Yeah, it was pretty unlikely I was going to talk about anything other than Modern this week.
My hope was actually to get this article out to you by the end of last week, but the real world didn’t know that Wizards was going to make such an epic announcement when they did. That said, with a few more days behind us since the beginning of the format, we should be able to draw better conclusions.
Not Really a New Beginning…
Even though Modern seems like a brave new world, it really isn’t.
Remember how they changed Extended last year so that it was only about half as big as it used to be? Well, Modern is essentially the old extended with a more comprehensive banned list.
Yeah. Remember how excited you were when you found out about the new Extended? How many new and awesome strategies opened up when half the format rotated in a single night? Too bad that new Extended turned out to be just another playground for some the most reviled decks in Standard history.
Essentially, then, this announcement is Wizards’ way of fixing two problems: the waning popularity of Extended and the booming popularity of Legacy.
By banning most of the flagship cards from what would be the top decks going in, Wizards is attempting to atone from their mistake of last year. By neutering almost all of the most degenerate combos and best control cards straight off, their hope is that the metagame is open to a wide range of previously untested and formerly teir-2 strategies. If this happens, the format should do well.
By starting to support new eternal format, Wizards is also trying to fix the underlying problem with Legacy.
They haven’t had an issue with the format until recently – it’s always been vibrant and popular with its intended audience. Their problem only came about when the community decided to make it the de-facto #2 constructed format after Standard.
That’s when card availability issues became a major issue, and there aren’t too many ways to solve that beyond doing away with the reserved list (which they swear they will never do), making radical reprint decisions based solely on that format (snow duals!), or banning cards based on scarcity alone.
None of those answers are simple or elegant.
That is why I believe that Wizards will make a concerted effort to support Modern over Legacy whenever possible. That doesn’t mean they’ll abandon Legacy altogether – they’ve said there will be pro Legacy events next season – but it does mean that the format could lose the support of many of its more casual followers.
Yikes! Should I Sell Out of Legacy Now?
If you are speculating on a ton of Legacy staples, I’d pull the trigger and sell them now. There is a strong chance that Modern will greatly surpass Legacy within the next year, and demand for Legacy staples will fall.
Before you sell, however, take the following things into account:
- Very few people play Vintage, yet those cards still command a high premium. When Legacy effectively killed Vintage, those cards stopped rising, but they didn’t drop much, either. Only the highest-end foils took a huge dive.
- Many of the best Legacy staples are on the reserved list. With the format taking a back seat, I would expect there is a smaller chance than ever that these cards will see a new printing.
- Legacy will always have a strong, dedicated following. Even if modern is awesome, it won’t be a format with blazing fast combos and lock-down control decks. People want to play with cards like Force of Will because nothing else in Magic compares to the thrill of playing that card. Modern will not and cannot change that.
- There hasn’t been a single sanctioned game of Modern with the new banned list yet. The format might be terrible and degenerate. We simply don’t know right now. Remember that we essentially had this format last year and very few people liked it. Granted, the banned list changes a lot and I have high hopes, but it’s far from set in stone.
Before selling your personal stash of duals, I would wait and see how widely this format becomes adopted by the community. If Star City permanently changes day 2 of their open series from Legacy to Modern, well, you know what to do.
On the flip side: If the format fizzles, buy back into Legacy hard.
A Quick Look At The Modern World
For this article, I am going to go set by set and look at some cards that bear consideration in Modern. I will do my best to hit everything, but there will be tech I will invariably miss. There’s a ton of cards to go through, and I can’t possibly think of everything.
I also don’t see a need to dive into the current Standard, as everyone should be quite familiar with all of those cards.
I don’t have something to say about every card, so I’m only going to be discussing the more important ones. I will, however, leave the names and prices of a few other cards as food for thought. Most of them were either very important in Standard or are currently important in Legacy. That means they have some sort of pedigree, and shouldn’t be ignored when thinking about building for Modern
The prices I have listed are their current values here on Channel Fireball.
Note: I was able to get partway through writing this article (Eighth Edition through Dissension) on Friday, and I am going back now (Monday afternoon) to re-check all the prices and see what I missed before writing the rest of this article.
Whenever I notice a price change from Friday, I am going to mark it here so that you can see how the values are already shifting in anticipation.
Remember- the Friday prices were ALREADY inflated due to a day’s worth of speculation on the format!
Onto the cards!
Eighth Edition gives us a rogue’s gallery of role-players, marginal cards, and almost-good-enoughs.
