The Modern Series: Planar Chaos

Chas Andres loves looking deep into the finance of mostly-forgotten Modern-legal Magic sets, and you love reading them! So he’s providing more of the excellent same here, along with some very strange trends in the post-Christmas card market!

What’s that? After almost a year off, we get two Modern Series columns in the same month? Heck yeah! Not only is Time Spiral block one of my favorites, but the end of the year is a great time to take a look at these sets. When there isn’t much happening in the world of Magic finance, I love to point my flashlight at the dusty corners of Modern and see what I can turn up. Modern prices are likely to rise in the first half of 2017, and I’d like to head off some of those juicy spec buys before they’re discovered by the world at large.

If you are unfamiliar with this article series, take a look at my Time Spiral installment from a couple of weeks ago before you read this one. Basically, my goal is to avoid the reactionary hype-driven cycle of Magic finance “hot takes” by recapping Modern sets that aren’t necessarily in the spotlight. Not only is it good for finding hidden gems and potential busts, it helps shed some light on cards that you know are valuable but you’re not quite sure why. Is Big Game Hunter better trade throw-in than Rebuff the Wicked? Why or why not? Today, we’re going to cover all that and more.

Planar Chaos at a glance

Planar Chaos was released in January of 2007. As we discussed last time, Time Spiral was a very polarizing block that was beloved by many entrenched players but alienating for newcomers. WotC generally considers it a major misstep, though I was a pretty big fan of the set back in the day.

Time Spiral was a time travel block thematically, and Planar Chaos represented a chaotic alternate present—think Biff Tannen’s seedy casino in Back to the Future Part II or America in 2016. As such, cards in Planar Chaos were allowed to break the color pie in ways that were forbidden every other set. Seriously: go and have a look at the visual spoiler if you aren’t familiar with the expansion. This was a world where green got to draw cards (gasp!), white was able to counter spells, and black could tap down opposing creatures.

Much like the timeshifted cards in Time Spiral, Planar Chaos had an additional “planeshifted” slot that included functional reprints of existing cards shifted to a different color. The marquee spell was Damnation, a planeshifted Wrath of God, which was previewed on DailyMTG over the winter holidays in order to create hype for the set. Planeshifted commons were distributed at random, but packs had a planeshifted slot that either featured a planeshifted uncommon or rare (at a 3:1 ratio).

While most of these planeshifted cards never made much of a Constructed impact, many of the ones that did still reverberate through the world of Magic. Many of Planar Chaos‘ spells are still unique in how seriously they warp the color pie, and they will likely remain that way for as long as the game exists. Cards in Planar Chaos are difficult to reprint for much the same reason—WotC does not want to keep breaking the color pie, even in Modern Masters sets, and because of that many of these cards have avoided a reprint for almost a decade.

That said, Planar Chaos (aside from one very particular card) is not an especially valuable set. WotC may regret Planar Chaos, but they dodged several bullets by not going any deeper into their color pie bending binge.

Planar Chaos sealed product is quite expensive, mostly because of how scarce it is. Boxes are $450, and boosters are long sold out at $14 each. While Planar Chaos isn’t the most exciting Limited set, Time Spiral block is a pretty beloved Draft format overall. At half a grand for a box, though, I have to imagine that most people buying these are doing so in order to keep it sealed as a collectors’ item.

The Most Expensive Cards in Planar Chaos

Damnation – $64.99

Damnation is not only the most important card in Planar Chaos, it’s the eighth most expensive card in the entire Modern format. In fact, I’d trade a copy of every other card in Planar Chaos for a single Damnation—without hesitation.

This price tag has a lot more to do with a lack of supply than a surge of demand, though. Damnation does see Modern play, but it is almost always as a sideboard one-of in decks like Jund, Grixis Control, Scapeshift, and Abzan. Most Modern players need one copy of Damnation, but almost nobody needs a full playset.

Because of that, a Modern Masters Damnation reprint might cause the card to take a pretty serious tumble. Price memory would probably keep it above $30, but it would probably take a surge in casual demand to keep it there. That isn’t out of the question, though—Commander players are probably just as responsible for keeping Damnation expensive as Modern players are, if not more so.

