When Jace, the Mind Sculptor was unbanned back in February, I was shocked.
Modern was already a diverse and excellent format-why throw a Jace-shaped
wrench at it? Best case, I figured, Modern would gain a couple of extra
cool decks. Worst case, Jace gets re-banned and everyone who bought in for
$80+ a copy gets hosed.
We’re about six weeks in now, and it seems like WotC’s gamble paid off.
Modern is as diverse as ever, only now there’s an additional chase card for
us to obsess over. You can’t blame me for being skeptical after R&D’s
recent string of power level woes in Standard, but I’m pretty happy that
they got this one right.
Modern may still be sweet, but it’s a different format than it was back at
the start of 2018. Some of the Modern’s formerly hot decks aren’t nearly as
good as they used to be, while some long-forgotten strategies have been
making a comeback. Which Modern staples are still on the rise, and which
have seen their influence drop? Let’s find out.
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 1 Dark Confidant
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Mirran Crusader
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
- 1 Dire Fleet Daredevil
If I had to choose a top deck in Modern right now, it would probably be
Humans. It’s the second most popular deck on MTGO, Steve Locke used it to
take down Grand Prix Phoenix, and it just finished second at Grand Prix
Kyoto. Humans isn’t utterly dominant in the way that some top Modern decks
have been in the past, but we have to start somewhere, right?
The key card in Humans is Noble Hierarch, which also sees play in Counters
Company, Infect, R/G Eldrazi, and a few other second and third tier Modern
lists. Humans is the primary reason why Noble Hierarch has been the biggest
Modern gainer of the past couple weeks, though, and the staple is now sold
out at $85.
Is Noble Hierarch the first new addition to the top tier of Modern staples
in a while? I think so. My guess is that it’ll stabilize around $80, though
another high finish could cause a spike past $100. Selling into the current
hype is totally fine because the overall Modern index is inflated at the
moment, but I don’t think that Noble Hierarch is mispriced compared to the
rest of the format. It’s a very good card, and the demand here is real.
I haven’t seen a lot of secondary spikes thanks to Humans’ continued
dominance, though a lot of these cards have spiked several times over the
past six months, thanks to the deck’s strong recent track record. If any of
the other high end staples are going to make a move, my money’s on Aether
Vial and Meddling Mage. They’re too expensive for me to recommend
speculating on, but I’m fine trading into them at current retail.
I’d also consider snapping up foil copies of Kitesail Freebooter and Dire
Fleet Daredevil while Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan are
still in print. I’m already seeing movement on non-foil copies of Dire
Fleet Daredevil thanks to the amount of Modern play it’s seeing, and the
next iteration of Standard might cause that card to spike soon. Regardless,
these are low-risk, slow burn plays that I rather like right now.
Jund was the hottest deck on MTGO for most of late February and early
March, a trend that proved spicy enough to spike Dark Confidant, Liliana of
the Veil, and Tarmogoyf as players rushed to cast their Bloodbraid Elves
for the first time in years.
The Jund hype has fallen off pretty hard after that initial rush, though.
Jund is still the most played Modern deck on MTGO, but that wave has begun
to recede in recent days as demand for the deck’s top-tier staples have
begun to fall off. Liliana of the Veil and Dark Confidant both lost value
this week, though neither card is even close to where it was before the
Bloodbraid Elf unbanning. More importantly, Jund did not make the top 16 at
the SCG Modern Classic last weekend and it underperformed in Phoenix
despite a second place finish. Is it possible that we all overrated Jund in
the wake of the Bloodbraid Elf unbanning?
Sort of. I prefer the theory that Jund is currently dealing with an
inordinate amount of hate, thanks to its current status as the most popular
deck in Modern.
Todd Stevens backs me up on this
, though he also points out that the deck doesn’t have any truly great
My guess is that Jund remains a top ten deck in Modern, but that’s a really
low bar considering that Jund is currently about a thousand dollars more
expensive (!) than the next best deck in the format. That feels
unsustainable to me. I’m fading all the main Jund staples at their current
prices, and I’d be thrilled to get anything close to current retail for my
Dark Confidants and Tarmogoyfs right now. My guess is that these cards will
all be 20-30% lower by midsummer.
- 4 Street Wraith
- 4 Bloodghast
- 3 Gurmag Angler
- 4 Flamewake Phoenix
- 1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
- 4 Flameblade Adept
- 4 Hollow One
It took everybody a couple of weeks for people to realize that B/R Hollow
One was a real deck, and I think that some people are still struggling with
the idea that this is actually one of the best decks in Modern. If it was
too high variance to be good or it was easy to hate out of the format,
those things would have happened by now. Instead, B/R Hollow One continues
to put up high finishes on a consistent basis.
