Cube Watch: Eternal Masters Edition

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Reprint sets remain a special conundrum for cube owners. On one hand, they provide access to cards we don’t yet have, introduce alternate art and a new frame for many cards, and print foils that did not previously exist. On the other hand, for cube owners with relatively well-developed lists,  these sets can potentially reduce our cubes’ overall values without offering a lot of perks.

Now add to this the fact that not a single one of these cards is new. If you don’t own a copy or it isn’t in your list, that’s likely either a conscious cube design decision or a matter of money. It’s the money-restricted cards that should, of course, be the most on our radars when a set like Eternal Masters is released, as now may be the best time in years to snag our copies.

I’m going to go through each of the relevant-to-Cube cards in Eternal Masters today, grouped by price category. First, though, let’s talk about value lost.

Value Lost

You probably already know that you’re late to the party with selling off pieces of your cube in anticipation of reprint announcements. Based on the limited lasting price impact of the first two Modern Masters sets, I chose to completely ignore any potentially adverse effects EMA reprints could have on my cube, and now that the set is fully spoiled, I feel more or less okay with that. The fact is that my cube, like most, has only one copy of each card, so unless Wizards just borrowed my list from Cube Tutor and reprinted it as a set, it’s unlikely that I was going to get completely blown out.

Still, if you’re really worried about losing value, you could take a look at the most expensive cards in the set. The top tier of these ($50 or more) consists of  Mana Crypt, Karakas, Force of Will, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Wasteland. The next tier of value ($30-ish) includes cards like Sneak Attack, Vampiric Tutor, Natural Order, Sylvan Library, Dack Fayden, Sensei’s Divining Top, Maze of Ith, and Entomb. Pretty much everything else in the set (and some of the above cards as well) will end up below $20.

Mana Crypt

Mana Crypt seems to me to be the card most at risk to lose significant value. It has only been printed as a promo previously and is in the conversation with Moxen as far as power level goes. Being banned in Legacy means that there won’t be four-of demand, however, so this set could be adding a big relative number to the supply with only one-of demand from Cube, Commander, and Vintage players. I’ll tell you what I did: had @TheProxyGuy make me a high-quality replica that I don’t have to worry about being stolen, destroyed, or reprinted into oblivion. If you own a real copy? It might be worth locking in some profit, but again, you’re late to the party if you do that, and it’s very likely that the price will rebound nicely after some time, even if the card does lose a lot of value. It’s going to come down to a personal decision based on what you paid, your attachment to your copy, and how much you value your time.

Besides Mana Crypt, the rest of the above cards have demand from enough places that I’m not really worried about major price drops. Yeah, they’ll all probably drop the median a bit, but history suggests that the effects will be minor and brief.

Staples You Don’t Have Yet

Enough talk of cards we already have—the real fun of new sets is getting to pick up cards we don’t yet have.

As a cube owner, you should be going down the spoiler for EMA to mark down cards that you don’t own but may want in your collection. There are tons of Cube-playable cards in this set, and many will be available for less now than at any point in the last several years. Even if a card won’t make your list right away, it’s always worthwhile to keep an “on-deck binder” to hold copies of cards that are potentially playable in your cube but just aren’t getting a spot right now.

We already went over the top two tiers of value, but let’s quickly list everything that you may want to keep your eye on.

Tier One ($50+)

  • Mana Crypt
  • Karakas
  • Force of Will
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor
  • Wasteland

For tier-one cards, I’m not convinced we’ll see them bottom out until after EMA is released and has been drafted for a few weeks or more. I don’t expect the floor to last long, though, so if you’re looking for any of these cards, keep a close eye and make your move when it looks like the descent has stopped.

Wasteland

Tier Two ($15-$30-ish)

  • Sneak Attack
  • Vampiric Tutor
  • Natural Order
  • Sylvan Library
  • Dack Fayden
  • Sensei’s Divining Top
  • Maze of Ith
  • Entomb

These are cards that are all 1) Legacy- and (in some cases) Vintage-playable, 2) old and underprinted, and 3) have varying levels of demand from Commander and Cube. These could go a number of ways. Maybe their lack of supply was the biggest limiting factor before, and prices are bound to drop now that the market has a new injection of copies. Maybe players have been waiting to get these for slightly lower prices, will buy up the supply quickly, and the prices will basically stay the same. Because I don’t believe this set will actually push anyone into playing Legacy or Vintage, it’s hard for me to imagine a world where so many new players are created from this set that the prices for these cards go up. I suspect that none of the tier-two cards are going to move more than a few dollars in either direction, but there will likely be one or two exceptions.

