Tag Archives: Modern

PROTRADER: Reprinting Modern

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Before we get too deep into today’s topic, I want to briefly touch on some of the more intellectually-scintillating and nuanced response I had immediately following yesterday’s “Announcement Day”:

EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD EGYPT WORLD

Pictured: Egypt World
Pictured: Egypt World

I am really excited about Egypt World.

Coming off of a year of story-driven retread planes, it is exciting to have two extremely evocative and unique worlds that everyone will be exploring for the first time at the same time. I think one of the hidden traps for more enfranchised players going into a returning plane is that the focus goes largely towards things like “what reprints are we getting?”, “how will the draft format compare?”, and “what related mechanics could appear?”. I don’t know anything about Kaladesh or Amonkhet going into them, and that is such a cool feeling.

Also, from a flavor standpoint, WotC’s progression of “Scary Halloween world” into “Steampunk Indian World” into “Egypt World” makes me wonder if they are just going down a checklist of Gauntlet: Dark Legacy levels. This is in no way a complaint.

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YOU HAVE FOUND A RUNESTONE!
YOU HAVE FOUND A RUNESTONE!

I could talk about this kind of stuff all day, but we really do have some other stuff to get to, and it’s jumping off of the ProTrader Forums supplement that went up last week. If you aren’t checking the forums, make sure to change that- and if you are somehow not a ProTrader, definitely start subscribing.

Last weekend was a triple Modern GP weekend, and the results are very promising. Three different archetypes won, and there were about twenty different decks represented in the combined Top 8s (Top 24?). From a broad player perspective, this is appealing in that it creates a sense of opportunity. Although it is often preferable to Spikes to know that there is one clear deck to beat, that creates a feeling of exclusivity to less dedicated players that drives them away from participating in events. If Modern was JUST Burn or JUST Infect1, the interest in the format for players who don’t own the Burn or Infect decks and/or who are not confident in their ability to beat them will dissipate. If a wide variety of players feel like they can play Modern without being laughed out of the room, then more people will be inclined to play Modern.

On the finance side, we want as many people playing Modern as the room can hold, ESPECIALLY the ones playing more fringe/casual decks. WotC’s commitment to ramping up supplemental products and reprints is going to put an end to the “Wild West” phase of Modern’s life cycle within a couple of years- don’t expect the days of wild price spikes and buyouts to last forever2. While I doubt Liliana of the Veil and Tarmogoyf will ever be “cheap”, I do think that a significant amount of the format will become more accessible to a larger percentage of players. If Modern is a format where most of the cards are $8-$20, with a few $50-100 cards, then I think we see a format with more churn in terms of singles sales. This is good in the sense that people will be more likely to experiment and build multiple decks, rather than struggle to trade up into one list and then sit on it. A higher transaction rate is probably better for stores than a high singles rate, just because it gives more opportunities to build on those transactions (If one player spends $100 on singles and you upsell them on sleeves or packs, you’ve added $X to that one sale. If ten players spend $10 on singles, you are adding $X to ten sales!).

The exceptions in a new, “fixed” Modern card economy are going to be the true development outliers. Now, this exercise is going to be imperfect, but let’s look at some of the types of things that will be harder to get reprinted.

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  • Iconic Planeswalkers: Magic has really recommitted to story in the last year, and so there are serious concessions made in both Standard sets AND supplements towards storytelling. We are no longer in the era of “just print the Lorwyn Five3 again”, and returning characters are almost 100% likely to just receive a new “form”. There are only a handful of planeswalkers that are Modern viable currently (an incomplete list includes: Elspeth, Knight Errant, Liliana of the Veil, Domri Rade, and uhhh… Ajani Vengeant?), and the only realistic pipeline for them moving forward is a [FORMAT] Masters installment. If you can think of any good Planeswalkers Post-Avacyn Restored, you have at least two years before a potential reprint. If you like an “under the radar” target here, be advised that the card needs to be played in enough numbers and high-profile venues to raise its visibility- not just spike your local events.

    Bet you didn't expect to see him today.
    Bet you didn’t expect to see him today.
  • Double-Faced Cards: These need to be printed in sets where there is a sufficient amount of design space and reason to incur additional production costs. The interesting nuance here is that currently a majority of all DFCs are too heavily-flavored to be dropped in any future world. Magic’s history makes it pretty clear that werewolves are pretty rare outside of Innistrad, and the five Origins planeswalkers are going to be almost impossible to make again. I can’t think of many appealing targets here for Modern outside of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, who could realistically not be printed for another several years (Modern Masters 2021? 2023?). If there is something you see here that you really like, go for it.

