Modern vs Standard

General forum

Posted on June 26, 2013, 3:24 a.m. by Unforgivn_II

After reading the millionth " I don't play modern because its expensive" comment, I got to thinking, is it really that expensive? Sure, Fetches, Goyfs and plenty of other stuff certainly have a large price tag, but it doesn't rotate out. If you're a competitive standard player, once a card cycles, its dead to you (Unless its from a core set, then you hold on hoping its printed in the next one). I would think spending an inflated amount for cards that, let's face it, generally aren't good would be a worse plan than buying cards that have their price values stabilized and their usefulness proven. I don't know what a tier 1 modern deck costs, but Im gonna say 800 dollars, because that feels right. Now, most of the good standard decks today cost maybe 300+. Which is a lower initial cost, but in a year, the modern deck is still 800 ( so long as there aren't bans crippling the deck), and your 300 dollar standard deck is not standard. So you buy another, and eventually you end up spending more on standard than modern. I don't have much room to talk, as I am not a modern player, but that's because my store doesn't have modern tournaments (its fairly new) and I'd like to continue to familiarize myself with modern cards (its quite a task. MM helped out some) before I jump in. I was just wondering if in the long run, that argument is invalid, since modern cards hold value, while few standard cards remain as useful and valuable after cycling. Maybe this is just a useless rant, but I feel like its necessary to point out the inconsistencies in an idea that's fairly flawed. I could be wrong, that's why this is open for discussion.

TheHorse says... #2

I hear the argument all the time that standard is more expensive than modern. But if you're an extremely active trader (which some can't be, of course) then you're never really buying cards.

I'd say it certainly is more difficult to maintain a collection that facilitates flexibly playing in standard (since it's always in flux, of course).

Modern/Legacy are definitely cheaper in the long run in terms of value if you're just straight up buying a deck though.

June 26, 2013 3:44 a.m.

zig13 says... #3

I see your logic. However Modern is somewhat affected by Standard and is a constantly shifting format so you can't guarantee that the Modern deck you buy for ~$800 dollars will remain competitive. Still if someone does have ~$800 dollars able to spend all at once will, as you say, possibly benefit in the long run by investing in Modern cards. This is a good application of the "Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness" ( . Most people cannot financially justify this up-front cost and so stick to Standard at their long-term detriment

June 26, 2013 3:46 a.m.

Epochalyptik says... #4

I find that most people complain about Modern's barrier to entry because the cards are not only expensive, they're often hard to find. Modern Masters helped alleviate the shortage of Modern staples in the average binder, but there's still the price.

As you point out, most players don't account for the continual investments that need to be made to play Standard. A Standard player needs cards from every new set, and the meta is subject to drastic changes because of its limited card pool. Price fluctuation is all over the place, and cards can go from $5 to $30 in a short span. A lot of Standard players don't account for the cost of keeping up with a format. The cost of all of the new cards and the effort required to change a deck every few months do need to be factored in somewhere.

Also, and this is just a personal rant, the barrier to entry for Standard is pretty absurd when you compare today to past rotations. All of the current format staples will set you back anywhere between $10 and $30 each. Competitive decks demand shocks and expensive creatures. Bonfire of the Damned and Sphinx's Revelation , the big-ticket support spells, are also pricey. Geist of Saint Traft , Snapcaster Mage , Restoration Angel , Thragtusk , Olivia Voldaren , Huntmaster of the Fells  Flip , and others are necessary for a lot of decks.

June 26, 2013 3:48 a.m.

Brimstone says... #5

A Modern Weird deck can be very competitive, and is very cheap.

June 26, 2013 4:21 a.m.

LeaPlath says... #6

People assume you must have 4x goyf and 4-8x fetch and whatever to make a good modern deck, but there are lots of budget options that you don't see at the top tier tournaments.

When I was building up scapeshift, I was using basic lands and adjusting the ratio instead of running fetches. This made the deck only very slightly less consistant on having GG and 1UUU on turn 3, but it worked and I did well.

My friend is building Jund. He can't afford Goyfs, so his deck is taking a diffrent direction, using cards like Putrid Leech in the goyf spot.

And then there are a lot of cheap decks, such as Tron, affinity, soul sisters, tokens etc.

I stopped playing standard for about 6-8 months and traded off all my standard cards for modern cards. In that time, by spending the money I would spend on standard and trading, I have a fully built Scapeshift deck (complete with fetches), merfolk for modern and legacy that is just missing the mutavaults and I'm building up Birthing Pod as well. I also managed to pick up a lot of EDH staples.

June 26, 2013 5:08 a.m.

Demarge says... #7

The biggest problem of Modern when compared to standard is that the supply of staple modern cards are in such a low supply that aside from large scale tournaments you don't see modern tournaments put up as large of numbers as a standard, when you go to an FNM everyone has a standard deck, most times you'll be lucky of 1-2 people have a modern one.