Sneak Attack

Tier Three ($10-$15)

  • Chrome Mox
  • Enlightened Tutor
  • Sinkhole*
  • Argothian Enchantress*
  • Gamble*

Only five cards in the set currently reside between $10 and $15, and the three marked with asterisks are, in my mind at least, not really cards I would consider for Cube. Sinkhole is the closest, especially if you have a Pox theme in your black section, and Enchantress builds are a thing in some cubes, but not many that I’ve seen. Chrome Mox and Enlightened Tutor are both powerful cards that are very niche, so I could see them dropping significantly with the increased supply. Wait a bit before moving on these.

Enlightened Tutor

Tier Four ($5-$10)

  • Vindicate
  • Cabal Therapy (uncommon)
  • Necropotence
  • Toxic Deluge
  • Shardless Agent (rare)
  • Mystical Tutor
  • Chain Lightning (uncommon)
  • Duplicant
  • Eight-and-a-Half-Tails
  • Green Sun’s Zenith
  • Wrath of God
  • Deathrite Shaman

Chain Lightning

Here’s the level where we really are beginning to see price hits. Most of these cards are available for a few dollars less than they were before reprint season, and once packs actually start getting opened, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them drop more.

Cabal Therapy and Chain Lightning are both being printed at uncommon, and that makes me believe that the current prices are way too high. I expect these to drop to $3 a la Spell Snare and Kitchen Finks in Modern Masters 2013 before beginning their inevitable ascent back up. Hold off on these for a while, as the floor should be lower than a lot of the stuff we’re looking for.

Vindicate seems like a steal for below $10, and everything else in tier four I do not expect to stay down for long. Many of these prices seem downright attractive compared to what we’ve been seeing pre-reprint on these cards, but the prudent play is to wait for packs to actually start being opened to allow the increased supply to drive prices down a little more.

Tier Five ($3-$5)

  • Baleful Strix
  • Regal Force
  • Wall of Omens (uncommon)
  • Winter Orb
  • Balance
  • Isochron Scepter

Color me surprised that Wall of Omens has gotten so high! I must have picked up my cube’s copy right before it went up from $2. Again, being printed at uncommon makes me think that this will lose more value than most of the cards at its level, so hold off a bit longer than you might otherwise.

Unless you really like the new artwork or hate white borders, I don’t see why you’d pay $4 for this Balance when you could have a beautiful Revised copy for $1. (Disclaimer: Most of my collection as a kid consisted of Revised cards, so I like them more than most people due to nostalgia.)

For everything else, we’re getting to the point where if you didn’t have it before, it was likely for reasons other than money. Any of these cards could drop a dollar or two after release, but somehow I doubt price is your concern if you don’t include these in your cube or on-deck binder.

Balance

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Tier Six ($1-$3)

  • Blood Artist (uncommon)
  • Mother of Runes
  • Mishra’s Factory (uncommon)
  • Karmic Guide
  • Braids, Cabal Minion
  • Daze (uncommon)
  • Siege-Gang Commander
  • Bloodbraid Elf (uncommon)
  • Harmonize (uncommon)
  • Malicious Affliction
  • Nevinyrral’s Disk
  • Young Pyromancer (uncommon)
  • Hymn to Tourach (uncommon)
  • Dualcaster Mage
  • Animate Dead (uncommon)
  • Brago, King Eternal
  • Inkwell Leviathan
  • Sphinx of the Steel Wind
  • Brainstorm (uncommon)
  • Control Magic (rare with new art)
  • Unexpectedly Absent
  • Counterspell (common)
  • Swords to Plowshares (uncommon)

So now we’re really at a point where price shouldn’t be the reason that you don’t own these cards. These are not cost-prohibitive cards, so you either just haven’t gotten around to it or you actively don’t want copies.

Yet again, the commons and uncommons should take the largest hits here, so wait the longest on those pickups. Everything else is unlikely to drop much further, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this influx of supply be the thing that forces some of these cards to bulk-rare status.

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Dualcaster Mage

Tier Seven (below $1)

  • Future Sight
  • Night’s Whisper
  • Serendib Efreet
  • Sulfuric Vortex
  • Worn Powerstone
  • Fact or Fiction
  • Trygon Predator
  • Faithless Looting
  • Keldon Champion
  • Kird Ape
  • Llanowar Elves
  • Man-o’-War
  • Nekrataal
  • Duress
  • Elite Vanguard
  • Faith’s Fetters
  • Firebolt
  • Merfolk Looter

Truly, if price has kept you from owning any of these cards, you should probably reconsider whether Magic is the right hobby for you. All of these should be in your on-deck binder, if not your cube itself.

Trygon Predator

Personal Decisions

Since every cube is different, I can’t tell you exactly what you should buy or sell, for how much, or when. You may value finding the best possible deal on a card or finding the most rare, premium version of everything in your list. I don’t know what you own already, what you’ve been waiting for some outside influence to buy, or if there’s a card you hate and would never include in your cube.

I’ve provided an outline of basically every Cube-playable card in the set above, but by way of example to outline my thought process, let’s close today with a bonus section.

