Category Archives: James Chillcott

New Horizons: What Modern Horizons Means for MTGFinance in 2019

On Feb 28th, Wizards of the Coast announced the first details of an “innovative” new product for Magic: The Gathering. The new set, entitled, Modern Horizons, represents the first time that WoTC has designed an entirely new set with the intent of pushing a plethora of new cards into the Modern format all at once.

The product announcement landed at an especially interesting moment, not long after many players had been publicly wondering whether the push to boost digital magic through the new MPL and Arena was going to come at the expense of paper magic in general, and support for Modern and other non-rotating formats in specific. Theories have been circulating that the launch of a post-modern format on Arena in 2019 or 2020 would relegate Modern to the same slow decline that Legacy has experienced since Modern became the dominant non-rotating competitive format nearly five years ago. The announcement of Modern Horizons however, puts test to the common understanding of the issues at hand, and reinforces the reality of the situation: that WoTC will support whatever formats they can figure out how to sell cards into consistently. Until now, non-rotating competitive formats were economically burdened with a reliance on reprint sets to justify their support. Modern Horizons however takes a page out of the playbook that brought us annual fall Commander decks, borrowing from their successful launch of new cards into that more casual non-rotating format to experiment with feeding Modern players a stream of products aimed squarely at their wallets.

Here’s what we know about the set thus far:

https://media.discordapp.net/attachments/522564825889374209/550804164737761321/Screenshot_2019-02-28_Twitch.png?width=481&height=282

This set of bullets deserves a bit of further discussion. Firstly, the word from our vendor contacts is that this is likely a 36 pack booster box set (as opposed to the 24 pack Masters sets), without any Masterpieces or premium box toppers, and without the guaranteed one foil per pack we are familiar with from Masters sets. It is likely no coincidence that WoTC just announced a couple of weeks ago that they would no longer be publishing MSRP for paper magic sets, but the $6.99/pack for MTGO packs suggests that the retail price of these boxes may be pretty close to that of a Modern Masters set, or around $240 USD. Practically speaking that may mean that the cheapest pre-orders from volume focused Ebay vendors could end up in the $170-180 range, with even lower prices if the print run is particularly deep, or higher ones if it becomes scarce for an extended period based on rampant player demand.

The Opportunities

From an MTGFinance perspective, Modern Horizons is likely to represent a landmark set of opportunities for 2019, much as Ultimate Masters and the first Mythic Edition did in the last quarter of 2018. Those opportunities arise as much from what IS in the set (brand new cards for Modern + old cards that were not previously Modern legal) as from what definitely ISN’T (any current Modern legal cards other than five basic lands).

The first opportunity is related to the original printings, especially foils and old border printings, of the cards that are being brought forward into the Modern card pool from their original sets. If Counterspell or Daze were to be printed into the format for instance, some players will be inclined to take a fresh look at 7th edition foils of the first and perhaps the Masterpiece version of the latter. Figuring out which cards strike the right note for Modern (not top tier in Legacy, but about the right power level for Modern) and identifying the most likely versions for players and collectors to target once they are confirmed in the set is going to likely to make or save you plenty if you get it right.

The second opportunity will arise from early identification of the cards revealed during spoiler season in May 2019 that are most likely to develop into new staples of the format. Given that the set is not a limited print run, and is being released in the bonus set slot that has been used in prior years for products like Battlebond and Conspiracy, we can likely expect Modern Horizons to be very popular and readily available for 3-6 months. The way the Modern player population is likely to respond to this product could be explosive, and it would not surprise me to hear tell of smaller stores running out of product in the early weeks of release, especially given the WoTC tendency to make product a bit more scarce in the first wave to drive hype through perceived scarcity.

The circumstances around this release are truly unique, with the Modern community being forced to parse the implications of up to 250+ cards that could possibly shift the metagame. Attempting to think three steps ahead, beyond which decks get better and on to which decks end up best once a bunch of decks get better (or worse!) based on the fresh additions to the card pool is a fairly mind boggling scenario entirely fresh to the format.

