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Insider: Modern Staples To Invest In

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My initial reaction to the latest Insider alert regarding Thoughtseize: Sell Sell Sell! Well, my personal reaction was excitement because I’ve already sold my set in advance of this news. But it seems highly likely that this card will be making its reappearance in the near future.

My second reaction was more holistic: Wizards is taking this reprint thing seriously. They truly believe Modern should have a reasonable price of entry, and they are making this requirement a high priority. In addition to printing Modern Masters, the recent M14 spoiler leak of Mutavault is further evidence of Wizards’ dedication to the format.

Where To Next?

The threat of Modern reprints is very real. Wizards of the Coast has recognized the format’s huge growth potential, and you can’t fault them for their approach. They are printing money on a daily basis, and Modern Masters must be one of the most successful sets they’ve ever printed. The attendance at GP Vegas will be a testament to this.

This is great news for Magic players. The game is growing steadily in popularity and we can all expect years of new sets and continued support from Hasbro. The implications for the MTG Speculator are a bit less clear. More players and more Modern interest will surely lead to increased demand and prices. The better the game sells, the more likely Hasbro will fund R&D so that we can have years of new innovations. In the long term, this is all great.

But the short term view of Modern may not be as rosy from a speculation standpoint. With constant risk of reprints, previous “slam dunk” buys like Zendikar Fetch Lands now carry significant risk. In fact, the more expensive core Modern comes become, the more likely Wizards will introduce reprints. After all, it’s no coincidence that Modern Masters contained many of the high-priced cards in the format. The introduction of Mutavault in M14 is icing on the cake. Expect this chart to look very different in the coming weeks:

Some Advice

Last week many writers on this site provided their analysis of how Modern Masters will impact prices in the short and long term. Most people agree that GP Vegas will introduce many additional Modern Masters singles to the market – this will drive down prices a bit more and provide a solid buy opportunity. But the future remains unclear, and I personally feel the uncertainty of print run and future plans of Wizards of the Coast are major wild cards that are impossible to quantify precisely at this time.

This doesn’t mean we should avoid Modern speculation. There are some opportunities which are sufficiently immune to reprints in the short term so that sufficient profits can be had before running risk of losing value.

Zendikar Fetch Lands

These are worth a close look, in my opinion, but only for a short term opportunity. These have been on the rise recently, and as Modern season approaches we can expect prices to increase further.

The watchout: Most speculators agree Fetch Lands and Shock Lands cannot coexist in Standard – the pairing is perceived as too powerful for the format. But reprints of Zendikar Fetch Lands and/or Onslaught Fetch Lands seem inevitable. These cards are a fundamental part of the format because they make up a large portion of the mana-base. Wizards knows this, and they already helped to reduce mana-base costs by reprinting Shock Lands – the reprinting of Fetch Lands is a matter of when, not if. My recommendation would be to trade into these now, hold until the middle of Modern season this winter and sell.

Worldwake Manlands, Scars of Mirrodin Fast Lands

Even though these two cycles of mana-fixing lands see less play in Modern, they are still mainstays of the format. Running a deck with all Fetch Lands and Shock Lands can become painful – no one wants to start every game at 14 life. By sprinkling in a couple Manlands and Fast Lands, a player adds robustness to their strategy while reducing the amount of damage they take from the manabase.

My favorite targets are the blue Manlands, Celestial Colonnade and Creeping Tar Pit, and the nonblue Fast Lands, Razorverge Thicket, Copperline Gorge and Blackcleave Cliffs. It’s especially important to point out how the price chart for Celestial Colonnade has an identical shape to that of Misty Rainforest. Even though they are an order of magnitude apart in price, they should continue to follow similar pricing trends.

The watchout: These mana-fixing lands are used less frequently in Modern. Demand is consistent, but much lower than Zendikar Fetches and Shock Lands. Therefore upside is limited. But this also means likelihood of reprint is also lower. In fact I don’t really expect Scars of Mirrodin Fast Lands to be reprinted for multiple years. Even though they may not appreciate in price much for a while, they are solid long term investments with sizable upside as long as they aren’t made completely obsolete.

