Insider: [MTGO] Filling Up Your Modern Basket – A Careful Selection of Promising Specs

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Modern price cycles are no stranger to the MTGO economy. These cycles have been a substantial and predictable source of profit for any speculator willing to monitor the trends just a little bit. Prices are expected to swing up and down, mostly following Modern seasons. Some cards have their own rhythm, rising and falling more or less rapidly, with one constant--cyclically going up and down. All this makes Modern positions highly predictable.

In addition, a cool thing with Modern speculation is that any card can be the next bomb if it shines during a GP, a PT or in a Travis Woo brew. Whether is it was a card known to be playable in Modern decks or a total stranger, its price can be multiplied by two, three or even tenfold!

Following the release of the new fall set and the rotation of Standard, October and November are usually a good period to invest in Modern positions.

What's Up Modern?

This 2014 year has been quite different from the past two years for Modern. We got the Modern Pro Tour--PT Born of the Gods in Valancia--in February instead of October for both previous Modern PTs. This was followed by a cancelled Modern PTQ season online this past summer. Nonetheless, Modern prices rose in August but didn't really exceed those in March.

Finally the new GP and PT agenda was unveiled without a real marked Modern season, and no Modern PT. After people let WotC know what they thought, a Modern PT was finally scheduled in February 2015--Pro Tour Fate Reforged.

I didn't really know what to expect from Modern fluctuations this year. The cancellation of Modern PTQs on MTGO compromised the peak I was expecting from Modern staples but actually most of them ignored the turmoil and kept their up and down cycles. To name a few Scapeshift, Serra Ascendant, Birthing Pod, Dismember and Fulminator Mage followed quite regular cycles. Scapeshift and Dismember actually hit a new record high between M15 and Khans of Tarkir releases.

Other Modern staples didn't really cycle during the past six months, losing some value or staying mostly flat. Some examples of this were Living End, Splinter Twin and Blood Moon.

What about the general trend? As illustrated by the Modern index, most Modern staples were actually at a high point at the end of August. A high point that matches the heights reached earlier this year in March.

Something else that you can clearly see here is that the index, and therefore most of the Modern staples, lost about 25% between August and October. This is the seasonal dip expected after the fall set release--a good opportunity to pick up several Modern cards before the next rebound and before what could trigger big spikes--Pro Tour Fate Reforged.

Not all cards have dipped and are good pickups right now. Some have already rebounded from their low earlier this month. After its mid-October fall, Scapeshift sharply rebounded and reached its past record price. Benefiting from the hype around blue-red decks, Scalding Tarn's price more than doubled in less than a month. Helped by a brew from Travis Woo, Goryo's Vengeance doubled up this month.

Other cards such as Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Cascade Bluffs, Vedalken Shackles, Engineered Explosives and Cavern of Souls are closer to a high than a low and are probably not a good pick now.

On last note, Modern Masters 2 might be near the corner but nothing is sure yet. At any time, up or down, keep an eye on your positions and on potential or verified reprints.

Building Your Basket

If the evolution of Modern prices is more predictable than anything else it's nonetheless not an exact science for every individual card. Building a basket of two dozen or so positions greatly increases your overall chances of positive returns and provides an edge against any big losses. The selection is rather large with Modern, so make sure to diversify your portfolio enough.

Lets look at a panel of decent picks with, in my opinion, potentially good returns within the next three to five months.

As Low As Could Be But...

Several long-time Modern staples have fell short of interest more recently. The following cards are at a long-term low or even at a historical nadir since their debut in Modern. Some of these also seem to have lost their spot in their respective deck(s) in favor of more appropriate solutions or card combinations. Picking them should be done cautiously, although they may be excellent opportunities if you expect them to rebound to their previous level.

Kiki-Jiki is back to its November 2012 low. Its appearance in Twin and Pod decks is clearly not as dominant as before. Not sure if this legendary goblin will regain its past fame. At 7 Tix or so the gamble might be worth it.

Coralhelm Commander at 0.05 Tix? Merfolk may not be a dominant archetype but at this price what's the risk? Or maybe the commander is not good enough and is getting kicked off the merfolk team.

Your Average Good Modern Pick

These are classic examples of regular Modern contenders. Almost all of these are established Modern staples which are fairly low now with a good upside ahead--a 50 to 100% gain is what you can expect with those. Others have not seen a regular presence in Modern decks but are at an attractive buying price now and would only need a little PT push to rise again.

Living End, Pyromancer Ascension, Fulminator Mage, Oblivion Stone and Grove of the Burnwillows are examples of Modern staples with a 100% or more margin from their previous highest. Lotus Bloom and Through the Breach don't necessarily see a ton of play but have the potential to explode if caught by hype.

If you do more research you'll probably find several other Modern cards with a low price at the moment and good potential going forward.

High Roller Positions

These are also Modern staples but with a higher price tag, recommended for bigger bankrolls. I would not consider these ones if you don't have 100 Tix or more ready to invest in each of your Modern positions. Your position might be filled with only a couple of copies to a playset of these cards.

While some of them might double in the case of favorable winds during the next Modern PT, I would only count on a 30% gain on average. Here you are betting on volume (the ability to invest several dozen of Tix in very few trades) and time gained (buying and selling these cards could take you less than a minute).

Bitterblossom is still expensive and seems to have more or less stabilized around 20 Tix since May. The black enchantment is not (yet?) the bomb we expected it to be. 20 Tix might be its baseline for future growth if decks including it see more success.

I kind of like Primeval Titan although it's not really cheap currently. The green giant has always been at the center of explosive decks and when you look at the graph its current price seems to be at the floor of a two-year trend. 30 Tix next time this titan moves up? Unless the titans are reprinted in Modern Masters 2...


Bored of mom-and-pop Modern positions? I may have some ideas for you.

Orzhov Pontiff. 0.2 Tix in January and more than 5 Tix last months. An incredible ascension for a card that is a one- or two-of in mostly Pod decks. This little guy made a name for himself as a solution against a lot of decks including Pod, Infect and W/B Tokens. Now doubling as a solution to the popular Young Pyromancer and his teammates could make Pontiff even go higher.

Minamo, School at Water's Edge. I would put this blue land in the sleeper category. From an old set, doesn't come on the battlefield tapped and has a special ability that could be relevant. I know its play is and might stay very marginal, but a little demand would drive its price high. Did you know that Oboro, Palace in the Clouds is almost worth 9 Tix now?

Ancestral Vision is not a Modern card, not yet. With people saying that Treasure Cruise is better and not banned (yet?) there's more and more incentive to unban Vision. Despite not being a Modern-playable card, Ancestral Vision swings quite a bit and is now close to a low. Not much to lose and a jackpot at stack if this card gets unbanned.

I have to admit that I have underestimated the power of the ZEN fetch lands to rebound. Scalding Tarn is already back to its height, Misty Rainforest could follow soon. The reasoning is probably true for all the ZEN fetch lands but Rainforest is still 30 Tix away from its record. You may want to consider Verdant Catacombs too.


Modern is a format full of good opportunities for speculators all year long and especially now. What are your feelings about Modern this year? Any favorite picks?

Thanks for reading,

Sylvain Lehoux

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