In the PC gaming world, there is a controversial concept called “future proofing.”
Many amateur PC builders, especially those with money to burn, attempt to future proof their PC by buying only the most cutting edge components. Their hope is that by building, say, a $3,000 PC instead of an $800 one, it will be good enough to play top-end games for a much longer period of time.
But nobody knows what the future will bring, and most expert PC builders quickly learn that future proofing is a fool's errand. Some new piece of technology is always hitting the market, and that $3,000 PC usually ends up becoming obsolete shortly after its $800 counterpart. Planning for the future is a good thing, but only if the cost is reasonable.
This is a lesson worth keeping in mind as we think about what Modern Masters 2017 may bring us this spring. I'm going to do my best today to predict what the set will contain, and I'll probably nail a good portion of the spoiler list—of the fifteen mythics in Modern Masters 2015, I correctly predicted nine of them about six months in advance. But should you have sold all of the cards I had predicted in advance of the set release? It would have been a good decision with Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, but you'd have missed out on further growth from Crucible of Worlds and Sliver Legion.
The lesson here, I think, is not to get too fastidious about future proofing your collection. I think this sort of speculation is useful to think about, especially for players who live and die on small profit margins, but I'm not trying to encourage you to oust your entire Modern collection before the spring. If you've got several playsets of these cards sitting in a dusty drawer somewhere, though? I'd figure out a plan to move on from some of the set's more obvious picks long before April rolls around.
Before we get into specifics, then, let's take a moment and talk a bit about what Modern Masters 2017 might look like from 30,000 feet.
First of all, the set will absolutely contain a smattering of low-value casual cards at all rarities, and they will be fairly difficult to predict. Who could see Jugan, the Rising Star or Comet Storm coming? I'll do my best to work in a couple of higher-end Commander staples and a few flavorful cards that make sense to me, but my prediction will almost certainly form a better, higher-value set than Modern Masters 2017 will be. There's just no avoiding this, and I see no reason to waste our time trying to figure out if Dread is more or less likely than Arbiter of Knollridge to show up in a disappointing booster pack.
Second, Modern Masters 2017 will contain cards from Innistrad, Dark Ascension, Avacyn Restored, Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon's Maze, and Magic 2014 for the first time. It makes sense that these cards will be front and center, so I'm going to predict that most of the chase rares from these seven sets will be included. Only about half of them will actually show up, but that's still a pretty high figure compared with most of the other sets. If you're going to sell any Modern cards between now and spring, here's the list I'd go with:
- Liliana of the Veil
- Cavern of Souls
- Snapcaster Mage
- Voice of Resurgence
- Craterhoof Behemoth
- Avacyn, Angel of Hope
- Archangel of Thune
- Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
- Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
- Grafdigger's Cage
- Kalonian Hydra
- Abrupt Decay
- Stony Silence
- Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- Geist of Saint Traft
- Balefire Dragon
Third, there is always a bunch of rarity shifting in these the Modern Masters sets. Some mythics will appear at rare, some rares could be moved to mythic, and some of each might end up at common or uncommon. This sort of thing can't really be predicted. I'm going to operate on the assumption that cards from the mythic era won't change rarity (this does happen, but it's, well, rare), while some rares from the pre-mythic era may still show up at mythic. I won't predict any downgrades in rarity—they'll happen, but it's too difficult to even attempt to predict.
Ultimately, I find the best way to do an exercise like this is to take a look at the most valuable cards available to us and see how they might slot in. If you're looking for predictive odds, I'm far more likely to nail the colors with shallower card pools than the deep ones. If WotC only has two exciting red mythics to choose from, at least one will probably end up in the set. On the other hand, there are probably a dozen reasonable black mythics in Modern, any one of which might make the cut.
Ready to do some forecasting? Let's begin!
The stable of exciting white mythics isn't huge, but there are a few good options here, two of which are from the new available sets. Even though Linvala, Keeper of Silence isn't as crucial to the Modern metagame as it was before the Birthing Pod ban, it still shows up in decks like Kiki Evolution, G/W Hatebears, and Abzan Tokens and is currently the most valuable of these three cards. Archangel of Thune is an Abzan Company staple, though, and it is currently the second-most-expensive white mythic in Modern—seems like a slam-dunk to me. Avacyn, Angel of Hope isn't played in Modern, but the casual crowd is always thrown a bone or two in these sets, and we know how beloved this card is on kitchen tables around the world.
