Going Infinite – More Modern

Modern has come to life, and Jonathan Medina takes you through his thought process on the format as well as what staples and pieces to pick up now!

It finally happened. Modern has taken on flesh and bone, and now there’s no more guessing. Not only is Modern a format (here is the announcement for reference), but it will be the format of a Pro Tour and a number of GPs next year. This is big! There’s a lot to examine, and I would be as vain as everyone believes me to be if I thought that I was capable of breaking down the entire format for you in this article, so instead of over-delivering, I’m going to under-deliver.

I’m going to tell you about my day. (I’m writing my article on Friday, the day of the announcement.)

Today started as the clock struck midnight. I just got done pulling orders for my sales list, and I was settling into bed. I decided to give Twitter a once-over before drifting off to nightmare land. There was a lot of chatter about Modern. Mainly it was complaints about how Wizards went overboard with the banned list. Have you ever noticed that Magic players will complain about anything?

Things that bring Magic players joy in life (in order of importance):

1 — Complaining

2 — Drafting

3 — Complaining

4 — Reading StarCityGames.com

786 — Showering

Anyway, back to the story. After reading the buzz on Twitter I looked at MTGSalvation’s Rumor Mill and then to Gathering Magic looking for the link to the Modern announcement. Both places turned up nothing. Then it dawned on me; maybe I should check www.dailymtg.com. Do you ever have moments like that? After going to the obvious source of all things Magic, I found what I was looking for. There it was in all its glory, the Modern announcement.

“We have chosen to change the format of the upcoming Pro Tour Philadelphia from Extended to Modern.”

“Pro Tour Philadelphia is not the last place you will see the Modern format this year. At this year’s World Championships, the third day of competition will feature six rounds of Modern, and one of the three players on each national team will play Modern during the national team competition. Finally, there will be some number of Grand Prix next year run using Modern.”

“Let the feeding frenzy begin!” I thought to myself. This change means that there’s going to be a massive demand for cards to test and compete in this new format. Wherever there’s demand, there are speculators, and this is no different. Some people are content to be part of the feeding frenzy. Like rats they scamper over to the nearest group of rats and partake in whatever they happen to be eating at the time.

One speculator says, “Buy Aether Vials on MTGO,” and everyone goes running to buy stuff up without thinking. I got a chuckle out of this tweet.

Why are people buying Aether Vials on MTGO? Sure, they’ll be decent in Modern, but there are four in the Exiler precon! Maybe I’m being a little too hard on the “follow the crowd” mentality. There are some advantages. Like if you buy what everyone else is buying, then you have an opportunity to make some money when the card spikes due to fake demand. The problem is that when a price goes up due to speculators buying it, then you’re relying on hype to carry your investment instead of true value or true demand, and when the bubble bursts, then you’re left holding the bag. Aether Vial on MTGO is a perfect example of this. It’s very hard for an uncommon to break the 1 ticket price threshold on MTGO, but Aether Vial is priced at 3 tickets (and up) on the popular retailers. I expect this price to go down after the bots sell out and the speculators start to sell these back to the bot chains.

Modern Banned List

It looks like I took a little detour there. Sorry about that. Let’s get back to the story of my day; I think that showing you what I did after the Modern announcement is much better than telling you what you should do.  After reading the announcement I reviewed the new banned list:

Ancestral Vision
Ancient Den
Chrome Mox
Dark Depths
Dread Return
Glimpse of Nature
Golgari Grave-Troll
Great Furnace
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mental Misstep
Seat of the Synod
Sensei’s Divining Top
Stoneforge Mystic
Sword of the Meek
Tree of Tales
Umezawa’s Jitte
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Vault of Whispers

Make sure that you know this banned list. Some people might give me grief for putting something as obvious as the banned list in my article, but I kid you not, in the discussions with my trade team I had this conversation:

Him: Cards to Watch: Threads of Disloyalty, Tarmogoyf, Sensei’s Divining Top …
Me: You know Top is banned right, bro?
Him: It’s just a rough list that I made quickly.
Me: No matter how fast you made the list, it’s still banned :)

I cemented the new banned list in my mind, then I decided get some sleep. I didn’t want to try to mentally construct a format, without getting some sleep first. First thing in the morning, I caught up on Twitter. There was a lot of Modern chatter, and amidst it there were some voices that made sense, among them were @nextlevelspec, @samstod, @fivewithflores, and @chosler88. Here were some of the tweets that I retweeted (I like to keep my followers in the know!).

I retweeted all the relevant stuff; then I wrote up a quick synopsis for which cards are going to rise due to the new Modern announcement. I shipped it off to Megan Holland for the Premium Newsletter Mail Bag. This gave me a chance to break the format down into manageable sections. I knew that at some point I was going to have to make some buys on Magic Online (MTGO). I don’t make buys the same way that other people do, i.e. buy 100 of card X. Instead I pick up a playset or two of certain cards so that I can have them when people ask. I like having the reputation that I have or can get you anything. When things like this happen, I invest in that reputation by making some modest buys. I do this on MTGO, but in paper it’s typically “business as usual” because I have a huge line of people looking to sell me collections. There’s no use in buying up store stock when I can just by cards at 50-70% of their value from people.

