Insider: Liliana of the Veil in Modern

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Earlier this week, we got the news that Deathrite Shaman would be banned in Modern, while at the same time Wild Nacatl and Bitterblossom would become legal. It looks like this was an effort to bring the Jund archetype back to the rest of the pack while at the same time shaking up the format by adding some new options.

No doubt you've heard a bit about the price of Bitterblossom this week. The price on various other Fae components has similarly been affected.

Through the price increases seen this past week, the market is predicting that Fae decks will become a significant component of the Modern metagame. The truth of this, and the eventual price level on Bitterblossom, won't be known until the Modern metagame reestablishes itself.

In contrast to the large price increase on Bitterblossom, the MTGO market has seen the writing on the wall for Jund, and Liliana of the Veil had plunged from about 73 tix to 58 tix as of Wednesday afternoon, the 5th of February.

This got my attention, and after doing a little reasoning, I decided that it was time to buy Liliana at that price. I also alerted Doug and he promptly got out an Insider Alert. Lily now sits at about 64 tix, which is just at the top end of the range I'd feel comfortable accumulating her for.

At prices above 50 tix it's hard to consider any card cheap. But a few signs point to it being undervalued. With some more research under my belt, I think I can say that the MTGO market had made a mistake by selling Liliana of the Veil down to sub-60 tix.

Paper Prices and Divergence

In reaction to the banning of Deathrite Shaman, the paper price of Liliana didn't budge an inch. In fact, it went up this week.

In technical analysis of the stock market this is called divergence--when two linked prices head in different directions. The trick is to figure out which one is heading in the 'wrong' direction.

Through redemption, we know that positive trends in paper prices will eventually dominate digital prices. As prices rise in paper, it becomes attractive to redeem sets. As sets are redeemed, the online supply shrinks (for sets not being drafted anyway). Through redemption, we should take a stable-to-rising paper price as a signal that a declining digital price constitutes a mistake made by an irrational market.

Why so Irrational?

Comparing paper to digital prices suggests that the MTGO market is acting foolishly. Adding more evidence to support this hypothesis will further solidify this spec.

It's easy to understand why a selloff of Liliana of the Veil has occurred on MTGO. Jund without Deathrite Shaman is surely a worse deck. And Bitterblossom will basically ignore Liliana. If Modern turns into a format of Jund without Deathrite Shaman and Fae decks packing Bitterblossom, then it's a sure thing that Liliana is overvalued. But that possibility seems remote.

GP Lincoln

Exhibit A should be Bronson Magnan's GP Lincoln-winning Aggro Loam deck back in early 2012. Notably this event took place in the winter prior to the release of Return to Ravnica, so Deathrite Shaman had yet to be unleashed on Modern.

Bronson's deck sought to abuse the graveyard as a resource by the power of dredge and Life from the Loam. Liliana of the Veil was featured as a three-of. A couple of the other heavy-hitters from Jund, Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant, were also present. Without Deathrite Shaman in the format as extremely flexible maindeck graveyard hate, graveyard-based strategies are going to find a higher power level, relatively speaking.

It's possible that Scavenging Ooze slots in as the maindeck graveyard hate option of choice and decks like Aggro Loam continue to sit below the top tier. However, not all decks will want to move towards Scavenging Ooze over Deathrite Shaman, so I think it's safe to say that decks powered by Life From the Loam will see a resurgence.

The price of Life From the Loam on MTGO has nearly doubled in the last three days, suggesting that this line of thinking is seeing broader adoption by speculators. Another card moving up from this deck is Countryside Crusher. Aggro Loam pushing back into the Modern metagame is a positive sign for the future utility (and price) of Liliana of the Veil.

GP Prague

As I detailed in the Insider Alert from Wednesday, two (non-Jund) decks featuring Liliana made a small splash at the recent GP in Prague.

Jan Miller finished in the money at 87th out of 1398 players with his mono-black discard deck. Largely eschewing creatures, it sought to rip your hand apart and win with Shrieking Affliction or The Rack. I've toyed around with this deck and it can be annoying to play against. I don't think it has the power to be a top-tier deck, but it should pop up from time to time as an unexpected archetype.

The other deck was piloted by Michele Bernardi to a 30th-place finish. This completely creatureless deck is a throwback to the super friends strategy, but in white, red and black. It plays Lily, Ajani Vengeant and Chandra, Pyromaster as its planeswalkers. Protecting these cards is a boatload of burn and Lingering Souls. The disruption package is headed by Smallpox and Boom // Bust, last seen being cast with Bloodbraid Elf's cascade.

I've been playing this deck quite a bit on MTGO over the past few weeks, and have gotten to know its ins and outs.

Boom // Bust is particularly interesting, as when you combine it with Flagstones of Trokair, it acts as a 2cc Stone Rain (with a little mana fixing thrown in). Even just combining it with a fetchland turns it into a standard Stone Rain. Naturally Smallpox is also well set up to combine with Flagstones of Trokair.

This deck absolutely pulverizes aggressive strategies such as Affinity and Zoo. It also does a number on Modern burn decks. It does have some trouble with Pod decks, and U/W/r decks are a bad match up.

All told, I think this is close to being a good deck, and one that takes quite a novel line of play when compared to the rest of the Modern field. I'm looking forward to slotting Bitterblossom into this build and taking it for a spin. But the backbone of the deck is the planeswalkers, with Liliana of the Veil doing lots of heavy lifting.

Hopefully this survey of some successful Modern decks featuring Lily gives you some confidence in speculating on this high-value item. If this card drops again below 60 tix, I'll pull out more tix and go even deeper, but I feel that the market should correct leading up to PT Valencia in a little over two weeks.

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