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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Oct 04 2017 11:46am
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Welcome back to a new experiment I’m trying. When I was planning out the articles for the next couple of weeks, I had a lot of ideas that couldn’t fill out their own articles. Some of them are things I missed from recent articles, some are planned follow-ups, and others are From the Vault sets with only around a hundred possibilities. As such, instead of releasing a lot of “half” articles, I’m combining them into an slightly larger than average article. Let’s start by following up on Iconic Masters!

 

Iconic Masters Rarity Shifts:

I normally cover the rarity shifts of a Masters set in my Reprint Set Report Card articles, but in the scramble to get that article done quickly it ended up getting cut. Part of it was based on space, but part of it was that there was a lot to cover. Seriously, this set has more rarity downgrades in each major category (uncommon to common, rare to uncommon, mythic rare to rare) than any Masters set in the past (with the exception of Vintage Masters’s outlier of 27 R → U shifts). This is one of the main reason why Iconic Masters feels more like Commander, as there are bigger things at lower rarities than in an average set (cards like Ivy Elemental and Riverwheel Aerialists at common and Indulgent Tormentor and Bladewing the Risen at uncommon). Pauper is also getting a lot of goodies, with cards like Seeker of the Way, Emerge Unscathed, Jace's Phantasm, Thrill-Kill Assassin, and Crowned Ceratok among others being introduced (though you’ll want to look to a dedicated Pauper columnist, such as Dime Spiral here on PureMTGO, for good analysis).

 

Before I leave Iconic Masters, a quick archetype update. I said GB was a toughness-matters theme, but looking again at Jungle Barrier, along with cards like Fog Bank and Mnemonic Wall, the toughness/Defender theme makes much more sense in GU. This leaves GB to be a counters theme, just like GW (as the sharing of Spells between WU and UR says multiple color pairs can share a theme). I’m still not sure on RW, but it looks like a generic attacking/combat theme—cards like Borderland Marauder, Battle-Rattle Shaman, and Infantry Veteran seem out of place otherwise. I’ll have more details in the Limited Review I’ll write closer to the set’s wide release, but let’s now move from one Masters set to another with the next installment of “Road to Masters 25”.

 

Road to Masters 25: Supplemental Sets:

As a reminder, the “Road to Masters 25” series is based on the idea that Masters 25 will have at least one card from each set with new cards that has never been reprinted before, and you can check my previous article for more details. That article also covered the earliest sets and the beginner/core sets, but now we’re talking about the supplemental sets: sets released outside of the normal Standard cycle. Most of these were specific decks, but Conspiracy and its sequel are normal booster sets (though most of their cards aren’t reprintable in a normal set). That means we have relatively few choices to choose from, but most of the cards are very niche.

 

Planechase 2012:

While the stars of Planechase 2012 have been reprinted, there are still eight cards with no reprints (other than the Anthology printing). The biggest problem here is that other than Sai of the Shinobi all of the cards have a set mechanic, whether it’s Totem Armor, Devour, Ninjitsu, or the planar die. Even so, Sakashima's Student might be worth printing Ninjitsu for. If you extend it to cards only reprinted online a new option appears in Brindle Shoat, a Pauper star thanks to Vintage Masters.

 

Commander (2011):

Of the 51 new cards in the Commander decks, 21 still haven’t been reprinted (26 allowing online-only reprints). Most of the star cards have been reprinted (Flusterstorm had a promo and is in Iconic Masters, the face Commanders were in the Legendary Cube Prize Packs), but Skullbriar, the Walking Grave could be built around. Martyr's Bond is also very interesting and surprisingly expensive. However, the choice is probably going to be the boring removal spell Soul Snare.

 

Commander 2013:

As Commander matures, fewer cards have been reprinted (39 of the 51 new cards, 42 allowing online-only/paper-only reprints), but more of those cards are explicitly tied to multiplayer and/or Commander, making finding two player-relevant cards more difficult. Of these choices, Angel of Finality is a nice rare that was passed up for Iconic Masters, Darksteel Mutation is an interesting removal spell, Terra Ravager and Hooded Horror are good creatures even in a two-player context, Primal Vigor should be fine despite it affecting both players, and I put Restore in my Iconic Masters design.

