Insider: Hot Modern Buys After August Grand Prix Weekend

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One weekend, three Grand Prix. We won't get more Modern Grand Prix action until November, which sets up Guangzhou, Lille, and Indianapolis as the primary format-definers for months to come. July's Modern Nexus metagame update saw some bold moves throughout the tiering charts, and the different Grand Prix finishes have since confirmed and overturned some of those classifications.

Dredge? Still a strong deck but likely to fall from Tier 1 after the numbers get crunched. Death's Shadow Zoo? Certain to remain Tier 1, with multiple appearances in all three Day 2s and Top 8s. Jeskai Nahiri? A sorry disappointment after a few months on top. Between shifts like these and mainstays like Jund, Affinity, and Infect staying on top, Modern looks to be in a settled state through the end of 2016.

Top Modern players after the Grand Prix

As I'm finishing this article, Indianapolis' Top 8 is still pending but both Guangzhou's and Lille's are in the books. Guangzhou went to Grixis Delver, Lille went to traditional U/G Infect, and Indianapolis is anyone's game between Burn, Valakut Breach, Affinity and a handful of other contenders. This bodes well for the format's diversity in coming months, although skeptics will be looking to the format's abundance of linear strategies as a place for improvement.

No matter how Indianapolis plays out, August's Grand Prix weekend has already elevated a number of Modern sleepers and staples to newfound prominence or renewed importance. This is a great opportunity both for investors to sneak in before the results settle and new price ceilings get built, and for players who want to switch strategies or try something new.

Today, we'll review four cards which enjoyed significant Grand Prix success on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to featuring in multiple Top 8 listings, all these staples also saw frequent and high-profile play in earlier Grand Prix rounds. They also have room to grow from a financial standpoint. it's true that some of the buys will be cheaper than others, but with the way Modern is forming now, even the more expensive options are worth your attention.

Through the Breach

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle strategies have been building momentum in Modern for years. First it was traditional Temur Scapeshift followed by the similarly controlling Bring to Light builds. As those toolbox variants arose, we also saw the emergence of R/G strategies, capitalizing off Primeval Titan and its synergy with Summoner's Pact. Competing Valakut options have included Nahiri, the Harbinger more recently and Summoning Trap/Emrakul Plan Bs from years past.

The many faces of Modern Valakut

For a while, there was a stable tension between all these overlapping but distinct options, but August 2016 has seen the Valakut scales tipped heavily towards R/G Breach Titan builds. Prime Time was front and center all weekend long, which means the hot Through the Breach wasn't far behind.

Even as I'm writing this, I'm nervous about a Breach buyout by the time I go to press. The rare from the ancient (by Modern standards) Champions of Kamigawa is heavily undervalued in the $25 - $30 range. The last time a Champions rare saw top-tier Modern play was Azusa, Lost but Seeking, and that was in a complicated niche deck that everyone feared would get banned.

Despite Commander and casual demand buoying Azusa's price-tag, Breach looks to see much wider (and much safer, from a ban perspective) play in Modern. Kentaro Yamamoto also played a Breach playset in his Grixis Goryo's Vengeance list in the Guangzhou Top 8, which only underscores Breach's widespread and underappreciated applicability.

I fully expect Breach to surpass $40 by the end of the year, although this might be tempered to $35 if Modern demand drops precipitously with few Grand Prix on the horizon. Even so, Breach wouldn't be reprinted until Modern Masters 2017 at earliest, which makes the card a valuable pickup now even if only for the next six-month window.

If you can't get Breaches on the cheap or are worried about this heftier investment, check out Summoner's Pact instead, an indispensable piece of the R/G Breach Titan strategy.

Noble Hierarch

Speaking of pricier investment targets, I warned you about Noble Hierarch in last week's article and I hope you listened. Between Infect, Bant Eldrazi, and G/W Death and Taxes (which had a surprising Top 8 run at not one but two Grand Prix), Hierarch's stock has rarely been higher.

This is another card which isn't going to see reprinting until Modern Masters 2017 at earliest, and one that is certain to keep rising as more players pick up these three strategies. This demand doesn't even count additional interest generated by Kiki Chord and Eldritch Evolution strategies which players are still developing!

I hear you---it's tough to invest in cards that are already $50+ and rising. This entry-point limits Hierarch purchases to investors with deep pockets, or those with serious commitment to a Hierarch deck. On the other hand, for anyone in either category, there aren't many more opportunities to get in on Hierarch until she's just too high.

Because Infect, Bant Eldrazi, and Death and Taxes had such commanding runs all weekend, you can be certain more people will want Hierarchs to round out their strategies. Star City Games Opens and Classics have embraced Modern in a big way throughout 2016, and all three of these Hierarch-powered strategies will make frequent appearances at all of these events. That means Hierarch still has room for profit even at its current price.

The 2016 Modern Hierarchy

Even if you don't want to move on Hierarch from an investment standpoint, you absolutely need to focus on her if you have any interest in playing Hierarchs. The longer you wait, the more her price will increase. Get in on those Hierarchs as soon as you can if you're interested in playing her decks at upcoming tournaments.

If you're looking for other Hatebears and Death and Taxes cards to buy, I'd stay away from the low-ceiling Leonin Arbiter and investigate the historic mover Restoration Angel.

Arbiter, although an integral part of the deck, just has too much stock and not enough historic demand to move too much. Maybe it jumps a dollar or two and you make a big 100% payoff, but it's more likely people don't jump on the Hatebears bandwagon and Arbiter stays about where he is. By contrast, Angel is an older rare with a more limited printing. She even has a history of gradual price increases when in the spotlight! Not a bad card to check out if you aren't in the Hierarch market.