One of the most interesting questions facing us in Modern Masters 2017 is whether or not we'll get cards like Vendilion Clique and Tarmogoyf reprinted for a third straight set. I think we will. Beyond Clique, there just aren't a lot of blue mythics actually seeing play in Modern. Omniscience is more of a Legacy card, and these others are all Cube/Commander staples. Consecrated Sphinx seems like the most likely inclusion to me—it's exciting in a way the others just aren't.
Of all the mythics that were in both of the last two Modern Masters sets, Dark Confidant seems the least likely to return a third time. There are just so many good options in black! Liliana of the Veil is as close to a shoo-in as it gets; Mikaeus, the Unhallowed is just about the only valuable card from Dark Ascension; and Griselbrand makes sense as the sort of card WotC loves plastering all over their packaging (and as a package deal with Avacyn!). Neither Goryo's Vengeance nor Damnation is a mythic rare, but since both are from the pre-mythic era, they stand an outside chance of getting an upgrade here. I know we'll get a Damnation reprint at some point, but actually predicting it feels a little like Charlie Brown and the football.
Koth would actually be a great card to slot next to Kiki-Jiki, but I'm worried that Skred Red's big win happened too late to affect the contents of Modern Masters 2017. Expect to see him show up in 2019 (and every Modern Masters set after that…), though who knows if he'll still be seeing play by then. The other two cards that make sense are rares from the pre-mythic era, but either could potentially see an upgrade here. Otherwise, we're probably in for another season of disappointing Comet Storm opens.
Tarmogoyf should be back, but if it isn't, expect the price to rise sharply—its current price is slightly depressed thanks to the expectation that it will be back. Beyond that, there aren't a ton of great choices in green. Azusa might get a rarity upgrade, but I'd say Craterhoof Behemoth is a little more likely, even though it's more of a fringe player in the format. When in doubt, though, I'm going to audible into choosing the newer card.
Colorless and Gold Mythics
Options for Modern Masters 2017: Crucible of Worlds; Karn Liberated; Sword of Fire and Ice; Sword of Light and Shadow; Mox Opal; Emrakul, the Aeons Torn; Sliver Legion; Glimpse the Unthinkable; Voice of Resurgence; Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas; Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker; Blightsteel Colossus; Batterskull
I could probably keep going with this list, but I think these are the most likely inclusions. Crucible of Worlds is one of the most expensive cards in the format and badly needs a reprint, so I'm guessing it'll finally show up here. Voice of Resurgence is one of the only chase cards in Return to Ravnica block, so it's fairly close to an auto-include as well. I think Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas will show up as a nod to Amonkhet, the same way we got the three original Eldrazi titans last time around, but if not, I wouldn't be surprised if we got the alt-art swords from Modern Masters 2013 again. I'll give my fifth slot to Mox Opal, which is still expensive and useful enough to be an exciting pull. Karn Liberated might get the nod for the exact same reason, though, and both Sliver Legion and Glimpse the Unthinkable have long needed a casual reprint. Beyond that, there are several dozen directions they could take—Kalonian Hydra? Temporal Mastery? Huntmaster of the Fells?
Financially Relevant White Rares
Options for Modern Masters 2017: Auriok Champion; Greater Auramancy; Idyllic Tutor; Serra Ascendant; Kor Spiritdancer; Austere Command; Restoration Angel; Runed Halo; Ranger of Eos; Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
I'm not going to cover every single rare slot in these sets—there's no need to speculate on the Battlegrace Angels of the world. It's possible that Modern Masters 2017 will break from tradition a bit and will have more than three to four financially relevant reprints for each color, but it's unlikely enough that I'm going to assume the rest of these slots will be taken up by $2-$8 casual cards that play into the set's draft themes.
Auriok Champion would be the big money pick here—it's one of the most expensive cards in Modern precisely because Fifth Dawn was so under-printed. Look for the price to tank fast if it does end up in Modern Masters 2017. Restoration Angel and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben make the most sense from a new set perspective, though I could see one or both of Runed Halo and Ranger of Eos making it in.
Financially Relevant Blue Rares
Options for Modern Masters 2017: Ancestral Vision; Snapcaster Mage; Pact of Negation; Cryptic Command; Venser, Shaper Savant; Glen Elendra Archmage; Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir; Sower of Temptation; Time Stretch; Gifts Ungiven; Sakashima the Impostor; Threads of Disloyalty; Phantasmal Image; Master of Etherium; Master Transmuter
There's lots to choose from here, which makes Snapcaster Mage less of a slam-dunk than it might otherwise seem. I still think it makes the cut, though will we really get both Snappy and Ancestral Vision? Regardless, that probably puts Pact of Negation and Cryptic Command out in the cold. Tough choices!
