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Insider: Modern Masters 2017 Casual Picks

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Welcome back, readers!

I realize my last article showed my pessimism towards Modern Masters 2017 (from both a competitive and financial perspective). However, talking with some players at our weekly Commander night did bring to light some promise for the set in the financial realm.

Alluding back to my last article, I mentioned that WoTC has around 21-22 million active players and about 1 million active DCI numbers. This means there may well be about 20 casual players for every competitive player out there. While the competitive player may need four of the staples from the set, that still pales in comparison to the number of copies the casuals as a whole need (especially for cards that are good in multiple decks).

So, despite the print run of Modern Masters 2017 being considerably larger than the original Modern Masters, I still think there is hope for the casual cards, especially the utilitarian ones.

Modern Masters

Lets start by looking at the original Modern Masters (MMA) cards that have rebounded from this reprinting (and which tend to show up mostly in casual or Commander decks).


Now some of these cards have made it into Modern, but looking at decklists from Modern Nexus, there currently isn't a deck in the Tier 1 or Tier 2 groups that plays any of these cards. So I feel they rightly fit into the category where current prices are for the most part driven by casual and/or Commander players.

All of these cards took a pretty big hit when Modern Masters came out. In fact, the casual cards took the biggest hit at first, because the print run was much lower and the competitive players tended to need playsets of the staples. However, as the playerbase grew, the added supply was absorbed and prices began to rise.

Modern Masters 2015

If we look at Modern Masters 2015, the options are much fewer (and the print run was higher than the original Modern Masters).


The list is a lot smaller for MM2015 and four of the five are mythics. There are still some solid Commander cards in the set, however, they remain at bulk (Puppeteer Clique, for example, which was a $5-plus card before the reprint).

The Modern Masters 2015 print run was larger than MMA, which implies to me that the larger the print run, the fewer casual cards that will rebound. This doesn't look good for Modern Masters 2017, as the print run is even larger still.

The takeaway is to focus on reprinted casual mythics (as they are still going to be rarer than regular rares). The good news is that Modern Masters 2017 has a good bit of these.

Modern Masters 2017

As stated above, we'll focus first on the mythics. After that I'll look at rares that, should they fall to bulk status, would be worth pulling aside from any bulk brought in.

Mythics


The miracle mechanic is very powerful. But due to the lack of good deck manipulation in Modern, this Standard all-star has been mostly limited to casual and Commander decks. Bonfire has occasionally found a home in some Modern decks in the sideboard (as it's a huge blowout in slower attrition matchups like the Jund mirror).

It had stabilized around $5 since rotating out of Standard, and this new Modern Masters version is already under $3. This is the type of card I tend to enjoy getting as a price balancer in larger trades and then stashing away, as its power level is very real as it was $40-plus while in Standard.


Craterhoof Behemoth used to see minor play in Modern Elves decks, but lists these days have largely replaced it with Shaman of the Pack, which can be found off of Collected Company and won't get stuck in your hand. However, I've had numerous casual and Commander players ask me if I had any Craterhoofs, and I imagine they were thrilled to see this card spoiled.

If the price drops to under $10 I'm a fan of trading for them, and if it drops under $8 I wouldn't be against cash buys.


Here's another one that has seen play in Modern decks before (often as a one-of in some Jund sideboards), but more recently has fallen out of favor. However, she's a powerful legendary Vampire, a tribe that has gotten a lot of support in the various Innistrad blocks and is beloved by casual players. I can see this one continuing to fall once packs start getting cracked, but if she falls to $1.50 or less I'm a fan of adding a few to my speculation box.


Another Standard all-star that had a brief stint in Modern but has sadly fallen by the wayside as control decks in the format have been pushed out by all the linear aggro decks. Sphinx's Rev provides two things casual Commander players love: life gain and card draw. The slower big-mana Commander format thrives on these giant "x" spells.

This is another one of those cards I expect to see continue to drop simply because there isn't a ton of Modern demand. I expect a lot of these to enter the market, but again if it hits $1.50 or less, I'm a big fan.


As I stated with Bonfire, the miracle mechanic is powerful and casual players love taking extra turns. Interestingly enough, the Avacyn Restored version is still sitting at around $8, whereas the Modern Masters one is selling under $4. I expect we may see these prices converge at $6 (I have seen decent local demand for this card prior to the spoiler so I expect we'll see players pick up their copies once packs get opened). If we see prices drop initially (like we often do) then I'm a big proponent of this card at $3 or less.

Rares

There are a decent number of rares I'm happy to pick up once they've dropped to an appropriate price. For each of these cards I'll note the price I'm waiting for them to hit before I acquire.

