This normally isn’t my thing, but I figure that making some outlandish predictions about the future is something I’m occasionally good at, so I’m giving it a try.
After GP Richmond’s massive 4,300-person attendance, it’s clear that Modern is really a force in the market. I think that Wizards will continue to show a lot of love to the Modern community simply because the entire format is reprintable. Any card that becomes too scarce or causes too much of a barrier to entry can easily be reprinted in a Modern Masters set or supplemental set.
The last two big sets have included notable reprints in the form of Scavenging Ooze and Thoughtseize. Modern Masters showed that reprinting cards without tanking them is a real option. In the future, I think we can expect to see continued reprints keeping prices at a reasonable level, and occasionally crashing sections of the market temporarily.
The current barrier to entry in Modern lies primarily in the lands. The reprinting of shock lands in Return to Ravnica block showed the effect of bringing needed lands into the format. Prices for shock lands dropped from around $30 to about $10 due to the reprinting, with values slowly gaining back some of that ground as print runs on RTR ended. Because of this, I’m sure they’re going to reprint fetch lands—the only question is how.
Here are some options they have on how to do it:
1) Reprint Zendikar Fetch Lands in Modern Masters 2 (2015?)
This is currently the most common idea being bantered around, probably because it seems so easy. Clearly Modern Masters was a success in getting many needed Modern cards into the hands of players. Another round of Modern Masters, with a second batch of reprintings, as well as including the cycle of Zendikar fetch lands would clearly be a quick seller.
The problem with this is that it doesn’t really work. Tarmogoyf is back toward $200 after the Modern Masters printing. As a four-of in multiple decks, it’s clear that the recent reprinting wasn’t enough to make the card accessible to everyone. Imagine if we faced the same situation with the primary dual land in the format. We’d quickly see the cost of Modern clashing with the cost of Legacy and pushing new players out of the format. I don’t feel a Modern Masters reprint will work, and I also don’t feel that over 50% of the cost of a deck should be tied up in the lands. That just doesn’t feel good.
2) Reprint Zendikar Fetch Lands in an Expert Expansion
It’s already been proven that this would work to get lands into players’ hands with the success of reprinting the shock lands. They’ve dropped significantly in price and been made very accessible to newer players. I’d expect a quick dip in price when shock lands rotate out of Standard, but I don’t think they’ll stay down for long. All the new players will want them for Modern, and they’re already headed for a steady climb back up. The downside here is that Wizards has already stated it doesn’t like excessive shuffling in Standard, and it would clearly tank prices from current levels. We’d probably be looking at lows of $5 to $10 for fetch lands, which should scare the crap out of anyone who’s seriously invested in them.
However, the current storyline seems to be heading in this direction. With Elspeth going to Theros in order to find help to fight the eldrazi, as well as the clear need for fetch land reprints, Return to Zendikar seems like a likely block. The past several years have alternated between introducing a new plane and returning to an old one. After Theros, we’re up to return to a plane, but Zendikar seems a little early to come back, so it may be up to a couple sets out. But I don’t think we can see reprints of fetch lands waiting that long. The fall 2015 set is the latest I can imagine.
3) Reprint Onslaught fetch lands.
The cutoff point for Modern rules out allied fetch lands, as those came from the block before original Mirrodin. While reprinting Zendikar fetch lands seems the obvious choice, leaving them in Modern while ruling out allied fetch lands doesn’t sit well for me. Reprinting Onslaught fetches would solve a number of the fetch problems. This would have to be done in a block in order to make them Modern legal, since putting them in Modern Masters wouldn’t technically allow them into the format.
The result of this would be pretty impactful. First off, fetches are pretty interchangable. Decks running four Scalding Tarns and three Misty Rainforest would be just as happy to run Polluted Deltas instead. While Twin decks would still want Scalding Tarns and B/G Rock Verdant Catacombs, this would open up the Modern field to some more innovation. We might see some previously missing archetypes when the lands available allows more freedom.
From a financial perspective, we would still see a significant drop in Zendikar fetch lands but not as significant as if they themselves were reprinted in a core set. The ability to fill in decks with a random off-color fetches for an affordable price will keep Zendikar fetches low. I’d expect to see them drop to anywhere from 25 to 50% of their current prices if Onslaught fetch lands get reprinted. This seems like a good option compared to reprinting the enemy fetches outright and crashing the market completely.
4) Don’t reprint fetch lands.
I don’t see this as a realistic option to preserve Modern as a format. The recent spike in Modern staples is going to price a number of people out of the market. Current Standard decks run $200 to $400, Modern $500 to $2000, and Legacy around $2500. If the price of Modern decks continue to rise, we’re likely to end up playing Legacy instead.
In order to keep Modern a viable format, Wizards needs to use the primary resource it has available to it: reprints. For Legacy, this simply isn’t an option. Too many cards sit on the Reserved List for them to be able to keep Legacy alive through reprints. Eventually the cards that can’t be reprinted would either need to be banned or their costs would rule out a large number of players. Meanwhile, Modern allows them to fix the problems of past formats through reprints. Nothing in Modern is on the Reserved List. If Wizards is careful, it can essentially use the format as a reboot for the Magic tournament structure, with powerful-but-reprintable cards allowing for a second-tier eternal format that remains accessible to new players.
Personally, I’d be very surprised if we see a Zendikar fetch land reprinting before an Onslaught reprinting. We could very well expect to see a Return to Zendikar block in the future, but I think that there will need to be more than just the five-year gap between Zendikar and Return to Zendikar blocks. I do think that Return to Zendikar is in the works, but I see it three to five years out rather than in the next year. I don’t think fetches can wait that long. A tribal Onslaught-ish block could be in the future, with heavy tribal not being a tool that was recently used (besides Innistrad). It would provide a solid place for the lands to be reprinted. My bet is on seeing Onslaught lands reprinted in the next two blocks.
What do you think? Will we see the Zendikar or Onslaught reprints first?
Marc DeArmond is a currently a Middle School Math Teacher and the host of the Casually Infinite podcast. He started playing Magic back in Unlimited during 1993. His interests are trading up in value and playing limited on MTGO. He is the author of Casually Infinite, which discusses how to continue to play Magic Online without spending money. He is currently a Level 2 Magic Judge.
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