All posts by Travis Allen

Travis Allen has been playing Magic on and off since 1994, and got sucked into the financial side of the game after he started playing competitively during Zendikar. You can find his daily Magic chat on Twitter at @wizardbumpin. He currently resides in upstate NY, where he is a graduate student in applied ontology.

What’s New is Old Again

ADVERTISEMENT:


Another Pro Tour in the books, another slew of results to digest. The coverage team did a commendable job this time, and the abolishment of the “I think I’m stylish but I still want the world to know I love videogames” blazer and t-shirt combo made sure everyone looked professional. There were still a few holes – the lighting in the coverage booth was dim and and I’m convinced Rashad hasn’t played Magic in several years – but overall, it was a noticeable improvement to previous PT coverage. And a special thank you for keeping Sheldon out of the booth.

You’re going to notice a trend in this article. I’m going to mention frequently that you should be holding copies until the Modern PTQ season, which starts in June. Without getting too far into it, holding 95% of Modern cards between now and then is just a Good Play. There’s very little room for the cards to fall, with plenty of upside between now and the summer. 

The Top 8 was fairly familiar, but not without cause for discussion. First is the seventeen of a possible thirty-two Snapcaster Mages. Deathrite Shaman had been doing a great job keeping Tiago at bay, but now that the graveyard is relatively safe again he’s flashback. Prices have reacted accordingly and Snap is now more than double what he was heading into the weekend. $30 is the real price. There’s a chance we could see him in Jace vs Vraska three months or as a judge promo, but neither of those will have enough supply to really ding his price. There’s even room for upward growth before the end of this PTQ season. I wouldn’t feel bad holding my copies until June, or even later if you aren’t in a rush. Sub-$25 prices aren’t on the horizon until this sees its third or even fourth printing.

Hand-in-hand with Snap is Cryptic Command, which saw nine copies across four decks in the Top 8, or 28% saturation. Cryptic reacted similarly, with very few copies left under $45. The next time someone complains that Modern Masters didn’t do anything, feel free to point out that this would be more than Force of Will if not for that printing. Cryptic, like Snapcaster, has found a new home at $45+. Some finance types are doubling down, buying large quantities at $40 in anticipation of what PTQs will do to the price. If you don’t own any right now, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab them, and feel free to trade aggressively for spares as well.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure what the more amusing Sideboard Spike® of the event was – Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir from $7 to $20+ as a 1-of, or 2-of Porphyry Nodes, from $.30 to $8.

Birthing Pod had a strong showing but remains rather obstinate at about $10. I don’t think this has finished growing yet. We don’t have to worry either, as its performance wasn’t oppressive enough to warrant banning. I’m holding my copies for the PTQ season, but I’ll get out then regardless.

The three Razorverge Thickets in Jacob’s list are a good sign, and at ~$3, these are gold in trade. Gavony Township was a 2 or 3-of in every Pod list and is right around $1 right now. You may even be able to get them for free in trade. The ceiling on this isn’t too high, but I could see this buylisting this for $1.50-$3 later this year. Mostly, Pod was reasonably stock.

Affinity did what Affinity does. Mox Opal is now $50. June will be time to sell those unless you’re trying to cast droids yourself. It shouldn’t be able to climb much higher than that with basically only one deck in Modern casting it, and the Legacy demand isn’t great either. We’ll see a reprint before this thing goes much higher. Inkmoth Nexus continues to grow, weighing in at over $10 today. The price memory on this is definitely lower than that. It could easily climb to $15+ in the coming months, but it’s fair game for every non-expansion set. Holding this is akin to a (slow) game of chicken. 

As one would guess, Storm made the Top 8, although amazingly not at the hands of Finkel. He was playing it though, as was Kai Budde. Don’t gloss over this: the two best Magic players in the world were playing Storm. My guess is that Deathrite wasn’t actually too problematic for the deck, but a high percentage of Thoughtseize and Liliana decks was. With those two cards considerably less represented than they have been in the past, as well as a heavy presence of Wild Nacatl, often a prey of grapes, Storm was much more viable this weekend. I have no reason to doubt that Storm won’t be a meaningful percentage of the Modern metagame in the future. The internet agrees with me: Pyromancer Ascension has tripled to $9, and Box of Failures worldwide rejoiced to find their Past in Flames were now $5. These two I would actually sell right now if you have them. If Storm comes anywhere close to taking over the format Wizards will not hesitate to axe a few more rituals, and in the meantime there won’t be enough demand to sustain the post-PT highs. Sell them now, be happy with your profits, and have a plan to beat piles of goblins at your next PTQ.

One of the more unique decks of the Top 8 was Dickmann’s Tarmo-Twin. His revolutionary innovation of “take a good deck and shove Tarmogoyf into it” served him well all weekend. This list reminds me of the Twin Blade lists from the twilight days of Jace and Stoneforge, where your plan was to beat your opponent in the face with creatures, and while they attempted to deal with that you were always threatening to kill them at the end of their turn. Tarmogoyf’s reign as the best blue creature continues, and his price follows. Even Modern Masters copies are $150 these days, with Future Sight a solid $10 to $20 ahead of that. At this rate I don’t think $200 is out of the question this summer. A full 20% of the 18+ point decks played him, and every list had the full four copies. Combined with his continued Legacy performances, Goyf is not going to slow down anytime soon. If there was a banner card for how badly we need Modern Masters 2, this is it.

