Your Modern Buylist: The Theros Rotation

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When you think of Modern powerhouse blocks, you probably think of Return to Ravnica, Khans of Tarkir, or Scars of Mirrodin. Theros block? I imagine more Modern players would be excited about going back to Homelands (Barons of Ulgrotha anyone?) than seeing more Theros. The Greek and Roman-themed set was not the strongest addition to our Modern arsenal, but with Battle for Zendikar and the Standard rotation coming up on October 2, it's time to start thinking about what post-rotation cards you need to pick up for the future. As anyone who has checked out Snapcaster Mage's price in the last few months knows, Modern cards have a tendency to spike once they see widespread play, and even Theros block holds a few key staples you'll want to snag early. M15 is also part of this rotation, so we can't forget the core set cards either. This article walks you through the pickups you want to buy now or buy as soon as the rotation price drop occurs.

Anger of the Gods art

The 10 cards on this buylist range between format mainstays and niche bullets, but all of them are cards you need to watch in the coming months. In many cases, you won't want to pick these cards up right away: Standard players still haven't sold off their pre-rotation decks and it will take time for prices to adjust. Moreover, as the Magic economy has matured, so too has speculation and investment in cards with cross-format relevance. There was a time when a card like Thoughtseize would plummet after a rotation, but that was also a time when Blood Moon was a dollar-bin rare. In discussing these individual cards, I'll try to give some tips on both why the card is a good pickup and also when you want to buy in to each item. Also, a big thanks both to reddit for the interesting post-Theros Modern thread on this same topic, and for former Nexus staff Sean for suggesting this as a good article idea.


Honorable Mentions

Before we get to the post-Theros big ten buylist, I want to give a shoutout to a few cards you'll want to keep your eye on following the rotation. These cards are not always safe bets. In many cases, they'll depend on other cards being printed to improve their core archetype, or metagame shifts to make them better in Modern. Despite this uncertainty, these cards are strong enough that you can pick up a few copies if you are feeling lucky or optimistic.

  • Ashiok Nightmare WeaverAshiok, Nightmare Weaver: One of those overhyped planeswalkers that tanked from its $25+ pricetag to under $10, Ashiok still saw play in Gerard Fabiano's Sultai Control deck and could get better in a grindier metagame. If UBx gets other options outside of Grixis, particularly more Sultai, Ashiok could see its time in the sun.
  • Brimaz, King of Oreskos: Occasionally shows up in BW Tokens along with some lower tier decks like Mardu Tokens/Midrange and Deadguy Ale. Outclassed by delve creatures currently, along with good old Goyf, Brimaz could see more play if white becomes stronger.
  • Chandra, Pyromaster: Don't let her sub-$5 price-tag deceive you. Chandar is an excellent one-of in many Jund builds, and is often Reid Duke's lady of choice when rounding out the top of his Jund curve. If you ever want to play grindy red-based or BRx-based decks, Chandra is someone you might want in your binder. Don't go too heavy into Chandra though: multiple printings hurt her longterm pricetag.
  • Goblin RabblemasterGoblin Rabblemaster: Goblin Piledriver didn't do enough to make Goblins a thing in Modern, but if Goblins' day finally comes, Rabblemaster might be leading the charge. Rabblemaster is sure to plummet after the Standard rotation, and is a solid pickup for either a Goblins deck or as a way to go wide in decks like Jund.
  • Sylvan Caryatid: 4C Gifts always goes through ups and downs in the metagame, and Caryatid is a mainstay in their 60. Jeskai Ascendancy decks also love the Plant, and with Caryatid's price falling after the rotation, this could be a good pickup for either of these decks or other ramp strategies.
  • Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: Jund and Abzan have been the big BGx players recently, but Urborg will always have a home in the straight BG Rock version we saw last summer before GP Kobe. Urborg is a casual favorite as well, which makes it one of the safer buys in the honorable mentions list.

