Tag Archives: Modern Masters

Bursting Modern Master Bubbles

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I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m not a fan of Modern Masters 2015. 

The funny thing is that I should be the target market for this product: a Limited enthusiast who is willing and able to pay a bit more to enjoy drafting a more-complex-than-normal (meaning better-than-normal) set with the opportunity to pick up sweet cards for my cube or open insanely expensive eternal staples.

TARMOGOYFfoil

So what’s the problem?

Lottery Tickets

Think of your worst-case scenario in a draft. Most versions of this scenario would be something along the line of opening no cards of value and losing in the first round. Consider that in an eight-man pod, four players will lose their first match. Even (probably generously) saying that two of those players opened cards worth more than the price of the packs for drafting, that means that 25 percent of drafters got to play one round (and are probably frustrated due to a loss) and opened no cards of value.

Obviously, being a good Limited player means that you probably won’t see this scenario a full 25 percent of the time, but still, even the best drafters are going to have nights where the whole thing just goes to hell and they end up with less money, bulk commons, and the annoyance of losing early.

Normal drafting usually costs between $10 and $15. That’s not an insignificant amount of money, but it’s also not enough to really lose sleep over (and if it is, you probably shouldn’t be drafting. Find someone with a cube for your Limited fix). When it comes to drafting a normal set, I have made the conscious decision that I am willing to risk $12 (my LGS’s price) for the chance to gamble on some packs for a money rare, draft some cards, play at least one round of Magic, and hopefully win some prizes. Everyone’s line on this is different, of course, but to me, the upside of a perfect draft is worth the downside of losing $12 and experiencing the frustration of a worst-case draft.

balance

The First Modern Masters

I drafted the first Modern Masters four times (in paper MTG), paying $40 cash each time for the privilege. That’s $160 I spent on 12 packs of the set.

I pretty much had my worst-case scenario happen in all four of these drafts: I didn’t open the top cards and I lost in the first round of all but one draft (and did not win that fourth one).  To this day, two years later, I regret spending so much on those drafts, but due to the nature of the first Modern Masters, the worst-case scenario wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Here’s an incomplete list of cards that I did end up with after these four drafts. I wish I had written everything down, but I did not, so this is just based on my memory:

None of these cards are the type of thing you open and pump your fist about (at least when you consider some of the mythics in this set), but added up over four drafts, these did a lot of work to help me not feel completely morose about “wasting” $160 on what turned out for me to be highly unsatisfying drafts.

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The New Modern Masters

Despite my bad experience with the first Modern Masters, I was looking forward to Modern Masters 2015 and eager to actually win some drafts this time.

Then the set was fully spoiled.

Travis Allen did a great job covering what is also my biggest problem with the design of Modern Masters 2015 as a premium product designed to be a higher-cost alternative to normal drafting. This is the part that stuck out most to me:

The result here is that while half the rares you opened last time just about covered the cost at MSRP, this time only a quarter of them are going to. That puts us a lot closer to the Dragons of Tarkir ratio than the Modern Masters ratio.

The first Modern Masters had cards like Kitchen Finks, Spell Snare, Lava Spikeand a number of other powerful and fairly valuable uncommons and commons that you could be fairly certain would be available several picks into each pack. You didn’t have to open a rare to make at least some value back from your draft.

In Modern Masters 2015, there are a few powerful uncommons and commons, but most of the value is packed in the rare slot of one in every eight packs, since the mythics are where most of the money in Modern Masters 2015 lies.

With the first Modern Masters, someone with a good understanding of cards values could easily take $10 or more from a draft, even if she didn’t open anything in her three boosters. This is largely unprecedented in the world of drafting, where your financial success is often hit or miss—you tend to open one or two cards of value, or you get a bunch of worthless junk with maybe a Standard-playable uncommon.

Modern Masters 2015 leans more toward this second model: you either win big or you lose badly, and the entry fee here is 250 percent the normal price. The fact that a fraction of a fraction of a percent will open a foil Tarmogoyf is cool, but the downside is the same as for a normal set—completely whiffing on cards of value and ending up with only bulk.

magisterofworth

Breaking It Down

As the above quote from Travis said, you have a 25 percent of opening a rare that will cover your cost of entry. Note that the cost of entry is $10, and that many of these rares are going to be heading south of that very quickly. Primeval Titan (a mythic) is barely above the pack price as is, given it’s three previous printings. Daybreak Coronet‘s previous value stems from one deck that wants it and there being virtually no supply—an influx of supply should crash it very quickly. How many copies of Splinter Twin, Fulminator Mage, and Spellskite does the market really need? All of these cards are on their way down to varying degrees. In fact, with very few exceptions, Modern Masters 2015 packs include mostly cards that are going down in value for the foreseeable future. That just doesn’t seem that attractive to me at $10 a pack.