Another strike against modern is that it isn't truly as stable of an investment as you may think, lets take Jund as an example (the only modern deck so far that can put up good numbers and is resilient enough to not get hated out completely when dominant for long enough). Lets say you've spent about $2500 on your Jund deck (yes Jund has in the past been easily $2500) as the season is starting up and you like it, it's well tuned to fight the aggressive heavy meta you're expecting. Now you go to one PTQ that week and find out that since Jund was so successful last season and recently on MTGO that your build isn't properly setup to fight the combo heavy meta. After some testing you find that you need Liliana of the Veil 3 and 4 and the full playset of Thoughtseize along with some inquisitions for the deck to work against a meta where you run into combo all 7 of your matches, you also need to adjust your mana base with some more black duals to make a turn 1 black appear more often.

Now lets say throughout that season the meta shifts even one more time and you find yourself needing new cards and towards the end they ban Bloodbraid Elf which forces you to either get some subpar replacements (which would be stuff like Olivia Voldaren or Huntmaster of the Fells  Flip ) or you have to add white and buy quite a few more expensive dual lands.

So which format would yo choose? one that can be expensive due to the list of legal cards half rotating out each year and the meta able to change almost every other week, but you'll always have at least one tournament you can attend with your deck each week that's nearby? Or do you go with the format that might have a nearby tournament once a month, weekly tournaments that barely start up, or you have to travel a lot, and often has standard cards that often come up and warp the format or at least becomes must have cards for certain existing decks, but the format never has a rotating list of legal cards, just a ban list that can be used with a sniper precision to suddenly remove your deck from being viable when it's archetype dominates the format for too long?

Epochalyptik you do know that your personal rant I think only bonfire hasn't appeared in top 8 modern decklists and quite a few of them appear as 3-4 ofs so you're actually saying that the reason why standard is so expensive is because all these modern staples happen to also be standard staples. It's also funny that you used the words "barrier to entry" which means the expenses blocking you from entering the format, but with standard if you have good deckbuilding senses and are good with trading you can build a decent deck for a few FNMs that can grow to be a good deck that wins you plenty of prizes (I've done this for 3 standards now and it gets a lot easier when half of the cards collected over the year are still good for the next). Now modern you have to build an entirely different archetype if your initial goal is to have a Jund deck simply because the deck is so finely tuned and often requires more cards to tune it to certain metas (and the land base or creature base alone is about as expensive as an expensive standard deck) so the barrier of entry for a single modern tournament with Jund can be $1800-$2800, while for standard Jund it can be $300-$600, one can take me months to build, the other I can play for months.

June 26, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Demarge says... #8

LeaPlath how many tournaments have you attended with that modern deck? How many have you made it to top 8 with? Are either of those answers 24-64?

June 26, 2013 6:04 a.m.

sylvannos says... #9

@Demarge: They're never going to ban Zendikar fetches. Or Tarmogoyf . Or Vendilion Clique . Or Dark Confidant . Or the plethora of Modern staples.

The most expensive cards banned in Modern are:

...all of which were banned when the format was created. Jund losing Bloodbraid Elf didn't make the deck unplayable, nor did it diminish the value of any of the cards in the deck. Same goes for Seething Song and Storm. The only deck that took a serious hit was Eggs. Even then, it's still a playable deck. It just can't take 10 minute turns like it used to.

Compare the value lost to cards as staples in Standard. You bought Bonfire of the Damned at $40? You lost $25 per copy when the meta shifted. Same goes with Hellrider , Thragtusk , Thundermaw Hellkite , etc. etc. who all lost as much as 50% of their price tag as the format shifted. The Mythic Rarity has really put a hinder on Standard.

What's really bad about Standard is the distance between decks based on price. A $600 tier-one deck will beat a $60 in Standard. A $100 Modern deck can hold up fairly well against a $1k deck. While Standard (and Magic in general) isn't necessarily pay-to-win, it's much harder to go rogue in Standard than it is in Modern.

June 26, 2013 6:52 a.m.

LeaPlath says... #10

Demarge Not that many, about 15-20, not including win a box tournaments. However, it comes down to the fact I don't enjoy the grindiness of standard at the moment so I prefer modern or EDH to standard now.

June 26, 2013 7:43 a.m.

Matsi883 says... #11

I have two decks that are budget to semi-budget. Storm and Eggs is $50 because I'm only running basic Island s and most of the spells in the deck are about 25 cents. The other semi-budget deck I have is Second-Turn Wins. Most of the spells are again 25 cents, but it packs a playset of Mox Opal , Glimmervoid , and Gemstone Mine . Both decks are combo and both can win on turn 2; Second-Turn Wins can even win on turn 1. My point is that basically what someone said. Both decks can beat tier-1 decks like Scapeshift and Birthing Pod without Thoughtseize . The only reason they can't beat Jund is that Jund is full of attrition and will disrupt the combos.

June 26, 2013 7:50 a.m.

KingSorin says... #12

HOLD THE PHONE WHAAAAT?????? Sensei's Divining Top is worth $30??? I pulled one in a kamigawa booster and thought it was 10 bucks if I was lucky. Luckily I still have it and didn't trade it off :D

June 26, 2013 8:14 a.m.