 

Commander 2014:

Hallowed Spiritkeeper and Flesh Carver are the stars for good creatures here, but while Hallowed Spiritkeeper doesn’t really fit into white’s themes, Flesh Carver could easily be a nice rare for a Bx Sacrifice deck (and both Spoils of Blood and Wake the Dead could also possibly fit there). Scrap Mastery could possibly fit into the artifact archetype I’m building, but sadly Feldon of the Third Path got a Judge Promo.

 

Commander 2015:

The obvious choices are the Confluences (though Mystic Confluence, the one that actually needs the reprint online thanks to blue’s dominance in 1v1 Commander, got a Judge Promo, which excludes it from this slot), but there sadly isn’t much else (especially after Commander 2017 sniped a couple like Oreskos Explorer and Corpse Augur). Of the other good choices, Grasp of Fate is a fine Banishing Light variant (and WW probably lets it be common in a Masters setting), Kalemne's Captain could work if Monstrosity is in the set, Aethersnatch is a simpler Spelljack, Magus of the Wheel can fuel a combo or graveyard deck, and Thought Vessel is a fine mana rock that could be common.

 

Commander 2016:

Commander 2016 is a milestone, as not a single one of its 56 new cards have been reprinted yet (other than the Treasure Chest set, which doesn’t really count). However, there aren’t many good choices: the 15 Partner cards are obviously out, the non-Ash Barrens Basic Landcycling cards are awful for 1v1 (as are a lot of other symmetrical cards), and there are a lot of one-off mechanics. The few good choices include Entrapment Maneuver (a neat removal spell for a tokens deck), Selfless Squire (a nice Fog variant, though I’m not sure it’s exciting enough for rare), and Parting Thoughts (can it work with relatively few counters in the set?). Other interesting, reasonable cards include Deepglow Skate and Breya, Etherium Shaper, but I think it’s too close to reprint high-profile cards from the set in a booster product (again, none of these cards were in Commander 2017).

 

Commander 2017:

This is the strangest case, as it will have only been six months since Commander 2017’s release, and we are way too close to the release of the set. In addition, almost all of the cards are tribal-based, and the four tribes probably aren’t themes of Masters 25 (both because they’re niche and it’s too soon). The main card that stands out to me as being reasonable is Kheru Mind-Eater, though Izzet Chemister and Bloodforged Battle-Axe are also interesting. Some of the legendary creatures are also interesting, but again, it’s way too close to the release.

 

Conspiracy:

Conspiracy only started with 65 new cards, but after throwing out the Conspiracies, draft-matters cards and cards previously reprinted you’re left with only 30. However, even that doesn’t tell the whole story, as that includes all the Dethrone, Parley, and voting cards (which this set probably doesn’t want), and excluding those leaves you with only eight (and some of those are still multiplayer-focused like Reign of the Pit and Grenzo's Rebuttal). My pick here is Muzzio, Visionary Architect for an artifact deck (though I wonder if it would be too good at rare), though the pair of Morbid cards (Deathreap Ritual and Predator's Howl) could also work (though Morbid has been featured a lot recently, even before you consider its cousin Revolt).

 

Conspiracy: Take the Crown:

The second Conspiracy set bumped up the number of new cards to 80, but throwing out Conspiracies and Draft-matters takes it down to 53. Next, removing the new mechanics (Monarch, voting, Goad, and Melee, though Melee is actually reasonable) brings you to 16, and a couple more are multiplayer/Conspiracy specific. The question is whether it’s fair to reprint the star cards like Recruiter of the Guard or Leovold, Emissary of Trest less than two years out—Eternal Masters reprinted Dack Fayden and Brago, King Eternal two years later, so it is reasonable. Maybe they should just reprint the Monstrous cards (Skittering Crustacean, Sinuous Vermin, and/or Domesticated Hydra) to help Pauper, or Spectral Grasp could be the Pacifism variant. In fact, Spectral Grasp seems very simple and easily viable for two-player play compared to the other cards, so it screams “Masters 25 plant” (as does Kheru Mind-Eater for that matter).