Realistically, the fact that the set has also been designed to be drafted suggests that a healthy portion of the set list will fall below the power curve for Modern, but figuring out which cards fall on either side of that line will require deep format knowledge and a willingness to think outside the box. Leveraging that knowledge to save or profit will additionally require quick wits, a healthy wallet and a strong sense of when the new cards reach peak supply and probe the price bottoms they are likely to accelerate out of in the coming months or years as the set fades from the common supply.

Yet a third opportunity for players and speculators arises out of the certainty that Modern Horizons contains exactly zero reprints of cards that are already in the Modern card pool. That means no fetchlands, Mox Opal, Surgical Extractions or Manamorphose reprints for at least another six months. This fact alone will embolden vendors and players alike to invest in current staples and in fact we are already seeing some pretty spicy buylists published:

This board may be tongue in cheek, but the fact remains that vendors will have little reason to avoid going deep on the plethora of Modern staples that now seem safe from reprint for much of 2019.

As such, those players that may feel uncomfortable predicting the potential of new cards may be better served investing in a small pile of Cavern of Souls, as key staples stand to post significant gains from both safety from reprint and renewed format interest. Ironically, Modern Horizons could end up so disruptive that it changes the entire landscape of the metagame, invalidating prior staples as spec targets while elevating previously unplayable cards to all-stars. Navigating these waters will be tricky to say the least.


New Cards & Set Themes

In attempting to wrap our heads around Modern Horizons, and possibly predict what it might include, we should likely start with reviewing what has been revealed thus far, and what that means for the likely themes of the set.

Here are the two cards Wizards of the Coast chose to show off during the announcement stream:

Right off the bat, those are some fairly interesting new additions to the Modern format! Cabal Therapist is likely the more important card of the two, representing a fresh way for token decks to dismantle opponents hands turn after turn. Just at first glance this card seems tailor made to bolster the B/W token strategies that have largely fallen out of favor in the format, with both Lingering Souls and Bitterblossom looking like solid partners for the card.

Serra, the Benevolent is a bit tougher to evaluate. From a flavor, lore, and art perspective the card is a clear win and casual demand from angel lovers alone will likely make the foils big winners in the long term. When asking whether the card is good enough for Modern we end up considering a fairly disparate set of abilities. The +2 ability is seems fairly benign at first glance, but could potentially double the damage output from the flying tokens generated from the aforementioned Lingering Souls or Bitterblossom. Perhaps more importantly, using the +2 even once, sets Serra’s controller up to use her ultimate on the following turn if unmolested, thereby gifting their side of the table with a Worship emblem that could be very difficult to work around for a lot of decks in the format. In a deck that would also be likely to be running Intangible Virtue, the -3 ability can end up putting a 5/5 flyer with vigilance into play, that could end up attacking for 6 on the following turn and getting joined by her twin the turn after. Put another way, Serra could be viewed as a Serra Angel, that for one mana less than usual, also happens to put a planeswalker into play when it enters the battlefield.

Taken together, both of these cards suggest that at least part of Modern Horizons is designed to bolster token themes in Modern. Having played a few seasons with B/W tokens a few years back, I would imagine that Cabal Therpist upgrades a few of the slots typically reserved for Inquisition of Kozilek or Thoughtseize, leveraging fresh synergies with early token production to further pressure our opponents hand. Serra the Benevolent on the other hand likely challenges slots usually reserved for Sorin, Solemn Visitor or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

Perhaps most importantly, if tokens is one of the themes of the set, it becomes worthwhile to establish what other Modern strategies that are currently under-powered might be bolstered by a fresh influx of synergistic cards.

