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Insider: Studying Standard and Moving into Modern

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One of the best things about Quiet Speculation is that you can get the most up-to-date speculation along with some pretty cool theory pieces.

Personally, I enjoy writing the theory pieces more, as I’ve done the last few weeks. But today I want to get back into the nitty-gritty a bit and dig around the formats. There’s some very clear targets in Standard right now, and I’m going to address the cards I’m most looking at picking up right now.

I want to give you a few things to be aware of for Modern, which is out of the public eye right now but in a few short months will be huge. Next week I plan on digging deep into the format again and hopefully will come out with some good pickups, as I’ve done in the past with Modern. I really have been avoiding Modern for a while now, because after tracking it from before it actually existed up until the cards all blew up, I felt like I had done all there was to do. That said, we’re now in a good period of opportunity for Modern, and there’s a only a few weeks left to cash in before PTQ season gears up.

Setting up Standard

Let’s start with Standard. I’m not here to sell some new breakout card that is going to blow up (though I’ll touch on a few that might). Instead, I want to focus on the cards that are quickly becoming the pillars of the metagame and offer some thoughts on their futures.

Hero of Bladehold

I made a killing on this card last summer when people still valued it at $5-7, mostly because of the effect of the promo Hero. I was picking them up at $5-7 in trade and selling them to dealers for $6. I’ve talked about the card endlessly since then, about how it was a good pickup, and now we’re at the point where its price seems to be nearing a peak.

That said, I still advise trading into these, because as a Mythic from a small set it’s got enough longevity to hold a good price, and more important, a good buylist price. That makes it one of the more stable investments you can make at the moment, and people still seem to be lagging on the price of these. Trade for these if you can at $13-15, because I see it getting up to $20 before we’re done with this Standard.

In addition, I feel like the impact of Hero, and this next card, haven’t fully impacted the U.S. yet.

Angelic Destiny

People still haven’t caught onto this entirely yet, but its price is sitting around $15 and isn’t done yet. The top 32 decklists from GP: Hiroshima weren’t immediately posted last weekend, but Angelic Destiny is all over the place in them. This is from a core set, meaning supply-wise it’s more on the level of a Mirrodin Besieged than a Scars of Mirrodin.

Taking that fact, the casual appeal this holds as an Angel card, and the creation of Hexproof, there’s a perfect storm in place for Destiny. You can still find this on the trade floor for around $10-12, and it’s a steal at that price. I think this could also spike to $20 before long.

So why am I so high on cards that are close to their peak? Part of the reason is that the general perceived value of these cards hasn’t caught up to the real deal. Another is that a ton of U.S. players may have missed out on the GP results, with it being overseas on the same weekend as an SCG Open. At that tournament, only three copies of Angelic Destiny graced the Top 8, meaning the awareness of the card is slower to spread. And another reason is that of liquidity. It's very each to cash out these Mythics at a solid price, rather than rares that may spike but still be in heavy circulation.

Speaking of cards that were all over the Top 32 of the GP…

Mirran Crusader

Dungrove Elder is dead. I’m glad Wolf Run Ramp doesn’t seem to be the boogeyman that Valakut was, despite often playing out the same. But the newest white knight stomps all over every version of the deck not running Slagstorm, and even some that are.

GW beats is very well-positioned right now, and the Crusader is a huge part of that, carrying protection from the majority of the Wolf Run decks and Control decks alike once you slip him in under countermagic (like on Turn 2 off a Pilgrim). There was already some casual appeal to this card (ala Knight Exemplar), so it’s time to move on these before they take off even higher. This thing could break $10 if things continue they way they’re going.

An important aside*

The “promo effect” that I mentioned above is something we need to examine again. Like many of us, I operated under the assumption that the promos would really hold a card’s price down as they have done in the past.

