Tag Archives: Grand Prix

Pick it or Ship it: Financial Decisions with Modern Masters 2015


By: Houston Whitehead

With my recent trip to Vegas, I struggled to come up with a Vegas relevant finance topic to write about while Modern Masters 2015 singles prices are falling to their predicted, yet affordable, prices.  A popular uproar over the weekend was Pascal Maynard’s foil Tarmogoyf pick over Burst Lightning in Sunday’s Top 8 draft.  As a player that doesn’t have a sponsorship to unlock an almost infinite card pool for constructed events or paid entry fees for wearing a T-shirt, the foil Tarmogoyf was an easy pick. But not every player is like me.  From an objective point of view…

goyl gp top8…was Pascals Decision Right or Wrong?

Both.  When it comes to picking the strategically correct card for a deck, the choice easily whittles down to one or two cards. But when you add card value to the mix, only the player drafting knows the correct card to pick. You can be rich, poor, have foil constructed deck preference, non-foil constructed deck preference, need one more to make a playset, or no need to collect.  All are viable reasons to pick a valuable card.  With the variable of price, any opinion besides the drafter is irrelevant.


This got me thinking, where is the threshold between picking the money rare and shipping the money for a main deck playable?  If we can’t calculate a system, what guidelines can be applied to turn a grey answer into a black and white answer?

Modern Masters 2015 has tested this threshold more than any other set (because pulling a chase mythic in the first Modern Masters felt next to impossible).  I sat down Saturday morning to receive my sealed pool for the GP Vegas main event. With no byes, I opted not to purchase the sleep in special that would exclude me from passing my registered pool.  I remember thinking to myself, “Please, don’t open well.  I don’t want to be forced to drop.”  I told myself I would only drop if I pulled a foil Tarmogoyf no matter what the pool was.  I came to play.  Also, it’s frowned upon to drop before passing pools but that’s another topic for another day.  During the first draft of day two, I recall thinking up a similar sentence before looking at my first bare booster pack.  I dodged these hard decisions all the way up till the second draft.  Thumbing to the back I see an orange Modern Masters icon surrounded by a blue border.  It was a Vendilion Clique. My heart somehow fluttered and sank at the same time knowing it was time for a hard decision.  Thankfully, Clique is playable in limited, but Spectral v clique vegasProcession was the card in the pack I’d rather start the draft with.  Seeing no other playable white in the pack and only mediocre cards in the other colors, I decided to take the Clique and force my neighbor into white.  The next pack had two tier 1 white cards so I took one and cut his white the rest of the draft.  Obviously, my decision happened at the beginning of the draft and was also a playable card in any deck that plays blue but soon after blue went dry and I settled in W/B Spirits (my favorite archetype).


The point of the story is…I broke my own rule.  I told myself the only thing that trumps taking an off color money card is a foil Tarmogoyf.  Some say rules are made to be broken, but I still feel going into a Modern Masters 2015 draft with a set of rules can only be beneficial to not only save time but also help keep a clear conscious for the rest of the tournament.

Here are a few examples/options:

  • I will only take ‘X’ card(s) over the best pick
  • I will only take cards than surpass the first place prize.
  • I will pick the best card to benefit my limited unless it’s a card I need for a Modern constructed deck.
  • I will take anything over pack value ($10)

toughAs silly as it might seem to make rules for picking or shipping money cards, it really does help me enjoy my draft experience and overall minimized my feeling of regret when you lose to land screw in the first round.

Sometimes other factors come into play that can bend/discards these rules, like the following:

  • The money card is the #2 pick in the pack, like my situation, and its playability helps justify the pick.
  • Only picking the best cards for your limited deck to give yourself the best shot at reaching a goal (winning your first draft, prizing at a GP, earning an invite to a Pro Tour Qualifier (PTQ) or winning an Invitational Qualifier (IQ)).
  • Could open a door to an archetype you like. Ex: Mostly green with a few blue picks pack one for graft and opening an Eldrazi and switching to G/R ramp and looking for Savage Twister and basic land cycling commons.


We all want to pull money rares AND win the draft.  Sadly, the booster packs don’t cater toward that type of lifestyle.  Drafts are already full of tough decisions.  The more valuable a set it, the more decisions are added to the pile.  Having some list of guidelines before I sit down at the table helps me enjoy the game, draft experience, and the opening of each lottery ticket aka booster packs.

