If I said old-money Modern cards, you likely wouldn't know what I was talking about (which is fair, because I made the term up), but despite an initial lack of context, I bet you could name a dozen of them without even taking pause. These are cards that have been fixtures of Modern Constructed for eons and have hefty price tags that reflect high demand from tournament goers.
An Arcbound Ravager saunters into a posh country club and declares, "I think I'll buy a railroad!"
Tarmogoyf, seated in a large overstuffed chair and smoking a cigar, looks up from his stock ticker and replies, "Sorry, Old Sport, I own all the railroads and they are not for sale."
Mox Opal chimes in from the corner, "I'll sell you a race horse..."
The bluebloods of the format have earned their status for a reason: they are the best cards and go in the best decks in Magic's most popular format! Today's article is about identifying potential "New Money" cards that are likely to follow a similar trajectory to the proven "Old Money" mainstays.
Old Man, Look at My Life, I'm a Lot Like You Were...
The biggest difference between Old Money and New Money staples is merely when each card was first printed. Other than that, these cards share tons of overlap in terms of power level, playability, and metagame relevance. New or old, these are cards that define archetypes, see a ton of play across the format, and that I expect to continue to see a lot of play in the future.
Many don't realize it, but Modern has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past year. A lot of players complain the format is stagnant and random, but that has not been my observation or experience. The top-tier decks today are completely different from a year ago: U/W Control, Humans, and KCI were not dominating anything a year ago.
So, why is the format so different? The answer is simple: insane new cards!
Essentially, these insane new cards that have been shaping the course of the format and are the next wave of Tarmogoyfs and Snapcaster Mages. The cards I'm targeting this week have the potential to achieve that iconic, format defining status for years to come AND potentially make a lot of money.
Here's what to look for in a New Money card that has the potential to weather the storm for years to come.
- Inherently high power level. The card has an obviously high power level for Modern play.
- Fits into established archetypes. I'm not looking for weird fringe cards that go into niche decks. I'm looking for outstanding cards that can go into a singular busted deck and/or great cards that can go into a wide array of decks.
- Recent Printing. I'm looking for newer cards that have comparable power level to cards that have lasted for years.
- Potential for retaining and gaining value. The biggest risk with newer cards is losing value when they rotate out of Standard. I want cards with sufficient long-term viability that will maintain or rebound value after rotation.
One thing most cards I would characterize as Old Money share in common is that they are worth more now (based on their Modern demand) than they were while they were in Standard. Obviously there are exceptions like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but there are countless examples (fetches, Snapcaster, Mox Opal, etc.) where steadfast Modern staples retained and/or gained value beyond their Standard value even despite Modern Masters reprints.
The idea behind today's theory and subsequent picks are to target recent printings that have a high probability of following in Old Money's footsteps.
Welcome to the Format of Tomorrow – Today!
Another great upside of targeting newer cards is that they are more readily available than older ones. People have these cards in their binders from cracking prize packs or doing drafts, which makes them ideal targets for casual trades or cashing out Store Credit.
Did you know the lowly Damping Sphere is the seventh-most played card in Modern? It's colorless and thus accessible to most decks, and it is extremely effective against multiple linear decks, including Tron and Storm.
I believe it is likely this card will take a similar trajectory to Stony Silence, Grafdigger's Cage, and Rest in Peace, which were all very cheap while in Standard – and then suddenly expensive. At about $1, it seems almost impossible picking these up now won't work out very favorably down the road.
Fatal Push may be rotating from Standard, but it will live on forever in Modern. Standard rotation also means lots of people looking to trade off, which creates an ideal buyer's market for the card. BG and BGx are Modern fan-favorites, and both strains of Golgari are about to get powered up by Assassin's Trophy this fall. For all these reasons, Push feels like an easy pick to be a great card for years to come.
Teferi is risky only because the cost is so high (approximately $50), but the ceiling is likely higher. The card has helped to redefine the top tier of Modern. I can't imagine there will be an objectively more powerful card in Standard, even after Guilds of Ravnica is released. Teferi is quintessential New Money because it's just so obviously broken in half. My biggest fear about investing in a $50 Standard card is that it could turn up in a preconstructed deck. However, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, recently saw print in a preconstructed deck and still maintained a hefty price tag throughout its Standard lifetime.
Search has made waves in formats all the way through Vintage. Being double-faced makes it less likely to see a reprint, which I like. I've now played with the card enough to know it is a blue control staple forever.
Field of Ruin is the tenth-most played land in Modern. I've heard players describe it as "one of the five most important cards in Modern right now." The card will be played in a wide array of decks, and though likely to see a reprint at some point, I'd be willing to wager my investment will spike before that reprint hits store shelves.
"Tribal Tron" – the trio of Unclaimed Territory, Cavern of Souls, and Ancient Ziggurat – is the backbone that supports Humans. The deck has been a defining force and doesn't appear to be going anywhere despite a rough U/W matchup. The strategy is pound-for-pound punishing and has a surprising amount of great matchups across the board. Also, the trio of lands could foster other new tribal decks down the road, which makes Territory a great card stash away.
The concept of thinking about which recent printings have the potential to stick around indefinitely in Modern makes a lot of sense. It's also a concept that we can always be thinking about as months and years roll by. Which new cards are impacting and changing Modern today? The above are cards most likely to retain high demand one, two, or even five years down the road.
I'd Rather Have a Damping Sphere than a Soda – and It's Not Close
Today's article featured a handful of selections that I've been targeting lately, but there are obviously lots of other great cards that could easily be Modern fixtures years down the road. Of all the picks in this article, the one I like best is $1.00 Damping Sphere. Lock that up before it's too late. I can't even buy a Pepsi for a buck, but I can get a rare that is the seventh-most played card in Modern for that price?
It seems too good to be true, and it probably is.
Remember that even the mighty Tarmogoyf had to prove itself once. Which other recent printings do you think have a shot at hanging around and becoming Modern staples for years to come? I'd love to see your picks in the comments, or you can always find me talking MTG on Twitter at @briandemars1 or on Facebook.