Well, then. Three Dog Night might have “Never Been to Spain,” but the eyes of the Magic community were laser-focused on Barcelona all weekend as the best players in the world duked it out in Mythic Championship IV. Modern is the most popular, most financially relevant competitive Constructed format in Magic right now. I couldn’t wait to see how things played out.
The tournament may have ended with Thoralf Severin defeating Alvaro Torres in a matchup of Mono-Green Tron against Hardened Scales, but the financial impact of Mythic Championship IV has only just begun. This week, I’ve decided to answer the six biggest questions that I have about the immediate future of Modern finance following the weekend’s events. And, naturally, we have to start in the most obvious – and perhaps, the most important – place.
1. Will Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis Get Banned?
I began writing this section after Day 1 of the Mythic Championship, with the intent of revising and adding to it based on what happened Saturday and Sunday. From where I was sitting on Friday evening, I didn’t know if Hogaak would flame out on Day 2 or utterly dominate the Top 8. I didn’t know yet, because I was still in the past. Even still, I was already incredibly confident that Hogaak would be banned, and soon.
The problem was already crystal-clear after just one day of results. Not only did Hogaak make up a full 20% of the Day 1 field in Barcelona – about twice the usual rate for the most-popular deck at a Modern Mythic Championship – but it had a better-than-average Day 2 conversion rate.
Even though only one copy of Hogaak made it into the Top 8, all the other numbers that came out of Barcelona scream “ban” to me. Hogaak had the best win rate of any Modern deck (looking at Modern rounds only, not Draft record). There were twenty decks that finished 8-2 or better in Modern, and over half of them were Hogaak – more than double the quantity you’d expect based on raw numbers. And this is with everybody in the room tuning their sideboards against Hogaak – it’s not like the threat wasn’t known. Heck, Leyline of the Void was the most-played card in Barcelona. These numbers are utterly wild.
I’m fully willing to admit that I was wrong when I thought that the Bridge from Below ban was the safe, correct, and prudent decision. I figured it would fix the problem without having to axe a card that was still available in current booster packs, which would make Modern Horizons buyers sad.
Unfortunately, the problem was Hogaak all along, and there’s no getting around it at this point.
- 3 Carrion Feeder
- 3 Golgari Thug
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 3 Insolent Neonate
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
I suppose that WotC could ban another enabler this time around, but that runs the risk of nerfing another innocent deck while still not solving the actual problem. I don’t think they’re going to make that mistake twice in a row. Hogaak is bad for Modern, and it won’t be legal for long.
I have no idea why Hogaak is going up in price this weekend when a ban seems so obvious to me. If you can, I’d sell your Hogaak staples into the spike ASAP. You know exactly what the floor is now – it’s what they were selling for right after Bridge from Below was banned a couple of weeks ago. Anything you can get above that is gravy.
Speaking of Bridge from Below, it will soon become kind of a neat little spec target. Once Hogaak is banned, the Modern community will be clamoring to get Bridge back because…well, it’s not like that card was close to getting banned before Hogaak came around, right? Bridge was as high as $18 pre-ban, and it’s down to $7 now. That’s not a ton of value, admittedly, but if it drops below $5 at any point, I’m probably going to snag a stack of them. At the very least, it seems like the kind of card that will double in price every time a major unban is telegraphed in Modern and nobody wants to miss out on the next big thing.
2. Will the Modern Metagame Remain This Top-Heavy?
The best part of Magic’s eternal formats is how wide-open and diverse they usually are. Oh, sure, there’s always going to be a consensus best deck followed by four to five second-tier options, but things tend to really open up after that. In fact, if you’re not playing in Modern events every month, it’s usually better to stick with a deck that you know rather than chasing the latest tech and playing suboptimally. Even when a deck like Selesnya Hexproof dips into the third or fourth tier of Modern playability, most casually competitive Selesnya Hexproof players are just going to stick with what they know. This is a big part of what makes Modern prices so stable.
#MythicChampionshipIV win rates for Modern rounds only. pic.twitter.com/0tT3UPGGZo
— MTGGoldfish (@MTGGoldfish) July 28, 2019
Mythic Championship IV still featured several dozen unique decks, but the metagame was far less diverse than it usually is at big Modern events. Just six decks represented over 60% of the Day 1 field, which is quite unusual. If this trend continues, we could see the market fall out of some pretty expensive cards that just aren’t seeing a ton of play right now.
My guess is that the expected Hogaak banning will fix this problem. When one deck makes up a full fifth of the Modern metagame, every other deck in the format needs a very clear plan to beat it. This is how to lose format diversity, especially since a lot of the rogue decks in Modern are simply trying to get their plan off first and Hogaak’s clock is just too quick for that. I feel like most folks are going to treat Hogaak like a dead deck walking, and there won’t be any panic-sales of Modern cards that didn’t show up much in Barcelona.
