Insider: Five Cheap Top-Tier Modern Pickups

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Last week, I bit the bullet and finally bought the Ad Nauseam deck that had been staring at me from my Cardhoarder cart since April. I'm a June birthday, so I justified it as a happy birthday present to me, from me. Aren't those the best kinds anyway?

About twenty Eldrazi Death and Taxes matches later, I'm not sure if this was a $200 well-spent, but I'm at least having fun and putting that Leyline of Sanctity playset to good use. Thalia, Guardian of Thrabens and Thought-Knot Seers aside, I'm enjoying an unusually open field of control, aggro, combo, midrange, and everything in between. My Modern Nexus metagame update goes live on Wednesday, and the numbers certainly fit what most everyone is feeling: Modern is in a great place right now.

Tier 1 Modern in June 2016

We're hot off a pair of format-defining Grand Prix, but at the start of a three-month stretch without serious Modern action. Of course, with Modern such a popular format these days, it's never truly an off-season. Star City Games will be hosting two Modern Opens in the interim, with the second World Magic Cup Qualifier going Modern in early July.

Modern interludes aside, the content mill is focused squarely on Legacy and Standard for the next months. That makes it a desolate time for Modern articles and coverage, but an opportune time for snagging format staples.

In today's article, we'll look at five such staples from Modern's top-tier strategies. Between less Modern attention, player movement to and from certain strategies, and the general market cycle, these five cards are at their most inviting price points in a while. They might even keep dropping!

Whether you're looking to get into a top-tier strategy, want some cards to pick up now, or are keeping your eye on major Modern players, these five cards are ready and waiting for sharp investors.

Kolaghan's Command

Back when Dragons of Tarkir previews were in full swing, all eyes were on Ojutai's Command as Cryptic Command 2.0 and Atarka's Command as the card that would break Burn in half.

The Ojutai side of those predictions couldn't have fallen much flatter. The Atarka's one didn't exactly "break" Burn, but it was good enough to guarantee Tier 1 status for every month to come (and guarantee Atarka's a spot in this article). Kolaghan's Command, however, was far from most players' minds.

Many Grixis Delver, Grixis Control, and Jund finishes later, all eyes had turned to Kolaghan's Command as the real Modern winner in the set, along with the iconic Pod replacement Collected Company. By the end of June, the metagame stats were in and Command had situated itself as a lasting BRx staple, where it would remain in basically all other months to come.

If you want to play Jund or Grixis in Modern, you will also be playing Command. In Jund, its a maindeck anti-Affinity measure, a way to out-grind opposing decks, and a general security measure for your frontline Tarmogoyfs. In Grixis, it's pure value with Snapcaster Mage.

Although Grixis Delver is scrounging in the Tier 3 dregs, Grixis Control/Midrange is solidly Tier 2 and Jund remains the most-played deck in Modern. Command is non-negotiable in these strategies.

At just under $14, Command is at its lowest point since January 1, 2016. It's also pre-trending down with no sign of stopping, which could result in Command dipping below $10 in the next few months. Standard has not been kind to this card recently, which bodes well for those trying to get a Kolaghan's bargain.

June 5 Kolaghans Command Graph

Kolaghan's will hit rock-bottom just before the August Grand Prix, when the Standard rotation is right around the corner and no Grixis or Jund decks have put up numbers to spark Kolaghan's hype. Because the pre-trend has shown no indication of reversal, I wouldn't buy right away. Keep waiting until you see any shift in the other direction and then buy immediately.

Abrupt Decay

Speaking of the BGx Midrange king, you can't expect to Jund 'em out without Jund's (and, perhaps, Modern's generally) best catchall removal spell. Lightning Bolt is still Modern's best removal spell overall, but for sheer versatility, Jund players have historically accepted no Decay substitutes.

Despite Decay's staple status in Jund (not to mention Abzan, the Abzan Company sideboard, and other homes), recent Modern events have challenged Decay's status as a non-negotiable slot. Both Mike Sigrist and Adonnys Medrano cut their Decay count to just two copies at Grand Prix Charlotte.

Delve creatures like Tasigur, the Golden Fang were the first blow against Decay's reign, followed by ramp monsters (Wurmcoil Engine in R/G Tron and Primeval Titan first in Amulet Bloom and now in Titan Shift), and now four-mana Nahiri. Swarm aggro hasn't helped either.

