Category Archives: Finding Value

PROTRADER: Buy These Walkers?

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By: Guo Heng

No, I am not talking about these guys.

White_Walkers

Nor this lot.

five walkers from gatheringmagic's youtube

While I was researching my previous article on Standard mythics that are worth taking a look at now, I realized that nearly all the Khans block walkers are at a low point now. I only wrote about Narset Transcendent in my previous piece, as she is the walker which I think has the highest upside due to her price in relation to supply, plus the fact that she would be filling an empty niche. That does not mean that the other Khans block walkers are not worth having a look at.

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Anatomy of a Modern-Playable

 By: Guo Heng

One of the things I am excited about during spoiler season is spotting Modern-playable cards. It pays to be able to identify Modern-playables early on. Take, for example, two recent cards that shook up Modern in a big way: Kolaghan’s Command and Collected Company. Kolaghan’s Command, which saw only a bit Standard action in Mardu builds, was available at under $3 for two whole months. Collected Company was the cornerstone of Standard Green-based Aggro builds but it remained at its release price of $5 for a month-and-a-half before breaching into the double digit price region.

Modern has evolved into an eternal format that rivals Legacy in diversity and depth. Over the last month-and-a half, we saw four major events taking place in four different regions, with four distinct metagames. After nearly four years of existence and a slew of unpopular bannings which in hindsight were wise decisions, Modern has finally become the eternal format that we’ve always wanted. An eternal format where we can always play our favorite decks (unless yours is Birthing Pod), a format diverse enough for most decks to have a shot at taking home the grand prize, a format with a number of tier-one decks large enough to rival the cast of Game of Thrones. And more importantly, an eternal format without card availability issues.

Modern has never been more popular than it is today, which is why evaluating a card’s playability in Modern has become an essential aspect in the MTG finance reviews of new sets. Today’s article is going to discuss a few fundamental characteristics of cards that are able to break it in Modern. Seasoned competitive Modern players would likely be familiar with these points, but players or financiers who do not dabble much in the format may not be. This article is targeted at the latter groups.

Conveniently, there is a rather controversial Magic Origins mythic that was spoiled last week which we could use as a case study to find out what it takes for a card to break it in Modern:

Day's Undoing
From StarCityGames.com’s 23 June spoiler article.

One of the more polarizing Magic Origins card spoiled, reactions ranged from, “They’ve reprinted Timetwister!” to, “It’s Time Reversal 2.0!” More importantly, the majority of the discussion generated by Day’s Undoing centered around its impact in Modern. After all, the last time Wizards reprinted a Power 9 card, it broke the format and fell under the banhammer within a few months.

Does Day’s Undoing has the makings of a Modern-playable card? The questions below will help put things into perspective.

Is Day’s Undoing Competitively Costed?

The answer is an obvious yes for Day’s Undoing, but I chose to open with this question to highlight the first aspect of a card to look at when evaluating a new card’s Modern playability. In the same vein as Legacy, Modern is a highly efficient format and the rule of thumb for a card to see Modern play is that it should cost no more than four mana.

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In a format where Remand is the most popular counterspell, Path to Exile the most popular spot removal, and 4/5 creatures cost one or two mana, attempting to resolve a high-casting-cost spell that does not win you the game immediately is just asking to be wrecked. Even at four mana, a spell has to pretty much do everything for it to make the cut in Modern, like Cryptic Command or Siege Rhino.

That does not mean that any cards that cost more than four are unlikely to see Modern action, but cards that cost five mana and above have to fulfill one of the following to have a shot at making it in Modern:

  1. Be a hard-to-answer win condition, like Keranos, God of Lightning  Bolts.
  2. Wins the game most of the time when it enters the board, like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and fits into big mana strategies.
  3. Is a combo piece like Ad Nauseam or a component of a deck  that uses cheat-into-play cards like Through the Breach, Goryo’s Vengeance, or Summoning Trap.

Have you ever wondered why Standard all-star Primeval Titan does not see Modern play outside of decks that runs lands as their win conditions, such as certain Scapeshift variants and Amulet Bloom? Even though Primeval Titan generates insane value upon resolution, tapping six mana for a creature that is vulnerable to both Path to Exile and Remand exposes you to the risk of experiencing a significant tempo drawback.

Day’s Undoing is obviously within the casting cost restriction of Modern, so let’s go on to the next aspect of Day’s Undoing that is much talked about.

