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Modern Specs After Ravnica Allegiance and the KCI Ban

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It seems like these days new sets always make some impact on Modern, so it's no surprise a powerful set like Ravnica Allegiance has already made its presence felt in the format. Coinciding with the set’s release was the banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks, which opens up the metagame by removing its most oppressive strategy. These factors combined mean that Modern is in a relatively unstable and uncertain place at this moment.

Savvy speculators can capitalize on this if they can figure out where the metagame is headed next and what cards will come along for the ride. Today I’ll cover some changes that the banning and the new set have brought, and the cards I am targeting as a result.

A direct consequence of Krark-Clan Ironworks being banned is elevating the other combo decks in the format, which are now all scrambling to take the throne it vacated. The clear front-runner is the Amulet Titan deck, which had already been increasing in popularity over the past weeks, highlighted by winning SCG Worcester. Since the banning it has seen an increase in online play, including putting two copies in the Top 8 of the Modern Challenge last weekend.

Any of this deck's staples would be reasonable targets. Like the obscure Vesuva, which has increased 25% to $25 since the release of UMA and will likely keep trending higher.


My favorite target from the deck is Tolaria West, which has become my favorite spec in Modern of because multiple factors are playing in its favor.


More than a staple of Amulet Titan, Tolaria West also plays a key role in the Whir Prison deck, sometimes called Lanternless Control. The strategy has always existed on the fringes of the format, but with a strong, successful underground following. The banning of KCI has players looking for alternate Mox Opal decks, and the Prison deck fits the bill.

It’s also now breaking through as a legitimate top strategy—two copies reached the Top 8 of the SCG Modern Classic weekend, including in the hands of Michael Coyle, who popularized the deck streaming as sussurrus_mtg. People are going to get on board with the deck, driving demand for Tolaria West, which is a four-of staple used to dig for any of its other lands or many zero-cost artifacts.

Adding even more pressure to Tolaria West is the printing of Electrodominance. It’s being used alongside As Foretold to play zero-cost spells like Living End and Ancestral Vision, and Tolaria West can tutor for them. Gabriel Nassif has been streaming with Electrodominance since it was released, and last weekend he broke through by top-eighting the Modern Challenge. When I was playing Modern this week I ran into the deck twice in the same League—so there are definitely people who took notice, and there will be more to come.

I’m very confident about the prospects of Tolaria West, but there are other possible specs in decks playing it. One example is Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, which has become an accepted two-of sideboard staple of the Prison deck.


Tezzeret’s paper price has sunk to under $17 from $25 last spring. The price has averaged around $20 for the past two years, so the price seems quite low. It could be due for another spike, like when it rose from $15 to over $40 in spring 2016.

A look at the MTGO price shows it steadily growing from an all-time low of 0.8 tickets in mid-December to the nearly 2 tickets where it now sits. Demand is certainly increasing online, and I expect it will be felt in paper before long.


Another consideration is Spellskite, a four-of staple in the sideboard. Spellskite once demanded over $30, but it has fallen to under $9, a shadow of its former self in price and in the metagame. Once one of Modern’s best sideboard staples used in many different archetypes, it has become a minor player.

Demand from the Prison deck could be the factor that turns Spellskite around. A closer look at the price shows that it may already be on the rise. Both printings seem to have bottomed out at $8 sometime over the last month, and are now back to around $8.50.


The single most important card in the Prison deck is Ensnaring Bridge, which is also the lynchpin of Lantern Control. The card first spiked when Lantern emerged a few years ago and hasn’t fluctuated much since, even through a reprint in Masters 25. There was sufficient demand for the card that the market absorbed them without the price taking a hit.

This leads me to believe that there aren’t a ton extra Ensnaring Bridges out there not being played with, and that those holding them in inventory aren’t especially eager to offload them. Ensnaring Bridge was a big winner from the banning of KCI because it’s used in other Mox Opal decks. An increase in demand and price during 2019 seems inevitable.

Beyond Electrodominance, the biggest impact from Ravnica Allegiance on Modern has been from Prime Speaker Vannifar and the spectacle cards. The first has spawned a new kind of Birthing Pod deck, while Skewer the Critics and Light Up the Stage have rapidly become staples in Burn.


I think the best spec for Prime Speaker Vannifar is Chord of Calling. This card was a staple alongside Birthing Pod as another way for accessing a toolbox and assembling combos. Early decklists show it performing the same role now.


Eidolon of the Great Revel seems like a great way to spec on Burn, with Masters 25 copies up to $5 from a low of $4.70. This price has seemingly nowhere to go but up for what is such a strong staple.

-Adam

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