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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Jan 04 2018 12:00pm
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Welcome back to Designing Reprint Sets! This should have been out a long time ago, but the combination of a lot of fall products, interesting Flashback formats, a difficult design (with a difficult self-imposed gimmick) and me picking up another writing gig pushed it back somewhat. Overall I feel like I’m happy with the design, even if it’s about as strange as a normal two-color archetype-focused set can be. As a reminder, my assumption with this design is that it will have a card from each set that has never been reprinted before, and that warps the design in more ways than you would think. I’ve also tried to make the archetypes either generic or themes that have been in multiple sets/blocks, as to convey the history of Magic. Otherwise this is a typical Masters set: 249 cards, ten two-color archetypes, respecting the Reserve List, everything you would expect. Now let’s get to the archetypes.


Draft Archetypes:

White/Blue: Control

Making a classic UW Control deck seems like the best choice for an anniversary set, but it’s going to be the most unpolished in this design: not only does a control deck have the most levers to tune (counterspells, card draw, defensive spells, win conditions), I just don’t have as much experience with control decks. Still, I have some interesting choices for those areas (Absorb, Kjeldoran Gargoyle, Mana Tithe, Scepter of Insight), but it’s hard to balance.


Blue/Black: Saboteur/Ninjas

Ninjas was the first archetype I locked in for Masters 25 once I realized that Planechase 2012 was almost certainly going to require a mechanic and/or theme dedicated to it (with the uninspiring Sai of the Shinobi being the only exception), and expanding it into a Saboteur theme made perfect sense. The problem is that it’s difficult to make it a theme, as making “repeatable effects” a theme is difficult (as we saw with Cipher in Gatecrash having to be awful to be printable). My idea is to make it harder to get those effects easily (at common), either by making the fliers average at best (Pit Imp, Faerie Miscreant) or making you jump through hoops (meant for other archetypes) to get them (Lurking Skirge, Aeronaut Tinkerer).


Black/Red: Madness/Hellbent

A favorite of my Masters set designs, this archetype covers almost the entire spectrum from some of Masques block’s Spellshapers to Amonkhet’s “heckbent”. Surprisingly Torment doesn’t give you much for BR Madness (just Violent Eruption), so the bulk comes from Time Spiral and Shadows over Innistrad. Hellbent cards fill in the gaps, as well as giving me an outlet to reprint Infernal Tutor—I just hope WotC would be willing to put Hellbent on some of the many cards with the mechanic like Bloodhall Priest and Blood Scrivener. Every single time I design this archetype I feel like it takes up too much space (it has enablers and payoffs to worry about), but hopefully now that there are more cards to work with that shouldn’t be as much of a problem.


Red/Green: Ramp/Ponza

While a ramp deck is nothing new for RG, I’m playing dangerously by introducing a significant land destruction element to the color pair. The main reason for this is a couple of unique reprints (Ice Storm and Goblin Settler), though Roiling Terrain gives you a reason to actively build around the mechanic. I am trying to play it safe by only putting one card that primarily destroys lands at each rarity for each color, and all of them are “destroy” rather than a Plow Under-type effect (except for Brutalizer Exarch, but that’s bottom and not the primary effect of the card). I’m also worried that there’s too much overlap between Mwonvuli Acid-Moss and Frenzied Tilling, but that’s relatively minor. Another important point is that there aren’t many traditional dominating ramp targets outside of rare, so you need to opt into the land destruction strategy to do well unless you’re willing to win with an early Woolly Loxodon (or open a Magmatic Force).


Green/White: Creature Toolbox

The basic idea of this deck is to combine a lot of creatures with spell effects with ways to search for creatures, but my overall design ended up as a bit of a mess. It mostly exists to reprint a lot of good stuff, whether it’s good creatures (Eternal Witness, Kitchen Finks) or the tutors (Fauna Shaman, Collected Company, Eladamri's Call), and I have no clue if the archetype is good or not in this first draft.


White/Black: Enchantments/Constellation

One of my best overlaps, my idea with this is to maximize Constellation by having a lot of enchantments that are also creatures. Obviously I have the Constellation creatures themselves, but instead of going into Bestow, I’m going back to Urza block by pulling out two Opal enchantments (Opal Gargoyle and Opal Champion) and two Lurking enchantments (Lurking Jackals and Lurking Skirge, the latter I’m aggressively pushing to common). I also have other highlighted overlaps, including Ethereal Armor (which I’m pushing to uncommon in a set actually built around it) and the pair of money picks Idyllic Tutor and Greater Auramancy.


