Another day, another drop in the value of the Modern index. It’s been this way since early July, when Modern PPTQ season and Modern Masters 2015
hype coincided to create a flurry of interest in Magic’s most popular Eternal format. Since then, prices have been steadily falling. Snapcaster Mage, for
example, was worth $20-$30 more at midsummer than it is now. So was Tarmogoyf.
Is the sky falling? Nope. In fact, this happens every single year. The biggest culprit is always the same, too. People love playing Standard when it’s
fresh after rotation, so their Magic-playing income goes toward that format during the fall. By the time Standard gets dull in late November, it’s exam
time for students and the holidays are here and everyone’s traveling and celebrating and there’s no time to go down to FNM.
By early January, Standard prices are down and people are starting to wonder if they really should have dropped $200 on that set of chase mythics that are
now worth just $50 or $60. This is when WotC usually bans or unbans something in Modern in order to inject the format with some new blood. Buoyed by the
idea that Modern cards tend to hold their value better anyway, that Modern market surges in February and March.
With prices still on the downswing and no Modern Masters set expected to be released in 2016, there are some great opportunities to buy into Modern with
very little risk of being burned by a timely reprint. This week, we’ll go over the tier one decks in the format and talk about the key staples in each
deck. We’re not looking for sleepers or role-players here-that’s going to be a topic for a future article. For now, our focus is going to be on the cream
of the Modern crop.
But first, let’s talk a little bit about…
Banned List Fears
Last January, WotC banned Birthing Pod. It was Modern’s most popular deck, and it threw the market into chaos…at least until Pod players eventually
realized that most of their cards could be repurposed into Abzan or (later) Naya Company decks. Even still, you would have been better off having sold your
Pod deck prior to the ban. Is a massive ban like that going to happen in 2016 as well?
I wouldn’t be surprised if it does. In the online metagame, Amulet Bloom is currently the most popular deck in Modern. And based on WotC’s desire to
prevent kills before turn 4, the deck is likely too powerful and consistent to survive. It’s also an easy deck to ban without hurting any of the other tier
one decks in the metagame-give Amulet of Vigor the axe, and Amulet Bloom slows down to the point where it’s not a problem anymore.
If Amulet of Vigor is banned, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Primeval Titan, Summoner’s Pact, Hive Mind, and the Amulet itself will all see major price drops.
Deciding whether or not to sell those cards now is tough, though. They were all worth quite a bit more a few months ago than they are now, and if Amulet of
Vigor isn’t banned I expect every card in that deck to rise in price immediately following the B&R announcement. To some degree, this deck is cheaper
than it should be right now be because people are scared that it’ll get the axe. That attitude will change if it survives the bannings, and if the deck is
allowed to be part of the metagame next year, I could see it increasing in price by $200-$300.
Right now, a complete Amulet Bloom deck retails between $500-$700. This price will continue to drop as we approach the B&R announcement, too, as more
and more people decide to dump their copies in advance of the potential ban. If you want to get out-and unless you’re playing this deck in tournaments over
the next couple of months, I think that you should-do it soon. If you’re looking to play the deck, hold off until the morning of the B&R announcement
and buy in immediately if all the cards survive.
Banned List Opportunities
Is anything close enough to coming off the Modern banned list that it might warrant a speculative purchase?
Believe it or not, Cloudpost is a realistic option. Patrick Chapin talked about it a little back in 2014, and I
could see WotC offering it up as a bit of a bone to spurned Amulet players. Cloudpost may not be as oppressive without Green Sun’s Zenith around, and a
Cloudpost/Primeval Titan deck could keep ramp in the format without having the turn-2 problem that Amulet of Vigor can present. It’s also possible that
WotC could choose to unban Green Sun’s Zenith instead. If Amulet of Vigor does get the axe, I see them looking toward one of these other ramp cards as a
way to balance out the format a little.
WotC might also give blue a boost by unbanning either Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Ancestral Vision. Blue control isn’t really a thing in Modern right now,
and the format would be healthier if a U/W or Jeskai deck was bumped up to tier one. I’ve been on the ‘Wizards won’t unban Jace’ train for years now,
mostly because of price, but with Modern Masters sets happening every two years now, I could see them wanting to make Jace a face of the format (and a
chase card in those packs) alongside Tarmogoyf.
