The long-awaited conclusion to my Modern Masters series is finally here. I’m sorry it’s so late, but it turns out video production (that is more than just uploading a raw stream) takes longer than I expected, even if it isn’t great quality (the editing was mostly adding some text and cutting out some dead periods). In addition, I wanted to cover the Amonkhet Masterpieces as well, so it’s a week late. Still, you haven’t come to see me apologize, you’ve come to see me gamble!
Opening 100 Treasure Chests:
It's time to throw some money away! Yes, I did decide to open one hundred Treasure Chests for science, and while we'll get to the results in a bit, definitely don't try this at home. However, the important part isn't the monetary value of the results, but instead the math of how everything works out.
Before we get to the video, I'll link the master Treasure Chest reference, as well as point out the important things set in stone about the layout:
Slots are not set in stone other than the following rules:
A Standard common/uncommon will never show up in the first slot.
Play Points only show up in the first slot.
Slots are ordered from most to least likely, so the value of Slot 1 will probably be overrepresented compared to the stats.
When I'm calculating the value of cards, my cutoff is a fairly low 0.1 tickets, and prices are MTGOTraders sell prices with the exception of the new PZ2 cards (the Monarch cards), as they haven't been updated here as of press time due to lack of supply.
I have the entire spreadsheet I made as well, but if you don't want to look at that or watch the video, things did not go well. I lost over 60 tickets overall, mostly since I didn’t get any extremely good cards (my only two pulls over ten tickets were a 120 Play Point bundle and an Arcbound Ravager Masterpiece). However, as far as the frequencies went, I actually did slightly above average: I got slightly fewer Standard commons/uncommons and Modern rares/mythics than average and more Play Points. More importantly, only 22 chests were worth more than the average price I paid per chest (~2.5 tickets each). In addition, about 40% of my return was in Play Points, so it’s now locked to my account. As I said at the beginning of this, don’t try this at home, as so much of the value is locked up in the top-tier cards and the pool is so large even a large sample size of 100 chests can’t completely mitigate it. Next, let’s talk about some Yu-Gi-Oh cards!
I've been keeping track of the Masterpieces since they're technically a reprint set, and the process is interesting. Just keep in mind that Masterpieces are much more limited than a traditional reprint set; not only does the in-set reprint of Aven Mindcensor do much more for format accessibility than all the Masterpieces combined, so does a Masters set mythic (maybe even a foil mythic). Let's see how they line up:
As we have the first Masterpieces with colored spells in them (minus the Gearhulks in Kaladesh), we can already see some potential problems. The color balance is a mess, which is going to be the case whenever you’re printing only the top-tier old cards (red and green just didn’t get that many eternally-good cards originally). We’re also seeing a bias towards older cards (ignoring the new cards): while the Expeditions had multiple recent dual lands and the Inventions had many cards from Scars of Mirrodin block (as well as Return to Ravnica reprint Pithing Needle), the newest cards in the Invocations are Maelstrom Pulse, Spell Pierce, and Containment Priest. Finally, a lot of the card decisions are strange: Force of Will and Loyal Retainers are your value pieces, and Dark Ritual and Wrath of God are flavor home runs, but others just don’t have a place. Why print Diabolic Intent before Demonic Tutor, when pairs like Wasteland/Strip Mine in the Expeditions and all the mana artifacts in the Inventions are generally printed together? Divert also seems out of place; so much so that I’m expecting it either to be reprinted or be explicitly referenced in Amonkhet (like Static Orb). There are also the complaints about readability/look of the cards, but I’m waiting for the MTGO development article where they talk about putting these on the platform (Aftermath cards will also be interesting). However, that wasn’t the only reprint set mentioned in Monday’s article…
Welcome Deck 2017:
Now it’s time to talk about the set that almost no one knows about. You see, starting with Magic 2015, WotC wanted to slightly increase the complexity of the core set, but still wanted to print some cards that are simple yet unplayable (Cancel), unbalance limited (Serra Angel), and/or are flashy “Timmy” rares (Shivan Dragon) for the sample 30-card decks used to introduce new players to the game. As such, WotC put some cards (all reprints) into Magic 2015 beyond the normal collector number (like they do with the Planeswalker-deck exclusive cards now), put them into the appropriate sample decks, then print them in the appropriate Deckbuilder’s Toolkit (so collectors didn’t need to hoard these recruitment tools. The same thing was done with Magic Origins, but the removal of the core set left these cards without a home. Instead of randomly tacking these cards onto the end of Shadows over Innistrad (the block that would take the place of the core set), WotC gave these cards a special expansion symbol and grouped them in Gatherer under the name “Welcome Deck 2016”.
So why does this matter? The important piece is that in order to ensure new players could easily transition to higher levels of competition (most simply by taking two sample decks and putting them together and entering FNM), Welcome Deck 2016 was made legal in Standard (rotating alongside Shadows over Innistrad in Fall 2017). You still might wonder what the big deal is, as no one is playing Shivan Dragon and Serra Angel in competitive formats. Look at that list again, as while the “Timmy” cards were still on it, so were some cards that were actually good, like Borderland Marauder (efficient low-drop, and Warrior was a relevant type with Dragons of Tarkir still in the format), Cone of Flame (could be Plague Wind in the right format), and Soul of the Harvest (actively considered for Cryptolith Rite decks at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, leading to complaints from pros). That means while the chances for these cards to be relevant are low, they certainly exist and it’s important to know about them.
So what’s in Welcome Deck 2017 (if that’s even what WotC decides to call it)? First of all, a disclaimer: we don’t have the actual set list for the set yet. What we do have are the lists for this year’s Welcome Decks, and while all cards in these decks from neither Amonket nor Kaladesh block have to be in the set, it isn’t necessarily complete—in particular, I’m expecting the simple dual lands from Oath/Shadows (Timber Gorge/Forsaken Sanctuary and friends) to be in the set, so the available mana fixing in a format isn’t dependent on which Planeswalker decks were printed (and the Oath lands were set to rotate before the schedule change). With that out of the way, let’s see what gems await!
My first impression is that there are a lot of cards: Welcome Deck 2016 only had 16 cards, but I’m counting 29 cards here. Second, they must have taken the complaints against “hidden playable Standard cards” to heart, as the cards are much worse here (mostly clearly shown by including Wing Snare over Plummet, though that is a first-time modern black-border printing). The only cards I see that are remotely playable are Stormfront Pegasus, Drag Under, Stealer of Secrets and Inspiration, and I’m not rushing to try any of them immediately (like how Borderland Marauder inspired me to try building RW Warriors). I guess we’ll have to be happy with Amonkhet itself to shake up Standard.
That’s all for now—I hope people appreciate the video, even if it’s a little rough (I wanted some background music, but ran short on time, for instance). I don't know if I want to do this regularly, but I certainly have the built-up credit to do so let me know if you want to see more of this. Next time you see me should be the Amonkhet limited review, as the special events beforehand are the rescheduled Throwback Standard Gauntlet and another round of Legacy Cube.