Consider now the top eight non-rares in the set based on TCGplayer mid:

  1. Remand
  2. Electrolyze
  3. Lightning Bolt (at uncommon)
  4. Smash to Smithereens (a common)
  5. Dismember
  6. Cranial Plating (at uncommon)
  7. Vines of Vastwood
  8. Thoughtcast

First of all, the cards at the bottom of this list aren’t even worth a dollar. Second, half of the above cards (Smash, Plating, Vines, and Thoughtcast) are for highly specialized decks, meaning their financial upside is inherently capped. Lightning Bolt at uncommon makes a lot of sense for Limited, but it means players are less likely to get one in their drafts, and it’s not like a card with this many printings is going to have a huge upside despite being at uncommon here.

Only Remand is truly exciting among the non-rares in this set. If you whiff on your rare and foil in each pack, then you have a very limited chance of making back much if any value from the cards passed to you. Compare this to my Modern Masters 2013 pickings listed above, which were almost exclusively passed to me. Modern Masters 2015 just doesn’t compare, and to me, it’s not worth the high cost of entry.

ambitionscost

There Is an Alternative

I’m reminded of George Orwell’s take on lotteries from 1984where the lottery was used as a means to control the masses through providing distraction and false hope.

Look, I understand the thrill of opening a booster pack and hoping to find something highly valuable. That very thrill is the reason that I mainly play Limited, and my love of valuable cards naturally led me to MTG finance. I have drafted sets multiple times with virtually no good cards because I love cracking boosters. The difference is that those boosters were $4 or less.

The ceiling for Modern Masters 2015 is well worth $40 a draft (I’m assuming you’re paying for a prize pack, as well), but the floor is not. Again, each of us will have our own lines, but I find the idea of dropping $40 on a draft and having the worst case happen to be completely untenable.

So what’s my solution? I’m just not going to draft the set. I think Wizards overshot with the MSRP while simultaneously making the set worse value than its predecessor. Sure, I would love to crack some packs, but I’m expressing my dissatisfaction with this product with my wallet. (I may reconsider on Magic Online, where the MSRP is the $6.99 of the original Modern Masters.)

Do I think you should skip the set? Only if you agree with what I’ve written here. I’m not trying to be an anti-Modern Masters 2015 activist here. If you feel like it’s worth gambling with your $40ish dollars on some packs of the set, by all means, do so!

But if you have any way convinced yourself that this set is good value and that you as a financier or player must be cracking packs to get in on the action, I suggest you reconsider your position. There’s a lot of places you can put your money, and randomized packs at $10 a piece just doesn’t seem like your best bet. You can do better. This is no different from any other set: if you’re looking for specific cards, just buy them. Booster packs are bad value, and Modern Masters 2015 are in the same boat as all the others.

 


 

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Modern Masters (The Other One)

Everyone is opening Modern Masters 2015. They love it, they hate it, they open packs with all rares, they open packs with no rares, et cetera, et cetera…

The new set certainly seems to be a bit of a mess. I have four boxes, and I’m not sure if I should bust them and hope for the all-mythics box or keep them sealed and sell down the road for fear of the no-rares packs that I’ve seen opened. It’s certainly a tough dilemma, and one that Magic players across the world are dealing with right now.

The original news was that there would be no second run, but now we are hearing that perhaps that’s not the case. Whether or not this reordering is a result of the myriad printing and quality assurance problems with the first run or not, it means more product could be hitting the market.

 

I wrote last week about my initial thoughts on the future of the set financially, and I’m sure I’ll be updating that in the weeks ahead. And while I do want to spend today talking about Modern Masters, the future is not what I’m here today to address.

Greed is Good

For us, that is. Look, I know Sigmund and I may bore you with all our talk of the “real world” stock market and our experiences and heroes within it, but Warren Buffett makes for one hell of a quote.

In this case, it’s my favorite, and most-heard, quote from the Oracle of Omaha:

“Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”

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This one phrase is so simple and yet so effective when it comes to MTG finance. While the masses are worried about Standard, I’m worried about Block. When the general public is afraid of tanking prices, I’m looking to buy in low.

I’m not Warren Buffett (or even close), but I do have a few phrases to live by when it comes to the financials of this game. One of these is, “Leave the last 10 percent to the next guy,” a phrase I introduced three or four years ago and has never led me astray. Simply put, there’s nothing wrong with failing to maximize profit on a spec, so long as you make profit. The risks of holding too long are very real in this game, and doing so leaves you in a position to lose all the gains you’ve accrued, especially when you consider that for many of us those outs are buylists, which tend to be a leading indicator both when things are rising as well as when they are falling.

