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Insider: Modern Cards Performing after the Unbans

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The Modern metagame has now had a few weeks to develop since Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf were unbanned. Tournament results and decklists are now pouring in, especially from Magic Online, so it’s now possible to get a good idea of how Modern looks with the new cards legal. Today I’ll take a look at what cards are performing well since the changes, and specifically cards that weren’t very notable before but are now excelling. This means they have potential to move from obscurity to the mainstream, which in turn would lead to significant price increases.


One of the biggest winners from the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor has been Blue-Red Control, and the most popular version online uses Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror as its main win condition. Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror recently got back in to the Modern picture after it reached the top eight of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan in Pascal Vieren’s Blue-Red Young Pyromancer deck, and the momentum it built there has only continued to accelerate after the unbanning. It sat at $3 after the Pro Tour, but has now moved up to nearly $4. The online price spiked from 0.50 tix to 1.70, fell to under 1, but has now recovered to 1.40 and is trending upwards on the back of the success of Blue-Red decks. I can’t see the card being reprinted soon, so it should have plenty of room to grow.


Another card of note in the blue-red deck is Roast, which is critical because it can destroy large creatures like Tarmogoyf in the colors that otherwise have trouble dealing with the large two-drop. Roast is not only seeing play in multiples in the maindeck and sideboard of blue-red decks, it’s also catching on in other red decks without access to black or white removal, like Temur Midrange and Temur Scapeshift with Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Dragons of Tarkir is starting to mature and its prices are increasing, so I see this $0.40 uncommon demanding a dollar before long. Foil Modern cards have been demanding a premium lately, and are liable to spike, so at $1.50, there’s opportunity to cash in on a spike if Roast becomes a true Modern staple.


A card I have been seeing more and more of lately is Grim Lavamancer, which has increased in popularity from a variety of angles. It’s used in some blue-red decks as a sideboard card, but it has also gained from Bloodbraid Elf. It is used in the sideboard of some Jund decks, and it’s a potential inclusion in Zoo, which has also seen a resurgence. Grim Lavamancer has also become a maindeck staple in Burn, which looks to have benefited from the unbans and is performing very well online. Its online price was already moving up before the unbans, but its Torment and Magic 2012 printings have both gained around a ticket since. The prices of these paper printings have been stable, but it is telling that the cheapest paper printing, from Archenemy: Nicol Bolas, is trending upwards, from $3.30 to $3.60, and will likely reach the $4 of the Magic 2012 printing, at which point I could see all the printings start to move up.


So far Bloodbraid Elf has had a bigger impact on the metagame and market than Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and the deck that seems to have gained the most is Zoo, which went from completely out of the metagame to what looks like a top contender. There are traditional Naya versions, but more popular is Five-Color Tribal Flames Zoo, which has gained some new tools since the last time it was Modern. Mantis Rider has been adopted into the strategy as an aggressive three-drop with evasion, and it’s one of the very best cards to cascade into with Bloodbraid Elf.

Mantis Rider had already become a Modern staple in the Humans deck, and this extra push from Zoo could be what it needs to reach the next price level. It certainly has been online, where it previously sat at 0.10 tickets, eventually spiked to over 1, and is now around 0.60. Its paper price moved from around $0.70 to $0.80 and is clearly headed towards a dollar. Mantis Rider also has possibility in Jeskai decks, where it has seen play before, and have been made better by Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It seems like a card with nothing but upside for the foreseeable future and no real possibility of falling anytime soon.


Another card to benefit from the resurgence in Zoo is Domri Rade, which can be seen as a one-of in some lists. It is also being used in Naya Company deck, typically in the sideboard. Its price has been kept down somewhat by the reprint in Modern Masters 2017, but it has still seen big growth online, from around 0.50 tix before the unbans to 2 now. The paper printings have also been moving upwards, with Gatecrash moving from $3.50 to $3.90 and MM17 from $3.20 $3.40, and it will continue to head higher, especially as Zoo continues to grow.


The Eldrazi have always been strong in Modern, but Eldrazi Obligator has been mostly left on the sidelines. It’s now in the picture after it was played as a 4-of in Grzegorz Kowalski’s GP Lyon-winning Red-Green Eldrazi deck, which is now including Bloodbraid Elf and has performed well online. It’s price has moved up from around $0.35 to $0.45 since the unbannings, which shows it’s trending upwards, and while it’s not likely to actually spike, I see plenty of upside and no downside with the card. It’s notable that its foil price has actually spiked, from $1.2 before the unbans $4.50 which was likely accelerated by the GP win. It might be too late to cash in on the foils, but it’s a sign there’s plenty of interest in the card.


Scavenging Ooze seens play with Bloodbraid Elf in Jund decks and others like Zoo, and it also sees some play alongside Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Bant decks. Its price has been at bargain levels under $3 for years, but the unbanning could be exactly what it needs to finally start appreciating. Online it has seen its first significant gain since April, up from 4 tix to over 6, and I expect the paper to follow suit. The card has a few printings, and isn’t going to spike, but it really can only go up from here.


Grim Flayer could play a role in the new Bloodbraid Elf Jund deck, and its paper price, which had stagnated to an all-time low nearly down to $9, has started to increase after the unbans, and its now nearly $10.50. I don’t see the card really spiking, because it’s relatively recently printed and not even played in most Jund decks, but its various applications in the metagame, including in Abzan and Traverse Shadow decks, means it’s a solid staple, and being at a low it should only go up from here.


The last card I’d like to touch on is Tireless Tracker, which has doubled since the unbans, from $4 to $8 and rising, while the online price has moved from under 3 tix to over 6. It goes hand-in-hand with Bloodbraid Elf in all sorts of decks, and it also can be seen alongside Jace, the Mind Sculptor in U/G/x decks. It’s currently being played in something like 10 major Modern archetypes, so it has risen to the level of a format staple, and its future prospects are great. I don’t really see the price growing much more soon, but I think the new price is unlikely to fall, and the price will slowly grow from here on out, with the potential for bigger growth if the card has a big performance at a Grand Prix.

–Adam

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