Modern players are no strangers to price spikes. Whether watching Blood Moon's astronomical rise following Modern Masters 2015, the explosion of R/G Tron staples in early summer and then again in fall of last year, or inexplicable buyouts of staples like Deceiver Exarch or fringe cards such as Gaddock Teeg, the past 12 months have given us plenty of price surges to chew on.
And that was all during relatively healthy metagames! With Modern seeing the most warped metagame stats in its history, it's natural for players to dig deep into trade binders, searching for offbeat singles to stem the Eldrazi tide.
The Eldrazi are still winning, but a number of cards have been at the forefront of the resistance. Their price tags reflect their sudden rise from obscurity to Reddit and feature match prime time.
In the days following the Pro Tour, cards like these went from budget bin to big bucks over different 24 hour periods. Some of them, like Worship and Big Game Hunter have found competitive success in the Eldrazified field. Others, like Painter's Servant and Magus of the Tabernacle, were longshots with few (if any) tournament results to support their explosive growth.
As I talked about last week, I firmly believe the Eldrazi are going to suffer at least one ban on April 4th, the next regularly scheduled banlist update. Modern decks with 30%+ of the metagame tend not to be long for this world. Especially when the next most-played deck, the venerable Affinity, is stuck at 9%-10%!
Today, I'll give some advice on selling, buying, or holding two of these cards in the event of a limited Eldrazi ban (e.g. just Eye or Temple alone) and a terminal one (e.g. Eye and Temple together). This will help you make smart financial decisions before and after next week's Grand Prix weekend, which I'll talk about a little at the end, and in the leadup to the April ban announcement.
1. Painter's Servant - Short-Term Gold
Major price spikes are a function of both hype surrounding a card and that card's availability. Visibility and hype typically determine the time period over which the spike occurs.
Lots of buzz? Expect a swift buyout. Availability often determines the ceiling of that spike, in addition to its price memory. Cards with excessive stock don't often hold value, once players and vendors realize how much is out there. Cards with tiny print runs enjoy much more outlandish growth.
Painter's Servant is a prime example of a Modern breakout buoyed by both frenetic hype and scarce availability. Its recent price trends reflect these characteristics.
Following the Pro Tour and a few speculative forum posts (including a stock tip from yours truly at the end of an article), Servant rocketed from its modest $8-$10 to an irrational $35, before settling in the $30 range.
Why the increase? Both Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin work exclusively with "colorless" Eldrazi creatures. Servant paints them all a color of your choice, regardless of their game zone, effectively shutting down the Eldrazi Ancient Tomb/Mishra's Workshop engine.
Servant is the interesting case of a (theoretically) metagame-relevant card without a clear home. No existing Modern decks benefited from Servant's inclusion (no Imperial Painter decks here, folks!), which meant sticking the Shadowmoor rare in the sideboard and relying on a card that slowed Eldrazi but didn't actually beat them.
Deck-specific bullets are common in Modern---just ask any Merfolk player and their Hurkyl's Recall playset in the board. Unfortunately, Servant was far less decisive than the Recalls and Stony Silences of the format, which put Servant investors in an awkward position.
Enter Abzan Company, a deck that already boasted a strong Eldrazi matchup during the Pro Tour, and looked to pick up percentage points with Servant.
On its own, Servant slowed the colorless critters' board development. With Teysa added, a Servant painting all cards black creates an infinite removal engine of sacrificing creatures, killing targets, and getting tokens to replace the sacrificed ammunition. Four Lingering Souls round out the package to ensure you have cannon fodder available.
Hawkins brought his deck to a respectable 6-3 finish, not enough to make Day 2 but enough for players to see how Servant and Teysa might team up in future events. A breakout Servant/Teysa Company performance at any of the upcoming Grand Prix tournaments would be huge for Servant's price potential, but April will be the real decider.
Financial advice after a limited Eldrazi ban: Sell
Even if Eldrazi survive April in some form, Painter's Servant is unlikely to retain much of its value.
On the one hand, the Teysa and Servant combo is less janky than many make it out to be, and a major tournament finish (or even just another tournament spotlight) would keep its price well over $25. Additionally, possible April unbans, along with a slower, grindier Eldrazi, would shift the metagame to midrange. These midrange, creature-heavy slugfests would be where Teysa and Servant shine.
On the other hand, Teysa and Servant were bad for years, and it's not like players flocked to the pairing before. Servant will still be relevant in a world with Eldrazi, but your best profit point is right here, right now. It's never going to get better, and even if Teysa and Painter remain a decent combo option for Abzan Company, it will never be the Abzan Company combo and the price will never get sweeter.
Moreover, the Servant stock is at the mercy of a possible Eternal Masters reprint! Servant is a lynchpin of the Legacy Imperial Painter deck, and it's very possible we see this expensive, niche card reprinted to increase the set's appeal. Even before the recent spike, the artifact creature was still a $10 card for years, which makes it a viable reprint option for the big set. Selling mitigates your possible losses.
Financial advice after a decisive Eldrazi ban: Sell
Assuming Eldrazi get nuked off the face of Modern, Servant investments become even riskier. First, with Eye and Temple gone, Servant loses all its solo, maindeck relevance. You would need the Teysa combo for it to do anything.
Second, with Eldrazi gone, the format would likely return to the pre-Pro Tour picture which was more linear (bad for a grindy, value combo) and packed with cheap Lightning Bolt-style removal (bad for low-toughness critters like Servant and Teysa).
Indeed, the de-Eldrazified world would likely see a shift back to a variety of tools which spell certain doom for the cute and low-impact Servant and Teysa comment. As a whole, this picture is bleak for Servant's long-term chances.