I own most of the cards in this article. A few of the more expensive ones are proxies or gold-bordered versions, but the vast majority are unneeded by me at this point. Here’s what’s in Eternal Masters that I don’t have, and my ideas on when and whether I will be picking up a copy:

Karmic Guide

I can’t imagine having a spot in my cube for this any time soon, but I still want an on-deck copy in case Reanimator ever becomes good through some new card or something. Still, this is low on my list and I’ll be targeting it at not much more than $1 (copies are currently around $3).

Mystical Tutor

The card disadvantage tutors aren’t my favorite spells, but they do serve a purpose. Still, despite its Vintage-playability, Mystical Tutor is one of my least favorites of this cycle, so again, I don’t expect to find a slot soon. As such, I’ll be targeting this currently $7 card for around $3.

Serendib Efreet

I constantly flirt with the idea of blue aggro in my cube, and this will be a necessary addition if I go that route. The only thing that’s kept me from owning a copy by now is that there were three copies available, and they were 1) Extremely expensive (Arabian Nights), 2) A From the Vaults foil (ewwww), and 3) Misprinted with the wrong-color border. I kind of like the misprinted version, but I was afraid of confusing less-experienced drafters. I’m glad to finally have a cheap, non-foil, correctly printed version of this card.

Cabal Therapy

I don’t see this in a lot of lists, but I’d like a copy for my on-deck binder should I want to include it someday. Price has been the primary problem up until now (I hate to spend so much on a card that isn’t even immediately going to be played), but I’ll be happy to snag a copy for $3, which I expect to be possible given the uncommon printing here.

Entomb

I don’t think that dedicated Reanimator is very good in Cube. Cards like Animate Dead and Reanimate are great because they can provide value in decks not necessarily all-in on the strategy, but a card like Entomb serves the one and only purpose of turning on Reanimator. I like to include cards in my cube that are good in multiple archetypes, and Entomb is not that. All that being said, it is a staple of its strategy, and I do often adjust my cube’s archetypes, so I’d like to have a copy available. I just didn’t want to pay more than $20 for a card I may never use. If it drops below $10, though, I’ll pay that for this card I may never use.

Necropotence

The original printing of Necropotence is up to around $13, which is crazy when you consider how unplayed the card is in basically every format. Even LSV can’t find good things to say about this card in Cube. For history’s sake more than anything, I wouldn’t mind having a Necropotence in my on-deck binder, but I really don’t feel like paying more than $3 for it. That’s an awfully aggressive target price, I realize, but the alternative—simply not buying a card I will likely never play—is completely acceptable to me.

Sinkhole

I like to have a deep bench when it comes to black cards, because black is largely considered to be the worst color in Cube. Therefore, when somebody breaks the format and figures out how to actually make black good, I want to have whatever cards are necessary on hand to make that happen. That said, I’m not even sure what target price on Sinkhole would be appealing to me. With the cheapest paper copy costing around $25, I can see objectively that $10 would be a steal, but I’m not sure I’d pull the trigger even there. This is a big question mark for me.

Sneak Attack

This card has long been in the in-between zone where it’s too cheap to bother having a high-quality proxy made but too expensive to actually pick up a copy. Still, I support this archetype in my cube, so I really should have this card. I’m hoping it will drop as low as $20, though I’m not especially confident of that. I’ll pull the trigger at $25 or $30 if I need to.

Regal Force

I’m pretty sure that this has been outclassed by five or ten better fatties in green, but I’d still like a copy available. EMA copies are already a third of the price of the $13 Eventide copies, but I greedily want this for $2 or $3. We’ll see.

Karakas

The only reason I didn’t have a proxy of this already is because I have never really felt like I could make a slot for it. I expect that should I want a copy, a proxy will remain preferable to the still-very-high price this will have once everything has settled. If it drops way more than I’m expecting, though, I’m all too happy to have an actual card rather than a proxy. It would have to be a serious price drop, however.

Don’t Freak Out, Just Watch and Wait

I learned from the first two Modern Masters sets that it is shortsighted and unnecessary to freak out about Cube cards being reprinted. We’re not Legacy players, holding four or eight (or more!) copies of Force of Will and Wasteland and other staple expensive cards. Yeah, our cubes might lose some value, but cards that weren’t reprinted are already going up, so as a whole, we’re going to stay around where we were. And after some time, it’s very likely that most cards that do drop will end up around where they started.

All that being said, with the right approach and timing, we can pick up new cards or upgrades to cards we already own for relative bargain prices. I’ve outlined many of the cards you should have your eye on in this set, as well as gone through my thought process for cards that I personally will be looking to pick up.

Finally, I shouldn’t need to tell you this, but just to be clear: don’t buy booster packs of Eternal Masters. If you need explanation as to why, please see…oh, the entire spectrum of Magic finance content on the internet.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, hit me up on Twitter at @dbro37. Until next time!

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