There’s another mantra I’ve always adhered to, even if it’s one I haven’t coined anything specific for:

Make your move off the ball.

There are, of course, a million ways to explain this metaphor. “Don’t chase.” “Move in the shadows.” “Act on the fringe.” “Pay attention to what others are ignoring.” “Don’t buy after Jim Kramer has talked about it.” All serve to illustrate a simple concept: you don’t want to be worried about what everyone else is worried about. You want to worry about what they will worry about. Be ahead of the game, and there’s money to be made.

This is why I watch Block every year. One of my most successful recent calls came on Jace, Architect of Thought, which tore up Return to Ravnica Block Constructed but didn’t move much in price. Until rotation, that is, when it suddenly shot up to $20 and made everyone who got in at $5 a lot of money. It’s also why I like to speculate on casual cards, because they’re predictable and allow you to stay ahead of the game.

jacearchitectofthought

It’s a different mindset to consider that the moves you make today are the things that make you money a year or two from now, but it’s extremely valuable. While there certainly is some benefit to chasing those quick spikes, it’s also a fleeting and dangerous game. Loading up on Abrupt Decays at rotation is only now starting to show real profits for me, but if things continue as they’re going, this spec is going to pay off huge in another six or 12 months.

At the same time, I’m still looking toward the future. And, in today’s case, that means also looking toward the past.

Specifically, at the original Modern Masters.

Back to the Past

There will almost certainly be opportunities presented to us with Modern Masters 2015. Cards are likely going to move too low and give us a great chance to buy in. And I’m confident you’ll find the best coverage of that here on MTGPrice when it happens.

But while we wait for that time to arrive (and we celebrate at Grand Prix Vegas), it’s worth checking on the set no one is at all worried about right now but is equally important to the future of Modern: the original Modern Masters.

The Numbers

We’ve seen a few cards in Modern Masters begin to move up recently. Blood Moon, in particular, has been on a tear. I noted last week how Stonehewer Giant seems to finally be recovering from this reprint, and Academy Ruins has been noticeably up as well this year. This is more of a trend than it is isolated. Even things like Manamorphose are up almost 50 percent from where they were at the beginning of 2015.

Of course, not everything is enjoying such a good run.

darkconfidant

We’ve talked about it for awhile, but I think the moment has finally come. Dark Confidant’s days of being one of the most expensive cards in Modern are over. It’s fallen out of favor in Jund over the past year, and it doesn’t seem to be coming back. In a world of Lightning Bolt, Bob’s days may be over. Delve (bringing more high-casting-cost cards into the format) has had an impact, but that’s not all there is to it. Either way, it would appear that Dark Confidant is entering a complete freefall, and I expect it to go pretty far before we see a stabilization.

In a similar fashion, there’s plenty of still-playable staples in Modern Masters that have been reprinted since in one way or another, and the upside on these is limited. Cryptic Command, Tarmogoyf, Vendilion Clique, Blinkmoth Nexus, and company will all see a good time for a buy-in, but they’re going to come down first.

But almost everything else in Modern Masters is showing at least some momentum. I’m not going to list every single card that’s moving up, because you’re all capable of looking at this setlist yourself. What I do want to do is highlight a few of the cards in the set I feel have particular upside.

uphillbattle

Casual Favorites

It wouldn’t be my column if I didn’t target a few casual cards. In this case, I’m looking at Sarkhan Vol and Progenitus. Both have seen some growth this year, particularly the former. But neither can compare to Doubling Season, which has climbed from $20 to $30. Is there more growth in store here? Though it will slow for the next months, I do expect it to push toward $40. Likewise, Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Light and Shadow will continue their upward climbs.

doublingchant

Now, I know talking about cards that have already spiked isn’t the most helpful thing in the world, so instead of trying to squeeze a few dollars out of already-expensive cards, I’d be more interested in targeting things like Stonehewer Giant, which can be had around $2 but will surely climb toward $5 a year from now. And Kokusho, the Evening Star can be found under $10, but that won’t last much longer. This thing is always a terror in Commander and will continue to see upside with a much lower buy-in. Yosei also has solid upside at $5.

