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Trade Routes – My Triumphant Return and Getting Ready for Modern

So after about a two month hiatus from the Magic world, I am back, at least for now. Since we’ve last talked, my world has completely flipped around. I am now the father of two beautiful, healthy girls and I haven’t touched a Magic deck in almost eight weeks. Priorities change, but I am back, rejuvenated and ready to talk shop with all of you today.

Now, before we start, I want to give a shout out to the strong finishes that Team Fireball put out this past week and a huge thumbs up to Owen for earning Player of the Year on the back of an unprecedented 7 Grand Prix Top 8’s in a single season. This has been an exciting year with some huge announcements, personal triumphs and some foreshadowing for things to come.

To begin, I want to thank everyone for the warm wishes on Facebook for my wife and I. On October 6th, 2011, my wife gave birth to my daughters Charlotte and Evelyn. They came out healthy and it’s been a trip, it’s hard to believe that it has been two months already. The changes to my life have been incredible, and worth every moment. As I move forward in my life, the role Magic is going to play will definitely be altered. For now, I plan to continue to stay on top of price trends, and competitive results, but I probably won’t be playing much in the near future. I do plan to try and make one major tournament/event in the next year, but it may be something like Gen-Con.

As for the year and Magic, we’ve had a lot of twists and turns handed down by the mothership, from Planeswalker Points, to the canceling of Worlds, a lot is changing. However, I am going to stand ever vigilant that whatever does happen will not negatively effect the game, the players or the community in the long run.

But that’s enough of that. Let’s look forward to what’s ahead. With Christmas time approaching and the New Year around the corner, we are about to enter Modern season. So what does this mean? Cards are about to spike in value, new decks are about to emerge and we are about to see the first season of what Extended should have been.

For those who are not as familiar with Modern, it was a new format that spans sets from Mirrodin (8th) to Innistrad (Dark Ascension in February). At World’s we saw the results of a post-bannings event, but the results are a bit misleading. As it is the final part of a three-part tournament (Standard-Limited-Modern), there are some decks that were 4-2, 3-3 as a result to strategy of scooping teammates in, helping people get higher ranks and to earn more pro points. But what we can do is see which archetypes were popular, which emerged and what we can expect during the first month of the New Year.

The first deck we should look at was piloted by 2011 World Champion, Junya Iyanaga – Mystical Teachings. Here is the list:

[deck]1 Pithing Needle
3 Snapcaster Mage
1 Consume the Meek
1 Cryptic Command
1 Doom Blade
4 Esper Charm
1 Gifts Ungiven
4 Mystical Teachings
1 Pact of Negation
4 Path to Exile
1 Rest for the Weary
1 Smother
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Damnation
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Thoughtseize
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Darkslick Shores
2 Fetid Heath
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
3 Isolated Chapel
4 Marsh Flats
4 River of Tears
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Watery Grave
1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse
Sideboard:
4 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Damnation
2 Deathmark
1 Duress
4 Timely Reinforcements[/deck]

The deck itself is interesting, but financially I am more interested in the high dollar Rares/Mythics, highly sought after Uncommons and anything that may be difficult to get my hands on. For me, I immediately notice the two [card]Damnation[/card]s, one [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card], the singleton [card]Cryptic Command[/card] and the four [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s. Past that, I see the Ravnica Block Shock Lands and newly rotated Zendikar Fetches. Although we don’t know what the meta will be like (for sideboard purposes), I do see the [card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/card]s’ in the board and that’s important to me.

For me, I prioritize the cards that are the most useful, then the most expensive. If I want to play this deck, or a version close to this, I am going to get the land base first. Right now, Ravnica Shocklands are about as low as they are going to get for a while ($15.00 – $24.00 each on eBay). Once I obtain those, I will chase the [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s, then the rest of the mana base. If I want to play this exact configuration, I am going to pick up the [card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/card] (Duel Deck version) as cheaply as I can as well. Now I want to explain why I am chasing the Shock Lands and not the filter lands first.

Earlier in the year, we saw Ravnica Shock Lands climb into the low 40s in value on both CFB and Ebay ([card]Hallowed Fountain[/card], [card]Breeding Pool[/card]). Currently, these cards are pretty low, but I expect them to be right there at about 40.00+ again. With no plans on reprinting these very popular lands, they are only going to climb. Now, while I doubt that we will see them take over the Revised Dual Lands in any reasonable amount of time, they are going to stay “pricey.” Filter lands on the other hand are not very popular in other formats and will follow the pattern that Ravnica lands did while they were in Extended.

