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Modern Masters 2015: Initial Winners and Losers

After months of waiting, speculating, unofficial (and not completely correct) spoilers, and anticipation, the MTG event of the year has finally arrived: it's Modern Masters 2015 spoiler time. As of today, we have the full spoilers available, so we are going to spend some time talking about what is and what is not in the set with a focus on the financial (of course) by discussing some of the initial winners and losers of MM2.  

Loser: Apocalypse Hydra

We spent quite a while talking about reprint rates last week. One of the things we discovered was that over 50 percent of the most valuable cards in Shards block had already been reprinted. Well, with the spoiling of Apocalypse Hydra in Modern Masters 2015, the reprint rate climbs a little bit higher. The biggest problem for Apocalyse Hydra is that it was downgraded to rare which is likely the deathblow for its goal of hitting $10. 

Maybe the best comparison is Adarkar Valkyrie. Neither card sees any tournament play with the angel seeing more play in EDH. I suspect that supply is somewhat similar; Adarkar Valkyrie is a rare, but Coldsnap was extremely under-opened which probably puts it in the same ballpark as a Conflux mythic like Apocalypse Hydra. Upon reprinting in the original Modern Masters, Adarkar Valkyrie started a steady decline from $9 to $5 in the first year and $5 to $3 in the second year before bottoming out at $2 (its current price). This is the future of Apocalypse Hydra; life as a just above bulk mythic. Currently you can still buylist copies for $5 and there is almost no chance that it will be worth more than this a year from now. If you have extras setting around, move them today. If you have copies you are playing in EDH or casual, I wouldn't worry about it. You might end up losing $6 per copy (and maybe only $3-$4 at buylist prices), so the effort probably is not worth the work and loss to your deck. 

Winner: Inkmoth Nexus

Inkmoth Nexus is confirmed not to be in Modern Masters 2015. There were some hints on Monday that this might be the case when Maro stated that they tested Infect as a limited archetype but decided against including it in the set. While this didn't necessarily eliminate Inkmoth Nexus (since it could technically be part of the Metalcraft deck), the spoiling of the Ravnica bouncelands on Wednesday confirmed that the infect land was indeed out of the set based on the collector's numbers. 

As you can see in the price chart, this started a flurry of activity with people buying up copies and the price increasing nearly $5 overnight and another $6 the next day. The card is unlikely to be reprinted in Standard anytime soon and it seems like people have picked this as a safe investment. I tend to think this recent movement is attributable to the finance community more than the player community. All the major vendors I've checked are sold out and there are only a handful of NM copies listed on TCGPlayer, so it's looking like a buyout. 

To me this feels like the ceiling or close to it. While it does see play in both Infect (Modern and Legacy) and Affinity, it's hard to imagine it holding a price higher than the mid-$20's. So while there doesn't seem to be any potential for buying in now, if you held copies you are being rewarded. I was firmly a sell on this one and it still seems odd that Blinkmoth Nexus (another loser) got reprinted again in its place. If you are planning on playing Infect over the next year, there probably isn't much harm in buying in now; the days of the $13 Inkmoth Nexus are over for the foreseeable future.

Losers: White Rares

$ 0.00 $ 0.00   $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Daybreak Coronet is used in exactly one deck: Modern Bogles (Aura Hexproof), which is fine; a card can be a one archetype staple and still hold significant value. The thing is, the archetype has to be good and the card has to have a relatively low supply. Daybreak Coronet has neither of these advantages anymore. Bogles isn't great assuming we judge success by winning or at least placing highly in tournaments. Discounting Magic Online results, the last time the deck won a meaningful event was a 165 Modern Premier IQ in January 2014. In the past 16 months, it has had maybe four top eights at SCG events and a single GP top eight in Vancouver a couple months back. Splinter Twin has put up the same stats, but in the last two months alone. Of course more people play Twin than Bogles, but this is part of the problem - the demand just isn't there for Bogles.

In the past, Daybreak Coronet could get by because Future Sight is old and in low-supply. With the MM2 reprinting, $10 or under seems likely. The scarfed Simba art is horrible unless you are the type of player that is looking for an excuse to sing the Lion King theme song while you're suiting up on Slippery Bogle. Furthermore, the recovery is going to be very slow - if it even happens at all. Speaking of slow recoveries, let's talk about Leyline of Sanctity

Leyline of Sanctity is a powerful and unique card. Its ability to cause Burn to scoop on turn 0 is unprecedented and gives me joy to no end. Unfortunately, it's strictly a sideboard card and like other sideboard cards, its power and playability is really dependent on the metagame. Sure, Burn has been a big player in Modern since Pro Tour Fate Reforged, but that could change. Furthermore, the reprint wasn't really expected, at least not as expected as some of the other inclusions.

