It’s a bold statement, but it’s one I believe to be true. We are living in the Golden Age of Modern.
I made a video saying as much, and before I go deeper I figure I may as well post it, as well as a rough transcript for those who can’t watch right now (remember to subscribe if you want more of this content, and I’d love any feedback!)
Eight different decks made the top eight of Grand Prix Oklahoma City last weekend.
I want that to sink in. Magic is an incredible game full of tons of interesting options and interactions, and still we almost never have that many different decks make it to the top eight of a tournament. Not only that, but a deck that has never even made a top eight before won it! Lantern Control is one of Modern’s most unique decks, and the odds of Zac Elsik winning the Grand Prix with it are truly unbelievable.
There’s no doubt about it: we’re in the Golden Age of Modern. Patrick Chapin summed it up best when he told me on Saturday at the Grand Prix that there was a tiny difference between the best deck in Modern and the 20th-best. And he’s right. More than 40 different decks made it to day two of Grand Prix OKC, and there were some pretty awesome new ones among those. Not only did new builds of Scapeshift and Elves pop up, we had some old standbys like Storm and White-Black Tokens advance to the second day.
Of course, all of this merely scratches the surface. The list of new decks that appeared last weekend is even more impressive. Freaking Naya Allies, people. Naya Allies is good enough to make day two of a Grand Prix. Soul Sisters. Suicide Zoo. Faeries. Jund Scapeshift. Ad Nauseam. The list goes on and on, and I haven’t even touched on Merfolk, my favorite deck and the one that Paul Rietzl called the best in the tournament on this way to the top eight with the fish.
Simply put, there is no better format in Magic right now than Modern. With more 50 decks capable of finding success in the format, this is the format Wizards of the Coast envisioned when it was created. All the decisions – bannings and additions – since have served to create the deckbuilder’s paradise we have now. This is the Golden Age, and I’m enjoying the ride.
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Another week, another crazy round of Modern price hikes. It seems like everywhere you look, you see another ca…
Wait, what is this? I’m sorry, I need to interrupt this article quickly for a pretty important update.
MERFOLK WON GRAND PRIX COPENHAGEN!!!
If you didn’t know, I’m the world’s biggest Fish fan. I just finished my set of Champs Mutavaultsand I’m the proud owner of this custom playmat. My entire Modern Merfolk deck is foiled out, and acquiring every card in it through trading is one of my proudest Magic accomplishments.
So to see Merfolk put two decks into the top eight of a Grand Prix and then win the entire thing is a huge moment for me. I’ve been telling people for years it’s the best deck in the format, and while that’s mostly been a joke, suddenly it doesn’t seem quite like it anymore. Basically, this is awesome.
Anyway, back to your regularly-scheduled article.
It’s All About the Climb
Let’s be honest: it wasn’t exactly hard to see this explosion in Modern popularity coming. We’ve seen steady growth on a bunch of format staples over the past two years, and despite all the complaints about Modern Masters 2015, the fact is more people have cards to play Modern, and (go figure) that means more people are playing Modern.
That’s one large piece of the puzzle. The other is the return of “seasons.” Some of you may not have been around four or five years ago, but banking on Extended season used to be the easiest money there was. People didn’t care about Extended until the Extended PTQ season came around, at which point everyone suddenly needed cards. You could pick up staples for absurdly cheap in the spring and cash them out at double in the fall every year, like clockwork.
Then, Extended died. Modern, a non-rotating format, took its place. This lessened the impact of the PTQ season, but it didn’t eliminate it.
Until, that is, Wizards of the Coast decided to nuke seasons entirely. The PPTQ system and leaving the option up to the stores running tournaments meant basically everything was Standard, all the time. While Modern still existed as a popular format, there wasn’t really any urgency to picking up particular cards.
This year brought back the return of seasons, and the fact lost in all of the Modern Masters 2015 hoopla is that we’re actually right in the middle of Modern season right now. It’s not just Grand Prix Charlotte and Copenhagen leading people to pick up Modern cards, it’s the fact that they need them for that PPTQ next week.
Of course, this doesn’t account for all of the spikes we’ve seen. Nourishing Shoal and Lantern of Insight were clearly buyouts, and that’s just kind of what it is. But when it comes to the real cards, like Snapcaster Mage and Liliana of the Veil and even smaller stuff like Terminate or Raging Ravine, I believe it’s real demand that’s pushed these cards. Snapcaster hasn’t just risen steadily—it’s held its price every step of the way, as has Liliana after spiking earlier this year. That doesn’t happen unless it’s real demand from people biting the bullet and pulling the trigger on buying in. And they’re doing that because of Modern season.
