Modern Times - MOM Revisted

12 Jul
by Corey Williams

Happy Wednesday, all! It’s been a minute since we talked about March of the Machine (MOM), so let’s take a trip (briefly) back in time to an article I wrote in April which discussed my Modern financial speculations from MOM, and see how close my predictions were to reality. 

Predictions

Invasion of Ikoria

Invasion of Ikoria was more or less the most-hyped battle, let alone rare, in MOM. The general consensus was that the ability to, at minimum, pay four mana, find a Vampire Hexmage, and then sac Hexmage to flip Invasion of Ikoria as early as turn three made it a high-potential Modern playable.

This is all good in theory. In practice, however…not so much. Yes, Invasion of Ikoria is a one-man wrecking machine (shoutout to all the Guster fans out there), in that it can easily flip itself into a much more relevant and strong back side. The thing is, at best, its back side is just an 8/8 with reach. As proven by the decline of both Tarmogoyf and Death's Shadow presences in Modern, big bulky creatures are not the top of the meta. So why should Invasion of Ikoria’s prime use be any different, right? 

Well, it does offer some more flexibility. I previously highlighted its ability to also go and grab Grist, the Hunger Tide, which some fringe decks have capitalized on, such as Abzan Invasion (eponymously named after Invasion of Ikoria). Again, the sad reality is that tutoring Grist is somewhat underwhelming in a format as fast-paced as Modern currently is. Other decks like Sultai (and Jund) Death’s Shadow (also on the competitive margins) play Invasion as well, but again, don’t really break the mold that players and speculators envisioned when it was previewed. 

Today, Invasion of Ikoria hasn’t moved an inch in terms of value. Back in May, it was around $7, and today it’s still sitting comfortably at the same level.

So what gives? If this card’s Modern potential is so limited at the moment, then why is its price in a holding pattern? Simple: Pioneer. Mono Green Devotion builds in Pioneer can use this card better than any other deck in Modern can use it. I stress this because even the best Mono Green Devotion decks in Pioneer don’t necessarily run Invasion at all. Sadly, Invasion of Ikoria is more or less inconsequential in the formats that could capitalize on it. Could things change? Possibly, but it really depends on how relevant cards like Death’s Shadow or similar bulky creatures become again, along with how the pool of relevant targets grows for Invasion’s ETB effect. Another mystery in all of this is the battle card type, which has no place in Modern whatsoever. If battles get more support in future sets, then perhaps there’s a future where Invasion has a home in the format. But that remains to be seen. 

Ozolith, the Shattered Spire

I could dwell on this card, but I won’t. I thought Ozolith, the Shattered Spire was Hardened Scales 2.0. It’s not, and it never will be. I know this now. But it is terrific redundancy that makes Hardened Scales decks more consistent. How much more consistent? Not enough to push it into the top flight of the Modern meta. 

Way back when, this card was hanging out around $7. I indicated that its upside potential would be entirely tied to Hardened Scales’ presence in the format. I was correct on this front. I also indicated that, given its close substitutability with the actual card Hardened Scales, it would be difficult for me to imagine it going lower than $4. Surprisingly, I was also right on this front as well. Today, Ozzy not-2.0 sits at around $5, while Hardened Scales sits around $4. If you play, or are thinking of playing, Hardened Scales, go ahead and grab the couple copies you need. The upside potential of this card financially is still in-play if Hardened Scales increases in presence at the top end of the meta, which isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. Speaking of realm…

Wrenn and Realmbreaker

The pun transition is a risky move, I know. But it seemed irresistible in this case. I’m also working on two hours of sleep after a long coast-to-coast conference trip, so perhaps my cynicism is spilling over into my articles. 

Nevertheless, when I originally discussed this card and its financial potential, I urged caution. I highlighted that, as a planeswalker, Wrenn and Realmbreaker has a lot on its surface level that makes it appealing, but that it wasn’t obvious if it had a proper home in the Modern format. Today, it seems that it hasn’t found one, and likely won’t unless drastic changes come about in the format. 

At launch, Wrenn and Realmbreaker was anywhere between $25 and $30. I said it would likely fall to $15. Turns out, I was wrong, and instead it fell to around $8.