Death's Shadow

Just as Grand Prix weekend saw R/G Breach Titan solidify its status as the best deck in the Valakut genre, so too did Death's Shadow take the Zoo crown. Grand Prix Indianapolis commentators remarked that other Zoo variants, notably Naya Company and Gruul Zoo, have largely fallen out of fashion in favor of the explosive Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage alternatives.

The ship has already sailed on a number of Death's Shadow Zoo staples. Mishra's Bauble, for instance, saw extremely limited printing as a Coldsnap uncommon, which is reflected in its comical $20+ price-tag. This fate has not yet befallen the deck's namesake creature, which remains a sub-$10 rare from the older Zendikar set.

I mentioned Death's Shadow in my article last week and that advice still holds. This card is undervalued at its current price and is definitely going to increase as more players switch away from their current aggro strategy.

Like on MTGO, where Death's Shadow Zoo is one of the three most-played decks because of its favorable price-to-power ratio, paper mages are going to increasingly use this build in lieu of more expensive Tarmogoyf alternatives. Burn's metagame share might blunt this advance (understandably, it's a horrible matchup), but I still expect Death's Shadow Zoo to seize Tier 1 in August and hold it through at least September or October.

If the deck's progress holds, Death's Shadow is sure to exceed $15 by the next Grand Prix and perhaps climb even higher. I'm already seeing the TCGPlayer stock decline as I wrap this article up on Sunday afternoon, and even though the deck didn't make it at Indianapolis, its results from the holistic weekend will be more than enough to keep it rising. Get in on these sooner rather than later.

Grim Flayer

It's too early to know if Grim Flayer Jund is the real deal, but we sure saw Flayer all weekend long in various BGx Midrange flavors. This could be a huge opportunity for early investment if Flayer goes the way of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet: a Standard-legal mythic with multi-format appeal. In the case of Flayer, he'd see even more play than Kalitas, given his current Standard profile.

If Keita Kawasaki's Jund list from Guangzhou has anything to say about it, Grim Flayer is a powerful addition to Jund's historic complement of efficient creatures. That would make Flayer a Standard all-star and a Modern roleplayer in a Tier 1 deck, aka a big opportunity to make big money.

Ever since Flayer got previewed in Eldritch Moon, Modern midrangers have been figuring out if it's the top-tier alliance of Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant or another Sin Prodder flop. August's Grand Prix weekend was a convincing, although not decisive, vote for the former classification.

Flayer put in extensive work all weekend long, particularly when trampling over chumps to ensure selection next turn (extremely relevant with Sakura-Tribe Elder on the rise). Although it's too early to know if Flayer is really going to be a Jund hallmark like Kalitas became, I can certainly see Grim making inroads when racing and early threats are more important than a four-mana closer.

Because Flayer sees so much Standard play, the dual Modern relevance is more important than ever. This card will easily climb past its $10-$12 range if widely adopted by Jund. I'd get in on Flayer in the next few weeks, when more Moon stock gets opened, the price drops a little, and the Magic content sphere switches gears back to Standard.

Modern Through November 2016

It can't be overstated---August's Grand Prix weekend will be the benchmark for metagame evolutions up until the remaining Modern Grand Prix in November. This means you'll want to study these results carefully for major strategic and financial changes which are likely to arise from them. For instance, the Grand Prix weekend is a strong indictment of Dredge as a regular Tier 1 player, so I hope you didn't spend too much money jumping on the Dredge hype-train in its later stage.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed both the article and the Grand Prix coverage all weekend. Did you spot any other interesting tech in the Top 8 worth discussing? (I'm loving that Jeskai Thing list.) Are there other decks and cards you have scoped out for the next few months? Shoot me your questions in the comments and I'll talk to you all soon!

9 thoughts on “Insider: Hot Modern Buys After August Grand Prix Weekend

  1. Hi Sheridan,

    with the recent success of Naya Burn, 1st in one GP and 2nd into another one, do you think Orbs of Warding could be a great sideboard card? The price started to move already, but I think still pretty cheap.

    1. Sadly, it’s just too expensive to have a reliable impact. Burn wins most of its games on turn four. Past turn four, you need to stabilize with cards like Timely Reinforcements, Obstinate Baloth, Lightning Helix, etc. In essence, cards that both increase your life total and bring you closer to winning the game. Orbs just gives creature-based damage prevention over hexproof, which isn’t worth the jump from “0 mana” in Leyline of Sanctity on turn zero all the way to 5.

  2. “[Restoration]Angel is an older rare with a more limited printing”

    AVR is more recent than SOM, Resto also had a massive promo run. Don’t necessarily think your advice is wrong, but I do think the part I quoted is 110% untrue.

  3. Great article. I just wish people would stop ragging on sin prodder. If you like budget Jund, Sin Prodder is a good card, especial with cards like become immense, murderous cut, tasigur and hooting mandrills. Sin prodder is really good when you have a bunch of high impact cards that have Mid to high but reduced cost. Granted I say budget but I paid $10 buck for all my fetches. If they kill it, they have spent a removal spell, if they put the card in the grave yard it fuels your delve or the best option you get a free card. Just my 2 cents.

    1. In my experience both as a player and as someone who collects/reviews a LOT of Modern event data, the card just doesn’t cut it in Jund. Those punisher mechanic cards often fall flat and although it might work in certain lists and metagames, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest it’s not the best choice for most people and in most metagames.

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