Other niche cards like Waste Not (8Rack variants), Pyxis of Pandemonium (Latern Control), and Mana Confluence (5C Humans, Slivers) are also things to look out for after the rotation. Same goes for powerful effects like Return to the Ranks. You might not make a fortune on cards like these, but snagging some of them after their prices bottom out will give you a nice selection for future Modern decks.

The Top 10: Post-Theros Modern Buylist

Despite all the flak Wizards got from the nonrotating and eternal format crowd for these sets, Theros block (and M15) both had a fair number of staples worth your post-rotation money. Here are the big 10 you want to keep on your radar as you start figuring out what staples to snipe for future Modern play.

10. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Nykthos, Shrine to NyxBack when Nykthos first got spoiled, Modern players worked overtime to ramp up Nykthos Green into a competitive deck. Devotion-enablers like Wistful Selkie spiked overnight, and within a few months Nykthos Green was a solid tier 2 deck on MTGO with about 2%-3% of the metagame. Although it was all downhill from there for the green mages, we still see Nytkhos show up as part of white enchantment-based decks (Runed Halo, Suppression Field, etc.) and some MTGO Tooth and Nail builds. Players have tried both red and black devotion in Modern without much success, but Nykthos is the kind of Gaea's Cradle or Serra's Sanctum-style card which could become big depending on what cards eventually see print. It won't hurt to have a few of these in your binder in the years to come, especially if we see something like a Wild Growth in future sets.

9. Courser of Kruphix

Courser of KruphixWhen most players think of card advantage in BGx, they think of Dark Confidant. Bob may be a Jund all-star, but he's a lot worse alongside the higher-curved Abzan workhorses like Siege Rhino, or the more fringe BG Rock options like Phyrexian Obliterator. BG Rock and BGw Souls decks were big last summer, and as Burn players rose to take advantage of Bob's lifeloss, the BGx mages switched to Courser to give an edge in both the aggro matchup and the grindy mirror. Courser is easily one of the top three format-defining monsters of Standard, and although this never translated to the same kind of Modern success, he has still seen play in different BGx shells. Courser is also an excellent pickup in the coming months, especially the foiled version. His pricetag will crash hard as Standard forgets the Centaur, which makes it an ideal time to pick up a few copies for future metagame adaptations in your BGx decks.

8. Temple of Malice and co.

I remember the public outcry when Wizards spoiled the scrylands. Or maybe "crylands" would be a better name. The cards proved their worth in Standard but never made much of an impact in Modern, Temple of Malicewhich might make them seem like odd inclusions on a Modern buylist. Then came GP Charlotte and the breakout performance of Grishoalbrand: Bob Huang's and Zach Jesse's Temple of Malice playset were integral to the deck's success. As anyone who has played with or against the deck can attest, the free scry is invaluable in the early turns when setting up a turn two or three win, or for smoothing draws when you are trying to punch through countermagic. Grishoalbrand is a very specific application for the Temples, but it's by no means the only one. Darien Elderfield piloted an Ad Nauseam list to a Top 8 finish in the same event, and his five Temples were as important to him as they were to Huang and Jesse. It's only a matter of time before more Modern players find additional applications for the Temples, and even if they don't, there are enough combo players around who will want the lands for their Ad Nauseam or Grishoalbrand lists. Pick these up now and test them like a madman: the cards are certainly relevant elsewhere and we only need to figure out where.

