Conjured Currency #46: A Modern Modern Format

One of the downsides of my writing deadline being Tuesday evening is that my articles can’t go up until Thursday morning. In a world where a new influx of information causes prices to spike hundreds of percentage points in a matter of hours, a two-day delay is less than helpful for in-the-moment action. This past Monday, Wizards of the Coast announced that [card]Birthing Pod[/card], [card]Treasure Cruise[/card], and [card]Dig Through Time[/card] were banned in Modern. At the same time, [card]Worldgorger Dragon[/card] dusted off its wings to rejoin the Legacy crowd, and [card]Golgari Grave-Troll[/card] (GGT) gets to shamble into Modern decks for the first time since the format’s inception. 

This is obviously old news to anyone reading, so there’s not any money to be made buying the two cards that got unbanned. Grave-troll and Dragon both jumped to $10 within hours of being unleashed, and my Duel Deck copies of GGT were quickly selling on TCGplayer for $8 each. Is Dredge a viable deck in Modern without [card]Dread Return[/card]? I have no idea, but I think there’s room for GGT to slowly drop until there’s an actual performing list confirmed at an event.

If there is a graveyard-based deck fueled by GGT, there are some peripheral cards to keep an eye on. [card]Vengevine[/card] is the most obvious one, and already jumped a few dollars from $12 to $15 with the help of some hype-train fuel. I’m still comfortable trading for them at the current price, because there are so many people wanting to brew new lists, and you have an easy out in this wild west format. In the best case scenario, there’s a real deck and you get to jump out at $20 or $25. Worst case scenario, nothing happens and you trade them to the people on PucaTrade who still want to build a tier-two deck because [card]Birthing Pod[/card] is no longer a thing.

PucaPriced

Speaking of PucaTrade, I want to talk for a moment about why using the website to grab currently underpriced cards (or to speculate on future price changes) is not the best use of your time or money. If you’ve never heard of PucaTrade, you can check it out and sign up here, or read this one for a relatively recent and well-thought out article on the “how-to” aspect of the website.

If you saw that [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] foils were climbing in the weeks prior to the banned and restricted update, you might have looked at their PucaTrade price and thought, “Wow, Alara Reborn foil BBEs are only $3.99 in PucaPoints, but they’re $15 on TCGplayer! I’ll just add them to my want list, and some sucker will ship me those Bloodbraid Elves so I can resell them for a huge profit!”

If you weren’t one of the players with that line of thought, let me explain how that worked out for them: First of all, there’s an extremely low likelihood that many (if any) 399-point Elves were shipped. Why, you ask? Because the one guy who happens to have the card notices on his send-a-card page that there are twenty other users who all want the card at once. That’s enough of an alarm bell for anyone to check the current price of the card, and see what all the fuss is about.

Anyone who ended up not getting those foil BBEs are the lucky ones. On PucaTrade, there’s no setting to remove a card from your want list when the system updates and changes the price of the card. If you had $20 worth of PucaPoints, and wanted five BBEs for the purpose of speculating or flipping,  you might be shocked when the system updates while you’re sleeping, and the price correction occurs. Now they’re worth the correct value of 1000 points, and more people are willing to send them. But you didn’t want them to play with, you wanted to speculate. The unlucky players got stuck with normally priced cards that they can’t unload, because the hype is over.

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What’s the Next Spike?

Now let’s go back to speculating. Everyone loves speculating, right? The feeling of being correct on a spec is so much fun, everyone wants to be ahead of the trend and one of the cool kids. I’ve mentioned before that I no longer buy cards for speculative purposes, and that’s still true. However, I’ll throw around some ideas on what could happen to the prices of certain cards now that the format got turned upside down.

[card]Bloodghast[/card] seems like an obvious inclusion to the Dredgevine deck, but it’s already $9 on casual graveyard/vampire appeal by itself. To complement that, I believe it’s a strong inclusion possibility in Modern Masters 2015. My belief is that MM15 will involve a heavy landfall theme, complete with Zendikar fetches and a high percentage of Zendikar-block cards, akin to the original MMA’s focus on Future Sight and Suspend. I’m actually selling Bloodghast, and hoping to avoid a reprint bomb this summer. I don’t see much upside to buying in now, especially if nothing comes of the deck

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[card]Faithless Looting[/card] foils can be found on TCGplayer for as low as $3, and that just doesn’t seem correct to me. It’s from a small set that wasn’t opened much, it sees play in a couple Legacy and Modern decks, and will be a likely edition to any new brew that features GGT. While there is a comic book promo that hovers around the same price, that promo is not foil. If there’s any deck at all to support Grave-Troll, I can see foil Lootings trending up to $7 to $10. I’d buy them if you’re going to play with them, and trade for them aggressively if you’re looking to speculate.

[card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] was a pretty obvious pick-up with the details of Modern Masters 2015 being revealed, because the cards added to the set stop right before Innistrad. However, Snap has the potential to become even stronger in the new Modern metagame, due to the fact that all of his targets won’t be costing eight or being delved away. These seem like strong pickups via trading at $30 to $33, holding until at least $40.

[card]Animate Dead[/card] is only $1 for its cheapest edition, and it hasn’t moved in the days since the dark day that Pod left this Ear—er, I mean the bannings. It used to be the other piece of the combo with [card]Worldgorger Dragon[/card], where you would make infinite mana by tapping your lands before they were exiled over and over, and eventually do something silly to kill your opponent. That was God knows how many years ago (seriously, I tried a few Google searches and can’t even find how long Worldgorger has been banned), and nowadays we have the ability to put Emrakuls and Griselbrands into play, who just win the game by turning sideways once or twice. I don’t think Worldgorger makes the cut in Legacy anymore, and will go the way of [card]Land Tax[/card]. I don’t recommend speculating on any of the old or new Worldgorger pieces like [card]Entomb[/card], [card]Dance of the Dead[/card], or [card]Necromancy[/card], and sell any Worldgorgers that you have.