Of course, if WotC decides that Hogaak is fine…well, then I’d be a lot less excited about owning a whole bunch of third- and fourth-tier Modern staples.
3. Will We See Any Price Spikes for Mono-Green Tron or Hardened Scales Cards After Their Finals Appearances?
I was pretty surprised to see the non-Eldrazi version of Tron alongside Hardened Scales battling for the top two spots. After looking at the Day 1 numbers, I would have bet pretty good money that at least one of the Top 6 most-played decks would show up in the finals instead of two brews that felt a bit like also-rans heading into Mythic Championship IV.
Fortunately for Torres and Severin, the other Top 8 decks were all tuned to beat Hogaak, which meant that they had to cut down on the artifact hate out of the sideboard. Less artifact hate is great news for decks like Mono-Green Tron and Hardened Scales. And once Martin Muller and the last remaining Hogaak deck were booted out in the quarterfinals, the stage was set for a slightly unusual finals.
- 4 Welding Jar
- 4 Ancient Stirrings
- 4 Mox Opal
- 2 Throne of Geth
- 4 Hardened Scales
- 1 Evolutionary Leap
- 3 Animation Module
If you’re expecting either of these decks to suddenly see a spike in either value or popularity, though, I’d urge caution. Mono-Green Tron had a below-average win rate overall in Spain, and it still seems like Eldrazi Tron was the better deck to bring. Hardened Scales actually had a pretty solid event, but Affinity has been a known tier deck in Modern since the format’s inception, and I can’t imagine it’ll be hit with a ton of nascent demand thanks to this event. Only four people even brought it to Barcelona, and it was looking close to DOA after Day 1. A Hogaak ban might help a bit, but it would also likely lead to more sideboard artifact hate, so the trade-off has some downside, too.
While I don’t expect any price increases here, these finals appearances might be closer to a reprieve for a couple of decks that looked poised to lose value over the next few months. Affinity has a number of expensive cards that don’t see play anywhere else right now, like Arcbound Ravager and Inkmoth Nexus. The fact that the deck did well at the Mythic Championship likely means that these cards aren’t in any immediate danger of dropping out of the metagame entirely, which could cause a pretty serious price crash. So even though it might seem like these finals appearances didn’t amount to much from a finance perspective, a lack of movement can sometimes be just as meaningful.
4. Are There Any Undervalued Cards in Modern’s Second-Tier Decks?
One of the things I like about large Modern events is the clarity that it brings to Modern’s tier lists. This was especially true with the top-heavy Mythic Championship IV, as we discussed earlier. Hogaak was far and away the most popular deck on Day 1, with 98 pilots, but there was a clear second tier as well. Jund, Azorius Control, Humans, Eldrazi Tron, and Izzet Phoenix all had between 36 and 48 players on Day 1, while the next-most-played deck, Grixis Urza, had just nineteen players. Tier breaks don’t get much clearer than that.
This list of second tier decks shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone who follows Modern very closely. In Gerry Thompson’s Mythic Championship Called Shots article last week, he correctly guessed the six most popular decks in Barcelona, only whiffing on the fact that Hogaak ended up having the largest share of the metagame by far.
My point is, it’s not like any of these second-tier decks came out of nowhere, which is bad news for those of us who are hoping to speculate on shifts in the Modern metagame. The headline “Decks that we already know are good? They’re still good.” rarely leads to too many price spikes.
That said, there are some cards in these decks that seem worth a second look.
For one thing, Wrenn and Six performed super-well all weekend long, justifying all the hype it has collected over the past several weeks. Golgari Midrange decks were doing pretty well before Modern Horizons dropped, but Wrenn and Six pushed those decks back into red and now Jund is once again a top-tier strategy in Modern. The metagame switch away from Mono-Green Tron toward Eldrazi Tron has also helped Jund re-emerge, and I expect it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Wrenn and Six is already the most expensive Modern Horizons card by far, but it still has some room to grow. The price on MTGO has climbed about twenty tickets over the past few days, which is always a good sign for the future of the paper price. While I can’t call a $90 card a buy, exactly, it’s worth knowing that this is going to remain one of the most expensive cards in Modern for a long time to come.
It’s also possible that other Jund staples will start to rise in price now that the deck has finally proven itself in a noteworthy tournament. Tarmogoyf has been steadily dropping in price for the past eighteen months now, but it might be time for the venerable old Lhurgoyf to get bought out and spike again. The same might go for Liliana of the Veil; she bottomed out last autumn and her price hasn’t moved in a while, but she’s now being played in a top-tier deck for the first time since last summer. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s due for a $20-$30 jump at some point soon.
