Insider: [MTGO] Early Picks for the Modern Season

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As the Modern season on MTGO is approaching and prices are trending up, I'm taking a break from my "How to" articles to talk a little bit about Modern perspectives and speculation opportunities.

Due to this year's PT schedule changes, Modern season has been postponed with respect to the two past years. Previously, Modern qualifier seasons for PTs Avacyn Restored and Dragon's Maze started around mid-November. For our purpose, I consider the Modern season to begin when prices start rising significantly. The Modern PTQ season per say spread from January to April.

Here are two classic examples Chord of Calling and Gifts Ungiven. You can even notice that there was an opportunity for some profits in between the two Modern seaons.

For PTs being held in May, prices on MTGO start moving in November, six months earlier. Keep in mind that people will look for cards online not only for the dozens of MTGO PTQs, but also to practice for the hundreds of PTQs all around the world.

This year, the qualifier season for PT "Huey" in October will be Modern. Applying the same time frame as for the past two years, Modern cards prices should start rising around April this year. Prices should be flat or low until that moment, especially since the Modern season has been postponed for about six months.

Thanks to a new feature from MtgoGoldfish, we now have access to a new index: Modern Staples. The index takes into account 140+ of Modern's most used cards and represents a strong approximation of how Modern prices evolve over time.

As you can see, prices as a whole have increased by 50 % between November 2012 and February 2013. However, despite the MMA release and a small dip in June, prices went back up as soon as July. After a "Theros break," the Modern index is now at its highest.

The Modern Index

In previous years, most Modern staples also experienced a secondary peak around August, before the releases of the core set and the new block. One might compare prices right now to August of past years (since prices are high despite being "off season"), and conclude that we should see a significant drop in prices until next April. However, some figures and facts don't lead me to expect a big decrease in Modern staples anytime soon.

Current State of Modern

Not all Modern staples are equal. Whereas some cards remain mostly flat, others have recently hit their personal record or are very close: Through the Breach, Goryo's Vengeance, the Zendikar fetchlands (prior to ZZW drafts), Splinter Twin, Torpor Orb, Fulminator Mage, Goremand, Spectral Procession...

Two other examples reveal a lot about Modern potential.

  • The M12 version of Primeval Titan has hit a new record, and is now more expensive than it was during its Standard era when the titan was a house. What will its price be in the heat of the Modern season?
  • Tarmogoyf has almost reached its highest, despite being recently reprinted in MMA. More than 100 tix in three months?

Here's is what all this indicates to me:

  1. The Modern Staples index is likely to keep increasing every week until next April, probably with a little break during Born of the Gods release events.
  2. The prices are not as low now as we might have expected. I'm not sure they will get significantly lower before the next Modern season kicks in. Born of the Gods release events might constitute the last "big" opportunity to invest in Modern staples.
  3. The constructed format of the next PT (PT Valencia, 21-23 February) is Modern. If a GP (GP Prague) is enough to raise the price of cards such as Geist of Saint Traft and Fist of Suns by 33% and 200%, respectively, what do you think a Modern PT will do two months away from the PTQ Modern season? Set the prices on fire?

The Modern format is undeniably getting quite popular. Rares and mythics that have not been reprinted in MMA could go through the roof, yet again. For these reasons, taking Modern positions now, and especially the cards that still remain under the radar, is probably a good idea.

You may want to keep an eye on all the cards that are currently high. Not only are they likely to get more expensive during the Modern season, they are also likely to drop during Born of the Gods release events. They could eventually represent a good opportunity.

Finding Dormant Opportunities

As a whole, Modern staples are currently at an historical high. Individually, some cards, including Modern staples, present a excellent buying opportunity right now.

As said many times before, Modern cards prices are highly cyclical. Thus, it is fairly easy to predict the future trend of a given card, especially if that card has been used in the past--it will be again during the next Modern season, 99.9% sure.

In this context, buying as close as possible to the bottom is what matters. Because Modern cards are more and more in demand, the relative bottom of each card is changing continuously, and the ceiling is getting higher and higher (providing there's no reprint).

Alternatively, another approach to buying Modern cards is to buy far enough below the highest and generate some profits when prices rise again. As for me, when a card reaches about 66% or less of its previous ceiling, I consider buying it. This leaves me 50% or more for potential profit if, as expected, previous ceilings are reached again at some point.

With this in mind, here is a list of cards that you may want to consider for Modern investments at this time.

Note these cards were selected at the end of last week, so they might not be as appealing now. Always use your best judgment to decide for yourself where to invest.


ZZW drafts gave us an excellent opportunity to stock Modern staples from these two sets, and there's plenty of them. The ZEN fetchlands drew most of the attention, and after a small decrease they are already back up (as of writing).