Financially Relevant Black Rares
Yet again, black has some really good potential inclusions. Damnation and Goryo's Vengeance are back on the table, though I still think Damnation is coming back as a mythic rare or not at all. Goryo's Vengeance (with new art!) would help sell packs, though it might require at least one other "splice onto Arcane" card…not that something similar stopped Daybreak Coronet from being literally useless in Modern Masters 2015 Limited. Thoughtseize got that reprint in Theros, so I'm not sure it'll be back until the Modern Masters sets get that far. Death Baron seems like a casual slam-dunk, especially since the limited mechanic for black is likely going to be based around Innistrad and could therefore be Zombie-related. Bloodghast didn't take off in Modern until fairly recently, but Death's Shadow has been relevant for quite a while now—I think it'll show up.
Financially Relevant Red Rares
Modern Masters 2013: Blood Moon
Modern Masters 2015: Splinter Twin
Options for Modern Masters 2017: Through the Breach, Blood Moon, Goblin Guide, Magus of the Moon, Boom // Bust, Braid of Fire, Greater Gargadon, Vexing Devil, Shared Animosity, Sedge Sliver, Pyromancer Ascension
Boy, WotC sure hasn't been good about reprinting expensive red cards, have they? Greater Gargadon was actually in Modern Masters 2013, but it was a bulk rare back then, so I didn't put it on the list of financially relevant reprints from that year.
Can you imagine both Through the Breach and Goryo's Vengeance in Modern Masters 2017 alongside zero other splice cards? I can, and I bet either both of them show up or neither of them will. Otherwise, it sure seems like Goblin Guide needs a spot and a Blood Moon reprint should be in the works. Vexing Devil is another solid call if you want to keep betting on stuff from Innistrad block.
Financially Relevant Green Rares
Modern Masters 2015: Noble Hierarch
Options for Modern Masters 2017: Noble Hierarch; Doubling Season; Scapeshift; Azusa, Lost but Seeking; Oracle of Mul Daya; Seedborn Muse; Tooth and Nail; Bloom Tender; Mana Reflection; Chord of Calling; Golgari Grave-Troll; Prismatic Omen; Life from the Loam; Vigor; Summoner's Pact; Fauna Shaman; Regal Force
Noble Hierarch is more important to Modern than Tarmogoyf is right now, but I'm not sure if WotC realized that before they put this set to bed—I'm going to place my bets on Noble Hierarch being omitted and the price closing in in the $100 mark this spring, at least temporarily. Doubling Season seems far more likely to be included, and I bet Golgari Grave-Troll and Scapeshift will get in there as well. Green has a ton of options, though, so anything could happen at this point. Most of these cards are fairly safe pick-ups because of that, especially if you can get them at a discount from somebody anxious about potential reprints.
Financially Relevant Gold Rares
Modern Masters 2013: Grand Arbiter Augustin IV; Knight of the Reliquary; Jhoira of the Ghitu; Maelstrom Pulse; Divinity of Pride; Oona, Queen of the Fae; Demigod of Revenge; Figure of Destiny; Cold-Eyed Selkie
There just aren't that many financially relevant Modern gold rares left—most of the ones that were reprinted in Modern Masters 2013 aren't worth much these days. We'll see Abrupt Decay, but it's only barely worth the MSRP of a booster pack. Glimpse the Unthinkable is long overdue for a reprint, as we discussed earlier, but I'm not sure if it'll show up here. My guess? Far fewer multicolored cards than in previous years…and more lands.
Financially Relevant Colorless Rares
Options for Modern Masters 2017: Crucible of Worlds, Engineered Explosives, Arcbound Ravager, Aether Vial, Chalice of the Void, Spellskite, Oblivion Stone, Mycosynth Lattice, Rings of Brighthearth, Gauntlet of Power, Eldrazi Conscription, Extraplanar Lens, Thorn of Amethyst, Mesmeric Orb, Staff of Domination, Steel Overseer, Cloudstone Curio, Grafdigger's Cage, Scarecrone, Trinisphere
Wow, imagine if they just reprinted the artifacts from Modern Masters 2013 again? What a list. As it stands, I'd expect Oblivion Stone to finally show up along with Grafdigger's Cage. Beyond that, we should hope for two of the cards from the MM13 list; I'll guess Chalice and Vial. Engineered Explosives wasn't a large part of the format until relatively recently, so it's less likely to come back. Expect that price to keep going up.
