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Iconic Masters Pickups for Modern


While it's possible that Iconic Masters will be different, since the supply seems to be high and the set is being sold at Walmart and Target, generally Masters sets work like this: Wizards reprints a bunch of cards, and these cards hit their floor a month or two after the set releases. They stay low for somewhere between four and six months before starting to increase again. A year or two after the set is released, assuming the cards haven't been reprinted again, the chase cards are often close to the same price as they were before the reprinting. Essentially, Masters sets end up being a six-month-long sale on format staples.

Considering the supply of Iconic Masters specifically, it seems likely that most of the cards in the set have yet to reach their floor, although we are already seeing deep discounts on a lot of cards that are important to Modern. In fact, right now, the average rare or mythic from Iconic Masters is about 50% less than it was before it was reprinted, which represents a massive savings for players. With a Modern Pro Tour on the way in February, which has the potential to increase interest in the format (especially since the format is cheaper today than it was in the past, which means buying into the format is less of a pipe dream and more of a realistic option for a larger group of players), right now, the beginning to middle of January is looking like the perfect time to pick up cards from Iconic Masters for Modern. This is before the Modern Pro Tour, which could spike prices on staples and will be right in the middle of Rivals of Ixalan spoiler season, meaning that the community will be temporarily focused on non-Modern formats. Of course, picking up cards today isn't a horrible plan either because we're already seeing huge discounts on a lot of important cards. 

Even at a discount, Modern cards can be expensive, and Magic budgets are limited, so today we are going to take a few minutes to talk about some of the best Iconic Masters cards to pick up if your goal is to build a Modern collection and play the Modern format. While we will talk about some cards that only go in one specific deck, our primary plan will be to look for cards that go into multiple archetypes. While owning Scapeshift is great, it only really lets you play one deck, while having copies of Thoughtseize in your collection will open the doors to playing almost any black deck in Modern!

Archetype Staples

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Let's start by talking about a handful of archetype staples. These are cards that are extremely important but only to one specific deck. This means the wisdom of picking up these cards during the Iconic Masters sale depends 100% on your goals. If you want to play Soul Sisters / Martyr Proc, Serra Ascendant is probably the single best card you can buy from Iconic Masters. The same is true of Primeval Titan if your goal is to build Titan Shift, Oblivion Stone if you want to play Tron, and Glimpse the Unthinkable if you are a huge fan of Mill in Modern. On the other hand, if you aren't interested in these decks (or are interested in growing a good, well-rounded Modern collection rather than building toward a specific deck), all of these cards would be in the ignore list (see the end of the article). 

The big takeaway here is to think before you buy. While there are a handful of cards from Iconic Masters that you should have in your Modern collection no matter what, there are also a lot of cards that are relatively useless in a broad sense but extremely useful if you goal is to play a very specific deck or subset of decks. Deciding on your goals before clicking the "buy now" button is one of the best ways to stretch a finite Magic budget.

Staples

Horizon Canopy (59% off)

Horizon Canopy looks like one of the best buys from Iconic Masters for Modern players. It shows up in a ton of Modern decks and is only $35; it was nearly $100 before it was reprinted, making it one of the biggest price drops in the entire set. However, picking up Horizon Canopy isn't as obvious as it may seem at first glance. 

Let's say you are a new-to-Modern player looking to build a collection with the help of the Iconic Masters discounts. Horizon Canopy is one of the worst buys in the set because you don't actually need it to play any deck. While it's good in a bunch of different decks as a one- or two-of, there isn't a single deck in Modern that can't function without Horizon Canopy (discounting some weird Life from the Loam deck that I'm not thinking of at the moment).

On the other hand, Horizon Canopy is one of the best buys in the set if you already have the foundation of a Modern collection and your goal is to optimize some of your current decks because running a couple of copies will improve Bogles, Humans, Collected Company decks, Taxes decks, and a bunch of others.

Considering that Horizon Canopy was $100 thanks to low supply rather than high demand, I have a hard time imagining that it climbs back close to $100 in the near future, so think through your situation before buying copies. If you already have a decent Modern collection and are looking to push some of your decks over the top, pick up your Horizon Canopies while they are on sale, but if you are just getting started in Modern, your limited Magic budget will be better spent on more important cards from Iconic Masters.

Bloodghast (59% off)

Bloodghast is a strange card. While it is currently at a huge discount, it isn't an ultra-staple like some of the other cards on our list. On the other hand, it does show up in a wider range of decks than the archetype staples we talked about before, which puts Bloodghast in a weird middle ground. If you like graveyard decks, Bloodghast is a great card to have in your collection. It sees play in Dredge, some Hollow One decks, and some interesting fringe decks like Smallpox and also gives you the opportunity to build odd tribal decks like Five-Color Spirits or Vampires.