Remand was all over the place, in 62.5% of the Top 8 and 20.7% of the 18 pointers. I tweeted a few days ago that this is the card I most need to own for play purposes, but least want to for finance reasons. As the illustrious @plfeudo pointed out recently, JvV is prime for a Remand reprint. This will put a pretty serious damper on its price, since Duel Decks are always bountiful. Conspiracy will be hot on JvV’s heels as another avenue. It’s a bit risky, but I think the right call here is holding off if you don’t own any, and shipping if you do. I wouldn’t blame you if you disagreed though. Remand was confirmed as reprinted in JvV a few hours after I submitted this to go live. Their new ceiling will be around $8-12. Sell yours aggressively now.  This will also crush the price of Reaper of the Wilds in Standard for anyone that was thinking about going down that route.

The darlings of the tournament Blue Moon and Summer Bloom each had their own effect on the markets. Main deck Blood Moon was an excellent call, and now sits at nearly $15 as a result. Aside from the hilariously overbought Teferi, nothing else in the deck was really an unknown quantity.

Summer Bloom, on the other hand, did a bunch of financial work this weekend. After a strong showing on Friday, Matthias Hunt drove Amulet of Vigor upwards from a dollar and change to where its now settled at around $6. He didn’t have a hot day two so the card didn’t stay over $10, but I think $4 is the new floor here. It’s not the first time this card has spiked hard, and people may see Bloom as the new Eggs, with a slow rise in demand as PTQ season approaches. Primeval Titan is now also around $20 after proving that a six mana 6/6 is good enough in Modern. Without a reprint I think he could slowly keep creeping upwards towards $30. As long as they keep printing sweet lands he keeps getting more and more attractive. 

One card that didn’t react much from Bloom’s success that I think should? Gemstone Mine. Aside from being one of the best broken-combo-enabling lands in the format, it’s shown up in SCG Legacy events eight times already just this year. There aren’t that many copies around, and $5-$6 for a land this powerful is incorrect. $10 is completely plausible before the PTQ season is over, and if its well represented prices closer to $20 aren’t unreasonable. I’ll be looking to trade for these in every binder I see them in.

Pulling back a bit from the Top 8, what are some of the larger trends across the eighteen pointers? Spellskite was in a whopping 42% of lists. He’s about $13 right now but I’m guessing that rises to $20 this summer. Nearly every person playing Modern needs copies, and we have exactly one printing.

ADVERTISEMENT:


Vendilion Clique, by virtue of being blue, is now firmly $55. There really isn’t any ceiling in sight for this flock of faeries. They have similar availability to Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant, whose prices are considerably higher. And as with these two, Clique does quite well in Legacy. What can we expect here? Well without a reprint, I don’t think it’s impossible these will be close to $100 this PTQ season. At the very least, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them catch up to Dark Confidant.

ADVERTISEMENT:


Aaron Forsythe did a little digging himself, and the results are fairly interesting. There were a whopping eighty-seven copies of Anger of the Gods. People were scared of Wild Nacatl alright. That is a butt-ton of angry gods. This isn’t especially actionable, but it will help flesh out our expectation of the format’s progression.

Kitchen Finks were nearly as represented, but this issue is much more complex. @Chosler88 pointed out a few weeks ago that it’s a great pickup, as Modern Masters cards aren’t incapable of rising, and it looks fantastic in a world of Wild Nacatls. On the flip side of that, if Anger of the Gods is absolutely everywhere Finks looks a lot worse. $4 is pretty cheap, but the splash damage may harm their potential. I think our perspective ceiling is around $7 or $8 right now, but that is susceptible to change. I don’t think I’m a buyer but I’m happy to grab them in trade. One thing to consider: a huge percentage of people in the room are going to be either casting Wild Nacatl, Kitchen Finks, or Anger of the Gods. 

Forsythe also reported 55 copies of Splinter Twin. Twin has broken $15, but that still feels a little underpriced. I think $25 is closer to this guy’s real price, especially with the other half of the combo being a nickel.

Zoo was 10% of the 18+ field, which sounds about right. Nacatl showed up in various forms of Zoo, but never without our good buddy Goyf. The more aggressive flavors of Zoo and RG aggro were better represented than I would have guessed, and Goblin Guide has hiked it up to $12. I could see him continuing on to $15, and from there you’re in a position where reprints are quite possible and would be a bit of a beating on the price. Selling in June is the safe play here.

As expected, Geist of Saint Traft showed up in the Domain Zoo lists alongside a flurry of burn and Snapcaster Mage. Turn three Geist, turn four double Tribal Flames is just savage. Geist is $25 up from $15 just two weeks ago, and could easily float towards $30 by June. Hold now, sell later.

There were a few things I found were considerably under-represented compared to what I was expecting. For one, only a single 18+ had a copy of Gifts Ungiven. That’s wild, especially since Gifts is one of the best combo-enablers in the format with Unburial Rites. It also costs four and is in blue, which are conveniently hallmarks of Cryptic Command. Imagine playing a fair deck sitting across the table from four untapped lands that make blue. Do you attempt to add pressure and hate against the combo right into Cryptic mana, or do you hold your threats and end up facing down Iona, Griselbrand or Elesh Norn?

Gifts Ungiven is a powerful enabler that’s even breaking through to Legacy. $4 is just too cheap for a card that does this much. The Modern Masters printing is going to keep this from hitting $30, but $10+ seems so viable. It didn’t have a hot performance this time around, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it either.

Other cards that basically didn’t appear? Vengevine. Bloodghast. Life from the Loam. Raven’s Crime. Seismic Assault. Demigod of Revenge. Lotleth Troll. Windbrisk Heights. Restore Balance.

A lot of people – myself included – were anticipating some hot graveyard action with Deathrite’s departure. Instead, we just got a ton of UWx and Wild Nacatls. I’m not entirely sure why that is. Perhaps nobody stumbled across a list they liked? Just because nobody broke it this time, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. There’s definitely a deck in there somewhere, and we just haven’t seen it yet. Vengevine and Bloodghast are already $20 and $13 respectively without any results. Don’t sleep on your chance to pick copies up before they really do make a splash. 