Regardless, most of Damnation’s value comes from the fact that it has never been reprinted outside of a judge foil and an MPR textless variant. Most other expensive cards from this era have been reprinted two or three times, making this card stand out like a sore thumb. I’m pretty sure that WotC hates this card for breaking the color pie in such a flagrant way, but I still think that they’ll reprint it in a Masters set sooner or later. Sell all but one of your copies before then.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth – $11.99

Urborg shows up all over Modern and Legacy, seeing play in Ad Nauseam, B/G Depths, Eldrazi, Stax, 8-Rack, Abzan, and Jund. And despite its legendary status, some decks do run this as a four-of—though that happens more often in Legacy decks that want to combo off on turn 2 or 3. In Modern, making sure you can actually play all of the lands you draw is a tad more crucial.

Urborg saw a major (buyout-related) spike from $8 to $25 last winter, and it’s been slowly dropping back down ever since. It still sees a bunch of Eternal play, though, and while $25 was ambitious I still think it can support a higher price than $12. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth has only been printed three times—From the Vault: Realms, Planar Chaos, and M15—and it’s a specific enough land that it will be hard to reprint again, even in the Masterpiece series. I expect Urborg to hit $20+ again before it is reprinted.

Boom//Bust – $8.99

Boom//Bust is a really intriguing spec for a variety of reasons. First, it is a very difficult card to reprint thanks to the fact that it’s a split card. Boom//Bust is also a fairly powerful land destruction spell, which is something that WotC has been shying away from in recent sets. While no Modern card is truly safe from being reprinted, I don’t think this is a likely Modern Masters or Commander 20XX inclusion.

Second, Boom//Bust combos pretty well with Yahenni’s Expertise, especially if you’re trying to wipe the board (except for your one big creature, of course) and cast an Armageddon at the same time. I’m still doubtful that this is a viable tier one strategy, but somebody’s going to try, right? And if that somebody is Saffron Olive, Boom//Bust will triple in price overnight.

Lastly, Boom//Bust is protected from being too much of a bust because it actually does see a decent amount of Modern play right now. It’s a fringe card to be sure, but there are R/X, Grixis, and Mardu Control builds that run this as well as some Jund, Zoo, and W/R Prison variants. Much like Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Boom//Bust is a very safe spec target with some really nice upside.

Necrotic Sliver – $4.99

Some Modern Slivers builds run a couple copies of Necrotic Sliver, but its real value is in casual play where it is firmly ensconced in the top tier of kitchen table Slivers. Much like the better Time Spiral Slivers, this seems like one of the more interesting specs for when the popular tribe inevitably returns. Necrotic Sliver’s color identity makes it tough to reprint, and it has $8-$10 upside over the long haul. Just don’t hold out too much hope for a crazy spike thanks to tournament play—it would take a miracle for Slivers to become tier one in Modern.

Simian Spirit Guide – $4.99

I’m pretty astonished that Simian Spirit guide (which spiked to $12 last winter) avoided an Eternal Masters reprint, yet the card still ended up back at its pre-spike price of $5. If I didn’t think it wasn’t slated for a return in Modern Masters 2017 (albeit likely at uncommon, not common) I’d suggest that this was one of the more exciting spec buys on this list. After all, it sees play in Modern Ad Nauseam, W/R Prison, Through the Breach, Goryo’s Vengeance, some Dredge builds, and many of the format’s other unfair decks. It’s also a major player in Legacy.

I’m not totally off the boat on this card, though. Even a reprint (as long as it isn’t at common) should keep Simian Spirit Guide over $3, making it a decent hold with some upside. And if it doesn’t return in MM17 I can see Simian Spirit Guide spiking again this spring. Monitor that Modern Masters 2017 visual spoiler closely!

Extirpate – $3.99

It’s not exciting, but Extirpate seems like a very solid trade target at $4. The fact that it has a weird keyword and it was reprinted in a recent Masters set means that it could dodge another go-round for a few years, and Extirpate is one of those solid but unspectacular sideboard cards that sees enough play to maintain a fairly high floor. I certainly wouldn’t buy a massive stack of these, but at current retail Extirpate is the sort of card I’ll always target in trade.

Temporal Extortion – $3.99

Like all punisher cards, Temporal Extortion will never do what you need it to do. And because of that, I can’t imagine a world where it sees any competitive play. Casual mages love cards like this, though, and the fact that it’s an off-color TIme Warp variant with four black mana symbols in its cost makes it one of the more casual-friendly cards on this list.

