First, Modern got a jolt of excitement in the dual Eye of Ugin ban and Ancestral Vision / Sword of the Meek unban. Next, Modern developed one of the most diverse and open metagames in years, culminating in a Grand Prix weekend packed with new technology and comeback stories alike. What's next for Modern in such an exciting and dynamic year?
Sadly, what's next is an off-season spanning from last weekend through the late-August Grand Prix weekend, with only a pair of Star City Games Opens in between. Just when things were getting good again!
Although I'm as disappointed as you are with the lack of major Modern events in the next few months, I'm also looking forward to an off-season that will let players experiment with new cards, sharpen existing builds, and finish building their deck-of-choice. It's a particularly good time for those in the latter category: card prices tend to retreat during the off-season, which gives Modern veterans and newcomers space to pick up missing staples.
Modern finance changes dramatically during the off-season. With fewer high-profile events, performance- and hype-based spikes are significantly less common. Players also switch decks during this time period, converting old product into cash for new strategies (or just to fund a relaxing summer vacation). Add in the lack of Magic media coverage surrounding Modern, and you have an environment where markets are more stable, prices are lower, and opportunities for profit are riper.
In today's article, I'm looking at a low-tier Modern deck with a cult following and some Tier 2 potential: Taking Turns.
We'll think about some of the bigshot staples like Kolaghan's Command and Collected Company next week (both look to drop as the current Standard rotation winds to a close this summer), but for now, it's time to dig deep for more Modern gems. Whether you're looking to make some money this off-season or just get into a cool new strategy, Taking Turns and its staples are ready and waiting.
Taking Turns Overview
Mono-colored decks aren't really a thing in Modern. Even the archetypically red Burn has branched into Naya or Mardu for an added edge. Similarly, the traditional "Draw-Go" style of blue-based control has also been largely absent from Modern, with the proactive URx Twin hogging the spotlight for years and Jeskai Nahiri picking up slack in recent weeks courtesy of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
As is often the case, Modern often has an exception to every pattern and today's exception is Taking Turns.
Taking Turns, aka "Extra Turns," "Time Walk," and "Holy-Crap-You're-Maindecking-Elixer of Immortality?" is a mono-blue deck with an engine combo finish. Using Howling Mine effects to fill its hand and Cryptic Command-style defenses to stay alive, Taking Turns locks down the game before stringing together Time Warp effects to draw into a win condition and lock the opponent out of taking their own turn again.
Jace Beleren is the customary win condition, but other pilots have splashed colors and other elements to personalize the strategy. The MTG Salvation forums are home to the oldest and most active Taking Turns primer online, and you can browse the first page for all the strategy, history, and variations you need to get started on the strategy.
Although Taking Turns hasn't enjoyed the same kind of top-tier or even Tier 3 success as many other Modern decks (even U/R Storm has more results), it's put up a few impressive finishes in the past month. This has included Mcrae Hott, whose list won a pre-Charlotte Grand Prix Trial just last weekend, and Russ Jeffey, who earned Top 8 honors at the popular and expertly-covered Face to Face Open Series in Toronto.
Between Jeskai Nahiri, Grixis, and blue-based Scapeshift, Modern control is undergoing a renaissance even brighter than the post-Kolaghan's Command and Tasigur, the Golden Fang months of Summer 2015. Taking Turns is poised to capitalize on this momentum and break into the more competitive Modern levels.
Next, we'll talk about the deck's overall positioning and format potential before moving into its financial prospects. I'm always leery of investing into hype-traps, so when betting on a relative Modern unknown like Taking Turns, it's prudent to have an understanding of the strategy's metagame context before opening up your wallets.
Taking Turns Positioning
There's a common misconception in Modern that a deck needs to be a Tier 1, Grand Prix and SCG Open regular for a deck to be worth playing. That's a metagame statistics misreading. For one, most players don't do Modern events at this level: they play at Friday Night Magic, SCG Invitational Qualifiers, weekend Modern at a local game store, or some other smaller, regional offering. Almost any deck can succeed in this context, so don't worry about playing a Tier 1 choice instead of a Tier 2 or 3 one.
Second, and more importantly, Tier 2 decks regularly take down major events. Just look at the recent Grand Prix for an example, with solidly Tier 2 Merfolk and Ad Nauseam winning both. Tier 2 decks have serious legs in Modern, and many of our current Tier 3 decks were in Tier 2 at one point or another: see Bogles, Naya Company, Grishoalbrand, Living End, and more.
Overall, just because a deck isn't Jund, Affinity, or the other big names, doesn't mean the deck isn't a major power. Enter Taking Turns, which I believe has everything it needs to make it to Tier 2 in the future. It won't be a BGx Midrange or even a Jeskai Control, but it has potential to land comfortably in Tier 2.
Taking Turns is at its best in metagames where linear aggro players aren't all playing Burn and where grindier decks are trying to stave off unfair turn three decks and prepare for a midrange slugfest. Gruul Zoo, Affinity, Infect, and other aggressive strategies have divided up the Burn players, which were already struggling against increased Abzan Company and Jeskai shares to begin with. As Burn keeps dropping, Taking Turns can capitalize in a metagame where reciprocal Howling Mine effects don't fuel a spell-based clock.
