Insider: Modern Principles & New Archetypes

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The best way to learn about Modern is to actually play Modern. I’ve been hearing from a lot of local players about how much they are intimidated by the format. Until you starting playing with and against decks in the format, you will have a hard time understanding what’s going on.

A friend of mine, for example, didn’t know that Abzan Company was a deck. Now granted he’s new to the format, but as one of the most played decks, this is definitely one you should know about. A lot of players in my area don’t run this deck, but that’s no excuse for ignorance. This was definitely not blissful ignorance either because he got beat three times by this “new” deck at this past States event he went to.

From my perspective, the reason Modern is awesome is because of the vast array of viable strategies. But this feature can also hold players back from joining the format. Price is a factor as well, but players who want to play Modern can usually leverage their collection and resources to buy in if they are motivated enough.

So, if you want to play Modern, do it. Research what deck you want to play and start accumulating the cards for it. Most importantly though, just play the format as much as possible. The more you play the more you will get to know how games play out and what cards players tend to use. You may not know about every deck in the format, but if you generally know what’s going on, you will be in a fine position.

Today I will summarize some major financial principles that go along with obtaining Modern cards. Then I'll look at some of the latest metagame developments and how they can be leveraged financially.

Principles of Modern Finance

1. No matter what you like to play, there is something for every play style. From aggro decks like Affinity and Burn, to pure combo like Ad Nauseam, to combo-midrange hybrids like Abzan Company or Scapeshift, pretty much everything is represented. If you're looking to trade or vend to players, try to have a wide selection of choices available.

If you're speculating, much of the time you will pick up whatever is cheapest or what you can get the best deal on. But if you have choices then don’t put all your eggs in one archetype. Spread out your acquisitions across multiple archetypes. This will also help protect you against the dreaded banhammer.

2. Most players get the cheapest cards first. Getting into Modern is expensive. Players will looking for Boros Charm, Cranial Plating, and Slippery Bogle from your binder first, rather than the expensive staples. Stocking up on any Modern-playable cards is always a solid investment. These archetype-specific commons and uncommons are usually worth a couple bucks, and you never know how long it will be until the next reprint.

3. The list of playables is really large. Metagame changes can shift the specific cards seeing play in a variety of archetypes, or push players towards slightly different versions of established decks. Take the Jund-Abzan divide, for example. Sometimes Lingering Souls is well-positioned; sometimes Lightning Bolt is preferable. Each of these decks has its own set of sideboard answers, spot removal options, threats, etc.

Some of the lesser-known archetypes may use cards you wouldn't expect. Likewise, in a format as enormous as Modern, surprising cards can pop up in maindecks or sideboards. If any of these cards are old or hard to find, you can bet they'll increase in price.

All this means that keeping an eye on the current metagame and builds of major decks is a good idea. Did you know, for example, that Jeskai Control players are starting to adopt Nahiri, the Harbinger? This is a little-played archetype that fell out of favor for several years, but that doesn't mean it can't come back en vogue. And if Nahiri is playable there, she well could get adopted elsewhere down the line.

4. Modern keeps growing in popularity and that's reflected in prices. Right now it appears that buying into older staples is a can't-lose scenario. Of course there's no guarantee, but with Wizards' recent doubling down of their commitment to the format, it appears the future is bright.

A great way to do this is with the upcoming Eternal Masters release, and Conspiracy 2 later in the Summer. What always happens is that the reprints go down in value due to the new supply, but then as more and more players see the format as accessible, they buy up the supply and the prices go back up.

Another thing we'll often see is cards that pair well with the reprints jumping in price first. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding how to spend your money this Summer.

New Modern Trends

Now I want to dive into some of the new decks that are breaking through in the format. We'll cover four new decks, some of which are variations of old decks and some which are entirely new archetypes. If you are an experienced Modern player, these are the new decks that you need to keep your eye on.

First up, we have two different builds of Zoo that have evolved from earlier versions. The first is Death's Shadow Zoo.

Deaths Shadow Zoo

The main game plan here is to deal yourself damage to turn on the centerpiece of the deck, Death's Shadow. Managing your life total is crucial as you want to hit the sweet spot where Death's Shadow is huge but your opponent can't kill you. Tools like Thoughtseize and Gitaxian Probe let you accomplish this while disrupting the opponent and gathering information.