Like all medium quality Time Warps, Temporal Extortion seems like a shoo-in to end up kicking around the $5 mark for years. I don’t think it has the juice to go higher, but it’s unique enough to stay above bulk.

Akroma, Angel of Fury – $3.49

Much like the white variant we talked about last week, Akroma, Angel of Fury is pretty much only a nostalgia play at the moment. The fact that it was reprinted in a Commander set as well as a From the Vault set isn’t helping matters, either. This card seems likely to bounce around between bulk at $5 depending on how often it is reprinted. Either way, finding a trade partner for these seems like it will remain difficult.

Braids, Conjurer Adept – $2.99

Braids, Conjurer Adept is the sort of creature that only gets better with time. The more powerful permanents are printed, the better you can build your deck around Braids’ unique effect. Braids is likely too small and fragile for competitive play, but showing up as a redundant combo piece isn’t out of the question. Her real value is in casual and Commander, however, where she’s a dangerous but powerful option. Braids’ price chart is robust, demand feels fairly organic, and supply is fairly low. I wouldn’t be surprised if she spikes to $8-$10 at some point in 2017.

Keen Sense – $2.99

Keen Sense has a home: Modern Hexproof decks. While the deck isn’t super popular at the moment, that could change at any point, making Keen Sense hard to ignore. My bigger concern is the fact that none of the lists seem to play more than 1-2 copies of Keen Sense these days, so there would have to be a pretty fundamental metagame change before this spec paid off. And in the meantime, it seems like a decent candidate to be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017. I’m staying away for now, but I’ll re-think that position if Keen Sense isn’t in MM17.

Big Game Hunter – $2.49

Here’s another card that spiked from bulk to $5 last year before slowly settling back toward a more sane figure. Remember, kids: always sell into hype!

At any rate, Big Game Hunter does see play in Modern, albeit in fairly small numbers. Abzan Company is the card’s main home, but it has appeared in the sideboard of various other Collected Company or Kiki Chord style decks as well. The madness ability makes it somewhat difficult to reprint, though a Modern Masters run would likely drop the price below a buck since its value is so supply dependent. I’ll pass on this one for now.

Porphyry Nodes – $2.49

Porphyry Nodes is much more powerful than its mana cost belies, but it needs the right deck and the right match-up. I’ve seen it show up in the occasional Thopter Control deck in Modern as well as in Modern Enduring Ideal, but not often. It used to see play in Legacy as well, though not as much anymore.

I doubt that Porphyry Nodes is even a blip on WotC’s reprint radar, so it’s a fairly safe reprint with a huge ceiling. Any spell this impactful for just one white mana is always going to be close to busting out, too. The odds of this one hitting are long, though, and Porphyry Nodes has gone mostly unplayed for almost a decade. It’s a fine buy if you like cards that have low risk and high upside, but it’s unlikely to pay off.

Rebuff the Wicked – $2.49

Rebuff the Wicked is another Commander gem that doesn’t feel easy to reprint. While white does get protection effects, “counter target spell” is generally not a phrase that shows up in its slice of the color pie. Any card this cheap is worth at least considering for competitive play too, though I can’t find too much evidence of Rebuff the Wicked making much of an impact in Modern so far.

Regardless, Rebuff the Wicked has a solid growth curve and it could end up continuing to climb toward $5. It won’t be a quick journey, though, there is a non-zero chance that this shows up in a Masters set at some point. Even still, I kind of like it as trade target at current retail.

Quick Thoughts on $2 Cards

Chronozoa – This is sort of a weird card, and it’s pretty decent in the grindiest of Commander games. Creatures keep getting better, though, and Chronozoa doesn’t have any of the combo potential that might portend a breakout. A solid meh.

Gaea’s Anthem Glorious Anthems tend to be a bit better than Gaea’s Anthem these days, and the best ones have creatures attached to them like Angel of Invention. Some token-based Commander decks run this, but there are better choices to make most of the time.

Groundbreaker – Believe it or not, I have seen a few Modern G/R Aggro decks that run a full playset of these. There’s a tiny chance it breaks (ha!) out at some point, but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t have happened by now if the odds weren’t terrible. I’ll keep holding my copies, but I’m not eager to buy any more.

