Insider: What’s next for Modern?

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Well, it happened. Modern finally blew up, just as we called and tried to prepare you for.

Some of you did well, and made a lot of money from the price spikes. Some of you had the value of your collection suddenly shoot up. Maybe some of you are glad you got in trades for these cards before they spiked. And maybe some of you didn’t do anything at all (I hope this isn’t the case).

But no matter which group you fall into, we all have the same question on our minds.

What now?

Are current prices sustainable?

In short, yes and no.

I don’t think Modern cards are exactly a bubble, but I do think there are limits to their growth, the Shocklands in particular.

I think in the near-term, high prices on things like Shocklands and the like aren’t going anywhere except possibly up. But I think this calms down after the fervor of the Pro Tour and prices settle down a little from where they are now. They’re still going to be expensive, but I think the growth period is going to slow, if not come to a halt, but I don't think it's going to plummet either. Unless the format starts to see FNM-level play, we should return to modest growth, rather than the current boom.

Coming out of the Pro Tour, the best thing to do is look for the top performing decks and finds the gems among them. The format is so vast and unexplored that there is certain to be a card or two that explodes in price. Things like Grove of the Burnwillows and Punishing Fire are so well-known going into the tournament that I don’t see there being much upside to these cards as an investment.

On the other hand, I would pick up all the Isle of Vesuvas you can find in trades. Star City and Channel Fireball are sold out but still list the price at $13, which makes it a good pickup at that price. 12-Post (Cloudpost, Vesuva and Glimmerpost) is a very good deck, and there’s little reason Vesuva won’t jump to $20 after a good showing at the tournament just as Grove did on speculation.

Another gem from my testing is that Green Sun’s Zenith for Dryad Arbor is still an incredibly strong play. Alongside the play Dryad Arbor already sees in Legacy, now seems like the best opportunity you’re going to have to pick them up. It’s already pushing $2 on Ebay and is unlikely to see a reprint (due to the whole “Creature Land” thing), so I would begin collecting these now.

Also, you know that Aether Vial is still legal (and a boatload of Fish, which is good news for me!). Pick up your Vials again and I think it’s a pretty good time to move on the Lorwyn Merfolk cards (and Coralhelm Commander) in case the deck turns out to be viable in Modern. Regardless, these cards are going to continue to tick higher until Legacy goes defunct.

Time to sell?

At this point, I think it’s entirely fair to sell out of your investments and lock in your profits. While Modern cards as a whole might continue to creep higher after the Pro Tour, the headlines are going to be dominated by a few breakout cards, meaning if something like Grove doesn’t do something extraordinary (which it won’t, since it’s already hyped to the breaking point), then the price is going to level off or drop while people move to the hot new tech or answer cards like Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge.

Basically, I think the time is right to sell out of all your major investments with a few exceptions. For instance, I don’t think you need to sell your Dark Confidants unless you really want to. He’s not unreasonable to see a reprint in some future special product (Duel Decks, etc), but even then you’ll be able to get out at a decent price. For the same reason, I also don’t think you should move Mutavault or anything else that is also a Legacy staple (cough cough Goyf).

Things like Grove, Pact of Negation, and other cards that you think are moved more by Modern hype than actual playability should be moved out. While they may go higher, remember, you bought in at a very low price, and there’s no reason to be a Greedo in this situation. Take your money and put it into the sleepers or breakout cards of the Pro Tour.

Of course, there’s one thing I haven’t touched on yet – What about those Shocklands?

Why Modern is not Legacy

In a word – reprints.

Let’s compare duals for a second. Hallowed Fountain is retailing for $45 at Channel Fireball. Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau goes for the same. Something is wrong here.

Ask yourself – Why was Modern created? The answer was to fix a few problems with the current formats Wizards of the Coast offers. No one liked old or new Extended, but people do seem to like Legacy. But Legacy has all those expensive cards that are on the Reserved List (the evil mastermind behind all of this chaos), so many players are priced out the format.

Modern isn’t an elegant solution, but it is a solution. Or, at least it was, before the lands you had to have to compete started pushing $50. I’ve already heard the complaints from players that Modern is pricing them out, just as Legacy has. You better believe Wizards has heard this too, but they have one weapon at their disposal that they don’t when it comes to Legacy – reprints.

So what does this mean to you and your set of Shocklands? In the short-term, not much. Unless Innistrad turns out to somehow be the rumored Return to Ravnica, then there’s not much chance of your Shocks falling off a cliff. But rest assured, they are going to be reprinted somewhere along the line.

There’s no way Wizards goes to all the trouble to create Modern and change the Pro Tour format at the last minute just to have the same problem with card prices that they do with Legacy. Whether it’s in special product, M13 or the Fall 2012 set (which might actually be Ravnica, according to the rumor mill), I think it’s a pretty safe bet we’ll see Shocks reprinted.

Not only does that mean the price is going to eventually drop, it also means that the price will be suppressed in the medium-term. Because so many people are on board the Return to Ravnica bandwagon, they’re going to have a hard time justifying spending hundreds of dollars on a playset of lands for Modern that they think are going to reprinted within a year. Whether or not we return to Ravnica in a year is actually a moot point, since the perception exists that we will – that’s all it will take to keep these lands from going much higher.

This is a concept I explored two weeks ago, and determined then that the time was near to sell the Shocklands you invested in. Since then the price has gone up even more, but I think it’s finally hitting near the top of its ceiling. That means it’s time to move them.

Yes, I am telling you to sell your Shocklands if you are using them solely as an investment. I think the best time to do so is in the next two weeks to maximize value from the players who are trying to acquire them for the Pro Tour. After the Pro Tour, when Modern is just another out-of-season format, prices are going to settle and you’ll be out money that could be better spent elsewhere.

Where does that leave us?

Now that the initial run on Modern cards is peaking, it’s going to become business as usual as far as finding the right cards to pick up. When the Pro Tour rolls around, be ready to move immediately on the breakout cards of the tournament, but be cautious if you want to buy into the hyped cards that are nearing their peak.

The Pro Tour is going to be a big deal, and you can rest assured I’ll be on top of it here to keep you ahead of the curve, as I have ever since Modern was conceived. Once the Pro Tour is over, we’re going to have a few months of excitement over Innistrad before we actually hit Modern season in the winter. It’s likely we’ll have a buying opportunity then while everyone is fawning over Innistrad, and I’ll be sure to check back in on Modern then to spot the good deals for you.


Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

Prediction Tracker

The changeover to our new layout (which is awesome) didn't go over well with the Prediction Tracker, but I've fixed it to display a little better now. As an update, we're also in the process of separating the Standard portion of the Tracker from the Eternal portion (all other formats), so that should help readability once we get that up and  going. Let me know if you have any questions/suggestions!

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5 thoughts on “Insider: What’s next for Modern?

  1. Steven – Yeah, pretty much all the Rav rumors are based off of this. I do think they have some credence, though I think it's more likely to be a year or two down the road rather than in Innistrad. And nice trading!

  2. Why does everyone assume we have to return to Ravnica for them to reprint the shocklands? WOTC named the lands to nonspecific locations so they could be reprinted in a non Ravnica set in the future. Any set could have them.

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