Is Day’s Undoing Part of a Two-Card Combo that Wins You the Game Upon Resolution?

splinter-twin

One of the most-discussed aspect of Day’s Undoing is that you get a pretty good impression of Timetwister in Modern by coupling it with one of Quicken, Leyline of Anticipation, or Vedalken Orrery, but does it make Day’s Undoing good enough to be played in Modern? There are two questions to ask to determine if an interaction is powerful enough to work in Modern:

  1. Is it a two-card combo that wins you the game upon resolution?
  2. If the the interaction requires more than two cards, are the individual components powerful cards independently?

Most of the tier-one combos in Modern are two-card combos that win you the game upon resolution. Splinter Twin plus Pestermite. Ad Nauseam plus Angel’s Grace. Goryo’s Vengeance plus Griselbrand. There are plenty of other cool two-card combos, like Grand Architect plus Pili-Pala, but what what good is infinite mana if it does not win you the game?

The Kitchen Finks/Murderous Redcap plus Melira, Sylvok Outcast/Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit plus Viscera Seer interaction is the only tier-one Modern combo that requires more than two cards, and it only works in the format because most of the pieces are Modern-playable cards by themselves or have multiple interactions with other cards in the deck. Kitchen Finks is one of the best value three-drop in Modern, and Viscera Seer serves as a sac outlet that allows for plays like permanently exiling a creature with Fiend Hunter or turning Voice of Resurgence into a huge elemental in response to Path to Exile. Seer also helps sift through the deck to find combo pieces you may still be missing.

While Day’s Undoing paired with any of the three cards mentioned above gives you a Modern Timetwister, that interaction does not win you the game. Even worse, Quicken, Vedalken Orrery, and Leyline of Anticipation are cards that would not see play in Modern on their own merits.

Does it Really Fit into an Existing Archetype?

Collected Company by Franz Vohwinkel.
Collected Company by Franz Vohwinkel.

Collected Company was the card that Elves needed to ascend into tier-one playability. Kolaghan’s Command significantly bolsters Grixis decks as a highly flexible card that is useful in all situations, in the same vein as Cryptic Command. Treasure Cruise gave Blue-Red Delver an efficient way to refill its gas to out-grind the midrange Rock decks.

Players much better than me put forth compelling arguments for Day’s Undoing as a means for aggro decks to refuel their hands, but I am not entirely convinced. While I don’t agree with their perspective on Day’s Undoing, I would highly recommend reading their points to come to a conclusion yourself.

Hyper-aggressive decks (like Affinity or Burn) that are able to empty their hands pretty fast theoretically reap more value out of Day’s Undoing’s symmetrical draw effect. While your opponents may lose more cards from their pre-Undoing hands, the fact that they too get a fresh seven means that they will get to reload their arsenal of answers for your threats.

As an aggro deck, I don’t think you would want run out a Day’s Undoing against the majority of the top decks in today’s metagame. You wouldn’t want Jund, Junk, or Grixis to draw more removal after you’ve teased out the ones in their opening hand and subsequent draws. The fact that Day’s Undoing ends your turn as part of its resolution means that your opponent gets to decimate your board with his or her newly drawn hand first. You don’t want opposing creature-heavy decks like Abzan Company, Merfolk, or Elves to draw more creatures or lords to bolster their sides of the board. And you certainly do not want it against Twin decks: imagine them casting a Pestermite in response to your Day’s Undoing, untapping, and then going off. Not good.

The same applies to arguments about using Day’s Undoing in combo decks. You would be refueling your opponent’s counterspells and hand disruption.

Furthermore, the fact that Day’s Undoing costs three may render it too prohibitive to be included in Burn. Treasure Cruise and Deathrite Shaman were adopted by Burn as they both can be cast for just one mana, and Atarka’s Command is only two.

Verdict

I think Day’s Undoing is unlikely to see Modern play. It is not part of a two-card “oops, I win” combo, it does not seem to fit into any existing archetype, and it is very unlikely to spawn a whole new archetype as it is not an engine card.

Day’s Undoing is currently available for preorder between $17 to $20. My call would be to stay far, far away from it and sell or trade off any copies you open at the prerelease right away. I think Day’s Undoing will soon join its buddies Time Reversal and Temporal Mastery as cards that tried so hard to be a Power 9, but failed miserably.

The only upside about Day’s Undoing is that the card solidified Jonas De Ro as one of my new favorite Magic artists.

Do share your thoughts on this card and its breakdown in the comments section below or catch me on Twitter at @thguoheng.


