me to say with any certainty which decks will end up cementing themselves as future stalwarts.
That’s why I led with last week’s article: Since I don’t really know what Modern will look like in May of 2016, I’d rather spend $30 on a card that will
almost assuredly hit $50 than drop $15 on a card with an outside chance at breaking out.
That isn’t to say that a deeper look doesn’t have its uses, though. This website has a bevy of amazing writers, and many of them specialize in Modern
coverage. Ari Lax, Sam Black, Patrick Chapin, Gerry Thompson, Anthony Lowry, Shaheen Soorani, Todd Anderson…these are the people who will tell you when a
new deck is poised to make an ascent.
My advice? Bookmark this article, learn what the second tier decks look like, and refer back as the metagame develops. If one of SCG’s pro player writers
tells you that, say, G/W Hate Bears is really well-positioned going forward, you’ll know that it’s time to speculate on Voice of Resurgence and Scavenging
The same goes for video coverage of major events. This is something you should be watching as much as possible-not only does it give you the best sense of
the current metagame, but it will help you grow as a technical player. If you’re not familiar with Modern’s second tier decks, it can be hard to know if
that deck you just saw crush Twin on camera is a new brew or something that’s been around for a while. When you have to make timely speculation decisions
based on video coverage, having a little bit of background knowledge on the format can be the difference between a well-informed buy and a poor one.
Let’s get to the decks, shall we?
- 2 Aven Mindcensor
- 3 Wilt-Leaf Liege
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
- 4 Leonin Arbiter
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 4 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Let’s start with a brew that everyone is talking about right now. After Craig Wescoe’s fourth-place finish at #GPPitt, G/W Hate Bears is a deck that many
new Modern players are likely to be taking a look at over the coming months, so it’s worth figuring out now.
Again, we find Noble Hierarch right in the middle of things. If Hate Bears becomes a top tier deck, Noble Hierarch will approach a Tarmogoyf-level of
relevance in the format. Pick these up now if you think you’ll need them going forward, and grab them in trade at retail whenever you can. Scavenging Ooze
is another card we talked about a lot last week, and I’m a big fan of this sub-$10 multi-deck staple going forward.
New this week are Voice of Resurgence and Wilt-Leaf Liege. Voice has been slowly rising in price since last winter, and it’s another high tournament finish
away from a spike back to $40. The market for Wilt-Leaf Liege is likely to be significantly less robust due to the increased MM15 supply, but they’re less
than $4 each right now. I certainly can’t see that card dropping any lower.
Last up, we’ve got a card we’ll see in a couple of different decks this week: Aether Vial. Vial wasn’t in any of Modern’s tier one decks, but it plays a
major role in some of Modern’s less popular brews.
Aether Vial has survived an FTV and a Modern Masters printing without showing any sign of dropping in price, but I’m not sure it can sustain a $40+ price
tag-there are just too many copies of this running around. I like it as a stable card throughout next season, but there’s not much upside left.
Here’s another spicy brew from the latest Modern Grand Prix. Most of the cards in this deck are staples in the format’s other combo/control shells, but the
four copies of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy are worth discussing further. At this point, it seems certain that the newest version of Jace is destined to be a major
Modern staple. And because of that, I don’t expect the price to drop very much as it approaches rotation. If you’re on the fence about buying Jaces because
you don’t want to risk investing in a card that’ll drop to $20 in a few months, this sort of thinking matters. I don’t think Jace will drop below $50
Pia and Kiran Nalaar is a one-of here, but it’s worth keeping an eye on any Modern and Cube playable card that doesn’t get much love in Standard. Copies of
these are only $1.99 right now, and it wouldn’t take much for this to be a $5-$6 card down the road. I’m in for a set.
Another intriguing card in this list: Rise//Fall. This has long been a casual speculation target of mine, and interest from the Grand Prix has finally
caused the card to start spiking in value. There are a few sub-$1 copies here and there, including several here on StarCityGames, but they might not last
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Essence Warden
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 1 Joraga Warcaller
- 1 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
- 4 Dwynen's Elite
Some of these cards are already expensive thanks to Legacy Elves-Heritage Druid, for example-but there’s a little more upside here if the Modern version
continues to catch on. Heritage Druid broke $20 last spring, so there’s plenty of room left for this one to grow.
Evolutionary Leap is cheap, but that’s because of the BFZ Event Deck. At just over a buck, there’s some nice long-term value to be had. Chord of Calling is
also on the rise-it’s not going to hit $40 again, but it could easily end up back at $20 in a year or two.
Lastly, Dwynen’s Elite is worth considering. It’s a Standard-legal uncommon, but you can still find them at bulk prices if you look hard enough. At the
very least, pull these out of your summer Draft leavings and stash them away.
