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How Much Will the Shock Land Reprinting Help Modern?


Last week at PAX, we got our first look at Guilds of Ravnica, and while the new cards are sweet and the Mythic Edition planeswalkers are controversial, perhaps the most exciting news to come from the event was the announcement that shock lands would be reprinted in the set. While this isn't completely unexpected, it is welcome news, especially for Modern players growing tired of expensive decks and cards. The shock lands rank second to the fetch lands in terms of play in the Modern format, and thanks to the Guilds of Ravnica reprintings driving down prices, some Modern players are expecting their favorite format to get cheaper as a result. Although many current Modern players likely already have their shock lands, Guilds of Ravnica will give new players a window to buy into the cycle for the first time at a discounted price, while also giving current players a chance to fill out their collection while they lands are on sale.

As such, our question for today is pretty simple: just how much will the shock lands reprinting reduce the cost of Modern? To figure this out, we need to look at a few different things. First, we need to determine just how expensive shock lands are now, pre-reprinting. Then, we need to make a guess at how expensive shock lands will be after the fresh Guilds of Ravnica copies hit the market. Finally, we need to examine the Modern format to see just how many shock lands are played in popular decks. Let's start at the beginning, with the current price of shock lands.

Current Shock Land Prices

Right now, the cost of shocks is fairly consistent, ranging from just under $9 for Hallowed Fountain to just over $17 for Stomping Ground, with most of the lands bunched up in the middle in the $12–15 price range. This leaves us with an average cost of $13.22. While certainly not cheap, their price tag is far less than the fetch lands and even some weird utility lands.

 

One of the weird quirks of shock land prices is that, in general, the shock lands from Return to Ravnica are less expensive than the shock lands from Gatecrash, suggesting that Return to Ravnica was the most heavily opened set (a fairly safe assumption, considering the fall set is usually more hyped and heavily marketed than the winter set), leaving the shock lands from the set with somewhat higher supply. While the difference isn't massive, it is noteworthy. Right now, the average cost of a Return to Ravnica shock land is $11.60, while a Gatecrash shock land is $14.84—a 22% increase. While it's possible that things will be slightly different this time around, considering this is the third time the shock lands are being reprinted, it's still a fairly safe bet that over the long term, the shock lands that come in Ravnica Allegiance this winter will be worth a bit more thanks to differences in supply. 

Shock Lands' Standard Prices

Last time shock lands were in Standard, their prices were very consistent, with most being about $8–9 and some touching as low as $7. Sacred Foundry was the only shock land that didn't drop below $10 at some point during its life in Standard. Considering that the Guilds of Ravnica reprinting is the third rather than the second, it's safe to assume that shock lands will be even cheaper this time around, since there will be more total supply on the market. While the exact price is up for debate, I've seen a lot of predictions of shock lands in the $5 range, and it's hard to disagree; seeing the average drop to the $5–6 range wouldn't be surprising. 

While our primary focus today is on Modern, these prices are also good news for Standard players. Some people are concerned that having shocks in Standard will increase deck prices, and while the mana base of an optimal Standard deck might be very slightly more expensive than it was in the past, the fast lands were in the $5 to $7 range for most of their life in Standard, and it seems unlikely that the shock lands will be significantly more expensive. As such, Standard mana bases should cost roughly the same as they have over the past year, assuming there are no crazy utility lands in Guilds of Ravnica to drive up prices. 

Of course, shock lands aren't $5 yet. Based on the prices of the Return to Ravnica shock lands, we can get a pretty good idea of when is the best time to buy your shock lands. For the shock lands that were reprinted in Return to Ravnica (the fall set), most hit a floor after the winter set was released, bounced around a bit through the next year, and then hit another floor the following January. Meanwhile, the shock lands from Gatecrash (the winter set) hit a floor right after the spring set (although this was partly because Dragon's Maze—the spring set—had more shock lands in the land slot) and then again the following winter, at the same time as the Return to Ravnica shock lands. 

More importantly, people understand how important shock lands are to Modern, so at least with the Return to Ravnica block versions, the cards didn't crash at rotation. The January floor—nine months before rotation—was roughly the same price at and after rotation. As such, waiting two years until Guilds of Ravnica rotates to pick up your lands isn't likely to yield much better results than picking them up earlier. In fact, with the Return to Ravnica shock lands, if you had waited until spring after the winter set was released and bought an entire set of 20, it would have cost you almost exactly the same as if you had waited until rotation to pick up your shock lands. While you certainly shouldn't preorder your shock lands (unless you absolutely need them to play Standard), you also don't need to wait until rotation. Just wait until a month or two after Ravnica Allegiance is released this winter, and you should get just as good of a deal (and have shock lands to play with for an extra 18 months). 

