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May 14 2014

Wally D.

Solution to the Rising Price of the Modern Format

Hello fellow MTG players and financial consultants. Today’s article is going to start with a serious tone but finish with some light-hearted, far-fetched ideas and solutions. Here is the issue at hand. Wizards of the Coast™ created Modern as a format that is “affordable” for players not interested in Standard and not wanting to invest in the ABUR dual lands needed to build a Legacy deck. As more players begin to take an interest in the newest constructed format, card prices are spiking up at an alarming rate.

I am a firm believer of cards retaining value, and maybe inching up slightly over time, but it seems lately that the MTG Card Market has gone bonkers. Prices seem to be skyrocketing on speculation or by a top 32 appearance at a higher profile tournament or event. More noticeably, once a card’s price is “jacked up”, it rarely ever comes back down to where it once was. This is especially true in Legacy & Modern because they are an “eternal format”. Standard prices are a different beast all their own.

It is time to admit that I do not play Modern, nor do I have any intentions of playing Modern in the near future. So why do I care about the rising cost of cards in this format? Easy Answer. The price of singles in this format (like Fetch Lands) is starting to effect the cost of building new Commander decks. Now that Wizards has created two eternal formats there is now double the chance that Commander caliber cards will see inflation.

Before we get to my solutions, let’s take a closer look at the history of Modern and the issues at hand.

Modern History

Modern Masters Booster BoxLet’s start with a quick history lesson. Modern was created by Wizards of the Coast™ in 2011 as a less expensive alternative to the popular legacy format. Many players showed interest in playing Legacy, however the price of original ABUR dual lands and legacy staples had succeeded that of the common player and tournament participants. Case in point, as of the date of this article a Revised Underground Sea is selling for $349.99 on StarCityGames.com. With Modern, players could play a legacy style format featuring cards from 8th Edition onward. These cards would never rotate out and Wizards has the option to reprint any of the Modern-legal cards. A reprint example is Modern favorite Tarmogoyf appearing in Modern Masters, 2013.

Here we are three years later and let’s take a peak at what has been happening to the price of singles in the Modern format.

The Modern Problem

Scalding Tarn Modern Fetch LandFETCH LANDS: A little over 2 years ago I purchased two copies of Marsh Flats for my legacy deck in preparation of Grand Prix Indianapolis 2012. The price for the PAIR was a comforting $20.00. Today, the Black/White Fetch Lands are $49.99 – EACH. If you want to play any flavor of BLUE in modern, then you are looking at a $79.99 price tag on Scalding Tarn or Misty Rainforest. Fetch Lands in Modern play a similar role to the original duals in Legacy, they are nearly essential to ensure that your deck mana fixes and runs smoothly. So to put together a Modern Deck with just four blue-based fetches, you have a $320.00 investment in the playset.

Do you know what other decks really enjoy the mana fixing power of Fetch Lands? You guessed it kids. EDH/Commander decks.

Unfortunately, Modern Price inflation is not limited to Fetches. As players, we assumed that the printing of Modern Masters would make Modern favorites such as Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant more affordable for those wanting to play the format. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that even though there are now more copies of these two cards available, the price went up not down. Goyf is currently sitting at $199.99 and Dark Confidant $89.99.

FINANCIAL BURDEN: Let’s assume you want to play a Blue/Green or Blue/Green/X modern deck with a playset of fetch lands and a playset of Tarmogoyf’s. For eight cards in your 60 card deck, you are now looking at $1120.00. Still cheaper than legacy, but perhaps finally reaching the outer limit of what Wizards referred to as “affordable to the common tournament participant”. I know that building a Modern deck with Goyf and Fetches has hit the high end of the currency train, but how much longer before alternative cards begin to price themselves out of reach of the average player? Look at Twilight Mire. It was about $15.00 as of January 1st, 2014. Five months later, it has doubled in price at or above $30.00. The default explanation for sharp increases for cards played in Top Tier Modern decks is Modern Season. What I have noticed, however, is once “Modern Season” is over, the cards that spiked in price, don’t seem to come back down.

SIDE NOTE: Trade for Filters and Shocks! They will only go up in value… You’re welcome.