Unlike graveyard strategies, Faeries did make a go of it. They only put up two eighteen or betters though. In spite of the fervor that ensued at Bitterblossom’s unbanning, many were doubtful that they were capable of keeping up in a more powerful format. Those naysayers appear to have been right. At this point, I would sell all of your fae and Bitterblossoms while there’s still reasonable demand. Even if Faeries do manage to do slightly better than we’ve seen so far, it’s highly unlikely it will be enough to sustain these prices.

Whew! That is a lot of results to chew through, and we really only scratched the surface. With GP Richmond on the horizon, we’ll get to see how the field adjusts in light of the Pro Tour. One thing I can’t help but notice is how relatively familiar the successful decks looked this time around. That doesn’t tell me the format is solved, it just means that nobody has found some of the more wilder combinations. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep you all apprised of the spicy stuff I see coming through the pipeline.

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at MTGPrice.com - it's free!

ADVERTISEMENT:


Please follow and like us:

Affordable Luxury

Part of the allure of Magic is the wide array of choices a player has when selecting a deck. However you want to win, it can happen. Whether you want to grind people to dust under the heel of attrition, ramp into gigantic threats, flip their library into their graveyard, or attack with a million billion faeries, the choice is yours. This choice leads to a sense of customization and individualization. When you first put together a legacy deck, it’s “a Metalworker deck.” After you play it for awhile and change a few cards based on what you think works and what doesn’t work, it becomes “my Metalworker deck.” Tailoring our weapons to ourselves makes us feel more in touch with the game and the process. We take ownership of cards and decklists, and treat them as a mark of our ingenuity, cleverness, and innovation.

It makes sense that players will go to any length to make a deck appear special, typically by adding unique visual flair and increasing the dollar value of the components. Conspicuous consumption is a very real thing, and Magic is no stranger to it. In the pursuit of luxury, many players will choose the “stock” option of trying to foil as many cards as possible. Some will shoot for foreign non-foil, perhaps of a specific language. Some want art alters. Others choose to spend ludicrous amounts of money to go with Japanese foils. There are many paths to take in making a deck yours.

Some of these paths are very expensive. Japanese foils regularly fetch anywhere from four to one hundred times more than an English non-foil. Even English Standard staples in foil get rather expensive. How does a player that wants a nifty looking deck that feels like “theirs” do so without breaking the bank, especially in a way that won’t devalue the hell out of their collection every year?

Back to Basics

Nearly everyone agrees that Unhinged lands look awesome. They’re all John Avon, how could they not? But they’re expensive. Islands are nearly $10 these days for a nonfoil. Foil Unhinged Islands are around $70, and the others aren’t much cheaper. For true absurdity, there are Guru Islands, which currently clock in around $200. Zendikar basics are certainly fetching, but everyone and their mother has nonfoils, and the foils aren’t cheap. Acquiring a few foil Zendikar lands for your Legacy deck isn’t too tough, but if you want to play Standard you’re going to need about twenty of each basic. At an easy $10 a pop, that is a pricey set of basic lands. 

Instead of going with the same lands everyone else has/wants, head off the beaten path. First, choose old border or new border. I personally prefer old border, as I feel that the foils are more brilliant, but new border gives you far more artwork options. Next, choose an art. There are lots of basics with awesome artwork throughout Magic’s history. Finally, start acquiring!

A single foil basic isn’t as noteworthy as a single foil Unhinged land, but doesn’t underestimate how good it looks when all your basics match. And perhaps most attractively, a random foil basic is going to be around $1. Don’t worry about trying to find all one hundred or so at once either. Pick out your five, and list them in any of your Have/Wants lists if you do online trading. Browse the foil basics at your LGS. (All stores have a box or binder of these.) Every time you place an order online for other cards, check to see if they have any of your basics in stock. (If the site doesn’t specifically list collector’s number, make sure you email them first to ask about exactly which one it is they have in stock. Some will just list “8th Edition Foil Island” without mentioning which of the four it is.) Slowly you’ll fill up on them, and before you know it you’ve got a huge stockpile of all matching lands that are yours and yours alone.

Uncommon Aesthetic

Foils rares and mythics are splashy, but they’re often expensive. Even the bulkiest of bulk rares are usually a dollar or two foil, and as they become playable prices rise quickly. It’s even worse when you consider foiling something like Thragtusk, which you know very well is going to rotate in a year. Instead, focus on the workhorse half of your deck – the commons and uncommons. Frostburn Weird

Foil Hero’s Downfall? Twenty bucks. Foil Doom Blade? Under $4. Cloudfin Raptor is a $2 foil. Elvish Mystic is kind of pricey at the moment, but Devour Flesh is a buck. Ultimate Price and Gray Merchants are only a few dollars as well.

Not all commons and uncommons are going to be throw-in cheap, as Elvish Mystic, Dissolve, or the Ravnica charms will attest to. But plenty are quite inexpensive, and a good way to add additional shiny to your deck without breaking the bank. The best time to grab these is just as a set releases, preferably during prerelease season. My strategy? Once the full spoiler is up, I peruse all the commons and uncommons that look remotely playable, and order foil sets of each for around $2.

Heritage

Another thing to watch for is reprints and older editions of cards. Sometimes people won’t even realize a card is a reprint. Remember Ray of Revelation from Innistrad? How many of you knew that was a reprint? I’m sure some, but not all. It was originally printed in Judgment, which conveniently enough, had foils. I loved rocking my originals. They were unique, looked great, and I was the only person in the room with them. 