It is true that price memory would, to some extent, keep Painter's Servant afloat in the event of a limited Eldrazi ban. It is also true that price memory would be far less effective if the deck dies out completely. Servant is too niche to sustain its price tag without a mainstream reminder of why it was so powerful, and Eldrazi is that mainstream prop.
See those Grand Prix Eldrazi decks creep over 20%? Sell out even quicker! You've already made a big profit from the initial Servant buy-in, and Magic, like a trip to the casino, is about knowing when to call it a night.
2. Worship - Long-Term Discovery
Unlike Painter's Servant, Worship has a much more established print run spanning four sets. Three of them were even core sets! This makes Worship's ceiling much lower than Servant's, even if the hype around both cards was about equal.
In fact, Worship is actually the better card between the two. It's relevant in more matchups, was already a cool Modern sleeper that URx Twin kept down, and even sees play in the (soul-crushingly dull) Eldrazi mirror!
Worship might not solve all your Eldrazi problems (see World Breaker, Disenchant, Thought-Knot Seer, decking, etc.), but it's a solid card for the matchup. It's also one Modern players are likely to appreciate even after an April ban.
Percentage-wise, Worship saw one of the most obscene price jumps I've ever witnessed. One day, it was around $2 and barely seeing competitive play alongside Thrun, the Last Troll fans. Practically overnight, it climbed an absolutely ballistic 1400% (?!) to the $26-$29 range before finally settling at $18-$20 once the mania died down.
At least spikes like Blood Moon, another Modern enchantment with a comparable print run, saw their explosions after confirmed exclusion from a new set, or recent performances.
Worship was based on anti-Eldrazi theory alone. It wasn't even a Knight of the Reliquary/Retreat to Coralhelm scenario, where one card was already a piece in another deck (Knight in Naya Zoo). The white enchantment, although powerful, had neither a current deck nor a natural home, making its spike relatively unwarranted.
Since then, Worship has appeared in some Naya Zoo, B/W Tokens, and Kiki/Abzan Chord variants. In an ironic twist of fate, however, it has found its best anti-Eldrazi application in an Eldrazi deck itself.
The Louisville Classic was packed with U/W Eldrazi builds toting Worship in their sideboards, an edge in the Eldrazi mirror with relevance against other decks as well. It's possible we'll see non-Eldrazi decks using the enchantment during the upcoming Grand Prix events, but even if we don't, we know the U/W Eldrazi players will be packing 2-3 in their sideboards.
Financial advice after a limited Eldrazi ban: Hold
Since the Pro Tour and leading up to April, Modern players have gained, and will continue to gain, experience with Worship. Assuming Eldrazi remains intact in some form, the powerful blue-white lists will keep competitive viability. Eldrazi generally should remain at least Tier 2.
Add all the players with spare Worships around looking for homes (Abzan Chord could remain quite viable after a ban), and you can be sure we'll see more of the enchantment as the year goes on.
Many Worship owners got their copies at the beginning of the spike, and price memory will keep them high for the foreseeable future. This is especially true if a post-ban Tier 2, or Tier 1, Eldrazi deck sticks around Modern's upper echelons. We could realistically see Worship as the kind of techy, Blood Moon sideboard card that Moon itself occupied before its crazy 2015 spikes. If so, the card could keep going up after more performances.
Financial advice after a decisive Eldrazi ban: Sell
Worship's prospects are much dimmer if Eye and Temple both go the way of Birthing Pod. The only way this card realistically holds value is if at least one top-tier deck uses it. That's much less likely if a current top-tier deck, U/W Eldrazi, and the matchup where Worship rocks, the Eldrazi mirror, are both blown off the face of the format.
Depending on the Grand Prix results, which are likely to be heavily warped towards Eldrazi forces, you'll want to get out of those Worships as quickly as you can. To be clear, it's almost impossible to envision a scenario where Worship dips back down to pre-Pro Tour levels.
That said, it is equally impossible to envision Worship sustaining an $18 price tag if its main deck, and main reason for being strong, are both wiped out. Sell fast to avoid losing too much money.
Surviving the Grand Prix Weekend
Even before the Pro Tour, I was already on the fence about going to Grand Prix Detroit. After, I've looked to the other side and see a colorless field of tentacles and whatever those strange probosces are on Eldrazi Mimics. It's a nightmare.
I can't get excited about this format right now, so I'm unlikely to go. Sorry, Restore Balance, Goblin Charbelcher, Enduring Ideal, and a few other upstart contenders I planned on testing for the event!
Braving the Grand Prix field? Expect a lot of Eldrazi decks, which will still be strong despite people preparing for the matchup. Expect a lot of anti-Eldrazi decks, such as Affinity, Merfolk, and Abzan Company, which were good before Eldrazi and are better now. Also, expect a lot of players to play over-teched anti-anti-Eldrazi decks that aren't competitive but will ruin your day with weird technology. Not to mention, players who missed the Eldrazi memo and are just having fun with Soul Sisters.
But mostly, expect Eldrazi.
The Grand Prix is unlikely to be as bad as Louisville and its 48% Day 2 Eldrazi rate. It will probably be closer to 25%-30%, which will still be catastrophic by all Modern diversity standards. As a player, remember that even a field at an absurd 50% Eldrazi is still not 100% Eldrazi. You'll have non-Eldrazi matchups, so don't go bananas on metagaming your maindeck.
As an investor, look to sell out of any Eldrazi cards if the deck pushes beyond 30% at any or all of the tournaments. That prevalence will warrant a double-ban in April, by all historical standards, and you don't want to hold the bag when that hammer comes down.
Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments if you have any questions. It's just over a month left until April, and through smart metagaming, good financial decisions, and a little bit of hiding under rocks, we can all weather this storm and ride it out until then. See you all next week to analyze the Grand Prix devastation!