There are of course, a few Modern decks that can be competitive and somewhat affordable. New Modern players could also look at Budget versions of Tier 1 decks. If this interests you, I must refer you to MTG Casual Play Writer Dan Carroll who has put together a wide array of Budget Modern Decks in a column called Yogurt Decks

Solution to High Priced Modern Staples

Possible “Real” Solutions

Here are three solutions that I have found being discussed online by many MTG players like yourself.

  • The most realistic way to keep Modern as an affordable format is by reprinting the Fetch Lands. The best case scenario for Commander/Legacy/Modern players would be to reprint enemy colored fetch lands (as Rares, not Mythics) in either a core set or block set. There is plenty of speculation that the five Zendikar fetches (and possibly the allied colored Onslaught lands) will be reprinted very soon. We can only hope that this will drive prices downward and not maintain or increase.
  • Another solution to Modern card prices could be found in an annual printing of Modern Masters. What a great way for Wizards to reprint key elements of top tier Modern Decks. Heck, let’s make Modern Masters more affordable (NOT $10-$15 a booster pack) and increase production!
  • The final avenue of price fixing could be found in Modern Event Decks by including reprints of top tier staples and “chase” cards. Based on the May 30th, 2014 release of March of the Multitudes, however, this does not look like a solution to the the underlying issues of card prices. The B/W () themed token deck is ready to play right out of the box with a copy of Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Sword of Feast and Famine, and three Path to Exiles but with a $74.99 preorder price tag, I would rather buy singles.

HEADLINE: Commander Player Fixes Modern

Congratulations. I will now reward readers with my solutions to fixing (or morphing) Wizards 3rd rated constructed format. Even though the following ideas are stated in a half-hearted joking manner, you may ponder for a bit and think “Hey… that would actually be really cool!”.

Solution 1 – Bring Back Extended!

What happens when Standard Blocks rotate out? Prices of most cards in that particular block go down. So, let’s change Modern to a Rotating format. Only allowing cards from the last four years or something like that. Wait… that sounds a lot like a format we used to play a long time ago. We called it EXTENDED. What? What kind of a solution is that!? Seriously folks, let’s look at the issue at hand. The problem with Modern is that it is just like Legacy, an eternal format. Therefore, once the prices for Modern legal cards go up, they will always be up, because they never rotate out. However, if Wizards were to dump Modern and bring back Extended as a supported format, then cards would rotate in and out. Once cards rotate out, hopefully, prices go down.

Solution 2 – Modern Highlander!

We can keep Modern as an eternal format, but it is now a Highlander Format! Except for basic lands, you can only have 1 copy of each card in your 60 card Modern deck. That means you can only include 1 Tarmogoyf or 1 Scalding Tarn. If you only have to include one copy of each card, then demand and prices for staples, should go down and the format will be quite different from big brother Legacy. If prices don’t go down? The good news – you only need one copy of a card, not a playset.

Solution 3 – ROTATING DUEL COMMANDER – RDC

My boldest solution yet! Let’s dump modern for a variation of one of the most popular new MTG formats, Commander! This version of Duel Commander could use either the official EDH rules governed by the Rules Committee, Wizards’s Duel Commander French Rules or a combination of the two. It doesn’t matter to me, use your imagination! The great part about Rotating Duel Commander, is that it only has a legal card pool of 4 years (like Extended) but also includes the Commander Sets (and Commander’s Arsenals) released within those four years. The problem with Modern and Legacy is that they are bother eternal formats. Rotating Duel Commander gives Wizards an entirely different play style and since this is a rotating format, casual EDH enthusiasts like myself, will still be able to afford the older staples.

So there you have it. I hope you were entertained with my solutions. What wild and crazy ideas do YOU have for fixing the skyrocketing prices of MTG Singles. Please comment below!

On to the Next!
—wallyd

For more reading:
Wikipedia = MTG Formats
2014 Modern Event Deck
MTG Budget Modern Decks – Yogurt Decks

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Wally D.
Nick Wallace (Wally D.) writes for EDHREC in addition to being an author here on MTGCasualPlay.com. His favorite brews include cool Commander decks with a touch of jankiness and cold, frosty craft beers. In addition to writing articles, Wally D. can also be found playing Commander on the MTG Casual Play YouTube channel.

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