There are plenty of other ways to end up with different editions of cards than everyone else in the room as well. Edge of Autumn could pretty easily end up in Standard. If it does, do you want to be casting the plain Jane M15 edition, or the awesomely-bordered Future Sight foil that is currently $.60?

Occasionally there are nifty Gateway promos that don’t tend to permeate through American soil very quickly, but are still quite inexpensive. (The Plague Myr promo isn’t actually $17, it’s just some donk on Amazon asking that much.) There are piles of reprinted commons and uncommons, and while previous-edition rares may not differ in price too much from their new copies, they can still look quite different. Simple utility cards like Pithing Needle and Ratchet Bomb have alternate artworks, and there are some rares that have a swath of options when it comes to appearance.

Permanence

Think about what it’s like to have Sphinx’s Revelation in your deck. It sits in your hand for most of the game, obscured from all eyes but your own. When you finally do cast it, you just tap all your lands, flash the card quick, say “Sphinx’s for five” and toss it in the bin. Did your opponent even notice that it’s foil? Compare to Domri Rade. You slam that thing down on turn two, and it sits there, gleaming for the whole world to see for the whole game.

A foil Domri may not be especially cheaper than a foil Sphinx’s, but you’re getting more bang for your buck in the “look at how ostentatious I am” factor. In general, I much prefer to foil permanents over spells. They spend more time in play and are far more visible than something that moves straight to the grumper on cast. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t foil spells – I’ve got plenty of them in my personal binder – but if you have to choose between trading for a foil Revelation or a foil Jace AoT, think about which one you and your opponents are going to spend more time looking at.

Altered States

There are cards that exist in this state where there really is no good option for making it flashy. Take Duplicant. The foil on this thing is $35, and for the longest time was close to $50. Have you ever actually seen a pack foil Duplicant before? Nobody has. Even if they were holding it in their hands. The foiling process on it was so bad you could barely tell. It is unnoticeable in binder sleeves. Who the hell wants to spend $50 on a foil nobody knows is foil?

ADVERTISEMENT:


The recent Commander’s Arsenal edition is bad too, just in a different way. Not only is the art a bit muddy, it’s got that God-awful foiling process that looks like a Yu-Gi-Oh card and warps like nobody’s business. What’s an EDH deck to do?

Art alter! Alters are all over the Magic community, and they’re a great way to make expensive-to-foil cards look exciting without spending obscene amounts of cash. Whether it’s a card like Duplicant, which has an expensive foil that looks like garbage, Brainstorm, which has an absurdly expensive foil, or Force of Will, which simply doesn’t exist in any other fashion, alters are a flexible answer. The best part of alters is that not only are your choices practically infinite, you can even do it yourself if you’re willing to learn and enjoy a challenging creative endeavor. I’m absolutely not an artist, but I gave my Duplicant a whack a few years ago. It is by no means a remarkable piece, but simple cartoon-quality artwork with flat colors and bold lines is pretty easy to replicate on your own. Painting outside the border is quite accessible as well, and with very little skill you can create something that is one-of-a-kind with very little natural talent or skill. I included images of two of my attempts here, not because I think they’re particularly good, but because I want you to see that you can create something halfway-decent with literally zero artistic ability.

regrowth                duplicant

Even if you’re scared to pick up a paintbrush, there is a no shortage of willing artists out there ready for your commission. While Eric Klug produces some phenomenal work, he is by no means the only person putting out quality pieces. Check out this art alter thread over on MTGS to see what’s possible. It’s downright amazing what some of these individuals manage to create on a small piece of cardboard.

If commissioning a stranger isn’t a strategy you feel comfortable with, you can even try taking advantage of a good friend’s generosity. Most of us know someone who is an artist, whether it’s a close friend that knows Magic or just a girlfriend’s sister with a sketchbook. Artists typically love to art, and if you put some cards in front of them and say “would you please paint a fart coming out of this wizard’s butt” they may very well say yes with no expectation of reimbursement. The quality of your results will vary wildly, but if they’re doing it because they’re a nice person that is happy to create art others will see and appreciate, you can’t complain. Of course, if they do a decent job I’m sure an arrangement can be reached. Offering to take a friend out for dinner if he does your playset of Wild Nacatls as power rangers may be satisfactory all around. I’m not encouraging you to screw your artistic friends over, just explaining that it can certainly be worth trying to find out if there’s an arrangement that works for both of you.

On the Surface

Many of us carry playmats. Card store tables are often dirty, grimy, sticky, or even jagged. Nobody wants to slide their cards around on that, even in sleeves. The choice an average player has in playmats is sort of astounding. There are playmats from Grand Prixs, PTQ top 8s, judge mats, SCG IQs, and TCGPlayer events to name a few. This isn’t even counting the dizzying array of official and semi-official mats that companies like Ultra Pro offer. What do all of these mats have in common? They nearly all use MTG or other fantasy-grade artwork. 

Solid color playmats can be had for $10. Carrying over from the “abuse your friendships for cheap card alters” idea, consider pestering a friend to do a custom image for you on a solid mat. It doesn’t have to be extravagant to catch the eye. Let your imagination run wild. Tell them you want dinosaurs playing Magic. Ask for Tarmogoyf eating an ice cream cone. Maybe even give the artist free reign to draw absolutely anything they want. You may end up with something that you absolutely love and never would have thought of on your own.