    Free money.
    Free money.
  • Development No-Nos: If you could go back in time thirteen or so years and tell a Red Deck player that someday Circle of Protection: Red would essentially be scoured from the face of the earth, they would probably kiss you on the mouth. If you told them that the price would be losing Stone Rain? Well, I don’t know how I would handle that kind of news. Anyways, the point is that the shifting scale of what is acceptable to development is something that we discuss a lot because it is so critically important. In the case of things like Circles of Protection, we have enough disgusting looking white-bordered copies to keep people happy for a long time. A lot of these are going to be at lower rarities, and therefore easy to stuff into Modern Masters editions in high quantities, but that is going to be the only real pipeline. Ask yourself when you see a card: “would WotC honestly print this again?”- make sure to try and weight your answer more often towards “no”.

    Disgusting.
    Disgusting.
  • Flavor Orphans: These are things like Mishra’s Bauble, Karplusan Forest, Gaddock Teeg4, and anything involving a specific world’s reference (Merrow, Boros, etc). Magic has promised to revisit worlds more often, but as we learned with Innistrad, that does not always translate into more straight-forward reprints. The best example of the opposite here are the “Ravnica” shocklands- all appropriately named to be able to appear on any world. While this happens a lot with lands, it hasn’t taken over in the spells department, which means there is more room to move in on there.

    Even if we return to Dominaria, this won't be there.
    Even if we return to Dominaria, this won’t be there.

Did I miss any major categories? Let me know. To close, here’s the Modern list I’m playing in an upcoming SCG Open. Special thanks to Carlos Sousa for helping me get the last missing cards.

PROTRADER ZOO

4 Goblin Guide

4 Experiment One

4 Kird Ape

4 Wild Nacatl

2 Vexing Devil

1 Goblin Bushwhacker

1 Dryad Arbor

4 Burning-Tree Emissary

3 Flinthoof Boar

4 Relentless Bushwhacker

2 Ghor-Clan Rampager

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Atarka’s Command

2 Mutagenic Growth

4 Winswept Heath

4 Wooded Foothills

2 Stomping Ground

2 Sacred Foundry

2 Copperline Gorge

2 Mountain

1 Temple Garden

No Sideboard yet

If you’re looking for a deck that leaves you with plenty of time to cruise vendor booths and still maybe win the actual tournament, give it a try!

Best,

Ross

1I have said in the past that Modern IS essentially just Burn and Infect, but more on that later.

2Except for formats where the Reserve List is still a factor. All of those cards will spike eventually.

3Not to be confused with the Greendale Seven.

4Really, pretty much every Legendary creature fits in the same category as planeswalkers, although they have the additional benefit of maybe sneaking into a Commander product?

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BFZ and OGW pickups

Last week I looked at stuff I liked as we head into the home stretch of this set of three blocks.

This week, I want to look at Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch, since we are at the halfway point for those sets. They will rotate out of Standard in about nine months, a schedule I don’t think I’m used to yet.

Ob Nixilis Reignited ($8): I have always loved this set of abilities. Draw a card, kill a creature, grind out a win with the ultimate. It’s seeing light amounts of play and that bodes well. People are aware of the card, and while it’s not a four-of, it’s an important inclusion in superfriends decks that want to jam planeswalker after planeswalker.

I can see this spiking to $15 if a list makes good use of it, and if GW tokens takes a big hit at rotation this should do well. Also on my radar is that if there’s a new Tamiyo coming in Eldritch Moon, then that’s one more option for an Esper control deck. Jace, Ob, Sorin, Gideon…that’s a powerful lineup and there’s no mass planeswalker removal.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger ($14): there are not many decks in Standard making use of this card, but he is definitely the newest tech in big-mana Tron and Ramp decks in Modern.

Even if he gets exiled somehow, casting Ulamog is a three-for-one guaranteed. Getting rid of two problems right now is also why this version of Ulamog is likely better than the original when it comes to Commander and Cube. It lacks the anti-reanimation clause of the Gyre but the 20 card exile is terrifying too. Seeing this get to $20 before the end of the year seems like a given, and $25 would be possible too.

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From Beyond ($0.80): I love this as a long-term hold. This is several abilities all in one, all of which are useful. It’s a free 1/1 each turn. It’s a source of mana acceleration. It can even tutor for something big that you want to go find. This has great potential as a long-term casual hold, and you can get them at near-bulk prices.

Bring to Light ($0.81/$5.50 foil/$10 prerelease): I’m listing the foil prices here because the casual demand for this is much higher than the Standard/Modern demand. Normally, I’d expect to see this as about a $3 foil, as in the cases of Akoum Firebird or Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. The price is much more than that, and especially the prerelease foil, which is a real outlier. I like the card as a very flexible sorcery, with the potential to get very good in Modern. It’s also got a lot of potential as a casual card with a very low buy-in, and you can go after foils if you’re feeling it.

