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Recapping the Craziest Week in MTGFinance: Fate Reforged and Modern

Financially, this is likely the craziest week of the year in Magic. Not only does Fate Reforged drop this weekend, but Modern is trying to find itself after Monday's bannings of Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, and Birthing Pod, with prices of new and former Modern staples either spiking in anticipation of increased play or crashing hard. Today felt like a good day to go over some of the big financial news of the week on both fronts — a time to look back on what has transpired over the past few days while also keeping an eye on the future. Let's begin by talking about Fate Reforged before moving on to a bit of Modern chatter.

Fate Reforged

The release of Fate Reforged has been, without a doubt, overshadowed by the Modern bannings. While this makes perfect sense, it also calls into question why Wizards releases the B&R update when it does (the Monday between a new set's prerelease and release). I understand having the bannings in place alongside a new set to ease the transition, but wouldn't the community (and Wizards) have been better served making the announcement last Monday? This would have made last week all about the bannings and changes to Modern, and would still leave this week for Fate Reforged hype. Willy Edel mentioned this on Twitter, and I tend to agree with him:

According to twitter B/R list hype >>>>>> FRF hype. WotC, please fix it for the next Modern (or any format with possible bans) PT.Thanks

— Willy Edel (@bazardebagda) January 19, 2015

Fate Reforged Movers and Shakers


Crux of Fate


I've been saying for weeks that Crux of Fate is the best sweeper in Fate Reforged Standard. It's interaction with Silumgar, the Drifting Death in UB Control puts it over the top, it should be worth more than $1.99. Well, it seems the community is coming around to this point of view and Crux of Fate is now worth nearly three times its pre-sale low. At the same time, $6 is a lot for a wrath. Supreme Verdict was a four-of  in one of the best decks in RTR Standard and couldn't maintain a price of more than $5. Sure, its price was suppressed from being in the big fall set, and also a buy-a-box promo, but on the other hand, it's hard for me to imagine the current UB Control deck being as heavily played as Sphinx's Revelation UW Control decks last year. As a result I expect Crux of Fate to fall back into the $3-4 range as the set is opened leading up to Dragons of Tarkir. The spring set could make Crux of Fate a lot better (if a dragon tribal deck can use it as a Plague Wind), or much worse (if everyone is playing dragons and it no longer functions as a true wrath). 


Whisperwood Elemental


Unfortunately, I missed the prerelease this past weekend due to my sister winding up on the hospital with a serious allergic reaction to a prescription medication, but the rumblings are that manifest is way better than it looks on paper. This is not really surprising, because pretty much everyone has been in agreement that it is one of those abilities you really need to play to understand. I pegged Whisperwood Elemental as perhaps the highest ceiling/lowest floor mythic of the set, and based on the community experience at the prerelease, the ceiling option seems far more likely. The downside is that the price has already increase 50% in the past four days, and buying it at $11 or $12 is way less appealing than the $6 or $7 you could have paid last week. As such, I can't really recommend taking the plunge at the current price, even though hitting $15 isn't out of the question. 


Tasigur, the Golden Fang

The other big gainer from Fate Reforged is Tasigur, the Golden Fang, who has basically doubled in price over the past week. Apparently the Japanese are big believers in the shaman, having bought it out shortly after it was spoiled. But more recently the community has been split. Kibler called him "likely one of the highest impact cards" in Fate Reforged on Twitter and was supported by Sam Black and Jan van der Vegt, while Jon Loucks and Marshall Sutcliffe came down on the other side, arguing that it would not see Standard play. Nothing against Marshall or Jon, but Sam Black might be the best deck builder in the world, so I'll side with him (and the Asian demand) until proven otherwise. That said, I'm still not sure any of the Fate Reforged rares are going to be worth much more than $5 when Dragons of Tarkir hits the shelves in a couple months. If any rare has a chance to push towards $10, it's probably the one LSV says is "bananas" in Modern.