Alternatively, there are sites out there now that let you print your own playmats for quite reasonable prices. Given that Ultra Pro mats can fetch upwards of $30, ~$25 for a custom printed mat is a steal. Print your dog’s dumb face on the mat. Use goofy art that has literally nothing to do with Magic. (Make sure you have permission!) Go with a “texture” type of print, so it looks like you’re playing on top of a metal crate from Half-Life. Design a grid with outlines for deck zone, red zone, etc with visual accents. For less than a typical “dragon with glowing eyes” or “chick with a big sword and bigger hooters” mat, you can have something truly unique.

These are just some ideas on how to look good playing Magic without breaking the bank on Korean Foil Mana Leaks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found little tips on where to save a few bucks when making your game presence special. Please share any you have in the tips, so we can all be a little flashier in our own way. Meanwhile, this weekend is Modern Pro Tour Valencia. Keep an eye out Friday morning for hot info off the floor. Then we’ll digest the results next Wednesday.

Please follow and like us:

The Jolly Green Giant

By; Travis Allen

A week or two ago I posted on Twitter about a Genesis Wave deck I’ve been playing in Modern and about how much I’ve enjoyed it. I am confident in saying that this is the most fun I’ve had playing Modern since the format’s inception. I got a lot of requests for the list and discussion, so this week I thought we could take a break from the B&R fervor and do something a little different. This article will be much lighter on the finance info than it normally is. Instead, we’ll be looking at the “NyxWave” deck. Hopefully this is far enough off the beaten Modern path to be interesting to most. Next week we’ll return to regularly scheduled programming.

Let’s start with my latest list:

Spells
4 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Genesis Wave
1 Harmonize
3 Overgrowth
2 Primal Command
1 Sylvan Scrying
4 Utopia Sprawl

Creatures
1 Acidic Slime
4 Arbor Elf
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
4 Eternal Witness
1 Kitchen Finks
2 Primeval Titan
3 Voyaging Satyr

Lands
8 Forest
5 Green Fetches
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden

Sideboard
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1 Firespout
1 Harmonize
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Nature’s Claim
2 Rest in Peace
3 Spellskite
2 Stony Silence
1 Vexing Shusher
1 Wurmcoil Engine

If you’ve been following this deck online at all, you’ll see it’s sort of a hybrid between early Genesis Wave builds that ran the full set of BTEs and Elvish Visionarys and Woo’s recent list that focused more on establishing Primal Command locks. I’ve chosen a middle ground that I feel encompasses the best components of both lists.

Our mana ramp comes from the Utopia Sprawls, Overgrowths, Arbor Elves and Voyaging Satyrs. I think I’ve reached a point where my favorite three cards in an opening hand in Modern are Forest, Arbor Elf, and Utopia Sprawl. Why is that so powerful?

T1: Land, Arbor Elf
T2: Land, Utopia Sprawl on untapped land. Tap Sprawl land for two, untap with Arbor, tap for two more, for a total of four mana on T2.

That means turn two Garruk Wildspeakers (which untaps both lands for another three mana) or Harmonize. You’re in great shape after doing that, and even if you don’t manage to win, at least you had a ton of fun losing. Utopia Sprawl

Four Arbor Elves and four Utopia Sprawl are untouchable. They form the backbone of the deck’s mana acceleration, and are part of why Garruk is so good in this list. The Overgrowths and Voyaging Satyrs are also very powerful, but their numbers are more flexible. I feel that four and four is probably too many, but I haven’t figured out what the correct number is yet. I liked three and three, but I could see possibly dropping a Satyr.

Garruk Wildspeaker is amazing, and casting him reminds you of why he was the best Planeswalker in Lorwyn. Untapping two naked lands is reasonable, but when one of those lands has three enchantments on it and the other land is Nykthos, his +1 is just silly. Garruk is almost always behind the silly mana counts that reach into the mid and high teens. Then when you don’t have a use for more mana this turn, his beast token is way overpowered for the cost. It’s great at threatening opponents with lots of removal and plays solid defense on the turns where you don’t have any of your mana sinks. What’s more, a single +1 from his starting loyalty puts you in Overrun territory. It’s not uncommon to cast him, tick him up once, then just Overrun them to death the next turn. It’s not as flashy a win, but it’s efficient. Don’t ever cut Garruk. He’s one of the best cards in the deck, and he pays you in spades for all those auras.

Sylvan Scrying is an excellent 5th Nykthos. I’ve been pretty pleased with the card, having run as many as three copies in the past, but space is limited. I’m still not sure where the correct number is, but I know it’s between zero and three. Even if you already have Nykthos in play, it’s far from a blank. For two it fetches a second shrine to really make your mana explode. When you’re not in need of more shrines, go get a Kessig Wolf Run and just trample them to death with an Eternal Witness. Or perhaps you’ve got all the mana in the world but need to do something big this turn and KWR isn’t going to cut it? Find your Horizon Canopy and draw another card. That line sounds expensive, but with a few auras, an elf or two, and a Garruk, it really isn’t. It’s completely conceivable to generate sixteen mana, fetch Canopy, use it to draw a Primal Command, Command a land to the top of their deck and grab another Witness, Witness back the Primal Command, and then cast it again.

Speaking of which, Primal Command is half engine, half win condition. You’re never upset to cast it, although it is admittedly never stupendous. All the options are solid, and I’ve used each and every one of them several times. Having outs to random enchantments and artifacts are great, as is the life if you only need another turn to go off. Most of the time you’re flipping lands and fetching Witness to do it again next turn, as it locks their draw step while allowing you to keep advancing your board. Command provides a useful way to slow your opponent’s development in the mid-game while continuing to push towards a critical mass board state, and can also function as a semi-win late in the game when you can cast and recur it more than once in a turn, blanking your opponent’s draw step for a turn or two while you add more threats and either draw into a Wave or just fetch a Prime Titan.