Thought-Knot Seer ($7), Reality Smasher ($4): So these Eldrazi and some others (one moment) have come down from their incredible showing at the Pro Tour, so good they got Eye of Ugin banned in Modern. They are so good so fast that they brought Simian Spirit Guide along for the ride, and they have really come down in price. These are small-set rares, and as I’m going to talk about next week, the Eldrazi are starting to be a menace in Legacy.

Eldrazi Mimic ($1), Matter Reshaper ($2): These are seeing less play than the two above, but when you’re going all-in on the colorless threats, they are incredible. Both of these are low-cost to get now and represent great profit going forward.

Eldrazi Displacer ($4.50): This card is one of the best flicker effects we’ve seen in some time. It’s good for you, allowing re-use of your own abilities. It’s bad for them, tapping blockers. It was a four-of in the winning Death and Taxes deck last weekend at an SCG Classic event. It’s for real. It’s also too cheap for the amount of play it’s going to see as we get farther and farther away from opening packs with these in them.

Linvala, the Preserver ($3.50): This is everything a control deck desires. She can gain you life and require two cards to deal with. She reminds me a lot of Timely Reinforcements, though not as easy to cast. She’s a small-set mythic, though, and we have a year for her to get used effectively. A caveat, though: as a legendary creature, she’s unlikely to be run as a four-of.
Goblin Dark-Dwellers ($3): With every spell that gets printed, this card gets better. What really makes it terrifying is the variety of threats that can be presented. Removal spells, discard spells, reanimation spells, you name it, all on a creature of decent size. I would love to see this played alongside Blightning, for instance, but Kolaghan’s Command is awesome too.

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PROTRADER: A Mixed Bag of Modern and Math

Going with a bunch of small topics today, rather than one big one. You know the drill by now.

ANALYTICS VS PERCEPTION: One of the biggest differences between Magic and other sports (YES, I SAID IT JOCKS. COME AT ME.) is that Magic has a fear of analytics. This is not a new phenomenon; WotC actively tried to obscure information as early as Alpha, putting an Island on the rare sheet and not publicly disclosing set lists or rarities. Currently, Wizards is throttling results coming from Magic Online as a means of slowing the solution of constructed formats (that we are also in a downturn in large paper events is coincidental, but adds to the issue). Sports, on the other hand, is experiencing a renaissance of sorts based on analytics-driven content and the ubiquity of fantasy sports.

Fantasy sports WOULD be cooler if Monster Manuals were involved.
Fantasy sports WOULD be cooler if Monster Manuals were involved.

The major difference, of course, is the pieces that are used to play the game. Professional athletes are playing mostly-solved games (“score more points!”), with differences in strategy and philosophy that are largely just nuance compared to the classic match-up of Red Deck Wins versus Blue-White Control. There is also a large industry built on the generation, analysis, and applications of the statistics generated by games played, both internally and among the public. In the case of Magic, the crunching of those types of numbers is believed to have a teleological outcome of winnowing down the viability of various archetypes until the format in question is “solved” (either in the case of there being only one “REAL” deck, or there being an equally unfavorable ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ scenario). Also, whereas sports teams and leagues are selling the product on the field, Wizards is more accurately selling the players. It’s in WotC’s best interest for you to think that there are lots of good cards available, and know nebulously that some are better than others, but once there is a clear best, it diminishes sales, attendance, and interest (or so they say).

What is interesting to me right now is what fills the void in this circumstance. Esper Dragons had a Top 8 spot in the Pro Tour, and just won the GP in Canada. Sounds like a good deck, right? Except that those two results are actually outliers in the broader context- of ten Esper Dragons players at the PT, the Top 8 deck was the only one to even make Day Two. Similarly, the Esper Dragons decks that didn’t make the Top 8 in Toronto did terribly. The perception that this deck is good, heck even just playable, is backed up by perceived results and simultaneously refuted by analytics.

Is Dragonlord Ojutai elite?
Is Dragonlord Ojutai elite?

Those of you who remember Ghost Dad1 from Ravnica standard will see the correlation- a deck that was over-represented relative to both its quality and power level (even in relation to similar decks such as Hand in Hand). Of course, Magic’s community is much more connected and communicative than it was back then, so these incongruencies are likely to be solved, but it is an interesting quirk to the current system.

Let me know what you think about this- is Esper Dragons just bad, or is it yet to be optimized? How much should WotC allow in terms of  information that can be mined for data? Is it better or worse for the game?