 

So now that I’ve covered that, you’re probably wondering what the next “Road to Masters 25” article will be on. The answer is that there probably won’t be one, for a couple reasons. First of all, the lists just become a lot longer (Ice Age alone has 125 cards that haven’t been reprinted, even after removing the snow cards, and Mirage has a similar number), and there’s a lot of garbage to sift through. Second, the mechanics play a much bigger role as we get later, and while I generally want to avoid them, the set will have some, and picking those mechanics is a big part of designing the set. Finally, the process I’ve found to work better for picking unique cards is to pick a theme for a color pair based on other factors (generally I’ve been looking at what themes the gold cards in a color pair can support, but I’ve also been trying to find themes that are in multiple blocks to try and get the “entire history of Magic” feel) and finding unique cards that fit those themes. As a simple example, I’ve been trying a Abzan Enchantments/Constellation theme in my Modern Masters 2019 designs (and still think it’ll work well there too), but I moved a WB version to my Masters 25 design since it fills in Theros block slots (the Enchantment Creatures), Urza’s block spots (cards like Opal Champion and Lurking Jackals), as well as one-offs like Odyssey (Cantivore) and Morningtide (Idyllic Tutor, also a value pick). I’ll cover more of that in my Masters 25 design articles (yes, with an ‘s’—I’m thinking there will be one article on the archetypes/money and one on all the never before reprinted cards), but for now I’m moving to my third and final topic: From the Vault: Transform.

 

Designing Reprint Sets: From the Vault: Transform

Well, this makes a lot more sense now that Ixalan has a new style of double-faced card, and it makes the design slightly more interesting. Previously FTV: Jace, Vryn's Prodigy was pretty easy to predict, with only a couple of slots in doubt. There are currently 103 unique DFCs counting the Meld cards (barring WotC doing something crazy, like turning a Kamigawa flip card into a DFC as part of some rules changes making the two identical), and the real question is how top-heavy they make the set—for instance, I could easily see them putting all the Magic Origins flip planeswalkers in, or just Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. The Ixalan card is also interesting: do they flow with the most hype and put Growing Rites of Itlimoc in (which seems massively overhyped—three-mana Gaea's Cradle you need to work for seems very win-more in competitive formats) or go with something more representative like Treasure Map? Anyway, let’s get to my predictions:

 

Archangel Avacyn:

She was one of the faces of Shadows over Innistrad and a Standard powerhouse; she seems like a great choice for white.

 

Bruna, the Fading Light/Gisela, the Broken Blade:

Are Meld cards going to show up in this set? I feel like they have to if they’re going to cover the full spectrum of DFCs, and this is the obvious choice if you pick one. I’m just concerned about a fifth of the choices being Angels relatively soon after FTV: Angels, and in that case do you ditch Brisela (probably for Hanweir Battlements/Hanweir Garrison if you still want a Meld pair) or Avacyn?

 

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy:

The whole reason this set was made, and everyone is assuming he’s in the set, so much so that you can see a spike in the online price leading up to Announcement Day, then that spike come right back to the established $25 level (which is surprisingly nearly the same in both online and paper).

 

Delver of Secrets:

Probably lock number two after Jace, though it’s odd to put a card in a FTV (that almost certainly is getting new art) that everyone wants a four-of. I also considered putting all three stages of Delver’s evolution in the set as space fillers (Delver of SecretsAberrant ResearcherDocent of Perfection), but I found enough interesting cards that I didn’t need it.

 

Bloodline Keeper:

A nice card that had Standard implications, it may be worth nothing online but has maintained a ~$6 price tag in paper before spiking due to the Vampire commander deck (either a pleasant surprise or something they planned for—I had this in my design before we even knew Vampires was one of the decks).

 

Liliana, Heretical Healer:

The original DFC Planeswalker, this is mostly here for what it signifies (and because there aren’t any other good black choices).

 

Conduit of Storms:

Newsflash: all the mono-red Werewolves suck in a larger context. Even knowing that, at least one is going to be here, and I’m choosing Conduit of Storms since I want one of the manual-transform Eldrazi Werewolves in the set, and this is as good a place as any to put it.

 

Duskwatch Recruiter:

Now here’s a good Werewolf that’s still seeing Modern play—hopefully it was showing up in Modern quickly enough to get it in this set as good filler.

 

Garruk Relentless:

Another big story point, the first DFC Planeswalker works well. I am surprised at how low the price is, despite it being a DFC (though again, the online price took a big dip shortly after Announcement Day).

 

Mayor of Avabruck:

The first DFC revealed (yes, technically there were three at the PAX party, but this was used in Prerelease advertising even before that), this is another good face of original Innistrad.

 

Huntmaster of the Fells:

This is probably the third most likely card, but also the one they’re most likely to skip if they want to keep the value down. Still, if they cheap out and go with Ulrich of the Krallenhorde (“it’s for Commander!”) no one is going to be happy.

 

Treasure Map:

Clearly you can see I went with the “representative” route for most of my cards, and that includes the Ixalan representative.