Harmonize

Harmonize is awesome every single time, and my next revision to the list will probably involve playing more copies. If this deck has taught me anything, it’s that I severely wish this card was legal in Standard. When you can cast it on turn two and Witness it back the next turn, you know you’ve got something special. The biggest tension is between this and Primal Command. Primal Command *does* more, but it’s occasionally lower impact than you’d like, and typically your true win is Wave, which Harmonize finds and Command doesn’t. On the other hand, Harmonize can draw you two lands and an elf while Command can start a chain that leads to you taking complete control. I’m not sure yet what the proper split is here, and I’d love input from others who have experience.

Genesis Wave is the true engine of the deck, and is a sight to behold when it works. You typically want to hit it for at least eight so that your Craterhoof comes into play. Often the first wave won’t flip him, but instead will give you some combination of lands/Garruks/Witnesses that will allow you to cast a second Wave immediately, typically for much larger. Remember that when you flip a second Nykthos or Garruk, you can sac the old ones so you get fresh activations out of the new copies.

Beyond Arbor Elf and Voyaging Satyr, BTE acts as a mana source too, although less obviously so. She adds double green for devotion which really helps power up your Nykthos fast, and is part of all your most broken draws. I’ve had seven card hands that I unloaded with on T2 because they included a few BTE and Nykthos. Even the simple hands allow you to go BTE into Satyr, which typically sets up a big T3 unless your opponent does something quickly.

The downside is that she’s obviously not a great topdeck. Sometimes you just need the devotion so you’re happy to see her, but more often than not it’s a pretty dead draw. Other options here include Elvish Visionary, Strangleroot Geist, Fertile Ground, Wall of Roots, more Sylvan Scrying, or something else entirely. All of those reduce your bananahands, but have their own upsides. I recommend goldfishing a few hands to see what BTE can do before you condemn them though.

Eternal Witness allows for some of the best value plays in the deck. There are games where you play her on T2 to get back a fetchland just so that you’re putting mana symbols on the table and keeping the spice flowing. Other games she enables your Command chains. When you Wave for six or seven, a single Witness in the pile returns a Wave to your hand so that you can do the time warp again. When you’re behind on board you can Witness returning Garruk, then play him to make a beast, going from no board presence to threatening. Witnessing Harmonize feels spectacular. There’s just no shortage of jobs for a 2/1 Regrowth.

Acidic Slime is a one-of down from the four Woo plays. The card is strong, for sure, but it’s easy to end up in games where it’s just too low impact. I like having the single copy to be able to command for it where it’s necessary, but in general I’d rather draw cards that more directly advance my Wave plan.

Craterhoof Behemoth

Prime Times are Prime Times, I feel there isn’t a lot to say here. As vulnerable as he is against some decks, the KWR he fetches is rarely useless, and plenty of times they simply don’t have an answer. If you untap with Prime Time, you’re probably swinging for twenty or more damage on him alone. The Craterhoof is your “I win” off of Waves, and very rarely disappoints. Even if you only have two untapped creatures you can attack with when he comes into play, typically your wave(s) dumped a lot more bodies into play that turn and you can still swing for lethal. Hardcasting him isn’t out of the question either. I’ve beaten RG aggro decks that were at eighteen life by not blocking an attack for twelve, untapping, hardcasting Craterhoof and just killing them out of nowhere with a few Elves and a Witness. Your opponent is usually so concentrated on worrying about your combo that they overlook your ability to just Hoof them to death on the spot.

The manabase isn’t anything noteworthy, and I’m quite happy with it at the moment. I tried it with only three Nykthos, but I’m pretty sure that’s completely wrong. Drawing a second copy isn’t bad in this deck, because you’re often going to completely fine trading a land drop for a boost in mana on a critical turn. Activate the first Nykthos, play the second, then activate that one for megabonusjackpotmana.

If the sideboard changes significantly it may require mild tweaking, but for now it functions just as it should. It’s possible you could go up to twenty-two lands, but that should only happen if you’re adding more velocity to the main.

Your sideboard with this deck is mostly trying to proactively answer a few things: Robots, Graveyards, Deceiver Exarchs, and counterspells. Mine is geared for my local meta, so feel free to tweak yours as necessary.

Playing this deck is a blast. Your goal is typically to generate giant piles of mana and spend them on everything possible as fast as you can. Make sure you’re counting your potential mana on each line of play. Oftentimes you’ll be faced with situations where one line nets you five, another six, and a tricky-to-see third line will find you seven or eight. Remember to do things like cast Arbor Elf or Utopia Sprawl before activating Nykthos, as they’re a free roll, and they’ll even add mana if you can use Nykthos twice. Be wary of Tectonic Edges. Tec Edge can only destroy nonbasics and only if you have four or more lands. This means your auras should be on basic forests, and feel free to hold your fourth land in hand until you absolutely need it. Holding the Nykthos as your fourth land until you draw the Wave when playing against Tec Edge is almost always the right play.

One thing I’ve seen asked is “why not Tooth and Nail?” It’s a pretty similar spell. Pay nine mana, kill them on the spot. Genesis Wave involves all the triggers, can whiff, etc etc. I’ve been pondering this a good bit, and I believe Wave is (narrowly) the better option.