Lastly, Bloodbraid Elf is a card worth talking a little bit about. Last time out, it was considered the odds-on favorite for unbanning. Jund is firmly
established as a tier one deck now, though, and unbanning a card like Bloodbraid Elf (or Deathrite Shaman) would probably make it the best deck in the
format again. I can’t see WotC wanting to do that-in the past, they’ve unbanned cards in order to open up new potential strategies, not reinforce decks
that are already great.
I love speculating on banned cards because they all tend to be close to their price floor already, and many of them will spike before the B&R
announcement simply because other people want to get in before the unban actually happens. Last January, Bloodbraid Elf spiked from $2 to $6 simply because
people thought it might be unbanned. It’s back down to $3 now, and if the world disagrees with me and thinks that it’s the favorite to be reinstated this
January, it’ll jump back up to $6 again regardless of what WotC does.
Cloudpost is a common, and you can still find them for a dollar each very easily. The promo foil is more enticing at $3.99, though-they’ll be selling for
$15-$20 if the card is unbanned. Green Sun’s Zenith is $6.50, though you can get From the Vault: Twenty foil copies for just $8.99. That’s still
kind of expensive, though, and I like it better as a trade target than a spec purchase.
Ancestral Vision hasn’t really come down in price since the last time everyone was hyped for it being unbanned, but it’ll still probably jump from $8.50 to
$10-$11 right before the B&R announcement due to potential hype. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is the safest buy, and it also has the most upside-Jace will
jump to $250 overnight if it’s unbanned. Of course, the buy in is quite steep for a card that can’t currently be cast in either Standard or Modern. Even
still, I’d look toward buying or trading a few of these soon just in case.
The Best Decks in Modern
It’s hard to get a handle on Modern’s top tier because there are many variants of the best decks. For example, is the G/R Aggro deck that Wesley Blanchard
took to victory at #SCGDFW a few weeks ago a variant on Zoo that doesn’t happen to run Path to Exile, or is it a different deck entirely? As I often do,
I’m going to trust that the Modern metagame breakdown on MTGGoldfish is the best snapshot of the format as it
As I said earlier, Amulet Bloom is currently the most popular deck in Modern. I’m not going to profile it here, because I expect at least one card from the
deck to be banned soon. Instead, let’s start with-
After Amulet Bloom, Naya (and other slight variations of) Burn is the most popular deck in Modern. This is very likely because of price-in both paper Magic
and MTGO, Naya Burn is about half as expensive as either of the next two decks. Even still, it’s a tier one deck that demands a healthy respect.
Goblin Guide started dropping during Battle for Zendikar spoiler season, partially because many people (including me) expected that the card would
be reprinted in order to spice up Standard. When that didn’t happen…Goblin Guide just kept falling, because we were all distracted by Standard. It’s
possible that Goblin Guide will sneak into Oath of the Gatewatch, but if not I expect Goblin Guide to start marching back toward $40 this January.
Eidolon of the Great Revel hasn’t seen the same sort of price dip, but that also speaks to the card’s desirability across all formats. Eidolon is one of
only two cards in Theros block (Thoughtseize is the other) that didn’t see a price dip due to set rotation, which tends to bode well for a card’s
trajectory over the next couple of years. At some point, unless this card is reprinted in a duel deck or something, it will end up in the $15-$18 range.
Atarka’s Command isn’t in every Modern Burn list, but it’s certainly going to be a format staple going forward. We’ll talk about this card more when it
gets closer to rotating out of Standard-for now, you can safely ignore its place in the Modern index.
- 3 Dark Confidant
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 3 Kitchen Finks
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Olivia Voldaren
- 1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Dark Confidant tumbled in value thanks to the MM15 reprint, and its price bottomed out about a month ago. I’m pretty confident (pun intended) that we’ve
reached its floor, at least over the next year or two. Of all the cards on this list, Dark Confidant might be the lowest risk buy at the moment.
Scavenging Ooze is much cheaper than the other cards on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a format staple. The fact that it’s used in both
Jund and Naya Company makes it an intriguing spec, and I could easily see it doubling to $12-$14 next year.
Tarmogoyf is still a key card in multiple tier one decks, and its price tag will invariably start sneaking back up as more distance piles up between us and
the release of MM15. One of the other reasons I kind of love the Jace unban idea as a way to sell these sets in the future: imagine the hype if they didn’t
print Tarmogoyf every two years, but instead alternated it with Jace, the Mind Sculptor! Regardless, you’re probably not buying a $200 card on spec.
Picking these up now for personal use is fine, though.