7. Keranos, God of Storms

The Theros Gods were some of the most disappointing cards from a Modern perspective. How is it that indestructible, undercosted creatures with upsides can see basically zero Modern play? Ask the Theros Keranosdesigners, but in at least one case, they got the perfect balance between Standard balance and Modern playability. Keranos, God of Storms didn't catch on right away, but by late 2014 he was a mainstay in URx sideboards across the format. To this day, Keranos remains one of the best ways to overpower Jund and Grixis decks in a grindy mirror. Both Antonio del Moral Leon and Dan Lanthier ran two copies of Keranos in their sideboards at PT Fate Reforged and GP Vancouver respectively, and we've seen the God show up in Grixis Control as well. Keranos has held a steady $10 pricetag for a while now, after falling from the $15-$20 range after his release, and this is likely to drop even further when Standard players unload their Theros-packed binders. As long as URx exists in Modern and needs to win the mirror or the BGx matchup, Keranos will be one of their strongest go-to weapons, and it's smart to pick up 2-3 now while the price is right.

6. Destructive Revelry

On the subject of sideboard mainstays, Revelry has been as good (if not better) for Burn decks as Keranos has been for URx ones. Unlike the blue-red God, Revelry is as inconspicuous as a card gets. It's Destructive REvelryNaturalize plus a mini Lava Spike, which is only exciting if counting to 20 with one-cost Bolt effects is your style of Modern gameplay. The red-green instant is a mainstay of the predominantly Naya-colored Burn decks we see in contemporary Modern, and whether you use a more traditional build like Yam Chun's 13th place list from GP Singapore, or the Wild Nacatl version as played by Arya Roohi at SCG Charlotte, you are going to run 3-4 Revelry out of the board. Burn is an immortal tier 1 deck in Modern, which means any and all of its staples are worth picking up in the future (spoiler alert: Revelry isn't the only Burn card on this buylist). Important note on Revelry: this is the only uncommon on the list, and it doesn't see wide enough play to hit Inquisition of Kozilek or even Lightning Bolt/Path to Exile levels. So if you want to get the best bargain on Revelry, pick up the foil versions and have fun sending your opponent's Cranial Platings and Aether Vials to a shiny, painful death.

5. Master of Waves

Merfolk enjoyed some strong performances this summer at both GP Copenhagen and a variety of smaller events throughout July. Even before Harbinger of the Tides gave the deck Master of Wavesa new weapon in its disruption toolbox, Merfolk was already well-positioned in a metagame saturated with Grixis and Twin decks. Master of Waves is a big player in most Merfolk lists, with the majority of Fish players running at least 2-3 in their maindeck. Like Burn, Merfolk is one of those enduring Modern strategies that is going nowhere in the future. It might not enjoy the consistent top-tier success as we see in Burn, but the deck is still incredibly powerful and will almost always be at least tier 2 in any metagame. Whether giving Merfolk a go-wide Plan B in clogged boardstates or refueling after a string of removal, Master is always going to hold value in the Merfolk arsenal and is a strong post-rotation pickup. With the Standard Blue Devotion dream dying out with the rotation, it's a great time to pick up copies (particularly foil ones) to get ready for the next big Modern event.

4. Anger of the Gods

For a format that is so heavily defined by removal and creatures, it is sometimes surprising that Modern runs so few sweepers. Supreme Verdict is a serious player in Legacy but sees next Anger of the Godsto no play here, where UWx decks tend to be worse than URx alternatives. Damnation may be the best removal spell that Wizards is never going to reprint for us, but it still doesn't see the Modern play it probably deserves. Enter Anger of the Gods, the cost-efficient sweeper of choice in sideboards and maindecks throughout the format. Scapeshift, Twin, Jund, and other major players all turn to Anger as their "oh crap" button of choice in the aggro matchup. Cards like Firespout aren't totally extinct in Modern, nor the old-school Pyroclasm that remains the color-strapped RG Tron's sweeper of choice, but Anger is always going to be the fallback red sweeper when you need an early board cleared. With Company decks picking up speed and injecting more low-toughness creatures into the metagame, especially those who you want to keep out of the graveyard, Anger's Modern profile promises to keep rising over the years. Anger is at one of the cheapest pricepoints in its history, and this will only go up as more red mages pick up the card for their Modern decks.