Flame-Kin Zealot

My issue with T&N is that it requires you to play dead cards, and occasionally will lose even if you resolve it. There are two basic routes you can take; Emrakul + Flame-Kin Zealot or Triskelion + Mikaeus. Trike and Mike looks like the best option on the surface, until you realize it gets hosed by graveyard hate or Path, which is definitely not what you want in an all-in win condition. That leaves us with Emrakul + Flame-kin. I’d guess that 97% of the time you put those two into play you’re going to win, but there are still those times you won’t. Your twin opponent may just Exarch the Emrakul before attacks, then untap and kill you. There will also be games that you draw the Flame-kin (or whatever haste enabler you opt for) and wish it was anything you could actually cast. Emrakul isn’t technically a dead draw, as fifteen is certainly viable, but I wouldn’t want to lean on that. Fifteen for Emrakul is a far cry from eight for Craterhoof. There are of course the games you’ll be able to pay seven for just the back half of T&N and slam Emrakul + whatever into play and dare your opponent to answer it in a single turn. I’m not sure how often those come up, or how often they win, but it can and will happen.

The knock against Wave is that it seems more expensive, and won’t always win you the game. I agree that paying nine for T&N seems more of a lock than with Wave, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually lost a game I Waved where X=6. If in those six cards you don’t find the tools necessary to recur and cast the Wave again that turn, you probably at least put some very relevant permanents into play. With only twenty-one lands, it’s not often that you’re going to flip six dead cards. You can also wave for less than six and often get the help you need. Four will put nearly all your permanents into play, and even three will get you most of your creatures, including any Witnesses to get back the Wave again for next turn. Waving for less than eight isn’t exactly preferable, but it’s still often going to be enough. You also aren’t required to keep any dead cards in your deck. Every card in your list is completely castable without Wave. Finally, Wave attacks on a multitude of vectors. You’re filling the board with threats, massive amounts of mana, enabling a Command chain, and presenting a hasty lethal threat that turn. Even if they can deal with the Craterhoof, they still have to worry about the fifteen creatures in play, the Garruk, the KWR, and the thirty+ mana you now have to loop Command three times.

Ultimately I’d say the difference between T&N and Wave is only going to matter on the margins. I am pretty sure Wave is slightly stronger, and I know for sure it’s more fun. Both get hit by different hate cards out of boards, so they’re a wash there. With a deck like this, you can really just pick whichever one is more fun to you.

I’ve spent 2500 words telling you how awesome this deck is. Now I’m going to tell you what’s a bummer. I’m pretty sure one of the worst cards in the format for this deck is Cryptic Command. It bounces aura’d lands, it counters everything you do without letting you pay your way out of it (unlike Mana Leak), and it fogs your Craterhoof turn. You also don’t want to see piles of Lightning Bolts, Helixes and Paths, since disrupting your small dudes early will typically disrupt you long enough for your opponent to beat their way in with Tarmogoyfs and Wild Nacatls. Deathrite Shaman and Liliana were actually not at their best against you, so you weren’t terribly upset to play against them. Now, instead of those, you are more likely to face some very bad matchups. I’ll be watching the format closely to see if I can tweak the deck to handle the impending changes, but a sharp rise in Cryptic decks could put this on the backburner. In the meantime, I encourage you to give this a whirl at your local Modern tournament. You’re definitely going to draw a crowd when you say “add seventeen mana to my mana pool, cast Genesis Wave for fourteen” out loud.

Please follow and like us:

Brave New World

By: Travis AllenCapture

You don’t get a much bigger shakeup than this.

All three of those were recognized as possibilities, but not a single person dreamt that all three would occur. This is going to result in sweeping changes across the format, and prices will (and have) followed quickly. We’re going to look at what has happened so far, and what may happen in the future. Bitterblossom

We’ll start with the most obvious change: Bitterblossom. BB doubled in price in the last few weeks ahead of the B&R announcement, up to about $30. Immediately after the announcement went live and the market was drained, the first to hit TCG again were $100. They’re now in the $55-$60 range as of Tuesday afternoon, and they may slip even more by the time you read this Wednesday.

What’s the new “real” price for Bitterblossom? I’d guess it’s somewhere between $40-$50. What are the factors at work here?

  • It’s from Morningtide, which was six years ago this month. Remember how much the playerbase has increased in just the last four years. To give you an a sense of scale, I’d guess there are roughly 1/6th to 1/7th the number of Bitterblossoms as there are any of the Theros temples.

  • The card has a legacy, and with it, a bit of a price memory. People remember how powerful Fae were the last time around, and they remember how good this card was in that deck. Regardless of how good it actually ends up being now, it has quite a history backing it.

  • Many players, especially spikes, loved playing Fae. There’s a reasonable chance that anyone you know who played when BB was legal is going to want to run the deck again. Playing that type of deck is very appealing to certain personalities.

  • It was an auto-4x in every single deck that wanted it.

Given all of that, I really doubt we’ll see Bitterblossom below $40 before the Pro Tour. And given how popular the deck is with players like PVDDR, along with how good it was in the past, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see it sub-$40 for a long time, barring a reprint. (There’s a lot of speculation around what the Modern event deck will be, and BW tokens is a popular theory. I wouldn’t expect it to have more than one BB, and even if it has two the price would likely only be suppressed in the short-term.)

So Bitterblossom went nuts. What else? As I’ve talked about in the past, Mistbind Clique went wild as well. It looks like NM copies are just under $20 at the moment, up from about $3. I was hoping people wouldn’t have caught on quite that fast, but maybe it means people were listening to me? Wishful thinking, probably. Secluded Glen

Mistbind is a Time Walk stapled to a 4/4 flyer, and is going to be a big part of the first wave of faeries. If it doesn’t pan out it will likely stabilize around $8-$10, but if its good, expect prices closer to $20. Remember that regardless of what we see at the Pro Tour, it’s entirely feasible that PVDDR and co. don’t figure out the optimal Fae build in time.

