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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.
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.
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
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!
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?