Whether or not you build buy Bloodghast depends on your goals and collection. If you are interested in playing graveyard-based decks, you should certainly take the plunge, but if your goal is just to fill out your collection with staples that you'll use in a ton of decks, Bloodghast ranks in the second tier of options from Iconic Masters because it fits into a relatively small group of decks and doesn't have a tier home at the moment. 

Aether Vial (33% off)

Aether Vial was creeping up to near $50 before it was reprinted in Iconic Masters, and TCG Mid is only $33 today, which means you're getting a 33% discount on a card that forms the foundation of a bunch of popular decks in Modern. While the traditional home of the artifact is Merfolk (which could be due for an increase in popularity, since the tribe is getting more support and potentially some powerful reprints in Rivals of Ixalan), various Taxes decks (Eldrazi and Taxes, Death and Taxes, GW Taxes) and the Five-Color Humans deck all rely on the artifact to flood the board with threats and to support instant-speed creature shenanigans, and this doesn't even consider the more fringe decks (like Eternal Command) that use Aether Vial. The hidden mode of Aether Vial is that it's a great brew-around-me card, enabling crazy, fun decks like the Intruder Alarm Combo brew, which I first saw on Conley Woods' stream.

Mishra's Bauble (85% off)

Mishra's Bauble is a hard card to figure out. Unlike past chase uncommons like Path to Exile and Remand, which are usually among the 10 or 20 most played cards in Modern, Mishra's Bauble doesn't even show up in the top 50, which makes me think it's probably still overpriced at $5. While the discount is huge at 85%, the reason Mishra's Bauble was priced so high before it was reprinted is because its only printing was the notoriously low-supply Coldsnap, and with the amount of Iconic Masters on the market, it doesn't seem unreasonable for the artifact to end up somewhere between $2 and $3.

As far as play, the main homes for Mishra's Bauble are Lantern Control and some specific builds of Death's Shadow, although it's certainly possible for it to become more important in the future. We've seen delirium and delve strategies that are pretty close to having success in the format, and if one of these decks actually breaks out (perhaps at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan), having a zero-mana artifact in the graveyard that doesn't cost a card will likely be a big part of the reason why. If you want to play a deck that needs Mishra's Bauble, go ahead and pick up your copies; otherwise, I'll be waiting to see how low it goes, with the plan being to pick up some copies when they are at their floor, just in case a Mishra's Bauble deck ends up breaking the format in the future.

Cryptic Command (39% off)

Dropping from $33 to around $20 with the Iconic Masters reprinting, Cryptic Command is your doorway to playing control decks in Modern. While there are a ton of different builds and color combinations of control in the format—UW, Jeskai, UB, Sultai, UR—the one thing that they all have in common is Cryptic Command, while you'll also put your copies to use in decks like Eternal Command and potentially some tempo builds like Faeries or Spirits as well. 

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It's interesting to note that while Ancestral Vision is currently discounted even more than Cryptic Command and might seem like a better buy if your goal is to build a collection to play Modern control, the sorcery isn't actually played in very many decks. Right now, Cryptic Command shows up in more than 100 Modern decks in the MTGGoldfish database, while Ancestral Vision only shows up in seven.

On the other hand, if you are going to buy Cryptic Command, you might as well pick up Supreme Verdict (about 50% off at the moment) as well, since the two often show up side by side in UW and Jeskai Control. While Cryptic Command is the more important of the two, since it shows up in non-Supreme Verdict decks as well, the wrath is a great low-cost add-on if you find yourself buying Cryptic Commands to build into Modern control. 

Thoughtseize (34% off)

While I'm be holding out hope that Thoughtseize drops down to around $10 over the next month or two, even at its current $15 price tag, the one-mana sorcery is the single best pickup from Iconic Masters. Right now, it is the fourth most played card in the Modern format (and the most heavily played rare, since the cards in front of it are relatively cheap commons and uncommons like Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile). Thoughtseize goes into just about every black deck in the format and, when combined with Inquisition of Kozilek (which itself is still fairly cheap from the Conspiracy 2 reprinting last summer), is the primary reason to play the color black in Modern. It enables tier decks like Death's Shadow, Abzan, and Jund while also being a cheat code that allows janky, Against the Odds-style decks to work in the format. 