Arcbound Ravager

This little (annoying) beast is at an all-time high today at $20. I initially put this on the watchlist a few weeks back, and it’s grown as expected in that time. Affinity is a deck with a lot of pieces reprinted, and more people are sure to pick it up this summer. A climb to $30 seems likely.

arcboundravager

Glimmervoid

This may be an even better target. We’re right at the beginning of a spike on this one, and sitting under $10, I’d much rather get in on this in preparation of a short-term run to $15 and a medium-term run to $20. While some other cards in Modern Masters have already spiked, this one is just beginning.

glimmervoid

Lightning Helix/Spell Snare

lightninghelix

The premier uncommons of the first Modern Masters, growth on these has been slow and steady this year (Kitchen Finks has followed a slightly slower pace), and I expect it to continue or even accelerate now that Modern Masters 2015 is actually being opened. This initial rush of cards hitting the market is going to translate to more people actually playing the format six months from now when we hit Modern PPTQ season, and that’s when these are going to hit truly high demand. Getting in on these now will pay divends then.

spellsnare

Lava Spike

Again, one that has already seen its spike but is still growing. Even though it’s a common, don’t be surprised to see this hit the $4 to $5 range soon. If you can still find these, they’re great targets.

lavaspike

Conclusions

I touched on many of these two years ago, while we were still opening Modern Masters. It made no sense to me that Lava Spike was being considered essentially bulk after years of being a money common. Those moves are paying off now, and you can be sure a similar article for Modern Masters 2015 will be in the works in the coming weeks.

Until then, enjoy Modern Masters 2015. Just don’t forget about its predecessor.

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter


 

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Digging for Gold

On a recent episode of the Money Draught podcast, financier JR (@time_elemental) lamented the lack of real EDH cards in Modern Masters 2015. While Modern Masters…One (I guess) included a lot of EDH staples in an attempt to bring their prices down while simultaneously not acknowledging the secondary market, Modern Masters 2015 doesn’t seem to.

Not only that, the cards that are included aren’t quite build-arounds like last time. While Doubling Season was the linchpin in a draft archetype, we don’t see similar things in Modern Masters 2015. The lack of real EDH cards is going to confound our ability to predict what prices will do to an extent, but let’s dive in anyway. Even though we don’t have a ton of EDH cards this time, there is some gold there.

So what exactly did we get handed to us last time?

Wow, that’s quite a list. We had a substantial portion of the set overlap with cards we find useful in EDH. Let’s compare the size of the list to the size of the list from Modern Masters 2015.

If some of those are a bit of a stretch, don’t worry, because even with me stretching the list out, it’s much, much shorter than the list of EDH goodies in the first Modern Masters set.

With Modern Masters 2015 promising an even larger print run than the first Modern Masters set, expect prices to dip even more profoundly than last time even after you account for all the product that is going to be damaged by WOTC’s shoddy, experimental packaging.

How much do we expect to see prices dip? When should we buy in for some of these cards? Which cards’ prices do we never expect to recover? What are some factors that we don’t always consider? Let’s delve in a bit and see if we can’t make a few predictions based on last time, where we saw a smaller print run but also way more people excited to open boosters.

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Reality had a profound effect on the price of Stonehewer, bringing it down to the $5 range long before the announcement of the reprint, but Modern Masters took a solid EDH staple that most valued as a bulk rare without knowing it was a solid $5 pick and turned it into a card worth half that at best. Even the printing of a mono-white, equipment-themed EDH deck only affected the spread—it increased slightly but the price is thus far unperturbed two years on. Stonehewer demonstrated an ability to be in high demand and fetch ridiculous prices when everyone was equipment crazy, but if that happens again, don’t expect Giant to be able to reach its previous ceiling. It’s possible its price of above $10 may have prompted its inclusion in Modern Masters, since it took so long for the set to go from conception to boosters, but regardless, we’re only seeing faint glimmers of price recovery two years on.

You can sort of control for the effect of Modern caring less about Giant if you look at another card touted in Modern initially and abandoned at the same time: Steelshaper’s Gift. If you look at the price of Steelshaper’s Gift over the same time frame as Giant, the effect of Modern becomes clearer and you can see what was that demand decrease and what was purely the result of the reprinting in the first Modern Masters set. This isn’t exactly a quantitative effect, but even a qualitative one can show there are two distinct periods of price decline and which one was predicated on the reprint.

Do I see a corollary in Modern Masters 2015?

