Insider: Sorting Out Modern Spikes

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I'd tell you to prepare yourself because it is coming, but the truth is that it is already happening: Modern mania.

The SCG Open in Cincinnati broke records for their circuit and pulled over 1000 players to play, you guessed it, Modern.

I had a lengthy conversation with some other players about whether or not Modern had actually eclipsed Standard as the most popular format in Magic. It's getting to the point where it's debatable... In Michigan the local weekly Modern events tend to get bigger attendance than their Standard counterparts, a scenario I would have thought impossible a year and a half ago.

I stand by basically all the predictions I've made over the past few months regarding Modern and where it's headed. In particular, I still think Wizards will seize on the moment everybody has been anticipating for two months, and use the banned list announcement to catapult the format forward with some big changes before the Pro Tour.

What could possibly get better ratings than drastically changing the format before a Pro Tour and letting the pros "have at it" with a wild new metagame? I could see some annoying and hated cards going away (in particular, Summer Bloom) and some beloved ones coming back (for instance, Bloodbraid Elf).

I already said my piece about speculating on the banned list last week and my opinion there hasn't really changed.

Today I want to look at spikes. Last week several Modern cards spiked very hard. Most notably these:

Eldrazi Everywhere

Basically all the cards in the Black Eldrazi deck saw gains in some way, shape or form. The deck has been getting a lot of buzz on the back of nice results online and a near-miss for Top 8 (due to breakers) at the SCG Open.

As for cards from this deck that still have potential for growth, I like the Eldrazi cards themselves from Battle for Zendikar (BFZ), Blight Herder, Oblivion Sower and Wasteland Strangler.

There's something to be said about cards people think are junk that suddenly become good. Most people didn't collect a set while they were opening packs and have bulked these away or traded them to savvy investors.

The thing about these cards specifically is they're not just part of some flavor-of-the-week Modern brew---they're part of the new Eldrazi strategy.

Yeah, it's like that...

Eldrazi are the new slivers. The Eldrazi are now officially a tribe you can play without just trying to cheat an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play. They have a Modern-playable deck (just like slivers!), with its own unique flavor and feel due to the processor mechanic.

I also think that Eldrazi may continue to see printings outside of this current Zendikar block. It doesn't seem like we're getting a new Emrakul in Oath of the Gatewatch (OGW) which is strange considering it's the most Zendikar thing from the original Zendikar block.

I'm betting if Emrakul isn't in OGW that he, she, or it (what pronoun does one use to describe an Eldrazi god anyway?) will be the shadow over Innistrad from the upcoming block. If that's the case it seems likely that he, she, or it will bring some Eldrazi friends along and thus continue to expand the Eldrazi brand with some more playable friends.

All of the playable Eldrazi cards are worth picking up while they are still readily available at current prices.

I'm also betting the Standard Eldrazi deck will be real. I think Wizards made a big marketing mistake last time around when the trademark of the block, the Eldrazi, weren't actually very good in Standard. Its safe to say they won't make the same mistake again.

If you'd like an example, look at how Dragons of Tarkir put the Dragons at the forefront of the format. Dragons were everywhere in Standard and the set was very popular. I see a similar thing about to happen with the next set expect lots of Dragon vs. Eldrazi action in the coming months! Well, maybe Eldrazi vs. Rhinos...

Ulamog is one of the best Eldrazi ever printed. Actually, he's one of the best giant fatties period. He's going to be a staple of G/R Tron and any deck that has "Eldrazi" in its name in any format constructed or casual. I think he's already hit his lowest point and will continue to rise.

Get Ready: More Spikes Are Coming

Modern is not done growing yet. 1000+ players for an Open is crazy. 1000+ players paid $50 each to play in a tournament where if they make Top 64 they get $100... The reason is that people just love to play Modern.

If this is the case, there's a 100% chance the price of cards will go up as the format grows. Reprints like Modern Masters can help keep prices in check by inserting more cards into the player base, but it can only match demand so much. There is, plainly put, a ton of demand right now.

People want to play this format because it's fun and exciting. The other thing to consider is that when so many people are playing a format it tends to evolve and change much more rapidly. Modern has too many cards to ever "solve," and if it were to get solved (e.g. Amulet Bloom) the problem can simply be banned down the road.

The fact is that lots of new decks and a changing metagame means players will need to buy more cards. In Standard people switch decks often and I see this as something that will become more common in Modern as time goes on. Everybody will own one deck, but more and more people are venturing out into being able to build two or even more decks.

When play patterns become fluid and the metagame adaptive, it tends to drive card prices and create financial spikes.

You need only look to the Eldrazi lands to see this in action. A new, good deck sprouts up and the cog cards nobody owns suddenly shoot up. Gaddock Teeg is the same sort of thing: a Hatebears sideboard card against Tron and Twin that most people don't own. Demand = $$$.

5 Modern Picks to Gain

Twin is the best deck in Modern. It always makes Top 8 and is the best blue deck. Very popular with the pro players. I would be surprised if the card doesn't gain value soon. It's the signature card and namesake of the deck to beat in Modern!

I'm pretty sure that at least 75% of Modern decks play some number of Spellskites. It's one of the best cards in the format and has tons of applications. I'm not sure how it's only $20. It's also an easy include in many cube and casual formats.

Another of the most format-defining cards in Modern. Multiple decks maindeck four copies. A majority of decks play some number in their 75. I'd focus on the Dissension version because it has much better artwork. I have a giant stack of these and I'm just waiting for my day to come.

Every blue deck plays this card in the sideboard for the grindy match-ups and it's a mythic from a terrible set. It's also just a cool card---it is a God after all, and that will carry casual appeal indefinitely.

A mainstay of the Modern Hatebear decks (aka Death & Taxes). It hasn't had a reprinting in Modern Masters or a duel deck. At only a couple of bucks, and having been out of print since Scars, I think this card is due. The white decks are better than people give them credit for and I expect them to see more play as the format and meta mature (just like in Legacy).

I used to think about Modern in terms of black-green and blue-red decks---the printing of Kolaghan's Command has single-handedly made black-red a thing. The blue-red decks moved into another color just to have access to this card because it is that powerful.

This is one of the format-defining cards of Modern. It's Standard-legal and the price tag has absolutely nothing to do with Standard demand. A rare that goes into Jund and Twin alike is a card that a metric ton of people will need in 2016 and beyond.

Yeah, I know that's six and not five. I gave you a free one.


Modern is the new Legacy. The prices will continue to rise to reflect that aspect of the format. The staples are here to stay and they will maintain high demand and high price tags. Anytime you can get ahead of the curve and identify a good card before the masses there's opportunity to preempt a spike.

By the time 2017 rolls around I believe we will look back and say, "Wow, Modern cards were cheap in 2015!"

4 thoughts on “Insider: Sorting Out Modern Spikes

    1. There obviously has to be one….just as there is one with Legacy….the difference is that WoTC can do something about it without rescinding their “promise”(ala reserved list). The issue so far has been they’ve been too conservative with their printings and demand has outpaced supply again. If modern has the banner year many of us expect, then prices will likely continue to rise this year (as WoTC’s reprint decisions for 2016 are likely mostly locked in with their printer/set design); but we’ll likely see considerably more reprints in 2017.

      1. Agree. The fact that no Reserve List exists here keeps cost of entry from getting ridiculous like Legacy ($300 Duals?). It doesn’t mean the staples can’t be “expensive” but they will never be ridiculous like Legacy. I was telling a friend that if Spellskite didn’t get a Modern Masters II Reprint at Rare that it would be a $100 card. This is the kind of thing reprints prevents.

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