- 1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
- 4 Lord of Atlantis
- 3 Merrow Reejerey
- 4 Silvergill Adept
- 4 Cursecatcher
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Master of the Pearl Trident
- 2 Master of Waves
- 2 Harbinger of the Tides
Merfolk saw a nice resurgence over the summer, so most of these cards have already spiked. In terms of long-term pickups, both Master of Waves and
Harbinger of the Tides are your best bets for future value. Both of these are likely to remain staples in the deck, and I doubt we’ll see either reprinted
anytime soon. At $3.79 for Master of Waves and $1.99 for Harbinger of the Tides, both are attractive targets for the ol’ long-term box. Master of the Pearl
Trident-a spec box target of mine for years-just finished paying off bigtime. I suspect that these two cards will follow a similar trajectory.
Modern’s top tier doesn’t have any pure control decks, but the JV squad has a couple of spicy options. If you’d rather not play Grixis Control with Jace,
Vryn’s Prodigy, this is another shell that takes advantage of the Snapcaster Mage/Cryptic Command interaction.
The key cards in this deck are Sphinx’s Revelation and Celestial Colonnade. Both have proven themselves as Modern staples, but neither has put up results
in quite a while. Colonnade is already a very expensive card, but if Jeskai (or U/W) Control catches on, it could easily hit $40-$50 based on how
underprinted it is relative to Modern’s other staples. Sphinx’s Revelation doesn’t have that kind of upside, but it’s under $10 now and could end up at
This version of Goryo’s Vengeance Reanimator did well over the summer, and most of these cards saw major spikes back in May and June. Nourishing Shoal has
been stable at $10-$11, and Goryo’s Vengeance hasn’t dropped back below $30. In order for these cards to go any higher, Grishoalbrand would have to become
a major player in the metagame.
Through the Breach is worth talking about a little more. It’s a powerful card in this deck, certainly, but it’s also showing up in other Sneak Attack-style
builds in Modern. If Goryo’s Vengeance can exist at $30+, Through the Breach could end up even higher.
If you’re a Grishoalbrand believer, it might be worth picking up copies of Griselbrand and Borborygmos Enraged at some point this winter. Griselbrand is
cheap because it was the 2015 GP Promo, and Borborygmos is still a bulk mythic. They’re the only two cards in this deck that haven’t spiked already, and
both have an intriguing amount of upside.
Wizards of the Coast has almost completely wiped Storm out of Modern, but there are a few stragglers left. Pyromancer Ascension is a relatively cheap deck
to build, with the two key rares-Pyromancer Ascension and Past in Flames-both still under $10. Speculating on this deck is risky, though. It’s not very
well-positioned right now, and if it ever puts up too many good finishes in a row, WotC is likely to ban one or both of its key cards.
Relying on landfall creatures, Temur Battle Rage, and Become Immense, Modern Death’s Shadow looks a little like Standard Atarka Red. It’s a very high
variance deck, and I haven’t seen it pop up very much, but it did end up in first place at a StarCityGames IQ earlier this month.
Death’s Shadow and Mishra’s Bauble are the two key cards, and both have showed up in other rogue brews from time to time. Bauble has been pretty stable at
$8, but it has the higher upside of the two cards because it’s much rarer and much more versatile in the current metagame. Death’s Shadow pretty much only
has this one home, but the $3.79 buy-in is quite low. If this deck performs well on camera at a major event, it should hit $15 very quickly.
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 3 Elvish Piper
- 1 Wall of Roots
- 4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 4 Joraga Treespeaker
- 4 Overgrown Battlement
- 4 Primeval Titan
Here’s a wild one. G/R Breach is another Through the Breach deck, but this one also uses Summoning Trap and Elvish Piper(!?) to cheat Emrakul, the Aeons
Torn onto the battlefield. I don’t see how this is better or more consistent than Grishoalbrand, but it appeals to my old school casual sensibilities in a
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is nice and cheap thanks to MM15, so I doubt it has any further to drop regardless. Elvish Piper is already $7+ thanks to casual
play, but I could see it hit $10-$12 if this deck takes off. Summoning Traps are only a buck fifty, though, so if you’re interested in this deck, that’s
your play. They could easily hit $7-$8 if it takes off.
Here’s another Sneak Attack-style Modern deck. This one has less ramp, but it’s got a heck of a lot more card selection and disruption. Again, I’m not sure
if Grixis Breach is better than Grishoalbrand-I suspect it’s not-but it is worth noting that Emrakul is significantly undervalued if it actually does end
up making an impact in Modern.