Blood Moon is a strong sideboard option every time it’s legal, and I don’t expect this to be the exception. If you’re playing Modern, get a set of these on the cheap.
City of Brass has started to see more play in Legacy recently, and it is a reasonable option here as well. Thanks to being re-printed so many times, it’s remained fairly cheap.
Note that Plow Under was a VERY powerful card its second time around (Mirrodin-era standard) and is worth a flier at $1.
I’m not sure Chalice is as necessary here as it is in Legacy, but it will show up in sideboards for sure. It’s also a powerful one-of in tookbox decks.
Tooth and Nail was HUGE in standard, and with very few good counterspells in Modern I expect it could see some play here as well. Not much room to grow at $13, but something to keep in mind.
With Stoneforge Mystic banned, we…still might see Caw Blade making an appearance in Modern.
And if those blasted little hawks show up, there’s a reasonable shot they’ll be sporting Sword of Fire and Ice in their oversized talons.
Arcbound Ravager was shockingly left off the banned list along with Disciple of the Vault, and I fully expect these two to reacquaint themselves with each other. The artifact lands may be gone, but with Mox Opal and Tempered Steel around, I’m sure people will be brewing up affinity the second that MTGO opens up queues.
The thing to keep in mind about affinity is that it is popular even when it is terrible. There’s a subsection of players who will do whatever it takes to play Ravager in any format its legal in. Expect affinity cards to trade well no matter what happens with the deck.
Aether Vial was another possible ban target, especially with Mental Misstep getting the axe. It’s highly doubtful there will be a solid Goblins list making the transition, but Merfolk will certainly be a deck, brews of Zoo will be trying out the vial, and every aggro deck will at least consider using the card. It’s solid at $15 and will rise if it sees massive play.
Blinkmoth Nexus has a shot at being a bit player again. There were too many better lands in Legacy for it to be tier-1, but I could see it shining in Modern. Put this on your watch list.
Trinisphere is always a good sideboard option if too many people start playing combo or the format gets way too aggressive. With Tendrils out of the picture, I doubt it’ll make the leap from its current status as a fringe player in Legacy, but I can see Tezzeret decks in Modern wanting to use it off the board perhaps.
The Crucible won’t be nearly as good here, since there won’t be Wasteland or City of Traitors to abuse it with. There are still fetchlands, though, and Life from the Loam is a real card, so don’t sleep on this as a player in the format.
Engineered Explosives is a strong pickup, especially in Trinket Mage/Gifts Ungiven decks. It’s great against a lot of the decks that people are predicting will be good, too. In the right circumstances, I could see it hitting $25 again easily.
Vedalken Shackles is a card I would certainly think hard about playing if any kind of Cryptic Command draw/go makes the transition. Keep an eye on how well heavy blue control does in the first couple of events. They’ve fallen out of favor a bit recently, but this is still a very powerful card.
Eternal Witness hasn’t seen competitive play in a while, but the two-for-one here is one of green’s all time best cards. Be aware of it.
Staff of Domination is one of the most versatile control cards ever printed, and going infinite with it is never out of the question either. I’ve seen a few control lists for the format already running a few of these, so be aware of them.
Magma Jet has gone in every possible burn deck since it was printed. That said, burn is mostly a budget deck, so the value of its staples never go too high. These should be easy to trade away, though.
Champions of Kamigawa
Will Kiki make an appearance in Modern? Anytime Tooth and Nail is legal, there’s a chance. This is a strong card to pick up, as people still value her between $3-$5. She’s also a good pickup from casual players who buy From the Vaults: Legends.
Gifts Ungiven is one of my top five favorite cards ever, and people WILL try to make it work in this format. If it puts up results, it could hit $10 overnight. This is perhaps my #1 card to look out for.
Boseiju isn’t even all that great in Legacy, a format heavy with counters, but it’s a land with a powerful ability, so it’s good to keep in mind if Cryptic decks start taking off.
Isamaru’s price is an example of what the Lorwyn tribes did to aggro. I doubt it’ll see significant play again, but a 2/2 for W is always worth keeping on your radar.
Betrayers of Kamigawa
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner – $15.99
Kira became tech in Legacy over the past year, and I expect her to continue to be fantastic if spot removal is as popular in Modern as I think it will be. She should easily hit $20 if the format takes off.
