Eternal Masters First Impressions
The past few summers, Magic The Gathering fans have been treated to a lot of new and exciting sealed products to buy and collect. In addition to the regular releases of standard sets, Deckbuilder’s Toolkits, Fat Packs, Clash Packs, etc, we have seen the addition of Masters sets and the new Conspiracy draft set. If you’re looking for ways to spend money on MTG, there has been no shortage of options.
Well, perhaps that should be rephrased, as there is a definite and palpable shortage of what has become the annual “Masters” set, beginning with Modern Masters in 2013, followed by Vintage Masters on MTGO and Modern Masters 2015 last year. The overwhelming popularity of these sets coupled with the limited print run caused the paper sets to be sold out via limited preorders weeks before they ever hit store shelves.
This year’s masters set, Eternal Masters, was being sold well above MSRP before spoiler season had even begun. That’s right, with only two cards revealed from the set, there were virtually no viable options for buying booster boxes or packs at MSRP. That certainly is a lot of hype, and now that the full spoiler list has been released (and the preorder price has skyrocketed), does Eternal Masters live up to the hype? Here are our impressions on both the financial implications and the effect that Eternal Masters has on various Magic formats.
Modern Masters was created with the intention of making the Modern format more accessible and affordable for the average player, and Eternal Masters looks to attempt the same feat. Was Modern Masters successful? That answer is not simple, and it depends on what one considers to be a success. Modern as a format did see tremendous growth following Modern Masters, but so did Magic the Gathering as a whole.
When you get into financial speculation, the best you can do is learn from the past. With Eternal Masters essentially being a Modern Masters set geared towards Vintage, Legacy, Commander, and Cube players, we can look at what long term effects MM had on prices to try and predict what will happen with Eternal Masters. That said, if Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2015 taught us anything it’s that reprints do not always guarantee that a wildly popular format staple will drop significantly in price. The poster child for masters reprints doing nothing to help the price is everyone’s favorite green beater Tarmogoyf, whose price is currently higher than it was before it was reprinted.
How can this be? There are few factors that contribute to whether or not a reprint in a set like Eternal Masters will significantly affect the price of a high-dollar card.
- Demand - Will the demand increase alongside the supply?
- Reprint Rarity - Is the reprinted card a mythic, rare, uncommon, or common? This will greatly affect the amount of supply entering the market.
- Artwork - Does the reprint have the same art as the original? New artwork can create an uneven demand for the new or old art.
- Reprint History - Is this the first time the card has ever been reprinted?
- Card Popularity - Is the card hugely popular and present in every iteration of a certain deck archetype?.
- Print Run Size - Is the set a normal or limited print run set?
Tarmogoyf seems to have been a perfect storm of these factors that resulted in little or no price change at first, followed by a gradual increase in price. First, and probably the greatest contributing factor is the fact that Goyf was reprinted at mythic rarity in a limited print run set. Because of this, there just wasn’t enough new supply to affect demand in a significant way. Next, the new art means that the demand is immediately divided between those who like the Future Sight art and unique border, and those that want a modern frame and art whenever possible. Last, since Tarmogoyf is a 4-of in many deck archetypes, including those which only splash green, the demand is huge, and the fact that the popularity of MTG has grown wildly over the last 5 years means that there are more eternal format players than ever.
Unfortunately for those looking for a break on some expensive cards, the most talked about Eternal Masters reprints fit into this perfect storm type of scenario, and since this new set features high-value staples that are not modern legal, many of the the most noteworthy cards were not printed in either Modern Masters release. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most high-profile reprints featured in Eternal Masters and what kind of impact this set will have on your wallets. (Note: All prices and price histories are taken from MTGStocks.com, MTGprice.com, and TCGplayer.com)
Force of Will - Force of Will is one of the most recognizable MTG cards not on the reserved list. A must in nearly any Legacy and Vintage deck running blue, the demand is there, and even though the original artwork is one of the most iconic art pieces in Magic history, like the original, the new art was also created by legendary MTG artist Terese Nielsen. The result? Since the spoiler was revealed, the price of the original FoW has dropped quite a bit, and the EMA with new art is currently preordering higher than the cost of the existing card. Also at Mythic rarity, this will likely end up similar to Tarmogoyf with the price dropping lowest near the sets release, with many Vintage and Legacy players offloading their Force of Wills to take this to opportunity to finally get a foil FoW with Nielsen art. How fast the price climbs after release will largely depend on whether or not Legacy as a format sees the tremendous growth that Modern has seen.