3. Chord of Calling

I'm not a big fan of speculation because I prefer card prices to be low (the more Modern players, the merrier the format!). This wasn't always true, however, and back in the good old days of our format's Chord of Callinginfancy I picked up a number of staples that were sure to rise. Chord of Calling was one of these, and the copies I snagged for about $1-$2 rose to the $20+ point over the years. If you played Pod decks before the January 2015 banning or are playing Company decks now, you can appreciate this card's power and understand how it will only increase in price as the years go on. You don't even need to play Company today to enjoy Chord, at least if Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker has anything to say about it. Chord is the kind of card that only becomes more powerful as every oddball creature is released or reprinted, and if you are ever interested in playing these kinds of strategies then it's wise to have a playset handy. Even with a reprint at rare instead of mythic, the card is still in the $7-$8 range, and you'll want to get some of these soon following the rotation before more Modern players start hoarding the card. Even better if you can pick up the old Ravnica version which (sorry, Karl Kopinski!) has the superior art of the two.

2. Eidolon of the Great Revel

The number two and number one cards on this list should surprise absolutely no one who is familiar with either Modern or Theros. That's especially true of this potentially innocuous 2/2 which many Eidolon of the Great Revelplayers initially dismissed as too suicidal for Burn players who could already struggle in aggro mirrors. During the late summer of 2014 and GP Kobe era, Burn broke out onto the Modern scene as a strong answer to fair BGx decks and a reliable linear choice in uncertain metagames. This followed the greatly-exaggerated "death" of BGx following Deathrite Shaman's banning, and a subsequent return to BG Rock and BGw Souls decks over the summer. Burn was the natural answer to these decks and Eidolon was the workhorse of Burn, both in 2014 and arguably today. Monastery Swiftspear's addition definitely pushed the deck into previously uncharted levels of playability, but the deck owes much of its power to the lasting strength of Eidolon. Burn is going absolutely nowhere, and although your sideboard Revelry counts are negotiable, your maindeck Eidolon ones are not. Joel Larsson used an Eidolon playset in his sideboard at the Standard PT Magic Origins, and with the rotation coming up, other Standard players will be unloading their Eidolons. Get them now before they go the way of the Goblin Guide.

1. Thoughtseize

I'll always remember the internet backlash against Wizards when they revealed the full Modern Masters 2013 and there was no Thoughtseize to be found. It seemed impossible that ThoughtseizeWizards could omit such an important, expensive, and format-defining staple from a set with the sole purpose of increasing card availability. Then came Theros and, in a trend that will probably continue in every block to come, Wizards threw in some Modern reprints to keep excitement high. Battle for Zendikar will have full-art fetchlands and shocklands that are sure to cost more than your first house. Khans had Onslaught fetchlands. As for Theros, the reprint was Thoughtseize, ushering in an era of Black Devotion domination in Standard and a collective sigh of relief from the Modern community. Thoughtseize will always be one of the most important Modern staples and arguably the most important policing effect in the format: in many respects, Thoughtseize is to Modern what Force of Will is to Legacy. BGx decks will always be in Modern and Thoughtseize will always be in BGx decks, and it's impossible to envision a scenario where Thoughtseize's price stays low for too long. The Lorywn printing of Thoughtseize rocketed over $60 for a time, and that was when Modern was significantly less popular and supported than it is today. Thoughtseize will become expensive in the future, and you'll want to get your playset now when all those Hangarback Abzan players sell off their own sideboarded copies in preparation for the rotation.

Getting Ready for the Rotation

It's important to distinguish between investments made for future gameplay and speculation made for future profit. A number of these buylist suggestions are unlikely to turn huge profits. If you think you're going to get rich buying up some foil Revelries and a bunch of Keranos copies, I'd suggest you not also quit your day job. You will definitely make longterm bank on cards like Thoughtseize and Chord, but those are going to be gradual gainers over a long period, and it's often going to be more work reselling and tracking the cards than you'll get back from the sale. So take this article less as a guide for speculation and more as a list of must-haves following the rotation.