After I get all of the Shock Lands, I am going to go after Zendikar Fetch Lands. Now many of us still have our playsets from old standard, but for those who do not, expect to pay around 30.00 a playset with shipping from ebay. In trade, you are looking at valuing them around 8.00-12.00 each and they should still be pretty easy to pick up at a local PTQ or at FNM. These lands are an investment as they will see play for years to come and will likely not lose value (unless they are reprinted).

The cards that are more specific to this deck are going to be the last of what I obtain. When I am hunting cards, I chase them in this order:

1. Real Estate (Ravnica Dual Lands, Zendikar Fetch Lands)
2. High Dollar Multi-Format Staples ([card]Thoughtseize[/card], [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Vendilion Clique[/card])
3. High-End Mythics (Planeswalkers, Swords)
4. Mid to High End Rares (Pre-Mythics) ([card]Damnation[/card], [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card], [card]Pact of Negation[/card], Filter Lands)
5. Mid to High End Rares (Post-Mythics) ([card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card], [card]Noble Heirarch[/card])
6. Low to Mid Rares/Uncommons ([card]Slaughter Pact[/card], [card]Broodmate Dragon[/card], [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card]).
7. Cards Specific to One Deck ([card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card], [card]Mystical Teachings[/card], [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card])

Pro Tip: Generally, the most expensive cards in Magic are the cards that are those that are played in the most formats, then the most decks. Cards like [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] are considered staples within Vintage, Legacy and Modern and will likely never lose value (unless reprinted). These cards are an investment.

The next deck to peak is actually an Archetype – Zoo. Now we have multiple iterations of this deck. We have Big Zoo and Domain Zoo. Zoo decks are lovingly named because they run lots of creatures, are based in Green, and are about running over your opponents with a bunch of tasty creatures. Here are the lists that our team played at Worlds.

Big Zoo (Conley Woods)

[deck]2 Kitchen Finks
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Noble Hierarch
2 Qasali Pridemage
1 Snapcaster Mage
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wild Nacatl
1 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Bant Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
2 Negate
4 Path to Exile
1 Forest
1 Plains
4 Arid Mesa
1 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
Sideboard:
1 Torpor Orb
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Ranger of Eos
1 Rule of Law
1 Seal of Primordium
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Combust
1 Mindbreak Trap
2 Spell Pierce
2 Gideon Jura[/deck]

Domain Zoo (PV, LSV, Wrapter, Ocho)

[deck]2 Kird Ape
3 Knight of the Reliquary
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
2 Spell Pierce
4 Tribal Flames
1 Forest
1 Plains
4 Arid Mesa
1 Blood Crypt
1 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Marsh Flats
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
Sideboard:
1 Torpor Orb
1 Kitchen Finks
2 Ranger of Eos
2 Seal of Primordium
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Combust
2 Mindbreak Trap
1 Negate
2 Deathmark[/deck]

Now, with both of these decks, there are a couple of things to take note of. First, the number of non-basic lands in each deck. Domain’s mana base is very important, as it is important for [card]Tribal Flames[/card] to hit for as much damage as possible. With a lot of one-of’s, and three [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card]s, you can be a little greedy when building a tight mana base. But before we even touch the real estate, we need to turn out attention to the most expensive card in the deck and in Modern, [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].

The popularity of Zoo used to be based on both its consistency, but the ease of being able to build it, as the cost of the deck used to be pretty low. However, times have changed and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] is definitely to blame. At $99.99 each, playing Zoo may not be possible for everyone. I don’t see this card dropping in the next few months and if you can trade for them, you probably should (especially if the person you are trading wants Standard cards).

Other cards to consider would definitely be [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] ($9.99), [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] ($8.99), [card]Ranger of Eos[/card] ($3.99) and [card]Vengevine[/card] ($7.99). For Uncommons, I would keep my eyes on: [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] ($1.99), [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] ($2.49), [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card] ($0.49), [card]Kird Ape[/card] ($0.49), and [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] ($0.49). All of these cards will go up during modern season.

But what if you don’t want to play with creatures? What cards naturally combat all of these creatures? [card]Firespout[/card] ($1.49) is pretty common and fits into a lot of decks and [card]Volcanic Fallout[/card] ($1.99) is a solid answer too. But what decks can I play?

