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Market Review 2014


Already this year, we have seen dozens of cards spike from a number of sources, the main culprit of course being Modern. Keeping an eye on where cards land is just as important as the initial decision to buy in. This type of information can be helpful when looking to make the proper decisions in regards to the format shifts that come from bannings or unbannings.

Deathrite Shaman
With the banning of Deathrite Shaman, we of course saw the fallout of his $10-and-higher price tag. As he crept down to the $7 range, we saw the market stagnate and even begin to shift back upward, now settling back at $10 or more almost everywhere. This is an example of staple cards that, though not currently in the spotlight, still retain value. Similar to Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Deathrite Shaman has a ton of Eternal playability, and it therefore still holds a ton of value. Of course, these cards are not comparable, but it gives perspective to how a card’s price will react to a Modern banning if it still sees play elsewhere. The inverse of this, of course, are cards that seem to have relatively low playability outside of the format. Bitterblossom is a great example of a card that, though playable, saw very little coverage while banned and suddenly spiked so heavily due to the unbanning.

Bitterblossom has turned out to be much less relevant than initially anticipated, and though the price has calmed down, the twice-printed enchantment still commands $50 most places. This got me thinking about what else had potential to be unbanned in the future and what sort of ramifications that could have, not only on the format, but on the singles market. So, to tie everything together, I believe the next place to be looking for long-term holds is not for the gem among the rough, but instead for the proven players that have been benched. I have heard no one talking about this subject, and I believe that is a mistake. Wizards has made it readily known that the ban list for Modern is very much a living document and will cater to the current metagame if need be. The idea of using a ban list to shape the format—or at least to deal with the boogieman—is a concept I very much agree with, and I have allowed to influence my competitive buys appropriately.

Of course, not just the cards on the list will spike given a chance to play—many once-forgotten filler cards will join the ride. This is where the deciphering of the format comes in to allow some clarity as to what has a chance at becoming unbanned. I have a few cards directly on the list I am focusing on, but the filler cards for decks such as Dredge are at an all-time low, allowing you to further profit from the correct read. This is not to say you should go buy every card on the ban list—many of them will never see the light of day—but some just need the right conditions to be met, such as Bitterblossom or Wild Nacatl.

Before I talk about particular cards, I want to first point out that the same process used here also shows sustainability through reprints for select staples. This has me gaining a new perspective for Modern that I did not previously understand, and that is that as the game grows, the reprints that are limited to specialty sets, such as Duel Decks: Jace vs. Vraska with Remand or Modern Masters to a lesser extent, are fairly immune to much price change. The game is growing at such an alarming rate that these selective reprints only help provide availability in the short term, and vendors have caught on to that, no longer plummeting their retail numbers. Set reprints such as shock lands do take more of an initial hit, but I would not be the in the least surprised to see $20 to $30 blues within the next twelve months as we approach Modern again next year. Cards like Mutavault and Thoughtseize show how quickly a card can rise again given playability in the current environment, and that means any cards that have already proven themselves are probably fine buys. I believe the shocks have the highest chance for growth, but I expect both Thoughtseize and Mutavault to sustain their prices or even grow in that same twelve months. The initial drop when they leave Standard may be slight, but that is probably the next best time to jump in.

Even outside of Standard, we are still seeing small run reprints doing very little to deter the prices of some staples. Batterskull has been the Grand Prix promo for a few events now, and it still sustains a buy-list price above $15, which is incredible considering the card was nearly that retail last year prior to the reprint. This will probably drop some as more copies become available, but the fact is this card will probably eternally be $15 or higher. Some cards printed in mass set releases take a while to recover, and those are usually the cards I stash for a few years—such as Sanguine Bond—but it seems the window on anything playable has suddenly become smaller.

Back to the main focus this week: Let’s look at some cards on the current ban list that have potential to have the hammer lifted in the next twelve months.

It seems that Dread Return and Golgari Grave-Troll could use some time on the field, as the hate is already in place to help stifle Dredge. I feel that Pod being in the format is reasonable as long as there is a deck that can keep it honest, and currently, we have issue with a consistent answer to that problem. Unlike Legacy, almost all of Modern is creature-based, making the entire engine to the deck less powerful inherently. That, coupled with the same hate that Legacy packs, leads me to believe we may see a possible unbanning. Of course, this means a number of other cards will spike, but the primary one I am focused on is Bridge from Below. It doesn’t make sense to reprint a card with so little use inside the format if you plan on keeping that deck buried. The core pieces to the deck are relatively cheap across the board, so if you are currently priced out of Modern, it may not be a bad idea to invest in a potential future deck in Dredge.

Punishing Fire
Punishing Fire is a card I can certainly see a case for now that the format has balanced back out, and the Fire may be a solid answer to Pod. I don’t know exactly what could spike from the potential unbanning, as Grove is already $40, but I am certain a gander at some old lists could bring about some ideas. I have always found that to be a good place to start when looking to expand your horizons for possible pickups.

Umezawa's Jitte is certainly a card that people still fear, but it’s unlike Skullclamp, which can typically be abused immediately, and this gives your opponents time to find answers. With Affinity already being a major part of the metagame, most people are well-equipped to deal with artifacts, and as long as Stoneforge Mystic doesn’t get the nod, this seems perfectly reasonable to allow. Though the card is already priced quite high, I believe it has a strong chance to move in the next year regardless of reprint, just due to availability. Dealer cases and binders used to be littered with these, and now it is rare I see any outside of decks. The supply online is not dire, but it certainly has dropped in the past few months. If the card is unbanned, we probably will see a very similar pattern to Bitterblossom, and if not, it will probably hit $40 or more regardless, which makes it relatively safe.

Deathrite Shaman deserves a nod here, as he has probably hit his bottom. With the new deck arising in Standard, his price should hold steady until Eternal play takes over, where he should hold $10 or more until a day when he can once again be allowed into Modern. There are a few cards I feel this way about on the list, but it is less likely we will see the return of this crowd in the next year, thus making this a longer hold than the rest. The upside is this will probably grow regardless of Modern, strictly based on how many Cubes and Legacy decks require them, so it’s hard to see a downside at $8.

Sensei's Divining Top
The last card on the list this week is Sensei's Divining Top. Most people I have talked to will say it is too powerful, but they cannot provide actual proof. The reality is control without consistency in an Eternal format will have a much rougher time keeping the combo in check. Aggressive decks have been kept down by Pod and Twin, while control seems to be stumbling behind the current power curve. This lack of control consistency means even a few games lost to mana or lack of draw can overwhelm you against the well-oiled machine that is Pod. This has been a major reason we are seeing very little balance to the format, with very inconsistent Top 8 results outside of the few tier-one combos. Nothing says this will fix the format, and it is just as likely Jace, the Mind Sculptor may be the answer, but I believe Top could both help balance the format and head up in price.

These are just a few of the cards I have looked at over the past few months, so do not take this list as the only cards that are possibly unbannable, but just be aware that the possibility is there. If a card has already proven its worth, it is much more likely to gain that value back or exceed that amount than taking shots in the dark as the format spreads. This does not mean I am not looking at new cards or even those aforementioned hidden gems, it just means I am aware of multiple avenues from which Modern can surprise us. If you have any questions or comments on this week’s article, please leave them below. I would enjoy seeing what everyone else believes has a chance to play ball in Modern in the future. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Ryan Bushard


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