Since you’ve asked for more opinionated perspectives, I’ll chime in. I go to my modular to get out of my head, which is one reason why the phyisicality of it is so appealing. While I own a lot of the modules already mentioned here, I haven’t yet explored them to their fullest because a couple of them feel “thinky” to me–a reflection on me, not the modules. For example, I still haven’t grokked Stages in its basic form, thus haven’t yet installed the epic alt firmware available for it. I’d say it’s a matter of time and focus, since when I sit down I just want to patch and go with the flow, not study.
I don’t own it, but Plaits makes sense if you’re just getting in to modular, and want a way to explore many types of synthesis in a streamlined, elegant package.
Tides 2020 would be high on my list of MI suggestions, since you can use it as a feature-rich oscillator, or as a modulator with incredible flexibility. My own comfort level with Tides is much higher than with Stages, FWIW.
Ripples 2020 just sounds good, and the bass is retained with resonance high–something that’s huge for me.
I second the suggestion for Rings which states where it truly shines is using the input. In my experience, I liken it to putting speakers and other things on piano strings to hear how the strings as a group respond to different timbres and frequencies. In other words, I use Rings as a resonator, and enjoyed that to such a degree that I now have two!
Beads is fascinating, and I know it’ll take me much longer to get to know. It’s versatile (sp?), and feel many examples on YT as indicative of a specific area of its scope, not it’s whole capabilities.
Blinds is great for CV, mixing, inverting, offsetting, automating, and so much more. Ilike using it for audio when inverting one signal’s phase adds interest to a mixed group of signals. Four bipolar VCAs. It also can do balanced modulation really well, a cleaner-sounding version of ring modulation.
Shades is just an elegant, easy to use mixing tool, like Blinds but without the “automation” of CV-ability. If that makes sense… Unlike Blinds it can function both bipolar and unipolar.
Veils is great. There are other 4-channel mixing VCAs out there, of course, but for features and workflow I find it’s the best.
While Marbles is incredible, like Stages I find it a little “thinky” (again, a reflection on me, not the module). It has such great capability that it seems like a no-brainer for a small system.
A more general suggestion: since some MI modules have different modes, stick with exploring just one for some time. I personally need to do this so I don’t get overwhelmed with options. YMMV, of course, but if you’re just starting out choice paralysis can be a thing. This is one reason why I hesitate to recommend VCV Rack unless you don’t have a problem with choice paralysis.
I started out with a Mantis case, and found it a great starter. Remember you do not have to fill it up right away! Take your time, add modules as you find you have a need for something, instead of a bunch all at once. I started out slow, then kind of accelerated, hence my previous statements about Stages and Marbles where I need to spend more time learning them.