I remember vividly when Modern Masters was released in June of 2013. At that time I was very active in the new local game store that had opened a few months prior just minutes from my house, so I was able to see first-hand the impact it had on players. It seemed to me like the Midas of Modern, turning everyone who touched it into a Modern player. When someone cracked a pack of Modern Masters they suddenly had Modern cards and were a part of that world, and I saw many dive right in.
At that time Modern was already very popular, and demand was so high that it easily soaked up the new cards. In fact, many reprinted cards actually soon ended up at a higher price, doing nothing to satiate demand. I attribute this to the new players it brought to the format bringing new demand, and to those already playing Modern who rode the wave and invested deeper into the format. The fervor it caused at my local store was surely felt in many other stores across the globe.
What I am getting at is that I expect Modern Horizons to have a similar impact as Modern Masters, bringing players to Modern who might otherwise not have played. It should also have the effect of recapturing the attention of lapsed players, and increasing interest in the format from current players.
There are no Modern reprints in Modern Horizons, so there’s no real risk of it decreasing the price of staples. Instead its effect will be purely to increase demand for other Modern cards, which can already be seen in the market. Just like with Modern Masters release, we’re in the midst of a thriving Modern season, which explains why there’s a lot of movement and growth. I expect things will come to a head with Modern Horizons.
Once we know exactly what’s in the set, we’ll start seeing spikes based on new cards slotting into existing decks or creating new ones. That will be exciting for sure, but right now we’re mostly in the dark.
I think the best plan for now is to target general big staples—one great opportunity lies in cards that were reprinted in Ultimate Masters. Many of these cards have already seen significant rebounds, but the price of many staples is still significantly depressed from their highs.
For example, Engineered Explosives flirted with $100 before an UMA reprinting crashed its price. The original version is now $40, and the UMA version feels like an absolute steal at $24, at least in the long-term. It’s such a strong staple that I really can’t see this falling lower, with plenty of gains ahead in the coming years.
Karn Liberated also looks like a great spec. Once over $90, its price has fallen steadily since reprint, and now seems to have stabilized in the $65 range. Recently Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger spiked, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is currently on the rise, too—it’s only a matter of time before this clear Tron demand affects Karn.
I noticed that the Iconic Masters printing of Oblivion Stone is also showing signs of growth, so that’s another sign and possible spec. It also brings attention to the fact that not just UMA, but previous somewhat recent reprint sets like Iconic Masters and Masters 25, are good targets in preparation for Modern Horizons.
A great example is Cryptic Command, which has its various printings all trending upwards over the past few months. It’s widely speculated that we’ll see a reprint of a classic blue card like Counterspell. I’ve discussed this before, but I think Cryptic Command is a great way to capitalize on that.
I think there’s some appeal to investing in higher-end versions of Counterspell, some of which are already appreciating. If the card does become Modern-legal, expect promos, foils, and ABU versions to all see significant gains.
The Whir Prison deck has been creating a lot of movement lately, including in Modern’s most important prison cards, Ensnaring Bridge and Chalice of the Void. These feel like solid blue-chip cards, but there isn't a ton of percentage to be gained here.
There may be more opportunity in cheaper cards with the potential to spike. In just the last couple days we’ve seen a spike in Bottled Cloister from the $1-2 range to $5. Even if it’s just a one-of in the deck, the price of this quite unique and old card was just too low.
My favorite target in the deck is Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, another card that just seems way too cheap to me. It’s now a three-of sideboard staple in the Whir Prison deck. It's quite a unique and powerful card that gets better with every new artifact printed, and $17 just seems too low given its price history. In spring of 2016 it spiked from $15 to over $30, but by the end of that year was down to $20. With the card now more present in the competitive metagame than ever before, growth seems inevitable.
While mostly a Standard spec, I want to point out that this week Kaya, Orzhov Usurper leapfrogged Hydroid Krasis as the most expensive Ravnica Allegiance card on Magic Online, currently almost 22 tix compared to 17. To me that’s a strong statement about the future prospects of the card, since MTGO tends to be ahead of what happens in paper.
The paper price of Kaya is still around $9, but rising, so it feels like a great pick-up now with a horizon through the next Standard rotation. At that point, the powerful explore creatures and green staples that power Hydroid Krasis will be gone, and its price should plummet. The fact that Kaya has also been seeing Modern play, like in the Lantern Control deck high-profile pro Sam Black played to the Top 8 of MagicFest Tampa, makes its long-term prospects even better.