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Insider: Five Underpriced Modern Specs

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It’s “Modern Mania” here in the Magic universe. Three big events, the World Championships, SCG Open Cincinatti and the upcoming Grand Prix Oklahoma City, have really stirred up excitement for the format. Modern is a great format (especially for speculators) because there are so many different decks and cards that span over a decade of printings. There are plenty of opportunities for good deckbuilders (as well as savvy collectors) to find hidden gems.

The key to making great trades and investments is to understand trends and to predict which cards will be in high demand in the coming weeks, months, and years.

I had the opportunity to play at SCG Cincinatti last weekend and I played a new variation on the traditional Affinity archetype. The big change that I made from more traditional lists was to forgo Etched Champion and instead opt for four copies of Hangarback Walker. I’ve been extremely impressed with the card in the past few weeks and wouldn’t be surprised if the card quickly became a format-defining staple in Modern.


I enjoyed playing this deck a lot. It had a lot of fight in it and I was able to put up a respectable 66th-place finish with it (I was one of just five players with a 10-5 record that didn’t cash on tie breakers).

I’m coming to believe that Hangarback Walker is a really, really good Magic card in all formats. I played four copies of the card at the Vintage Championship, I played four copies in Modern last weekend, and I’ll likely be playing four copies the next time I play Legacy as well.

Although the deck didn’t make Top 8 of the Open, a friend of mine was in contention and lost back-to-back “win and in” matches playing Jund with Walker in the maindeck. Can you even image how good it would feel to flip a Hangarback to a Dark Confidant?

I’d also like to point out the SCG Open series superstar Chris Anderson narrowly missed Top 8 playing an Affinity deck that was also packing Shrapnel Blast as an additional way to get value out of the Walker.

It may seem counterintuitive considering its price tag is already so high, but I think Hangarback could well be one to hang onto and even continue to pick up. There is certainly a lull on Standard cards because the format is relatively lame duck at the moment which makes the high tag even more intriguing.

In my opinion as a player the card has done nothing but impress the hell out me. I’m hesitantly willing to claim the card is Snapcaster Mage-good. I see it as the type of card that will be extremely good and omnipresent in every format where it is legal for tournament play. I also think the card is going to be absolutely dominant in Standard post-rotation.

I really like foils of this card as an investment. I was pretty lucky to pick up a foil Japanese copy at the Open from a dealer for $40! Pretty psyched about that.

So, that is just my little hype talk about Hangarback Walker, the best creature of all time. We are only scratching the surface of the things that Walker can do in the older formats.

Five Solid Modern Specs

Stony Silence


Affinity may be the best deck in Modern right now. Metagames shift, but there's a compelling argument to make for the claim. Many of the pros picked it as the deck to play at Worlds, it put two copies into the Top 8 of SCG Cincinatti, and experimentation with cards like Hangarback open up even more space for the deck.

It is also worth noting that Stony Silence is one of the best possible sideboard cards against another one of the format’s bogeymen, Urza Tron. Typical lists of Tron play upwards of twenty artifacts with activated abilities! Stony Silence literally makes a full third of their cards do absolutely nothing. “But it doesn’t do anything!” “No -- it does nothing!” And nothing is exactly what a white mage would want Tron’s cards to do.

It stands to reason then that the best card against the best deck in the format will be a desirable commodity.

It is getting harder and harder to find copies of this card just randomly floating around in trade binders. It’s several years removed from Standard now and players simply do not have copies to trade and are often actively looking for copies for decks. I find it hard to believe that any deck playing white in Modern wouldn’t have two copies in the sideboard.

Stony Silence also has plenty of Eternal applications outside of Modern. It sees plenty of play in both Vintage and Legacy. Plain and simple it is really good at punishing people for relying too heavily on artifacts.

I love the idea of having extra copies of this card set aside for the future as well as foil copies. I could easily see premium copies spiking sometime in the next year.

Death's Shadow


I recently had the displeasure of getting absolutely crushed by this card in a local Modern event. First of all, it costs one mana, the gold standard for Constructed playability. Secondly, it interacts uniquely and powerfully with Phyrexian mana spells: Gitaxian Probe, Mutagenic Growth, Dismember, and Apostle's Blessing.

It hits so card and makes racing kind of nightmare. Do you want to hit me for six and make my guy even bigger? One of the key cards to breaking this card wide open is Temur Battle Rage. Make it huge and Berserk for lethal.

It’s the kind of card that is one Top 8 away from being desirable and in high demand. It goes into Zoo style decks which means that there are a lot of potentially interested buyers for this card if they ever become convinced that it is good. They key here is that I’ve seen the deck in action and I think it is actually very good (the nut draw is actually a turn two kill) and expect it to have a breakout performance by somebody at some point in the future.

It also occupies a weird space with regard to uniqueness. It is a 13/13 creature for one mana, which creates weird interactions with other cards in Magic. For instance, imagine that you have a Varolz, the Scar-Striped in play and a Death’s Shadow in the graveyard. You can pay a single black mana for thirteen +1/+1 counters.

Now, I’m not saying that combo is good in Modern or anything but my point is that all it takes is for some new printing to be able to take advantage of the ability and all of a sudden Shadow is a tier-one combo staple. Nourishing Shoal is a great example of a weird card that can become insane with the right synergies.