Now that we know the deck is good, how high can Goblin Lore actually go?
Hollow One’s marquee card seems to find a new plateau every couple of
weeks, and I suspect it’ll be restocked at a higher rate than its current
$22 price tag. $30 seems more reasonable, but it could spike past $40 if
B/R Hollow One takes down a major tournament. Bloodghast could end up back
in the $25 range again soon, too, and Engineered Explosives is already on
the march toward $70-$80.
I’m a little less excited about Flamewake Phoenix and Hollow One since the
supply is so much higher than, say, Blackcleave Cliffs and Goblin Lore, but
both still feel a tad underpriced to me. Much like with the newer cards in
Humans, I’ll trade for these and current retail and target underpriced
foils when possible.
Some people (myself included) figured that Jace, the Mind Sculptor would
massively improve Jeskai Control, and we’d end up in a metagame where four
copies of Jace and four copies of Snapcaster Mage were the default starting
point for the inevitable best deck. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. For
one, there are too many decks in the format with a good matchup against
control. Also, we’ve learned in recent days that the correct number of
Jaces is closer to two than four.
Jace has proven to be a crucial part of the metagame, though, and card
scarcity plus the planeswalker’s truly iconic nature should keep its price
in the $100 range for a while. Jace’s price tag has leveled off in the days
since the Masters 25 release, both in paper and on MTGO, and it
sees enough play to sustain that value going forward. Feel free to buy or
sell your Jaces at current retail without much fear.
As for the other cards in the deck, it might be worth snapping up a few
extra copies of Supreme Verdict. The card is pretty low right now, thanks
to Iconic Masters, and it sees play in Jeskai Control as well as a
newer breed of U/W Control decks that have been popping up lately; see
Akira Tanaka’s 4th place finish at Grand Prix Kyoto
. That deck also runs Dragonlord Ojutai, which is an intriguing spec in its
own right. The fact that Dragonlord Ojutai is great in Commander gives it a
fairly low floor, though I suspect that this cycle will be back in one of
the next couple of Masters sets.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 3 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Dwynen's Elite
- 1 Selfless Spirit
- 1 Vizier of Remedies
Elves isn’t anywhere near the most-played Modern decks on MTGO, but Brent
Clift won the SCG Classic last weekend with a G/W variant and I’ve seen
some nifty G/R versions with Bloodbraid Elf running around as well.
Gilt-Leaf Palace has skyrocketed on MTGO in recent months, but I don’t love
it as a paper play since I’m not sure that the G/B variant of Elves is the
one to beat.
Collected Company seems like a pretty solid buy regardless, though. Not
only is Collected Company good in Elves, but it sees play in Counters
Company, Bant Company, Knightfall, and even some Humans builds. It’s one of
the few Modern staples not to surge in recent weeks, despite the fact that
it wasn’t reprinted and it seems fairly well positioned in the current
meta. If the right deck spikes an event this spring, this $17 card could
hit $35 overnight.
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 4 Ornithopter
- 2 Master of Etherium
- 2 Steel Overseer
- 2 Memnite
- 3 Etched Champion
- 4 Signal Pest
- 3 Vault Skirge
- 1 Hope of Ghirapur
PSA: Affinity is still good. It was good the day Modern was announced, it’s
good now, and it will be good next week. I guess Mox Opal and Arcbound
Ravager have some room to gain value, but I think most of the heat will be
around Modern’s newer, sexier decks. Affinity staples are good places to
“park” value if you want to trade out of riskier cards, though, so it’s
worth reiterating that Affinity’s stability will likely remain unchallenged
Lantern Control has fallen way off since the unbannings. Remember how a
large chunk of the player base was calling for a Lantern banning after Pro
Tour Rivals of Ixalan? They didn’t get their wish, but they
probably won’t have to face off against Lantern Control regardless.
The good news for those of you who own this deck is that most of the good
cards in Lantern Control are also good in other decks-Ancient Stirrings,
Thoughtseize, and Mox Opal see plenty of play, for example. The
Lantern-exclusive staples are almost certainly overpriced right now.
Mishra’s Bauble, Lantern of Insight, Ensnaring Bridge, and even Darkslick
Shores look poised to drop off over the coming months. The overall Modern
bull market has kept this crash from happening so far, but unless the
metagame becomes more Lantern friendly over the next few weeks, I think
we’ll see a fairly significant drop at some point this summer.