Battle for Zendikar spoilers are almost in full swing, and we already got a lot of promising additions from PAX Prime this past Saturday. I'm already loving the new Ulamog, and am pumped to see what the new Allies are going to do. Be sure to check back here in the coming weeks as we ramp up our BFZ reviews, as well as for more articles on reprints (Counterspell testing is still ongoing!) and metagame breakdowns (August is almost over and data is being compiled).

What other Theros cards are worth buying into? Any suggestions you disagree with or cards you think are being overvalued? Let me know in the comments and let's get excited for the upcoming spoilers!

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4 thoughts on “Your Modern Buylist: The Theros Rotation

  1. At first I was a little bit lost when I got buy-a-box Sylvan Caryatid and Goblin Rabblemaster but then I realised they can be a thing some day. Maybe not in my decks though, but reliable enough to hold off.

  2. I don’t know how much of a must-buy any of them are. We can’t ignore the surrounding context, that’s all. Sure, they are almost certain to drop in price, but does that really matter too much? If you think about it, any Burn or Elves player already has a playset of Eidolon and Chord respectively, no matter what their cost is right now and how much it may drop post-rotation. The decks are significantly worse without those cards in them, I would even say uncompetitive (to a degree, of course). And Thoughtseize… many a case (that I fully support) can be made that it’s one of the three best/strongest/format-defining cards in Modern. Prices will drop, sure, but not by much, and steadily rise over time once again.

    To be fair to the list, I fully agree with it (which is astonishing in it’s own right) but the rest of the cards there are mostly sideboard mainstays or not-too-relevant. Sideboard cards are never the first things on a player’s radar, albeit very important to have. All in all, while all of the ones on the list (and even some of the honourable mentions) are more that worth it to grab at a lower cost, I don’t think post-rotation is the time to snatch them.

    We have to acknowledge the fact that people are still buying into Origins (Jace is getting more and more established in things like Grixis every day) and with BFZ coming out, wallets will be empty by the time you have to shop Christmas gifts (given). If nothing else, we have the new duals to evaluate and believe me when I say it, they will be played. Yes, you heard it here first fellows. I’d make the case that they are better than the shocks in mono-coloured decks that splash for either sideboard cards or one-ofs and they might see decent play in two-colour strategies (at least that’s what R&D said they are meant to do). Of course, I would still be happy to pay 2 life to have an Underground Sea on my board, but that’s just me and with the Affinity and Burn numbers… who knows. Hey, I’m sure Burn might like them!

    But aside from the new duals, I’m confident that Battle for Zendikar (block) will present us with many new Modern staples. They seem to have the hands on Landfall this time, Tron players got their own Path (with rewards, if some of the Digestors or Processors or whatever are good enough for slots in the deck) and Retreat to Kazandu certainly looks like a potential sideboard card. I can’t call it good, as turn 3 is on the fringe of where starting with the lifegain is good enough to save you, but a single enchantment that nets consistent life and is able to switch gears into aggression once you’ve stabilized is not something I wouldn’t take a second look at.

    Yeah… just some thoughts. Probably didn’t present my opinion on the top 10 list very well, but I swear it’s not as harsh as it looks. Good reading material.

  3. Pretty much in tune with my assessment of theros blocks impact on modern ( I included stormbreath (skred red) and purphoros (norin sisters) and bow (once upon a time junk sideboard, sometimes lantern control sideboard).

    I did not include caryatid as I’ve only seen it a handful of times once that jeskai ascendancy deck disappeared (with treasure cruise ban iirc) but I agree it could have legs in the format with the right deck. Not being able to bolt it and being able to block goblin guide makes it a pretty sturdy dork

    1. This is a solid list. I was planning on picking up several of the above around rotation time. Investment for future gameplay is exactly where my interests lie (rather than trying to play the speculation game). Definitely interested in occasional articles discussing this side of finance.

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