In a related note, several months ago at a large event I traded a VG Bayou to someone for a foil Keiga, the Tide Star and a foil Eternal Witness from Fifth Dawn. When the trade was finished, the guy spent the next seven or eight minutes loudly bragging to his buddies about how he fleeced me because “no one remembers how much Bayous are worth.”
Well, foil Kira’s up to $60 on this site, and set foil Witnesses go for at least $20. I feel like I did ok.
The lesson, as always: don’t brag about ripping someone off in front of them. And especially if you didn’t actually rip them off.
Saviors of Kamigawa
If Affinity is good, Kataki will be there. Pithing Needle has always been a solid, reliable sideboard card as well. I don’t see any uptick in the value of either, but they will be a part of the format for sure.
Ravnica, City of Guilds
Dark Confidant – $59.99 (Up $10 from Friday.)
Watery Grave – $34.99
Overgrown Tomb – $24.99
Temple Garden – $24.99
Sacred Foundry – $19.99
Life from the Loam – $9.99 (Up $3 from Friday)
Lightning Helix – $1.99
Remand – $2.49 (Sold out and up $0.50 from Friday)
Cloudstone Curio – $1.49
Dark Confidant is finally a $50 card, and I doubt it’ll move below that unless something drastic were to happen. It’s become a $60 card since Friday, and I don’t think you’ll be finding them for less than that anytime soon unless it doesn’t make waves. Luis said in Monday’s article that this might well be the best card in the format. Ignore him at your own risk.
In a related note, I’m kicking myself for not buying an extra set of these a month ago when they were, like, $15.
And now we get to the lands.
Obviously, all of the shocklands are insanely high at the moment. I can see them sustaining (or exceeding) this value if the format becomes super popular, but that isn’t guaranteed. They aren’t the best lands in the history of the game like the original duals, and even the fetches are more versatile and universal.
The price bump for these lands is solely about their standing as the best mana fixing in Modern. And while I have high hopes for the format, I still believe that these are in a bit of a bubble right now. If people want to trade for mine at CFB’s retail price, I will gladly let them go.
Life from the Loam is missing some of the support cards that really made it go in Legacy, but it’s sill an amazing amount of card advantage and I expect someone will figure out a new way to abuse it. The fact that it’s already gone up $3 this weekend means I’m not alone in thinking that
Cloudstone Curio is an especially intriguing play. It’s been a $5+ card before, and you can’t really lose at a buck fifty.
I’ll echo my previous point about shocklands here: they are quite high right now, and this is likely the top of the market on them. Of course, I’ve said that before about this very same cycle of cards…
Hallowed Fountain – $44.99 (Up $5 since Friday.)
Breeding Pool – $39.99
Blood Crypt – $27.99
Infernal Tutor – $6.49 (Up $0.50 since Friday)
Spell Snare – $4.99
Trygon Predator – $2.99
Ghost Quarter – $2.49
Protean Hulk – $1.99
Rakdos Pit Dragon – $1.99
These shocklands are even more insanely priced. I know there was a ton less of this set opened, but geez…
Infernal Tutor is likely not going to make a great transition, since combo isn’t as strong and storm shouldn’t really be a thing in Modern.
With the Dark Depths combo on the banned list, Coldsnap doesn’t offer us too much. I’ve heard some rumblings of people trying to make snow mana work, in which case snow lands might start heading toward the $1 mark and Scrying Sheets might become a $5+ rare. That’s all very speculative, though, and I certainly wouldn’t bet on it.
Rite of Flame is certainly an impact combo card, though it’s already a $3 common. Be aware of it, that’s all.
The Viper was outstanding in standard, but hasn’t made a peep since then. A deep sleeper for sure, but it’s a card I adore and its day may return.
Several of the above cards WILL be staples, while others are flyers that are worth knowing about.
Vesuva is a four-of in the twelvepost decks, which have performed well so far in Gavin Verhey’s Overextended format. This is a $15 card easily, and will hit $20+ if the decks do well.
Lord of Atlantis has been creeping up in value for months, the Legacy ‘folk decks finally negating the fact that this guy has been re-printed a billion times. Merfolk will be good here, and this card has even more room to grow.
Flagstones of Trokair fits in perfectly in Boros decks.
Yeah, it’s no Future Sight, but Planar Chaos manages to have a couple of goodies.
Kavu Predator has started to become crucial to any decks running the Punishing Fire combo, and at $1 it has tons of room to rise. Pick up a set of these ASAP – they’re the kind of card that will be impossible to find at 9:59 AM on tournament day.