 

Elbrus, the Binding Blade:

This was a lot more important when it was the only reasonable DFC artifact, but Treasure Map can’t take away the idea of a demon coming out of a weapon.

 

Westvale Abbey:

This was a lot more important when it was the only non-meld DFC land, but Treasure Map can’t take away the idea of a demon being summoned by cultists—wait a minute. Yes, I feel like there’s too much overlap between Treasure Map, Elbrus, the Binding Blade, and Westvale Abbey, but each of them fills an important role that can’t really be replaced.

 

Overall I feel like this list is pretty reasonable—coverage-wise I wish I had an enchantment somewhere (probably Accursed Witch should be in here somewhere, or one of the Ixalan flip enchantments like Vance's Blasting Cannons should have been chosen over Treasure Map) and the most notable card on the sidelines is probably Nissa, Vastwood Seer (which I cut mostly since there are 3.5 green cards already, including a green planeswalker). As for the value, here’s the chart:

Card Paper Nov 16 Paper May 17 Paper Sept 17 MTGO Nov 16 MTGO May 17 MTGO Sept 17
Archangel Avacyn $19.90 $10.40 $5.90 17.2 9.5 0.9
Bruna, the Fading Light $1.20 $1.20 $0.90 0.0 0.0 0.0
Gisela, the Broken Blade $9.90 $8.00 $7.00 12.4 4.6 0.6
Delver of Secrets (set foil) $10.80 $9.30 $9.00 0.3 0.4 0.4
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy $24.60 $25.00 $24.90 19.5 21.5 24.6
Bloodline Keeper $6.30 $5.70 $16.20 0.0 0.0 0.0
Liliana, Heretical Healer $7.30 $9.70 $9.20 3.0 3.4 2.9
Conduit of Storms (set foil) $0.60 $0.50 $0.50 1.2 1.0 1.0
Duskwatch Recruiter (set foil) $6.00 $4.50 $5.50 0.6 1.5 1.3
Garruk Relentless $5.70 $5.60 $5.20 0.7 2.0 1.1
Mayor of Avabruck $3.60 $2.70 $2.50 0.0 0.0 0.0
Huntmaster of the Fells $10.80 $9.80 $9.50 3.9 3.0 4.4
Treasure Map $2.10 $2.10 $2.10 0.1 0.1 0.1
Elbrus, the Binding Blade $4.10 $4.20 $4.00 0.0 0.1 0.2
Westvale Abbey $3.10 $4.50 $4.30 1.7 2.9 0.3
Total $116.00 $103.20 $106.70 60.6 50.0 37.8
Average Cards $7.73 $6.88 $7.11 4.0 3.3 2.5

I’ll be honest, I have no clue what the target for a FTV should be, and these prices are distorted due to all the Shadows over Innistrad cards rotating and Ixalan not having a price history (note that I shortened the spectrum to one year for this chart due to the quicker development cycle). I feel like you have to go mostly by feel, and while this feels expensive, FTVs have to feel that or they aren’t successful. Being DFCs also hurts the feel, as everything needs to be reprinted or there’s no other place to put them (I’m thinking maybe Modern Masters 2021 (5), which would have Innistrad, Origins, and Shadows over Innistrad to choose from for a dedicated DFC slot, probably with a Werewolf archetype and other choices like Delver of Secrets and some DFC Planeswalkers). And yet, I’ll probably get most of them right due to the limited card pool.

 

Conclusion:

What did you think about this style of article? I try to have better-defined topics, but sometimes there’s stuff you “need” to cover. Next time you see me should be in a couple weeks, when I do my Flashback Favorites article on triple-Innistrad.

 

Vincent

@CheaterHater1 on Twitter

3 Comments

Dang, I misspelled flippy by Cheater Hater at Tue, 10/03/2017 - 19:36
Cheater Hater's picture

Dang, I misspelled flippy Jace's name in almost every place I used it (Vryn, not Vyrn). Stupid apostrophes messing up the old-school card linker (which is normally how I double check card names; everything pre-Shadows will link, unless it has an apostrophe) :(

The apostrophes got me too, by JXClaytor at Wed, 10/04/2017 - 11:44
JXClaytor's picture

The apostrophes got me too, having my son and nephew over has been more distracting than normal, I'll get that fixed and back up

Thanks! :) by Cheater Hater at Thu, 10/05/2017 - 14:32
Cheater Hater's picture

Thanks! :)