There’s a lot going on these days in Modern. Wizards has started gifting us playable new cards with each set release. Standard cards like Nahiri, the Harbinger and Eldritch Evolution can shake up the format a bit and give it a fresh new twist. For an eternal format, this is a great direction for the creators to take the game.
One thing that remains constant though is the mana. The pricing of the format's staple mana sources has constantly surprised me. The typically climbing prices of the lands have not risen to their projected heights. Or have they? Today we will take a look at what’s going on with Modern mana and what you can look for in the future of the format.
First up we have the Ravnica shocklands. These Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash reprints have astoundingly stayed on a plateau. Even the highest of the group, Sacred Foundry, Breeding Pool and Steam Vents, have only bumped up to $12---no higher than their Standard-era price tags were.
I believe one of the main reasons these lands have not started their incline yet is due to their limited play. To elaborate, you do not need four copies of these lands in order to compete in the format. Players can easily utilize one or two copies of these shocklands and many successful decks only call for those numbers anyway. Fetchlands provide more flexibility in many archetypes, especially the multicolor ones.
Delving a little deeper, many players have been playing at least as long as when these staple lands were in Standard and never had to acquire them to build a Modern deck. With nearly four years since their printing, we are reaching a time in which more new players will be building Modern decks. The more new entrants we have into the format the quicker these lands will start increasing in value.
The only thing we need to consider with the shocklands is if there will be a reprint anytime soon. Answering that is a tricky question but I’m doubtful we will see these lands again for quite some time. A return to the plane of Ravnica itself isn't necessary for a reprint (Wizards deliberately chose names without a flavor connection to a specific plane for the cycle of "fixed" duals). But they've been done and redone before, and Wizards is likely to turn to others lands while they let excitement build for shocks before bringing them back.
If we don’t see a reprint of the shocklands then we should start seeing some growth in the next year or two. I know from my perspective running a store that my stock is depleted and we don’t get these traded in often, if at all. Most of us have been on these long-term specs for a while but I think we will start reaping the rewards soon.
To start off, there is an obvious chasm in the pricing of the Zendikar fetchlands and the reprinted Onslaught lands in Khans of Tarkir. One has just barely rotated out of Standard while the other was printed back in 2009. With such a gap between these groups, we will break them down separately.
Let’s start with the newest and freshest on our minds. One of the aspects I have been considering is comparing the Khans fetches to the reprinted shocks. If we look at the observed trends from the shocklands, the Khans fetchlands should follow a similar trend. They are also a long-term speculation but a solid investment for that long-term. That means we likely have at least a couple years ahead of us until the stock on these lands dries up.
One thing to consider about fetchlands, however, is that players need more of them for decks. This may seem like an unnecessary statement to make but the demand from needing four copies is much higher than if you need less than the full playset. With added demand comes quicker price increases. Even if the demand does prove to be higher, it seems likely that it will be a year or two before growth shows on these cards.
The Zendikar fetchlands, on the other hand, have grown in spurts over the past couple years. They did dip a bit when Khans hit the market but they rebounded. Scalding Tarn is up to nearly $90 once again and the others are trending upward as well. It seems likely that these lands will get a reprint in the next year or two so my stance is still to unload your extras while they are this high.
Lands that turn into creatures have always been a favorite of mine. Players like getting value out of their lands and having an extra creature is a great way to do just that.
Undoubtedly the flagship card in this category is Celestial Colonnade. Its $30 price tag shows us what’s possible for lands like this. In the past year the other two heavily-played lands from the same cycle, Raging Ravine and Creeping Tar Pit, both bumped up to double digits as well.
I currently have a small stack of Stirring Wildwood and Lavaclaw Reaches because if a deck with them breaks out, their price will jump immediately. Remember, this cycle is almost as old as the enemy fetches, and if they're not as ubiquitous they're still very powerful.
Some lands are just better than others and that goes for the awoken lands from our return to Zendikar as well. Of the newest additions I like Wandering Fumarole the most. Red-blue is one of the most prevalent combinations in Modern and there are a variety of strategies that employ these two colors. The others could see play as well, and the Abzan-colored ones have already seen limited adoption in the eternal format.
Lastly, we have the colorless creature lands. Both Nexuses see play in Affinity and Inkmoth does double duty in Infect. Meanwhile Mutavault is mainly seen in Merfolk but also in several fringe tribal strategies hovering around the lower tiers like Slivers.
These staples have all risen a bit over the past year and I expect them to continue to grow. I don’t think they will double overnight like some of the colored ones might, but I do expect consistent growth from year to year. They are relatively safe investments, but fair warning on Inkmoth---it was one of the conspicuous absences from last year's Modern Masters 2015 set, and it might be slated for inclusion in the next one.
It takes a lot for lands to be viable in Modern. The new lands from Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad haven't broken through beyond a few sporadic places, and they are each reasonable in their own ways.
What’s holding the Scars of Mirrodin fast lands back from higher price tiers is their limited playability. As good as this group is, most of the time it’s just better to play shocks and fetches so your lands come into play untapped. Sure you don’t take damage from fast lands, but that doesn’t make up for the tempo loss when they are forced to start out tapped. While good, I think these lands will be on their plateau for a while.
The final section of discussion is a variety of other lands that show up frequently. This section is mainly comprised of lands that spawned archetypes around them. Tron, Scapeshift and Affinity are all archetypes that couldn't exist without their signature lands.
As much as I would like to advise purchasing this group of cards, I think it contains the most likely reprints for Modern Masters 3 next summer. The Urza Lands and Cavern of Souls seem like obvious candidates for the set.
Lands that I want to be tracking down are Valakut and Eldrazi Temple. Both of these archetypes are established staples of the format and the better they get, the more their lands will grow.
Eldrazi Temple survived a ban and now is back on its slow climb back up. Valakut seems hard to reprint which makes it a great investment. If Scapeshift gets another powerful card to boost its power level similar to how Dig Through Time helped, we could definitely see a double-up on the deck’s win condition.
There are many other lands available in the Modern format. Which of them seem most likely to make us some money? If you have data about any of the lands in this article, please share in the comments and we’ll continue the discussion.
Until next time,
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