Monday’s Banned and Restricted announcement has got a lot of people talking about the future of Modern. No changes to any format can have just as much impact on the price of cards as a banning or unbanning would.
A lot of cards are flying out the door and have me wondering if any of these speculations hold any water. Faithless Looting and Ancient Stirrings had the biggest targets on their head due to a lot of chatter post-MagicFest Los Angeles, and a high-profile examination from format expert Matt Nass and Pro Tour Hall-of-Famer LSV.
Wizards appears to be taking a hands-off approach for now, possibly until the release of Modern Horizons in June. Many Modern players are left wondering about the future of their format, and are starting to move in on staple cards that will dodge the Horizons reprint.
Scalding Tarn is almost a $100 card, and that is absolutely insane. We saw it approach these heights in 2016 before the eventual reprint in Modern Masters 2017 as a rare. This did a lot to curb its price, but it has recovered in a big way, now at an all-time high for non-foil copies. Being a four-of in Izzet Phoenix lists, which seems to be the prevailing strategy for the moment, has made it impossible to keep these in stock for many retail sources.
I see a lot of discussion about the Zendikar fetches in our Insider Discord, and the significance of the possible substitutes in the Khans of Tarkir allied fetchlands. New Izzet Phoenix players on a budget will naturally look to Flooded Strand, Polluted Delta, and Bloodstained Mire as substitutions, which will put pressure on their prices as well.
Just like the years prior to Khans of Tarkir‘s release, fetches desperately need a reprint. If you can get them at below-market prices, I suggest picking them up now for play purposes.
While not in the very near future, the risk of reprint is always there. Wizards showed their willingness to introduce fetches into Standard with Khans to inject more supply, and I’d be willing to bet they would do it again once the Ravnica shocklands are gone from Standard. Now more than ever, these will be the most important cards in any Modern player’s collection.
Faithless Looting vs Ancient Stirrings Decks
Izzet Phoenix is the face of the format for the moment, replacing Humans and Death’s Shadow before it in recent years. That being said, there are still powerful decks like Dredge, Amulet Titan, Hardened Scales Affinity, and Tron running around the format. These decks being the dominant strategies put the format at risk of actually devolving into something like this tweet would suggest.
Modern is really just duel decks: Ancient Stirrings vs Faithless Looting
— Joseph Horton (@josephahorton_) March 6, 2019
I make it no secret that I dislike the texture of Modern lately, as a casual player of the format. I’ve felt that Modern was in a place where decision-making mattered far less than in Standard or Legacy for more than a year now. Choosing to play a deck that interacts with the opponent in a meaningful way is how I and many others enjoy Magic. Modern punishes you most harshly for doing that.
Regardless of what I think, many Modern diehards, especially tournament grinders, could care less and will continue to play regardless of the format health. This will fuel price movement on key cards from decks that can play either Ancient Stirrings or Faithless Looting.
Mox Opal is many years out from its last printing in Modern Masters 2015, and I don’t foresee it coming back in any supplemental set any time soon. As long as Affinity and Lantern Control decks are viable, people will continue seeking out playsets of this card. It’s not unreasonable to say that this could be the next $100 staple in Modern, especially if it does well in a premier-level event. Supply of these is still relatively low compared to most playable mythics in Modern, and it won’t take much to see upward movement.
Everybody’s favorite turn-three play has recently seen a reprint in Ultimate Masters, and is at a decent discount of around $60. Jamming high-CMC permanents that can completely steal games is a solid game plan for the current metagame.
It’s not always the best deck in the room, but Tron strategies are historically very well positioned decks, and often rely on the power of Ancient Stirrings to find the pieces they need. Like many are advocating, picking up Ultimate Masters copies of prominent Modern and Legacy cards is a solid place to park your money.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is by far more powerful than Karn for changing a game state on the fly, and is currently at an all-time high. This card proves difficult to reprint as an eight-cost planeswalker, and is from a small, less opened set. Ugin’s price has grown at a steady rate since its printing and is fast approaching the $70 mark. Most Tron decks only run one or two of these, but that cost is necessary when so many go-wide strategies like Dredge demand a board wipe that exiles.
Dredge cards have been so frequently reprinted these days that many of them are at their historical low since Modern’s inception. I’m highlighting Life from the Loam specifically here, as it is the most expensive card with the keyword “dredge” in the deck.