At the end of the day, this deck is quite similar to Infect. You are utilizing pump spells to get your creatures big enough to kill your opponent. While this can be a risky deck to pilot, it is fast and effective at dealing twenty points of damage to win the game. Another great aspect of this deck is that it’s great against Burn. Your Burn opponent will be doing your job for you, you just have to make sure that your clock is faster than theirs.

Financial Takeaway: When a new deck is becoming popular, you should try to identify cards to pick up. As lower-tier decks gain more traction, their staples keep increasing in value.

For this strategy, Death's Shadow is the key component. The ideal time to buy was during Pro Tour Oath when the deck was first in the spotlight (assuming you didn't have your order canceled like mine). But now is not a bad time to get some copies either because this isn’t a card that can be reprinted easily.

Reckless Zoo

The next deck is often just referred to as Zoo, but a more descriptive name would be Reckless Zoo.

Most players know about Zoo because it is the default option for attacking with fast creatures. This Naya-colored deck has always been around thanks to the best one-drop creature, Wild Nacatl. You can combine this previously-banned green beater with a number of other fast creatures to create a fast clock for your opponent.

The most recent addition has been Reckless Bushwhacker. The newest bushwhacker pairs well with other cheap creatures but specifically with Burning-Tree Emissary. These cards together create an excessively fast, but fair game plan that puts any opponent to a serious test.

Many players turn to decks like this as their first Modern deck. What’s great is that this deck shares a lot of cards with Burn, so players may look to start with one deck and then acquire the cards needed to build the other one. These two decks appeal to the same type of player. Because of this overlap these cards generate more demand.

Financial Takeaway: If you can find them cheaply, foil Reckless Bushwhackers are worth a decent bit, but I would focus on the core of this and the previous deck, Wild Nacatl.

While it’s only a common, we are going to see this Modern staple continue to increase as time passes. The foils are relatively low right now and the normal copies are under $3. It never hurts to have a set of these in your trade binder or tucked away in your spec pile.

Eldrazi and Taxes

The Eldrazi menace was dominant enough to earn a ban, and even the powered-down versions are putting up results. Our next deck is one of these more fair descendants.

Eldrazi and Taxes is a hybrid of Eldrazi Aggro and Death and Taxes (or disruptive white weenie). This archetype exists in older formats because of cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that stop your opponent from executing their game plan. Like Merfolk, this deck utilizes Aether Vial quite well not only to make your cheap creatures uncounterable but also to play them on your opponent's turn.

Previously I didn’t think Death and Taxes was consistently viable in Modern. The Eldrazi updates have pushed the deck much higher in the standings. Lots of players enjoyed beating down with the cheap Eldrazi creatures and now this is their main opportunity to continue that run.

Financial Takeaway: Trading into cheap Eldrazi creatures while they are in Standard seems like a great long-term investment. Pick up those Thought-Knot Seers and Eldrazi Displacers now while they are near their lowest value and hold onto them after rotation.


Finally, the last new deck that I want to highlight is the Thopter Foundry plus Sword of the Meek combo. The funny thing about this deck is that it’s not really a combo deck. Certainly you are combining cards together for an advantage, but this is more like Tron than Storm. Your combo, once assembled, creates constant advantage for you. A true combo deck will win on the spot once the right cards are all cast.

Semantics aside, the hard part about this deck is that there is no clear best version. Players have been tinkering with ideas since Sword of the Meek was unbanned, but no one has found the right combination.

Some players have paired these cards with a control shell, while others have added a Gifts Ungiven package. Whatever version finds its way to the top of the heap, the cards in that deck will go up. What I can tell you is that once that deck is found, Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek will both go up. Players want this deck to be good and will rally to its cause once someone finds the right setup.

Financial Takeaway: Get the two parts of the combo now if you can find them for good deals. Keep a close eye on the secondary roleplayers in these decks, like Gifts Ungiven and Thirst for Knowledge. If and when the archetype breaks out, buy in quickly.


One final note. I’ve seen a lot of players trying to make Dredge a deck again in Modern thanks to the printing of Prized Amalgam. If that deck is real and finds success, Bloodghast will go up in price drastically. Amalgam might go up as well, but the Zendikar rare has been steadily climbing to $20 just based on Modern speculation and casual appeal alone. If it becomes a format staple, it will surge past that already-high number.

That’s all I have for today. Be knowledgeable and acquire these cards whenever you can. Any staple is a good investment because you never know when it will jump in price. To win in Modern, you need to be ahead of the game most of the time.

Until next time,
Unleash the Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

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