I’m always surprised that there aren’t more Delver of Secrets/Young Pyromancer shenanigans in Modern, but the format lacks most of the good blue cantrips
that make Legacy what it is. Regardless, Grixis Delver does some very powerful things, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone (Patrick Chapin?) figures out
a good version of this brew.
All of these cards are valuable thanks to Legacy play or other Modern decks, but both Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Young Pyromancer have yet to truly show
what they’re capable of in this format. One day, that will change. Neither is a good cash spec, even if the deck breaks out, but they’re both excellent
trade-and-stash style cards.
I really thought that the Bitterblossom unban would propel W/B Tokens into Modern’s top tier. Unfortunately, I was wrong. W/B Tokens has some very powerful
weapons, but it has a long way to go before it’ll be a mainstay at the top tables.
If W/B Tokens does take off, Bitterblossom will be the first card to jump. It’s quite low right now thanks to MM15, so you should pick them up soon if you
want to build this. Sorin, Solemn Visitor might be a nice pickup at some point too, but right now it’s still around $10 thanks to Standard. Pick these up
in the $5 range once Khans rotates, but stay away for now.
Want to play Storm in Modern but don’t like Pyromancer’s Ascension? Here’s another interesting take on the deck. Lotus Bloom, Phyrexian Unlife, Ad Nauseam,
and Angel’s Grace are the four-of rares here, and they’re all reasonably affordable. Lotus Bloom and Ad Nauseam both see play in other decks, so they have
the highest odds of seeing a boost at some point. Phyrexian Unlife is just a buck, though, so it seems like the most tantalizing spec to me.
This one’s also known as Ninja Bear Delver, and it’s been around for a couple of years. Most of these cards are either fairly common or they’re used in
better decks, but Disrupting Shoal only shows up here. It could see another price jump if this deck rattles off a couple of high profile wins, but I’m not
holding my breath.
This is the flavor of the month in Modern right now. Both Protean Hulk and Footsteps of the Goryo saw major price spikes last week as people scrambled to
put this deck together. The fact that there was a Deck Tech on it at #GPPitt helped get the word out, though the deck did not finish in the Top 32 at the
Both key cards-Footsteps of the Goryo and Protean Hulk-could keep rising in price if the deck keeps surging in popularity, but this strikes me as the sort
of cute combo that tends to fade into the woodwork. I might be eating my words in a couple of months when Hulk Footsteps is rampaging across the format,
but if I had either of those cards right now, I’d sell. If you’re a believer, both Body Double and Reveillark are nice second tier pickups that haven’t
seen any price movement at all. If you’re looking for a spec target from this deck, start there.
- 3 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Street Wraith
- 1 Faerie Macabre
- 4 Fulminator Mage
- 2 Jungle Weaver
- 4 Architects of Will
- 1 Pale Recluse
- 4 Monstrous Carabid
- 4 Deadshot Minotaur
At the other end of the spectrum, here’s a Modern deck you probably know very well. Living End had a couple of decent finishes at #GPPitt, but it hasn’t
been very close to the top tables otherwise. Fulminator Mage and Living End are both still pretty expensive, too, so the deck is going to have to run off a
couple of big wins for the prices to rise at all. Living End is cheap other than those two cards, though, so demand for them should remain strong as
budget-conscious Modern players continue looking in this direction.
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 3 Gurmag Angler
This is a cool little brew, and Golgari’s dredge shenanigans match up well with Tarkir‘s delve cards. Lotleth Troll might’ve been an interesting
spec buy, but the fact that it showed up in Commander 2015 takes it off the table. The deck’s other key cards-Bloodghast, Gravecrawler, and
Vengevine-have all seen some recent price growth. I’d need to see more before I wanted to buy in, but Vengevine itself certainly has the scarcity and power
to hit $40 if the correct situation comes to pass. A Rise of the Eldrazi mythic that hasn’t been reprinted? Yes, please!
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 3 Wall of Roots
- 1 Orzhov Pontiff
- 1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Spellskite
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 2 Restoration Angel
- 3 Augur of Bolas
- 3 Voice of Resurgence
- 2 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Keranos, God of Storms
- 1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Birthing Pod is back! Well, sort of. This deck attempts to replicate that old boogeyman with Chord of Calling and Bring to Light, which is much more
difficult and much less powerful. I doubt Kiki Chord is going to be lighting the world on fire the way that Pod did, but Voice of Resurgence and Chord of
Calling are both worth keeping an eye on. The fact that they’re powerful cards in other decks as well make them the safest buys on this list.
If you judge Modern solely on Luis Scott-Vargas’ streams and videos, you might believe that Lantern Control is the best deck in the format. Unfortunately,
that hasn’t been the case. Lantern Control still demands respect, but it has been far from dominant in recent weeks.