This means that people were not necessarily selling off their copies over the past six months in preparation for MM2, so there might not be that many people waiting to buy in. Buylist prices have already (predictably) crashed. Vendors were paying $19 per copy on Wednesday, but by Thursday that number was nearly cut in half. Ebay prices are down to the $15 range for buy-it-now. Basically, it is too late to sell. It may end up falling all the way down to $7, but how much are you really saving at this point? 

I've been arguing all along that selling anything that is likely to be reprinted is the way to go; Leyline of Sanctity provides a good example of this concept. You literally could have sold to a buylist on Wednesday and bought from eBay 48 hours later and made a profit. If you wait another month to buy in or trade for copies at one of the big GPs you'll make even more. Sure, you might end up losing a bit on cards like Inkmoth Nexus, but you don't need to hit every prediction to save yourself some money; 70 percent will do just fine. Pretty much everyone and their mother predicted 70 percent of the mythics correctly in MM2, so it's just a matter of acting on it. 

Winners: Bloodghast

Another seemingly unlikely exclusion from Modern Masters 2015, especially considering the W/B sacrifice theme for limited, Bloodghast is a winner with a big a caveat - it could very well be reprinted in Battle for Zendikar this fall assuming Landfall returns as a mechanic. If this doesn't happen, it's safe to say it has been a very good few months for the recursive vampire, starting with the surprise unbanning of Golgari Grave-Troll which focused players' attention on graveyard strategies, and now beating the reprinting odds on MM2. 

I tend to think a BFZ reprint is unlikely just because Bloodghast seems like it could put Sultai over the top. The combination of Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor is already seeing heavy play, and there is no reason to think this will change when Theros rotates this fall. Throw Bloodghast into the mix, maybe with Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Sidisi, Undead Vizier, and you have one of the grindiest decks I can imagine. I'm not sure if this is how Wizards pictures the next year of Standard. 

If it doesn't show up until MM3 there seems to be time for Bloodghast to grow. While I'm not aggressively targeting copies (mostly because it is only played in fringe decks) it is worth keeping an eye on at the very least. 

Loser - Casual Rares

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

It's been two years since the original Modern Masters was released, and as of today the most expensive casual rare from the set is Grand Arbiter Augustin IV at $4. This represents more than a 60 percent loss - even two years later and without a second reprinting - from its pre-MMA value of $11. Stonehewer Giant is next in line, dropping 50 percent from $5 to $2.50 before climbing back to $3 in recent months. Divinity of Pride got the double-whammy of MMA and Commander 2013 and lost 75 percent. Adarkar Valkryie lost 66 percent from $9 to $3 before it showed up in Commander 2014. This is what the future holds for the casual rares of MM2 - huge decreases and long recoveries. To make matters worse, a year or two from now when Creakwood Liege looks like it is starting to gain some traction, it will show up in a Commander deck, a Duel Deck, or some other random supplemental product. Welcome to financial irrelevancy, casual rares of Modern Masters 2015. 

Winners: People Who Open a Box with Tarmogoyf or Noble Hierarch

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Losers: People Who Open a Box with Comet Storm and Etched Monstrosity

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

While we will talk about this more during the EV article next week, one thing that is clear about Modern Masters 2015 is that there will be a ton of variance in opening sealed product. The smaller box size and higher price means that running bad on your opens (which is very possible) is going to be expensive. Having Remand at uncommon helps a little bit, but still, there are going to be some very pricey bad-beat stories coming out in the next few weeks. 

For me, Comet Storm being in the set at all is embarrassment, and it being mythic is appalling. It has been reprinted multiple times and is the definition of bulk. I realize that not every mythic can be worth $30 and not every rare can be worth $10, but a MM2 mythic should not be $1, nor should it be a card that is both unplayable in every format and on its fourth printing. Sure it can serve a purpose in limited, but I've been playing Tempest Remastered the last few days and Rolling Thunder is an uncommon (and it was originally a common) and everyone is getting along just fine. Hell, I would rather see Earthquake reprinted for the millionth time at rare than have Comet Storm at uncommon. 