The sweet thing about MTGO is that I know of a website that is really slow to update their pricing so even after news like this you can still get cards at last week or last month’s prices. Here’s what I bought. If you compare these prices with prices on www.mtgotraders.com you’ll find that I’m already up!

I picked up some staples and then some cards that I think may see some play. The cards in these orders have three different strategies behind them.

Strategy One: Pick up Staples

I talked about this above; I wanted some extra staples to help cultivate my reputation as the “Go-to Guy.” The strategy here is to keep these cards in one of my storage accounts on MTGO, until a) I can sell them for over double what I paid for them or b) Someone says, “Hey Medina, do you have Noble Hierarchs on MTGO?” The cards that I classified as staples are:

Gifts Ungiven
Knight of the Reliquary
Noble Hierarch
Venser, Shaper Savant
Life from the Loam
Vedalken Shackles
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
Horizon Canopy
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Grove of the Burnwillows
Blood Moon

Strategy Two: Pick up Combo Pieces

In a new format there are always breakout combo deck performances. Typically a combo deck will catch a tournament unprepared and steal a win. After this happens, a rush of players and speculators buy up the card, and the supply starts to dry up. That’s when you break these bad boys out and sell/trade them. There are a number of combo decks (even some unrealized) in Modern, including but not limited to: Through the Breach /Protean Hulk, Seismic Swans, Living End/cascade, Tooth and Nail, Pod/Necrotic Ooze, Dragonstorm, and more. I took some pieces of combo decks that I think have the chance to be good. Here’s the list of combo pieces.

Lotus Bloom
Through the Breach (I already have a bunch of Protean Hulk)
Living End
Swans of Bryn Argoll

Strategy Three: Restocking the Bot

You might notice a 20 pack of Dryad Arbor in the order. I bought these to restock my bot because they had them at a good price. It’s not really a strategy, but I knew if I didn’t explain it here, then I would have to explain it in the comments.

By now, it was already pretty late in the day, and it was time for me to focus on non-Magic stuff. I left the magical world of cardboard to do everyday things like go to work and hang out with my wife, another day in the life of a grinder. Let’s talk about some pricing trends.

Pricing Trends to Note

Last week I gave you a Gen Con Trading Report where I talked about some cards to pick up; here’s where those cards are at this week:

Consecrated Sphinx — Then $9.99, Now $14.99
Intuition — Then $24.99, Now $29.99 (On other sites with them in stock)
Tarmogoyf — Then $69.99, Now $79.99 ($99.99 on certain sites)

Legacy and Modern

Like I said last week, the market is shifting from Legacy to Modern. This means a dip in Legacy prices (don’t worry; they’ll rebound for the next Legacy GP) and a rise in Modern card prices. The real thing to take notice of here is the crazy rise in prices of cards that are both Legacy and Modern playable. How much is a Vendilion Clique worth?

Vendilion Clique — Then $9.99, Now $24.99

Clique is the first in a long line of cards that I expect to follow similar (maybe not as drastic) trends. I have my eye on these cards.

Knight of the Reliquary $9.99
Engineered Explosives $14.99 (It’s already happening here)
Vedalken Shackles $11.99
Crucible of Worlds $24.99 (It’s already happening here)
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner $17.99  (It’s already happening here)
Academy Ruins $5.99
Vesuva $9.99
Mutavault $24.99 (It’s already happening here)

Modern Cards

Then there are cards that Modern is breathing new life into. These cards will rise based on tournament performance. Some of them also have pricing pressures from EDH demand.

Tooth and Nail $9.99
Cloudstone Curio $2.99
Protean Hulk $2.99
Dragonstorm $2.49
Lotus Bloom $4.99

Modern Uncommons

These uncommons will see heavy play in Modern. I expect them all to sell/trade easier, and some will see price increases.

Spell Snare $3.99
Path to Exile $3.99
Lightning Helix $2.99
Punishing Fire $.49
Aether Vial $14.99
Merrow Reejerey $3.99
Silvergill Adept $1.99
Dryad Arbor $2.99
Eternal Witness $3.99

Parting Words

One of the points that I want to stress before getting out of here this week is that Modern is a nonrotating format. What this means is that your investment in the format can be preserved much like an investment in Legacy is preserved because the cards you buy will remain in the format.

Keep an eye on Standard rotation this year. The inertia of the years past will still drive rotating Standard staples prices down. This is a good time to pick them up for Modern. Some cards you might not have to wait until they rotate; you can get them cheap now before their potential is realized in Modern (I’m looking at you, Lotus Cobra).

I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for reading.