Soulfire Grand Master

LSV ranked Soulfire Grand Master ahead of Monastery Mentor in his constructed set review. I've been high on Soulfire Grand Master since it was spoiled, but the price will likely continue to drop unless it shows up at the Pro Tour in a couple weeks. If it falls to around $10 this spring, I'll be all over it as a rotation target.


Dark Deal


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

Travis Woo posted a Dark Deal Modern list which looks to curve either Spirit of the Labyrinth or Waste Not into the black Windfall. Even though very few Woo brews end up being tier one (or even tier three), he does have a history of moving the market. Spirit of the Labyrinth, which turns Dark Deal into a Mind Twist, seems like a decent, low-risk pickup. It already sees fringe eternal play and has a staggering 10x foil multiplier. Waste Not has already spiked 50% in the past few days, but it still has some upside. Casual players love their discard, as exemplified by the $3 price tag on the uncommon Liliana's Caress. While there is always a risk of a reprinting, it seems like Waste Not should be more expensive than Liliana's Caress in the long term, and hitting $5+ on the Sanguine Bond track is likely. Plus, once Woo's video of the deck hits CFB, I expect a short term spike.


Monastery Mentor

Craig Wescoe posted not one, but two Modern lists that run Monastery Mentor as a four-of: Black-White Tokens and UWR Tempo. If one of these decks makes a strong showing at the suddenly-wide-open Pro Tour Washington D.C, I expect the Monastery Mentor to spike to $40 or even $50 during the Pro Tour weekend. Remember when True-Name Nemesis dominated a GP right after he was released and hit $45? Or Jace, Architect of Though spiking to almost $50 after Pro Tour Return to Ravnica? Low supply and high demand can cause major spikes and this could be where Monastery Mentor is headed in a couple of weeks. While I still think the odds are against it, I also think the bannings improved the odds significantly since the default best decks are no more.


Humble Defector


$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Finally, Adam Yurchick is building Standard Jeskai Ascendancy with Humble Defector. The problem I see with Humbler Defector is that it's an uncommon and the foils are already $12, which seems crazy. The card isn't an obvious eternal staple like Treasure Cruise or Monastery Swiftspear, so it probably shouldn't be commanding staple prices. Maybe there are eternal applications that I'm not seeing, but I'm firmly in the sell camp on this one. Don't forget, Magic Online redemption will kick in a month from now, so there will be a bunch of these entering the market soon. Ditto for the other premier uncommons like Reality Shift, Dark Deal, and especially Wild Slash, which I believe is just a Shock. What burn deck is going to have a fatty to trigger ferocious for the Skullcrack ability?

Fate Reforged EV Update

I did a full article on the expected value of Fate Reforged last week, so if you want to read up on my methodology and check out a bunch of charts, give it a look. Today, I'll skip all the the boring stuff, and just get right down to the numbers. For those of you who didn't read the last article, the conclusion was that you could expect to open just about $90 of value from a box of Fate Reforged. With the set release in just two days, let's do a quick update on the numbers to see what has changed.

Rarity 1/14 Average Value 1/14 Value Added 1/21 Average Value 1/21 Value Added
Mythic $9.50 $42.73 $9.90 $44.55
Rares $0.74 $23.33 $0.87 $27.41
Bulk n/a $6.55 n/a $6.55
Fetches $10.50 $17.22 $10.30 $16.89
Totals n/a $89.83 n/a $95.40

So there you have it. If you're cracking boxes on Friday, you can expect to open a few more dollars than a week ago, but not really enough to move the needle. It's still a break-even type set at this point (disregarding opportunity costs, time and effort it takes to actually turn cardboard into cash), so don't expect to come out ahead when you open your boxes. At the same time, you shouldn't actually lose much if you want to have some fun cracking pack — assuming you move the card quickly before supply increases. 

Most of the increase in the past week is attributable to the cards we've already talked about, along with a little bump from Torrent Elemental, which was definitely a miss for me. When it was spoiled, I figured it would be the bulk mythic of the set. Then I tried to write an article about Torrent Elemental in Food Chain, only to realize before posting it that it didn't actually work (thanks Twitter). So instead of being the bulk mythic of the set, it ended up being my most punted mythic of the set, which isn't nearly as profitable.