One obvious possibility would be upgrades aimed at a handful of tribal strategies that are currently lurking on the fringes of the format. Goblins got a lot better over the last couple of years with the reprinting of Goblin Piledriver and the freshly minted Reckless Bushwacker. Fanatical Firebrand and Light Up the Stage also represent key recent upgrades, and the deck might only be one or two more cards from evolving into a serious Top 8 contender. Could Goblin Lackey, Goblin Ringleader or Goblin Bombarment be on the way into Modern or might they be approximated through fresh Goblin cards designed specially for the format?

Fanatical Firebrand

Merfolk, Elves and Faeries could likewise be targeted for greater competitiveness via new card options, as could strategies as diverse as Reanimation, Snow and Enchantments. Since we know none of these themes will include reprints of existing Modern cards, targeting the cards that are made better by the new cards will be key to a successful summer of MTGFinance.

I could also see them including some or all of the missing allied color pair swords to finish the cycle started back in Darksteel.

Finally, it is important to understand that while this set is likely to have a print run somewhere between (best guess) Battlebond and a Standard legal set, a couple of years out, these boxes are likely to be fairly hard to come by. With Standard boxes, the wholesale cost between $60-80 of boxes tends to limit the maximum prices the average rare or mythic can achieve while the set is in print. With Modern Horizons we are dealing, for more or less the first time, with a brand new set of cards priced at a premium during THEIR FIRST PRINTING. The implied MSRP of Horizons looks to be $200 or more, so there will be far less of an economic limiter on singles prices. This could allow for some very expensive rares and mythics as soon as a few months after the set release, essentially once we pass peak supply.

Possible Reprints

One of the biggest challenges with evaluating Modern Horizons will be establishing in advance of preview season which cards from outside Modern are most likely to make sense for fresh inclusion in the format. Right off the bat we can exclude anything on the Reserved List, since nothing has changed on that front, and we should likewise ignore cards that are clearly too powerful outside of the highest power bands in Legacy and Vintage.

As such, we can likely safe exclude cards like Necropotence, Balance, Armageddon and Wasteland either because of extreme power levels or a tendency to reinforce play patterns that make for unfun games. Further, I would expect cards that might serve to make the best decks in Modern even better to get a pass. A card like Lotus Petal for instance, might seem innocuous at first glance, but could be just the kind of free mana acceleration already great decks might need to be nearly unbeatable. Likewise, cards that would help the graveyard-centric strategies such as Dredge, Arclight Phoenix and Hollow One would likely be limited in their fresh support given their current dominance.

Ultimately then, when looking for likely reprint targets we are looking for cards of medium to medium-high power level that either reinforce existing strategies or create entirely new archetypes in the format. Given that the set reveal stream mentioned that the box topper for the set will be a blue spell, many people are wondering whether an all-star counterspell will be entering the format for the first time. Some options here might include Counterspell itself, Daze, Arcane Denial or possibly even Force of Will. I honestly don’t know which of these are viable in Modern, especially given all the new goodies we’ll be getting in June, but if I had to guess I would think Counterspell is the most likely choice for inclusion.

Other possible targets for reprint could include anything from Mother of Runes, Containment Priest and Invigorate to Oubliette, Patriarch’s Bidding, Innocent Blood or Unearth. Multi-color spells could include Undermine, Psychatog, Baleful Strix, Fire//Ice or Vindicate. Might WoTC choose to push a cycling theme with Astral Slide and Lightning Rift? Could Elves be given a couple of key pieces from their Legacy build (Birchlore Ranger?) to make them more viable in Modern? Does Tom Ross on the design team for the set meaning Infect is getting Invigorate? Is Impulse good enough or too good for the format? While predicting the mix of reprints is going to be pretty tough, the rewards for successful predictions will be impressive as the community snaps up the best versions of the reprinted spells, including Judge Promos, Masterpieces, and the coveted 7th edition foils.

(Note: The MTGPrice Pro Trader community is building out a constantly evolving list of potential targets in our Pro Trader only Discord channels. Join MTGPrice today to contribute and leverage the collective knowledge of our most experienced community members.)

