Modern Format Analysis: Lorwyn Block

Feature Article from Kelly Reid
Kelly Reid
8/8/2011 10:43:00 AM
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So Modern is “a thing”. It's official, it's buzzworthy, and it's fresh and clean. The speculation has been pretty heavy, with Shock Lands shooting up to laughably high levels, making Modern already resemble Legacy Lite. There are a lot of new cards, and I'd like to go through them methodically and see if we can look past the Shock Land fever.

There is just no action on these right now. GenCon vendors were gouging on them, asking 35 for Hallowed Fountains, and other similar absurd prices. I cannot suggest buying these right now, under any circumstances. As you'll learn shortly, there are so many good nonbasic lands that compete with Shock Lands, and a few that can actually stand up to the task. It has all the makings of a bubble, and I want no part of it.

Let's start the process of digging through Modern cards that used to be expensive, heavily played, or otherwise noteworthy, starting with Lorwyn Block (LRW). LRW was chosen because it represents a host of extremely powerful cards that I'm very enthusiastic to play with. Modern is a deep and complex format, but by examining each card carefully, we may discover synergies we never could employ before.

While we could go pick out oddball cards and swing for the fences, hoping some spicy new brew shows up, I'm a bigger fan of working the old staples. These cards were the Cream of the Crop for a reason, and a handful of the best cards from each block will form the primordial soup we'll cook up into some modern deck lists. Lorwyn has access to the most scalable and versatile mana base of all the blocks and quite a few potential combo cards as well.


Reflecting Pool - 5.5

Reflecting Pool was once the darling of Standard. The incredible mana bases woven together with Reflecting Pools, Filter Lands and Vivid Lands allowed decks to have extremely stable and agile mana bases, and there's no reason this concept won't translate to Modern. The inclusion of fetch lands and Shocks changes the math a bit, but the mana bases should still be built around Pools. You can mix and match 1-of and 2-of cards in your fetch package, but no decks should need four on-color Shocks. Reflecting Pool is 20% of its high price in Standard, and they're only getting rarer. Modern control decks will be using 4. To say I'm long on Reflecting Pool would be understated, yet accurate.

Bitterblossom - <10

Bitterblossom could dominate Modern, especially in some sort of hideous Faerie-Blade deck. It's not all too cheap, but it's still half its Standard price. Bitterblossom might turn out to be the card to beat, but at 10, don't bet the farm. Get your playsets now if you're planning to get them, but don't go make a trade outright. I got mine this weekend at GenCon, since I know I'll need them very soon. This is a buy for players, but speculators need not apply. If you feel like gambling, you can buy a playset now and then buy on the way up, if indeed there is an “up” upon which to buy.

Wanderwine Hub - 1.0

These don't show up in random binders too often, and there is a strong chance that a Fish deck could show up. The legacy port would lose its most powerful Counterspell suite, but a combination of Cryptic Command, Spell Snare, Spell Pierce, Mana Leak, Rune Snag, Mental Misstep and Pact of Negation (maybe not...) can surely fill the void. You'll see these in top 8 lists. Fish will be a deck. It even gets AEther Vial.

Filter Lands - Variable

 Flooded Grove
Store QTY Price  
Arcadian Marketplace 1 $11.36
The Keep 1 $11.36
GnC PairODice 3 $11.37
Magic Family Games 1 $11.39
Card Rotation 1 $11.99
OmahaMTG321 2 $12.89
Wizards Market 1 $13.49
Infinite Consortium 1 $13.57
Miniature Exchange 1 $13.75
Cataclysm Games 1 $13.77
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Flooded Grove Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

The cost of one shock land is at least 4 times the cost of it's filter land analogue. Reflecting Pool decks will need at least as many of these as shock lands, if not more. The shocks are fetchable, so it's reasonable to play 1-ofs and 2-ofs. Filter lands get significantly better in pairs, effectively rendering all your basic lands into dual lands. They also make Reflecting Pool utterly absurd. I'd break it down by land, but it doesn't even matter. Get your playset and a trade set or two before the hungry masses decide they are sick of 30 dollar shock lands.

Cryptic Command - 8

Creeping up in price ever so slowly, Cryptic Command is still perceived my many as a $5 card. The price has adjusted up online recently, but between capitalizing on lagging prices and the card's upside, get in on them if you can. Hint: get the promos since they're cheaper, and if the card goes bonkers you won't lose much value no matter which version you have.

Demigod of Revenge - 6

This card seems to Disappear from minds and hearts for months at a time, but it's holding steady right now. 6 seems correct, but it's a worthwhile card to consider. They may still be cheap in binders. They've seen 10+, but this is probably not their format.

Doran, the Siege Tower - 2.5

See Demigod of Revenge, to the word. Also: Stoneforge Mystic is probably an auto-include in every deck that can play her, and Doran would love to get his hands on a Batterskull or two. She's even a 2/2 with the Siege Tower in play. What value. There is a chance Doran decks will see play, especially considering the versatility of its mana base, Definitely worth a gamble, and grab a playset now if you plan to play Modern competitively.

Figure of Destiny - 5

I am not afraid to say I'm undecided. 5 is a good compromise between potential and intrinsic values, and the promo effect drops its value significantly. I'm putting this on the radar, but not pulling the trigger.