 

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Modern Watch I

By Guo Heng

The Modern season is in full swing and as with every Modern season, there are bound to be multiple Modern cards spiking. It is easy to point fingers at perceived speculators buying out cards like Blood Moon or Jund mythics, but a more likely explanation is that we were watching market correction taking place in respond to the increased demand from an expanding Modern player base, as Corbin Hosler (@Chosler88) laid out in his excellent article a few days back. After all, new Modern players looking to grind the Modern PPTQs or Grand Prixes are likely to have to acquire their Snapcaster Mages, Cryptic Commands, Blood Moons etc if they want to run a tier one deck.

The combo-infested caterpillar that was Modern in 2011 has, through an unpopular series of bannings, metamorphosed into the colorful, vibrant butterfly that is Modern in 2015. Modern is becoming more like Legacy, where the top 8 archetypes differ from week to week and from region to region. A format where familiarity with your deck far outweighs trying to out-level the metagame as most tier one and tier 1.5 decks stand a chance of making top 8. 

A common complain I hear about Modern is the format’s increasingly high barrier of entry, especially after the recent spate of price spikes. However a fact that is often overlooked is how a lot of these Modern staples in question were only mildly expensive for a long time before their recent spike. Snapcaster Mage was hovering around $25 for the majority of his life since he was printed in Innistrad and he was hovering around $35 for the better part of last year, before moving up to $40 this February. Blood Moon tanked to $7 when it was reprinted in Modern Masters and went on a slow but steady growth over the last two years. It only broke $20 at the end of last year and remained so until March this year. I can go on and on with examples, but you get the gist.

In a way, buying into Modern is very much like buying into Legacy, as a friend and fellow mtgfinance enthusiast Reza (@rezaaba) once suggested to me. Like Legacy, one does not simply build a Modern deck within a day. Buying into Modern is a long-term effort that requires you to acquire key components strategically.

That approach formed the idea behind this series of articles where we examine top Modern decks and find out which of their components are in their cheap phase now. I use the term cheap phase rather than cheap as the cards discussed in this article may not necessarily fit the definition of cheap, but they are in the price trough segment of their price cycle, and is probably the best time to get your own copies if you have been holding out. For example, I don’t think we are going to see Dark Confidant drop any lower than the $46 he is currently at, after the release of Modern Masters 2015. $46 would pale in comparison with his price two years down the road.

Let’s start with the top two decks from last weekend’s Modern Grand Prix at Charlotte.

Collecting Elves

Elves by Michael Malone
Elves by Michael Malone.

The deck that took down the Grand Prix (though it would be interesting to see how the games would have panned out had the opposing Blue-Red Twin deck not been given a game loss for decklist error) and one of the new Modern archetypes spawned by the existence of Collected Company. A couple of the deck’s key components spiked hard after the Grand Prix, chiefly Ezuri, Renegade Leader who tripled in price regardless of the fact that he has two printings, and Cavern of Souls which was due for a spike anyway.

I wouldn’t necessarily call Collected Company a good pick-up right now as its price is currently buoyed by the Modern hype surrounding it, but there are still a few key pieces of Elves that I think are going to be worth much more in the future.

Chord of Calling Price
After all these month’s I’m still calling Chord as a pick-up.

A number of my fellow MTGPrice writers called Chord of Calling a good pick-up. I myself wrote about Chord a few times, when Chord was $4. While Chord’s price bumped up slightly after Elves’ victory, $6 is still a good buy-in price, considering how Chord was once a $40 card. Chord is also found in multiples in Abzan Company. Modern rares that are played in multiple copies in multiple archetypes are going to be worth more than $6.

The next card was brought to my attention when I saw Corbin’s tweet:

The link goes to the TCGPlayer page for the card below:

Nettle Sentinel Price

Nettle Sentinel was under $1 until last weekend. Now that Elves are a thing in Modern, Nettle Sentinel’s price shot up to $2.59. Yet I still think Nettle Sentinel has room to grow.  Frankly I am surprised that a Legacy Elves centrepiece from a small set printed seven years ago could remain under $1 for so long. Now with the added demand from Modern, on top of the fact that Nettle Sentinel only has a single printing,  picking up your own copies of Nettle Sentinel for under $3 does not seem to shabby.

The Evergreen Blue-Red Twin

If there’s one deck that is the quintessential deck of Modern, it would be Blue-Red Twin. Twin was one of the few tier one decks that emerged in Modern’s first incarnation back in 2011 and remained a tier one deck up till today. It took down two out of the four Modern Pro Tours, survived the slew of bannings which killed off more tier one archetypes than I can recall, and some say Twin is the sort of deck Wizards likes to see in the format: a turn four deck that is also interacts with the opponent.