Staples On The Rise?

Finally, we must turn our attention to the possibility that Modern Horizons is quite likely to push the most important cards in the format back toward their peak pricing as a rush of format interest increases demand across the list of the most played cards in the format. Cavern of Souls immediately comes to mind as a recent reprint that likely has at least two years before the threat of another printing and would stand to gain significantly should even a single tribe get pushed into the spotlight. Given that Humans & Spirits already generate strong demand for the tribal powerhouse, additional tribes landing Top 8 finishes would almost guarantee the card lands back close to $100 before the next print run

Cavern of Souls

Many people were hoping that cards like Surgical Extraction & Manamorphose, both top 10 cards in the format at present, would end up in this set, but now that we know that isn’t possible their peak pricing is likely to be impressive. Cards without recent reprints are likely to hit fresh highs, and even key cards from maligned sets like M25 and Iconic Masters are likely to be major gainers. Mox Opal, Horizon Canopy, Snapcaster Mage and Noble Hierarch are also quite likely to gain ground in 2019, as should Leyline of the Void, Aether Vial, Thoughtseize and Chalice of the Void. You can also add Death’s Shadow, Cryptic Command, Walking Ballista, Bloodghast, Liliana, The Last Hope, Liliana of the Veil, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Kolghan’s Command, Celestial Colonnade & Thing in the Ice to that list BUT you must also allow for the possibility that some of these cards will get pushed off the podium as strategies both new and old emerge to set up a fresh new phase in the evolution of the Modern format.

Whether you spend the next few months triangulating meta shifts or buying Modern collections on the cheap, Modern Horizons is likely to end up as one of the biggest pivot points in MTGFinance this year. Happy hunting as we all try to gain an edge in predicting a fresh new market era with plenty of moving parts!

Black Friday 2018 Magic the Gathering Sales

The 2018 holiday season is posting up to put a dent in our collective wallets, and alongside the inappropriately early Christmas music and the over hyped ginger spice lattes it’s time to take Black Friday head on. Go ahead and cuddle up by the fire with your holiday sweater on, half conscious from turkey coma chemicals, while you chuckle at the fools who don’t know how to use the Internet to buy things on sale.

For Magic: The Gathering speculators and players in need of some savings, the holiday season from mid-November to the new year is often a pretty great hunting ground, with plenty of sales going on and plenty of folks looking to turn cards into cash fast so they can finance presents and travel plans. For the most part you’ll likely want to save your speculation budget to focus on the couple of weeks at the end of December when some pretty significant sales can be had during late night Ebay hunts, but for now let’s see whether the online Magic vendors have any goodies worth considering this year.

Here’s a round up of the Black Friday sales going on at various online vendors that you might be interested in, with some highlights of the sweetest deals as of Thursday afternoon. We’ll update over the weekend if relevant sales appear so check back in:

Aaron Cain Deckboxes

ABUGames

  • 25% off all MTG single cards paid for with credit card, debit, paypal or crypto

CardKingdom

$10% in store credit back on all purchases made Nov 23rd to 26th (excludes purchases made with existing store credit)

ChannelFireball

Here’s the best of what CFB has to offer this year so far, with more deals coming Friday:

  • Save 11% today only on when you use code BLACKFRIDAY at checkout.
  • This insanity right here
  • Black Friday Crate (US only)
    • 10x recent Standard boosters
    • 3x Masters boosters
    • Core Set 2019 Fat Pack
    • CFB dice, score pad, sleeves, deck box

CoolStuffInc.