But with these Masters sets expected to release bi-yearly (with a likely Eternal Masters sprinkled in between), I no longer advocate long-term speculation. I'm setting my limit to 1.5 years, or six months before the next announced Modern Masters release date, and that is a maximum. If I see significant gains (50% or more) on any speculation targets with a shot at being reprinted, I will happily unload them.

For the astute readers, you'll notice that all my price points fall below current retail prices (some considerably). That's because I'm not looking to acquire them immediately. Previous Modern Masters sets tended to be at their lowest price point 3-6 months after release, and I think many people are still underestimating just how many copies will be added to the supply.


Acquire Price: $3.50

I know this price point might be a bit aggressive, but this card sat under $6 for two years before slowly rising to $9, and then spiking to $16 thanks to seeing play in Modern Eldrazi decks with Walking Ballista.

Collar tends to go in fewer Commander decks, simply because while both abilities are relevant, neither really dominates a game except with specific commanders like Oros, the Avenger or other pinger cards.

That being said, it was always one I got random requests for, until one day I went to get one for a friend and found out I had none left. This after stockpiling about 10 when they were in Standard.


Acquire Price: $3.50

Venser is one of those cards whose previous value was based heavily on having a single printing in an older set (outside of the very small-print-run FTV: Twenty). Venser's power level comes from the ability to "counter" an uncounterable spell by simply returning it to their hand, as well as bouncing problematic permanents when necessary.

This card has dropped by over 50% in less than a week, and I won't be surprised if it continues its downward trend for a while. If it does, I like it at this price point, and will pick up a few extras to finish off a playset for myself and maybe a couple to hold onto for a year or so.


Acquire Price: $2.00

I'll go on the record saying I hate this card in Commander as I feel it's too good. They banned Upheaval because it hits lands, but I think it's fair to argue that letting everyone keep their lands for a one-sided pseudo-Upheaval at instant speed is just as game-breaking.

However, regardless of my personal feelings on the matter, it continues to prove a staple in every blue Commander deck I've seen (because, again, it's ridiculously powerful). Unless they ban it, I expect it will be the first card on this list to rebound in price.


Acquire Price: $1.50

Zur is a powerful Commander that sort of builds himself as a deck. It can be extremely competitive or more casual. Prior to this reprint he was a $16 card before stabilizing at around $8.50 (granted, this was due to a Modern deck that popped up) but still he is a great commander in a powerful color combination.


Acquire Price: $1.50

The cheapest clone option available, Phantasmal Image has found a home in Modern Merfolk decks (as it can act like yet another two-drop lord or your opponent's best creature), but it's also very good in Commander. While we often don't see Clone finding a home in the format, costing half as much seems to be where the line between playable and unplayable is drawn. As for the downside of dying to any targeted spell, most spells in Commander that target one or more creatures are kill spells anyway.


Acquire Price: $1

Ol' Thragtusk, obliterating the hopes of aggro players since 2012. This is the definition of a true value creature and it does find an occasional home in Modern and even Legacy (Nic Fit) decks. This is one of those green creatures that I see a lot of players just default-throw into most green Commander decks because he's all upside.


Acquire Price: $0.25

This card has seen some Modern play (I recall a GW Trap deck making waves for a short period of time). But it's predominantly found in Commander as a pseudo-Collected Company, with the upside of sticking it to your opponent who thinks it's funny to Mental Misstep your Birds of Paradise (yes, I have experienced the ecstasy of getting to do that). The fact that you can cheat in any creature (there is no color restriction on this one like there is on something like Natural Order), at this price we're nearly at bulk and I'm willing to take the risk of it never panning out at this price.

Conclusion

While I am still pessimistic about Modern Masters 2017 as a whole (and what it means for MTG speculation moving forward), it's important not to let one's pessimism blind them to potential financial gains. Just don't go hog wild and remember to limit your risk.

7 thoughts on “Insider: Modern Masters 2017 Casual Picks

  1. “I think it’s fair to argue that letting everyone keep their lands for a one-sided pseudo-Upheaval at instant speed is just as game-breaking.”

    Fair to argue, sure, but also wrong. You miss a very important reason why Upheaval would be banned and Rift wouldn’t: Upheaval will in many cases make the game last much longer while Rift may actually make it finish quicker. From a competitive mindset you would only cast Upheaval as a panic button or when you can float mana to cast your finisher. From a casual mindset you may very well cast it because you can, thereby ruining a lot more games.

