The SCG Elventational and Bant Eldrazi Staples

Score one for the budget guys: Elves won the Star City Games Invitational in Somerset, NJ. While Liam Lonergan’s deck still retails for about $800, almost half of the price is in 4 Cavern of Souls and 3 Horizon Canopy. If you’re tight on cash (or waiting for a reprint, like me) you can get away with some Windswept Heaths and Temple Gardens. I played Elves this weekend to an embarrassing 0-2 drop at a local PPTQ, so I can also remind you that not every deck that wins a tournament is the best one out there.

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Moving forward, we shouldn’t really see any big shifts in the cost of the deck. There is no untapped gem that was just waiting for a breakout performance from Elves to spike. We actually just got a reprint of the most likely card, Heritage Druid, in Eternal Masters. Due to Magic’s increasing popularity over time and how long ago Lorwyn block was, those cards are more likely to be the target of vicious buyouts. Outside of Nettle Sentinel, most of the Elves deck has seen a liberal amount of reprints that has kept the price down.

Thought-Knot SeerDue to the split format of the Invitational, I don’t suggest looking too much into the Top 8 decklists. Even the 7-1 Modern Decklists should be taken with a grain of salt since they ignore players with winning Modern records who didn’t make the cut to Day 2 due to a poor Standard showing. These data are still relevant, of course. But I’m more interested in the Top 8 of the Somerset Modern Open, which was dominated by Bant Eldrazi.

In July Bant Eldrazi pushed into solidly Tier 1 territory, and it’s being championed by a lot of pros. It’s a bit slower than other linear aggro decks like Burn, Zoo, and Affinity, but packs more of a punch in the midgame, and the creature base lines up really well against removal in Modern. Reality Smasher in particular is a nightmare to deal with at parity—I even considered playing some in the sideboard of my Elves deck this weekend because of how miserable removal is for that creature right now. Most of the rest of the creatures are Lightning Bolt-proof, making it a real problem to deal with each threat. Being able to cheat mana with Eldrazi Temple is really just icing on the cake.

Bant Eldrazi Cards to Watch

If we see more players pick up Bant Eldrazi in the wake of its finishes at Somerset, some of the core cards could jump in price. A couple were probably already due for a price correction—higher prices on those cards are likely to stick, even if Bant itself doesn’t take over the metagame. I’m thinking of two in particular.

Cavern of Souls

Cavern of SoulsCavern of Souls continues to push new highs. A big spike last year around the release of Magic Origins brought it from $30 to $50. After the post-spike dip it began climbing again, and now it’s retailing for $55 a copy. Because it’s a land you often play four or none of, it causes a huge strain on the price of decks that need it. Unlike Elves, Eldrazi feels the real pain of fighting Remand and Mana Leak—making sure your five-mana creature doesn’t get countered is important!

I was hoping to see Cavern in Conspiracy: Take the Crown but now that we’ve seen the full spoiler I am disappointed. The most logical place I can see them putting Cavern of Souls is in a Modern Masters 2017 product next summer. The product announcement section during early Kaladesh spoilers will let us know if a redux of the popular reprint series is in the works for next year.

Noble Hierarch

If I asked you which card from Modern Masters 2015 had the biggest price increase since its release, could you pick it? The one with the biggest rebound is Noble Hierarch. I was at GP Las Vegas 2015 and was able to buy a playset for $140 (or about $35 each). Now they are over $50!

Noble HierarchIt’s only been a year since Hierarch was reprinted at rare and a lot has happened to make it grow. Infect has never been more popular since Splinter Twin was banned. Eldrazi adopting it to give them more chances to land a turn two Thought-Knot Seer without double Eldrazi Temple has also ratcheted up the amount of play it sees. Looking at the metagame breakdown it doesn’t look like Hierarch is nearly that dominant, but I’m certain there are far more people playing Infect and Eldrazi who simply aren’t winning. Noble Hierarch is the most played creature on MTGO right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same were true in paper. It’s one of a few that really has a lot of multi-deck appeal.

I’m not sure Wizards of the Coast will be able to curb the enthusiasm for Noble Hierarch with another reprint before it ends up close to the peak of its Conflux version. I also expect more people will be interested in playing Legacy Infect because they recently reprinted Force of Will and Berserk is in Conspiracy 2. While you’re still a few Tropical Islands short of a real Legacy deck, some people might decide Breeding Pool is close enough. Any more stress on Noble Hierarch gives people a real opportunity to cause a nasty spike and then a subsequent crash.