5. Now That We’ve Had the First Modern Mythic Championship Since Its Release, Which Modern Horizons Staples Should We Buy Into?
There will be some Modern Horizons packs opened over the next few months, but the majority of Modern Horizons cards that will ever be printed are already in circulation. And even though prices seem high right now, it’s quite likely that there will be a nice little lull in Magic prices between now and mid-September where you’ll be able to snag whatever staples you want at a discount. This likely represents your best window for buying whichever Modern Horizons staples you think you’ll need. Well, at least until they’re reprinted in some future set in two to three years.
We’ve talked about both Hogaak and Wrenn and Six already, but they were far from the only Modern Horizons cards to make an impact in Barcelona. Plague Engineer, Force of Negation, and Force of Vigor were also incredibly popular over the weekend, and all three of those cards seem poised for long-term success in the format.
Plague Engineer (sold out at $10) is going to be playable as long as Humans remains in the format, and I don’t expect that deck to wane in popularity anytime soon. The fact that Plague Engineer can be run in the maindeck and it is randomly great against rogue decks like Elves and Merfolk means that it’s going to be a $15-$20 format staple for years to come.
Force of Negation (sold out at $45) is worth considering whenever combo decks are good in Modern, which means that it’s always going to be at least a little bit relevant. Most of the Azorius Control and Izzet Phoenix mages have adopted at least two to three of these between their maindeck and sideboard, and I don’t see that changing unless WotC gets really aggressive with their ban hammer. I can easily imagine this one ending up being a $60+ card.
In the same vein, Force of Vigor (sold out at $8) has proven itself a format staple as well. Even though Affinity was basically a non-factor in Barcelona, this card was all over the place, taking out stray artifacts and Leylines in just about every deck that was equipped to cast it. As with Plague Engineer, I expect this one to end up in the $15 range at least. Force of Vigor is going to see play as long as artifacts remain a big deal in Modern, and I’d hate to be on the other side of that gamble.
I haven’t heard too many people talking about it, but Prismatic Vista (sold out at $30) feels like one of the breakout hits of the tournament to me. When it was previewed, the land looked more like a suboptimal Commander-ish fetchland than a future tournament staple, but I saw quite a few decks in Barcelona running two to three copies of Prismatic Vista in everything from Azorius Control to Goblins. I expect this card to hit the $50-$60 mark at some point in the next year, putting it more in line with the moderately priced Zendikar fetchlands.
I’m a little less certain about the short-term future of the Horizon lands. They did see some play at Mythic Championship IV, but probably not enough to justify their current $14-$23 price tags. As some of these other Modern Horizons cards continue to climb in value, I wouldn’t be shocked to see these lands come down a bit, possibly settling in closer to the $10-$15 range. I’m definitely a buyer at that price – in fact, I’d buy quite a few copies at or around $10 – but I expected bigger things for these lands in Barcelona. Thanks to the make-up of the current Modern metagame, they’re still outclassed by the Scars of Mirrodin and Kaladesh fastlands in most decks.
6. Will Any Cards Spike Due to Mythic Championship IV’s New or Rogue Decks?
Even though Mythic Championship IV was a top-heavy event, there were still a couple of interesting new brews that I expect to be recreated at smaller events all over the country.
I’m a pretty big fan of Mardu Pyromancers, an upgrade on the old Mardu Pyromancer deck that has gained a lot from recent sets. It uses Modern Horizons and War of the Spark cards like Dreadhorde Arcanist, Lightning Skelemental, Prismatic Vista, Smiting Helix, and, of course, Seasoned Pyromancer to pretty great effect, and it put up respectable numbers all weekend long.
Of these, Seasoned Pyromancer (sold out at $35) is the clear winner. It’s not all that obscure, of course – I could have easily written about it in the last section thanks to all the play it sees in Jund as well – but I wanted to cover it here so that I could highlight the fact that it’s a good enough card to prop up an entirely new archetype in addition to the work it does in Jund. As with the other solid Modern Horizons cards we talked about earlier, I’d suggest snagging a set in a month or two when the Modern market is a little softer. This card will be a pretty important staple for a long time, though.
The more obscure card here is Lightning Skelemental (sold out at $6), which has been seeing more and more play over the past couple of months. In fact, it’s been gaining about a dollar a week over the past four to five weeks, which is a sure sign of a card with a solid base of real-world demand. Even if Mardu Pyromancers doesn’t end up being Lightning Skelemental’s forever home, I suspect this will be one of those deceptively powerful cards that’ll be $10-$15 at some point despite having the look of a $2-$3 rare. I’d snag a set ASAP, especially if you can get them at last week’s price.
