Modern Season and You

Written by Corbin Hosler on . Posted in Finance, Magic Culture

Modern Season and You

Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in the hotbed of Magic that is Oklahoma. He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at QuietSpeculation.com and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net.

The other day I was talking with someone about the success of League of Legends Worlds. League of Legends is the most popular video game in the world right now — the first-place prize at Worlds was a million dollars.

We were talking about how much coverage the event had and what it would take for “e-sports” to become something you could actually watch on television, including Magic. There are a host of things standing in the way, of course, but one of them is the concept of the “season.” Professional sports are structured so the leagues all play nice with each other and don’t occupy too much of the same time.

And, of course, a game like Magic doesn’t even have seasons. Sure, they arbitrarily mark the end of the “season” somewhere as far as points, but there’s not really any real “season” that means anything significant.

Or is there?

You often hear people refer to “Standard season” or “Modern season,” but it doesn’t really mean much. It’s not like there aren’t Modern events throughout the year, and we all know Standard is played year-round. If you’re strictly a player, that mostly holds true. But as a trader, the “seasons” of Magic are critically important.

Why Seasons Matter

Let’s flash back a few years ago. Extended was a seven-year rotating format, and basically no one liked it. They put up with it because it was the PTQ season, but certainly no one played it outside of the PTQ circuit. Along with the rotation of the format every year, people had no reason to hold onto the cards after the season was complete.

This led to a situation where people were dumping all their Extended cards as soon as they could. They didn’t need them anymore, and everyone went back to not caring about Extended. Throw in the fact that significantly fewer people were into the “financial” side of Magic back then, and this created the easiest money you could ever make as a trader.

See, there was a little secret.

Even though people hated Extended, they did not hate playing in PTQs. They needed the cards every year.

And there were staples of the format that were easy to predict, such as the staple lands or whatever archetypes didn’t lose much to rotation. As soon as Extended season ended, traders would start picking up all of these staples, and they’d be in demand again just a few months later.

Because of basic supply and demand principles, the prices on these cards would all drop during the “offseason” but double or more come PTQ time. You might think people would understand this and not dump their cards, but in practice it just doesn’t work that way. People either need money or they need other cards, and they trade away stuff they know could go back up later. We see this happen all the time now with Magic Online.

Modern Season

When Modern was new last year, a lot of people looked at it as the “new Extended.” That is, a format that they’ll play because they have to, but they won’t really like it. But in practice, that’s far from the truth. These seasons of change still exist. Modern is played more-or-less year-round, not just during one PTQ season. But the PTQ season is still the biggest driver of demand for the format.

And with the infusion of Shocklands making the format more accessible than ever, demand in a few months is going to be higher than its ever been for Modern. So what does this mean for you? What’s the point of talking about Modern PTQ season when it’s still months away?

Because now is the time to act.

You should be holding onto whatever Modern cards you have rather than trade them away. And you should be aggressively tracking down Modern cards in trades. Prices are low right now, but in a few months when everyone needs cards to finish off their Modern deck for the PTQ you want to be the one holding all the cards, literally.

Being a good trader isn’t always about making big margins on every trade, nor is it about gathering 3,000 of a card like Séance and then Top 8’ing Michigan States to prove it’s a real card (Ryan Bushard or @crypplecommand, for those wondering). While these moves are certainly fine and are more flashy, it’s not the full story.

A lot of the work I do as a trader is flipping collections or individual trades for small margins, and this type of “seasonal spec” is a big part of that. Returns aren’t always huge, but they are safe and steady.

Top targets

The great thing about Modern is that while it’s still a pretty open format, there are some defined decks that give us targets. Jund, Geist of Saint Traft decks and Delver of Secrets decks are not going anywhere.

And that gives us some room to work. Let’s look at some of the cards I feel are very safe investments for Modern right now, and that I expect to climb during Modern season, even if it’s only a few bucks.

Fetchlands: Scalding Tarn and Misty Rainforest, especially. Scalding Tarn was actually the most played card recently among 4-0 decks in Daily Events, according to Aaron Forsythe. You can find these for around $16-18 right now across the Internet. I think it’s safe to say they won’t be available for less than $20 come PTQ season.

I’m always glad I caught this boat back in the day when these were heading out of Standard. I now have a stash of about 75 of the pair. I’m not saying you should go that extreme (especially at the current price), but stocking up on these is never going to be a bad idea.

Cryptic Command: Based on the way things have evolved, we really haven’t seen the Cryptic Command deck, but it could very well be the UG Scapeshift decks now that Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is back. Either way, this is unlikely to be reprinted in Standard and will probably be worth more than the $15 it currently is.

Path to Exile: Whether it’s a Delver deck, a control deck, or anything in between, Path is a huge part of the format. Multiple printings of this have kept it from reaching Kitchen Finks levels of $8-10, but you can find it for less than $5 on Legit MTG, which won’t be the case forever.

Scars Fastlands: This has been my biggest target over the last few weeks. Everyone is dumping theirs because of rotation, and that creates a floor for the price. Remember what I said about Zendikar fetches? These aren’t quite as good of a target since they don’t see Legacy play, but they’re not that far off.

I’ve been going mostly for Blackcleave Cliffs because it’s played in the most decks, with Seachrome Coast a close second. There’s realistically no way these aren’t both $5-plus come PTQ season, so picking them up for a few bucks in trades is just easy money.

Remand and Spell Snare: In what have basically become the go-to counters of the format, the prices on these are only vulnerable to reprinting. Remand is down to about $5 while Spell Snare is hovering just below $10. Both have some room to climb.

There’s a ton more we could look at because Modern is a big format, but that’s more than enough to get you going. I’m extremely confident in all of these picks. Make sure to watch the Modern Pro Tour closely this week to see what new cards we might be adding to this list!

Thanks for reading,
Corbin Hosler
@Chosler88

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