Those two factors account for most of the gains we’ve seen this year. Truthfully, now is not a bad time to cash out of many specs. After all, a lot of the stuff that’s risen has been stuff we’ve been talking about for at least six months here, so in all likelihood you got into some of these specs on the cheap. There’s nothing wrong with locking in some profits, especially given what I’m going to posit next.
…Until It’s About the Fall
Travis Allen and Sigmund Ausfresser, both great writers here and whose opinions I respect, have voiced similar concerns to mine. Travis, in particular, knocked it out of the park with his comparison of Snapcaster Mage this year and Scalding Tarn last year. While there are certainly some factors that make them different (namely, people anticipating a Tarn reprint in MM2 and then in Battle for Zendikar) the point is very well taken: further growth is not a given.
In fact, there’s historical evidence to suggest that prices may not continue to grow. Even if we discount Scalding Tarn, the fact remains that the most growth—as an overall index—that non-Standard cards experience comes in the first six months of the year. Go look at the price charts of staples over the past few years (dual lands spring to mind): you see price hikes in the first half of the year, with small dips in the second half before rising again come the turn of the calendar.
There’s a lot of theories I’ve put together for this: holidays strapping cash, tax day providing a lift, summer doldrums pushing people outside and away from Magic, etc. Whatever the reason, the facts remain: cards perform better in the first half of the year than the second.
So then, what about all these shiny new Modern cards that have spiked like crazy? There’s a lot of reasons to believe prices will stay steady or even continue rising. After all, the format is very healthy right now, the current spiked prices have mostly held, Snapcaster and Liliana of the Veil aren’t getting any worse or facing an immediate reprint.
But as Travis pointed out, that’s been true of other cards before, and it hasn’t panned out that way.
All of this, of course, leads to a very basic question: is now the time to sell out?
The answer to that question depends on where you fall on the line of prices. Will this growth continue? Will Magic: Origins and the latest Duels of the Planeswalkers bring enough new players in to bring on further growth? There are reasons to believe these things are the case, and if so, you may want to hold onto your Modern specs.
Or are you on the other side? Will the historical reasons to be concerned repeat themselves and make the best decision to sell cards now? Will people care about Modern after its PTQ season is over? Will Standard rotation take enough attention away from the eternal format to send people’s money that way? If so, selling out now isn’t a bad choice.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle, and the fact that I’m in for so many of these cards at such good prices does sway me. I know that “technically” my buy-in price shouldn’t affect my decision-making here, but the fact is I’m not opposed to locking in money. Profit is profit, after all, and the Myth of Making Money™ tells me it doesn’t matter what TCGplayer says if I never sell my cards.
So I’m hedging. I’m moving some cards but holding a few copies. For instance, I have a few dozen Snapcaster Mages, and while some of them have come in since the price spiked a great many were acquired in the $20 to $25 range. That’s a lot of profit waiting to be realized, so rather than hold two dozen Snaps I’ll never sell through, I’m going to buylist some number of them to lock in profits while still exposing myself to additional upside.
As for the in-season spikes we’ve been ahead on, like Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid, Wanderwine Hub, Glimmervoid, Arcbound Ravager, etc? I’m happy to move them at a profit. If there’s one thing this game has taught me, it’s that there’s always another target. Sure, some of the cards that have spiked this year will likely spike more next year. But some of them won’t. Something will be surprise-reprinted. Something will fall out of favor. Something could be banned.
So I don’t mind selling out of many of them, and happily walking away with my profits. After all, there’s plenty of targets already on the horizon for next season. Glistener Elf, Blighted Agent, Thought Scour, Silvergill Adept, Gavony Township, and more may not hit this season, but I can already start stocking up on them cheaply in anticipation of movement a year from now. Why chase down another 10 to 20 percent on this year’s specs when I can stock up on cards that could turn a 500-percent profit in 2016? I’m happy taking my own advice and leaving the last 10 percent to the next guy.
Of course, that’s my usually-conservative take. What will you do?
Very rarely does something so thoroughly dominate the conversation as Modern Masters 2015 has managed to do, and it’s been a wild ride. From exciting spoilers and eco-friendly packaging to underwhelming rares and damaged and/or missing cards to the largest trading card tournament ever hosted, Modern Masters 2015 has certainly delivered in the Magic news cycle, if not in the hearts, minds, and wallets of all players.
That said, we’re finally moving past Modern Masters 2015 and into the time of Magic Origins. I think I’ve written about Modern Masters sets four of the last five weeks or something crazy like that. It’s not usually my style to harp on things for so long, but every week when I’ve sat down to write it has felt like this is the set we’re most interested in hearing more about, and the one on the forefront of people’s minds.