Decay-proof foes in Modern

All of this has increased Jund's stock in cards like Maelstrom Pulse and Dreadbore, a phenomenon I discussed last week on the Nexus, but hasn't entirely diminished Decay's importance. The card remains a Legacy all-star and a Modern mainstay, and its mere $12 - $13 price-tag does not reflect its potential.

Decay is the lowest it's been since April 2015, riding a downtick that started in July 2015 and hasn't abated since. Tarmogoyf ain't getting much cheaper anytime soon, but Decay's drop is good news for anyone who wants to shave some dollars off the BGx Midrange admission cost.

June 5 Abrupt Decay Graph

Between these metagame influences and market ones like the upcoming WMCQ Decay reprint, Decay is likely to keep dropping over the subsequent months. As with Kolaghan's Command, look to buy this at the first sign of an uptick, or at the first whiff of a major BGx finish.

Atarka's Command

If Kolaghan's Command slipped under the Dragons spoiler radar, Atarka's Command practically broke that radar. It was impossible to evaluate Atarka's as anything other than a huge Skullcrack upgrade, with the potential for even turn-three wins off certain Goblin Guide and Wild Nacatl draws.

Burn never broke Modern but did remain a Tier 1 player in every single month following Dragons' release. Atarka's was a huge factor in this hegemony and remains relevant to this day. Metagame standings are still getting finalized for that Wednesday article, but Burn is looking like the fifth most-played deck in Modern with Naya being its most popular (and most successful) configuration.

For some, "Burn" suggests the cheapest Tier 1 option in Modern. Fetchlands and reprintless Goblin Guides work against that, but the deck is still one of the cheaper options in Modern's upper echelons.

You can get it for less than $300 on MTGO, or about $650 - $700 in paper. That's not as cheap as Tier 2 Merfolk or Ad Nauseam, but it is the cheapest you can get in Tier 1 without compromising card quality. Check out Kevin Phillips' 21st place Burn list from Grand Prix Los Angeles for an example.

Given Burn's ratio of cost to competitive success, and adding in Atarka's initial hype, it might seem odd that the red-green Command is trending downward. But trending downward it is, hitting $8 recently, the cheapest the card has ever been since its initial spike in October 2015. This downward trend shows no sign of slowing, which might mean Command still hasn't bottomed out.

June 5 Atarkas Command Graph

It's rare you see a hyped rare hit Tier 1 status and then slump down so dramatically, but that's exactly what we see with Atarka's. I can't imagine this goes lower than $5 even after the Standard rotation. But even if it gets lower, it's a buyers market for those who want to play Burn or make money from it.

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

There was a time when Tarmogoyf was the uncontested champion of Modern ground combat. Then came Fate Reforged and two delve creatures which could toe-to-toe or even beat the lhurygoyf outright: the less-played but still strong Gurmag Angler, and the black staple Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Overnight, and with help from the first Command on our list, Grixis went from a Cruel Ultimatum novelty to a regular Tier 2 and occasional Tier 1 staple.

Without Modern's cantrips and regular fetchland stream, Tasigur was a bust in Standard; if Treasure Cruise couldn't cut it there, Tasigur never had a chance. Tasigur has also lost some relevance in recent months, with Grixis struggling to retake Tier 1 status after last summer and the format shifting more linear.

That said, with Jeskai Control on the rise, Jund maintaining its top position, and Corey Burkhart making a strong Grixis Tasigur case with his sixth place Grand Prix Los Angeles run, it looks like Tasigur is poised to make a comeback.

For the most part, Tasigur is as low today as he was during the Fate Reforged pre-sale season. Although Patrick Chapin's Grixis deck at Grand Prix Charlotte buoyed Tasigur's price in early June 2015, Mr. Banana Shaman couldn't sustain even an $8 price-tag and has been dropping ever since.

June 5 Tasigur the Golden Fang Graph

Fate Reforged is already out of Standard and a card with such potential as Tasigur can't stay at a measly $3 forever. This is a great time to pick up copies, whether you're a Grixis player looking to build from Burkhart's Los Angeles success or an investor who thinks Grixis has summer potential.

If Abzan ever makes a comeback over Jund, expect Tasigur to climb back up the charts---doubly so if Grixis can replicate Burkhart's performance at the coming Grand Prix.

Inkmoth Nexus

Our previous four buylist targets were all under $10 or, in the case of Kolaghan's Command, rapidly closing in on that sub-$10 mark. This last target is well over that price-point but also has the biggest potential for immediate profit.