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Don’t even think about it.

While there are some great speculation targets out there, I’d like to point out that there won’t be anything to replace [card]Birthing Pod[/card]’s slot in the deck. Does that sound obvious to you? It should, but I recently saw a Facebook post on my feed that suggested [card]Yisan, the Wandering Bard[/card] as a spec target to replace Pod in Modern. Please don’t buy copies of that card expecting them to be played. It costs a lot more mana, a lot more time, and is much easier to kill than Pod.

Sleeping Banned Cards

We’ve already learned from past experiences, such as [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] and [card]Bitterblossom[/card], that a card doesn’t have to make an impact on a format to shoot up in price after its unbanning. GGT and Worldgorger were both sleeping in $1 boxes, and weren’t on many people’s radars. They were easy to pick up, and had very low risk of dropping in price during their slumbers. Suddenly, they became easy money and profit. Since we’re already on the subject, let’s take a look at the Modern banned list for cards that also have low risk and might eventually be unbanned.

[card]Sword of the Meek[/card] stands out to me the most in this situation. Back in the day, it was known for comboing with [card]Thopter Foundry[/card] in order to create an engine of flying creatures and life, and being exceedingly hard for aggressive decks to break through. I can imagine that a shell nowadays might include [card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/card] for an easy tutor package and fast win condition. However, Modern is a format where you can easily get blown out on turn four by [card]Splinter Twin[/card], or torn to pieces by a [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] while having all of your spells denied by cheap countermagic. Even [card]Siege Rhino[/card] will likely trample through the banning of Birthing Pod and live on in an Abzan shell of some sort. I don’t think that the Thopter-Sword combo stands to overshadow this type of metagame, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come off the banned list at the next update. Although the card is an uncommon, it’s also from Future Sight with no alternate printings. An unbanning could see us into a world of $10 Swords, just like with our rare friends this time around. I’m definitely willing to invest in these in trades at $1 each.

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[card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]. Big Jace. One of the most iconic cards printed in recent memory, Jace never even had a chance to shine in Modern, as he was slapped with a BANNED sticker as soon as the format came to exist. Is that correct? This single topic probably holds enough discussion to produce an entirely separate article, but I’ll keep it to a minimum here. Personally, I don’t think it’s correct for Jace to come off the banned list, and I wouldn’t recommend trading into him expecting him to be unbanned. Even if his power level isn’t oppressive to the format, I’d argue that Wizards doesn’t want another Tarmogoyf-level price running around if they have the ability to contain it. While they can’t ban ‘Goyf at this point, they can take a passive approach to keeping the Mind Sculptor inside his cage.

Predicting Future Bannings

It’s not exactly a secret that I love [card]Birthing Pod[/card], and I’ll admit that I still have quite a few copies that are leaving a bad taste in my mouth right now. I took apart my Modern deck several months ago, but didn’t end up getting rid of very many Pods since then. Whoops. When I pieced out Kiki-Pod, I rationalized that Pod could very well be banned in the Khans of Tarkir update. To support my claim, I looked to the reason that Wizards of the Coast decided to ban [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]:

On turn one, this can give the acceleration of a Llanowar Elves by getting a Dryad Arbor. On later turns, it can get a large creature or a one-of “toolbox” creature such as Gaddock Teeg. While this is interesting, it is also too efficient. If one intends to build a deck that has turn-one accelerants, Green Sun’s Zenith is a great choice. If one wants to more access to utility green creatures, Green Sun’s Zenith is a great choice. If one wants to more reliably get a large green creature, such as a Primeval Titan, onto the battlefield, Green Sun’s Zenith is a great choice. However, this ends up with fewer different decks being played in practice, as Green Sun’s Zenith is such a good choice that there are fewer green decks that do anything else. The DCI hopes that banning Green Sun’s Zenith increases diversity among Modern green decks.

Although Pod can’t tutor on turn one, it certainly spawned its own family of decks over the course of its lifetime: Melira Pod, Kiki-Pod, Spike Feeder Pod, eventually ending up with Rhino Pod. There were only really two or three different green shells in the entire format, and Pod was almost mandatory if you wanted to compete on the highest level of play—similar to how GSZ was in 2011. Looking back, I should have realized that the time for Pod was coming to an end and gotten rid of my copies a long time ago. While hindsight is 20/20, it’s still important to use this information and look towards the future as to what might be banned. That’s nearly impossible to do in a brand new format like this one, but it should still be kept in mind as the format develops. Go back and read the past updates to the banned and restricted lists, and find cards that tend to break the goals that Wizards has set for the format.

Restricting my Word Count

Normally I hate going over 2,000 words for fear of boring my readers, but the banned and restricted list updates are definitely worth going the extra mile for, especially when there’s a lot of interesting information to digest. Do you have a personal spec target based on the result of these bannings? Are you going to tell me to buy Yisan? Do you think JTMS has earned parole? Tell me more.

About the Author
@Rose0fthorns     -     Email     -     Articles Douglas Johnson is a 20-year-old MTG player who goes to college courtesy of a scholarship from Gamers Helping Gamers. He is currently found writing a weekly finance column at MTGprice.com, and you can always feel free to contact him on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.

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