Harmonize Harmonize is one of the few planeshifted cards that WotC really seems to like, considering the fact that it has been printed eight(!) different times. I can’t recommend it as a spec when it was just printed in Eternal Masters and it could show up in any or all of 2017’s supplemental sets as well.

Imp’s Mischief – Here’s a card I sort of like, especially since the buy-in is so low. Imp’s Mischief is a reasonable sideboard spell in some Jund and Abzan decks. And while its utility is somewhat limited right now, I can easily imagine a shift in the Modern metagame that might make it a lot more important. Again, this is a bit of a long shot, but Imp’s Mischief is a little too color-shifted for WotC to be all that eager to run it back. And any card that has shown itself to be powerful enough for Modern play feels like a solid gamble at $2.

Intet, the Dreamer – Intet has seen a surge in popularity thanks to the release of the four-color commander decks, making this an underrated buy. Intet is a very powerful casual card that has mostly been ignored because Temur is not a very popular wedge. Now that more people are playing decks that can run Intet, I can see a world where it hits $5-$7.

Magus of the Tabernacle Magus of the Tabernacle saw a spike from bulk to $5 earlier this year thanks to the same R/W deck that caused Boom//Bust to surge. While that deck hasn’t seen much play recently, that doesn’t mean it won’t end up being a part of the metagame in the future. It’s not a bad gamble at $2, especially because I doubt it’s very high on WotC’s reprint radar.

Mirri the Cursed Mirri is worth $2 because she’s a Legendary Vampire Cat, which is admittedly pretty cool. Beyond that, she’s a fringe card at best in Commander. I doubt there’s any upside here.

Sinew Sliver – If there is a competitive Sliver deck in Modern, Sinew Sliver is undoubtedly a four-of in that brew. It’s also a must-play in all the casual Sliver builds. I also like its price chart, which shows a very organic rise from $0.50 to $2. If Sinew Sliver isn’t in the next Sliver set—a likely possibility—it could easily hit $5. I’m picking these up in trade at current retail all day long.

This Week’s Trends

The biggest Standard gainer this week is Chandra, Torch of Defiance. This is because of the new version of the Temur Aetherworks deck that runs Chandra as a way to interact in the mid-game instead of going all-in on the combo. It’s possible that the rest of the metagame will adjust to lock Chandra out, but I doubt it – this new version of Aetherworks is probably here to stay. Expect Chandra to see larger gains once the holidays end, and I’d suggest getting your copies now.

It’s also worth noting that Nissa, Nature’s Artisan (the Planeswalker Deck version of Nissa) has ticked up a little now that it is seeing occasional sideboard play in B/G Delirium. While it might be worth having a copy of the card kicking around your collection, I wouldn’t expect this price to go nuts. These decks are still easily available at retail, and it would have to be seeing a lot more play for that to change.

The biggest casual gainer of the week was Ajani Steadfast. Ajani’s rise has been fairly organic, and should be taken seriously – Atraxa has finally given planeswalker decks the commander they’ve always wanted, and this is the same demand that caused Doubling Season and Contagion Engine to spike. What card from Superfriends could be next? It’s hard to say, but Elspeth, Sun’s Champion has been one of my favorite cards to play in that deck. Teferi, Temporal Archmage; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon; and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver seem poised for gains as well.

Scourglass also jumped a bit this week, but that demand was driven (at least in part) by a lot of talk in the finance community that certainly helped spur some buyouts. Scourglass is certainly a solid Commander card, and it should be worth more than it was, but I’m skeptical that it will maintain its current price. Sell into hype.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy continues to rise as well, and I still think it’s a solid buy at current retail. Regardless of whether Frontier becomes a thing or not, Jace sees enough Eternal play and has enough casual demand to support a higher price tag.

Transmute Artifact has seen a couple of pretty organic spikes recently, though it’s hard to say how real the demand is for a card with such a low supply. It’s always been somewhat Legacy playable, and it’s amazing in Commander. As with any card from Legends, the price could end up in the stratosphere tomorrow. Grab a copy now if it’s something you’ve always been meaning to pick up. Ditto Wheel of Fortune, which seems to just keep on rising due to very organic demand.