Liliana of the Veil is the second most expensive card in Modern. Its price hasn’t fallen, either, despite being an RPTQ promo. Because those additional
copies have entered the market without causing the price to drop, I expect that this will be the cheapest Liliana will get until MM2017 spoiler season. If
you can get a good deal from someone (erroneously, in my opinion) thinking that Liliana will be in Shadows Over Innistrad, do it.
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Wild Nacatl
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 3 Loxodon Smiter
- 2 Voice of Resurgence
Knight of the Reliquary peaked in September when Reliquary Retreat fever took over the Modern speculation community. At this point, I think Reliquary
Retreat is a legitimate threat-Caio Amaral took third place at a Grand Prix in Porto Alegre, and I’ve seen the combo show up more and more online.
Regardless, Knight of the Reliquary is a solid threat in Naya Company, though I doubt there’s much more financial upside here unless one of the two decks
actually wins a major event.
Noble Hierarch is a better buy. Its price chart shows a clear bottom and a slight uptick, so I expect its Modern Masters-related fall is just about over.
It’s a crucial part of the Modern Infect deck as well, so there will be multiple avenues of demand this spring.
Collected Company looks like a solid buy as well. I know, I know, it’s Standard legal…but I suspect it’ll have a similar trajectory to cards like Abrupt
Decay and Eidolon of the Great Revel. Cards like this that are so obviously good in Eternal formats tend to buck most of the Standard trends. You might
have a chance to buy in a little bit later, but there’s an equal chance that this thing is going to $10-$12 in a few months and it won’t ever dip below
that again. I’d rather get my set now.
Wurmcoil Engine was cheap for a couple of months, but that had more to do with its Commander 2014 reprint than anything else. It’s been rising
steadily since then, and it’ll probably hit $20 again at some point. Just be wary-those Commander decks were heavily printed, so there isn’t much extreme
upside here unless Tron begins to truly dominate the metagame.
Karn is another Modern Masters 2015 spec target, though the fact that he’s only played in one deck makes him a little less desirable than Noble
Hierarch. Karn is a casual and Commander favorite too, though, so there’s certainly some upside here. I could certainly see him returning to $50 again at
some point, though it probably won’t be in 2016.
Oblivion Stone’s price has been flat for months-it spiked from $15 to $30 once everyone realized it wasn’t going to be in Modern Masters 2015, and
its value has only dropped off a little since then. It’ll probably take a Tron victory at a major event to stoke another spike, but I like it as a
potential slow and steady gainer this spring.
Spellskite was reprinted in Modern Masters 2015…and the price didn’t go down. Like, at all. With decks that are weak to the card taking up a
bigger portion of the metagame, Spellskite’s status as a format staple has only gone up. If that continues through the spring, Spellskite will be a $30
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 4 Ornithopter
- 4 Steel Overseer
- 3 Memnite
- 3 Etched Champion
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Vault Skirge
The problem with Affinity is that it’s one of the few decks where none of the cards are transferrable to other decks-if you start buying Opals and
Ravagers, you’re either playing Affinity or you’re going to have to trade or sell your cards in order to build a different deck.
That said, Affinity has been at least pretty good in Modern since the beginning, and it’s never been so good that it’s been in danger of a ban. If you like
the deck, buying in is fine.
For a very long time, Mox Opal was the most expensive card in Affinity. Modern Masters 2015 changed all that, and Opals are (relatively) cheap
now. Like most of the other MM15 cards, we’re pretty close to the price floor at this point. Pick these up if you think you’ll need them.
The most expensive card in Affinity right now is-you guessed it-good ol’ Arcbound Ravager. This had been on my ‘good buys’ list for several months, but a
price spike back in July took it from $30 to $45. It hasn’t fallen off since then, and I doubt it can sustain another spike at this point. Buy in if you’re
building the deck, but stay away if you’re a speculator.
Glimmervoid is actually in the middle of a nice little price run right now. Unlike most of Modern, this card has gone from $20 to $30 since the start of
last summer. Considering the supply is only a little greater than that of the equally-important Arcbound Ravager (Mirrodin was a bigger set than Darksteel
but more popular), I could see this land stabilizing in the $35 range.
Inkmoth Nexus spiked last May, stabilized over the summer, and has been dropping since then. It’s not as rare as Glimmervoid–Mirrodin Besieged was
probably opened in greater quantities than Mirrodin and Modern Masters 2015 combined-but if Affinity cards keep rising in price, this one
is probably next. I could see it end up at $25-$30 next year, especially considering how important it is in Modern Infect as well.