Conspiring in Modern

In addition to the reprint of the much needed Inquisition of Kozilek, we are getting a pretty good number of mid-cost cards that are welcome reprints. These cards should see solid dips in value once Conspiracy: Take the Crown hits the shelves. After things have settled it will be a great time to pick up copies for players who still need their sets. Each of these cards has a proven pedigree, and prices will start inching up again as years pass.

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  • Ghostly Prison
    Ghostly Prison is a rather expensive uncommon sideboard card that is actually very good at fighting multi-creature aggro decks like Affinity and Zoo. The last printing was in 2012 in a Planechase product. After hovering in the $6-7 range for the last few years it recently jumped up to $15ish. Note that this is another avenue for combating Dredge without dedicating sideboard space to a single-purpose narrow card.
  • Birds of Paradise
    Birds of Paradise has been reprinted a ton of times but was recently starting to pick up a nasty price tag. It’s been five years since the last Birds of Paradise reprint in Magic 2012. That doesn’t seem that long until you realize Birds of Paradise was printed 14 times over the first 18 years of the game. Its return in Conspiracy 2 should go a long way to making it a much more affordable Noble Hierarch replacement.

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  • Serum Visions
    After being unexpectedly absent from Modern Masters 2015, Serum Visions is getting another reprint albeit at a higher rarity. This will be a good opportunity for people that prefer the Fifth Dawn Serum Visions art to pick up new copies if you were begrudgingly using FNM ones.
  • Beast Within
    Beast Within is another in a long list of New Phyrexia uncommons posting prices that would surprise the average player. Played in Living End and the RG Land Destruction (or Ponza) deck, this doesn’t see a ton of play in Modern at the moment—but it’s a very versatile card that’s instrumental in the archetypes that do use it. It’s nice that they’re also using the Duel Deck version of the art, which previously has not been available in foil.

Final Thoughts

Conspiracy 2 may not have a ton of high-profile reprints that Modern players have been hoping for, but I think it will do a good job bringing down the price of the ones it does include. Show and TellShow and Tell and Berserk will put a lot of downward pressure on the rares and uncommons in the set. Exciting chase rares like this will drive sales of packs, flooding the market with the less desirable cards that get opened in the process.

This weekend is the triple Grand Prix in Indianapolis, Lille, and Guangzhou. If a dealer is overpaying on a card we could see it fly out of stock on TCGPlayer. If you’re holding out for a weekend to see what’s good, you should probably buy before Thursday.

Finally, I’m still looking for more ideas on topics for this column. What topics of Modern finance interest you the most? Do you want a guide on how to get into Modern from Standard? Do you want an article on best purchasing practices? Leave a comment below on what topics most interest you, and I’ll see you next week!

Jim Casale is a well-established Magic player who has plenty of experience grinding the tournament circuit. He qualified for his first Pro Tour in 2016 and likes to talk about hockey. You can find him on Twitter @Phrost_.

14 thoughts on “The SCG Elventational and Bant Eldrazi Staples

  1. Thank you for another great article Jim. Personally, I’d love to see you cover the concept of the buyout and the recent Martin Shkreli controversy regarding WotC and IIRC Moat, as this sort of action in the MtG market may impact future card purchasing decisions for Modern. While it’s generally more difficult to buy out a card in modern compared to Legacy/Vintage, I at least would find the idea interesting to read about and learn from.

    1. Honestly, the best way to avoid that kind of behavior is to ignore it. Martin didn’t buy a single card and did it mostly to see the reaction of people. Almost every Modern card that gets “bought out” quickly falls unless there is real demand at the new price.

  2. I like finance content that predicts – either the modern playability and value of new cards or finding likely spikes (as you did with this article). Before long well be speculating on mm17 reprints – are we guaranteed liliana and snapcaster? Or should we count on wizards trolling and not reprinting one or the other? Will clique or goyf be back again? Etc.