Tarmogoyf – $99.99
Grove of the Burnwillows – $19.99
Pact of Negation – $19.99
Tombstalker – $12.99
Horizon Canopy – $7.99
Summoner’s Pact – $7.99
Magus of the Moon – $4.99
Venser, Shaper Savant – $4.49
Holy speculation, Batman! Where to begin?
First, the $100 price tag on Tarmogoyf is entirely legit. Every green deck runs him. Every single one. He’s a sought-after rare in a set that wasn’t drafted for very long that’s been out of print for years. He’s a cornerstone in Legacy, and now he’s a cornerstone in Modern. He never should have dropped below $70.
Grove of the Burnwillows has gone from $2.99 (before the Modern announcement last week) to $20 in a flash. Why wasn’t anyone telling us to buy these weeks ago in all of those premature financial articles about Modern? Ah well, hindsight is 20/20 I suppose.
At any rate, it’s going to be hard to get “full value” out of either this or Pact of Negation until the community settles on a new price point. Are either of these cards worth $20? They could be, I guess. Both of their decks are legit.
That said, if people wanted to give me $20 each for mine, I’d sell.
As a side note, I picked up for of these at FNM on Friday. The poor guy traded them to me at $4.50 each and I was a little hesitant because they were just $3 that morning. I wanted them, though, and went ahead with the trade. Uh, if you’re reading this, sorry about that…I certainly didn’t see the $20 tag coming!
Thoughtseize – $29.99
Cryptic Command – $14.99
Sower of Temptation – $9.99
Doran, the Siege Tower – $3.99
Gaddock Teeg – $3.99
Imperious Perfect – $3.99
Merrow Reejerey – $3.49
Windbrisk Heights – $3.49
Primal Command – $2.99
Scion of Oona – $2.99
Mosswort Bridge – $1.99
Knight of Meadowgrain – $1.99
Silvergill Adept – $1.49
Treefolk Harbinger – $0.99
Thoughtsieze has been a format staple in nearly every format it’s been legal in. I’ve played it in Legacy, Extended, and Standard – - and I expect I’ll be playing it in Modern as well. $30 is a fine price point for it, and I expect it to be stable there for a while.
Cryptic Command is back up to $15. Keep an eye on how well it performs – after two superstar years in Standard, it disappointed in the last few years’ worth of bigger formats. It’ll hit $20 again if it regains any sort of dominance, and it will drop back down to $8 if it fizzles yet again.
I am much more confident that Sower of Temptation will be excellent, however. This card is solid at $10.
Doran, the Siege Tower has kind of stayed in the $3-$4 range for a while now, despite various forays into Extended and even Legacy. Keep an eye on him, but don’t buy in yet.
Gaddock Teeg, on the other hand, is due for a bump. Yeah, it’s been $3-$4 forever, but it’s just so good against so many decks. The best hate bear of all time could finally hit the $7-$8 range this year.
Raise your hand if you had Vendilion Clique as the most valuable card out of Morningtide.
Again, this is one of those things where I just never would have predicted it. That said, it’s a fantastic card and if this is what the new price is, who am I to argue? People are going to want to play the creature, and less Morningtide has been opened than you think.
Mutavault, been expensive pretty much forever. So, uh, business as usual for a card that I guarantee will see a ton of play.
The others are all more speculative/deck dependant, but keep a strong eye on Reveillark. This is a card people LOVE to play, and it will double overnight if it finds a home.
Reflecting Pool – $12.99
Demigod of Revenge – $8.99
Sunken Ruins – $7.99
Mystic Gate – $6.99
Wooded Bastion – $6.99
Wilt-Leaf Liege – $5.99
Fire-Lit Thicket – $4.99
Kitchen Finks – $4.49
Vexing Shusher – $3.99
Cursecatcher – $3.49
Graven Cairns – $3.49
Firespout – $1.49
Swans of Bryn Argoll – $1.49
With the vivid lands not being good enough for Modern, I doubt either Reflecting Pool or the filter lands will be all the fantastic this time around. Remember: these were popular speculation targets for last year’s Extended, and they weren’t really good enough for that. You can’t fetch for them, so they’re pretty much strictly inferior to shocklands at this point. They’re not even cheap enough to be great budget options.
Will Demigod be good enough to make it into whatever version of Jund makes the cut? Put that on your ‘check in a few weeks list.’ Heck, who knows if Jund will even make an appearance in the format!
I do predict that Kitchen Finks will be around, though, and these should be stable in the $5 range for a while.
