Modern Myths: Debunking the Format's Biggest Misconceptions
- Hans Davidson
Modern has a lot of things said about it, and I want to tackle in this week's article a few that I find to be myths about the format. I'm calling these four "Modern Myths," and I hope that bringing up these topics will spark a discussion. Do you think you'll agree with these points? Let's dive in and start off with the first one.
1. "Modern needs Counterspell."
Control enthusiasts in the format have asked for Counterspell to be a part of their Modern arsenal as long as anyone can remember. Blue-based control decks, they contend, are underrepresented and need a catchall answer to the various threats that the format presents. In its current state, Modern is a linear format where decks that try to interact face the conundrum of having the wrong answers at the wrong time, and Counterspell would be able to get around this problem.
What exactly would Counterspell do in Modern? I can't say with one hundred percent accuracy, but it's not going to punish the likes of Five-Color Humans, Hollow One, Affinity, and Bogles. These linear aggro decks are built to effectively end the game as early as turn three. The decks that would be punished by Counterspell – the midrange decks of the format – are already struggling as is. While the card would undoubtedly make control decks better, the question is, "Against what?" The answer to the question points to Modern not needing Counterspell.
2. "Standard has been too weak for cards to make an impact in Modern."
Just going back to Battle for Zendikar block, we have the following cards that have made a noticeable impact on Modern:
Battle for Zendikar block: colorless Eldrazi, allied creature-lands, Reflector Mage, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Part the Waterveil, Oath of Nissa, Cinder Glade, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, Kozilek's Return, Natural State, Warping Wail, and Crumble to Dust.
Shadows over Innistrad block: Liliana, the Last Hope, Tireless Tracker, Traverse the Ulvenwald, Collective Brutality, Thalia's Lieutenant, Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror, Prized Amalgam, Grim Flayer, Spell Queller, Bedlam Reveler, Selfless Spirit, Eldritch Evolution, Nahiri, the Harbinger, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, and Blessed Alliance.
Kaladesh block: Fatal Push, enemy fast-lands, Walking Ballista, Baral, Chief of Compliance, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Inventors' Fair, Blossoming Defense, Whir of Invention, Cathartic Reunion, Smuggler's Copter, Spire of Industry Sram, Senior Edificer, and Scrap Trawler
Ixalan block: Field of Ruin, Unclaimed Territory, Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, Kitesail Freebooter, Opt, Settle the Wreckage, Dire Fleet Daredevil, Entrancing Melody, Merfolk Branchwalker, and Merfolk Mistbinder.
I've missed some cards here and there, but I think those are the big ones. In any case, Standard has had a huge say in building and transforming archetypes in Modern, and if this trend is any indication, we'll continue to see Modern shaped by powerful Standard cards.
3. "Jace, the Mind Sculptor will continue to be a non-factor in the format."
When Jace, the Mind Sculptor was unbanned, I was one of the players who felt that blue-based midrange/control decks would swallow up the archetypes and homogenize it. In a strange way Jace did something to the midrange decks of the format, but it had more to do with decks speeding up to beat the fair decks and their powerful four-drops.
With linear decks keeping Jace down, does this mean that the four-mana planeswalker is safe for Modern? I don't think so. At some point, Humans and Hollow One, as well as the other top decks of the format, are going to see a decline in play. Whether that's a huge metagame shift or the printing of new cards that affect the format, Modern has shown historically that it constantly changes. Once midrange and control strategies rise to the top, one of the boogeymen sitting on the throne will be the strongest planeswalker in Magic. The card is too good and too powerful to not be a format mainstay. Only time will tell when it becomes the menace the community predicted it to be.
4. "Modern is cheaper than Standard."
One of the advantages of a non-rotating format that the community touts is the fact that rotation doesn't occur in Modern. While it's true that when players buy cards for Modern, the value of those cards won't drop like stones after twenty-one months, Modern isn't necessarily cheaper than Standard depending on how you play it.
One of the ways to make this happen is through the digital platform Magic Online. Much like paper magic, cards on Magic Online (or MTGO for short) have their own prices and a secondary market to sell and purchase them exist, as well. For example, it costs 185 tickets (the currency in MTGO that translates to roughly $1 per ticket) to purchase Mono-Red Aggro in Standard, according to MTGGoldfish. If you at any point you decided you want to sell the deck – whether in preparation for an upcoming rotation or to buy into a different deck – the secondary market on MTGO would offer you somewhere around 80 to 90% of the deck's cost. If we compare this with playing paper Modern, we get a much different picture. Buying the format's top deck in Five-Color Humans runs you easily over a thousand euros, and if you were to sell the deck as a whole, you would expect to get somewhere around 60 to 70% of the deck's value. Piecing it out via Cardmarket or a Facebook group would up those numbers, but that also means waiting for those cards to sell before you can trade into another deck. Playing Modern on MTGO would expedite the trading and selling process, but Modern cards have lower buylist prices across the board compared to Standard. You could expect to get 70 or 75% of the cards' value, but if you're planning on switching decks (because of a shifting meta or personal taste), the cost of Modern does tally up. The compounding factor in all of this, additionally, is how much more expensive Modern cards have become in paper and how many of the format's most important and fringe cards have failed to see a reprint in the past year.
This leads us to the point about the rising costs of Modern: when will the bubble burst? At a certain point, players will have easy enough access to Standard on the cheap that they will roll their eyes at having to pay an upwards of a thousand euros or more just to play a deck in Modern. A format needs new blood to continue to thrive, and Wizards is making Standard more accessible while ignoring much-needed reprints for Modern. This worries me about the format's health in the future.
That's all for this week – do you agree with these as "Modern myths"? Are there any that I may have missed? Leave a comment below to let me know!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.