Burn also didn't do a great job at the Grand Prix, converting 0% of its Day 2 share into the Top 16 of either event. This further points to some underlying Burn weakness that Taking Turns can capitalize on.
If Burn's absence is a lowered barrier to Taking Turns' success, the uptick in fair decks is an added enabler to incentivize the strategy. Jeskai Control, Jund, blue-based Scapeshift, the slower Bant and R/G Eldrazi, and a variety of other strategies have all built names for themselves in fair contests. They pack the removal and interaction needed to beat unfair decks early, and the grinding clocks and engines to win later. Taking Turns can freely ignore both.
Tarmogoyf and Reality Smasher? Meet Gigadrowse. Removal? Meet zero creatures. Taking Turns' ability to blank Modern's abundance of Lightning Bolts and other economical removal staples is particularly strong in this removal-clogged metagame (where even Tron runs Bolt!). The legendary Lantern Control strategy which Zac Elsik piloted at 2015's GP Oklahoma City, leveraged a similar strength in its race to the gold.
In addition to these contextual strengths, Taking Turns also relies on a decidedly proactive gameplan, which has always been a key prerequisite for success in most Modern strategies. It meets the Modern speed requirements, comboing out about when Scapeshift can make it, but notably benefits from lack of exposure. Few players recognize the deck and even fewer would understand how to beat it, which is the exact combination decks like Lantern and Ad Nauseam rode to victory at past Grand Prix.
Taken together, all these stars align to suggest a potential opening for Taking Turns to fill. At best, it's a regular Tier 2 run. At worst, it could take the form of alternating Tier 2 and Tier 3 status like decks such as the Delver decks. Either way, a successful Taking Turns presents considerable opportunity to control players and investors alike. We'll now turn to the staples you'll want to scope out sooner rather than later.
Picking and Buying in Taking Turns
Because Taking Turns contains so many underappreciated and underutilized cards, almost anything in the deck is ripe for the picking. Want to play the deck? Get it now while it's reasonable. Want to make money from it? Same advice.
Most cards in the deck are very unlikely to see reprinting in the near future, and even if the deck's Tier 2 odds don't pan out, all of its cards are likely to rise just a little with time alone. Of course, a Tier 2 success would rocket these into the financial stratosphere, so it's a win-win either way.
Where better to start the Taking Turns investments than the Time Walk family members themselves.
Despite a few printings, the Tempest favorite of Time Warp retains a healthy $15-$18 price range due to its Casual and Commander appeal. It's also one of the few Modern-legal cards currently pushing the $15+ range while also seeing basically zero high-profile Modern play (Taking Turns is hardly a household name).
All of this could easily push Warp into Glimpse the Unthinkable territory, another Casual favorite with minimal Modern applicability. There isn't a Taking Turns version not rocking a Warp playset, so it's a key starting point for any investor gambling on the deck.
All the different Modern Warp effects have potential upside after a Taking Turns success, but few moreso than the single-printing mythic rare of Temporal Mastery.
At just around $9, Masteries could easily launch beyond Craterhoof Behemoth levels off a major success. As with most breakout performances, the early post-hype spike rarely matches the final resting place, but a mythic like Mastery could easily double or even triple your profits if you got out at the right time.
Just like Taking Turns is incapable of playing the Power Nine standout Time Walk, so too can the control deck not enjoy iconic Counterspell. Or rather, most control decks can't but Taking Turns basically can.
The $2-$3 Future Sight uncommon does a strong Counterspell imitation in a deck that never lets opponents enjoy three upkeeps, which makes it an indispensable part of the strategy and a great pickup. Future Sight cards have a storied record of breaking financial records (see Modern Masters poster-child) Tarmogoyf), and even the uncommons like Dryad Arbor, Aven Mindcensor, and Tolaria West all command prices ranging from $5 to $15 or higher.
Delay is not the kind of attractive speculation target that explodes from $2 to $20 overnight, but a Taking Turns win could quickly see you double your investment. Don't delay on this one if you see the deck start to move.
Although all these cards are great investment targets, any of the Tsaking Turns staples look great and make great money in foil. Think foil Time Warp is pricey at $30 in its Magic 2010 printing? Wait until Taking Turns makes it to a Grand Prix Top 8. Same goes for the relatively cheap $10 Walk the Aeons from the appropriatley-named Time Spiral.
If you're a player interested in trying out the strategy, you can get the entire list for between $250 and $350 depending on what list you run (or more if you're keen on Snapcaster Mages). If you're an investor, that same $250 to $350 could get you a healthy stock of Taking Turns staples to make money on the deck's possible success.
Next week, we'll think of some more mainstream Modern staples to scope out in the off-season, but as I wrap up the end-of-month metagame calculations and get ready for the summer, I'm always tempted to write on these under-the-radar strategies. Taking Turns has the trappings of a Tier 2 pedigree, and I'm hoping we see it soon in Modern's unprecedentedly diverse environment.
Thanks for joining us today as we explored this exciting and time-honored Modern strategy just waiting for its moment in the spotlight. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about the deck, its cards, or Modern generally, and I'll see you all soon.