Zendikar Rising and the Future of Modern, Part 1

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The world of paper Magic: The Gathering might be on pause as far as sanctioned in-person events are concerned, but that doesn't mean that formats aren't continuing to evolve as players around the world test out new cards and innovate on their favorite decks and strategies on platforms like MTGO. The only difference is that all of this innovation is happening online and outside the lens of large-scale tournaments to give a wider audience a view of what's happening.

If you've been following my articles, you know that I spend a lot of time fondly thinking about the future and getting to sit down across from an actual human being at a large event again - it's something I spend a lot of my time right before falling asleep thinking about in an effort to have good MagicFest related dreams.

However, thinking ahead like this also provides a lot of opportunities for financial speculation, and that's what we're going to do here today with a focus on the Modern format. There's such a diverse meta that I'm actually going to break this article up into two parts, with part one dropping this week and part two hitting next week!

What does the meta look like these days?

While we've all been taking time off from competitive paper Magic, the best Magic Online players in the world have been continuing to jam games digitally and the meta is actually looking pretty darn diverse compared to Modern metas we've seen in the past. Let's take a look at the decks that have been popping up the most in the Magic Online Modern world.

Uro Omnath Abominations

Let's start with the deck I'm by far the least excited to see holding a large share of the meta: Uro Omnath.

If you've ever stopped by my Twitch stream while I was playing Magic you've probably heard me complain at length about Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. It was great in Standard and is unsurprisingly putting up numbers in Modern, too. Lately, we've been seeing it paired with recently banned in Standard A-Omnath, Locus of Creation to great success.

As many people predicted (including Chroberry and me in our QS: Insider Casts), big bad Omnath is taking a huge hold on the Modern format. The lists themselves seem to vary a bit on their style of play, which is nice, with some of the lists running heavier on blue with counterspell packages including Force of Negation and others like oosunq's recent Modern League 5-0 list focus on ramp strategies with Oath of Nissa and Utopia Sprawl. MTGO user oosunq's list also features a Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardian package and playsets of fan-favorite planeswalkers Wrenn and Six and A-Teferi, Time Raveler.

As far as cards I'd keep an eye on from this deck: A-Omnath, Locus of Creation, Jegantha, the Wellspring, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, Force of Negation, and of course A-Teferi, Time Raveler. Wrenn and Six is also worth keeping an eye on.  Omnath and Jegantha are decent speculation picks due to their lower prices (especially since Omnath's banning) and I think the others are likely to see significant rises if the meta stays similar to this long enough for us to get back to paper play.

Taxes Variants

Okay, now we can talk about the deck that I'm most excited to see putting up numbers in Modern: Death and Taxes variants.

I know I've talked Skyclave Apparition to death here at Quiet Speculation already, but I can't help it. I'm super excited about this card as a player - and anyone who took the advice to get in on this card early is probably pretty excited about it from a financial perspective as well. It feels like this card is seeing play in just about any deck that runs enough white sources, but I'd wager that the most successful slot it's found in Modern so far is Mono White Death and Taxes.

These lists are all pretty similar, relying on classic standbys like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Leonin Arbiter, Flickerwisp, the now unbanned Stoneforge Mystic, and Modern Horizons all-star Giver of Runes. Another new addition to the deck I'm personally pretty excited about is Archon of Emeria, which is starting to see more play in recent weeks in decks such as MTGO user Parrit's list that they recently took to a 5-0 finish in a Modern League on the 17th.

Modern Death and Taxes never really seemed to be able to take a good hold in the Modern format until recently even with a handful of dedicated players piloting lists for years. The recent additions from Zendikar Rising seem to have really given the deck a large boost, and I feel like it will be a big player in the meta when we get to return to big paper events.

Two cards I think are still ripe for speculation from this deck are the newcomers of Archon of Emeria and Maul of the Skyclaves (with full disclosure that I have pretty large stakes in both in my spec box) due to their current low prices and their increase in online play. Other cards to keep an eye on for big rises when paper play returns are Giver of Runes, Leonin Arbiter, Skyclave Apparation (I really do think this card will continue to rise), and even Stoneforge Mystic.

Death's Shadow Variants

Death's Shadow is an archetype I've also found myself writing about a lot recently with the printing of Scourge of the Skyclaves.

Both Rakdos and Jund variations of the deck have been putting up great results in leagues, with Rakdos seeming to be the favorite. Both versions of the deck usually run the same core of the titular Death's Shadow, Scourge of the Skyclaves, and Monastery Swiftspear - all helmed with the companion Lurrus of the Dream-Den. MTGO user fl0urish recently took a Rakdos list featuring a playset of Bomat Courier to a 5-0 finish in a Modern League on MTGO on the 17th, which I thought was fitting due to the release of Kaladesh Remastered on Magic Arena recently. Bomat Courier seems pretty good in the list, but is it just a flash in the pan?

Other than the Kaladesh underdog construct, what else is worth keeping an eye on from these lists for potential big rises once big paper tournaments return? I'm personally keeping an eye on Mishra's Bauble, Tidehollow Sculler, Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and the titular Death's Shadow itself. Scourge of the Skyclaves has already skyrocketed pretty hard, but I wouldn't be surprised if it sees even more growth once big paper tournaments return. If you're into penny stocks, I could also see a world where [card]Seal of Fire[/cards] sees a small uptick due to its slot as a repeatable damage spell with Lurrus (though this is an admittedly unlikely scenario).

Well, that's it for this week, friends! Next week I'm going to take a closer look at Heliod Company, Oops! All Spells, and the classic Amulet Titan to see if we can't find some more cards primed to explode when paper play comes back. What do you think? What cards am I overlooking from these lists that deserve a shoutout? Let me know, and I'll include them in an update next week! You can find me on Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, or hanging out in the QS Discord - feel free to hit me up any time! I hope you have a great rest of your week, and I'll see you next time!

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