Barring any unforeseen developments, it seems like that time is finally moving behind us. I’m not promising no more Modern articles (after all, I’m working Grand Prix Charlotte this weekend, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Modern metagame adapts after last week’s Invitational), but I do think I’ll be done talking about Modern Masters 2015 before too long.
That said, there are some odds and ends in my coverage of the set I want to put in order before I close the book on it. Thus far, I’ve focused on the hype, the early movements, the fallout from Vegas, and what effect the additional printings have had on prices.
What I haven’t done is talk about the future of the set: where it’s going, what cards are good pickups now versus what will be good in a year, what cards to stay away from, etc. I’ve had a few requests for this type of analysis, and I want to make sure I take care of that before moving on.
So, with the preamble out of the way, I’ll dig in. The plan is to treat this somewhat like my typical set review, highlighting cards I feel strongly about one way or another.
Let’s start at the top, with the cards I believe have bottomed out in price already and will be trending upward from this point forward. In some senses, this applies to much of the set, but I want to use this first section to talk about those cards that are going to move back up the quickest.
There are a few others I could maybe throw onto this list, but I want to be clear about why this is my shortlist. These are not the only cards that have bottomed out, but they are the ones I believe will stay bottomed out for the least amount of time. In other words, these highly-played cards will see a price rebound much sooner than some of the other cards in the set for which I believe there is more time to pick up.
But these are the most desirable cards in the set, and the time they’re bottoming out is now, and it won’t be for long. The only true question mark is, with Grand Prix Charlotte this weekend being Modern, if we’ll see an effect similar to Grand Prix Richmond last year, where prices spike leading up to the event and then trail off afterward. That remains to be determined, but for now there’s not much to indicate that these cards will stay at this lower level for too long.
The Next Tier
Here we have the cards that I believe are good pickups, but not quite as pressing. Think of things like Lava Spike from the first Modern Masters. We knew it would be a good pickup, but it’s taken until this year (two years later) to really pay off.
These cards exist in Modern Masters 2015 as well, and I wanted to highlight a few of them.
Prices are still trending downward on these, and I expect that to continue for another few weeks or even months. I’m not sure how much further these have to fall, but chances are it’s another $5 or so. Keep an eye for the bottom on these moving forward, and buy in there. These are going to be great gainers over the next few years, even if Battle for Zendikar comes along and gives us new, cool Eldrazi. Chances are these original Big Three™ won’t be replaced, they’ll simply be added to a larger roster.
On this note, I like Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple, as well. Temple is something that will quickly become a forgotten-about uncommon and a solid pickup, but I think the better bet is Eye. This thing is great in Commander, gets played in Modern, and will look especially impressive after we return to Zendikar and get more Eldrazi for it to play with.
Other cards I put in this category of “good pick-ups a month or two from now”:
I know this is an extensive list, but I’m trying to be as complete as possible. I expect all of these to bottom out in the next few weeks to months, but the main thing I want you take away from this list is that these are still staples. They’re going to fall lower and for a long time we’re going to take for granted that’s there’s enough of them to go around. But before you know it, it’s going to be 2016 and these are going to pull a Deceiver Exarch on us and shoot back up in price.
The Long-Term Only
Next up are the cards I believe are worth setting aside from your boxes, but will take significantly longer to rebound. For instance, Stonehewer Giantwould be the poster child for this category in the original Modern Masters, and I think Creakwood Liege takes over that role this time around.
Still, these are worth setting aside. Throw them in the trade binder now rather than part with them for pennies on the dollar, and these will have the opportunity to make you money in a few years. On that note, there’s no rush to acquire these cards, but remember this list when we’re back in the summer doldrums a year from now and you need something to turn Standard stock into.
Creakwood Liege (the casual demand for this is real, even if it’s going to be a long time to truly rebound).
You definitely don’t want to forget about these, and I’ve seen a distressing number of these in draft leftovers already. Remember that something like Vines of Vastwood is a common that was super expensive (for a common) before the reprint, and will likely climb back to there before all is said and done. Just make a small box of these and lose it in the closet for a few years.
Largely, I think there’s still some room to fall for most of the set, and I’m not dying to tear into these in trade just yet. But I hope by breaking the set down in clear categories, I’ve been able to outline my strategy with this set going forward.
Of course, all of this is just my opinion on how to approach the future of Modern Masters 2015. What are your plans?
Thanks for reading,
@Chosler88 on Twitter
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