The Dredge shell is actually quite inexpensive, and you’ll find yourself spending far more on the lands and the required Leyline of the Void in the sideboard. Copperline Gorge and Blackcleave Cliffs are often featured in these lists, and continue to rise in price as they dodge reprint.
The current boogeyman of the format is pushing up higher numbers every week, and shows no sign of slowing. Confidence in this card should rise after no bans this Monday, and players who were on the fence will likely start seeking playsets of this card for play.
Manamorphose and Thing in the Ice are cards to watch here alongside Arclight, as they are likely going to be in the sale cart. Expect Surgical Extraction to continue its absurd growth over the coming months.
The Rest of the Format
Funny tweets aside, there are still deck choices that will create investment opportunities in the short term here. Here are cards that I think many people are sleeping on, and will probably be seeing a lot more of in the near future.
Primeval Titan is one of the central pieces in Scapeshift and Amulet of Vigor strategies. Players looking to take advantage of the lack of sideboard slots dedicated to graveyard and artifact hate will be seriously considering these decks.
An interesting card that is shared by these two deck is Summoner’s Pact. Both of these decks need to summon the Titan as soon as possible to compete with a developing board state, and are easily able to pay the upkeep cost after finding a few lands from the ETB and combat triggers from Primeval Titan.
I generally have a pretty miserable time playing Cryptic Command decks in Modern, and that has largely led me to take a break from the format over the past year. That hasn’t stopped more proficient players from abusing the powerful suite of control cards, nor the advent of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in Modern.
I feel that the gamble of blind Terminus flips has largely contributed to the success of UW strategies, and this may be where players like myself gravitate to should Modern Horizons bring in tools like Counterspell, or—dare I say it—Force of Will and Daze.
The spoiling of Cabal Therapist seems like a signal that we won’t be getting true-blue reprints of powerful effects like FoW, but I think it’s time to allow actual factual Counterspell into the format. This is anecdotal at best, but I’ve seen quite a few orders for Counterspells of every kind going out the door. I expect movement on cards like Snapcaster Mage and Celestial Colonnade should this be the case.
The fact that Burn continues to thrive having to face such degenerate strategies is comforting, although it’s one of the decks I hate losing to the most. Outside of the required red fetchlands, Goblin Guide is the single most expensive piece of this strategy.
This card could definitely see growth should red players choose to throw bolts instead of pitching phoenix to the yard. Eidolon of the Great Revel is fantastic at punishing UR spell strategies, and will probably see more success based off that alone. New cards like Light up the Stage and Skewer the Critics make it an exciting time to be a Burn player.
The last card I’d like to highlight is Noble Hierarch. The recent UMA reprint has slashed the price of this one-drop mana dork. Copies can be found in the mid-thirties to low forties, and make this the absolute best time to be picking them up.
So many strategies—Humans, Bant Spirits, Vannifar Pod, and even Abzan Collected Company decks—utilize playsets of this card. This is probably the biggest no-brainer for cards to pick up for the future, especially if you want to play green creature strategies.
Bring it on Home
As I said before, I’ve had a pretty poor outlook on Modern over the last year. The style of play that is successful here is not exactly my cup of tea. However, Modern Horizons and the possible introduction of more tools to fight redundant, linear strategies has gotten me to reconsider the format. This is an incredibly exciting time for Modern, and now is the time to start identifying cards that could be popping very soon.
What I plan on picking up
- Khans of Tarkir Fetchlands – (In order of importance) Bloodstained Mire, Polluted Delta, Flooded Strand, Wooded Foothills, Windswept Heath
- Ultimate Masters reprints in depression – Life from the Loam, Noble Hierarch, Karn Liberated, Celestial Colonnade
- Primeval Titan!
- Any and all Burn pieces – Goblin Guide, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Lava Spike, Lightning Bolt
Cards I’m not so sure about
- Zendikar Fetches – Scalding Tarn, Misty Rainforest, Verdant Catacombs, Arid Mesa, Marsh Flats
- Arclight Phoenix
- Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
That does it for this week! You can follow me on Twitter @chroberry or Instagram @chroberrymtg if you want to see extra goodies and spoilers for next week’s article. Feel free to let me know how you feel about my targets here in the comments, or if there’s anything you think I missed!