DREDGING UP THE PAST: Today is the absolute last chance to buy in on Golgari Grave-Troll, Bloodghast, and any of those other Modern staples if you haven’t already. I’m not sure that this is one of the best decks in the format yet (more on that later), but when Dredge is good it is GOOD.

Here is your real target right now- Duel Decks: Izzet vs Golgari.

Duel Decks: Overrated Guild vs Underrated Guild
Duel Decks: Overrated Guild vs Underrated Guild

Check and see if your store has any of these left floating around (this is not the one with Remand, so your odds are better of stumbling across them). This box has Life From the Loam, Isochron Scepter, Eternal Witness, Golgari Grave-Troll, Golgari Thug, a FOIL Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, as well as a bunch of cheap but playable in casual rares like Doomgape and Gleancrawler. Buying these at $20 is a steal, considering that the Loam and GGT are about to put you even already. Golgari Thug is often a 4x in Dredge, and I’m pretty sure you get two of them. There are even Pauper staples in here!

Sadly the only supplemental product with a Bloodghast in it also had Verdant Catacombs, so you probably won’t find any of those anywhere in the wild (if you do, look for Rat’s Nest also).

Some of these Dredge decks appear to also be playing Prized Amalgam, but that is probably going to be one of the last things to tick up as there are no other real points of demand. It also doesn’t seem like the deck NEEDS that card to succeed, so it could possibly be cut (the deck doesn’t need a threshold of black creatures since we don’t have access to Ichorid).

Now, here’s the next level play- memorize that set symbol.

Wait, Stinky is in this set too?! Holy cow!
Wait, Stinky is in this set too?! Holy cow!

It’s unlikely that your local [BIG BOX RETAIL STORE] has any of these in boxes left, but it’s POSSIBLE that the cards are still available there. Most national big box chains don’t actually buy product from WotC, they instead deal with middle-man distributors, who are in charge of managing the supply. These are the folks who stock and restock, and who often remove old product that gets repackaged or otherwise reintegrated into their system. One of their ways of moving this repossessed product is through clear boxes that typically contain 4 opened pre-constructed products. These aren’t official WotC offerings, but are instead the distributors unloading stuff that they don’t have a use for. If you keep your set symbols list handy, you are likely to see that maybe a few of these are left in the mix.

WHAT IT TAKES IN MODERN: This is somewhat related to the last two topics. How many decks are there in Modern? According to my preferred Top 8s aggregator (MTGDecks.net), there are exactly fifty listed archetypes (one of which being the catch-all classification of “Rogue”). If we assume that all of these decks are equal in both their quality of construction and pilot AND equally represented in a given field (they aren’t),then each deck has a 2% chance of winning [TOURNAMENT X]2. But given that that isn’t the case, it is important understand that the decks that are higher than 2% are pulling away from other decks, rather than staying at an artificial floor of 2%.

Barring extreme examples like the Eldrazi decks from PT Oath, Modern decks are not going to have the same high percentages of Standard decks, just because there are so many more options. If there are ten real decks in Standard (some formats have had more, some have had less), then your theoretical floor is 10%. For a Modern deck to reach 10%, it would have to entirely invalidate four different archetypes to the point that they are effectively 0%.

Smashing reality AND the status quo.
Smashing reality AND the status quo.

The best case for us as finance-minded folk is for that wobbling top of 2% equity to not topple over- meaning that the most amount of cards have at least a percentage of the market as a whole. Of course, this also reinforces my personal philosophy of not buying too deeply into Modern, because you’re either betting on new decks to enter into the pie chart (further reducing that percentage), or upsetting it by causing one deck to overtake points from so many others and spiking (which can, as recent experience tells us, result in a significant banning).

Let me know what you think about this last topic, as we are going to be going pretty deep into it next week. For science!

Best,

Ross

1A deck name that has only gotten worse given current events.

2This is a really cool name for a tournament.

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PROTRADER: Catching up on a Busy Week of Finance

Things just don’t slow down, do they?

Not only do we have the Pro Tour fast approaching, with (hopefully) less Bant Company making the rounds, but there was also a triple Grand Prix weekend, some big Standard movers and even some rather big Modern news you may have missed.

This is one of the busier times in Magic finance, and the interesting part is that it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, the spring-to-summer part of the year is typically a big lull that I’ve termed in the past the “dead zone” of Magic finance thanks to a Standard format being settled and not much else going on as everyone enjoyed the nice weather rather than slinging magical cards.

It turns out the new block structure may be changing that. There’s been no shortage of interest in Standard since Shadows over Innistrad released, and the Modern unbans have shaken up that format as well.

So on the eve of the Pro Tour, where do things stand?

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