Modern is the best format in Magic. It is an idea that I've been toying with for some time but is such a bold assertion that I've been holding back on actually saying it. It's kind of like telling someone, "I love you," for the first time. Once you open Pandora's Box it is pretty much impossible to take it back.
With that being said, I was initially planning on writing about speculating on new Standard with an imminent Energy ban on the wings. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for you), Kyle already nailed the article I was planning on writing:
I strongly recommend doing the things he suggests because I think he nailed it.
Modern Picks in Advance of the PT
Modern continues to thrive, and by thrive I mean prosper and be super popular with players.
I attended a nearly 1,000-player Star City Games Open in Columbus last weekend. The format is so much fun—more importantly, people really enjoy it and want to play it.
I've been vocal about my belief that Modern is not a format for long-term speculation targets. Particularly on format staples. The evidence is too conclusive that staples are frequently reprinted, and these reprints substantially impact the price of cards. If anything, long-term holds on Modern cards tend to be a death sentence for profit.
On the other hand, Modern is a great place to look for short-term "spike and flip" picks. A scenario where you buy or trade for a card today on some evidence that it is likely to flip and then immediately sell when the price goes up.
It just so happens that there is a Modern Pro Tour on the horizon (a rarity in and of itself) which makes it very likely that Modern will see some spikes on its heels.
The Pro Tour is a big game for influencing MTG finance. It is a singular event that absolutely everybody watches and is aware of. American players don't really follow European and Japanese coverage and the rest of the world doesn't really watch American coverage. People look at decklists, but they are not invested. The Pro Tour is a different animal altogether.
The PT is a tone setter in the sense that it creates a baseline for all metagames everywhere. Modern hasn't had an event like this for years. It will be a big moment for the format in the sense that it will tell players exactly what the format looks like and how to approach it moving forward.
With that being said, if you can correctly predict the metagame there is a chance that you would be buying into cards that are likely to have increased demand after the event has concluded.
I love Lightning Helix as a speculation target right now. The card has secretly become one of the most important format staples, seeing play in a slew of decks: RW Burn, Jeskai Aggro and Control, and Mardu Pyromancer.
The key is that the card is a major inclusion in two of the major pillars of the format, Burn and Control. There are very few cards in the totality of the format that transcend multiple major pillars and Helix is one.
It has been reprinted in several places which has driven the price way down. I think the reprints may work to our advantage as buyers, and here's why: The card is likely at a rock bottom price which is perfect for buying in. If the demand for the card spikes after the PT, the price will increase even if the supply is high. There will be lots of copies for sale, but they will all be more expensive.
I also love the textless promo version of Lightning Helix as an investment card. It looks amazing. They don't make 'em like this anymore. If Lightning Helix decks are the talk of the tournament (and they may well be) it is possible the card could make significant gains.
I also think that Burn is poised to have a big weekend at the Pro Tour. It is one of the best decks in the format and exactly the kind of deck that people like to play. Efro has been advocating the deck lately which is a big endorsement since "the cool kids" rarely jump on board with a deck like Burn for fear of losing style points. The fact that a player that good has been so vocal about saying that Burn is the best deck in the format goes a long way.
Speaking of Burn being great...how about being great against Burn!
Leyline of Sanctity is one of the most one-sided blowout cards in the format. Drawing one in your opening hand against a Thoughtseize or Burn deck is like casting three free counterspells. Starting with one against a deck like Storm could end the game on the spot!
People are aware of Leyline of Sanctity in the sense that they understand it wrecks them but not to the degree that they realize they should actually be playing it a lot more than they are. I think we will see a ton of Leyline of Sanctity at the Pro Tour and that will change the format.
It will be a more widely considered maindeck card as well as a more played sideboard card. If you are looking for an expensive card that has the ability to jump to the next level, I'd be thinking about Leyline of Sanctity. I'm pretty sure I just talked myself into cashing out some store credit to buy them out at my LGS tonight.
Standard card alert! However, I think this card has buffs coming from Modern as well as Standard.
With Standard in mind, if they ban Energy (as I expect they might—I would, for one) the card has more opportunity to see play. Easy.
In Standard, the card is a feature in the Jeskai Control deck that lit up Columbus (taking both first and second place). I also think the card has potential legs as as sideboard card in non-control decks. It is a relatively new card whose potential we are only just realizing. It could see a lot of play at the Pro Tour. It could also be a major Standard player as well. Love this card right now as a pick.
I'm a big fan of Stubborn Denial. Grixis Shadow is the most played deck in Modern, weighing in at roughly 10% of the metagame. I also think that Shadow will be one of the most popular decks at the Pro Tour. It's the "value" deck and, for better or worse, good players are addicted to value.
Stubborn Denial is a cheap staple right now but hasn't seen a reprint just yet. It also slots nicely into other decks like various Bant builds and Affinity. It is one of the more widely played permission spells in the format. I like the idea of stocking up on these while they are still cheap. These are great cards to get people to "throw in" during a close trade.
It feels like it can't really go lower (outside of a reprinting), so it seems prudent to pick some up.
Speaking of cards that have bottomed out, the Iconic Masters version of Primeval Titan tanked the value of all copies hard. It is unlikely that we'll get another reprinting of the card anytime soon which means that we are likely looking at the rock-bottom price on the card.
It just so happens to be the backbone of an entire archetype of Modern. And a darn good one too!
Valakut is one of the natural predators of the grindy decks that are likely to be popular choices at the Pro Tour. It seems very likely to me that Valakut could potentially be one of the best positioned decks in the format and could have a big weekend. If it does, don't expect to find too many $5 copies of Prime Time floating around after that.
Picking the Winners
There is a lot to think about when it comes to picking Modern winners. The key will be picking cards in the Top 8. I think it is unlikely that anyone will reinvent the wheel. The format is too big and too well defined for that. However, how the format will play out is on everybody's mind. It's easy, just like betting horses; pick winners, right?
Okay, yeah, it's hard to do, but there is something to be said for using the information we have to pinpoint trends that are likely to occur. I believe evidence shows that Lightning Helix decks are peaking in Modern which makes them a frontrunner. I also think strategies that are good against those decks (Leyline of Sanctity and Primeval Titan, for example) are also quite nice specs.
I've been really enjoying Modern. I think it is the best format. I can't wait to watch coverage and hopefully make a few bucks in the process.