Modern Whirrings

Who is ready for "the ultimate mix of mind-numbing boredom with really difficult gameplay decisions"?

Tomorrow the World Magic Cup will commence in Nice. While this event may or may not reveal relevant Standard tech due to featuring the Unified Standard format, it will most likely be fun to watch (after the first three boring rounds of Team Sealed). Players of a team may not have copies of the same card in their decks (other than basic land). They can not even split the 4 available copies among decks, which will also be quite relevant for sideboards.

So the decks won't just get copy-pasted for regular Standard play, but the restrictions will enforce players to get creative. Maybe some tech cards can be uncovered that way, which end up shaking up Standard in a different shell?

We will have to wait and see. Let's look at some Modern developments in the meantime instead:

Re-invented Lantern

A few days ago I wrote about the new chance of control decks becoming relevant in high level Modern play. In a way there already was a control deck, although I would prefer the term lock deck for it instead. That term might be unknown to newer players though because Wizards design team tried to make lock decks unplayable for many years stating they weren't fun to play against.

Thanks to the Lantern of Insight deck the archetype came back to light in Modern though, and it has been evolving since the advent of Whir of Invention. Here is a successful sample list from Magic Online:

4 Codex Shredder

3 Ensnaring Bridge

1 Ghoulcaller's Bell

1 Grafdigger's Cage

4 Lantern of Insight

4 Mishra's Bauble

2 Pithing Needle

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

1 Pyxis of Pandemonium

1 Witchbane Orb

4 Mox Opal

1 Abrupt Decay

4 Whir of Invention

4 Ancient Stirrings

4 Inquisition of Kozilek

3 Thoughtseize

1 Island

3 Botanical Sanctum

3 Darkslick Shores

4 Glimmervoid

1 River of Tears

4 Spire of Industry

1 Academy Ruins

1 Inventors' Fair


1 Grafdigger's Cage

1 Pithing Needle

2 Welding Jar

2 Leyline of Sanctity

1 Porphyry Nodes

1 Abrupt Decay

1 Ancient Grudge

1 Nature's Claim

1 Hazoret the Fervent

1 Search for Azcanta

1 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

1 Maelstrom Pulse

1 Pyroclasm


Just curl into the fetal position and accept your fate

- Shaun McLaren

This is one of the Modern decks which play very differently than the rest and requires a lot of cards that are rarely used in other decks. Therefore lots of players don't bother owning it, but we might be approaching a point of increasing interest. The inclusion of 4 Whir of Invention caused multiple other changes, like dropping colorless utility lands in favor of blue mana and adding Mishra's Baubles to the deck to help cast Whir as early as possible. Bauble has just been reprinted and with Iconic Masters prices still dropping the deck is getting cheaper every day. Thoughtseize and River of Tears are in Iconic Masters as well. Abrupt Decay, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Grafdigger's Cage were reprinted earlier this year in Modern Masters 2017, while Spire of Industry, Botanical Sanctum, Inventors' Fair and Whir itself are from very recent sets. All of this means that most card prices in the deck are currently low. The only exception is Mox Opal which could easily be reprinted in Masters 25. As Mox Opal is always on the verge of getting banned in Modern, milking its reprint value (again) would make sense from Wizards' perspective sooner rather than later.

So we have established that as a player it is an interesting time to pick up the pieces for the deck, but what does that mean for traders and investors?

While there are multiple interesting cards to pick from, I really like Porphyry Nodes right now. It is rarely used in other decks and therefore relatively unknown, which makes it very cheap to begin with. At the same time there is only a single printing in Planar Chaos – a very under-printed set by today's standards. The scarcity of rares from that set was the driving force behind the extremely high prices of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Damnation until they were reprinted. This proves that a sudden surge of interest for Porphyry Nodes could easily spike its price. The card is also a color-shifted version of Drop of Honey, which has become a 300 € card this year due to seeing just a little sideboard play in the Legacy lands deck, which doesn't make up a large part of that metagame either.

So it is easy to see, why this card could spike, but what does it even do for the deck despite never seeing play anywhere else? It actually is a great fit in the deck for two reasons. First of all it starts eating up the creatures with the lowest power first, which is a nice synergy with Ensnaring Bridge which keeps the creatures with higher power at bay. Bridge has some well-known weaknesses against 0-power creatures that get stronger after being declared as an attacker, like Noble Hierarch and Affinity creatures which pick up a Cranial Plating at instant speed. Porphyry Nodes removes all of those pesky 0-power creatures for you. But there is also another synergy with Bridge. Due to Academy Ruins or just mill-improved drawing, it is easy for the Lantern player to just play another Bridge on the next turn once the opponent finally destroyed the Bridge in play. Therefore the other player needs to assemble a lethal attack force on board to make sure they only need one attack step to steal the game out of the soft lock. With Nodes slowly decimating their board presence the game will resolve around more than just burning all the Bridges for the win. It is another axis on which you gain incremental advantage, often forcing the concession before the entire deck is milled away.

There are 813 regular copies available at the moment, so you might want to look into the 96 listed foils for a start instead.


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