Fulminator Mage - 2

2 is astonishingly low for this card. Decks using Bloodbraid Elf (remember her?) will become giddy with joy as they smash you for 3 and rip your mana base to pieces. Use Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek to rip their early plays clean out of their hand and Put Away the game with Mages, Elves and Blightnings. Avalanche Rider is also legal. Time to sleeve up Jund again! Without stopping to brew a list, it's hard to say where Fulminator Mage will come in. Given the absurdly good nonbasic lands in this set, land destruction seems potentially catastrophic.

Glen Elendra Archmage - 4

A key part of any Melira, Sylvok Outcast deck, Glen Elendra Archmage gives you an unbelievable engine. In addition to recurring blockers, an infinite damage loop courtesy of Murderous Redcap and unkillable 3/2s that just gain you 2 life when they die, you also just get unlimited Negates for a single blue mana. It's also brings the beatdown, just as Kitchen Finks does. Eventide rares are usually well more expensive than Shadowmoor rares, so a run on Archmages could drive the price up. I'm sure someone can build a Melira deck that can win games, but if it's Tier 1, all of the aforementioned cards will become crucial.

Mistbind Clique - 2

This tempo thief was the backbreaker of the Faeries deck. There's not much to say about Faeries that hasn't already been said, and 2 is very cheap for a staple.

Murmuring Bosk - 3

Unreal with Reflecting Pool, fetchable, especially powerful in Doran decks, Murmuring Bosk might end up being a universal 1-of. That won't move it's price up too much, maybe to 5. Keep an eye on the deck lists and if there are decks winning with 3+ copies, don't hesitate.

Mutavault 25

25 is 100% correct for Mutavault, and it's even possible that it can keep going up. I'm not going to say it will, but it's not out of the question. Just be aware that most decks are going to be playing this card, between Tribal synergies and raw efficiency. If you have these, don't undervalue them like most seem to do.

Reveillark - 2

Reveillark can be part of some really degenerate engines, but the power of the blue cards in this set might overwhelm even this mighty recursion engine. Reveillark doesn't really stack up against Mana Leaks and Cryptic Commands. That said, its current price is not too high and many players just don't care about them. Could be a fine value bet.

Savor the Moment - Bulk

Bulk rare of the week, Savor the Moment has fun implications with Planeswalkers and other cards. I love to gamble on bulk rares, and I'll have a stack of these sitting around waiting for someone to break the card in half. The easiest way to do that is with Planeswalkers and Sword of Feast and Famine. A 3-mana Time Walk might not be all that bad.

Secluded Glen - 2

Secluded Glen's price is directly correlated to the popularity of Faeries. If Faeries is Tier 1, Secluded Glen is 6 easy. Your position will depend on your faith in Fae, so if your metagame read says that Fae are for real, then buy. I want to learn the format before I make a concrete decision, but that framework should guide you to your own independent conclusion.

Sower of Temptation - 7

This is only here because I want to know how/when this happened. 7? Really? Someone leave a comment and tell me if this is some Commander/EDH nonsense.

Swans of Bryn Argoll - 1

Swans Combo was a hoot to play, so someone will surely attempt to play it. You can probably raid these out of binders for pennies all day long, so just make the value bet. There's probably an amusing deck with Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows here somewhere, but I'm not a good enough brewer to find it. Let someone else do the work, and Reap the rewards by buying Swans.

Thoughtseize - 18

With Inquisition of Kozilek playing a backup role, this one-two punch can cripple the best starting hands without even trying. The right combination of landkill and discard can apply a lot of friction to “big mana” strategies that rely on every land drop. Being able to do many things a turn is the key to beating such decks, and Thoughtseize helps that in every possible way. 18 is an obnoxiously high price, but as I've said before, it might have more room to grow.

Vendilion Clique - 10

This faerie is one of the nastiest blue creatures of all time. It does everything a blue creature should: flash into play, provide almost perfect information, sculpt your opponent's plan, and provide a fast evasive clock. This staple of the format will be 10+ for a long time.

Wake Thrasher - 2.5

2.5 is a fair price, but if Fish looks potentially dominant, keep a close eye on lists. They'll double overnight once Fish starts winning. Put it on the radar.

Windbrisk Heights - 2

It dominated opponents routinely in Alara-era Tokens decks, and there's no reason those decks can't exist right now. Timely Reinforcements is an incredible complement to Spectral Procession, as odd as that might seem. It makes the magic number: 3 tokens, and there's no better way to recover from a Wrath effect. Floating somewhere around 1-2, this is another excellent bet that I'd go long on.


GenCon was exceptional as always. We are all working on our write-ups of the events this week. Seeing the MTG community out in such force is great. Trading has gotten far, far more competitive in the last year. GenCon's trade floor was full of very aggressive traders, some of whom were extremely good. Since the average trading competency level of Magic players is considerably higher than ever before, every last little tool and bit of information is crucial.

To that end, I'd like to wrap up this week's discussion with a question you should answer in the comments: What tools would you like to see for Magic traders? Think about data services, communications, tracking and trending, and any other areas of interest and throw out some interesting ideas. The prevalence of net-connected devices makes information into a very valuable commodity, a value derived from its recency and accuracy. Instantaneous and accurate information is an ideal, but he who trades with the best information wins.

I'll be playing the $75,000 Championship this weekend in Chicago, my first competitive event since Grand Prix: DC. I made Day 2 there, so I am sure I can at least put up a good fight. My sights are set firmly on the trophy, since a good day at this event will potentially earn me a second bye for Grand Prix: Pittsburgh. I'm already enjoying my foray back into competitive Magic, and I look forward to many hours of CawBlade mirrors in the coming month.

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