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Insider: Mining Modern Results for Specs

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Welcome back, readers! Today's article will be focusing on specs suggested by the current Modern metagame. According to MTGTop8, the top-tier Modern decks are:

  1. Eldrazi Aggro - 8%
  2. Affinity - 8%
  3. Grixis Shadow - 7%
  4. UR Storm - 5%
  5. Valakut - 5%
  6. Creature Toolbox - 5%

These six decks represent almost 38% of the metagame. Looking at this list we are unlikely to see a lot of cards that fall into multiple decks, which would be the ideal cards to speculate on (assuming they haven't already jumped in value). However, that doesn't mean we can't glean some information from these top decks.

The Low-Hanging Fruit

If we look at some typical decklists (keeping in mind that they can often change slightly from week to week depending on the metagame), we see only a handful of cards that are played in multiple decks (excluding basic lands).

  1. Chalice of the Void
  2. Verdant Catacombs
  3. Scalding Tarn
  4. Serum Visions
  5. Opt
  6. Walking Ballista
  7. Fatal Push

Unfortunately, Chalice of the Void is one of the most expensive cards in Modern, so its potential for additional gains is hampered by its current price tag. Verdant Catacombs suffers a similar problem in that it is already quite expensive, as the second most expensive fetchland behind Scalding Tarn (which is also on the list).

Meanwhile, Opt is a common in a currently drafted set. Its price ceiling is rather limited by this, and I don't see it breaking $1 anytime in the near future.

Fatal Push is a fantastic new addition to Modern, but its current price is heavily buoyed by strong Standard demand. Once it rotates demand will be gone and the price will likely drop. Its one saving grace is that Aether Revolt seems to have been opened less than previous sets, and it can't be redeemed on MTGO anymore.

This leaves us with Serum Visions and Walking Ballista. Ballista has also recently seen a pretty decent price spike due to Standard speculation (especially around the enrage mechanic), and its current price is heavily influenced by this speculation. If it cools off and we see Ballista return to its pre-spike price of around $12, I might be more interested.


Sadly this leaves us with one card on the list and it's an uncommon. Granted, it's an uncommon that at one point was worth more than most rares throughout Magic's history (around $15).


It has recently been reprinted three times (as an FNM promo, in Conspiracy: Take the Crown, and most recently in Modern Masters 2017). However, none of those sets were printed nearly as much as a typical Standard-legal set. We're also seeing a resurgence of the color blue in Modern. To me this means there is opportunity for this card to grow.

I imagine the ceiling is nowhere near what it used to be (thanks in large part to these reprints). But both of the non-promotional reprints had it bumped up to uncommon, so it wasn't as mass-printed as we might initially think.

If blue continues to gain ground in Modern (which wouldn't be too surprising with the addition of Opt), then Serum Visions will likely grow. Iconic Masters is also providing additional printings of both Cryptic Command and Ancestral Vision, so more players will be in the market to build blue decks.

I don't suggest people go and buy up large numbers of Serum Visions, but it's not bad to pick up a few copies. This is one of those spec targets that I'd probably be happier acquiring in trades, especially as "throw-ins" to even trades out.

Digging Deeper

Well, that was a bit underwhelming. When I started pulling all the decks and decklists together I'd hoped to find a card or two that seemed to have flown under the radar, but it appears thanks to the internet age (and deck diversity) there wasn't a ton of overlap and little low-hanging fruit to pick.

Luckily, looking for these market imbalances on known cards is just the first level of speculating. Let's dig a bit deeper and see if we can identify some cards well suited to attack this metagame.

Sweeper Effects

Of the top six decks, four rely heavily on attacking with creatures to win the game (Eldrazi Aggro, Affinity, Grixis Shadow, and Creatures Toolbox). That's a solid 28% of the total metagame. Anger of the Gods is good against the Creatures Toolbox deck and Affinity, but it unfortunately doesn't affect a ton of the Eldrazi or Grixis Shadow threats. So what is the next step up?


How about "true" wrath effects that don't care how much toughness the opponents creatures have? One could easily argue that these are the #1 and #2 best wrath effects of all time. Both have seen play in Modern before.

Supreme Verdict currently only has a single printing from Return to Ravnica (though it was also the buy-a-box promo, so there are extras floating about). It is in Iconic Masters, so new copies will be hitting the market in the near future. The current price tag of $5-$6 reflects this somewhat, though it will likely drop more once Iconic Masters actually hits.

However, as I've discussed in the past, when it comes to these limited print runs we often see the reprints tank initially before supply dries up and they begin to rise again. For Supreme Verdict, I'm a big fan at trading for them if and when they hit $3.50-$4, and I'd be a cash buyer at $2.50.


Ironically (and luckily for us), one of the most iconic cards in Magic, Wrath of God, isn't in Iconic Masters. Even with a whopping 15 nonfoil English printings it still maintains a $5-$6 price tag, which is downright impressive. That being said, back in 2012 many copies of Wrath of God were $7-$10 (though we have gotten the Commander 2013 and Eternal Masters copies since then), so there is potential for the current price to rise a bit.

I like this one a bit less than Verdict, primarily due to the fact that most decks that could play one could play either. UWx is the premier control shell, and these decks tend to prefer uncounterability over the "no regeneration" clause.

Stopping Searches

With the exception of Affinity, all the decks on the list above search their libraries. Whether they are simply cashing in fetchlands or tutoring up creatures, this is a key function of their deck. You know what recently reprinted hoser has fallen to near-bulk status?


Can you believe this card was almost $14 just three years ago? Now you can buy copies (that got bumped up in rarity) for $0.60 all day. The metagame has shifted some, and there are decks that don't really worry much about not being able to search (it really only effects Expedition Map in Eldrazi Aggro). But fetchlands are rampant in Modern, and if you can flash in a Mindcensor on turn two (thanks to some mana ramp), you can often get a concession from certain decks.

Looking at our list the only deck that's pretty much completely immune to Aven Mindcensor is Affinity. The Grixis Shadow manabase typically has 12 fetches (and only 7 fetchable lands). Primeval Titan is a whole lot less impressive when they can only find lands in the top four cards; and shutting off Gifts Ungiven forces Storm decks to draw into their Past in Flames naturally.

This card also plays extremely well with Ghost Quarter, which is seen in Eldrazi and other decks as an answer to Tron variants. We also got a slightly worse/slower version of Ghost Quarter in Ixalan with Field of Ruin, which also combos well with Mindcensor.


In a similar fashion to Aven Mindcensor, we have a card that was sitting in the $5 range prior to being included in one of the Commander 2017 decks (Feline Ferocity). This is typically a four-of in the decks that play it (including the new Eldrazi and Taxes deck that has been cropping up). The downside is that its symmetrical, but this is usually mitigated in the deck construction of strategies that run it.

Thanks to the recent reprint as a one-of in Commander 2017, the price has dropped by almost a half. With the increase in demand from the Eldrazi and Taxes deck, as well as the new lower cost, we may see this card move a bit earlier than the others I've listed so far. (One would need to open up four of the Commander decks to get a playset.)

Conclusion

Today's article was meant to remind us that good speculation is based on data as opposed to "hunches," and that there is a lot of data readily available. We simply need to mine it in order to look for good speculation targets.

It's also a good reminder that one's efforts may not always bear a lot of fruit, but that doesn't mean we should stop doing the work. If a quick glance at the trends always immediately bore good speculation targets, then we'd have a lot more competition. As is, if you're willing to take the next step and consider what cards may benefit from the current environment, you'll usually have an edge on others.

If you agree (or disagree), feel free to comment below and I'll do my best to respond in a timely manner.

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