Let’s take a look at Melira Combo, a deck that abuses [card]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/card] and the persist mechanic first introduced in Shadowmoor. Here’s the top performing Melira Combo deck from Worlds:

10th Place – Andrew Cuneo

[deck]1 Spellskite
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Eternal Witness
1 Grave Titan
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Noble Hierarch
1 Protean Hulk
1 Ranger of Eos
1 Reveillark
3 Viscera Seer
4 Wall of Roots
3 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
3 Chord of Calling
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Birthing Pod
4 Forest
2 Swamp
1 Gavony Township
1 Godless Shrine
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Horizon Canopy
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Razorverge Thicket
1 Temple Garden
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Dryad Arbor
Sideboard:
2 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Obstinate Baloth
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Shriekmaw
1 Withered Wretch
3 Path to Exile
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Thoughtseize[/deck]

I love this deck. But don’t be fooled by all the creatures, this does not play like a Zoo/Beatdown deck. However, I will leave how to play the deck to the pros, and we can chat about it financially. The deck itself isn’t very expensive. The land base uses some of the cheapest Shock Lands, and the creatures themselves are mostly uncommons and underplayed rares. My strategy to obtain this deck is pretty straightforward. If I were building this deck from scratch, I would go out and get [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card], [card]Temple Garden[/card], and [card]Godless Shrine[/card] first. I would then get [card]Horizon Canopy[/card], then Zendikar Fetches. After that, I would chase down [card]Thoughtseize[/card]. The rest of the deck is pretty cheap and the uncommons are currently pretty low. [card]Reveillark[/card] and [card]Protean Hulk[/card] may be a little more difficult to find, as they are both being played in EDH, but since you only need one, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

The last deck that I want to cover I blatantly saved until last. I hate this deck as it and I have a very poor relationship, yet like a poor sap who just got cheated on by a gold digging temptress, I keep coming back because of how sweet I think it is. Here’s Splinter-Twin:

[deck]2 Spellskite
4 Deceiver Exarch
4 Pestermite
3 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
4 Splinter Twin
2 Dispel
4 Punishing Fire
4 Remand
3 Thirst For Knowledge
2 Gitaxian Probe
4 Sleight of Hand
3 Island
1 Mountain
1 Breeding Pool
4 Cascade Bluffs
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Steam Vents
Sideboard:
3 Engineered Explosives
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Spellskite
2 Threads of Disloyalty
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Combust
2 Firespout[/deck]

This deck is very straightforward. Cantrip until you find your pieces, flash in either a [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card] or [card]Pestermite[/card] at the end of a turn, and then the following turn cast either [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] or [card]Splinter Twin[/card] and smash your opponent’s face with a billion creatures. This was a pretty roguish deck in Extended, and then it was rebuilt in Standard when [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card] was printed. The pieces for this deck are super easy to obtain as most of them have very little applicability outside of this archetype.

So what am I getting first? [card]Steam Vents[/card]. The mana base for this deck is really important. Not having two red mana on turn four is pretty awful, and not having a blue mana that comes into play untapped is equally as bad. So for me, I am snapping up [card]Steam Vents[/card] and [card]Breeding Pool[/card]s, then [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card], then Fetch Lands. Afterwards, I am going to get [card]Engineered Explosives[/card] and [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card]. If you don’t already have [card]Splinter Twin[/card]s, trade for them. There are plenty of broken hearts out there (like myself) who would love for an excuse to get rid of our obsession with this deck.

There is a version of this deck that does not use [card]Punishing Fire[/card], but rather beefs up on counterspells. It’s pretty straightforward, but [card]Punishing Fire[/card] is versatile as a way to finish off the decks that take advantage of Shock Lands and Fetches, it’s ability to reoccur helps destroy creatures and planeswalkers equally. Picking up [card]Pestermite[/card] and [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card] should be incredibly easy, as both cards are less than four years old and are only played in this deck.

Modern is sweet because there are so many different decks to play. Stay tuned next week as I go over: Ad Nauseam, Storm, Affinity, Jund, Blood Moon Zoo, Mono-Red (and it’s variations), Death Cloud and Martyr.

Until Next Time,

Brian Grewe
MTGO: briangrewe
Twitter: briangrewejr

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