But with the influx of players since Innistrad, the promo effect seems to not be slowing Hero of Bladehold and Wurmcoil Engine down much. While some of this is just the economics of scale, it’s important to note that twice in a three-month time period we’re seeing the “promo effect” being broken. It’s something to keep in mind as we move forward.

End aside*

Geist of Saint Traft

I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being the most expensive non-Planeswalker card in the set, at least while it’s in Standard. Hexproof is just a dumb, non-interactive mechanic, and slapping an Angelic Destiny on this thing is going to continue for some time. I don’t love getting into Innistrad cards until a few months down the road, but it’s worth noting that as long as this and Moorland Haunt are legal, people are going to be playing them together.

Angelic Overseer

This is starting to see some sideboard play. Not a ton, but I mention it because it’s a Mythic and it holds pretty good casual appeal already. Not a lot can go wrong trading into this cheap.

Standard is an extremely fluid environment at the moment, but I feel like I’ve touched on some of the more stable cards in the format. While other things will be the flavor of the week then not again, these (and Scars lands) are the cards I’m most interested in trading for at the moment.

There’s a lot more stability in this set of cards, and you don’t have to live or die with the hot deck of the week, as they seem to exist on a much-safer spectrum than something like Dungrove Elder, which can only fit into one deck and doesn’t offer as much flexibility as some of the other top-performing decks right now.

A Modern touch

As I said, I plan on digging into this more fully next week, but for now the best thing you can possibly be doing is picking up the manabases of the format, particular Zendikar fetchlands. We’re quickly nearing the end of the window where people undervalue the fetches. You need to get in them quickly before it becomes much more difficult to do so.

Shocks, on the other hand, are a fine pickup for Modern PTQ season, but I would be dumping them at the height, since I still consider the threat of a reprint to be too high, whereas the fetches are in a much better situation reprint-wise.

With the last round of bannings, we’re looking at a format that will be more open but also likely be dominated by Zoo and Snapcaster Mage decks. A personal favorite I’m hoping makes the cut is Living End, but I’m not entirely confident. I also think that Death Cloud might be real, but these are just my initial impressions of the format.

We’re about to enter a time of the highest demand for Modern staples we’re going to see over the next year, and possibly ever. The run-up in prices before the Pro Tour was fueled almost entirely by speculation and not by real demand. Now, with it being a PTQ format a ton of grinders are going to be in need of Modern decks, and with it being the first year of its existence as a PTQ format, demand across the board could reach the highest point it ever will, even if prices on some of the staples don't.

That’s all I have for this week. Until next week, please make sure to email Mark Rosewater and Aaron Forsythe and let them know how you feel about the changes to the Organized Play system because it affects us all, not just the pros and not just the tournament grinders. I know Chas Andres is working on a piece on how it relates to us financially, and I look forward to reading it. Robby Rothe, an EDH columnist at GatheringMagic.com, has a great article up explaining why these changes matter even to those who aren't interested in playing competitively or investing in cards.   [QS holds no specific position on the matter, but we always encourage voices on both sides of a debate to make themselves heard --Kelly]

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

4 thoughts on “Insider: Studying Standard and Moving into Modern

  1. Noticed the same thing recently re: the promo effect. Maybe something new with mythic highly playable prerelease cards. See prices also on emrakul and vampire nocturnus.

  2. @Steven
    Absolutely correct. I really think this is not a blanket judgment to make about the prerelease cards, but rather the playability/popularity of those cards. I don't see Sheoldred going crazy, whereas the highly-playable Hero of Bladehold and Emrakul or the insanely popular Nocturnis do push up.

    @Chris
    I'll start with the disclaimer that I'm not an expert on MTGO, but I believe it's even more prevalent there because people sell their cards when they're done with them and want to draft. This is, of course, assuming the MTGO PTQ structure mirrors that of paper, which I believe it does (seasons-wise).

  3. It is one of the easiest ways to make long term gains in MODO. The prices fluctuate a lot on the duals and staples of the format and since there is no casual market the cards do not retain value for long after the season is over.

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