Black Friday Sale Pt 2 (Thursday deals):

  • Commander 2018 products at various discounts
  • D&D Waterdeep Dragon Heist Booster brick (8 boosters): $79.99
  • Unstable Booster Box: $119.99

FacetoFaceGames (Toronto, Canada Location)

  • Friday Door Crasher:$1 Battlebond booster packs (1 per customer)
  • D&D/Pathfinder minis: Buy 2 get 1 Free
  • 10% off all cards
  • 20% off showcase foils, board games, FFG products
  • 30% off the “hot deals” binder
  • 30% off troves of all kinds
  • 80% off select games
  • Note: prices are in Canadian dollars (roughly 30% off USD equivalent)

Miniature Market

StarCityGames

  • Alpha Llanowar Elves (PL): $206.24 (25% off)
  • Japanese Conspiracy Vedalken Orrery: $10.35 (50% off)
  • Recurring Nightmare (PL): $10.78 (50% off)
  • Stoneforge Mystic GP Promo: $18.74 (30% off)
  • Masters 25 Booster Box: $149.99
  • Guilds of Ravnica Fat Pack: $24.99
  • Mox Diamond (PL): $134.99
  • Gaea’s Cradle (PL): $262.49 (25% off)
  • Ultimate Guard Twin Flip’n’Tray 200+: $22.49 (25% off)

TCGPlayer.com

15% kickback on all MTG singles (best deal I’ve seen on this site ever)

TrollandToad.com

  • Flooded Strand National Foil Promo: $64.99
  • Liliana of the Veil (INN): $59.99
  • Lion’s Eye Diamond: $159.99
  • Magic Game Night Box Set: $22.95
  • Thoughtseize (THS): $7.99
  • Wasteland (TMP): $24.99

WizardTower.com (Canada)

  • Min 20% off everything in the store
  • Prices in Canadian dollars (roughly 30% less than USD equivalent)

So that’s that. If you’d like to share a really sweet deal you found online, or you’re a store we haven’t added to the list yet, hit us up in the comments below!

Ultimate Masters Absentees: Targeting Cards That Dodged a Reprint

With the full spoiler for Ultimate Masters now revealed we’ve got everything we need to run a reality check on the estimated value of the booster boxes and to plan out our next few moves. Given how much of a profit seeking dogpile this very sexy set is likely to be over the next few months, it behooves us to consider the cards that didn’t make the set and looks for opportunities to get ahead on some cards that are headed for a supply crunch.

Here are a few of the better options I’ve been looking at this week:

The rest of this content is only visible to ProTrader members.

To learn how ProTrader can benefit YOU, click here to watch our short video.

ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

Take care, and keep an eye out for my forthcoming article on the EV of Ultimate Masters.

James Chillcott (@mtgcritic) is an entrepreneur, investor, designer, collector, gamer and adventurer. Between dolling out good advice and humble bragging on Twitter he can be found playing with his daughter Alara, running a couple of web companies and eating cookies.

Ultimate Masters: Putting Things In Perspective

Surprise! Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Wizards of the Coast has gone ahead and dropped a glitter bomb on the Magic community with the late announcement of Ultimate Masters.

First, let’s cover the basics. Here’s what you need to know about Ultimate Masters in a nutshell:

  • MSRP for this set is $335.76 / box ($13.99/pack), up from $240 or so for the last few Masters sets
  • The set has 20 mythics & 53 rares and several important cards feature new art
  • As per usual there is also a foil card in every pack
  • Boxes are only available at Local Gaming Stores, but that means you’ll also see them on Ebay and TCGPlayer as well as online vendor stores
  • Each box comes with an “Ultimate Box Topper” booster pack with one of forty brand new Masterpieces style cards. These packs are sealed within the boxes
  • UMA boxes will be an LGS exclusive but 3-packs of boosters will be available at big box stores for $34.99 for 3 packs, without any chance at the Masterpiece box toppers
  • UMA is only being printed in English and Japanese, but will be distributed worldwide
  • Further spoilers for the set are scheduled for November 19th and 20th, with the full set reveal on Nov 21
  • The set will also be available on Magic Online, though it will not be redeemable and the Masterpieces will only show up in Treasure Chests
  • Release date is December 7th, 2018

Now, let’s see what we can do about grounding our analysis to figure out whether this is a set we’re supposed to be purchasing for fun or profit.

