I've called this month a Modern off-season, but that's not exactly fair to all the players that showed up at StarCityGames' States last weekend. With over 50 tournaments across the country, SCG States is an informative and exciting midpoint between the Fall and Winter Grand Prix scenes. It's also a great early indicator of what the format will look like in November and December.
Last week, I drew attention to two underperforming Modern cards from the States circuit. Now that all the decklists are up, we can look at some of the big States success stories and figure out where to spend our money.
It's tempting to focus on finishes by rogue decks. Although investing in these kinds of decks/cards can make you some change in the short term, they aren't likely to turn a big profit. They are also fraught with risk: Greater Gargadon, sold out a few weeks ago, is still only a $1-$1.50 card.
Be skeptical of this hype, both after any Modern tournament and after SCG States.
Instead of looking at cards like these, I want to focus on two Modern staples that enjoyed considerable success during the October 17-18 weekend. These cards are consistent Modern players with a history of success, and their recent States performance suggests they are well-positioned in the broader Modern metagame.
Want to get an edge on the market? These are two of the cards you need to be looking at.
You can't go wrong investing in Tier 1 staples. You also can't go wrong investing in rares from older sets, especially those that didn't get reprinted in Modern Masters.
So how about a card that sees play in the most popular Tier 1 deck (Affinity), is integral to a second Tier 1 deck (Infect), and has multi-format appeal (Legacy Infect)?
That's what I call a good buy.
I normally don't advise buying into cards in the $20-$25 range, especially for independent investors who don't have the coffers of more established Magic buyers. Inkmoth is an exception.
This card is undervalued at $21, and comically undervalued at the sub-$17 prices you can see on eBay. It would probably be undervalued at $25-$30 purely on the basis of Modern playability. Add in Legacy and casual appeal, on top of low reprint potential, and you have an excellent purchase target.
From a metagame perspective, Affinity has been the most played Modern deck for the last three months.
I track metagame stats on the Modern Nexus website, and although I don't expect Affinity to exceed its 11% share from September, it will still be a force in October. It's already tracking around 10% for the month, and was the most played deck in SCG States Top 8s.
We've already seen Arcbound Ravager spike on the back of this buzz, and Inkmoth's ceiling is even higher.
On top of Affinity's success (which alone would justify buying Inkmoth), we also see Infect returning to metagame shares we haven't seen since last February.
September saw Infect at about 4.5% of the format, the highest point since it started climbing back into the top tiers in early summer. Infect remains well positioned in October at about 4% of the format, and you can't play Infect without playing Inkmoth.
I wouldn't count on Infect necessarily remaining Tier 1 in every month, but the dual demands of Affinity and Infect make this a great target for those looking for undervalued staples.
You could invest in Inkmoth Nexus on the basis of Modern decks alone. Add in the casual appeal and, perhaps more importantly, the Legacy appeal, and Inkmoth becomes particularly appealing. If Affinity and Infect stay at their current metagame shares, which they show every indication of sustaining, Inkmoth will only go up from here.
An Inkmoth reprint would definitely torpedo both its current price and its ceiling, but this seems fairly unlikely in the short and mid-term. Wizards would need a Phyrexian- or Infect-themed product to bring the price down. Both seem unlikely for a Commander or Duel product, and Modern Masters 2017 is over a year away.
The main danger would be an Infect Modern Event deck. This could certainly be announced during the upcoming Modern tournaments as a way to build hype, but that also doesn't seem too likely; there are better Event deck candidates.
Barring such a reprint, Inkmoth is sure to go up from here. Get in now, either to play its decks or profit from its metagame profile.
To some extent, this was reminiscent of overreactive banlist hype that so often categorizes Modern finishes (Company and friends are nowhere close to being ban topics, let alone ban targets). That said, Company was an excellent card that gave a number of Modern decks newfound relevance, and it seemed poised to make a big splash.
Then the summer came and Company fizzled into Tier 2, while Dragons of Tarkir rival Kolaghan's Command stole the spotlight in Grixis decks.
Company Elves might have taken down GP Charlotte in June, but that was the extent of the card's dominance as we moved from June into September.
True, Abzan Company, Elves, and Naya Company lists were all present in the metagame. Unfortunately, they never excelled. You expected to see them in the same "Oh, I remember that deck!" category as Scapeshift, Jeskai Control, and Grixis Delver, not at top tables alongside Jund and Abzan.
Then came SCG States, which showed that Company decks are still a metagame force to be reckoned with.
Between Abzan Company, Naya Company and Elves, the Collected Company decks matched the performance of Snapcaster Mage decks, at least at SCG States. That's probably an over-performance more than anything else, but it attests to Company's power in a format that has forgotten about it.
At under $10, Company is a tremendous bargain, even though it's a recent Standard and Event deck printing. This goes doubly for the foil version, which you can get between $20 and $30 depending on the retailer.
What metagame factors outweigh this supply glut? Simply put, Company's continued relevance even as the format changes.
Even though no single deck has pushed into Tier 1 for any sustained period of time, Company decks as a whole regularly make up between 8%-10% of the format. This means you can expect Company players at almost every event, which was evidenced by States.
If Kolaghan's Command can hold value in the $12-$15 range, Company is sure to rise at least to that point: Grixis decks have done much worse than their Company opponents in recent months.
Going into November and December, you are likely to see more Company decks take center stage, especially as players get ready for a wide-open metagame. Company continues to establish itself as a Modern staple, and if we have learned anything about Modern staples, it's that the sky is the limit on their ceilings.
Revisiting Cautionary Tales
Before we close today, I want to look back at the two cards I discussed last week. We didn't have all the States results at the time, so it was possible these cards could experience a reversal in fortunes. Now that our data's more complete, it's important to check in and see how they are faring.
Ensnaring Bridge is our first candidate, and its prospects look even worse now than a week ago.
As I discussed in last week's piece, Bridge and Lantern Control don't have the trappings of consistent top-tier Modern players.
You'll see Lantern Control again, but only in the hands of dedicated masters, and/or in metagames that have forgotten about it. Only a single Lantern Control deck made a Top 8 at States, which is a terrible showing for a deck that just won a Grand Prix and had every Magic site writing articles about it.
If you want to buy Bridge, wait for the card to drop more. If you have copies, start thinking about offloading them soon.
Our next card is Knight of the Reliquary, which wasn't much better than Bridge after all the States standings got posted.
The Knight/Retreat to Coralhelm combo did sneak into the Top 8 at two separate events, including a Collected Company-powered Abzan Company hybrid and a true Knightfall build--but that's a big underperformance relative to its massive hype. I definitely think the deck still has Modern potential, but we're not quite there yet.
That said, Steven Schlepphorst posted a Top 4 finish at the SCG Open in St. Louis, piloting a Legacy Knightfall deck built around the combo.
This is sure to keep Knight's price high for the future, and also bodes well for its Modern prospects. As I've said in previous articles, I'll be surprised if this combo doesn't break into a major Modern Top 8 by the end of the year.
What other cards did you notice at SCG States? Any other financial takeaways we should consider? Let me know in the comments and I'll see you next week with more Modern investment advice.