Mana Crypt - Mana Crypt is one of the most exciting inclusions in the Eternal Masters set, but unlike Force of Will, it’s not confined to blue, and because of its free 2 colorless mana at a cost of ~1.5 life per turn, Mana Crypt has a home in any EDH deck where money is no object. Unlike the other mythics, Mana Crypt has never been printed in a regular set. That’s right, Mana Crypt has only ever been a promo, the first having a pre-Eighth Edition frame and was only available as a mail-in offer if you purchased an MTG fiction book, and the second being a foil-only modern framed judge foil. The broken nature of the card and the overwhelmingly low supply (at time of writing there are only 30 total for sale on TCGplayer) makes Mana Crypt one of the most expensive non-reserved list cards in Magic. Obviously the first printing in a set that has a sizable print run is huge, and the biggest loser here, at least temporarily, will be the judge promo since they use the same art. Still, the Mythic rarity will limit the long term price impact of the card, and like the other high dollar cards here, look for the price to dip lowest before and around launch, and then rebound over the next year.
Sensei’s Divining Top - Adored by EDH and Legacy Miracles players, and loathed by everyone else, Sensei’s Divining Top is getting its first reprint since the Kamigawa block. The big story here is that top has been reprinted at Rare (rather than Mythic), meaning there will be much larger influx of new tops entering the market. Combine this with the fact that its demand isn’t nearly at the level of the headlining mythics, and you’ve got a great potential for a long term drop in the price of Sensei’s Divining Top (although that will be stunted by dividing demand between the new and classic art.) How fast this climbs up in price post Eternal Masters release will largely depend on how much growth is experienced going forward in the Vintage and Legacy formats. If you’ve been after one of these cards, Eternal Masters release is a great time to buy.
Karakas - Karakas sees play in Death and Taxes and Miracles decks but is banned in EDH for obvious reasons, and the demand isn’t nearly as high as Force of Will. The biggest hit here will be on the judge foil promo price, as it used to be the only foil version of Karakas that existed. Additionally, since this new printing features the same art, the promo will only be sought out specifically by those who have an affinity for promo cards. With this also at Mythic, there won’t be enough new supply entering the market for a long term price reduction, and if the lowered price helps bring new Death and Taxes players into Legacy, it won’t be long before the price bounces back to where it was pre-Eternal Masters.
Wasteland - Wasteland was spoiled along with Force of Will when Eternal Masters was announced, and with the printing being at the Rare level, there has seen a steady and significant decrease in the price of the Tempest printing. Like Karakas, many will be dumping their plain printings for foils, which won’t stay on the market for too long with new eternal format players brought in by EMA hype. However, because of Wasteland’s rarity level, the lower price could stagnate for longer than other cards before it begins to creep back up. Foil printing is where things get interesting. Wasteland enjoyed the full-art Zendikar Expedition treatment with this year’s Oath of the Gatewatch release, which was the third foil printing along with two previous promo cards. That means the Eternal Masters Wasteland, with the beautiful art of a dilapidated City of Brass, will be the fourth unique foil art available for this card. For that reason, expect only to see a modest and temporary drop the Expedition and previous promo cards as some players want to trade up for the new art. Overall, with the foil demand split four ways, don’t expect much movement from the current prices, especially in the long term.
Jace, The Mind Sculptor - Since his Modern banning means he had no place for reprints in Modern Masters, a reprint of Jace, The Mind Sculptor in Eternal Masters is not much of a surprise. Still, this is first reprint since World Wake for a non-foil Jace, and since the From the Vault foiling process is loathed by so many players, it might as well be the first foil reprint as well. The impact on Jace is already up and running, with preorders from reputable retailers like Star City Games available at time of writing for $30 less than the Worldwake counterpart for the non-foil card. Don’t expect the price dip to last long, with the Mythic rarity of the Eternal Masters print and the overall popularity of Jace this will likely begin to climb again soon.