The Masterpiece Factor vs. The Price Increase

Ultimate Masters Box Topper
Ultimate Masters Box Topper

There was a lot of chatter on social media Monday expressing dismay at the quoted MSRP of $335.76 USD. This does represent a 40% increase vs. the $240 MSRP we’ve come to expect from recent Masters sets, but it’s important to focus on value as expressed through the EV of the set, and not the sticker shock of a higher price point.

Firstly, price complaints that ignore the estimated value of the guaranteed Masterpiece included in every sealed box are missing the mark by a mile. Sure, some people are going to get stuck with Balefire Dragon or Raging Ravine as their Masterpiece, but far more are going to open something truly sweet that is very likely to appreciate longer term. No one is going to be complaining about getting a Masterpiece Liliana of the Veil, Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage, or Karn Liberated.

Here’s the full list of box toppers.

My early math suggests that this set of Masterpieces will have the highest average EV of any Masterpiece set released so far, largely due to the preponderance of expensive Modern staples being included and the increase from 30 Inventions in Kaladesh to 40 possible cards here.

Overall, my guess is that the EV of the box topper alone will be $100+ or so once we get past peak supply, which means you have to consider the box price as being slightly less than previous sets, not more.

I should also note that I secured my first case last night at $900/case, or $225/box, which is about $80 above what I paid for the last two Masters set, and largely comparable to those purchases given the included Masterpiece. I will not be at all surprised to see further opportunities in the $240-$270 range as the pre-order season becomes more competitive, which seriously undercuts any criticisms of the MRSP, since that number is largely irrelevant. Add in the superior EV of the main set and possibility of truly insane openings, and I see no reason to hold back so far.

Further, ALL of the Masterpieces also appear in the set as mythics, rares and two uncommons (Kitchen Finks & Eternal Witness) and though we still have 34 rares and many of the uncommons and commons to be revealed, the theme of the set would suggest that WoTC will follow through here and deliver a truly impressive roster of cards. We get the full info Nov 21st, but I want my orders in before that since I’m expecting people to end up surprised at how great this set is. Kitchen sink set here we come!

Juiced To The Gills?

Take a look at the cards we know we’re getting in Ultimate Masters and their respective current price points.

Liliana of the Veil

Mythics (20 of 20 known)

  1. Liliana of the Veil $90
  2. Karn, Liberated $90
  3. Cavern of Souls $80
  4. Tarmogoyf $70
  5. Snapcaster Mage $70
  6. Temporal Manipulation $65
  7. Karakas $60
  8. Dark Depths $50
  9. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn $40
  10. Kozilek, the Butcher $40
  11. Bitterblossom $40
  12. Vengevine $38
  13. Mana Vault $30
  14. Mikaeus, the Unhallowed $27
  15. Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre $25
  16. Leovold, Emissary of Trest $20
  17. Lord of Extinction $16
  18. Sigarda, Host of Herons $16
  19. Balefire Dragon $15
  20. Platinum Emperion $14

That folks, is as good as your mythics list is ever likely to get in a booster box based Magic set. The current average price of these cards is a whopping $45, which is about 45% better than Modern Masters 2017 and 72% better than M25 last winter. With three mythics per box on average, you’re looking at underwriting  $135 in average box cost with your mythics alone (assuming they rebound back close to these prices down the road). Combined with the fact that this list represents significantly more high demand Modern staples, and this is unquestionably attractive.

Notice that there are five more Mythics in this set vs. past Masters sets, which should act as a minor damper on how much the mythics lose in price and for how long. On the other hand, the greater the average price of the included cards, the more they stand to lose from current pricing in the short term, since the alternative is that boxes are cracked for singles until they fall far enough to shut that down. This could result in some pretty swingy price shifts over the next several months as much of the print run is purchased, cracked and dumped into the market, only to dry up within a few months due to a lack of additional inventory from the supply chain.

