Modern Staples

By: Cliff Daigle

Brace yourselves, I’m about to express a contrary opinion.

I don’t think shocklands, Thoughtseizes, Abrupt Decays, or Scavenging Oozes are going to see massive spikes in value when the Modern PTQ season hits. I also don’t think these will get affected by rotating out of standard.

Travis made a good point a while ago about how rotation out of Standard is no longer a sudden event causing prices to drop. It’s a far more gradual process now, with people getting value from their cards well before rotation. In the past, the PTQs in summer were all Standard, which kept some demand in place for those cards. Now? Who the heck knows.

Today, though, I want to share with you some ideas about why certain staples are going to stay financially stable at rotation.

#1: Modern is year-round, even if the PTQs rotate.

Wizards has gotten everything it wanted and more with the introduction of Modern as a format. It’s non-rotating, so there isn’t any turnover, aside from bannings. Interestingly, this means decks don’t get worse – the card pool improves but individual matchups can worsen.
Modern is not yet at the level of Standard when it comes to being played often at FNM, but all it takes is once a month to start getting a player base interested. Once that happens, people can tune their decks for a long time and gain enormous insight and experience with those cards.

#2: We have pet decks.

In Legacy or Vintage, you chose a deck and built up to it. The price was high but the cards were good forever. Modern has a lower cost to enter (not by much!) but a lot of players simply bring a deck they know from Standard. The unbanning of Bitterblossom might well signal the return if the Faeries scourge, a deck that was deemed too good at the beginning of Modern.

I don’t play a lot of constructed tournaments, but there was a 5-color cascade deck in Modern that was a blast for me. The cascades all ended in Supreme Verdict, Blightning, or Esper Charm. Awful mana base, slow as heck and often dead to Kiki/Twin, but nonetheless a good time for me.

Our pet decks often just get better in Modern. If you liked playing UW Delver of Secrets in Standard, wait till you add red for Lightning Bolt/Lightning Helix. Snapcaster never had it so good!

#3: Anticipation removes the rollercoaster.

One of the problems with sets being Standard-legal for two years (one for Core sets) is that there is time to add cards to Modern. We will know within a year if a card is good enough, and plan accordingly. There are exceptions, but as the years pass, the metagame and the pros figure out most of the interactions.

So what does this mean for you, the casual Magic finance here?

There are two main takeaways here:

First, If a card sees Modern play before it rotates out of Standard, don’t expect the price to fall at all. Our case in point would be Snapcaster Mage. He sees a lot of eternal play, and so his exit from standard saw barely a blip. 

Deathrite Shaman is going to be an interesting case. It’s too good for Modern but sees little Standard play. The price will be dependent on casual and Legacy play when it rotates this coming fall. I really don’t know what will happen to the price of regular Deathrites, but foils should stay consistent–people love to spend money in Legacy!

Second, when a card spikes in Modern, do not expect the price to fall back down slowly, even if it sees no play. I still can’t believe what Genesis wave got up to, and I have even more trouble believing that it has not yet come back down.

On a related note, the growth of modern has seen its staples continually increase in price. (Liliana of the Veil at $80?) Wizards is going to monitor the price of entry into Modern, and will use the tools at its disposal to help maintain card availability. I don’t know when it will happen, but we will see all of the fetch lands get reprinted at some point. Event decks, special issues, there’s lots of ways that cards can get printed again and those will be used.

Modern Masters was quite a success, on a ‘fun to draft’ scale as well as the ‘carefully reprinting cards’ basis. I would expect another round of that eventually, and probably with a larger print run.

I hope your PT speculations pan out! My prediction is that some weird and niche deck will light the world on fire. Something weird, like the Miracles deck or Eggs. Past in Flames/Young Pyromancer/Burn at the Stake combo? Who knows.

Have fun!