Last weekend in Nashville we were able to watch the first Star City Games Standard Open with Born of the Gods in the format. Like every new set, this one drew some anticipation as to what cards would make a splash.
Would a new deck archetype surface thanks to the new mana-fixing Temples? Would the set’s few power cards shift the balance and push a Tier-1.5 deck up to Tier 1 status? Most importantly, would we identify the next Angel of Serenity or Boon Satyr, enabling quick-flip profits?
In this writer’s opinion, the answer so far is a resounding “no”.
Quick Numbers: Top 8
Two Mono-Blue Devotion decks made Top 8, neither of which ran any cards from Born of the Gods. These decks succeeded as if no new cards had entered the format. One Mono-Black Devotion deck also broke into the Top 8, with only updated removal spells representing the newest set. No opportunities there.
Breaking down the entire Top 8, the Born of the Gods card that appeared most (besides Temples) was Bile Blight, with an underwhelming count of seven. Other than Temples, the only two rares to show up were four copies of Courser of Kruphix and one Fated Retribution. The only mythic rare to appear in Top 8 was Brimaz, King of Oreskos, which showed up as a two-of in one deck.
Talk about underwhelming.
Many players anticipated this set would be weak relative to the rest of the format and last weekend’s results were certainly consistent with this observation. Despite a ton of hype around a Bant Walkers deck running three Kiora, the Crashing Wave piloted by Brian Braun-Duin, the deck ended in a mildly interesting 31st place.
Of course, when Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver broke onto the scene it received similar hype for one or two weeks. The hype resulted in a temporary price bump to around $25 before settling far lower.
It’s not impossible for Kiora to experience a similar trend. The SCG announcers were pushing her pretty significantly, and naïve speculators are prone to giving in to emotional hype.
But if Ashiok’s performance is any indicator, I’d suggest staying away from Kiora for now unless you can capitalize on Kiora’s hype very rapidly (i.e. trade for her and trade her away within days). Unless Kiora sees greater success in the next couple weeks she will definitely plummet in price much as Ashiok did.
Of course, if Kiora does win major events then all bets are off. She could take off and hit $50 like other mythic rares tend to when they initially make their break in a new Standard format. But keep in mind as additional quantities are opened her price will decline--tread carefully when speculating here.
This leads me to the second portion of my article. The more I read about Standard the more I yawn. It feels like the format has reached some sort of steady state, with the same few decks winning over and over again. Although it’s still early, I fear Born of the Gods won’t do much for the format.
For these reasons, and because Standard cards frequently tank in price post-release (except for the one or two that spike first before dropping), I am still keeping my focus on Modern.
Let’s face facts--every card printed in Scars of Mirrodin block or earlier that seems some Modern play has appreciated in value. Even cards that are two-ofs in exactly one Modern deck have risen significantly.
Sideboard cards are even getting attention from speculators. I’ve noticed Meddling Mage show up as an mtgstocks.com interest a number of times now due to a steady rise. Although still under the $2 price line, Torpor Orb is another sideboard card that has risen significantly lately.
$1.50 may seem uninspiring, but the fact that this card has tripled in value over the last year is actually incredible. There aren’t enough copies available online to make a million bucks here, but when this card was under a buck, few bets more sure than this one existed.
The rising tide that is Modern demand has caused all prices to rise. Anything that sees play has been a solid investment over the past few months. With Modern season approaching, this effect is likely to magnify.
Be Aware of Risk
I have just one caution when it comes to investing deeply in Modern: watch out for reprints. Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant aside, some Modern Masters reprints have not participated in the recent rally. A great example would be Kitchen Finks, which is a solid Modern card that has monotonically dropped in price since its reprinting in Modern Masters.
This trend applies to more than just the MMA uncommons. Consider Vedalken Shackles, which was reprinted in MMA as a mythic rare and has done nothing but drop in price since the reprint.
Where others see a negative trend, I see opportunity. While the increase in supply certainly merits a price drop, I can’t help but believe the selling is a bit overdone. As Modern Masters slowly integrates into people’s collections, the number of copies available for trade and purchase will decrease. And when Modern season rolls around, these will dry up fairly rapidly.
Net, if you’re looking for a new angle to invest in Modern, consider MMA cards which see plenty of play but have been negatively impacted by the reprint. This suggestion is consistent with the mantra “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”.
It appears people are uncomfortable speculating on these reprints, but that only generates an opportunity for us to make bank on cheap Modern cards. Over the next couple months, these cards will be some of my primary targets and I’d suggest you consider them as well.
The only other unknown: what the Modern Event Deck will bring. This is difficult to predict because the list of possibilities is quite long.
My general attitude is that the number of cards that will be reprinted in this Event Deck is small relative to the size of the format. Therefore I do not intend to change my investing strategy at all. I run the risk of holding a few cards that will suffer in price due to the Event Deck but this will hopefully be counteracted by the remaining Modern cards’ rise in price as we head into the season.
I am being fairly harsh on Standard, but for good reason. Why try to speculate on what cards may see an increase in play when we know Modern cards will continue to rise in price? The risk/reward equation just isn’t there on Standard. At least not for me.
If Kiora breaks out next week, of course I’ll be scouring the internet looking for cheap copies. But I have no interest in buying into any new Standard cards before they are proven.
There just is no motivation for me to do so when I know my money will be effective in Modern playables. And with Modern Masters creating new opportunities for investing, namely in playable reprints, I have even less motivation to make unnecessary gambles. The money is simply too easy in Modern right now.
This may change if Wizards announces a Modern Masters 2 but at this point the likelihood this happens before Modern season takes place is nearly zero. Therefore the demand will far outpace supply, leading to further price increases in this growing format. The numbers don’t lie.
- Want more evidence that Modern Masters supply is finally drying up? Look no further than Modern Masters Booster Boxes. These used to sell for $250 all day online, and now the cheapest buy-it-now on eBay is $288 shipped. SCG has shown their expectations by pricing their seven boxes at $349.99.
- Bitterblossom’s unbanning had a drastic impact on many card prices. One of my favorite examples is Cryptic Command--SCG has just a few in stock, and NM copies retail for $39.99 now. I only expect this to go higher. This, despite the reprint in Modern Masters.
- On the flip side, SCG has a couple hundred Kitchen Finks in stock. This indicates that any price increase is not quite on the horizon yet. But at some point these should bottom out. The potential is certainly higher on the rares and mythic rares from MMA and I’d look there to invest first. But assuming Finks don’t see additional reprints, they should inevitably rise again.