Untitled

While we don’t expect ordinary cards in the $5 range to recover in price, expect Temple to be crushed into powder. A reprint at uncommon is going to be devastating to the price, and the spread reflects that: growing astronomically as dealers head for the hills.  While its price isn’t predicated on EDH play, I see this card and it’s $5-ish price tag and think of Stonehewer’s abject failure to recover its price despite there being more excitement around a card like it than ever before. Narrow cards like Stonehewer that are good at what they do but relegated to only a few decks are going to suffer for longer than the two years it has been since the last Modern Masters set, and I expect Eldrazi Temple is entirely done for as a result. While some uncommons like Path to Exile have demonstrated an ability to stay around $5, Eldrazi Temple is not Path, and a realistic floor could end up under $1. If it had been reprinted at rare, I’d still expect it to hit $2.

How does this compare to a card reprinted in a different manner? Let’a look at an EDH staple that was reprinted in a Commander deck and see if we see a similar price decline or a dissimilar one. Since we are decent at predicting what a Commander reprint will do, let’s try and compare the two effects and try to apply that to a card in Modern Masters 2015.

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Murkfiend Liege is a great, great card. It’s a fairer Prophet of Kruphix and despite being outclassed by the less fair prophet, the community has adopted a, “Por que no los dos?” attitude, so Prophet hasn’t really hurt Liege’s price a ton, especially not compared to what the Commander 2013 reprint did to absolutely pants it.

If you look at this graph of Murkfriend Liege’s price for the Eventide copy, it was well on its way to $15 when the reprint came along and pulled its pants down. The card is dirt cheap right now,but it’s not done going down and I’m not even close to wanting to touch these right now. With the popularity of Derevi, the sealed product is going to continue to be in high demand and every deck popped for a Derevi is going to result in one more Liege hitting the market. Some Derevi players will run the Liege, but some won’t. And besides, that’s a person buying a Seedborn Muse or Prophet (or both) from you who doesn’t need to buy a Liege.

We saw Modern Masters completely pants a card like Stonehewer which was roughly $5 to $7 on EDH demand alone. What about a card that was a similar price to Murkfiend Liege? How about Creakwood Liege?

creakwoodgraph

You can see that the set has already made Creakwood fall to roughly half of its pre-printing price. The good thing is that we can wait for it to fall a bit more, and I don’t know that we’re in any hurry to buy. A reprinting in a Commander deck seems very unlikely. With Modern Masters cutting prices in half last time, I feel like Creakwood Liege may be close to done falling, and this may be the new price for a while, but with Modern Masters threatening to disappear after a few months, it might rebound. Demand was much greater than that for a card like Stonehewer, and with a reprint feeling relatively unlikely after the first one, Liege may recover after all. Can we substantiate our claim that a Modern Masters reprint tends to cut the price of in-demand cards roughly in half?

divinityofpridegraph

Divinity has been printed twice and is unlikely to ever recover at a fast enough rate for us to care. You can see two very distinct depressions in price, one around mid-2013 when Modern Masters gave it its first reprinting (cutting the price roughly in half) and the second when it got a reprinting in the Oloro Commander deck which saw some popularity, especially with everyone testing Toxic Deluge at the time trying to deal with True-Name Nemesis.

If we hadn’t seen the second reprinting, Divinity might also have recovered, We can’t say for certain. Do you feel good about Creakwood? If you bought in at its floor, which I would predict is around peak saturation of Modern Masters 2015, you could see it finish between its initial $15 and its current $7.50. That’s a 50 percent increase and would mean it outperformed my 401k. Not too shabby. If you’re not as optimistic, we can look at the list of EDH cards in Modern Masters 2015, pick the cards unlikely to get another reprint, and predict a rough 50 percent cut in price and a 50 percent increase from that floor price. Not great, but predictable.

What do we like for this effect? Out of the EDH cards in the set, few are truly safe from reprint, and few compare with Creakwood in terms of desirability. The Eldrazi have been reprinted before in various manners and don’t feel as safe to me, and their high buy-ins reduce upside. Kiki-Jiki may get reprinted every two years in this wacky set. Comet Storm in the only mythic rare anyone is opening if the hashtag #CometCurse is to be believed. Wilt-Leaf Liege‘s price is mostly predicated on a modicum of Modern play—Brian Kibler saying the name of a Magic card on Twitter has roughly as profound an effect on price as does all of EDH-dom, so I expect Modern to greedily swallow a ton of the loose copies irrespective of how much it’s actually played. If you disagree, Wilt-Leaf may be a good buy, but my money is on Creakwood. A lot of the rest of the cards on my list are pretty cheap.