Financially Relevant Rare Lands
Options for Modern Masters 2017: The Zendikar fetchlands; the Ravnica shocklands; the Shadowmoor/Eventide filter lands; the Scars of Mirrodin fastlands; Horizon Canopy; Cavern of Souls; Grove of the Burnwillows; Celestial Colonnade; Glimmervoid; Inkmoth Nexus; Flagstones of Trokair; Oboro, Palace in the Clouds; Creeping Tar Pit; Nimbus Maze; Vesuva; Academy Ruins; Scrying Sheets; Adarkar Wastes; Gilt-Leaf Palace; Brushland; Miren, the Moaning Well; Raging Ravine; Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth; Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle; Mikokoro, Center of the Sea; Mutavault.
As every Modern player knows, the lands are far and away the most expensive part of the format. The reprintings in Return to Ravnica and Khans of Tarkir blocks helped a lot, but the Modern Masters sets have short-changed us in the land department so far. Will that change this time around? My gut tells me yes, and I have a feeling we'll see the Zendikar fetchlands alongside a few scattered utility lands (Mutavault, Cavern of Souls, Inkmoth Nexus), but it's worth nothing that this would be a break from tradition. At any rate, WotC can't reprint all these lands, and they're all among your safest holds in the format right now.
This Week's Trends
Standard is in a bit of a rut these days with B/G Delirium and W/U Flash having emerged as the top two decks in the format. Because of that, only the staples that make these decks shine (Grim Flayer; Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; Archangel Avacyn; Liliana, the Last Hope) seem to be trending up.
While “solved” formats like this can seriously depress a market for weeks or even months, watch out for any rogue-ish deck that looks like it can hang with the big dogs. If these decks are still dominating Standard in the new year, players will look toward literally anything else as a way to break the monotony. This can lead to some pretty quick and crazy price swings as everyone stampedes around looking for the next big thing.
In Modern, the Skred Red cards are still trending up a bit, as Koth of the Hammer and Scrying Sheets both gained value last week. Copperline Gorge and Noble Hierarch are also continuing to rise. In Legacy, meanwhile, Chancellor of the Annex went from near-bulk to a $4 rare thanks to its continued play in Reanimator. While Legacy can't drive newer card prices all that much, this is still likely to be a $5 card sooner or later and it's worth raiding bulk boxes and binders for a few extra copies in the meantime.
Comments from Last Week
What will shortened MTGO redemption times do to the price of paper Magic? How will the market adjust?
- Matthew Lewis
I'm not sure how noticeable the effect will be, Mathew. It's true that some shops redeem a massive number of sets in order to keep their inventory up, and paper singles prices tend to drop once the redemption period of a set begins. (I suspect this has more to do with falling excitement levels, the metagame getting fully established, and a ton more paper product being opened, though.) The shortened redemption window won't change this process at all, though—it'll only make it slightly more difficult to get sets that have already left the spotlight.
It's possible that the shortened window will lead to earlier price rebounds for casual and long-term specs, however. If fewer overall sets are entering the marketplace, those sorts of cards should be a little more rare and elusive. Will it matter enough to be noticeable? I doubt it, but it's something I'm absolutely going to keep an eye on.
Why aren't sealed products like boxes and cases seen as a good investment?
- Jordan Pollack
Many people do view sealed boxes as a good investment, Jordan! I spent a few months telling people to buy Khans of Tarkir boxes, and that investment seems to be paying off nicely. If your playgroup is still skeptical, though, I understand why. These are the major reasons why some people have soured on the idea of hoarding boxes:
1) Hoarding sealed boxes came into fashion right around the time Return to Ravnica block was released. Those sets didn't live up to their hype, though, and they also marked the end of Magic's era of the player base doubling in size every year. As a result, a lot of people sank a lot of money into boxes of these sets that never really paid off.
2) Eternal Masters boxes were seen as another can't-miss spec, but the fact that it got another print run out of nowhere hurt anyone who spent more than retail on these. For some speculators, this pain is both recent and deep.
3) Shipping a sealed box is way more expensive than shipping a card or two, and if you're used to speculating on the latter, you might not have realized that you have to factor that in when you're calculating your potential profits. It's also just a drag packing those things up and mailing them out.
4) The return on investment for most sealed boxes just isn't that great. Unless you've got a box from the pre-mythic era, you just aren't going to make all that much money flipping sealed product. Even the best sets take forever to shift in price.
All of those complaints aside, I still like sealed boxes as a long-term hold. In terms of a hard financial floor, there is literally nothing in the world of Magic that is a more secure investment. Even if the game implodes tomorrow, sealed product will hold its value. If you're risk-adverse, this is the spec for you. If you're after quick profits, you'd be better off looking elsewhere.