The other exciting rogue deck of the weekend was Goblins, another brew that has gained a lot of pieces over the past few weeks. While only a couple of players brought Goblins to Barcelona and neither did amazingly well, the deck looked good enough on camera that I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a decent spike in demand for our little red friends over the next few weeks. A lot of people have been waiting a long time for Goblins to be even remotely viable in Modern, and Mythic Championship IV will be the green light for a lot of them.
The good news about Goblins is that it’s a pretty cheap deck other than the manabase, relying on a lot of uncommons like Goblin Matron, Munitions Expert, and Goblin Warchief. Those foils are likely to see a price increase, though that’s more of a long-term play. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see some movement from Aether Vial and Thoughtseize, two cards that already see quite a bit of play in the current Modern metagame. An additional deck relying on these staples puts pressure on the available supply, which could cause a price spike. I’m certainly glad I have my own personal playsets of each, and I’d feel quite safe trading for these at current retail.
This Week’s Trends
Core Set 2020 Standard prices have remained relatively flat for the fourth week running, which is par for the course in late July. The six to eight weeks between mid-July and early September are the quietest part of the calendar when it comes to Magic finance, and that goes double for Standard. Between the nice weather and the imminent set rotation, people just aren’t paying much attention to shifts in the Standard metagame.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any Standard cards increasing in price. Scapeshift jumped a couple of bucks after dominating at MagicFest Denver, and it is now sitting at the top of the Core Set 2020 Standard metagame. Ditto for Field of the Dead, which has started showing up in Modern and Legacy as well as in the Core Set 2020 Standard Bant Scapeshift deck. Even though Scapeshift is rotating in the fall, the card is going to maintain a pretty high level of demand going forward due to its playability in Modern, so it’s a fairly safe buy.
At just $2.50, Field of the Dead is an even better buy. It’s not often that you can get a playset of a rare land that’s relevant in multiple formats for just $10 retail, especially considering how much of a bust Core Set 2020 has been so far. I’ve bought a personal set of these already, and I’m trading for them pretty aggressively at current retail.
I wouldn’t sleep on Shifting Ceratops, either. Jund Dinosaurs won’t survive rotation, but this annoying Dinosaur is showing up in pretty much every green-based deck in Core Set 2020 Standard right now. That’ll remain true after rotation, too, when the available supply of Core Set 2020 will remain incredibly low next to what I assume will be an absurdly popular fall set. Shifting Ceratops is up to $6 right now, but I bet it’ll be over $10 by mid-October.
Hasbro released their Q2 earnings last week, which is always an interesting window into Magic’s overall profitability. Even though Hasbro’s profits were down overall, it was yet another terrific quarter for Magic, which is one of the company’s hottest brands right now. Magic Arena continues to be a massive money-maker for WotC, so don’t expect them to pull their focus back from that client any time soon. Hasbro’s focus on digital Magic is here to stay.
Speaking of big-picture talk, there was a decent amount of doom-and-gloom chatter on social media this week, largely driven by the lack of information about next year’s pro Magic scene as well as low attendance at MagicFest Denver. For my money, the Denver numbers don’t matter much at all. Summer Standard attendance is always low, and the event was competing with ComicCon in San Diego, which drew thousands of Magic players. The MagicFest main events have also begun to take a back seat to side events now that there’s very little video coverage, so this seems like it has more to do with shifts in how people approach tournaments than anything apocalyptic.
This was my last event as a member of CFB. Not sure what’s next for me but will be spending the remainder of the summer spending time with my family figuring it out. Looking forward to whatever’s next.
— Michael Sigrist (@MSigrist83) July 27, 2019
I’m a little more frustrated with the lack of clear communication out of WotC about how they’re going to approach Organized Play in 2020, but the fact of the matter is that they probably don’t know yet. Considering how rushed all the changes felt to the 2019 schedule once Arena took off last fall, I wouldn’t be surprised if WotC is still frantically trying to figure out what they want Pro Magic to look like in the esports era. All of this is deeply frustrating, especially to folks who are trying to fulfill that Mythic Championship dream, but as always, I’m not even close to selling off my collection. Professional Magic will live on in some form as long as there’s a demand for it, and Magic overall is doing quite well right now. I’m not panicking.
Also in the “frustrating news” department, it looks like the price for sealed product in the European Union is going up. I’ve seen multiple reports from European vendors claiming that they will have to pay about ten euros more per booster box starting with the fall expansion, which means that European players will likely have to pay a bit more per pack starting in October. I can’t give you any concrete numbers since there is no more official MSRP, and this increase does not appear to be affecting other regions yet. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the average pack price does go up at some point over the next year or so. It has been a long time since booster packs have increased in price, and that streak is going to come to an end sooner or later.