Twilight Mire – $9.99
Cascade Bluffs – $8.99
Fetid Heath – $8.99
Flooded Grove – $8.99
Rugged Prairie – $6.99
Figure of Destiny – $6.99
Glen Elendra Archmage – $5.99
Stillmoon Cavalier – $4.99
Regal Force – $4.49
Wake Thrasher – $3.49
As an overall note, this set was incredibly short lived in draft. Any card on this list that makes a major impact has a chance to hit the moon in terms of pricing.
That said, I’m still not a filter land believer, and Figure of Destiny has seen enough reprints to have its value sufficiently neutered. I have seen Cascade Bluffs all over Gavin Verhey’s lists, though, so it’s possible I could be wrong about that one. If you have to pick one to buy in on, make it this one.
Shards of Alara
One of the lowest impact sets for the format, I doubt we’ll be seeing too many cards with the Shards symbol gracing the Modern tables.
That said, never underestimate Planeswalkers.
Both Elspeth and Ajani are powerful and cheap. I’m not sure what decks they go in at the moment, but I’d certainly rather take a flyer on these tried-and-true players than risk five times this much money on pre-ordering whatever goofy new ‘walker comes next.
The top three cards on this list have a 100% chance of becoming Modern staples. If you want to play green and/or white, get a playset of each. They have proven themselves in Standard, Extended, and Legacy.
The other four are very metagame dependant, but they’ve all got some potential.
Continuing through our journey of Standard seasons’ past, we hit on crucial cards from Jund, Mythic, and that crazy Time Sieve deck you totally lost to that one time at FNM. Also Meddling Mage, which I’ve heard some rumblings about despite seeing almost no play since reprinted three years ago.
I feel most strongly that Pulse and Elf will see play in Modern, but I’m a big Jund homer. It’s important to note that Doran decks will want Pulse, too, though – that card is going nowhere but up.
Is Modern a Bubble?
I wrote two articles back in March talking about how Legacy prices were NOT a bubble, and were in fact sustainable based on player desirability and card scarcity.
While the points I made were valid, and most Legacy cards have maintained their value (or gone up!) since then, many of the format staples that were most strongly affected by the price increase have come back down.
For example, the Dual Lands, Natural Order, Show and Tell, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Polluted Delta, etc have not come down in price much at all. And the newer Legacy staples (Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, etc.) were actually trending upwards before Modern really took them into the stratosphere.
However, Wasteland and Force of Will, the two cards most inexorably linked with the price increase have dropped almost 40% from their high. If you bought Forces at $90, you’re kicking yourself hard right now.
Furthermore, there has been less interest in Legacy since Modern was announced, even when it was just for the Community Cup. Mental Misstep’s dominance turned off some people, obsoleting certain strategies for the first time in a long time in that format, and the entry price point turned off others.
If Modern becomes Legacy, where you need to spend $1,000 on a deck just to play, it will fail.
It lacks the explosive play, amazing combo/control cards, breadth of strategy, and timelessness of Legacy. I haven’t played a single game yet, but I can guarantee you that I won’t like it as much as Legacy. That doesn’t mean I won’t like it – I think I will – but it doesn’t ring the same bells, so to speak.
Modern’s chance to succeed is as “an eternal format for the rest of us” – the same thing Legacy did when it split off from Vintage in the first place.
That means that players who have been playing a few years and don’t want to drop two weeks’ pay on a deck need to be able to feel like they can get involved.
It’s fine for there to be $100 cards in Modern, I think, as long as there are only a handful. If the Ravnica lands all hit dual land prices and you need ‘goyfs or Bobs or $50 Vendilion Cliques to play, well, then why will anyone play? Either Wizards will have to crank out promos at prodigious rates, or the format will never get off the ground outside of the Pro Tour.
And that’s where speculators can really hurt the community. Someone says on Twitter “buy up every Pact of Negation you can find!” and the card hits $20 overnight. Another person says “Grove of the Burnwillows!” and that card hits $20 too. It’s not wrong, per se – I encourage speculation, I try to keep you ahead of the curve, and I do the same thing. But it’s certainly not going to help launch the format.
Is Modern a bubble? It depends if people play and enjoy the format. It’s certainly a volatile market until we know what’s good, and if you’ve invested anything in these cards beyond your private collection I would sell while the selling is good.
Could Hallowed Fountain hit $90? Yeah.
But if it does, why not just play Tundra?
Until next time –
- Chas Andres