State/Provincial Championships were this past weekend, and I attended the tournament here in CA as a judge. This was my first event judging, outside of typical rules questions at the LGS. This means I got to scan 230+ decklists. I also helped some friends test for the event. At the end of the day, I was ready to say, “Why haven’t they banned Green Sun's Zenith?” For the same reason it was banned in modern, it’s just too good. I know it’s been around for a little while now, and it hasn’t yet oppressed the format, and the reason for that is green hasn’t been playable. Now that Preordain and fetchlands (which play nicely with Ponder) have rotated, and blue’s firm grasp on the format has loosened, Green is showing up in force. In a base green deck, it’s literally copies 5-8 of all your green creatures, but only takes up 4 slots. It also allows silver-bullet one-of’s and even just overall smoothness with Birds of Paradise. It creates consistency, power, and inevitability like no other card in the format. I expect Green Sun's Zenith to be strong for the remainder of it’s legality, which is why I’m sticking Thrun on my buy list. A mythic that has already disappeared from trade binders and into longboxes, is ready to be called back up to the Majors. A great finisher in GSZ decks that need a threat control deck’s struggle to solve. Watch him.
What is the allure of States? To be honest, I just don’t know. Sure, it’s a bit of pride attached to saying you’re the champion of your state, and that on it’s own is a pretty cool thing. States haven’t fed into Nationals in quite some time, and prizes include things like a playmat, a plaque, and free entry to PTQ’s and GP’s (excluding limited formats). Since it’s currently a limited season, and the upcoming local GP is also limited, this portion of the prize has literally no value until Modern PTQ’s start next year. The thing about States that is so interesting, is it always follows the Fall set release. We get to see what cards and decks will be hot, because people need orders filled promptly to finalize decks for states. I saw a number of people on twitter complaining their orders didn’t make it on time and they couldn’t play, while people who were paying sky-high prices on EBay were praying their’s would show up in the mail. People’s need to compete in States created a temporary spike in demand that has now passed, and the prices of cards that were simply hard to find early are starting to come back down. People who paid $60+ for their Liliana’s are racing to get back $35 while they can. This recession in prices should be expected. Unless you’re an SCG grinder, the need to keep a fully-tuned, high-dollar standard deck is minimal. People recovering that money to put into Modern or another format, are doing so at an alarming rate. The same thing happened with Koth of the Hammer last year.
So where do we start digging for opportunities to find gems, if everything is coming down in price? Two places.
Firstly, look for cards that decline too far. As people panic to dump their stuff, the market will flood quickly, and trade partners you encounter will be anxious to get rid of stuff. If you prey on this, you can find value. I’ll be trying to nab up Snapcaster Mages, and Liliana’s from anyone who takes the price drops too seriously.
Secondly, look for cards that never spiked, but have new value in the metagame. The GP featured 6 green decks, only one of which was a non-Wolf Run, and 2 U/B control decks. The Snapcaster Mage version, took down the event. There’s no question that U/B is the control deck best suited to beat the ramp decks, but what beats the U/B decks. If rock smashes scissors, what covers rock? U/B is going to struggle with swarm decks. The sweeper of choice is Black Sun's Zenith, which is clunky and slow, and can be stopped with a gal often forgotten, Melira, Sylvok Outcast. Melira actually solves a lot of problems right now, if you can reasonably protect her, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see her popping up quite a bit. She prevents the poison kill option from Inkmoth Nexus, and protects you from a Black Sun's Zenith sweep, and the newly popular Mono Black Infect deck. It also means your creatures can block infect guys without shrinking. She varies wildly on EBay from well under a dollar up to as much as $1.50, and she retails for about $2 on most sites with plenty of stock. I can see this hitting $4 at the right moment, but it would take a perfect storm. The problem is, if you’re not abusing her abilities with your own deck, then there are some matchups where she’s just a Legendary Grizzly Bear. Melira-combo decks exist in Modern and Legacy, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a competitive Melira deck appear at the top of Modern when PTQ season rolls around since the blue based combos have been neutered without Preordain or Ponder to dig, or Rite of Flame to ramp quickly. I’m starting to pick up Meliras when I can, if under a dollar. She’s going to be a sweet sideboard option at worst in Standard, and likely a key player in Modern.
I tend to focus a lot on the seasonality of Magic events. For me, someone who doesn’t grind trade after trade after trade... I make more calculated choices, and plan my timings to maximize my value that way. This has worked for me time and time again, and each year when the process repeats I have more knowledge to reference from years past. Start looking at what happens after States. Look at what happens when a format that is not often played, suddenly becomes a PTQ format to prepare for Modern. Even though Extended was never a hugely popular format, Modern will likely have a similar pattern to it once season begins. Keep in mind, Magic is huge right now, so most things are going to have steeper growth and decay rates as more people both want to buy and dump holdings rapidly when things change. My hope is that my individual calls aren’t the only thing you get from these articles, but a formal way to process the information that comes to you, and the tools to make key decisions at the right times.