Is there still upside potential for this card in Modern? Not right now. It’s still not obvious what the home for W&R would be. I postulated that Superfriend builds would love this card, but even the uptick of its use in fringe Superfriend decks has been non-existent, especially when it’s dwarfed by its original paper incarnation, Wrenn and Six.

“So how has this card not gone to zero?” you might ask. Well, to sound like a broken record, some Mono Green Devotion decks (but certainly far from all) in Pioneer find it to be a handy and synergistic inclusion. Beyond Pioneer, W&R is also fun in Commander, or similar singleton formats that don’t face the same competitive limitations that Modern or Pioneer might impose. W&R is a fun card, and a nice one-of for Commander brews, especially in five-color builds. Perhaps that’s where its upside potential has been lying all along, but only time will tell.

Actuality

Change the Equation

That’s right, folks. The most-played card from MOM is an uncommon blue counterspell. Go figure. In all fairness, the card is terrific strictly because of how low the mana curve of most competitive Modern decks are at the moment, and how pervasive red and green colors are. This counterspell feels like it was almost tailor-made to reign in the top end of the meta. For two mana, there’s very few relevant game pieces that Change the Equation can’t hit. 

Right now, the card is worth around $0.25, with its foil variation sitting at $1. Pick up a foil playset if you are so inclined. It’s used across the format, in Indomitable Creativity, Omnath, and Murktide builds alike. Ironically, the decks that play this card seek to use it against each other’s game plan. 

Will Change the Equation become the next Veil of Summer? Pricewise, no. Today’s common and uncommon print runs are outrageously high, so it’s tough to imagine the demand for it outpacing the supply in a way that can meaningfully push the price higher (at least for non-foils). Gameplay-wise? Perhaps. Again, it depends on how robust the top end of the Modern meta is. If there’s a dramatic shift in the dominant colors of the format, or a slowing in the pace of play, then Change the Equation becomes lackluster entirely. 

Whether WOTC intended this or not because of Modern, I can’t say, but Change the Equation is only as useful as the Modern (or Pioneer) meta it counters. If that meta subsides, so does its utility. That being said, perhaps as the meta changes in other formats like Pioneer, it may find use there, too, pushing its value a little higher. Or at the very least keeping its current price point, should it fall out of favor in Modern. 

Invasion of Ikoria
Ozolith, the Shattered Spire
Wrenn and Realmbreaker
Change the Equation

Conclusion

You might have noticed that compared to my ONE Revisited article that MOM Revisited has fewer “actualities” by comparison (although, I’d like to think some added sarcasm and puns make up for this). This is closer to the reality we are in. The pass-through of Standard set game pieces to Modern is not nearly what it once was, and that’s probably a good thing. Designing Standard sets to be Standard sets is healthy and executed intentionally, thus any spillover to other eternal formats should be thought of as a bonus.

With Modern Horizons sets, and The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, WOTC is sending a clear signal that the largest and most significant innovations to Modern will be coming from direct-to-Modern sets, not through Standard sets. 

These points notwithstanding, it’s tough to envision what the future will be for MOM’s playable cards in eternal formats. For a set that was supposed to be the crushing crescendo wrapping up the New Phyrexia storyline, the financial uproar has been silent (outside of serialized cards, of course). 

If MOM still has financial viability for eternal formats, it will have to come through drastic changes to the formats themselves. As it stands, March of the Machine: The Aftermath has more Modern potential than MOM itself, despite being a fairly unpopular product. The aftermath of Aftermath, however, is a tale for another article. Speculate safely and soundly!

Check out these other articles:

New Horizons - LOTR Commander by Matt Grzechnik

Too, Reverse In Works It by Jason Alt

The Big Things - Arabian Nights Speculation by Harvey McGuinness

Corey Williams
Corey Williams

Corey Williams is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. He considers himself a macroeconometrician with his research body reflecting work in applied macroeconomics and econometrics. Corey is an L1 Judge who started playing Magic around Eighth Edition. He enjoys Modern, Commander, cEDH, and cube drafting. Outside of Magic, he loves running, teaching, and the occasional cult movie.


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