Blue/Red: Artifacts

This deck was surprisingly difficult to make—you’d think between the explicit UR Artifact themes in Magic 2015 and Magic Origins and the generic artifact themes in Kaladesh, Alara, and the Mirrodins this would be easy, but not really, especially after the two UW Artifact themes in the first two Modern Masters sets covered a lot of ground (artifacts aren’t really a pre-Modern thing to the scale an archetype requires). My idea here is that while the two UW Artifact themes wanted you to play as many artifacts as possible, this deck wants you to keep only a couple around if possible (one for Aeronaut Tinkerer or three for Vedalken Certarch). This isn’t perfect—Reclusive Artificer wants as many as possible and making Metalcraft requires a decent number of artifacts in your deck—but the limited amount of removal, persistent artifacts like Darksteel Pendant and artifact lands that don’t cost a card slot help with this.


Black/Green: Morbid/Death

The last archetype to be solidified, it’s probably the most boring deck—in fact, it has a lot of overlap with the green Toolbox creatures and some of the black Madness outlets. I’m least happy with this archetype by far, but I need to get this prediction article out before the set releases.


Red/White: Allies

My only tribal theme, this is here since it’s a RW aggressive theme (which 90% of RW’s cards seem biased towards) that fills in the two Zendikar blocks (which didn’t have much representation otherwise). The main stars are Hada Freeblade and Akoum Battlesinger at common (the former a downgrade, and semi-confirmed to boot—why else would it be showing up as legal in Pauper in any section of the MTGO client?), but to compensate the rest of the commons (other than Stonework Puma) are from Battle for Zendikar block, though they aren’t necessarily bad—Zada's Commando holds its own on base stats, and Cohort in general gives the deck a possible long game. My other main push for the deck is putting Munda's Vanguard at uncommon, though that might be too far—I think the relatively low number of allies in the set makes it reasonable though.


Green/Blue: Morph

This makes sense from a planning perspective (it covers three blocks, and both Tarkir and Onslaught don’t get much coverage otherwise), but Morph is one of the toughest mechanics you can put in a design. How do you give enough density to make the morphs matter while dealing with having a bunch of colorless Gray Ogres? The important things are that I’m only using vanilla Morph (excluding most of Dragons of Tarkir) and following the five-mana rule used in Tarkir (which throws out a lot of Onslaught and Time Spiral Morphs). Even after those limits, a lot of them feel the same, especially in the big Morphs—should I pick Sagu Archer or Spitting Gourna (I chose the latter), and the trio of Titanic Bulvox, Towering Baloth, and Woolly Loxodon is mostly interchangeable (the Khans card gets in since it has the best rate). There is some spice, as Unblinking Bleb pairs with Pine Walker and Secret Plans to make an actual theme (though I wish Primal Whisperer didn’t break the five-mana rule, even if just technically) and colorless gets both (Walker of the Ages) (downshifted to common) and Zoetic Cavern.


Money Analysis:

Between Modern Masters 2017, Iconic Masters, and the aggressive Treasure Chest reprints, it feels like whatever I knew about balancing the money in Masters sets has been thrown out the window. I’ll get to that in a bit, but first let’s go over the mythics.


Stoneforge Mystic:

This comes back from my Iconic Masters design, and continues the trend of post-Alara rare → mythic upgrades, though Stoneforge Mystic justifies it a lot more than Snapcaster Mage or Cavern of Souls did in my opinion since it’s situational in Limited.


Angelic Destiny:

An easy contender for worst mythic in the set, but it’s still decent and fits in WB Enchantments.


Jace, the Mind Sculptor:

Shocker: Mickey Mouse is in the anniversary set. The problem is that the price of Jace is impossible to predict and is mostly based on if it’s unbanned in Modern (it could be $50 or $200 in March).


Force of Will:

I’ll be honest: this was Omniscience until I realized the set was a little low on value, but Force of Will is much more influential in terms of the game itself (and is being predicted by a lot of other people). I’m worried about blue having the best cards, though the colorless ones are worth more (and both are true of early Magic).


Sorin Markov:

Another not great mythic, but it hasn’t been reprinted in a while and I wanted this set to have three Planeswalkers (to make up for Iconic Masters lacking them).


Demonic Tutor:

Demonic Tutor is in the strangest place here: it’s easily the most important of the tutors and needs a reprint (after it somehow dodged both Eternal Masters and Iconic Masters), but it’s overshadowed in this slot by both the beginner-set tutors (Grim Tutor and Imperial Seal) and nearly-identical Infernal Tutor (which needs to be reprinted here, since Hellbent is in this set).