Based on the response I get this week, I may clarify a few points on this topic before I move on to something else, so make sure you hit up the comments section. I am in Las Vegas until next week for the GP (in the loosest sense of being in Vegas “for the GP”), so I may not spend a ton of time monitoring the comments, but I will try and check in. Your feedback so far has been invaluable and I hope you continue to engage with this series and encourage others to ask questions. Come find me if you’re in Vegas and say hello! Until next time.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Modern History 101 – Eighth Edition and Mirrodin

BRIEF TEMPORAL ASIDE: I’m jealous of all of you who are reading this, because you are living in a time when Modern Masters 2015 has come out, while I am currently trapped in the past. Are you gonna crack some packs? I know I am! Cracking packs is so much fun.


Rather than talking about Modern Masters 2015, I want to talk about Modern itself. A lot of writers have done individual set or block reviews (myself included!), but I don’t think there has been a narrative overview of what Magic was like when those sets were out. We are going to do that, and compile some information that often gets discarded. You’ll see what I mean as we go along.

 

Eighth Edition

This was the first set to feature the new card face that would later go on to kill Magic1. The set, like all pre-M10 core sets, was comprised entirely of reprints. The selling point, though, was that this set would contain one reprint from every previous Magic set that had not been in a core set already. Neat!

And while several of those reprints are underwhelming on the order of Vexing Arcanix and Skull of Orm, there are some good cards in this set! Blood Moon was first reprinted here (and later again in Ninth), and Eighth Edition put such gems into Modern as City of Brass, Intruder Alarm, and Ploooooooow Uuuuuuuuuuuundeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer (I really like casting Plow Under).

Other finance gems worth noting include Planar Portal, the Urza-tron lands, and foil copies of Fecundity, Merchant Scroll, and Vernal Bloom. The first Standard format that Eighth Edition came into was Odyssey/Onslaught/Eighth, and neither of those expert-level blocks are Modern legal—if you want to see what the format looked like, check out the 2003 World Champs. Oh, and they made a big deal about the prerelease (even though the promo was Rukh Egg), and I won mine.

Non-Foil Cards of Note

Blood Moon – This card is in good Modern decks and bad Legacy decks.

Ensnaring Bridge – Modern, Legacy, Cube, Commander, Casual.

Bribery – Commander only. [Editor’s note: Cube would like to have a word with you, Ross.]

Grave Pact – Commander only also.

Lord of the Undead – I’m beginning to sense a pattern.

Defense Grid – Mostly Commander, some Modern.

Elvish Piper – Commander, and the eventual inverse of Tiny Leaders (Okks?).

Coat of Arms – Commander and any weird tribal format.

Choke – Modern, Legacy, and anything that is dominated by blue.

Foils of Note that Aren’t Just the Same as Above

Birds of Paradise – I’m not entirely sure why, but this is one of the most expensive printings of Birds. Seventh Edition foils blows these out of the water, though.

Storm Crow – I hate that the Storm Crow people have made this happen. Retail “price” of $32, best buylist price of $4. One of those prices is off, and I think it’s the first one.

Merchant Scroll – Vintage!

Teferi’s Puzzle Box: Casual favorite, I suppose?

Ambition’s Cost: Only foil printing of this card.

Noteworthy Standard Decks

NONE.

Now, I do love me some UG Madness2 and some Goblin Bidding, but that’s not really what this section is going to be for. As we roll into future sets, I’ll mention any decks that I think may be worth having on a resurrection radar—maybe an old archetype could benefit from new technology! I don’t expect much, but it’s worth looking. Also, I’ll be able to tell you if a deck was the real deal (like Karstenbot) or bogus (like Ghost Dad).

Analysis

There are a lot of foils in this set that are worth money, and there are fifteen rares worth $3 or more. The downside is that the set had 111 rares, so only about ten percent of the rares are worth the typical price of admission. There are some major wins if you hit on a foil, but I’m not going to tell you to buy a bunch of old packs to hopefully open a foil rare.

This set, despite its gimmick, was not super popular, since most of the marquee cards at the time (Persecute, Birds of Paradise, Wrath of God) were cards that enfranchised players already owned. Sealed packs look to be between $5 and $8 (ignoring shipping), so that’s not quite low enough to look appealing. If you are a gambler, and your local store has had these on a shelf since 2003, maybe they’ll take $3 each just to clear up space, but even then, 111 rares is a lot. To compare, there are 73 rares and mythics combined in M15, and only 68 rares and mythics combined in Dragons of Tarkir. If you open a box and each rare is different, you are only going to open 32 percent of the rares in the set, and only about three to five of them are expected to be “hits” (versus the lower price of entry, if you can even get it).

The prudent thing to do is to stay away, which means that these cards are going to slowly keep creeping up in value. All of the cards in here are prime candidates for reprinting in a future Modern Masters or Commander product (it’s already happened for some), although some of the more powerful cards, like Plow Under, are unlikely to ever be put in Standard again.

