Let me try my hand at my very first self-made English riddle:
Q: What do prices of Modern cards and the universe have in common?
A: They are both in expansion and seem to have no limits.
Although the Modern Index is dipping a little bit these days, as it does now and then, this two-year-old format is still fully rising, and some format staples got really big this year.
Months are passing by and Modern looks like an inexhaustible gold mine from a speculative perspective. Even with the release of Modern Masters, format staples seem to be totally ignoring the notion of ceiling, and long-forgotten cards jump from pure junk to "the next big" thing in hours.
Another amazing thing about Modern is that any long-time forgotten card touched by the grace of an appearance in a Daily Event (DE) deck list, in Travis Woo videos or in a GP/PT coverage can rise from nothing to several tix in less than a day. Even cards that have been around for quite a long time and which have seen basically no play in any competitive deck suddenly become the most chased card in the Modern format.
In terms of speculation and ROI, these cards are a sort of Holy Grail--0.05tix one day, 2 tix the next day. Couple of tix invested, hundreds harvested.
These spikes seem rather unpredictable… or are they? Well, I really think they are unpredictable.
However, if we can't really predict when these junk rares will rise from the dust, we can surely identify potential hidden gems. With minimum raises from 0.05 to 1 tix, and potentially way more, there's no need to be right 60% of the time. Finding the "one" only 10% of the time is probably sufficient enough.
Let's briefly review some great examples of cards considered unplayable at some moment of their history which have reached summits in no time. Then we'll see which cards have the potential to be the next big thing.
Previous Hidden Gems
The Big Winners
Among these incredible spikes, some really went through the roof, and all the way to the moon!
- Disrupting Shoal, or the Travis Woo effect at its best. Three years ago, before Modern became an official format, the blue shoal was total junk at around 0.05 tix and quickly jumped at 1.5 tix after the first Modern PT. Then it oscillated between 0.3 and 1 tix for about one and a half years, before skyrocketing to 12 tix last January thanks to the popularity of the Ninja Bear deck.
- Fist of Suns never really hit bottom as a pure junk, at least with the price history with have on MtgGoldfish. Nonetheless, for a long time this artifact was under 0.5 tix until it exploded mid-December 2013 and reached 6+ tix a month later. It only took a DE deck list and a GP coverage.
- Goblin Charbelcher. Never really used and at around 0.2 tix in December 2012, the Charbelcher climbed to 2.5 tix in January 2013. Back to 0.3 tix last summer, it almost reached 5 tix earlier this January. Here, the lightning struck twice in about a year, 1250% first strike, 1600% second strike!
- Amulet of Vigor, a favorite speculation success story. As far as MtgGoldfish history allows us to see, the Amulet was able to be found at 0.2 or less up to January 2012. Then it got a little more oscillations until that impressive one-night 4-tix spike during PT Valencia.
- Goryo's Vengeance. A true junk rare before Modern was created. After a nice little increase to 2 tix early in the Modern format, the reanimator instant got a gigantic boost with the release of Disciple of Griselbrand, hitting 8, then 10 and recently 12 tix.
This phenomenon is not isolated. Several other card have experienced the same "lucky" destiny. Not so long ago these cards were at 0.1 tix or below, and picked with a 1000% increase or more as testified by their price history.
You may also think that these sudden spikes are reserved for cards from older sets. Some more recent spikes show us that even cards printed in the last year or so are potential candidates.
Porphyry Nodes is a particularly interesting case. The card has been around for a while and the Modern metagame decided to make it a star only last month! Maybe because of recent B&R changes? Or maybe because it has been caught on PT cameras?
Identifying the Next Hidden Gems
Timing and Goals
First of all, this type of speculation is not a short- or mid-term investment. As you saw with previous cards, it may take years before it hits the big jump. You must be ready to hold these cards for probably a year or two, even if one of them can breakout almost anytime.
My goal here is not to find only winners. I know that many of them won't do anything, even after ten years. With expected ROI of 1000% or more, I'm looking to be right just about 10% of the time--that will be enough to generate some profits. If 20% or 30% of my picks turn out to be successful, I'll be totally happy.
Finally, depending on how and when a card breaks out I'll consider selling only if it reaches 1000% of its initial price.