Rest in Peace


I honestly think that the reason this card doesn’t see as much play as it ought to is that so many decks are themselves reliant upon their graveyards. The problem is that it is simply too good against everybody and there are very few decks left to actually play with it!

It is so unbelievably good against so many decks in the format that it will continue to be a player in the format moving forward. Once again it also has the added bonus of being good in both Vintage and Legacy.

The other thing that is insane about Rest in Peace is that it will only get better as time goes on. The more graveyard shenanigans that get printed in the years to come, the more important Rest in Peace will become. The current price tag on the card is simply too low for how important the card is in constructed Magic. The main reason is that it is a fairly new printing and copies are still relatively easy to acquire.

I look at the trajectory of Rest in Peace as one that will likely mirror Stony Silence. Give it another year or so and it will get a nice bump and then continue to trend upward and onward forever.

Ghost Quarter


Ghost Quarter is an unbelievable Magic card. I played four in my sideboard at Vintage Championship and ran the card back in the Modern Open. The card is also dirt cheap for how great it is.

I get that it was reprinted in Commander 2014 but we are getting more and more removed from the years they were in print.

In particular, I really like picking up Dissension copies. First of all, the artwork looks like a thousand times better than the other printings. I see Ghost Quarter as the kind of card that I’m extremely happy to have people throw into a trade that is just slightly off by a small margin. I have a box of them at my house and I just keep adding to the pile.

The good thing about a spec like this is that they cost very little to get and even if they never spike hard and pay off big, they can never go down. It’s a $0.50 uncommon that sees a ton of constructed play in Modern and is a Vintage sideboard staple.

It is also worth noting that foil Ghost Quarters spiked in price pretty significantly a few weeks ago.

Tasigur, the Golden Fang


The prize that I won at Vintage Championships two weeks ago for 9th place in the 500-player event was $250 in store credit from Card Titan. I don’t shop at Card Titan so I needed to use up my credit on the spot. My choice? I bought every single copy of Tasigur, the Golden Fang onsite at $7 each, with the intention of hanging onto them for the foreseeable future.

Tasigur is a format-defining Magic card in Modern and the reason that black-red midrange and control decks have seen a resurgence. Well, that and Kolaghan's Command…

Nonetheless, Tasigur is a huge part of why Grixis and Jund are among the best performing and most popular decks in the format. The ability to interact for a few turns and then slip a gigantic, card-generating body into play for one mana is completely amazing.

The fact that it can pressure opponents out of nowhere, stabilize the board against attackers, and generate card advantage via the activated ability in a board stall makes Tasigur, the Golden Fang a true triple threat.

I’d also like to point out that SCG has been sold out of Tasigur, the Golden Fang in any version going on two weeks now. This is typically code for the fact that they are not interested in selling copies at the current market price. (I’ve also been checking in daily on SCG prices for Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound and Hangarback Walker and they’ve been sold out of those since after Vintage Champs as well.)

Tasigur is a card that rewards you for casting a bunch of other spells first. Sound familiar? It is the basic principle behind the storm mechanic, and we all know how good that strategy is.

~

Modern is full of awesome gem speculation targets. The best thing to do is to keep an open mind and to think about which cards see a ton of play and yet have modest price tags. The key is to figure it out before everybody else!

6 thoughts on “Insider: Five Underpriced Modern Specs

  1. Null Rod flavor text win! Great bite-sized article Brian, so I missed the hangarback boat and just kinda resigned to never owning them as their price climbed. Problem is I play Affinity when I have the time, should I just bite the bullet and buy a foil playset now before their price gets truly absurd? Kicking myself for not buying a foil Russian copy on eBay for $15ish a while back…

    1. I think the Walkers are insane in Affinity, so I’d say that if you want to play with them absolutely it’s ok to buy in now. I actually think they are going to go up again in the short term as people start using them more and more outside of Standard, and I have a inkling that Walker may be the “best” card in Standard post rotation — so wouldn’t be surprised to see it go up after BFZ Standard metagame settles in. Unless the card gets a reprint I don’t ever see it having less than a $12 price tag at any point and the upside is very high two or three years down the line.

  2. It looks like you have been digging in my spec box. I cleaned out my local stores bulk box of these 6 months ago. I did messed up on the death’s Shadows, I cleaned out the local stores bulk box at .40 each and sold 7 playsets for 12.99 each.

    Tasigur has been my favorite spec, I preorderer 20 playsets at $6 a playset when they first came out. Just about every financer wrote them of as to expensive to cast (it’s funny, that was the same thing they did with dig thru time and I got 25 playsets at $5 a playset). when the first big tournament hit I sold them for $45. I rolled that into the foils. I picked up 22 foils for between 20 and 25 each. Then when tasigur bottomed out I picked up 60 plus copies at around $5 each. Now I’m just waiting for them to get to my selling price. I may be holding them for quite a while because I see the foil as the next future tarmogoyf.

  3. Glad to see regular rares as specs. I think that paper speculators are too rigid in some rules. Especially the “Rares are the new uncommons.”

    When it comes to foils, I like Mythics far better. But cheap rares (I’m looking at you Rest in Peace) seem like no brainers.

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