Insider: The Modern Deck as Budget Investment

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Many times I've heard people ask about speculating on the cheap. Some hypothetical person has a small amount of money, say $100, and they want to speculate---what card should they buy right now? The expected answer is one or two cards that will see significant returns, and that's exactly why the question itself is flawed.

Turning a profit by buying and selling Magic cards requires a healthy bankroll and realistically, more time, risk and expertise than most other means of making the same amount of money. Sometimes there are easy picks to turn decent profits, but the question doesn't always have an easy or obvious answer, and the smaller your bankroll the less likely you'll your "returns" will amount to any real money.

If somebody asked me for specific card or cards to invest in right now, there are a few good answers. Splinter Twins are cheap. Painlands are likely to see an increase in value during their time in Standard. Shocklands are also poised to see appreciation by most accounts.

If you're on a budget though, and you're more of a player than a speculator---which is, of course, the reason you'd even ask in the first place---then I would ask whether or not you own a competitive Modern deck. If not, then acquiring one as quickly as possible is the best advice I can give you.

Buying cards at market price requires substantial gains to see a profit. In the meantime, your money isn't doing anything for you, and if you buy cards solely because you expect them to increase in value they'll just sit there until it happens.

If you have a lot of capital, stocking up on assorted Modern singles makes sense. The format is, of course, positioned for a boom this year. On a smaller budget this move is okay, but it makes less sense than what I'm suggesting here, which will actually put your money to work.

A More Realistic Option

The reason specific Modern staples are primed to increase is because the format as a whole will soon be getting more exposure. As such, it stands to reason that the value of any given competitive deck will increase in overall value. You won't see great returns on every individual card, but for the most part your Modern deck will hold its aggregate value, with specific pieces gaining substantially.

More importantly, you get more than just an investment out of your money---you gain long-term access to something you enjoy doing in your free time, for minimal upkeep.

Modern changes more than Legacy to be sure, but I've played Delver in Modern for years now without ever making a major purchase to update the deck. New printings that impact Modern often don't see much Standard attention, which makes them cheap to acquire. Paying $2 a piece for my Kolaghan's Commands definitely didn't break me.

The real value of purchasing a deck over specific specs, though, is that mastering a Modern deck will be a great avenue for you to win back your investment. I can't say it's true everywhere, but I can say with a high degree of certainty that prize support for Modern tournaments is generally more attractive than that for Standard.

From the store's perspective, Standard players are highly appealing as customers. They often need to buy singles, and they're happy receiving packs for prizes. To get Legacy players in the door, a better prize incentive is typically required. As a result Legacy tournaments more commonly pay out in expensive staples than boosters.

Modern tournaments offer incentives somewhere in the middle. It's not uncommon to see Tarmogoyfs at the top end of the prize pool, or a few Modern Masters packs for mid-level finishes.

Mastering a Deck

Modern is commonly referred to as a format for specialists. If you're planning to grind these tournaments for prizes, getting in now will give you most time possible to practice. This in addition to the fact you'll likely have to pay more later.

I top-eighted a Modern PTQ with U/R Delver before Treasure Cruise was ever printed. For those not in the know, that deck was bad. I couldn't beat a Lingering Souls to save my life, and Abzan was among the most popular decks at the time.

You just can't make a decision like that in Standard, but in Modern my prowess with the archetype enabled me to navigate to a high finish in a hostile field.

As far as what deck to buy, I couldn't emphasize strongly enough that you should buy a deck that fits your playstyle. Your Modern deck is going to be your baby. I don't play Delver because it's the best deck. In fact, I think the card Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration itself is a liability in any URx mirror in Modern right now. However, it's a deck that I know my role in every match with, and one that I enjoy piloting.

Start With the Staples

Of course, the initial concern here was being on a budget. As such, just straight buying a Modern deck out of pocket today probably isn't an option. The worst mistake you could make is to start with the cheap stuff.

If you want to build Burn, don't start with Lava Spike. Get your hands on some Goblin Guides, and strategically target the cards most likely to see increases in price. Eidolon of the Great Revel is an obvious early buy as you work towards collecting your deck. Even if Boros Charm doubles, it takes a smaller percent increase in the chase cards to increase the overall price of the deck by the same dollar value.

To summarize:

1) If Modern staples are poised to see strong returns, an entire Modern deck should likewise increase in value over time.
2) Modern tournaments will generally have better prize support than their Standard counterparts.
3) Modern requires less upkeep as a format than Standard, and you're going to be playing anyway.
4) Dedication to mastering your deck over time will pay more dividends in the Modern format.

For these reasons, I think Modern is a great format for the budget-conscious player. Enjoying your hobby doesn't have to mean a net loss, and Modern is a great avenue for getting more mileage out of your investment.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

2 thoughts on “Insider: The Modern Deck as Budget Investment

  1. So are we expecting any kind of dip in Modern prices maybe after the Pro Tour as hype dies down, or is the increased SCG support just going to negate that?

    1. Only in prices specifically inflated from PT hype. Currently the format is exhibiting actual growth based on demand for decks. If a card explodes from the PT I wouldn’t necessarily expect it to retain a hype-drive price, but I also don’t think prices will just plainly go down after the PT.

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