The existence of Bloodbraid Elf and the fact that another top deck (Jund)
can run Fulminator Mage hurts Tron, but its favorable matchup versus the
Jace-based control decks helps it. I’m a little worried at the lack of top
Tron finishes lately, but I suspect that has more to do with Jund’s
overrepresentation in the metagame due to unban excitement than Tron’s lack
of ability to compete with the format’s best current decks. Once things
settle down a bit more, I think Tron will settle back into Modern’s top
Unfortunately, there aren’t many good financial deals to be had here in the
meantime. Karn Liberated and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger have both spiked
in recent days, and Grove of the Burnwillows has started trending upward as
well. World Breaker and Kozilek’s Return are probably worth snagging in
low-end trades and holding for a while, but neither card has a very
exciting short-term ceiling.
The fact that Lightning Bolt has become Modern’s dominant removal spell
should have helped Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher continue to
dominate, but the overall metagame simply hasn’t been friendly for this
deck since well before the unbannings. Eldrazi Tron is solidly third tier
at this point, and I don’t think too many people are looking to buy in
While some versions of Mono-Green Tron do run Thought-Knot Seer, and
Chalice of the Void shows up in Legacy, I’m bearish on the short-term
future for both cards. Much like with Ensnaring Bridge, I’m especially
unsure how Chalice of the Void will recover from its Masters 25
printing without its primary deck being a major part of the metagame. I’m
selling, even though its price is relatively low at the moment.
- 2 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 3 Inferno Titan
- 1 Courser of Kruphix
- 2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
- 4 Tireless Tracker
On the flipside, G/R Land Destruction is a deck on the rise. It hasn’t had
too many high finishes since winning the Modern Open in Dallas back in
early March, but I suspect it’ll end up kicking around Modern’s second tier
for a while. At the very least, it’s the sort of cool unique strategy that
will always be popular among a certain style of Magic player, regardless of
how well-positioned it is.
G/R Land Destruction is the biggest reason why Tireless Tracker has tripled
in price over the past couple of weeks, though there haven’t been too many
other spikes here. Birds of Paradise certainly has some room to grow, and
Inferno Titan is one of my favorite low-risk spec targets right now. The
card is up to 16 tickets on MTGO, but they’re still just $3 in paper. The
additional Commander printings hurt, certainly, but the discrepancy
shouldn’t be this big. If people keep playing G/R Land Destruction, and I
think they will, then Inferno Titan could break $10 quite easily.
- 4 Rancor
- 4 Daybreak Coronet
- 2 Path to Exile
- 2 Hyena Umbra
- 4 Spider Umbra
- 4 Leyline of Sanctity
- 2 Spirit Mantle
- 4 Ethereal Armor
- 1 Gryff's Boon
- 1 Cartouche of Solidarity
Welcome back from the dead, G/W Hexproof! Daybreak Coronet was down to $5
after its Modern Masters 2015 reprint, but the resurgence of G/W
Hexproof brought it back up to a sold-out $18. Leyline of Sanctity also
spiked a little, but probably not enough considering how good this deck is
right now. Kor Spiritdancer and Slippery Bogle haven’t really budged yet,
and both cards have plenty of room to run. If G/W Hexproof takes down
another major event, Kor Spiritdancer could jump from $8 to $30. I’m a big
fan of snagging these ASAP at current retail.
Grixis Death’s Shadow was tier one for so long that it’s hard to believe
that this one is probably tier two at best right now. Its most expensive
cards-Thoughtseize, Kolghan’s Command, Snapcaster Mage, and the
manabase-all have several other homes, but I’m a lot more bearish on
Death’s Shadow’s immediate future than I was a couple of months ago when I
called it a solid buy. I expect Death’s Shadow will have a comeback at some
point, but its eponymous card might fall off quite a bit between now and
Check out Ben Weitz’s guide to the deck if you haven’t yet
, but his central thesis is that Ironworks Combo is good in a Jund-centric
format and bad with too many copies of Stony Silence and Rest in Peace
running around. My guess is that this brief resurgence in Ironworks’
popularity will wane now that the percentage of people playing Jund is
dropping, but I’ve been wrong about this stuff before.
For me, most speculation around this deck begins with its namesake card.
Krark-Clan Ironworks is sold out at $8 right now, and it’s a $30+ card if
this deck ascends into Modern’s top tier. That’s not a bet I’m willing to
make, but it’s worth keeping on your radar.