Demarge says... #13

I didn't essentially use the banlist as a source of lost value, but how it's utilization can suddenly force you to pay more money on a deck you've already spent a lot on. In fact the ban list if you've noticed is actually usually used when one of these cheap decks you speak of becomes too consistent at winning quickly, so in the end it's probably best to stick with saving up for an expensive modern deck if you're going to try for it.

As for standard you simply have an extra mini game tacked onto it where you trade for the expensive cards before they get expensive (like Hellrider back when it was a dollar each) and trade them off when they are expensive (like hellrider when it was $20 each). It's also worth noting that cards in standard are often expensive simply because of the interest of eternal format players. If not for modern the shock lands would all be around 2-5 bucks right now because of the sheer amount of rtr block packs being opened, instead they are at least 8 each. Thundermaw when it was nearing 50 wasn't expensive because it was ran in a single archetype in standard as a 4 of, but because Jund used a couple of copies to go over the top of other Jund decks that ran Lingering Souls . It is also worth noting that you can get most RDW standard decks quite cheap and they can put up very good numbers.

Another bit that's worth noting is it's mostly due to the low number of modern tournaments that allow cheap decks to have a shot at the top tier decks, if given enough data expert brewers can refine good decks to handle and predict meta game shifts, the cheap decks only pop up when the meta is open to allow the deck to do well. Such moments are so infrequent that if you were to average the prices of the decks that did well it'd probably still be an average of at least $800 while for a standard tournament it'll likely still only average above $400.

Finally if you take the data of how frequently you get to play these decks in a tournament... I'll take my data for example.

Currently I attend 1-2 standard tournaments a week which are at the most 5 miles away from my home, I have been using a $500 deck (that I actually just so happened to own all the cards from value trading away cards when they were expensive, or they're cards I won from prize packs) for the past couple of months and I usually make the top 8 and get nearly a box worth of packs within a month.

Now I currently don't attend modern tournaments and only have about 80% of a $200 deck built (all thanks to saving my favorite cards of standards past), but after some research I've found that I'll have to drive for 20 min. to get to the nearest LGS that does modern tournaments (that's without traffic), their average attendance is below 20 people, and my deck can only flourish in an environment full of expensive lands and combo decks (so it's screwed every time it faces white weenie or merfolk) so I'd probably only be attending to get a feel for modern until I had a good deck built. So I'd be driving more, winning less, and in the end have to get an expensive deck anyway if I want to consistently (<---- Key word there) win... I believe I'll stick to standard and maybe one day have a good modern deck for when there's a GP or PTQ in that format nearby and I want to go for the fun of a larger tournament that only comes up a few times (I'm currently very lazy when it comes to driving long distances and often would rather walk a few miles than drive... in an Arizona summer). When comparing 2 formats to see which one is better it's best to fully analyze all the factors of a mtg format instead of just Number of decent to good decks and the ratio of initial cash investment in the decks vs. amount of time the cards of the deck are legal in that format.

June 26, 2013 8:20 a.m.

Another problem with the long-term value of Modern argument is that it is much more expensive to get into. In the long run, I'm sure I've spent enough on Standard decks to have put together a strong Modern one, but that was spread out over several years and many paychecks. It's a lot easier to work towards a $150 Standard deck than it is to work towards a $500 Modern one. Those are cheap estimates for each format.

It is also much easier to win a few games with a cheap Standard deck than it is with a cheap Modern one. Standard may have a smaller card pool, so the overpowered cards are more centralized, but that also means there are less versatile answers to janky cheap decks. I had decent success with a Rage Extractor deck simply because it did something different.

June 26, 2013 8:39 a.m.

SwiftDeath says... #15

I am a very active trader and paid nothing for my playset of Thragtusk , Huntmaster of the Fells  Flip , and Deathrite Shaman . Other cards like Hellrider I bought the 2 left I needed when it was still 3 dollars and Have spent less then $100 on my current competitive standard deck. I also have a cheap modern burn deck hoping to build it up to a Jund build I'm working on and currently working on legacy. I'm looking to either run Shardless BUG or Junk Maverick, either way I'm looking at a couple thousand at the least so it will be a while. I agree that in the long run a modern deck will probably run you the least money but it just depends on your preference on what format you personally feel like playing and the deck you are building.

June 26, 2013 10:27 a.m.

203995014 says... #16

Modern: Expensive in the short term

Standard: Expensive in the long term.

Modern eats all your money at once but after that only requires tweaking every 6 months or a year, standard it changes every few months.

Legacy is the poor man's vintage, modern is the poor man's legacy, standard is just another way to eat your money.

June 26, 2013 10:32 a.m.

Unforgivn_II says... #17

Nice to get some feedback on this. I did mean to include parts about Modern decks being affected by the release of new standard cards (ie Voice of Resurgence ), but I was tired. Also glad to see that my logic is a greed upon for the most part.

Sidenote: Just because the store I typically go to doesn't do Modern, there's one fairly nearby that does. But the people who play there are very good and apparently very rich, so if I was gonna take a crack at it, I'd want to wait until I have a halfway decent deck.

June 26, 2013 11:51 a.m.

sylvannos says... #18

@KingSorin: Legacy and EDH staple. Also sees occasional play in Vintage.

June 26, 2013 4:42 p.m.

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