Wesley See's Blue-Red Twin
Wesley See’s Blue-Red Twin

While the Twin archetype has evolved from it’s initial combo-orientated game plan, adopting a tempo-based strategy with an infinite combo in which the opponent has to respect at all times (and together with it a playset of Snapcaster Mage), the core cards of the deck remained the same. Surprisingly, Splinter Twin‘s price only broke the $10 barrier in December 2013 and prior to its Modern Masters 2015 reprint, it was still averaging around the low $20s.

Splinter Twin Price

Splinter Twin’s recent reprint brought its price down a little, with the Modern Masters 2015 version trending at $17. If you are looking to get your playset of Splinter Twin, go ahead and get them now. With a Modern Masters 2015 reprint, I doubt we would see another reprint anytime soon. Gone are the days of under $10 or even under $15 Splinter Twin, but we have yet to arrive at the days of $30 to $40 Splinter Twin. As the key component to one of Modern’s most popular deck, Splinter Twin will unlikely remain at $17 for too long.

Remand Price

That’s it. Remand‘s price has finally hit its lowest point since 2012. The Jace vs. Vraska printing brought the $17 uncommon down to $11 for while, but it started inching up again early this year and by April Remand returned to its old price of $17. After all, there is only so much the Duel Deck could do with a singular copy of Remand in each box. Amid the big name reprints and big spikes, the community seemed to have overlooked the fact that Remand is now close to it’s 2012 price. Yup, the most popular counterspell in Modern, the sixth most-played card in the format as of writing, is back to single-digit price.

Now is the best time to pick-up your Remands, even if you are not planning to run Splinter Twin. It is one of the most ubiquitous blue card in Modern after Serum Visions and Snapcaster Mage. My prediction would be that by the next Modern PPTQ season in the summer of 2016, Remand’s price would be back in double-digit region.

That’s all for this instalment of The Modern Watch. I would be rolling out the next parts throughout the next few weeks. We are in an exciting month for Modern. After a dearth of high level tournaments for nearly half-a-year, we are getting a slew of Modern events this month and new decks and techs are bursting out of the gates. With two more Modern Grand Prix – Grand Prix Copenhagen this weekend and Grand Prix Singapore next weekend – I can’t wait to see what new tech surfaces. My only hope is that no Grishoalband makes the top 8 of Copenhagen this weekend. I would be running that deck in Singapore next weekend and it would be nice not to have the deck in the crosshairs.

Share your thoughts below or catch me on Twitter at @theguoheng.


 

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Two More Modern Cards

By Guo Heng

Now that Modern season is in full swing, we are starting to see Modern cards spiking all over. Some like Olivia Voldaren was probably due for a spike due to their set’s age. Some, like Huntmaster of the Fells started becoming popular in the Jund builds that emerged after the banning of Treasure Cruise and Birthing Pod in February, but as there were not a single major Modern event until last weekend’s StarCityGames Invitational, his price stayed low for months and only spiked this week when the wolf is out of the bag.

There are two cards that I have been watching and holding for a while. Those two cards surprised me when they both dodged the reprint bullet in Modern Masters 2015. Those were two cards I’ve discussed in an article a while back as well.

And I think those two cards are positioned to spike again soon.

Those two cards fell under the radar and resurfaced when I saw Joe Lossett playing in feature match during the Invitationals with this deck:

Goryo's Vengeance by Joe Lossett

By now you would probably have guessed the two cards I am referring to. Before I explain why I think those two cards are undervalued right now, let’s have a quick look at the deck and the reasons why I think the deck has a future in Modern.

Back with a Vengeance

Goryo’s Reanimator is an all-in combo deck that aims to cheat into play an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or a Griselbrand as early as turn two (turn one for some builds, but lets not get there) using its namesake card, Goryo’s Vengeance. For those unfamiliar with the deck’s interactions, Goryo’s Vengeance instant card type allows you to reanimate Emrakul from your graveyard while Emrakul’s shuffle trigger is on the stack, giving you a hasty 15/15 flying attacker with annihilate 6. You could also reanimate a hasty Griselbrand and use his Necropotence activation to chain multiple Fury of the Horde and attack phases to win that very turn.

Through the Breach provides you with an alternative way to cheat your win conditions into play that works around graveyard hate, imbuing the deck with another angle of attack and added resilience.

While Goryo’s Reanimator is a glass cannon combo deck, it has a few characteristics that make it more reliable than your typical Belcher-style decks:

  • Multiple angles of attack means the deck is less likely to fold to hate cards.
  • Multiple builds are possible. A year ago, streamer Jan van der Vegt tore through day one of Grand Prix Prague with a Goryo’s build running primarily Fist of Suns instead of Through the Breach. While he went unscathed on day one, he ultimately fell short of top 8 on day two, ending up at 44th place.