We talked a bunch about Spellskite last week, so Lantern of Insight and Ensnaring Bridge are the important cards to think about here. Lantern is $6.99, and
it can’t really go much higher unless Lantern Control actually wins a Grand Prix. Ensnaring Bridge is a very popular casual card, and it’s decent in a few
other strategies, so even at $27.99 it strikes me as the better buy. It hasn’t been reprinted in a long time, and I could see it ending up closer to $40 at
- 3 Gemhide Sliver
- 4 Sedge Sliver
- 1 Necrotic Sliver
- 4 Sinew Sliver
- 2 Blur Sliver
- 2 Striking Sliver
- 4 Predatory Sliver
- 4 Galerider Sliver
- 1 Syphon Sliver
- 1 Manaweft Sliver
- 4 Diffusion Sliver
It feels like just yesterday that Sedge Sliver was spiking to $10. In reality, that happened back in July. Where does the time go?
Despite this deck falling out of favor, its price spikes have held up well. Sedge Sliver is still a $9 card, and Galerider Sliver and Sliver Hive are both
$4-$5 as well. This last card is probably your best bet when it comes to future speculation-it’ll be key in any competitive version of this deck going
forward, Modern or Legacy, as well as in the casual arena.
Here’s another sweet one for you. Four-Color Gifts is more of a Fatestitcher/Jeskai Ascendancy deck than a Gifts Ungiven brew, but it runs four copies of
Gifts alongside two copies of the much-maligned, almost-broken Visions of Beyond. If that card ever finds a tier one home, it’s going straight to $20. Of
course, that’s been true since that day it was printed, and it hasn’t happened yet.
I expect it’ll be a while before Jeskai Ascendancy has a major price spike, but cards with that much raw power rarely stay below $1 forever. Prerelease
foils at just $2 seem like a great deal. Gifts Ungiven might be a tad underpriced at $10, but I’d like to see it show up in a top 8 before I can call it a
buy. It’s a nice trade target, though.
- 1 Vendilion Clique
- 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 3 Snapcaster Mage
- 1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
And now for something completely different. This is also a Gifts Ungiven deck, but instead of Jeskai Ascendancy, we’ve got Unburial Rites and a couple of
powerful creatures to reanimate. There’s not much here that isn’t financially relevant in other decks, but it continues to paint us a picture of Modern as
a format where Snapcaster Mage and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy team up to make awesome things happen.
This Week’s Trends
– The holiday doldrums continue to drop prices in Standard. Yet again, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is the only major card in the format that’s trending upward.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is starting to inch up a little, too, but that appears to be more of a bottoming out than anything else. Collected Company is
also bouncing along the bottom, and it’s time to start thinking about buying those as well. Other than that, prices have fallen another 5% across the
board. In another few weeks, it’ll be time to buy.
Regardless, the Standard metagame is starting to get interesting. Check out this G/U Eldrazi Ramp deck from the Top 8 at Grand Prix Kobe:
This deck warms my briny, Simic heart. I have no idea if its success will translate stateside, but Nissa’s Renewal is a bulk rare, Part the Waterveil is a
bulk mythic, and Kiora is at the ~$5 retail price that represents the realistic floor for a casually popular planeswalker. Even Lumbering Falls is below $2
these days. You could pick a worse brew to invest in right now.
– Also in that top 8: B/W Warriors. Bloodsoaked Champion, Mardu Strike Leader, and Kytheon, Hero of Akros all have a ton of room to grow if that strategy
takes off, so it’s at least worth having the deck on your radar.
– It’s also worth mentioning that there were three Esper variants in the top 8 of that event and zero Jeskai or Jeskai Black lists. I doubt we’ve seen the
last of the deck that proved to be the scourge of #PTBFZ-Jeskai Black finished second at #SCGKC last weekend as well-but from a finance perspective, I’d
rather have the Esper cards right now.
– Spike alert: Time Spiral’s Reiterate, formerly $4, is the latest card to be bought out. It plays well in the new U/R Commander deck, which is probably
why someone forced the issue. Feel free to sell into the hype-supply is low enough that it probably won’t drop back to $4, but I doubt it’ll stay at $8-$10
– There is some speculation that Abrupt Decay will be the 2016 Grand Prix promo. I’m not sure how accurate it is, though, so take it with a giant grain of
salt. That said, it does make sense in terms of the type/value of card that WotC likes to give away. If I had any foils lying around, I’d sell them.
– Expeditions continue to trend upwards, and many dealers appear ready to start moving in even further on these. It’s likely that Expedition prices, at
least for fetches and shocks, will be significantly higher a month or two from now. This is your last chance to buy in.