Snapcaster Mage box topper

If I was to flag some early targets among the mythics that are likely to rebound out six to nine months I’d first look at the following cards as things to check in on heading into peak supply in mid to late December:

  • Liliana of the Veil
  • Karn, Liberated
  • Cavern of Souls
  • Tarmogoyf
  • Snapcaster Mage
  • Karakas
  • Dark Depths
  • Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
  • Vengevine
  • Mana Vault

Rares (19 of 53 known)

Demonic Tutor

  1. Engineered Explosives $85
  2. Noble Hierarch $80
  3. Celestial Collonade $55
  4. Gaddock Teeg $50
  5. Goryo’s Vengeance $44
  6. Through the Breach $44
  7. Ancient Tomb $36
  8. Demonic Tutor $36
  9. Fulminator Mage $26
  10. Reanimate $25
  11. Maelstrom Pulse $22
  12. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth $20
  13. Life from the Loam $20
  14. Entomb $20
  15. Creeping Tar Pit $14
  16. Raging Ravine $12
  17. Lavaclaw Reaches $2
  18. Tasigur, the Golden Fang $1.50
  19. Stirring Wildwood $1

Aside from the hit or miss land cycle, that is a very good looking set of rares so far. Will there be some stinkers in the remaining 35? Definitely. Are you likely to see a set with a higher EV on rares anytime soon? Probably not.

The average price of these rares at present is $31, but we can’t hang our hat on that figure until we see the full list and recalculate a more realistic average.It is worth noting that when I looked at early rare values for the top 25 rares in MM17 however, they were only averaging $23 in the same time frame, so that’s a 35% boost with UMA. Not bad at all.

Even if the average rare price (across all rares) drops to $5 in the final tally, we’d still be underwriting $105 in box cost! If it’s $3, that’s still $63 + $135+ from the mythics + $100+ avg EV (estimated) from the Masterpieces and that’s without even considering the likely EV contributions from the foils in every pack and the uncommons/commons which tend to add $50-80 in value combined. Surprise! We probably just justified the MSRP of $335 even in a pessimistic scenario. Yes, the cards are going to fall from their current price points, but really good mythics and rares aren’t likely to fall very hard, or for very long.

Given that WoTC tends to lead spoilers with the good stuff, I’d expect that roughly just 15 of the remaining 35 rares will be impressive. That could still be enough to cement this set as the best Masters set ever.

Now I do feel that the list of rares here is less resilient overall to a reprint, but I feel good about the rebound potential of at least the following based on their overall demand profile in Modern & EDH:

  • Noble Hierarch
  • Celestial Collonade
  • Engineered Explosives
  • Demonic Tutor
  • Life from the Loam
  • Reanimate

Masterpiece Reprints & Premium Card Fatigue?

Ancient Tomb Box Topper

Some folks have wondered aloud (again) whether too many Masterpieces might be a bad thing. Could players get burned out on premium versions, driving down their values on the whole?

Historical precedent and the latest list of Masterpieces suggests that we’re pretty far from that scenario still. While it is true that a few of these cards have now been Masterpieces twice (Mana Vault, Ancient Tomb, Through the Breach), we need only look as far as Mana Crypt and Sol Ring for examples of cards that have had multiple rare and shiny versions that have tended to trend upward together once the Masterpiece started to rise. Given the higher than usual demand profile of the Masterpieces in question this time, and the deep stock of cards that haven’t yet been given the treatment, this isn’t something I think we need to worry about quite yet.

That being said, it is certainly possible that Masterpiece Cavern of Souls, for instance, might overshadow the Modern Masters 2017 foils for a while, though any gap that opens in their relative prices will only set them up to service different segments of the market or set the stage for the gap to close over time.

Limited Supply?

How limited will Ultimate Masters be relative to other Masters sets? So far, it’s tough to say with any certainty.  Dealers are telling us that their allocations are relatively modest vs. M25 and Iconic Masters last year, and I’m being told by reliable vendor sources that there is only going to be a single wave of allocations. A lot of people will assume this is going to be as common as M25 or Iconic Masters, and I think they’ll be dead wrong. This is WoTC learning from past mistakes and as with Mythic Edition, this set is being designed to sell out.

Further, I have pegged previous MPS sets at around 8000-12,000 copies of each card worldwide, but I think this set could be significantly lower.

Consider this: if WoTC puts out 100,000 boxes of this set and each box has 1 box topper, then there are just 2500 of each box topper. That means we need to be selling 400,000 boxes to approximate the # of Kaladesh Inventions that exist. At $200 cost/box to vendors, WoTC revenues from selling into distributors could be $160/box or about $64M in project revenues. That sounds high to me, and that’s what we’d need for there to be 10k.

Ah, but wait, we also need to consider the freebie copies sent out to folks involved in the Mythic Edition online sale debacle through HasbroToyShop.com. That might have added a few thousand more copies into the mix. Of course even if that’s 10,000 free box toppers, it’s only +250 of each. Not much really.

If you can refine that math, you can zero in on how many of these things exist, so you should try.

It should also be noted that Chinese has been dropped from the Masters print run, which further reduces the total # of boxes and  Masterpieces in circulation. This is more relevant for the box toppers than the Chinese staples, since those don’t circulate much outside of China due to lack of demand abroad.

Japanese boxes on the other hand are likely to be both very rare, and fairly pricey, with MSRP reportedly set around $340 USD in that country as well, but with likely street prices that could exceed $400-$500 with relative ease. I’ll be looking at acquiring some myself, but I suspect the margins will be too thin short term to go very deep since the Japanese vendors will automatically recognize the value of the product & unlike Battlebond the Japanese Modern players will scoop this stuff up right quick.

The Last Masters Set?

WoTC is claiming that this set will be the last Masters set for a while, but don’t expect that to mean no more reprints. Rather, I would expect to see some alternate product models hit the shelves in 2019, most likely with a focus on driving additional product into the hands of Modern & EDH players. A few possibilities include supplemental sets with new cards for Modern, Modern style challenger decks at high price points, and a fresh spin on a Commander’s Arsenal style foil set for Commander players.

What’s Missing?

Notable exclusions from Ultimate Masters so far include Dark Confidant, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Vendillion Clique, any hope of fetchlands and Mox Opal. Other cards such as Thoughtseize have seen recent printings but may still make it in once all the rares are revealed. There is likely some minor gains to be had in the next few months on any missing mythics and rares that in the Top 50 cards in Modern, so keep your eye on inventory levels and the associated price ladders.

In Summary

Ultimate Masters is looking like a source of compelling value, despite the high MSRP. The mythic and rare complement is as good as it gets, with many high demand cards that are often used as 4 of staples in Modern and while variance can still wreck you here, targeting boxes under $275 during pre-orders is going to be hard to beat for fun and value and it could easily turn out that even MSRP is too cheap in the longer term. The popularity of the included mythics and best rares will help card values recover faster, especially if the print run is also more limited and/or the set is released in less waves. This is also a set where you could possibly open Liliana of the Veil Masterpiece and Foil in the same box and that particular lottery result could be you.

Finally, if the price point is too high for your budget, perhaps consider splitting a box with some friends and drafting for the box topper as your prize or look to take advantage of the discounted staples pricing as peak supply hits around the same time as the holiday season drives down singles prices. Remember, not every product will be a perfect fit for your scenario, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to make it work for your needs.

Until next time, happy hunting!

James Chillcott (@mtgcritic) is an entrepreneur, investor, designer, collector, gamer and adventurer. Between dolling out good advice and humble bragging on Twitter he can be found playing with his daughter Alara, running a couple of web companies and eating cookies.