As always thanks for reading



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Implications of Grand Prix Las Vegas 2013

The dust has settled, and Grand Prix Las Vegas is now a week past. The implications of this Magic mini-con will be far-reaching. Wizards will need to re-evaluate the potential size of GPs, prize payouts, as well as quite a bit of tournament logistics. Also prize payouts. (I know I mentioned it already, but come on. I’m not even sure even a single X-3 got a payout at Vegas. Put yourself in in that position and ask if you’d ever want to attend a GP again.) Meanwhile, there’s currently some very honest and valuable discussion around the state of Magic organized play coverage. If Wizards acts appropriately, I would expect the next year to bring about a slew of changes to both large event OP, as well as the media surrounding it.

In the meantime, we should give further consideration to the implications of Modern Masters. Last week I discussed the likelihood of MM increasing the price of many format staples despite being reprinted. With MM driving many new players into the format, the demand on the existing supply will increase noticeably, and the influx of cards will not be enough to stem the tide.

What about the cards that weren’t in Modern Masters though? The mere fact that a card wasn’t in MM could be enough to drive a price increase, resulting in their being even more susceptible to popping than the cards reprinted. Granted, Wizards hit a lot of the staples – they couldn’t just print every single format-playable card – so there’s plenty of room to look for opportunity. If our goal is to get in ahead of market shifts, we need to evaluate the current price point of cards alongside their utility, price points of similar cards, and availability.


Chord of Calling. (c) 2005 Wizards of the Coast.
Chord of Calling. (c) 2005 Wizards of the Coast.

The banner card for this effect is Chord of Calling. It used to be only a few dollars, and then early on in Modern’s lifespan it jumped up to $10-12. A while ago several financial types on Twitter pegged it as likely to rise, and by the Monday after GP Vegas, the card had nearly doubled to upwards of $20.

I would guess the ceiling on this is maybe $25 or even $30 if it sees a brief resurgence in Modern.  However, it’s not played in any other format aside from EDH, and while it’s good in Modern, it’s only good in certain types of decks.  Still, this card’s new price tag is probably not dipping much below $20. I’m not advocating you buy in on this card in particular; rather, it illustrates what can happen when seemingly underpriced cards are suddenly noticed by the market or vendors.

One group of prime targets for this is the Scars of Mirrodin Fastlands. Shortly after their rotation, all were in the $1.50 to $4.00 range. They’ve snuck up a bit since then, and I expect they’ve got plenty of room to grow. There 3 most commonly played land cycles in the format are the Zendikar Fetchlands, the Shocklands, and the Fastlands. The Fetches are all $25-$40 (more on that in an upcoming article), and the Shocks used to all be $20+ until seeing a massive reprint in RTR. Even still the shocks are all $7-$10, and by the start of the next Modern PTQ season they will see pressure to rise on two fronts – both from being the out-of-print land in standard, as well as PTQ-goers needing to finish their playsets. Those two factors will likely push them all into the $15-$20+ range. This leaves the Fastlands as the third most played cycle in the format at a lowly $3-$5. I doubt we’ll see them as high as $20, but they could easily crest $10. Recall that Jund typically played about the same number of Fastlands as shocks, as did the Birthing Pod decks. Any aggressive deck will fill up with on-color Fastlands as well.

Speaking of Birthing Pod, this is another card that seems poised to at least double. Ask anyone familiar with the Modern format what the best deck currently is, and there’s a real good possibility the answer is going to include this card. Whether the flavor of the week is Kiki-Jiki or Melira, they’re still both using four Birthing Pod.

Birthing Pod as of June 27, 2013
Birthing Pod as of June 27, 2013

This is one of those cards that only gets better as more creatures are printed (which is how Chord of Calling works as well, by the way). Birthing Pod decks provide a great deal of strategic value, and can be tuned to just about any metagame should the pilot desire. It’s been slowly creeping up since its rotation, and $10-$15 doesn’t seem unreasonable down the road.

There are a plethora of cards that fall into the same category as Chord of Calling, the Fastlands and Birthing Pod. Keep an eye out for them as you browse Modern deck lists, trade binders, and Gatherer. Anytime you think to yourself “hmm that card seems cheaper than I thought it would be,” consider that a flag to closely examine the card’s potential.

Join me next week when we consider safe investments in a post-reserved list format.

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