Shocks in Modern

Lands in Modern
Deck Shocks Fetch Lands
Humans 0 0
UW Control 3 6
Naya Burn 4 10
Tron 0 0
Hollow One 3 8
Storm 4 0
Bant Spirits 4 9
Grixis Death's Shadow 5 11
Hardened Scales 0 0
Jund 4 8
Mardu Pyromancer 3 7
Ironworks 0 0
Affinity 0 0
RB Vengevine 4 8
Jeskai Control 5 8
Infect 2 9

So far, we've seen that shock lands are currently just over $13 and predicted that when shocks hit their floor in a few months, they will be somewhere in the $5–6 range, basically cutting about $8 off the price of an average shock land. While $8 might not sound like a ton, if you look at it in terms of percentages, it amounts to a roughly 60% decrease in the price of shock lands, which is huge. When you combine that with the fact that shock lands are the second most played and most important land cycle in Modern, this should have a meaningful impact on the cost of Modern decks, right? 

Unfortunately, the idea that reprinting shock lands is going to help Modern players in a meaningful way is overblown. While it is certainly beneficial to new players and will hopefully encourage people to buy into the format for the first time, if you really dig into shock lands in Modern, you'll find that having shock lands go from $13 to $5 actually does almost nothing to the cost of a Modern deck. The problem is that while shock lands are played in most decks, they aren't played in high numbers. If you go through all of the heavily played decks in the Modern format and count the number of shock lands each deck plays, even if you discount decks like Affinity and Tron that have unique shock land-free mana bases, you find that most decks play three or four, and even Death's Shadow (which is built around losing life with its lands) only plays five. 

Out of the 16 most played decks in Modern (seen in the chart above), five don't play fetch lands or shock lands, and one (Storm) plays shock lands but no fetch lands (although this varies, as some builds of Storm do play fetch lands). Discounting those six decks at outliers, this leaves us with 10 decks playing the traditional fetch lands-for-shock land mana base. Those decks have an average of 3.7 shock lands but 8.4 fetch lands. Combine this with the fact that fetch lands are more expensive than shock lands, and it becomes clear that having $5 shock lands (or even free shock lands, although that's not possible) doesn't actually do much to the average cost of a deck in the Modern format.

Let's take Death's Shadow—the most shock-land-heavy tier deck in the Modern format—as an example. Based on our numbers, the five shock lands will drop from $13 to $5 based on the Guilds of Ravnica block reprinting. This takes $40 off the cost of the deck. The problem is that Death's Shadow costs $1,109 to build, which means the shock land discount makes the deck 3.6% cheaper—barely enough to keep up with inflation. Is a new player who finds Death's Shadow too expensive at $1,109 going to take the plunge at $1,079? It seems unlikely. And remember, Death's Shadow is the tier deck that benefits most from shock lands being reprinted. If you look at decks that only play three or four shock lands, the discount is even smaller. 

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The point is that the shock land reprinting doesn't actually do much of anything when it comes to players looking to buy a Modern deck for the first time. In some ways, it's similar to the random Legacy reprints we get in Masters sets and supplemental products. Sure, it's nice that Berserk and Show and Tell are cheaper, but all of the cheap Berserks in the world can't fix the problem of $600 Underground Seas. In Modern, at least right now, the fetch lands are the original dual lands—they are the cards that are making decks so expensive and the cards that need to be reprinted the most. While Modern decks might play four shocks, they often play eight or even (in some extreme cases) 12 fetch lands, making the price of fetch lands magnitudes more important to the overall price of Modern decks.

While this might sound harsh, it shouldn't diminish the excitement for the shock land reprint. The cost of any individual deck is only one perspective. Since the shock lands are played across decks, being able to pick up a playset of the entire cycle on the cheap will give players access to the foundation of a lot of decks, granting a discount on building most of the decks in the format. Even by this metric, the shock lands are still far less important than the fetch lands, but it's also true that having access to a playset of each shock land does open up a lot of Modern deck-building opportunities that players would otherwise be missing. As such, if you don't already have your shock lands and have any interest in playing the format, either now or in the future, you should certainly pick up at least three copies of each (and preferably a playset of each) while they are cheap from the Guilds of Ravnica reprinting

Wrap-Up

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While the shock lands are exciting reprints, both for Standard and for Modern, and having the cycle be cheaper is a great thing for players, when it comes right down to it, the reprinting of the shock lands doesn't really do all that much to make Modern decks cheaper. While every little bit helps, the fact that most Modern decks play only a small number of shock lands and a lot of fetch lands to tutor out the shock lands means that the total cost of any individual deck won't change much, even with shock lands likely losing more than half of their value upon reprinting.

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This being said, a savvy player will take advantage of the shock land reprinting and make sure to come away with a full playset of the cycle for future Modern play and for casual formats like Commander and Cube. While you don't need to wait all the way until rotation to get a good price, you should try to wait until after Ravnica Alliance for supply to hit the market and drive down prices to get the best deal on your shock lands. Picking up what you need to play Standard for the next few months is fine—you'll pay a bit extra compared to waiting, but it will likely be worth it to have a functioning Standard deck right away. On the other hand, for shocks that you don't need immediately for Standard, wait until March to complete your set. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What do you think of the shock land reprinting? Are the lands going to get you into Modern for the first time? Do you already have your set? What prices do you expect while the lands are in Standard? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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