U/R Gifts Storm is a house right now, putting up some of the quickest
goldfish kills in Modern alongside some top finishes at recent events
including the SCG Team Open in Cincinnati. It’s also one of the cheapest
decks in the format; Steam Vents is the most expensive card you have to run
and you can find those for less than $20 each.
Baral, Chief of Compliance, Sleight of Hand, Manamorphose, Remand, and
Gifts Ungiven are all probably due for a bump in value. I get that
speculating on Storm is risky, since WotC is likely to ban something if the
deck gets too good, but almost everything from this deck is underpriced
relative to the amount of play it sees and the results it keeps putting up.
Remand and Manamorphose should be $15 cards at least, and Baral has a
bright future. Storm is tough to play, of course, and it’s not for
everybody, but if I had to buy a Modern deck from scratch right now, this
would be it.
The overall state of Modern hasn’t really changed that much since before
the unbannings. Getting the correct matchups is still the most important
factor to doing well at a Modern tournament, so the metagame is likely to
a four-dimensional game of Rock Paper Scissors
for the foreseeable future. You can play any of about thirty different
decks, and an intimate knowledge of lines, matchup strategies, and correct
sideboarding is going to take you a lot farther than simply herding toward
the “best” deck. Other than the decks I wrote about today, I could have
- Ad Nauseam
- Bant Knightfall
- Blue Moon
- Bring to Light
- Counters Company
- G/W Hatebears
- Mardu Pyromancer
- Sultai Midrange
- U/R Control
Even though Modern is still awesome, I expect that we’re at or close to
2018’s financial peak. Historically, Eternal prices tend to peak in the
early spring. It’s tax return season, the weather isn’t great yet, Standard
is usually in a bit of a doldrums. We’ve also just had a Modern Pro Tour, a
Masters set release, and the biggest unbanning in the format’s history. I
suppose it’s possible that Modern will remain this hot all year long, and
some prices will certainly keep gaining, but I expect the overall format
index to tail off a bit over the next couple of months.
I’m not saying that you should sell out of Modern-it’s Magic’s best, most
popular format, after all-but if you have any extra copies of key staples
that you’re looking to part with, this is a good time to do it. At the very
least, you don’t want to be selling in mid-August when prices tend to flag
with the summer heat. I also wouldn’t buy now unless you need the cards for
an upcoming event. Prices should be down at least 10% across the board this
summer, and I expect that most of the Jund staples will drop even more than
This Week’s Trends
Even though Dominaria previews have started to trickle in, the
Standard market is about as dead as I’ve ever seen it. The only
Standard-legal card gaining value right now is Dire Fleet Daredevil, and
that movement is almost entirely due to the role it plays in Modern Humans.
The good news, I suppose, is that prices aren’t really dropping, either. No
Standard card dropped more than a couple of cents this week, and the
format’s prices are basically in hibernation until we get a better sense of
what Dominaria is going to bring to the format.
One thing we can say for certain is that Dominaria‘s “Wizards
matter” cards seem pushed for Standard. Most of the format’s currently
powerful Wizards are from the rotating Amonkhet and Kaladesh blocks, but cards like Baral, Chief of Compliance and
Soul-Scar Mage might see brief spikes in a couple of weeks when people
first start brewing those decks. Timestream Navigator might finally get its
moment in the sun, too.
Now that the NDA has dropped on Arena, I can talk freely about my
experience with the new digital client. The interface is actually pretty
awesome, and it feels a lot more like actual Magic than, say, Duels of the
Planeswalkers did. I’m still not sure if it’s capable of fully recreating
all the crazy ways that a game of Magic can go-
one Redditor reports that infinite combos are more or less impossible
-but there’s nothing about Arena that makes me believe a future version
won’t be capable of recreating at least 99% of all potential game states in
Standard and Modern.
Oh the other hand, Arena’s economy is frustrating. Wild
cards don’t show up nearly enough, and the daily grind feels positively
sluggish, compared to games like Hearthstone and Eternal. I get that WotC
doesn’t want to be too liberal with their pack distribution since it would
make spending $3.99 for a paper pack feel like a rip-off if Arena packs
were too easy to unlock, but right now it looks like your options will be
limited to “play for free and resign yourself to something pretty janky” or
“spend a significant amount of actual money for a tier deck.” If WotC
sticks with this model, it might keep Arena from catching on as quickly as
I’d been hoping it would. The financial upshot here is that I’m even more
bullish about the next 2-3 years of MTGO. I still think it’s likely that
everything ends up on Arena eventually, but that’s probably not happening
either this year or next.