Financially, cheaper Griselbrand and Emrakul made the deck more accessible. After nearly a year of being handed out as Grand Prix promo, Griselbrand’s price is half where he was a year ago. Emrakul’s reprint in Modern Masters 2015 made $30ish Emrakuls available in the market.

While I do not think that Goryo Reanimator’s time to shine is right now, it is worth talking a look at the key cards that make the deck work.

Goryo’s Vengeance

Goryo's Vengeance Price

Goryo’s Vengeance spiked above $10 when the Goryo’s Reanimator archetype came out in mid-2013. It has been hovering between $12 to $15 since.

Now why am I talking about a $15 card? Surely Goryo’s ship has long sailed?

I think that Goryo’s current price is still quite far off its ceiling. First off, An entire Modern archetype was made possible by Goryo’s Vengeance, a rare from Betrayers of Kamigawa, a small set that was released ten years ago and has not seen a single instance of reprint. I was fairly surprised that Goryo’s Vengeance was skipped over for reprint in Modern Masters 2015, as big reanimation targets and the arcane subtype were in the set.

Take a look at another card, Oblivion Stone, that is played in exactly one archetype in Modern. The Stone recently shot up to $40 on the back of Red-Green Tron’s stellar performance last weekend, after hovering at $13 for ages. Granted, Tron is now a tier one archetype while Goryo’s Reanimator is tier two. On the other hand, Oblivion Stone is from a large set, and has two printings. I don’t think Goryo’s Vengeance would shoot up to $40 if the archetype becomes popular, but it is not a far shot to imagine it hitting $30. After all, being an arcane card with a plane-specific name, the odds of Goryo’s Vengeance seeing a reprint is much lower than that of Oblivion Stone.

The buylist price for Goryo’s Vengeance spiked after the Invitationals weekend and Goryo’s Vengeance now has a spread of just 26%. It does not take much for an old card in low supply to move.

Through the Breach

Through the Breach Price

Like Goryo’s Vengeance, Through the Breach broke the $10 ceiling ages ago. I was even more surprised that Through the Breach was skimped over for reprint in Modern Masters 2015 than I was with Goryo’s Vengeance. Goryo’s Vengeance requires a discard outlet to work with the Eldrazi, but Through the Breach is a two-card combo with any of the Eldrazi.

Through the Breach’s only printing is from Champions of Kamigawa, which is eleven years old as of writing, though Champions is a large set. Though the Breach has two upsides over Goryo’s Vengeance. First off, it sees play in the sideboard of Legacy Omnitell decks, albeit as a one-of. More importantly Through the Breach is not restricted to just one archetype.

At Grand Prix Madrid last November, Through the Breach was featured as a four-of in a Through the Breach – Summoning Trap hybrid ramp deck designed and piloted by Ricardo van den Bogaard which plowed through day one with a perfect record and made top 8 of the Grand Prix (sadly losing in the semis to variance).

And that deck was no fluke. While the archetype did not take off in popularity, the deck took down a PPTQ in Switzerland and was runner-up in a 214-player Modern tournament in Tokyo.

Through the Breach’s spread of 39% is not as low as that of Goryo’s Vengeance, probably due to its larger supply, but as with Goryo’s Vengeance, I am confident that Through the Breach is undervalued right now, more so for the fact that Through the Breach is ran in other archetypes beyond Goryo Reanimator.

With only a single printing from eleven years back, Through the Breach really shouldn’t be as low as $13, seeing that decks that runs Through the Breach wants three to four copies of the card.

Closing Thoughts

Both Goryo’s Vengeance and Through the Breach are already relatively expensive to buy-in at $15 and $13 respectively. Buying in at such prices entails higher risk than buying in $6 Disrupting Shoals or $6 Huntmaster of the Fells. I featured those two cards today as I am confident that they are undervalued at their current price, and I suspect they are only so because the archetype(s) that run them has yet to take off in popularity.

All it takes is a Grand Prix top 8 with either of those cards during Modern season. Ricardo’s top 8 unfortunately occurred outside Modern season, which could be a reason why Through the Breach did not spiked hard in response to his top 8. Do share your thoughts in the comments below or catch me on Twitter at @thguoheng.

PS: A wild speculation. What could Red-Green Tron do to survive all the expected hate cards directed at it in the upcoming metagame? Chuck in a few mainboard Through the Breach to next level that smug opponent who mainboards Blood Moon


 

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