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Mardu and Modern Festivities

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As we dive deeper into the holiday season, we expect less and less innovation in Standard for a variety of reasons. First of all, with the holidays, we all get reprieve from the game and tend to need less testing due to the event break that occurs as well. This also means a multitude of seasons, including for Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers, StarCityGames, and TCGplayer, are ending, and everyone is either focusing on the Pro Tour or taking a break. The second reason somewhat ties into the first: Modern.

It will soon be time to dust off those Splinter Twins and Overgrown Tombs for yet another PPTQ season on the horizon. While we are a ways out still from the season, this is about the time you will see Modern prices begin to creep up as sales slowly start to build. Inevitably, this will lead to the market spiking on some cards while others grow consistently over the season—barring reprints, which will be few if any in the coming months. With no Modern Masters this year, we will surely see an increase in some of the staples and maybe a few new cards if Wizards decides to shake the format up with an unbanning.

Before I jump right into Modern, I do want to talk about the new deck on the block—while this shell has existed for some time, this new engine involving Pia and Kiran Nalaar can grind out some games previous versions could not.

This deck takes my favorite part of Esper Tokens—Secure the Waste and Sorin, Solemn Visitor—and adds a far more aggressive shell that also gains a ton of removal and early game. If I wasn't so deep into Rally the Ancestors, I would look at picking this deck up. It has a relatively low cost, with plenty of room to tweak numbers for the metagame. Hallowed Moonlight has been seeing more and more play as of late, and while I am not sure it can achieve enough play in Standard to drive its price up, it is from a core set, meaning even moderate Modern play could easy make this a few dollars. It still has plenty of time in Standard and will always have Hangarback Walker as a target as long as it is there, so I like picking up your set now if you do not already have them.


Steam Vents
As I did last year, I am going to take the next few weeks to look at Modern from the outside. We could wait for the Pro Tour to see what happens, but that may leave you down and out on some staples you thought would be reasonable to acquire and waited too long for. One topic I want to talk about as well in this time period is the ban list. We may see no changes, but if we do, it is important to be ahead of them, and some cards will inflate just due to the banned cards’ sudden presence even without results, so getting in on anything you can now, while it is cheap, affords you the option of testing potential decks if something is unbanned. And if not, stick them in your closet for down the road.

This week, I want to focus on the staples of the format, the cards, that while they do have value, are likely to go up in the coming months—not from a sudden buyout or a huge demand, but from a steady number of players needing them for their seventy-fives and slowly depleting the market. Of course, first on this list are the cycle of shock lands—almost every deck has at least some number of shocks and fetch lands, but right now is not the time for the latter. The Standard fetches will work in most decks if acquiring Zendikar fetches proves too much, but shocks do not have a real replacement in most decks.

The Magic finance community as a whole always talks about having your forty shocks so you can play nearly anything in the format, but if we take a look at some decklists, you will see that may be a burden you do not need to bear right away—if you can only acquire ten or twenty now, do not fret, and let me show you why.

Mardu was not the only deck slamming Pia and Kiran this weekend, and rightfully so, as this card appears to be a great answer to some of the resource-heavy decks, and it serves well enough against the rest of the field as well. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy has also cemented himself into Modern, begging the question just how far the price can come down now. I hope we see the trend of downward movement we have been up until now, but this doesn't look good for Jace’s chances of becoming much cheaper.

Watery Grave
As cool as it is to see new archetypes emerge—or at least make a good showing—this deck is a prime example of why a forty-set of shocks is really not needed, not to say that should not be an eventual goal, but truthfully, picking up any is better than none, and this mana base gives us a good guideline for where to start. Ideally, you have an idea of what deck you are looking to play if you are looking to break into Modern this year, and it is always best to target the cards you need first. But look at the mana base and see just how many shocks you need—most decks have two or three of the primary colors and one each of the secondary. While some decks will be looking for full sets, that is rarely the case.

I would set my first goal at two of each land—this means even if copies do spike, you may have a few extras to move for any you only need a single copy of, and if you already have two, it feels much better if ones you need do spike, as you already gained some form of value with the ones you own, and even paying extra for the one or two more you must acquire doesn't hurt so bad. If you set your aim at two this year, it will also free up some of your trades or money for more staples that may even do better and allow you to trade out at a later point to get into the rest of your shocks or whatever else you may need.

So the question everyone is going to ask is, What does the list of cards that will fall into this category look like? I am not a Modern expert by any means, but I do follow a great deal of coverage and also track the market for Modern during this time of year, so here would be my list, not really in any order, of the twenty-five cards I expect to see growth in the next six months. This is not to say you need to rush out and buy these cards to try to profit; instead, if any card you need for a deck this season appears on this list, or others, you should look into picking those cards up sooner rather than waiting. This number is arbitrary, really. Beyond this, I am sure there are fifty more, and with this many, I cannot explain reasoning for each, so if you wonder why something made my list, feel free to ask in the comments below. I would also love to see other lists expanding on this.

Tarmogoyf

  1. Serum Visions
  2. Tarmogoyf
  3. Fulminator Mage
  4. Wild Nacatl
  5. Scavenging Ooze
  6. Gitaxian Probe
  7. Spell Pierce
  8. Boros Charm
  9. Eidolon of the Great Revel
  10. Splinter Twin
  11. Deceiver Exarch
  12. Lightning Bolt
  13. Aether Vial
  14. Merfolk lords (I won’t cheat and count this as more than one.)
  15. Phantasmal Image
  16. Cryptic Command
  17. Leyline of Sanctity
  18. Restoration Angel
  19. Craterhoof Behemoth
  20. Thought Scour
  21. Delver of Secrets
  22. Mox Opal
  23. Stony Silence
  24. Vendilion Clique
  25. Kitchen Finks

Blood Moon
Creating lists like this, even just for your own personal use, will really give you an idea of exactly what the format will look like to begin with as well. You can see a number of tier-one lists form from these cards. Notably, I did leave some cards off the list for personal reasons, Blood Moon and Creeping Tar Pit being the two most notable. I believe creature lands may show up in Shadows over Innistrad to have the full cycle in at once, and while I am certainly in favor of that happening, I am not sure enough to say one way or the other on whether the card is a good buy right now.

Blood Moon is a little more far-fetched for reprint, but I feel it is a prime place in Standard for this card to mix things up. Not only do we have an additional land type that will stifle Blood Moon if the colorless theme picks up, but we also have a mana base that requires basics while at the same time not requiring so many that Blood Moon would irrelevant. I am by no means saying this is going to happen, but I just feel that this is a great reprint here, and that keeps me from adding it to the list.

I hope to see some other cards on people's lists that were further down on mine—and maybe some cards I didn't even consider. Either way, I am off for the week; next week, I should be back, potentially to discuss the bannings and unbannings that are approaching, or perhaps taking a week off for the holidays. If I do not have a chance to write next week, I hope everyone enjoys their breaks and manages to at least put down the cardboard for a short while.

Ryan Bushard

@CryppleCommand


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