Oh, and I’ll mention this now since we were talking about packs: don’t forget that the foil distribution process didn’t change until Planar Chaos (where the foil replaces a common), so if you open a foil rare, that is also your rare. You can’t get two rares.

Parting Words

Don’t buy packs, do look up any foils that you see in longboxes where you don’t already know the price.

Mirrodin

This was the first expert-level set to feature the new card frame, and, to be fair, did a pretty good job as a block trying to kill Magic. This was also the first set to leave Dominaria in a long time, and we wouldn’t return until Time Spiral. The block’s theme was “artifacts matter,” and the books were terrible. I don’t want to talk too much about the block as a whole, since we are going through sets individually, which will probably help me limit my hateful vitriol to Darksteel where it belongs.

Mirrodin introduced affinity, equipment, and Mindslaver to Magic, so it certainly has had an impact. The set definitely had hype going into release, and the massive amount of design space devoted to cool artifacts has definitely given the world several casual favorites. The prerelease card, Sword of Kaldra, was a big hit with the Timmy/Tammy crowd, and the only reason it isn’t worth more is because I doubt most newer players are aware it exists3.

I remember Mirrodin pretty well, because it was around the time I started FNMing weekly as a priority. Like Eighth Edition, much of the analysis of this set in terms of Standard is going to be warped by the inclusion of sets that aren’t Modern legal (in this case, just Onslaught, one of the coolest blocks ever), and also by the fact that several of the best cards in this block got banned. I remember FNMs were getting pretty big around this time (I hopped between a few different stores). If only they knew what was about to happen…

Non-Foil Cards of Note

Chalice of the Void – Took off as anti-Treasure Cruise technology, and hasn’t come down since. The card is very good in older and more cutthroat formats like Legacy and Vintage, since there are more aggressive forms of “fast mana.” This card was a player in Old Extended with the next card on the list.

Chrome Mox – It should not come as a surprise that when WOTC uses the word “Mox” in a name that the card is very good. This card is considered to be too good for Modern, but it’s about right in Legacy, since going down an extra card when you play it is more taxing. Something to notice on Chrome Mox and some of the other top cards on this list: the buylist prices are all very good. Often a smaller spread between a buylist price and a retail price can mean copies are viewed as easy guaranteed sales, which you can extrapolate as expressed confidence in the card in the long term. If the big dealers like something, then you probably should too.

Oblivion Stone – This card went from zero to hero with the advent of EDH, and has cemented a place in Modern with the consistent success of Tron decks. Two big populations like this card, and it’s pretty good in Cube, too. This is basically Nevinyrral’s Disk to a generation of players. That’s a good thing.

Glimmervoid – Some versions of Affinity play lots of spells of different colors, so this is pretty much their best land.

Tooth and Nail – If you resolve this in Constructed, you win. There are lots of different two card combos to find with Tooth and Nail, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Mephidross Vampire and Triskelion. For a while, Tooth and Nail was an easy twenty bucks, so don’t be surprised if the current price of $8 balloons up again.

Duplicant – Popular EDH card and actual spot removal spell in Vintage (you can cast it off Mishra’s Workshop!). Yes, this is why the foil price is insane.

Platinum Angel – Despite a couple reprints, this is one of those marquee cards that is always going to keep a respectable price. “You can’t lose” is pretty appealing to most Magic players and/or Parker Lewis.

Sculpting Steel – Another card that is good because of Mishra’s Workshop, although this has largely been co-opted by Phyrexian Metamorph.

Goblin Charbelcher – Best card in Magic.

Foils of Note that Aren’t Just the Same as Above

Solemn Simulacrum – This is the original set foil version of this card. Sad Robot, perhaps, but at that price, I’d be smiling.

Lightning Greaves – EDH staple, or at least it used to be. Also original set foil.

Mindslaver – The other best card in Magic.

Thoughtcast – Again, original set foil. This card is crucial in Affinity decks, since playing your entire hand at once typically becomes a disadvantage if the game goes on for much longer.

Sylvan Scrying – Original set foil, finds Urza lands and other toolbox effects. Played as a 4x in a few Modern decks.

Talisman of Dominance – Played in Legacy, believe it or not.

Molten Rain – This card hasn’t been in either Modern Masters set yet, which is surprising. This card is very good, and I’m surprised the foils are only $10.

Noteworthy Standard Decks

Broodstar Affinity – It didn’t take long (by 2003 standards) for Affinity to be uncovered as an extremely unfair mechanic. The five artifact lands, in concert with Disciple of the Vault and Atog (yes, really), helped enable some extremely degenerate strategies.

