I believe in 2016 there's a good chance this Modern format thing might really catch on... It may sound weird considering the format has been growing for several years now, but next year will be in many ways a breakout year for Modern.
Yes, I know Modern is already popular but I'm preparing for the format to grow by leaps and bounds in 2016.
We know Modern has grown in years previous, and it makes sense that the upward trend will continue. But there are several other reasons to suggest that Modern will surge in popularity in 2016.
Who's Growing Modern and Why?
The two largest and most influential entities in Magic, Wizards of the Coast and Star City Games (SCG), are both pushing to make Modern bigger.
First and foremost, the fact that 2016 starts out with a Modern Pro Tour will shine a light on the format in terms of exposure. Wizards has already shown they are willing to promote the format via high-profile events but a Pro Tour is really the cream of the crop in terms of coverage.
It's also impossible to talk about Modern coverage without mentioning that SCG has expanded their Modern events on the Open and Invitational series.
SCG does a good job of creating coverage that gets viewers engaged and excited to play Magic. I've come to believe that watching Magic played online is a significant factor that drives and motivates players to get out and play Magic in real life. The SCG Open series is also a great one-two punch in the sense that it gets people interested and then gives them an opportunity to show up and participate in either Opens or IQs.
Everybody has a vested interest in the health, popularity, and growth of Modern because the format provides tons of opportunity for Wizards, SCG, and even local game stores to sell stuff to players. It also creates a format where once a player has bought in they can essentially play Magic indefinitely.
One problem that has plagued Magic in the past is players losing interest when Standard rotates and they're confronted with the harrowing realization that all their cards are worthless. Convincing those players to buy into Modern gives them a reason to stick around, and makes them less likely to quit.
A non-rotating format with no Reserve List is absolutely huge for Wizards of the Coast, because it allows them to maintain checks and balances over prices. Eternal formats are too cost-prohibitive for newer, more casual players. If the goal of non-rotating formats is to retain newer players when Standard turns over, this is a deal-breaker.
Wizards can now double-dip, gaining control to some extent over secondary market singles via reprints, and selling more product off the hype of special sets like Modern Masters.
Bolt Is the Brainstorm of Modern
Lightning Bolt is the best card legal in Modern by a mile.
Lightning Bolt is so good in Modern that it probably makes Snapcaster Mage the second-best card (or at least close) just by existing. Snapcaster Mage would be a fine card either way, but flashing back a Bolt against an aggressive deck is such a soul crusher.
I actually think the presence of Lightning Bolt in Modern is a net negative. No other removal spell can compete with it at one mana, which essentially means if you want a 1cc removal spell you must play it. Yes, Path costs one but you can't exactly Path an opponent's turn one Birds of Paradise.
Legacy has another exceptional one-drop removal spell in Swords to Plowshares, which creates tension for deckbuilders. As the only premier 1cc removal spell in Modern, Bolt greatly constrains deck construction and pushes too many strategies into red.
The same way that an exaggerated number of Legacy decks are pushed into blue for Brainstorm, I see a similar pattern emerging in Modern as deck builders gravitate toward Lightning Bolt.
I also believe Lightning Bolt is super safe from a ban (despite being the overall best card in the format) because it's such an iconic and fan favorite card. Sound familiar?
Lightning Bolt is the format-defining card of Modern and also its unbannable sacred cow.
From a finance perspective, I think premium versions of Lightning Bolt are possibly underpriced given its ubiquity in Modern. In particular, I could see the price of Alpha and Beta Bolts climbing in the coming months.
In the Future Everyone Will Play Modern
I believe both Wizards and SCG are trying to change the paradigm of how people play Magic. Right now everybody plays Standard, and some people play Modern. The powers that be want everybody to be invested in both.
I wouldn't be surprised if this idea had been discussed explicitly, both in the context of new set releases and efforts to promote and expand branding. We see further evidence of this idea in the way smaller, more localized events such as IQs, PPTQs, and FNMs have all been expanded to include Modern.
Modern will never be as big as Standard, but I think the goal behind all the hype and promotion is to close the gap as much as possible. Modern will grow in 2016 because WotC is actively seeking that growth.
B&R List Shake-Ups Are Coming
The SCG Invitational in Las Vegas once again reaffirmed the fact that the format is diverse and interesting. I've already mentioned the Pro Tour lingering on the horizon.
Last week Wizards announced that Stoneforge Mystic would be next year's Grand Prix promo foil, which has led to rampant speculation that the card will be unbanned in Modern. Whether it will or won't is almost irrelevant---the key is that the announcement has promoted tons of hype and discussion about the format.
I think there will be some changes to the Modern Banned & Restricted List after Christmas. The possibility of unbanning Stoneforge Mystic is really interesting because it would wildly shake up Modern.
Personally, I don't think they'll unban Stoneforge. The card is way too powerful and would pressure the format in really unfortunate ways.
Knowing what I know about Stoneforge's possibility of being unbanned, my investment strategy would actually be to pick up some of the rarer equipment cards.
The Mirrodin sword cycle seems like a pretty good place to start. I can't imagine these powerful equipment cards are likely to go down, but if Stoneforge gets unbanned they have a high upside for gains.
I actually don't love the idea of buying up Stoneforge right now because there will be so many GP foil versions floating around!