Impact on the Pauper Format
Pauper is the one format that has been most dynamically impacted by the Eternal Masters spoilers. Other formats merely have a financial benefit from price drops and larger card supply, with the possibility of the influx of new players. While Pauper gets to share some of that fun, with some pricey cards like Daze, Chain Lightning, Pyroblast, and Hydroblast getting reprints, the implications of the 27 cards being downshifted from Uncommon or Rare to Common is much more significant, and will likely give the format a shakeup unlike any it has experienced in recent memory. Here are some of the cards the Pauper community is most excited about:
Nimble Mongoose - Not since The Big Lebowski has a marmot created such a stir as Nimble Mongoose did when it was spoiled on the first day of EMA spoiler season as a Common. It’s not without good reason either; a 1/1 green creature for 1 that can’t be removed by your opponent as you dump your cheap spells and fetchlands into the graveyard to turn it into a 3/3 is as big a bomb as any, and Nimble Mongoose will undoubtedly find its way into in the format’s top decklists: the only question is which. Mono Green Stompy has better beaters and Shroud means it can’t be Rancored, but there are possibilities with Pauper Dredge, Golgari Tortured Existence, the possible emergency of a viable Simic Dredge. Of course that’s just fitting into or modifying already existing Pauper archetypes, and there is just as likely to be contending decks built entirely around Nimble Mongoose. With the huge amount of chatter surrounding Nimble Mongoose, this could wind up being a format-defining addition to Pauper.
Peregrine Drake - Peregrine Drake is another bomb dropped on the Pauper format by Eternal Masters. The January banning of Cloud of Faeries killed Esper Familiars and left many Delver players licking their wounds. Not only is Esper Familiar back, but Peregrine Drake brings with him a familiar buddy in the newly downshifted Warden of Evos Isle, further helping subsidize his increased casting cost over Cloud of Faeries. Love it or hate it, Esper Familiar is back.
Kird Ape - There’s no way around it, Kird Ape at Common is bananas. Toss this in a Gruul deck with some Wild Nacatls, Rancors, basic Forests and Mountains, plus Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse, and Nylea’s Presence, and baby you’ve got a zoo goin’! G/R Zoo oozes power and speed with the addition of Kird Ape, and will be a force to be reckoned with going forward, even without streamlined mana fixing.
Elite Vanguard - Elite Vanguard at common means Pauper White Weenie players have a new Savannah Lions with dual creature types. Can Elite Vanguard join the ranks of other 1-drop Pauper favorites like Doomed Traveler, Icatian Javelineers, and the fresh faced Thraben Inspector to propel White Weenie into the top tables? If any card can make that happen, Elite Vanguard, Pauper’s first ever 2/1 for 1 is probably it.
With the entire Eternal Masters set spoiled and currently up at mothership, Eternal Masters seems to have lived up to the hype. But what would a great Magic set be without Magic players complaining that something was omitted? While the power and value of Eternal Masters seems to be through the roof, there are handful of cards whose omission can only be explained by a Eternal Masters 2018 set already being in the works.
Rishadan Port - I dare anyone to find a post on the internet about Eternal Masters spoilers without someone crying foul over the omission of Rishadan Port. Forget the $100 paper price, the $200 MTGO price is really why this card was demanded by so many players. Perhaps they will get their wish in a new Vintage Masters or the next Eternal Masters, but for now Legacy Goblins will still be paying a premium to slow everyone else down.
Damnation - Take what we said about Rishadan Port and double it. A Damnation reprint is something that has been speculated in every set for the last couple of years, not just specialties. Its omission from From The Vault: Annihilation made the set look like a dud in the eyes of most, and with the price steadily increasing only because of Damnation having a single printing and a judge promo, Eternal Masters seemed like the perfect home for Damnation. Maybe Wizards is saving it for Commander 2016? One can only dream.
Zendikar Fetchlands - The reprinting of the Onslaught fetches in the Khans of Tarkir block, followed by a Return to Zendikar has made the clamor for the Zendikar Fetches (Misty Rainforest, Verdant Catacombs, Marsh Flats, Arid Mesa, Scalding Tarn) almost deafening, as the growth of Modern and Magic as a whole has driven the price of these lands to some of the most expensive in the format. Eternal Masters was one of the last hopes for a reprint this year, and these exclusions mean one can only hope that Wizards is saving them for reprinting in a large print run set.
It wouldn’t be too hard to go on all day about Eternal Masters, its financial and format implications, and of course, gripe about something Wizards got wrong. If you’ve got your own ideas about why Eternal Masters will boom or bust, or if you want to gripe about something that we omitted, head down to our comments section and let us know about it. Also don’t forget to follow us on Twitter to keep up to date on the latest Magic the Gathering news, deck decks, metagame trends, event reports, and more.