Criteria for Selecting Top Junk Rares
When reviewing the potential candidates for a big move, I established a few rules for my selection. It is also up to you, according to your preferences and feeling to set your own criteria when picking junk rares.
- They must be rares, or mythics (although mythics are unlikely to be low enough in price to hold sufficient potential profits). Why rares only? They simply have a better potential than uncommons or commons for a buying starting point. Past examples showed us that junk rares can jump to up to 10 tix from as low as 0.05 tix, for a 2000% profit at most. Because of their availability, uncommons and commons can't rise significantly enough.
- These junk rare must be at 0.2 tix or lower when bought. Most likely they will be in the 0.05-0.15 range. Again, this is to secure the best potential return in case of breakout.
- When selecting these cards, I am looking for unique effects among the pool of Modern cards. Some cards that don't do much in our current metagame might need another card, from a future set, to completely reveal their power.
- Finally, these cards should have a low casting cost. One to three mana is probably the best range for potential breakout cards. It doesn’t mean that a five-mana casting cost is a deal breaker, but it is less likely to impact the Modern format than a one-mana casting cost.
My Top 10 Picks
Here are the junk rares I think are worth considering.
I bought 10 tix worth of each of these cards. My expectations? That at least one of them tops 1+ tix within a year. That's the bet I take here.
#1 and #2
These two cards have made little noise recently because of their interaction with Disciple of Griselbrand and Borborygmos Enraged. With the Borrower or the Ooze, the trick is pretty neat, it may happen turn 2 or 3, and you can set up your combo without much warning at instant speed. Any new creature, or artifact, with an overpowered ability for ridiculous activation cost can potentially trigger the spike here.
I mentioned this last week. Its price is pretty attractive right now especially as a junk rare speculation. This black instant has already spiked in the past and I see no reason why it would not again. This card is fully dedicated to a combo deck, and that's exactly what it takes for sudden spike thanks to a good DE or GP result.
Several unsuccessful attempts have been made to produce a competitive deck with this variant of Glimpse of Nature. Intruder Alarm Elves is probably the best version so far.
I gave it a try myself in a Zombie Infestation + Stinkweed Imp dredge deck. Make a zombie to draw a card, dredge the imp, reveal a Narcomoeba sometimes and mill all your deck turn three with half a dozen of zombies and four 1/1 fliers on the battlefield. Very little is missing to make Beck // Call a 1+ tix card.
Survival of the Fittest for artifacts? not really. But for sure this enchantment has an efficient and straightforward ability. Trinket Mage does a better job of searching for an artifact with a casting cost or one or less, but Artificer's Intuition also allows you to discard. As new sets get printed, more artifacts are likely to fit the requirements of the Intuition, and maybe one will make the blue enchantment a key card.
This artifact surprisingly jumped from 0.05 to 0.5 tix last December. Now it is back to my "junk rare limit". How about turn two Enter the Infinite? Discard your big sorcery and one of the Phyrexian mana free spells with Faithless Looting. Play Spellweaver Helix turn two with some mana accelerator and play a second copy of your Phyrexian mana free spell. Sure you almost need a perfect hand, but that's the idea about the crazy potential of Spellweaver Helix.
Retract had a little bump when Beck // Call was spoiled. Zero-drop artifact creatures, a draw engine when they come into the battefield, and Retract seemed perfect to restart it all over again and draw dozen of cards. The potential is still here--a one blue mana instant, it can't get better, it just need the right shell to explode.
Pithing Needle on foot. This card never gets really high but is a part-time member of the Hatebear guys. With Scars flashback drafts running this week, the Revoker is dropping close to 0.2 tix. A perfect timing to grab some, especially with Vintage Masters coming up this summer.
Also dipping to a 0.05 tix junk rare because of flashback drafts, the white chancellor sees some play in Manaless Dredge in Legacy. This card could definitely find a place in a Modern deck if the metagame become more favorable and/or in combination with new cards.
These ten cards represent to me good junk rare speculation opportunities. Some of them have had little bumps recently and might take off soon even without a GP or PT coverage.
Other cards could have been in this list, or were slightly higher in price as of now, such as the red and blue hideaway lands.
What do you think? If you have other suggestion or idea, feel free to share! Here, it is a list of ten, but we could easily include ten other cards. What are your choices?
Thank you for reading!