Secluded Glen is now about $15, up from the roughly $1.50 it was last week. I am seeing a lot of people talk about how this is absurd and the card is bad and blah blah blah. Why? Because none of the other ones are currently useful? Take a look at the last PTQ format Bitterblossom was legal in. There are four Glen in basically every single list. It’s essentially a painless dual land in a deck that A. wants to cast Cryptic Command and B. minimize bleeding, as it’s already playing Bitterblossom and Thoughtseize. As long as Fae is real, so will be Secluded Glen. The real price for this will be between $6 and $15, depending on how the deck does. Start digging through that bulk!

Fae may even want to add white for Restoration Angel and Path to Exile. Resto was already a good medium-term pick, and her ascent may come sooner than later depending on how the format shakes out. Meanwhile, start watching out for Darkslick Shores, Sunken Ruins, Sower of Temptation, and Sword of Feast and Famine. Those all stand to benefit as well.

River of Tears seems awful to me, by the way. That doesn’t mean it won’t see a spike, but I can’t see Fae ever actually wanting this, especially more than a single copy.

Alright, so the Bitterblossom unban had a lot of immediate impacts on the market. How about the Deathrite Shaman ban? Well, Noble Hierarch is $55 now. Part of this is probably people “realizing” that Pod is about to be amazing, and hopping on the train.

Knight of the Reliquary too has moved a bit as a result of DRS and Wild Nacatl switching places, although not by much. This feels like a ‘tense’ card to me. The market is wary, but a good showing at the Pro Tour will push Knight hard. That Modern Masters reprint will only keep her in check for so long.

Foresight

Let’s look past the immediate impacts and try to get ahead of the market.

What does it mean if DRS is banned? Well, GB/x/x decks clearly take a hit. Straight GB is probably gone. DRS allowed the turn two Liliana as well as put insane pressure on your opponent four turns later. Without that, GB simply won’t have the power to keep up. Doran, the Siege Tower

Jund hasn’t been without both DRS and BBE before, so this is new ground for them. The core of Tarmogoyf / Dark Confidant / Liliana of the Veil / Thoughtseize is still going to be strong, but the question is what to do with it. Without Bloodbraid Elf, it feels like Jund will probably turn away from red for the time being. Red was only ever really popular for BBE and Bolt anyways, both of which can’t or don’t need to be included.

Those core four cards (“the core”) aren’t going to stick to two colors because for at least the time being there isn’t enough power there. We’ve still got fetches and shocks, so the question is what color to head to next? I’m guessing white. With Fae being an anticipated popular deck, the core will be looking for a way to deal with the flying menace. (An apt way to describe them, I assure you.) Voice of Resurgence and Loxodon Smiter are both going to be powerful threats against Fae, and white provides the best sideboard in Modern. The core will also get Path to Exile and Lingering Souls, both great cards in their own respect. They could even toss in a Blood Crypt if they still want to cast Ajani Vengeant. This puts Stirring Wildwood, Doran, Tidehollow Sculler, and Murmuring Bosk on the table as cards of interest. Don’t forget that extra pressure will be placed on Scavenging Ooze as well, as it’s now solely responsible for graveyard duty in game one.

DRS missing has quite a few other impacts on the format. There are a lot of cards that are suddenly worth considering now. Vengevine, Demigod of Revenge, Life from the Loam, Worm Harvest, Goryo’s Vengenace, Unburial Rites, and Raven’s Crime are suddenly worth checking out, along with every support card they bring with them.

I think Goryo’s Vengeance is particularly noteworthy here, as that card is way faster than the format is supposed to be, from a very underprinted set relative to the current market, and the type of card that really hates GY disruption. Meanwhile, my thirty second analysis is that Fae and Zoo are both favored against Tron, a deck that has four maindeck RelicsMagus of the Moon

The absence of DRS presents another vector that was previously weakened as well: Blood Moon strategies. It used to be that you’d cast Blood Moon, they’d float GB, and Abrupt Decay it after it resolved. When they didn’t have the Decay in hand, DRS would get them whatever color they were missing when they finally drew it (or Maelstrom Pulse). But without DRS, if the core moves into a three (or more) color build, they will be considerably more vulnerable to a resolved Moon effect. Fae also probably doesn’t want Moon effects around either, as they typically play a lot of nonbasics to ensure they can cast Cryptic Command.

If Blood Moon is good against the core, Fae, Tron, and maybe even Pod and Zoo, that opens up space for a deck that mains the effect. A card I’ve always felt wants some number of maindeck Moons is Through the Breach. That’s the type of card that doesn’t necessarily need to kill you immediately and is happy to play under a Moon. I already consider Through the Breach a spicy target, and this shift in the format seems like Breach may benefit.

Breach loves it some Simian Spirit Guide, a common from an old winter set with one printing. Are we going to see $6 Apes in the near future?

By the way, you know what pairs well with Through the Breach? Goryo’s Vengeance.

The return of Wild Nacatl has had the least impact so far, at least financially. Sacred Foundry and the Naya shocks stand to gain a little, and we already talked about Knight of the Reliquary. I think the biggest gainer here is probably Geist of Saint Traft. Zoo was already leaning towards Domain for Tribal Flames, and Geist is a heck of a three.

It’s tough to see what else stands to gain beyond that. Baneslayer Angel, maybe? Thalia? I’m no Zoo expert, and the deck could look a lot different this time around than it did last time. I’d wait for the Pro Tour to see what Kibler is casting and go from there. (Also, those $10 Wild Nacatl FNM promos are absurd. Don’t buy them. The art isn’t even that good.)

This B&R change is probably going to be responsible for the largest change in the Modern metagame since the format’s inception. There are going to be pitfalls and springboards all over the place in the coming weeks and months, so tread carefully and think critically. As for me, I’ll just be over here quietly casting Genesis Wave for fourteen.

Please follow and like us: