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Insider: Modern Specs from GP Vancouver

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Grand Prix Vancouver is in the bag and the results are sure to have ripple effects all throughout Modern. Today we are going to take a quick look at the cards that had a stand-out day in hopes of being able to capitalize on changing markets and metagames.

The biggest news was the success of the Death's Shadow deck that Josh Utter-Leyton, Gerry Thompson, and Sam Black piloted to Top 8 finishes. The deck looks less like the Suicide Zoo decks of the past and more like an efficient, aggressive Jund deck. Utter-Leyton won the event playing the following decklist:


Sometimes the most obvious choice is the best one. Death's Shadow is a powerhouse card. It seems shameful to say this but it may very well be a better Tarmogoyf. When it comes to earning the largest possible body for the smallest possible mana investment, Death's Shadow is simply a beast. The deck has a lot of ability to control its life total via fetchlands, shocklands, and Thoughtseize, which means that the Shadow is always going to be jacked very quickly.

The factor that makes me most interested in Death's Shadow as an investment is that Utter-Leyton's deck has more of a "Jund vibe" going on. It isn't a gimicky, all-in combo deck like Suicide Zoo but more of a good deck with access to a combo kill. Good decks with combo kills are dangerous in Modern because they let players win through playing normal Magic but also reap the rewards of free wins. If Death's Shadow Jund is a real and good deck (which I'm certain it is) we could see a surge in the price of Death's Shadow as lots of Jund players rush to follow the trend and try to complete playsets.

Is Death's Shadow the new Tarmogoyf? If it is, expect prices to start trending up!


I have written extensively about why I believe Traverse the Ulvenwald is a fantastic spec card over the past year. First, it is just a busted-in-half card that breaks many of the rules of Modern MTG. They are not supposed to print efficient tutor effects!

The downside is you have to work for it. The upside is that that work is frontloaded into the deck construction. It is the kind of card we can always slide into a deck that will meet the delirium condition automatically. I wasn't surprised to see 4x Traverse in the Death's Shadow list because of how easily the deck turns on delirium. I even published an article last week for Abzan Affinity that featured four copies of Traverse.

The card is fantastic and near the bottom basement price. They are only going to get more difficult to acquire as they move further from being drafted in paper. It is also a snap-include in every single green Commander deck.

Foils also feel like a terrific pick-up while they are still relatively cheap. I could see this being a really nice investment card moving forward.


Bauble is one of the last of the truly busted cards that continue to exist in Modern. Probe was banned because, well, Probe is nonsense. Bauble is also nonsense but slightly less obnoxious, because it has a more limited range of interactions (doesn't flip Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror, get replayed during Past in Flames, trigger Young Pyromancer, etc.).

It does cool things with generating card types in graveyards for free. I like that it grows the Tarmogoyf, fuels delve, and helps us achieve delirium. When we start to push things to the linear limits of efficiency we are going to be looking to play with Mishra's Bauble from here on out. That makes it a unique card in the Modern cardpool that will fuel demand.

The long-term value of all Modern cards (and particularly Bauble) is linked to possible Modern Masters 2017 reprints. Obviously, if it gets reprinted we can expect the market to go soft. However, while I think there is a good chance Bauble gets reprinted, I also could see it being a rare which would keep the price relatively stable.

I think it is more likely Bauble gets reprinted than not. However, I also think that in the time between now and MM3 the card will likely improve in price.


Collected Company also found its way into the Top 8. Outside of CoCo and Chord, the majority of cards in this deck are mana and toolbox combo cards which tend to stay relatively stable in price. The green spells both feel like good places to pick up some value.

Chord of Calling is a great Magic card because it combines a whole bunch of unique elements that are powerful together. Instant-speed tutoring to put a creature directly onto the battlefield? They don't make 'em like that anymore!

We have likely already seen the lowest prices on Chord and I suspect that Abzan CoCo is going to be with us for a long time. It's a really solid deck.


Hierarch is another interesting speculation target. It is already really expensive for what it is. It's basically a one-drop mana dork like Birds of Paradise except with a much more aggressive price tag. The high price is a reflection of how good it is in Modern.

Bird has been printed like a zillion times and is $10. Hierarch with only two printings is significantly more expensive.

Hierarch is actually a much more flexible and versatile card than Bird. It is a better bird. If you are playing base green and either white or blue, you are playing Noble. It doesn't have Infect but still makes the cut in an Infect deck! It might be pound-for-pound the best card in Modern. It's almost certainly in the top five.

It goes into so many decks that demand should stay high and value should rise.


I think Affinity is a good deck and will continue to be a good deck going forward. A lot of the cards have already hit their peak or settled into the appropriate range. Overseer is the exception where I could see room for growth. I think the best versions of the deck are the ones that play four copies of this card.

I wanted to give Affinity a shout-out because it also found its way into the GP Vancouver Top 8, and Overseer is a card from that deck I could see going up in value.


Blade Splicer is an excellent Magic card. I've cast a lot of Splicers in my day and would never consider selling my Japanese set because I know I'll use them again at some point. The Ann Arbor crew casts a lot of Splicers in our playtesting. Kyle Boggemes loves the card in his Jeskai Tempo deck. It is gross with Restoration Angel.

Blade Splicer also found its way into Top 8 of the Grand Prix in an Eldrazi and Taxes shell. In my estimation the card is much, much better than what its bargain basement price tag suggests. Water has a way of finding its level and Blade Splicer feels like a nice investment card right now.


Sometimes people just forget about cards that are great and then somebody goes and brings them back into style. The shoal cycle from Kamigawa block is a great example of some free pitch spells that are totally legal in Modern. I know I wrote about a Tallowisp deck a few months ago and one of the strongest angles of the build was free Shining Shoal to flip the board.

It is a zero-mana removal spell that prevents damage. It is a good card! It can also counter Lightning Bolt for free, which seems gross in a white creature deck.

I don't feel like these will stay cheap for long. I'd consider picking these up for the collection or trade binder in case they become expensive.

Watching the Top 8

Modern is exciting, and it's always fun to review a big tournament that's bound to have big implications for the future. Death's Shadow deck? Real. CoCo? Great. The Vancouver Top 8 really reflects the decks that are good right now and will shape the metagame going forward.

6 thoughts on “Insider: Modern Specs from GP Vancouver

  1. People who don’t write their own quality content probably shouldn’t be condescending jackwagons to those that do write their own quality content, great article per usual Brian!

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