Scion of Ur-Dragon

Since I'm already pushing past 1,500 words, I'll try to keep my Modern thoughts brief and come back in a couple days with more in-depth analysis. Although more related to expectations for Dragons of Tarkir than the B&R announcement, Scion of the Ur-Dragon has been bought out. Most major vendors are out of stock and there are only 26 copies on TCGPlayer. Two days ago, the TCG-mid was about $2 with plenty of copies in stock. Someone decided it was time for a price correction with some flashy new dragons likely in Dragons of Tarkir and bought out the legendary dragon avatar. Today, the mid is up to $5, and even this is deceiving, there is but a single vendor with copies for under $8.98 shipped. While I'm hesitant to buy in late, Sliver Legion is basically the same card from the same block for a slightly less popular tribe, and it's currently pushing $40 for regular copies and $100 for foils. So maybe this is a case of better late than never? 


The New Price of Modern

As far as the bannings are concerned, both the prices and the pros seem to agree that UWR Tempo/Control and Tarmogoyf decks are the big winners. While I like both of these decks and am happy I can play them again (and actually have a chance of winning with them), from a meta-perspective this week's bannings are troubling.

UR Delver, whose power and popularity was largely dependent on Treasure Cruise, was the least expensive Tier-1 Modern deck, even less expensive that Affinity, the go-to answer when a new player asks "what's a good but inexpensive starter deck for Modern." Pod, while by no means cheap, was about average for a Modern deck, with the full list costing just over $700 (same as Scapeshift and just a bit more than Through the Breach and Tron). When you consider Birthing Pod's performance over the past several years, the EV calculation of buying the deck looked even better than its price tag indicated; it gave players a lot of bang (and fun) for the buck. 

Now, assuming the common knowledge is right and UWR, Junk/Jund, and Twin are the big three decks in the format, the barrier to entry into Modern got significantly higher on Monday. Just buying a play set of Tarmogoyf, which are necessary to play not only Junk/Jund, but pretty much every Zoo variant and even many Splinter Twin decks, costs more than buying an entire Birthing Pod or UR Delver list. Actually, you could buy a UR Delver list and build Bloom Titan on the side for less that buying four Tarmogoyfs. Before you start thinking that the answer for new players is to buy a non-Tarmogoyf deck, it's unfortunately not that simple. UWR is actually pretty expensive, costing about $70 more than Pod and nearly double UR Delver. The prices of the key cards of the deck like Restoration Angel, Celestial Colonnade and Geist of Saint Traft are on the rise. 

Basically, this weeks bannings took away two inexpensive top tier options for new Modern players and replaced them with expensive options. In the case of Junk/Jund/Twin, very expensive options. I didn't even mention the loss of confidence the bannings instill in the player base. There are horror stories on the forums and twitter of new Modern players selling their complete Pod decks, even before even getting an opportunity to play with them in some cases!

From the perspective of Pro Tour, or even GP level play, these banning make sense and were probably necessary. But for the health of Modern at the FNM and casual level, this week seems like a sad one for the format. This problem could be fixed if Modern Masters 2015 once again contains Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant and other expensive format staples and is actually printed in a large enough quantity that prices decrease. Maybe this was Wizards' plan all along. If we get another limited release and the prices of format staples stay high (or even increase like last time) Modern might start to die a slow death like Legacy as new players are priced out of the best decks and left with a choice to play something tier two. If you are going to spend Legacy money, you might as well just play Legacy, because Brainstorming is awesome. 

Unlikely Legacy, you can't even feel safe investing in Modern Junk or Jund, because what's to stop your $800 worth of Tarmogoyfs from being banned next year after Junk wins three of the next six Grand Prixes, or from being printed in a summer supplemental product, or yet again in Modern Masters 2016? 

The answer is nothing. Nothing at all. And this is Modern's problem. 

Anyway, that's all for today. What do you think of the state and direction of Modern? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @SaffronOlive. 

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