Siege Rhino is still under $4. At some point it will be worth more than that, but it might take a while. Nearly every Standard mage has a playset of these,
which will mean a lot of Rhinos entering the market between now and the end of Khans’ rotation. Picking these up for Modern now is fine if you’re
actively building Abzan, but there’s no rush.
Abrupt Decay has lost about a quarter of its value since its summertime peak. While Abzan isn’t quite as popular as it was earlier this year, the card is
always going to have a home somewhere in Legacy and Modern. It could easily hit $20-$25 next year if Abzan ends up with a slightly greater part of the
Modern market share.
No Inquisition of Kozilek reprint in Battle for Zendikar? Well, Kozilek hasn’t really shown up yet, so it’s possible we’ll see this in Oath of the Gatewatch. I’m not so sure, though-Transgress the Mind is a similar card, and I wouldn’t be surprised if WotC doesn’t want to have
both of them available for Standard mages to build around. If it isn’t reprinted, we could easily see this continue its climb toward $20.
We’ve talked about these three cards already, but it’s worth reiterating that all of them have increased upside due to their importance in multiple top
tier Modern archetypes. Otherwise, Infect is a collection of expensive pieces of fixing and affordable commons and uncommons.
It seems silly to think about it now, but a year ago many people were campaigning for Splinter Twin to be banned in Modern. The deck is still top
tier-combine the U/R Twin and Grixis Twin numbers and you’ve got the fifth most popular deck in the format-but it’s not as dominant as it used to be.
Snapcaster Mage is set to be the RPTQ promo in 2016. That didn’t hurt Liliana of the Veil’s price much in 2015, and I doubt it’ll matter to Snapcaster
Mage’s bottom line either. If Twin ends up seeing more play or if Snapcaster Mage ends up as a four-of in another tier one deck, this guy could easily end
up back at $80.
Vendilion Clique is only a two-of in Twin, and MM15 tanked this card’s price from $80 to just under $40. Much like the rest of MM15, Clique’s price does
appear to have stabilized at this point. People really like the new, alternate art as well, so it seems like a decent time to grab a couple copies of this.
It should hold its value reasonably well going forward.
Splinter Twin’s sinking price chart speaks to the deck’s decline in popularity as well as the fact that it was reprinted in MM15. For the first time in
years, you can find copies of these for under $10 if you look hard enough. Buying in now is fine if you’re personally building the deck, but the price
chart doesn’t seem to have bottomed out yet. It probably has a little further to fall.
Cryptic Command continues to fall as well, but I like it a little more than Splinter Twin as a spec opportunity. The fact that Cryptic Command is a four-of
in Scapeshift as well as being a key part of U/R Twin is heartening, though the fact that it’s absent or a singleton in most Grixis Twin lists gives me
Regardless, the fact that Cryptic Command has a couple of homes right now despite there not being a real control deck in Modern makes me feel like it’s a
solid buy right now. The same is true for Remand-neither card appears to have hit bottom and begun to rebound yet, but I suspect it’ll happen soon.
Serum Visions dropped in price thanks to the FNM promo that was released over the summer. Those are gone now, and there’s very little risk of this card
being reprinted until MM17. Unless you think WotC is going to ban Serum Visions-and I very much doubt it-buying in now is fine.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy also shows up in some builds of Grixis Twin. I expect that the smallest Jace will be a player in the format for years to come, but
again, its price is mostly being affected by Standard right now. Jace will drop at rotation, and there will be good chances to buy in over the coming
Scapeshift is a deck on the rise, and its namesake card could be poised for a major price jump. Remember-this card has never been reprinted, so the only
copies out there are from the unpopular Morningtide expansion. If Scapeshift’s share of the metagame increases, or if someone feels like buying
too many copies of this card, it could go from $22 to $45 in an awful hurry.
Some number of these Scapeshift decks run Bring to Light as well, though I’m not sure if that version will end up being the go-to or not. Regardless, you
can get Bring to Light for under $2 right now, which seems like a pretty decent flier. It might take a while to pay dividends, but the card is undeniably
powerful. Foils at just $10 intrigue me as well.