I've harped on it before, I'll harp on it again, but until Wizards reprints this card or it hits unreasonable prices, Inkmoth Nexus should be at the top of your watch list.

I'm still puzzled about this dual Modern and Legacy staple being stuck at $30. Legacy Infect plays it. Modern Affinity plays it. Modern Infect plays it. All three of those decks are Tier 1 in their respective formats, with Affinity even pulling ahead during Grand Prix weekend as one of the best overall performers.

Nexus has never been reprinted even as a promotional product, and was a rare from an older, Scars of Mirrodin block set. How is this card not $40-$50 again?

June 5 Inkmoth Nexus Graph

The graph above gives us some critical context for Nexus's history and future prospects. A few months ago in February 2016, Nexus hit its current peak at around $45, which I had been warning about for weeks in various Quiet Speculation articles. Then came Eldrazi Winter, which incidentally featured an Affinity uptick to combat the Eldrazi menace, and a precipitous Nexus decline back to $30.

What happened and should past or present Nexus speculators be worried?

There are a few possible theories to explain the Inkmoth Nexus downturn, none of which should worry anyone greedily eyeing Nexus' $30 price-tag.

First, between the Eldrazi takeover, the Twin ban, and more banlist speculations during this erratic metagame period, Modern probably didn't look like a very safe place to invest dollars. The April removal of the Pro Tour, although likely good for Modern's long-term health, may have exacerbated these fears and further driven people away from risky Affinity and Infect staples like Nexus.

Modern banlist uncertainty in April 2016

Another possible factor could have been fears around an Eternal Masters reprint. Although few Modern staples ended up making the EMA cut, the fear may have been real enough to keep investors away. Now, with the focus on Legacy and Standard, those same investors may not have registered Nexus' relative safety and are still staying away.

A final explanation for Nexus' fall could be shifted focus away from boring old Infect and Affinity to more exciting Modern movers like Jeskai Nahiri, Gruul Zoo, Eldrazi Death and Taxes, Bant Eldrazi, etc. Even Abzan Company was getting more attention for a time. Infect and Affinity are no less viable (in fact, they are more viable than many of those decks), but they have a lower profile in the hype-sphere.

All of this points to a temporary Nexus decline that won't stay down for long. Expect this card to rebound over the summer, especially if either Infect or Affinity remain strong contenders going into the Grand Prix. It's still a buyers market for Inkmoth latecomers!

Let me know in the comments if you've scoped out any other exciting and undervalued top-tier pickups. I've got my eye on some of the R/G Tron staples, such as Oblivion Stone and Wurmcoil Engine, that are reaching new lows after historic highs, but there are surely others to discover.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you all next week! Depending on how the metagame calculations pan out for Wednesday, we might have some new top-tier decks to spotlight. Even if not, expect some discussion of new Tier 1 player Jeskai Control and its many financial upsides.



6 thoughts on “Insider: Five Cheap Top-Tier Modern Pickups

    1. I don’t think I said that in the article! I do think Opal is a card Wizards has on a watch list (Sam Stoddard, in a recent article, indicated they were watching some cards), but Affinity should be totally safe for the foreseeable future. With the PT no longer exerting an undue influence on bans, and Affinity performing at a very reasonable level, all of its cards should be totally safe for at least a full year.

  1. Thanks for the write-up!

    Quick question: you mentioned Kolaghan and Atarka as good pickups but with the recent push around G/W Tokens in Modern, isn’t Dromoka’s Command a solid pickup too? It is hovering around $4 and has been for sometime now. Seems like a good low-risk option to me, but I was hoping to get your thoughts.

    1. GW Tokens had a nice run at the recent GP, but I doubt it’s a lasting force in Modern. It seems worse than BW Tokens in the vast majority of metagames, and hasn’t even caught on in the weeks following the GPs. Dromoka’s isn’t a bad card (and it’s great in Standard with GW Tokens there), but it isn’t where you want to be in Modern. If you see another GW Tokens performance, then you can buy. If not, stay away.

    1. Yes: those cards are the real deal and see play across at least three formats. Smasher in particular is a multi-format all star who will only go up from its $4-$5 price point. Reshaper is a little more metagame dependent (unlike Smasher who is always good in any and all Eldrazi decks), but it’s undervalued at the $2 range.

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