Ultimately I think people are reading too much into the GP foil. Most of the GP foils have been "Legacy" cards. Look at Griselbrand and Batterskull. While technically legal in Modern, the lion's share of play they see is in Legacy, where they are true staples. Also, isn't it cute that Stoneblade players can pair up the latest two promos?
If the point of this promo was to get people discussing the Modern Banned list, I'd consider it an overwhelming success. I'd also wager something will change with the banned list before the Pro Tour. I don't think it will be Stoneforge---but that would create a wildly different Modern for sure!
Cards That Should Be Banned
The Top 8 competitors at the SCG Invitational were asked what they would change about the Modern B&R list. It's telling that nearly all responded they would ban Summer Bloom.
If Wizards' goal is to continue to grow Modern, why keep this highly unpopular deck around? The players don't like it, and it breaks the turn two win rule WotC themselves have placed so much emphasis on.
I think there's a pretty good chance that Summer Bloom will get banned.
The prices of Bloom cards are already suppressed to some extent by the fear of a ban, so either way there is risk-reward going on here. If Bloom gets banned the cards will obviously go down. However, if nothing gets banned then suddenly the cards have some new space to go up in value.
It's a risky premise, but it's possible now is a good time to pick up Bloom cards.
Blood Moon is possibly the most miserable card to lose to in all of Modern. Yes, it provides a powerful way of combating unfair land-based decks like Amulet and Tron, which is good. What's awful is the way "fair" decks can lose to it too, because they didn't happen to draw two basics soon enough.
I would be absolutely elated if they banned Blood Moon. The card really is a relic from a vastly different period in Magic, when land destruction and weird hate cards that make your opponents incapable of casting spells were acceptable.
It's extremely rare I meet another player who doesn't agree that Blood Moon is terrible and shouldn't be legal. I'd say close to 9/10 of players wouldn't be opposed to a ban.
There's a chance it gets banned on principle, but there isn't much incentive for WotC to mix things up that way right now.
Vengeance breaks the turn two win rule and should be banned. However, I highly doubt it will be because the deck isn't extremely popular and has consistency issues.
The deck is quite good though, and could become more popular as the fast combo deck of choice if Amulet Bloom gets banned. Seems like a nice spec target.
Cards That Should Be Unbanned
A lot of cards ended up on the Modern Banned list because they left a bad taste in people's mouths after having dominated Standard and Modern for so long. As the format has developed, it's clear that many of these old boogeymen are not nearly as dominant as they were in their heyday.
Modern is so fast, and the decks so brutally powerful, it's not even clear all the cards on the banned list would make a big impact. It doesn't make much sense to allow some overpowered cards to run around unchecked, and leave other cards on a similar power level on the sidelines.
Personally, I think that if decks like Affinity, Twin, Burn, and Tron are allowed to exist "as is," then there's little harm in allowing many of the other cards on the banned list.
Are cards like Ancestral Vision, Bloodbraid Elf, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor really going to dominate in a manner that warrants being banned in the current metagame? They would merely be powerful cards in a format filled with powerful cards.
Bloodbraid Elf is probably the safest card to take off the banned list:
It is pretty clear that when they banned Bloodbraid they actually banned the wrong elf! Eventually, they got it right and banned Deathrite Shaman.
Bloodbraid is basically the same thing as Siege Rhino. It is very powerful and costs four mana. Modern has plenty of decks that can win the game on turn four, and a four-mana value card doesn't look nearly as good as it used to. Bloodbraid should come off the list.
Bloodbraid is fairly cheap and will for sure gain value if unbanned, so they're a pretty healthy investment right now. And if Bloodbraid isn't released this time around, there's a fair chance it will be at some point down the line.
Yes the card is great, especially when suspended on the first turn, but it has significant costs. For one you have to have it in your opening hand in order to get the cards at the first opportunity. It's also possible to die before it even goes off.
Don't forget that even in your opening hand, Vision requires you to spend a mana and play down a card for four turns. Is the card powerful? Absolutely. However, I think Modern might be too fast for Vision.
I have no idea why this card needs to be banned in Modern. It is so slow and the removal is so good! Not to mention there are so many Abrupt Decays and black-red commands floating around.
Every deck that has creatures and cares about Jitte has four Lightning Bolts which make spending the time and mana to suit up a creature a very risky tempo swing. I don't think this card would see much maindeck play in Modern, and would likely be little more than a sideboard card for very aggressive decks.
Jitte would be a large gainer if it were ever unbanned, because it would see play and is iconic. I like the idea of picking some of these up.
Thopter Sword Combo
I'm not sure what's gained by unbanning Sword of the Meek and enabling the Thopter Sword combo in Modern, but I don't think it would be better than Bloom Titan, Affinity, or Twin. An unbanning here wouldn't be unreasonable.
If it were unbanned in Modern, both Sword and Foundry would assuredly see big price spikes. I like the idea of picking up some copies to hold for the future.
We Will See a Large Spike in Modern Prices
I think 2016 will see large rises in the price of Modern staples across the board. With SCG moving more heavily into Modern tournaments, I'm apt to believe history will repeat itself.
When SCG did the Vintage Power 9 Series and the Legacy Open Series, the respective formats saw across-the-board price increases. I'm betting the exact same thing will happen next year with Modern.
In particular, I think the shocks are really well primed to jump in price. They've been sitting at the same low price for a while now and it's about time they saw some gains.