If your goal is to get into Modern (and you don't have the cards already), the single best buy you can make during the Iconic Masters sale is to pick up a playset of Thoughtseize and a playset of Inquisition of Kozilek. You'll use these cards in a ton of different decks, and there simply aren't good replacements available in the format (not to mention that both Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are so good that it's almost impossible they are ever beaten out by better cards printed in the future, so you are unlikely to find yourself in a Tarmogoyf situation where your big purchase is outclassed and no longer optimal in the format). Basically, Thoughtseize is the Force of Will of Modern, and you need a playset in your collection if you plan on playing the format.

Cards to Ignore

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Grove of the Burnwillows simply isn't that important to Modern at the moment (it's actually much more important to Legacy, where Punishing Fire is legal). Tron decks played it in the past, but with more and more players moving toward Eldrazi Tron or GB Tron, Grove of the Burnwillows doesn't really have a home in Modern. If you goal is to build a Modern collection, you're better off looking elsewhere during the sale (although getting Grove of the Burnwillows at a discount is a good idea if you want to jump into Legacy Lands or Loam).

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As much as it pains me to say this, because I love Blood Mooning people more than just about anything in Magic, unless you are looking to invest in Free-Win Red, there really isn't a reason to pick up Magus of the Moon, since it doesn't actually see much play in Modern. While a lot of decks use Blood Moon, a much smaller group takes advantage of the creature version of Blood Moon. While having one copy around in case you want to play it as a tutor target in a Chord of Calling, Eldritch Evolution, or Collected Company deck makes sense, apart from Free-Win Red specifically, you don't really need to have a playset in your collection.

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There was a time when Auriok Champion saw a lot of play in Modern in various Soul Sisters builds, but at this point, she doesn't see much play at all. In fact, the only Modern deck in the Goldfish database with Auriok Champion is Abzan Eldrazi, which occasionally plays the two-drop as a sideboard card to fight aggressive decks. Picking up a playset is fine if you're interested in building Soul Sisters (although perhaps not necessary, since many builds use Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant instead); otherwise, you're better off spending the $6.50 a copy you'd put toward Auriok Champion on some of the other cards we've been talking about.

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In general, apart from the cards we've been talking about, the mythics of Iconic Masters should be ignored if the goal is to build a Modern collection. Consecrated Sphinx shows up extremely rarely, Archangel of Thune used to be a staple but has mostly been replaced by cheaper combo pieces (like Vizier of Remedies), and the Praetors are essentially unplayed in the Modern format (with the exception of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, which occasionally shows up as a one-of reanimation target, so picking up a single copy to having sitting around might not be a bad idea). 

This isn't to make it sound as if the mythics of Iconic Masters are bad. While our focus today is on Modern, it's worth mentioning that nearly all of the mythics are ultra-staples in Commander. If your goal is to buff your Commander collection and you aren't especially interested in playing Modern, all of the Praetors and Consecrated Sphinx are snap buys during the Iconic Masters sale. 

Other Stuff

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Finally, Iconic Masters has a ton of cards in the $0.50–$2.00 range that are great for rounding out Modern collections. Cards like Restoration Angel, Anger of the Gods, and Obstinate Baloth all show up in competitive Modern decks from time to time, and for just above bulk price, it can't hurt to have a playset in your collection. However, there really isn't a big rush to buy in when it comes to these cards. Cards that are near bulk and have been reprinted multiple times are unlikely to increase much in price for a long, long time. While it's possible some of the other cards we talked about today end up spiking because of the Modern Pro Tour, cards like Restoration Angel and Obstinate Baloth are more or less spike-proof for the immediate future. Because of this, it's probably better to focus on buying the cards that could increase in price first and pick up the cheaper cards to fill our your collection as your budget permits. All of these cards are also great add-ons if you are buying some of the more expensive staples we talked about earlier. If your already buying $80 of Cryptic Command, considering tossing $5 of Restoration Angels into the cart as well to save on shipping and to give you more flexibility when building around your shiny new Cryptic Commands. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. While Iconic Masters isn't the best Masters set we've seen for Modern, it has done an amazing job of decreasing prices on the staples that are in the set, with all of the chase cards being at least 30% less than they were before they were reprinted and many being 60% or even 85% off their previous price. Take advantage of the Iconic Masters sale if you're looking to grow your Modern collection or buy into the format for the first time. With a Modern Pro Tour on the horizon, there's no guarantee that these prices will last over the long term (although they should for several months at least, if history holds true). 

Are you going to buy any Iconic Masters singles? Build new Modern decks thanks to these cheap prices? 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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