Therefore they might not be as exciting as anticipated, and they don't leave much room for profit. However, besides the fetchlands, many other cards are really interesting right now.

Most of these cards have fallen to at least 50% of their potential highest during Modern season. If they are still that low when you read these lines, you should consider taking some positions.

"Older" Modern Staples

The cards below have shown their value in the Modern format. They have not been reprinted in MMA and currently have good buying value. Because they are not MMA reprints, their availability is still quite limited and could reach new heights during the Modern season.

MMA Modern Staples

Another category of potential targets is the MMA reprints. Most of these cards used to have a high price tag, and MMA changed everything. These cards hit a very low new bottom last summer. I don't necessarily expect them to rebound to their previous highs, but they have a strong speculative potential. Remember to compare the MMA prices to the original printings' prices to have an idea of the potential.

Some Underdogs

Finally, some cards that you may want to consider as they might play a role in the next Modern metagame, and still have a low price tag. Typically, I'm talking about Standard cards or rotating-out-of Standard cards.

Note that some of these cards play multiple roles at once, i.e. their value can increase because of being Modern-, Legacy- or Standard-playable cards, and because of redemption. Anyway, I think the Modern season constitutes a great opportunity for these cards to peak.

Take-Home Messages

Modern has proven several times to be Magic Christmasland for speculators. Modern attracts more and more people every year and prices of cards keep climbing a little bit every time we face a Modern season.

This year, the Modern season should start around April. However, prices are already up and have hit a new record recently. A Modern PT roughly a month before the Modern season kicks off is something we haven't experienced the past two years.

Born of the Gods release events should constitute the last opportunity to grab Modern staples at decent prices, and this might not be true for all Modern cards. Starting with the cards I mentioned today, I suggest you pay close attention to the Modern staples that are relatively low now, as they might not go down further.


Thank you for reading,

Sylvain Lehoux

10 thoughts on “Insider: [MTGO] Early Picks for the Modern Season

  1. Hi, I was wondering what your thoughts are on Karn, Liliana, birthing pod, the fetchlands and the scars lands? Some of them are up and have been climbing, do they have a more room to grow and would you still trade into those or trade them out for the cards in your articles? Can any of them take that thoughtseize jump from 45 to 75?

  2. Hi Charles, Thank you for reading,

    For a pure speculative point, I stay away from all the cards that are already high (Karn, Liliana, Fetchlands…) for 2 main reasons:

    1- They are likely to go up during the Modern season, but even a jump from 45 to 75 represents “only” a 66% profit with the best case scenario. All the cards I presented here have from 50 to 100% profit if they only reach their previous highest.

    2- These high priced cards may dip a little bit during BnG events, you may want to acquire them a that point.

    Scars lands are a good opportunity, I mentioned three of them, those with the most potential for me.

    Personally, I’m really focusing mainly in the cards I’m talking in the article. To me, they simply represent the best chances for profit when Modern season comes.

  3. Thanks for the quick response, well if you had the said big cards, would you swap them out directly for those cards on your list? It seems as liliana is the most potent to climb so if someone offered you a mix of the cards you wanted of equal value, you would do so? Whats your feelings on modern event deck possibly have a fetch in it, would you trade them off after the next protour to be safe or just hang on to them through the event deck release and into the modern season?

  4. I think you have a few too many picks in this article for me. Diversification is good, but it’s more inventory to manage, and more opportunity cost to sink. So I’d be a little more selective with picks personally. For example, it’s hard to think of a card less likely to spike than figure of destiny in my opinion. And shadow of doubt spiked something like 600% in the past year, and doesn’t really see that much play… How much more do you really expect it to go up? Good read overall though

  5. Everything being equal, I would always like to be more diversify. Unless you already hold many Modern positions, I would rather have 10 difference cards than 1 Liliana.

    It is likely that Liliana will keep climbing and will be higher in June that now, but it’s hard to imagine Liliana at 150+ tix. At the opposite, it’s fairly easy to imagine all the “smaller” cards doubling or more.

    I’m also always trying to invest a more or less similar amount of tix in each specs, let’s say 30 tix of each Modern cards you want. This way, all your positions have the same weight.

    For the fetch, I don’t really now but if some are in the event decks, their price will drop for sure and would put a cap on the fetch prices.

    That is a sufficient reason to trade them for safer and more productive positions.

  6. Now this is why I pay the money here. Thanks for an informative article with hard data to back.

    I have been acquiring Huntmasters, Thundermaws, Elspeths, Lotus cobras, Surgical Extraction, Ravagers, Blood Moons (which is the weakest on the picks) and the Scars lands.

    This article re-enforces that these have been good specs. Thanks for all the hard work you guys put in.

  7. Love the oracle of muy dala pick. Easy easy 300% with all the brewing going on and the depressed price from the flashback drafts. Thanks for sharing a nice set of picks!

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