- 4 Kird Ape
- 2 Grim Lavamancer
- 3 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Wild Nacatl
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 2 Flinthoof Boar
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Experiment One
- 2 Ghor-Clan Rampager
We’ve talked about most of these cards already, but Path to Exile is rapidly approaching $10. The fact that it has been reprinted so many times should keep
its top end under $15, though. Picking these up in trade is fine, but chances are it’ll show up in a duel deck or as a promo again soon, so don’t go too
G/W Hexproof isn’t the deck for everyone, but it does have its charms. Kor Spiritdancer is the key card here, seeing as it hasn’t been reprinted outside of
an Archenemy deck. Spiritdancer bucked the Modern trend all fall, jumping from $8 in July to $11.50 now. Part of that is probably because G/W
Hexproof was a popular deck in the Worlds metagame and many people watched that event play out on stream from PAX Prime. Despite all those gains, there’s
still some upside here-the lack of a recent reprint means that it could spike at any time.
Daybreak Coronet used to be the most expensive card in this deck by a wide margin, but Modern Masters 2015 totally saturated the market. Unlike
the more powerful multi-deck staples from MM15 I recommended earlier in this article, Daybreak Coronet is not likely to experience a price rebound over the
coming year. There are more than enough of these out there to cover everyone who wants to play G/W Hexproof, and it’s unlikely to find a home in another
deck. Stay away unless you’re building this deck yourself.
Horizon Canopy is much more likely to see a major jump in 2016. At $60, it is one of the six or eight most expensive cards in Modern. That isn’t just a G/W
Hexproof issue, either-Canopy is played in Abzan Company, Zoo, Elves, and all manner of slightly more rogue G/W and Naya decks. Expect Horizon Canopy to be
reprinted in MM17, but it could easily hit $80-$90 before then. Cards from Future Sight are just so hard to get these days.
That’s not the whole story of Modern, of course. There’s G/W Hate Bears, Living End, Ad Nauseam, Jeskai, Elves, Merfolk, Reanimator, Temur Twin, and so
many other decks. We’ll be covering some of these in the coming weeks as we explore what the Modern metagame might look like in 2016. For now, though, I
recommend focusing your attention on the can’t-miss staples of the format. It’s safer to buy a $30 card that’ll likely be $50 before long than fifteen $2
cards that might never see play in anything.
This Week’s Trends
– The biggest news this week, of course, is the possible leak of a couple marquee cards from Oath of the Gatewatch. The important thing to
remember is that this is an UNCONFIRMED RUMOR-the cards do look real, and they seem very exciting, but we should take all speculation with
a fistful of salt. Financially, there’s not much action we can take until we know more, anyway. The one thing I’ll say is that if Wastes does end up being
a basic land that produces colorless mana, it will make cards like Karn, Silver Golem easier to build Commander decks around. Foils of interesting
colorless legendary creatures are likely to see a small price bump in the meantime as speculation runs rampant.
– In Standard, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon continues to rise. It hit $40 last week and kept going. I doubt it will keep going, and I expect it’ll start to drop
off again soon, but Fate Reforged is such a low-value set that Ugin can certainly maintain a price of $40+ if it sees enough play to
Otherwise, every other card in the format continues to fall. Even Gideon, who still sees a ton of play, has been tumbling as packs of Battle for Zendikar continue to be opened. This trend will likely continue all the way through the holiday lull at the end of December.
– In the world of Eternal play, Lotus Cobra and Glen Elendra Archmage are the biggest gainers this week. Lotus Cobra is probably up thanks to the fact that
it’s been seeing play in some Amulet Bloom variants. It’s also a four-of in Ryland Taliaferrd’s really interesting Five-Color Bring to Light deck:
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 1 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 1 Wall of Omens
- 1 Spellskite
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 1 Thundermaw Hellkite
- 1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
- 1 Courser of Kruphix
I have no idea if this deck will end up as a real player in the Modern metagame, but it sure is sweet looking. Restoration Angel is an interesting pick-up
if you think that something like this has the chops to succeed.
As for the Archmage, it’s a popular sideboard card in U/R Twin, Scapeshift, Grixis Control, and Grixis Twin. It’s a one-of in most of those decks, so
upside is limited, but it’s proving to be slightly underpriced at $11. Trade for these if you can get them at current retail.
–Blade of Selves is proving to be the breakout card of Commander 2015, which is in line with what I wrote about last week. It’s hard to get them for less
than $15 right now, which seems a bit high to me. I expect the card to stabilize between $10-$12. Feel free to sell or trade into the hype if you’ve got a
couple of these.