The decks also featured Broodstar, a heavy-hitting beater that would get in large chunks of damage coming down extremely early. Broodstar was a serious threat, and is probably the only Affinity-era star to not get serious consideration in Modern. The reason why is likely because Affinity decks now lean towards strategies that better support Cranial Plating, which encourages a wide threat of small artifact creatures, rather than just a bunch of artifacts. I’m not sure if Broodstar adds anything to existing Affinity strategies or if building a new version around the flier is worth exploring, but Broodstars are currently dirt cheap and Affinity is very popular in Modern (and Legacy!). Much of the other stuff that was in these lists was later replaced by better cards in the other two sets (sorry, Scale of Chiss-Goria).

RDW – Red decks are always going to try to be as lean and redundant as possible, so it’s hard to find something that is “hidden” in terms of red deck technology. Molten Rain is probably as good an example of a hidden gem as red decks can get, which should tell you how little meat is still left on the bone. Arc Slogger does not belong anywhere near your Modern red deck. Slith Firewalker is probably not even good enough, which stinks.

Analysis

Looking through the foil prices on Mirrodin, I started to realize how many good cards there are in this set. While you can never truly judge a book or a Magic set by its cover, I think it actually makes thematic sense that Mirrodin has a wide variety of cards with casual appeal. Artifacts, by their nature, are accessible to decks of every color, so the demand is more widespread—if something is good, it’s a card that all EDH players want, not just ones playing blue (like Bribery) or green (like that dumb creature that does a thing). Put a pin in this topic, we’ll come back to it in a bit.

Anyway, boxes look to be about $250, which puts packs just shy of $7. There are only eleven cards that beat that mark (or come super close, like Sculpting Steel), so buying packs is a losing proposition once again (this is often going to be the case). There are a few uncommons and commons of value in the set, including Wrench Mind, which is the closest Modern is ever going to get to Hymn to Tourach4. This is a great set to pick through when you are looking at bulk, and there are a handful of cards out of this set that may be worth a closer look (I’ll be changing the way I do my set reviews to better fit this new series in the future, so they are complimentary pieces rather than basically writing the same thing twice).

It’s worth mentioning once again that Mirrodin on release was a very popular set. Standard was still heavily defined by Onslaught, but that set, while it featured some pretty powerful strategies, wasn’t so strong that it overshadowed new tech. There were a lot of people, myself included, who were just happy that Odyssey block was gone, if you can believe that. Those sets were cool, but rewarded thinking in a way that was only clear to very good players.

Coming up next: the set that would send the tournament player base into a nose dive.

Two Sets Down…

Let me know what you thought of today’s article. It’s fun to go back and parse out what we didn’t know when all this was happening, and I try to interject what I remember personally (this will get easier as we progress and sets are more recent in my memory, except for those years where my LGS was next to an Outback Steakhouse that did happy hour right before FNM). If there is something you’d like to see me add, or you’d rather me just stick to our old set reviews, let me know. Thanks, and I’ll see you next week!

Best,

Ross

P.S. Word is that it is possible to reseal Modern Masters 2015 packs. Do not buy packs from someone you don’t trust completely, and be extremely scrupulous. Also, as a way to be respectful to other players, don’t discard the packaging in a way that other people may be able to reuse your packaging. And make sure to actually recycle them! That’s what this change was for in the first place.

P.P.S. Sounds like cards are coming out of the packs with scuffing and damage. This is likely due to the new packaging method. More on that as it unfolds.

P.P.P.S. Remember when I said to put a pin in what we were talking about before? Here’s the elevator pitch version of every Modern block in three words. Tell me which jump out as the best sets for casual cards:

  • Mirrodin: Lots of artifacts!
  • Kamigawa: Lots of legends!
  • Ravnica 1: Ten color pairs!
  • Time Spiral: Sure, why not?!
  • Lorwyn: Lots of tribal!
  • Shadowmoor: Lorwyn minus tribal!
  • Alara: Now three colors!
  • Zendikar: Lands and Cthulhu!
  • Scars: Mirrodin plus poison!
  • Innistrad: This is Halloween!
  • Return to Ravnica: You loved Ravnica!
  • Theros: Remember Homer’s “Odyssey”?
  • Tarkir: Wedges and dragons!

1 Clearly it didn’t, but that was the assumption.

2 This was also the name of one of Magic’s few webcomics. I really liked it, and it’s where I got my Mise shirt.

3 The concept of exposure is something we’ve been talking about on the forums lately.

4 Although I’m holding out for an eventual “dinosaur world” set featuring a functional reprint named “Hymn to Turok.”

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