New Cards With Unique Abilities

Phyrexian mana was pretty neat, right? Guess what – unless we return to Phyrexia yet again in a future set, I don’t expect to see any cards with Phyrexian Mana symbols reprinted outside of something like Modern Masters II. I’m assuming this would take a while for Wizards to create, however.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I am talking mostly about Birthing Pod.

This card has also increased in price over the past few months, though the shift has been more subtle. This card was too new to be in Modern Masters, and it’s too unique to show up in M14. I also doubt it fits in well with Theros. But the card is very powerful and robust (not to mention fun). Unless this one gets banned, I see only upside on Birthing Pod going into the next Modern season.

Speaking of unique abilities, what do you think of Chord of Calling?

Chord of Calling did not show up in Modern Masters. What’s more, that Convoke ability is fairly special – I wouldn’t expect to see the ability show up in something like a Core Set. Could Theros implement Convoke? It’s not impossible, but I would say it’s highly unlikely. Chord of Calling could certainly show up alongside Birthing Pod in Modern Masters II or something comparable, but for now the card is a safe bet.

The watchout: These cards may be at lower risk for reprints in the near term, but they are also a bit metagame dependent. Should Melira Pod fall out of favor, or should Wizards decide to ban a critical piece of the deck, these are vulnerable to a price drop. No Modern staple will carry zero risk here, so your best bet is to aim for diversification.

Plenty of Cautious Optimism

There are many other targets worth looking at for Modern speculation. Inkmoth Nexus continues to be one of my favorites, and of course RTR Shock Lands are still safe investments, especially in foil. And while I do expect to see Eldrazi reprinted somehow in the future, I wouldn’t expect to see Kozilek, Butcher of Truth make an appearance in the land of Theros. The storyline would be too inconstant.

But it’s important to mention here how Wizards has been specifically targeting many of the high-dollar cards for Modern Masters. While Kozilek and company were too recent for Modern Masters, I would fully expect them to be included in a sequel. On the other hand, it’s less likely for something like Inkmoth Nexus to be in the center of WOTC’s focus simply because the price has been innocuous. The same goes for Manlands and Fast Lands – while useful in Modern, they just don’t jump out as requiring reprint nearly as much as, say, Filter Lands.

These assessments are crucial to the success of a Modern Speculator going forward. We can no longer blindly acquire Modern cards haphazardly with the expectation of profit. This can still work, especially in the short term, but the intelligent MTG investor will go one level deeper. He or she must anticipate potential reprint activity a year or two in advance in order to pick out the best opportunity. We may overlook a card that can increase 1000%, but we will also avoid going deep into something like Mutavault or even Noble Hierarch simply because we don’t like the risk/reward balance.

At a time of uncertainty like this one, I’d much prefer spreading out my exposure across multiple Modern cards and largely avoiding the big-ticket items that remain unscathed by reprint. Their reprint time hasn’t arrived yet, but the writing is certainly on the wall. Noble Hierarch, for example, has still avoided reprint. But this $20 speculative play carries greater risk and less reward versus owning a combination of Manlands, Fast Lands, and Birthing Pods. I know where I’d rather have my money going forward.

Sigbits

  • There’s been significant discussion of Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas in the QS forums. It’s worth noting that copies can be had on TCGPlayer for under $10, yet the highest mtg.gg buy price is $9. This spread is very tiny, and will likely not remain. Either the price will go up online or the buy prices must drop. I’m inclined to expect the former.
  • SCG continues to have the top buy price on a handful of Shock Lands, including Godless Shrine. They usually don’t buy cards aggressively like this unless they expect prices to go higher. Many writers on this website agree with the likelihood of Shock Land price appreciation. The longer SCG maintains these higher buy prices, the more I expect prices to rise. I’d grab a few extras in trades in the coming weeks, especially if the core set Dual Lands aren’t returning.
  • I found a Gosta Dirk in the bulk box of a hobby shop this past weekend for $0.25. This price is a snap-buy for any Legends Legend – even for the commons ones. But the fact that a rare Legends Legend was sitting in a bulk box is baffling, regardless of how useless the ability is. If Jerrard of the Closed Fist can be buylisted for $0.20, then buying any English Legends Legend (maybe not some reprinted in Chronicles) at $0.25 is fine no matter the card. The cooler the artwork looks, the better. Keep this in mind while sifting through bulk.