Balefire Dragon:

Hi random mythic dragon—I would have swapped it to Iconic Masters and put Thundermaw Hellkite here, but they’re very similar in function.


Koth of the Hammer:

Sadly, Chandra, Torch of Defiance is way too new for a high-profile reprint and all the other Chandras suck and/or have been reprinted into the ground, so Koth gets to sub in.


Azusa, Lost But Seeking:

Somehow Amulet Bloom survived the banning of one of its namesakes—turns out Primeval Titan is a good enough card to sustain multiple good Modern decks. Azusa was hurt by Kamigawa’s awfulness, so it’s a fine card to finally get a meaningful reprint.



Vengevine feels like a good card for GW Toolbox and GB Death and it hasn’t gotten a Masters reprint yet (just the World Magic Cup Qualifiers promo), so it’s a good choice here.


Animar, Soul of Elements:

This was the last mythic chosen, and it ended up as a perfect pick: It’s Temur (for color balance alongside Debtors' Knell), works great with all three Temur-centered themes (it’s acceleration for Ramp and can cast both artifact creatures and Morphs for free), and is surprisingly expensive (it’s only been reprinted in the Legendary Cube Prize Packs, which obviously doesn’t help the paper price).


Debtors' Knell:

A fine marginal mythic that fits perfectly in WB Enchantments and hasn’t been reprinted before.


Mox Opal:

Yes, M25 needs a Mox, and you have to take every opportunity you’re reprinting Metalcraft to reprint Mox Opal.


Ensnaring Bridge:

Another member of the “8th Edition cards ruining Modern” parade, before its Invention reprint it seemed like they were actively avoiding its reprint (it wasn’t even in Tempest Remastered). Still, unless it gets banned (certainly possible if they want Lantern out of the format) it’ll always be expensive, and it should be mythic for Limited sake, not just price.


Rishadan Port:

Yes, this was my (and everyone’s) called shot for Eternal Masters, and we got Karakas and Mana Crypt instead—knowing now that M25 exists, I would have put Mana Crypt here and Port in Eternal Masters, but what’s done is done. I still don’t know anywhere else you could reprint this (not even as a Masterpiece in Dominaria), but the price is still way too high for a relatively niche card (even though its obscene MTGO price has been dented by Treasure Chest reprints).


Card Paper Mar 16 Paper Mar 17 Paper Now MTGO Mar 16 MTGO Mar 17 MTGO Now
Stoneforge Mystic $25.30 $15.20 $17.40 2.7 2.3 2.2
Angelic Destiny $7.40 $7.40 $7.50 2.2 0.9 0.4
Jace, the Mind Sculptor $86.60 $67.10 $63.20 18.9 11.1 9.3
Force of Will $80.00 $76.50 $72.80 22.8 26.0 40.4
Sorin Markov $16.80 $15.90 $17.00 1.6 0.4 0.4
Demonic Tutor $16.00 $20.70 $29.20 5.1 5.3 2.6
Balefire Dragon $7.40 $8.00 $15.10 1.4 0.6 0.0
Koth of the Hammer $7.30 $12.70 $10.00 9.5 6.0 4.3
Azusa, Lost but Seeking $34.20 $26.90 $47.50 5.0 5.7 3.7
Vengevine $17.60 $12.50 $19.40 4.7 2.1 2.9
Animar, Soul of Elements $24.60 $23.90 $28.90 5.6 3.4 0.6
Debtors’ Knell $8.70 $8.40 $8.20 0.8 0.4 0.1
Mox Opal $43.40 $58.00 $68.60 33.4 42.8 61.1
Ensnaring Bridge $46.90 $40.00 $43.40 48.1 44.1 33.8
Rishadan Port $89.00 $116.90 $96.90 185.7 162.3 41.3
Total $511.20 $510.10 $545.10 347.5 313.4 203.1
Average Mythic $34.08 $34.01 $36.34 23.2 20.9 13.5
Value Added per Pack $4.26 $4.25 $4.54 2.9 2.6 1.7
Percentage of Pack 42.60% 42.51% 45.43% 41.37% 37.31% 24.18%


Yes, despite the lack of “bad” mythics I’m not that high here, mostly since I don’t have that many super-expensive mythics on the level of Mana Drain or Karakas—not even Force of Will or Rishadan Port are that expensive (though the latter will likely have the same rapid price decline, as a lot of its price is scarcity-based, especially on MTGO). There are certainly things I could do here (notably subbing in a super-rare black tutor, or maybe the Tarmogoyf reprint other people are predicting that makes no sense for this set instead of Modern Masters 2019), but it’s around the 40% of the pack value I aim for in my mythic distribution. On the other hand, let’s look at the rares:


Card Paper Mar 16 Paper Mar 17 Paper Now MTGO Mar 16 MTGO Mar 17 MTGO Now
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben $6.60 $8.10 $19.00 1.0 1.8 1.7
Angel of Finality $1.40 $2.80 $2.10 4.0 4.3 7.1
Idyllic Tutor $18.50 $19.00 $20.50 12.4 4.6 3.2
Greater Auramancy $22.00 $21.60 $27.50 9.5 3.1 2.2
Sakashima's Student $11.20 $10.00 $7.10 2.4 5.1 0.0
Glen Elendra Archmage $18.20 $15.20 $15.90 2.2 2.4 0.7
Bribery $19.00 $19.00 $19.20 4.5 2.5 1.3
Reset $21.30 $19.60 $18.90 1.2 0.7 0.5
Infernal Tutor $18.50 $20.00 $22.20 43.6 36.7 20.9
Leyline of the Void $8.50 $14.30 $23.50 3.5 4.6 12.6
Goblin Settler $46.30 $47.60 $42.60 0.0 0.0 0.0
Magmatic Force $8.00 $4.70 $3.90 0.9 0.6 0.4
Insurrection $5.30 $6.30 $6.50 1.0 1.2 0.8
Fauna Shaman $13.10 $10.90 $12.10 1.4 0.6 0.7
Protean Hulk $6.90 $3.90 $10.80 1.6 0.6 0.1
Woodfall Primus $7.00 $7.60 $8.50 0.9 0.9 1.0
Collected Company $18.00 $13.00 $14.50 17.9 16.9 17.3
Meddling Mage $7.90 $6.10 $17.90 1.5 0.8 2.1
Eladamri's Call $8.00 $8.40 $10.70 9.1 2.1 0.7
Daxos the Returned $1.40 $0.90 $0.90 2.7 2.9 5.9
Ezuri, Claw of Progress $2.10 $4.10 $3.80 5.3 11.4 4.1
Adaptive Automaton $5.10 $4.60 $6.10 0.6 0.6 0.4
Strionic Resonator $2.00 $4.00 $4.90 0.0 0.0 0.0
Defense Grid $6.50 $5.40 $5.70 3.4 2.1 2.0
Lantern of Insight $5.50 $3.70 $3.50 1.0 0.8 0.7
Gilded Lotus $8.50 $10.00 $13.20 0.2 0.4 0.1
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea $11.00 $12.80 $13.50 7.6 2.4 0.4
Glimmervoid $44.10 $26.30 $16.60 6.5 5.9 1.8
Bulk x25 $0.30 $0.30 $0.30 0.1 0.1 0.1
Total $359.40 $337.40 $379.10 148.40 118.50 91.20
Average Rare $6.78 $6.37 $7.15 2.8 2.2 1.7
Value Added per Pack $5.93 $5.57 $6.26 2.5 2.0 1.5
Percentage of Pack 59.33% 55.70% 62.59% 35.00% 27.95% 21.51%


Despite all the good picks and super-expensive cards like Goblin Settler and Greater Auramancy, I’m still only around 60% of the pack, well under the 80% I aim for (to say nothing of the absurd 115% Iconic Masters was at when it was revealed). My hope is that cards like Hunting Cheetah, Spell Snare, and Ash Barrens make up the difference, but Iconic Masters had those kinds of cards too—maybe I should have removed some of the random artifact rares (most of which were the last rares I added) and put in a rare land cycle like Modern Masters 2017? I have no idea how you balance something, especially if WotC plans to tank the value again by selling it at big-box retailers in paper, and that’s not what I focus on (instead I like the design challenge).



Happy New Year everyone, and with it comes another round of articles from me after my holiday break. After finally getting this design out the door, I have the Treasure Chest Update to cover, which was posted surprisingly early this release—initial impressions are that it’s extremely minor (376 net cards removed from the curated list), though the removal of the exclusive slot is all downside (the percentage moved to Standard Common/Uncommon in Slot 2/3 and Modern Rare/Mythic in Slot 1) and I don’t have full numbers yet. After that I have the Rivals of Ixalan Limited Review (which will probably come first, due to the early prerelease—yet another move that might hurt the local stores a lot, but might be the only way to get some of the inevitable bugs revealed by the time the full release happens), and I have the follow-up to this article where I talk about each set’s first-time reprint(s) in this design. Other than that, I’m waiting for the Flashback schedule and the full reveal of Masters 25.



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