Modern is in a weird place right now. The format feels pretty thoroughly solved and yet it never fails to surprise. People complain endlessly about it and yet it pulls monster numbers of participants to Grand Prix and Opens.
One of the funny things about Magic is that everybody has very strong feelings about things that, ultimately, just don't matter. We may kvetch and carry on about any number of perceived problems, but at the end of the day we still show up to battle.
The fact of the matter is that Modern has taken off in a big way over the past year, and it has become a wildly popular and successful format. I don’t see any reason why this trend shouldn’t continue in the future.
In today's article I'll talk about the fundamental appeal Modern holds for speculators and players alike. I'll also touch on some ways investors can take advantage of its projected growth as a format.
The Appeal of Modern
One of the great aspects of Modern is the huge quantity and variety of viable decks. I think this is really important for a non-rotating format---in order to feel "big enough," there should be space for all the different kinds of decks people like to play.
One of the big problems with Standard as a format is that there are often just a few truly good decks. Do you like Jeskai or Abzan, and playing them against each other? No? Well, maybe Standard isn’t the format for you right now…
The cool thing about Modern is that a million decks are viable: Affinity, Zoo, Twin, Grixis Control, Jund, Junk, Amulet Bloom, Lantern Control, Reanimator, Merfolk, Elves, Co-Co, Dredge, Death and Taxes, and so many more.
One of the reasons Modern has been so successful is everyone has a deck to champion. Whatever type of strategy you're drawn to---it's all but guaranteed to be a thing! I can't stress enough how important this element is to the health and popularity of a format.
I love Legacy, but the problem with the format is that while you technically can play a wide variety of decks, only a select few are truly competitive. The good decks are insanely powerful, and there's very little incentive to operate outside the box of blue-based Brainstorm decks and broken combos.
Legacy also has the problem of the Reserved List, which has caused format staples to become increasingly expensive with no hope of a respite. Modern is the exact opposite because of the Modern Masters series which essentially guarantees that anything can and will be reprinted.
Last week I talked about some of these issues in my article about Star City Games's shift to focus more on Modern events.
One of the trends I predicted was a significant surge in Modern prices as the Open series continues to promote and feature the format. SCG has supported other formats with its tournament circuit in the past, notably Vintage and Legacy, and both formats saw tremendous price increases during those times.
I predict the same thing will happen with Modern. The wild card, of course, is the lack of Reserved List cards in the format.
Modern Masters is Wizards of the Coast's direct attempt to eliminate the Reserved List problem in Modern. Whereas staples in the "true" eternal formats can command absurd highs, anything that gets prohibitively expensive in Modern can simply be reprinted. This is of course a major factor in the format's popularity.
Looking at Targets
So, those caveats aside, here are a couple of my Modern picks right now. As SCG moves deeper into Modern, we can expect the overall playerbase to grow. This means staples from established archetypes will be more fruitful bets than trying to predict the next big strategy. Newcomers will want to play the best archetypes, and they're going to need cards.
Singling out cards in high demand is important, but we also want to consider supply. Thus we want to find cards in the best decks which have seen recent reprintings, or are low for some other reason.
Steel Overseer is a key card in Affinity and I fully expect it to go up at some point in the near future. It's a rare from an old M-set that saw a reprint in the Tezzeret vs. Elspeth Duel Deck several years ago, but it has dodged a Modern Masters reprint so far.
Affinity had a great showing at GP Pittsburgh last weekend and it's certainly a deck many players will gravitate toward. This card's price seems on the low end, so I'm looking to scoop them up.
Splinter Twin dropped significantly in price as a result of its Modern Masters reprinting over the summer. Twin is a format-defining deck, and easily one of the best. In fact, "blue deck" is practically synonymous in the format with "Twin deck!"
A two-card combo that outright wins the game is pretty powerful. If Twin continues to be the blue deck of choice I expect this card to see significant gains over the next six months.
The price has been suppressed already because of the recent reprinting. I expect it to slowly creep back up as more players make the switch from Legacy to Modern to play in SCG Open Series events.
If there's one card I feel confident will gain value in the coming months it's this one. Ooze is an amazing card and a mainstay in every single green-based midrange deck. It provides tons of utility in the form of life gain and graveyard hate.
The card has already seen the bottom and edged up a little, but I fully expect it will continue to rise. It has seen two printings, one in a Commander deck and the other in an M-set. Neither were heavily printed.
Also worth noting is its applications in Eternal and Casual play. I’ve got a big stack of these set aside for when the right moment comes.
A nice bump in the price of shocklands is quite due. It's been several years since they were reprinted, and alongside fetchlands they're the defining lands of Modern.
They're also the kind of card a lot of players want to own a full playset of, just in case. It stands to reason they'll continue to gain in price until their next reprinting. That's probably a ways off, since they just recently rotated from Standard.
I would fully expect to see the original Zendikar fetchlands reprinted before the Ravnica lands, and I'm not sure we'll even see a fetchland reprint in the next year.
The key to investing in Modern cards is finding that crossroads between format staple and suppressed price. Realistically we're still almost two years away from another Modern Masters release, so there's a lot of time before Wizards really shakes things up again.
In the meantime, I'm personally trying to stock up on solid popular Modern staples, because I think with the SCG Opens moving primarily into Modern we should see cards start to move. Good luck and good picks!