    Power level is not in itself reason for EDH bans. If you feel your group is playing spells that are too powerful you basically have 2 options: build better decks or get them to power down theirs. Neither is the Rules Committee’s responsibility, instead they ban cards that may accidentally lead to unfun games. A looped Rift would do that, but a normally played one wouldn’t. If you’re looping Rifts the problem is with you trying to break the format, not with the card itself. The philosophy is completely different from how competitive banlists are handled.

    Combined it makes sense that Upheaval gets banned and Cyclonic Rift doesn’t.

    1. I respectfully disagree with that argument. One can use Upheaval offensively…Like casting it with a bunch of Mana floating and getting a fast kill (ala Psycatog decks of old) or casting Cyclonic rift defensively to reset the board (which would extend the game length). The differences are simply pseudo mass land removal vs a one sided effect. I see these as being very close to equal in power level. But as always I appreciate your feedback even if we disagree on something.

      1. I’m not saying it can’t be done, what I am saying is that Upheaval would be used as a griefer card far more often than Rift would simply because people can. As far as griefer cards go it’s almost a full game reset. Power level doesn’t come into it.

    2. I play a ton of Commander. Cyclonic rift sees way more play as a defensive card. While on occasion you will see the offensive play that kills a player or locks up game. 3/4 of the time its used when someone is alpha striking the blue player. I agree that it should be banned, not necessarily because of power level, more so because it is frequently used in a way that doesn’t further the game.

      1. I was not saying that it doesn’t usually see defensive play.

        Defensive plays that do not further the game are not a problem in themselves. If they were we’d all have to play aggro. Rift does a reset of the board, Upheaval does a reset of the game itself. One halts the game, the other actively sends it back to the beginning. There is a structural difference between them.

        This is not like the days of Upheaval into Psychatog, where you’d be able to alpha strike next turn with your Tog. Killing a multiplayer table takes much longer and there’s a much better chance that someone will be able to deal with your win condition.

        I’m not saying that Rift isn’t strong, but what I am saying is that Upheaval is on a totally different level in regard to its effect on the game.

        1. I guess my counterpoint is that I (and it seems others) view Rift as a Game Reset as well (granted it’s not actually because it doesn’t effect lands), but if you consider the fact that if it took players 6 turns to build their current board state up and now it will take 5 turns to rebuild it then it is very much like a game reset for those players. The fact that Rift only effects opponents is truly OP and for that I think it’s as bad as Upheaval.

          1. But power level is not what got Upheaval banned (it’s not weak, but not nearly as good as cards banned for that reason). You really should consider the card without power level when asking whether or not Rift should be banned based on the comparison. The EDH Rules Committee assumes the format is inherently broken and that people who want to do broken stuff can. As such they don’t usually use power level as a primary motivator for bans.

            Because they keep their lands and because they likely have some cheaper stuff that they played during earlier turns rebuilding from a Rift in 5 turns would be really slow. If you play something on curve and drop a land every turn you need 1+2+3+4+5(+6) = 15 (21) mana, which your 6 lands will provide in 3 (4) turns. You can also start with dropping your better cards first, maybe you didn’t curve out perfectly or maybe you’ve had to discard some cards in favor of beter ones still in your hand. In my experience recovering from a Rift takes closer to 2-3 turns in this case, while recovering from Upheaval takes as many turns as you’ve taken so far. This is assuming the very early Rift you suggested, if you’re further into the game things change and full recovery may take longer. It’s important to realize though that full recovery is not likely to be needed, you just need to have enough to make sure somebody else is a more likely target for attacks (working together with the other people hit by the Rift player to take revenge is generally recommended).

            I understand that it’s very tempting to do power level comparisons when trying to judge whether a card should go on the ban list, but the only time that works is when cards are (nearly) identical. If they aren’t you must take a broader view than just power level alone, which is totally unlike how other Magic ban lists are handled. Reading the EDH Philosophy document is very worthwhile.

            The only category under which Rift may possibly be banned is “Problematic Casual Omnipresence”. I’ll grant you the “Casual Omnipresence” part. If you consider “Problematic” though, does it really have the “strongly negative impact” alluded to? Particularly consider their earlier statement “we’re not going to ban every card that someone finds unpleasant to play against. It is not a problem that some cards are strong.”. It is my interpretation that bouncing lands is why Upheaval falls on one side of the line and Rift on the other. You’re free to conclude that you do see that “strongly negative impact” and that it goes further than just “unpleasant” for a few people, that’s a matter of opinion. However when it comes to EDH bans you have to realize that it’s not power level that’s the ban criterium before you can have a meaningful discussion.

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