    Also analysis in general – like what you did here looking at hierarch’s dip and resurgence – do that for more mm1 and mm2 cards – what’s stayed suppressed and whats rebounding? I know its all out there but im sure some of us would prefer a writer do the dirty work of researching and summarizing 😉

      1. While I wouldn’t rule MM17 out, we do have to remember that they would likely do a large scale GP weekend again featuring the product like they did last time. The only one that seems to possibly fit that would be the Richmond/Bologna/Beijing weekend which is 5/5-5/7 (2017). That would put release on that product at 4/28. HOWEVER we can speculate, based on Pro Tour Nashville being 5/12-5/14 (2017) that the set after Aether Revolt will release two weeks priot, which is also 4/28 (as Pro Tours generally are about two weeks after release).

        Based on this, I would expect to NOT see a modern masters set early in 2017. It’s far too late right now to delve into the possibility of it being later in the year, but my guess is that our earliest big reprint set is in 2018 (though hopefully they’ll give us other goodies to tide us over, fingers crossed for a Zendikar fetchland reprint and finishing the cycle of fast lands).

    1. I don’t think we see them being reprinted anytime soon since they’ve got plane specific names. They’re also unlikely to really see any big increases in price unless we get more cards that cost colorless mana because they’re just generally worse than all other available options in Modern. For example, a deck that might play Brushland would probably just play Horizon Canopy instead if they never planned on using the colorless mana.

    1. The problem with that, unfortunately, is that you can’t build an established competitive deck on a budget outside of a couple of tier 3 outliers. I run Mono Blue Tron and that’s on the low end at about $400. That deck I built over a few months, saving up money here and there while also trading out of standard.

      Actually, Jim, that may be a great way to help newer players: identifying good standard cards to sell at any given time that someone may have, and ideal cards to buy in modern either because they are staples in multiple decks or happen to be on a downswing. It’s an idea, anyways.

      1. I think your best bet is to do exactly what this article today did: figure out the good cards (especially reprints) available in any given product and decide if you want to buy them to work towards decks. Many players bought in with the Khans fetchlands as they heavily mitigated the entry cost for modern (to an extent). Snagging things like Serum Visions and Inquisition right now (with Conspiracy) makes a ton of sense, even if you don’t plan to use them quickly. They are that ubiquitous in the format.

    2. Unfortunately Magic costs an amount of money that most would consider substantial. There are definitely ways to save money if you’re patient but you’re unlikely to ever be able to purchase a whole Modern deck for anything less than several hundred dollars.

  3. Modern can be a really pricey format, both for people getting in, buying a new deck, or even upgrading their existing one. The initial cost can be pretty daunting even if in the long run its less expensive than say standard over a few seasons. As a result I really appreciate the (always data driven on modern nexus) financial side of modern and these articles in general.
    One topic I would be interested in reading about that deals with finance is budget articles. Either cards you think are underplayed and therefore underpriced, decks you think are at a low price at the moment but may spike if they resurge. Even budget alternatives (though in many cases there aren’t perfect alternatives which is why the price is so high) to various modern staples could be a big aid in someone trying to start building a deck but without the upfront cash to put it all together. Essentially just rescources for the more budget oriented players in modern.

  4. Hello Jim! I’m also very happy to see Modern Nexus venture into the finance part of the game and have enjoyed your articles so far. My suggestion for content would be a sort of buyer’s guide to building different archetypes. For example, let’s say you’re covering URx decks (you could go deck by deck but using groups where a lot of money cards overlap might be more efficient).

    So, for prospective URx players (Jeskai Control, Grixis Control/Delver, etc), who aren’t in a hurry to pick up all the pieces to their deck, you could give advice on what to pick up right now, which cards are on a downswing (say, Serum Visions) and when they’re likely to hit their floor, which cards are highly likely to be reprinted in the next year (i.e. Snapcaster in MM2017 if it’s a thing), and which cards are unlikely to see a reprint or significant price dip in the next year, i.e. the ones where you’ll have to just bite the bullet and shell out full retail if you want to acquire them in the next year or so. This could really help people who only have “x” amount of money to spend on MTG each month to maximize their buys, or people looking to build a second deck (therefore not in a huge hurry since they own a Modern deck to play with) without breaking the bank.

    Full disclosure, I want to build Jeskai Control as my second deck and this idea is biased by that, but I honestly think it could be a pretty interesting feature and would encourage players to buy smart while building towards the deck they want. Either way, keep up the great work, and I’ll look forward to your next article!

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