Opening a Jugan, the Rising Star in MMA felt bad, but at least is was justifiable as part of a cycle of Magic's most popular tribe, but Comet Storm feels twice as bad, costs a quarter of the price, and is beyond justification. 

To illustrate just how much variance comes into play here, I used a random number generator to simulate the opening 50 booster boxes worth of mythics - $12,000 worth of product at MSRP. On average, opening this many boxes would give us 10 copies of each mythic. Without really thinking about the math, it would seem like 50 boxes would be enough to smooth out the variance right? We'll lets see how it turned out. 

50 MM2 Boxes - Mythics
Card Number Opened
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn 11
Karn Liberated 10
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth 5
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre 10
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite 16
Iona, Shield of Emeria 13
Tezzeret the Seeker 4
Vendilion Clique 5
Bitterblossom 7
Dark Confidant 15
Comet Storm 5
Kiki-Jiki, Mirrorbreaker 11
Primeval Titan 9
Tarmogoyf 13
Mox Opal 16

As you can see, we have numbers as high as 16 and as low as five. It sort of worked out for us since we opened three more Tarmogoyfs than average and five less Comet Storms, but the odds are just as high that these numbers would be reversed. So even if you spend $12,000 on MM2, the variance is still very real. If we look at a more realistic number, for instance five boxes which would cost you about $1,200 and give you one of each mythic on average, the variance is even more problematic. 

5 MM2 Boxes - Mythics
Card Number Opened
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn 1
Karn Liberated 1
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth 0
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre 1
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite 1
Iona, Shield of Emeria 1
Tezzeret the Seeker 1
Vendilion Clique 0
Bitterblossom 0
Dark Confidant 1
Comet Storm 4
Kiki-Jiki, Mirrorbreaker 2
Primeval Titan 2
Tarmogoyf 0
Mox Opal 0

Ouch. Talk about run-bads. This could very well be your booster case, plus the extra box you bought to draft with your friends. There is just no way of knowing. This chart highlights one of the major differences between a set like Modern Masters 2015 and a Standard-legal set, namely that the mean is so much lower for normal sets (and higher for Modern Masters) that even with a lot of good/expensive cards and a solid expected value, the risk of much greater. 

Winners: The Rest of the Non-Reprints

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

I love Goblin Guide at the moment, especially on Magic Online where Mono-Red is pretty much the intro deck into both Modern and Legacy and as a result is almost always played more than it should be. While it could appear in Battle for Zendikar, how many above-average red one-drops can exist in the same Standard format? I'm hoping not too many because Goblin Guide alongside Zurgo Bellstriker and Lightning Berserker seems busted. 

If Serum Visions isn't banned, the sky is the limit. It's the second most played spell in Modern and almost always a four-of. Actually, scratch that. Wizards promised Modern playable FNM promos this summer, so I'm calling it now: the August FNM promo will be Serum Visions. If I'm wrong, this could end up being a $15 common.

The Tron lands are in a weird place. They still seem likely to be reprinted in the not too distance future. The Zendikar versus Eldrazi Duel Deck is one possibility, as is a yet-to-be-announced Modern Event Deck next Spring which some people are speculating could be Tron (my vote is for Infect). If you are going to pick up copies, I would look to Antiquities since there are not that many copies out there and the originals have the best chance of maintaining value once the reprint does occur.

Basically the entire Bloom Titan deck (minus Primeval Titan) dodges the bullet this time around, but a banning isn't completely off the table. Either way, the deck keeps putting up results and it seems unlikely to go away completely until Wizards makes it go away. At the same time, playing the deck optimally is difficult so it might not be something that people flock to even with its new-found safety. Still, it might not hurt to pick up a few copies of Hive Mind and Amulet of Vigor.

Blood Moon is a legit staple which causes too many feel-bads to get reprinted in Standard. There are a bunch of printings, so a massive, sudden spike isn't all that likely, but it should continue to grow over the coming months or years until it is finally reprinted (which could realistically be as far away as the next Modern Masters). If you want to play them, get them now. 

Aven Mindsensor will show up somewhere, maybe not in our current fetchland Standard, but any supplemental product or deck that contains Plains is a possibility. How long it takes to be reprinted is anyone's guess, but for now it remains financially relevant for another few months at least. 


Anyway, that's all for today. What are your first impressions of the set? What's missing? What included that shouldn't be? What are you buying? What are you selling? Let me know in the comments, or you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. I'll be back the beginning of the week with the EV breakdown, but at first glance, I'm cautious. Too much variance and too much risk, but we'll break it all down on Monday. 

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