This week has been very interesting. I continue to test Modern, as I have for months, and I continue to be impressed by the format. It is an evolving, rotating, writhing mass of crazy strategies and casual players' hopes and dreams. Even with so many decks, I feel I am truly getting a handle on where this year's format will end up. A couple of notes so far:
1) Affinity will be the go-to choice for a lot of new players.
Hands down this is the aggressive deck of choice right now. Gone are the worries that Zoo is going to make a come back. While good, Zoo was just "pimp back-handed" out of the last Pro Tour way too hard. That taste has soured in a lot of people's mouths since then and--there are just better, cheaper decks.
Some of the Magic Online results are varying on how much this deck will be played, but I'm talking about the expectations across the field. I've been running into a large number of people playing this deck and very often at that.
It's still a very hard deck to know when and how to switch gears on, but as the format develops I would expect people's understanding to really flourish with it too. Robots in general is a mainstay that isn't going anywhere.
2) Jund is still very real
The results have been trickling in from Modern Dailies and Premiere events. How it is putting up the numbers in its current iterations is beyond my understanding. Jund, as built, annihilates a pretty wide range of aggressive decks. Most of the tier 1.5 and lower strategies just can't handle it.
The Rock though, is not a copy of Jund. It plays completely differently, is much more grindy, and corrects for only some of Jund's weaknesses while opening itself to some of the faster starts decks like Affinity can present. Even if it's only for Lightning Bolt, Raging Ravine and Anger of the Gods, the red portion is still very worth running.
However, cards like Lingering Souls, Path to Exile, Stony Silence, Rest in Peace and Loxodon Smiter are pulling way too much weight not to consider looking at white, so I'm currently figuring out which is the best path.
3) Combo strategies are diverse and attack from different angles.
Storm is a close second after somehow dropping off the face of the Earth. If anyone understands what really happened here after such an amazing Pro Tour, I'd like to hear about it. It's still putting up a showing here and there--but it's not even making the rounds very much in casual MWS play, it seems.
4) There aren't many midrange strategies.
Beyond the 400-pound gorilla called Birthing Pod, name one strategy not named "The Artist Formally Known as Jund." There just aren't many.
Okay, rephrase. There aren't many good ones. There are many knockoffs still trying to take advantage of the Inquisition/Thoughtseize/Liliana of the Veil/Dark Confidant package but by the time you get to that point, you might as well run Tarmogoyf/Abrupt Decay/Scavenging Ooze as well. Oh, look, now you're just playing as Luigi (aka The Rock).
5) URx is still going to be everywhere.
The MODO results just can't lie. Snapcaster, Splinter Twin, Cryptic Command--they're still wonderfully sound investments heading into this season. There will be lots of demand for these cards and the support cards that go along with them. If you're not sporting these in your binders I have just one question: "What are you doing?!?!"
The amount of frothing game boy/girl squeeing whenever someone turns to these cards in your inventory might actually reach the Martians faster than the latest episode of Howdy Doody did. And if you thought that reference was obscure, give me about five minutes--I'm sure I can outdo myself.
Honestly, these are known quantities at this point. The fact is though, not many people are holding their breath on these cards. They're not tucked away quietly in someone's long-term hold. They're in trade binders waiting for you to have the exact maximum value that they want.
Story time: a friend of mine shipped a large number of Restoration Angels at GP: Atlanta last weekend. Was it a little premature? Sure. He could have absolutely waited, and he knows it--He's friends with me, after all--but he mentioned something that absolutely rings true. He needed multiple Karakas'ssss...(Karakas's? Karakasi?) and was completely happy with the $7.50 buy price at the GP.
Considering the card is floating at $8-$9 right now he was definitely not wrong. Plus he made a nice profit on it, having picked them up in the low $4 range. Maximum efficiency, though, would have been to retail or trade them at the expected $14-$18 they will reach by mid-season. That didn't ultimately matter though.
The point is: never prejudge a scenario. Especially if you have a decent selection of cards. The time for taking advantage of spikes is almost upon us. Selling into the hype is the key, but it never changes someone's need. If you have a need they want filled, anything can happen.
There will be many people that just want to travel with their friends and play Magic. That means owning the cards they need for their decks. That means having the cards they need, when they need it. Travelling with their friends alone will bring a huge draw to Modern, besides the fact that Modern is pretty awesome, but you know--I might be biased.
Either way, I tip my hat to you, Wizards.
The Meat & Potatoes
This week's focus is five sideboard cards worth watching. Some are becoming maindeck worthy. Some are just so underpriced it's criminal.
Onto this week's episode:
This should be a no-brainer, as Anger of the Gods has proven to be a performer since the last Modern Pro Tour. This was the the Hand of God that came down and really put Zoo in check.
Slowly but surely it's been relegated to sideboards. Some Jund versions that want sweepers have moved back to Jund Charm in a effort to combo with Prophetic Flamespeaker, creating a third potent threat and possible card advantage engine.
Anger has room to work with and will consistently see demand in both Modern and Standard for the foreseeable future.
A mainstay as long as Birthing Pod decks are still floating around the room. The curious thing about this card is its "recently printed but not Standard legal" stigma. Copies of Grafdigger's Cage have done nothing but creep up, even slowly.
Now with the PTQ season about to swing into full action, I'm intrigued to see where this card ends up by season's end. I'm expecting this to be my prime example of items that break that "too recent" maxim. I say if it fits the power level, stash 'em. This is a colorless card that hoses multiple archtypes extremely well.
I don't believe I have to write much here. If you're not already on the Abrupt Decay train, get on. In the last week this card has already experienced a roughly 30% increase in price and has already topped its post-preorder high. Get on board quickly, while you still can.
Hands down one of the format defining cards. There are so many decks this card just outright cripples. We saw flashes of it at the last Pro Tour, but for some reason as of late Blood Moon has sunken beneath the surface again. A card that everyone has nightmares about, but never really wants to invest in for some reason.
I don't honestly understand why. Take advantage of the criminal underpricing on this hard-to-find staple, as it could hit ridiculous numbers after a buyout.
The coup de grâce of my list. Stony Silence is again another format-defining answer. It shuts down many strategies much like Blood Moon does. The issue with Stony Silence is that there just aren't enough powerful white decks to support it in large numbers.
Also, it suffers from that damnable "hasn't been long enough" philosophy. From casual play, to Commander, to Modern, to possibly Legacy and Vintage, Stony Silence has so many applications and is one of the few clear examples of this effect. It will not stay at this price forever.
In my experience though, it has singlehandedly made the white splash worth it in Ajundi, allowing it it keep up with Tron, shut out Robots, and get great splash damage on cards like Vedalken Shackles and others. Keep a very close eye on what this card does in the future. We are getting close to the out-of-print lifespan that starts to really shake up baseline pricing.
-Til Next Time