-Sigmund Ausfresser
@sigfig8

13 thoughts on “Insider: Modern Staples To Invest In

  1. Nice article Sig :). Would you say that looking for modern cards with set specific keywords are the way to go moving forward?

    I’m interested to know which keyword is going to be coming back in M14 / Theros… whichever keyword it is may signal the time to sell those modern cards that contain it?

    1. I think set specific words are safe from seeing reprint in a core set or even expansion. Nothing is safe from Modern Masters, but some cards are larger targets than others. It’s really a craps shoot at this point, which is why I feel diversification is best here. We should continue to invest in Modern because there’s a lot of money to be made there. We just need to be careful going too deep on any one card.

  2. Sig,

    I agree with your calls. As you mention the fetchlands will be reprinted (at some point), especially since they’ve all eclipsed all the shocklands in value, thus they become the biggest “cost barrier” for the mana base. It was nice to meet you in person at my LGS and nice find in their bulk bin. I actually snagged a Cadaverous Bloom and a foil Death’s Presence from there.

    1. David,

      Thanks for the comment! It was great meeting you as well – thanks for making some last minute changes to stop by so we could meet. I’m sure that phone call was quite the surprise! I am glad you found a couple gems in that bulk box! I felt bad taking that Gosta Dirk from your LGS! I need to check out the bulk box at my own LGS next, I’ve been inspired!

  3. Sig- Everyone (except you)keeps talking about reprinting filter lands. A grand total of 4 were used in Top 16 decklists at GP Portland- 2 more than the number of painlands used. Maybe more were being used before or more are in the overall metagame but this is very low Modern numbers. Only 19 fastlands were used in Top 16 – not very many either. For comparison 72 Shocks were used.

    Interestingly all of the filters were from Eventide- all are TCG low 12ish. From Modern pov filters and fastlands do not need reprints – as you stated for fastlands and the numbers confirm it.

    1. Filter Lands are so interesting, and I’m not sure what to make of them. I personally don’t like playing with them a whole lot. By using Fetch Lands / Shock Lands for primary manabase, I’d rather have a couple Check Lands or Scars Lands to plug in the holes vs. Filter Lands. An opening hand with just 2 Filter Lands is terrible, while having 2 Check Lands is only annoying and 2 Scars Lands is terrific. I think this is consistent with the number crunch you did. Perhaps supply of Filter Lands is much lower? I honestly see no reason to play Filter Lands at all in Modern – I’d sell my copies even if I didn’t expect a reprint. They just seem less important in Modern (perhaps EDH is a different story?).

    2. It’s not that they need to reprint the filter lands it’s that they aren’t printing the buddy lands in M14 and either people will be forced to go back to 2 color decks, or take a lot of damage from shocks when Theros rolls around, unless some other mana fixing shows up in Theros. Otherwise you’ll have shocks and that’s it.

      1. I agree that they will likely print some mana fixing but it shouldn’t be to ‘fix’ price or availability concerns at least relative to Modern. Maybe they get more play casually or as a short term placeholder for fetches for the budget conscious. I would like to see something new in Theros myself but that is a personal preference.

      2. Wouldn’t a cycle of Horizon Canopy lands be awesome? That would be my preference! Well, assuming Fetches are a no go until after Shocks Rotate.

        1. I want the classic pain lands back! I miss tapping my Karpulsian Forests and checking out that goblin lounging in a mud hole at the Sulfurous Springs! lol

          … Seriously though, it’s been a while since they’ve been reprinted, they come into play untapped and can be used for colorless mana with no ill effects. I think they’re ripe for the reprinting. (Not that they’ll be worth anything, just that they’d be nice to have back)

          1. There was this article on the wizards site where they explained that they found players often really disliked taking damage from their lands. This was quoted as the major reason they were moved out of the Core Set. I would not count on them seeing a reprint.

            1. I recall seeing something like that as well. Though, if Wizards can reprint City of Brass and Shock Lands, perhaps Pain Lands are no longer off the table.

              1. I wouldn’t count MM as the norm, Shock also have the painless option while the Painlands will damage you whenever you want colored mana and Shocks have not been printed in a set aimed at beginners.

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